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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

June 6th - A Short Story

I logged on to Facebook. I was kind of hoping that Sally would have messaged me back, but she hadn't. Although she did write on Paul's wall so she had been online. Aggh, I'm so depressed. Why won't she message me back? Should I write on her wall? Poke her?. Not only that, but my boss keeps giving me shit because I keep showing up late. Fucking idiot, doesn't he know I've got enough problems? I logged back on to Facebook, Sally has deleted me. OMG. How could she block me?.

He was in the middle of the sea. He was probably freezing cold, he was probably scared - but he didn't really notice because he was so focused on the task ahead. And what was ahead, he didn't really know. He wanted to look into the eyes of the men beside him but he couldn't, because he was in the darkness of night. The horrors that were only hours away were too big to think about. He took comfort in knowing that his best friend Timmy was on the same boat as him.

I messaged Jane and asked her why Sally deleted me. I didn't understand. I am also looking for new jobs but it's so hard with the recession on. I took comfort in my Xbox 360. But then midway through a game it FROZE! This is why I don't let my Brother play my Xbox. Obviously he's broken it somehow. I just about managed to stop myself going insane and throwing the console out of the window. Fuck it, I just need comfort food. I made myself a sandwich. Actually I didn't - because there was no chicken left in the fridge. How can there be no chicken left in the Fridge? I tried phoning my brother to find out if he'd stolen my chicken but I couldn't get a reception on my phone. My phone is crap, I need a new phone.

He couldn't help but notice the eerie silence around him. The only noises were the occasional cough, or some guy at the back being sick. Everybody felt sick. Most wouldn't admit it. The night was nearly over and the beaches were ever closer. He instinctively knew that what was to come was going to be a lot different to everything he had experienced before. He thought briefly about Mary. He wondered what she was doing right now. He hoped she was sleeping.

I did a google image search for Scarlet Johannson. Life was suddenly great again and all my stresses were gone. After about fifty pictures of her I moved on to Meagan Good. Maybe life wasn't such a drag after all. My friend Charlie came round and we ordered a pizza. Charlie's my mate but to be honest, he annoys me. For example, he blatantly always tries it on with Sally, right in front of me. And he always belittles the things I say. AND, the dude owes me £50 from like three months ago. I wanna smash his face in. I can't deal with a friend owing me money and hitting on my girl.

He didn't quite get time to have a thought pass through his head, because the bullet flew right into his helmet before he even saw the enemy. Luckily, his helmet managed to hold out. Little Bryan wasn't as lucky, it sliced right through his shoulder and took him down. Within seconds, they were all in the water, fighting to get to dry land. Not that dry land was any better-- the onslaught of German fire was non-stop. He saw a small dip in the sand that could be used as cover. He headed for it but another soldier got there first. Good job the other soldier got there first because his arm got blown off just as he touched the ground.

I was meant to go to JJ's party tonight but instead thought I'd stay at home. I logged onto facebook and looked at some pictures. Pictures of Sally that her friends had tagged. I had reached the point of official devastation. Maybe I should just kill myself. Nah, I think I'll just throw on a DVD and drown my sorrows.

He could almost burst due to the sheer pressure in his head. Everything was happening at once. The water behind him was a sickening red, and the beach before him was a sea of men falling. It was too many things to take in at once - the smells and sights were indescribable. He would have taken more time to be dazzled by all this but there were still Germans shooting at him. Suddenly, a soldier dived on top of him-- they both fell to the ground. "What was that?" he asked. The bald comrade who wasn't wearing a helmet said "Keep moving, you nearly got your head blown off". Before he could say thanks the bald guy was already saving another life. As for our hero, he never saw the bald guy again. He never saw Timmy again either, but he didn't have time to think about that.

I think the world is falling apart. Seriously. Apparently, they think that maybe too much coffee can now cause mental issues. So I'm fucked! And I've just found out they're thinking of making a new Back To The Future movie, why Lord, WHY? Nothing makes sense anymore. Even Ronaldo is thinking of signing for Real Madrid!. I left Sally a voicemail. I know I shouldn't, but I did.

