Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Hardest Part

Someone asked me “What’s the hardest part about being a creative artist?”  Was it the instability of never knowing where or when your next job will come?  Was it the subjectivity of art that defies consistent, clear metrics by which you’ll be viewed?  Was it the competition?  The all too often volatile personalities surrounding the arts?  Having to audition/interview/pitch yourself more often than most people change their clothes?

I’d argue that there are difficulties (and rewards) in every line of work.  But the thing that stands out for creative artists is that there is no regularity of set tasks and—most dauntingly—no set starting point.   Thus, getting started, becomes the hardest thing.

Writers have innumerable ideas swirling around in their heads—endlessly creating new ones to add to the rich soup of story fodder.  But how to choose one idea to begin our novel, screenplay or play?  How do we decide which idea is worthier of our time?  Which one will allow us to evolve it into a complete work?  Which one will become something that resonates with others?  

Actors and directors, though often at the mercy of the projects offered them, still must decide if the role is right; if the film is right; if the timing is right; etc.  The same is true for painters, sculptures and so on.  How do we decide what project is worth investing our time, energy and heart?

But we must make that choice; cast aside countless great ideas…and begin.  For if we do not begin, we can never manifest our creations into existence.  The wonderful thing that has helped me begin things is realizing that I can always change courses or start over.  The only true failure is the failure to begin.  Abandoned projects and ideas may be revisited and suddenly find new life. So, every beginning has value.

You just have to begin.

So...let's begin.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Epic Evolution of HERETIKS

          I had this idea for a story about some really creepy nuns.  I had a half a page outline, a title--and nothing else.  It sat there, haunting me.  Taunting me.  It demanded to be fleshed out into a screenplay, but I had no idea how to do it.  So, it sat.  For years.  Then, one day, I pulled that half a page out and said “I have to do this.”  And I did. I finished the screenplay in a kind of gleeful madness and, thus, in 2009, THE SISTERHOOD was complete.
          I began to put it out into the world: to production companies, screenplay competitions—anywhere I got a green light to send it. I got few bites but no sales.  After two years, the script won 1st Place in the Horror Screenplay Contest and, after attracting the interest of Keven Kane of Enmar Productions, I sold the script at last. Enmar collaborated with Templeheart Films and Sterling Pictures, changed the title to THE GATEWAY and launched into preproduction. 
          Three years, another title change and a rewrite or two later, it went into production as HERETIKS in South Wales, directed by Paul Hyett (Howl, The Seasoning House) and starring Clare Higgins (Hellraiser, The Golden Compass, etc.) and Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall, etc.). It was finished this year and hits the festival circuit next month—its world premiere at Frightfest in the UK.
          An over eleven year journey, ladies and gentlemen. That’s sometimes how it goes. This business takes stamina, patience and perseverance.  But is it worth it?

Yes.  Yes, it is. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

How to Act

My musings on this blog lean toward the entertainment world, but sometimes, I think we can all gain from the same lessons.  As much as an actor’s goal is to behave and speak in ways that effectively demonstrate a fictional character, so might we all realize that the way we behave and speak demonstrates our own, real-life character.  We reveal ourselves as compassionate, as bullies, as thoughtless, as caring…as whatever our words and deeds prove.

That said, a fairly simple rule to follow is to say and do no harm.  I know I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating.  By living this philosophy of mindful kindness, we become better people and the world, as a result, becomes a better place.  When you say or do harm, you not only are harming the object of your words or actions, but you are harming yourself, because you are assassinating your character.  So, it’s better for everyone, including yourself, to be thoughtful, courteous and kind.

Some will say “But it’s a free country; I can do and say what I want”. That’s nonsense.  We have libel and slander laws to help prevent and punish those who intentionally aim to cause harm with their words.  We have assault and battery laws for those who commit specific, unacceptable actions.  And so on.  While you are indeed free to do and say what you please, you must accept the consequences.  Rights come with responsibilities; freedoms come with limitations.  Balance is everything.

The recent Rosanne Barr incident has given us a great example in the abuse of freedom of speech and the corrective balance.  She tweeted a racist comment and was fired for it.  Harm spoken, punishment resulted.  Then, some of you will say “But freedom is getting eroded because of sensitive snowflakes” or something along those lines.  Remember: one sign of a healthy, quality society is how it treats its weakest members; carrying that through, the stronger individuals should be caring for the weaker.  So, if you have “thick skin”, you should be caring for those who are more sensitive, not bullying them.  We all have infinite ways in which our personalities and psyches vary; we should respect them all and be considerate.  Otherwise, we are brutes and not worthy of the term “civilized society”.

