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):

THE SHAPE OF WATER
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.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
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.

I, TONYA
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.

THE DISASTER ARTIST
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.

GET OUT
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.

OKJA
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!