So, we are all actors: that is, we are all playing our roles in this world. Make your role shine. Make your character inspire.  

Be kind.  Be courteous.  Be mindful.

Be a hero. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Being Your Best

Are you a lover or a hater?  A helper or a harmer?  A builder or a destroyer?

Those may seem like rhetorical questions, but I ask you to answer them, because they define who you are and what role you play in your world and the world at large.

You can see on social media, in the news and everywhere how people cut others down without a thought.  Just to make themselves feel better.  To vent.  To make a snarky joke. 

Whatever the reason, I beg you to stop.  Because it only makes you look bad.  It makes you a person that others don’t want to play with, because the chances you’ll eventually tear them down as well is demonstratively clear.

And the world is so much better off if we’re loving, rather than hating; helping, rather than harming; building rather than destroying. 

When it comes to anything: find what’s good and support that.  And if nothing’s good, do everything you can to keep it from being a part of your life—which includes doing your best to not acknowledging it or give it attention.
Of course, some things need to be addressed: pollution, deforestation, racism and so on.  We must acknowledge and address those things diligently to make the world a better place.  But if it’s someone’s clothes, art, choice in music, and so on—embrace and support it…or say nothing.  Be a cheerleader...or be quiet.  In short:  do no harm, verbally or otherwise—in person or online.

Together, if we all focus on love and supporting the good in each other, we will all flourish in fellowship.

Now get out there and be the best you can be!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Post Oscar Buzz

The Oscars are over, and I feel more hope than ever.  For the future of film…and ultimately, hopefully, humanity. It's a natural high and I'm enjoying the buzz.

It wasn’t the fact that there were so many great films pegged for awards that no matter who won, we had reason to celebrate.  It was that the films and, more importantly, those making them were manifesting a movement toward something greater; not only manifesting it in the work, but expressing it—loudly, boldly and eloquently—even in their acceptance speeches.

The message of the movement? We all must work together to make the world a better, more unified, more embracing place; for only in coming together can we hope to enjoy the universal strength, equality and love required to make all good dreams come true.

This is the goal to which we are headed…if these artists keep leading the way.  And if we listen to them and follow their lead.

So…I beg you…for the sake of us all…listen…

 "The greatest thing our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand and we should continue doing that even when the world tells us to make them deeper."
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

 "…we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters."
Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson, Coco

"I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible…I thought no one would ever make this movie. But…I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it."
Jordan Peele, Get Out

"We all have stories to tell…I have two words to leave with you tonight...inclusion rider." *
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

*An inclusion rider stipulates that the minor roles of a film reflect the demography of where the film takes place. Name actors who have leverage in negotiations can put this into their contracts and improve representation of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities in film.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017: A Great Year for Movies

There was something for everyone this year and talent all over the map.  I’m way behind in my movie going, but here are the highlights for me thus far (in no particular order):

Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous, beautifully cast love letter to old school movies: part creature feature, part romance, part thriller—adult, yet childlike…with a dollop of magic and even a dash of musical.  It’s the first time I’ve cheered out loud in a movie in a long time.

Martin McDonagh’s writing and directing provide many fine moments in this odd, fascinating film where no one’s hat is all white or black…and his cast (including Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson) makes those moments powerful and memorable.

A crazy brew of mockumentary and biopic, Steven Rogers’s script is jaw-dropping creative and Craig Gillespie’s direction makes it shine.  It doesn’t hurt that the acting is off the charts—with Margot Robbie and Allison Janney practically burning the screen down.

James Franco pulls off a tour-de-force performance in this film about a modern day “worst movie ever made”.  It’s hilarious and painful to see him and his fine cast members recreate the making of “The Room”—especially with Franco going nuts as Tommy Wiseau going nuts.

Jordan Peele’s terrifically creepy tale is sort of a slick re-imagining of “The Stepford Wives” with racism replacing sexism.  The script creates all manner of unsettling elements and Peele’s direction and his cast make the most of them.

A splendorous movie about a not-so-splendorous future where corporate greed is still heartless as ever and one little girl’s quest to save her beloved “super pig” is both thrilling and inspiring.  Bong Joon-ho’s film is full of wit and wonder and Tilda Swinton gives another knockout performance.

I know there are many more.  But even these few prove that movies are alive and well and making the world just a little bit better.

What were your favorites of the year?

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year, New You!

 A new year always brings new opportunities to better ourselves and our world.  If you haven’t figured out what to do, here are some ideas.  They all come from the same place:   do no harm. 

  1.      Stop harming the planet. 
a.  Get a hybrid or non-polluting car.  Even a smaller car would help.  Get solar.  Walk more.  Stop smoking. Become an activist against the use of fossil fuel.  Reuse more.  Recycle. Use less.  Tell your waiter “no straws, please”.  Always bring reusable bags when shopping.  Every action, especially when multiplied, makes a difference.  Be a part of making the world a better place.  It feels fantastic!

  2.      Stop harming people.
    Be kind and respectful above all else. We’re all neighbors, sharing one planet that we must work together to save.   So, lose your old ideas of “us vs. them”.  We are all “us”.  Race, religion, gender, orientation, and other factors of humanity do not separate us from “us”.  Eschew all ideas, words, laws—anything that disenfranchise or vilify others for their mere identity. Every time you draw a line, you cut us all—including yourself.  But love, respect and kindness make the world a beautiful, joyous place.

3.      Stop harming animals. 
a.  Stop eating them.  It’s better for your body, the planet and the animals.  Factory farming is a huge cause of global pollution. And eating animals is tantamount to murder. The plant kingdom provides everything you need to be healthy.  Even one less meat meal a week helps.  Avoid eggs, too, because mass production includes throwing male chicks in shredders.  Seriously.  Don’t be a part of that horror.
b. Stop wearing them.  Most clothing and makeup production involving animals is just as cruel.  Don’t promote animal torture and death.  It doesn’t look good on you.
c. Stop buying them from stores and breeders.  There are too many adorable furry friends in shelters and rescues.  Every store-bought pet is a rescue dog or cat’s hope shattered.  Be a hero and save a life.  It’s the greatest feeling in the world.
So, there you have it.  Three ways to make you and the world better, brighter and happier.

Now go make this year be just a little bit better!

Much love!

Monday, November 13, 2017

This Year, It’s Personal

'Tis the time when I usually shift from things Hollywood to things Holiday. Whether you’re already humming a traditional tune or grimacing at stores shoving the mercantile madness in your face “too soon”, there is no denying the season is upon us.  I will share my usual thoughts on the holidays once December rolls around, but for now, I’d like to beg those of you who are shopping (or preparing to shop) for holiday gifts to make your choices gifts on both ends.

What do I mean?

Simple:  buy gifts from your friends and neighbors.  We all have people in our lives who make arts and crafts and why not support them instead of the faceless corporations who will never know or care that you bought their wares?  We all know someone who makes clothes, crafts, paintings, films, songs, furniture…you name it.  It would be a much-appreciated gift to these people if you’d buy from them instead of the monster stores that are like shills for Wall Street bank accounts.

So, make your gift choice personal, unique and from the heart.  Support people you love who are forging their art.  Buy from them for everyone on your lists.  Today…and every day.

Thank you!

Here are a few ideas from people I know:

Photo Prints:
Josh Patterson Photography:

“Bone Dry” (Adventure):
“Lake Fear” (Horror):
“Bethany” (Horror):
“The Killer 4 Pack, II” (Horror):


“A Whisper from Within” by Theresa Gattuso O'Connor:

“Nate and Kelley" by Micheal R. Barnard:
“The Preternatural” by Daryl Hajek:
David Warren author page on Amazon:

Essential Oils & More
Garret Miller:

And, if none of that grabs you, maybe I have something that will work:

So, this year, make it personal!

Peace to all!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Film Festivals for Dummies

First time hitting the festivals as a filmmaker? Well, congratulations! Now, what the heck do you do when you get there? Here’s a short run down of some basic DOs and DON’Ts, based on my past experiences.


1.  FIRST THINGS FIRST:  Sign in, get your tickets, SWAG Bag and Filmmakers Badge and whatever else is offered or needed to get into the various screenings, panels and parties.
2. GET PRESS:  Find Press Badge people and hand them your Press Kit, flyer or poster and tickets to your film. Smaller festivals may not have Press Badges, so just use your best judgment. The goal is photos and interviews. You may not win an award, but great press is its own reward.

3. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS: Hand a business card to press folks BEFORE they start interviewing. It can help them during the interview or later in editing.  Then, get their card before they leave to follow up & build relationships.  Hand cards to other folks, but AFTER they ask for it: establish interest first; mindless card shoving is pushy and annoying.

4. LOOK GOOD: Pause after each question to allow for a good edit point and repeat the question before answering or incorporate it into your answer. Also: repeat your film’s title often so it gets in the final interview, no matter how they edit it.

5.  STAY POSITIVE:  Avoid confrontational & budget questions:  you could turn off or lowball a prospective buyer. Focus on the pitch you’ve practiced and stick to it...with a smile.


1. DON’T BE LATE:  You are making an example of how you are on set and in production meetings. Be on time to all screenings and panels. It’s rude to show up late.  People will notice and be turned off instantly.

2. DON’T LEAVE EARLY:  I see this time and time again. If your film is part of a block of films (as short films usually are) do not get up after your film and leave if there are more films to follow. It’s disrespectful and we all see you and no one wants to work with a rude, selfish jerk. Stay for the entire block. Also, don’t leave early right after your film because people may want to talk with you about it and it could lead to a new relationship that will prove valuable in the future.

3. DON’T BE THAT GUY:  In the theater, turn your cell phone off. Phone ringing, buzzing and even the glow of texting and tweeting are all beyond offensive in this arena while the films are playing. Again: you are making an example of how respectful you are to your peers. And don’t talk during anyone’s film. Ever.

4. DON’T BAD MOUTH:  Do not say anything negative. Not about a film, filmmaker, or anyone. It only makes you look bad. Even if you leave and go to a nearby bar or restaurant; you never know who else from the festival may be there as well. Festivals are about celebrating, honoring and building relationships. Keep it that way. Negativity will only harm you.

I hope what I listed is helpful. If you have other things you think are just as important, please feel free to leave a comment. I want film festivals to be joyful for everyone.  After all, they call it a festival for a reason.

Now, go out there and be festive!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Naked or Covered in Blood?

An interesting trend has emerged in my latest acting roles.  I seem to end up with at least one scene where I’m either naked or covered in blood.  Now that might sound appealing to some of you, but—trust me—it’s not all fun and games.  I admit that I only have myself to blame: I choose the roles I want to play and I choose them for all sorts of reasonsbut getting naked or bloody isn’t any of them.  

It just seems to happen, lately...

In Blake Fitzpatrick’s sci-fi epic ABADDON, I am naked and chained to fellow actor Charles Chudabala.  Though that may sound hot and kinky, it’s far from it: we’re actually prisoners being tortured.  In truth, since nothing is shot below the belt, we’re actually both wearing pants as the scene is shot.  So, the illusion is that we're naked, but the reality is less prurient.  And it’s wicked hot in the valley where we're shooting on a green screen, so we’re trying not to look too sweaty; though that’s appropriate for the alien planet’s climate, it could melt our makeup and we’d prefer our fake scars stay in place.

With Charles Chudabala in ABADDON

In Kim Queen’s LOOK BACK, the scene is the reverse in the sense that we do need to look sweaty and we are having sex: rough, banging against the wall, sex.  So my scene partner (the excellent Tamir Elbassir) and I are sprayed with water to simulate sweat--the first batch being ice cold, so both of us end up with goosebumps and everyone has to wait a short bit till we can warm up.  Here, too, there are no below the belt shots, so we get to keep our pants on and the crew gets spared a junk show.

With Tamir Elbassir in LOOK BACK

And then the blood.  

My own GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE finds several characters dripping with the red stuff.  In the heat of late summer, it’s especially sticky and I owe my castmates my deepest respect for “sticking” it out with me.   Imagine yourself covered in the bright red coating of a candy apple—only it tastes terrible and no one is going to lick it off.  And..."Action"!


Indeed, nothing deters me from a great role, so when I learn about the creepy caretaker Harold in Adam Steigert’s FANG, I say “yes” knowing full well that buckets of blood are headed my way.  I did, however think "bucketswas a metaphor; imagine my surprise when there are six gigantic vats of blood lying in wait on set.  And, in the dark of early morning, I am pummeled with the stuff.  Repeatedly.  And I am not alone.  The film is wall-to-wall bodily fluids and virtually no character is immune.

Seeing red in FANG

I’d say the trend is over, but I’d be lying:  the next two projects I have penciled in are going to fit right in. 

I’m good with that. 

Bloody or not, here I come!