His uniform was ripped on one side from shrapnel and the other side was covered in blood. Although it looked brown. He thought blood was meant to look red. They were shooting at him again. Everyone was exploding. One guy was on fire, he didn't know how that happened. It was at this point he realised he needed to kill some Germans. He nervously hovered behind some tall soldier he'd never seen before and another guy who might be Mikey J but he can't be sure because his face was half blown off.

I logged off of Facebook and I ignored JJ's missed calls. My life was becoming more than stressful, I'm too old to be dealing with this shit lol.

He turned to look at the boy who was giving him instructions. He really was a boy, he looked 14. The boy didn't get to finish giving instructions because his head got blown off. All around there were boys crying, boys screaming, boys dying. But more common than that, were boys coming together. Boys focused. Boys advancing on an enemy that had to be stopped. He suddenly felt a jolt of confidence, a reminder of his purpose. It was all he needed. He wasn't going to go down without a fight. He pointed his gun at the tower above and took aim.


I wrote this story on June 5th 2009, and posted it on June 6th (D-Day Anniversary) 2009. This is a RE-POST. I'm currently away and will be back at the weekend! Come back tomorrow for the final GUEST WRITER! (she's awesome!)

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Comedic Short Stories.

Here are two short stories I wrote last year when nobody read this blog. Now that I have seven regulars, I thought I'd share them again.



UNDERSTANDING YOUR DREAMS
A very serious and important analysis of the meaning of dreams.

Dreams are strange. People who like country music are also strange, but have been subject to less scientific research. My personal experiences on this matter have indeed been noteworthy. In fact, the content of my dreams were once planned to be the basis of a 20,000 word scientific study, but the scientist instead opted to do a Twitter update only. Dreams, we have long been told, are an absolute mystery. However, through my own studies, I can reveal they tend to happen at night and when sleeping.

I once fell asleep whilst wearing my glasses. This was unfortunate as for the next few hours I dreamt I was waiting for a consultation with my local optician. I only realized I was dreaming when a large gorilla walked in and praised me for being a great single Mother and an award winning acrobat. The amusement was short lived as he immediately charged me $50 for a contact lens examination.

Carl Jung, Freud and numerous other dead people believe dreams are the doorway to learning about our subconscious wants and desires. If this is true, why do I keep dreaming about Stephen Hawkins giving me foot massages? To get to the bottom of all this I enrolled in a three year psychology degree. This went great until three days before graduation when I woke up in a sweat; and realized it had all been a dream.

I have since learned that most of the time you can tell if you are in a dream because things seem completely unrealistic. For example, I can always tell I'm dreaming if people are polite, a girl remembers my name, or George Bush completes a full sentence.

In recent years there has been a distinct lack of research into what happens when people go to sleep at night, but Dr. Ralph Piffell from Oregon, USA, is determined to bring the matter into the public consciousness. The last heavily-funded study into the effects and meaning of inner dream life was in 1967 in Neuschwanstein, Germany. Unfortunately the study had to be called off as participants were found to be drowsy and close to nodding off. Dr. Piffell says that he dreams of the day they can do another in depth study. But he also admitted to dreaming of naked Albanian wind-surfers joining him for barbecues, so is fraught when it comes to deciding which dream to bring to life.

One of the main ways dreams are analysed is by looking closely at the meaning of symbols and objects within the visions witnessed during sleep. For example, if you dream about pasta, that is actually your subconscious desire for sexual activity in your life. However, if you find yourself dreaming about sex you are more than likely to wake up with an urge for penne pasta.

One of the most common concerns is that of the recurring nightmare. Throughout centuries the greatest minds have done their best to find ways to stop them. Only now are they realizing the simplest way of halting them, which is by not sleeping.

In summary, there is still much to learn about dreaming. The good news is that many myths are now being debunked. For many years people believed that to die in your dream meant that you would die in real life. It turns out this is true, but often the death does not happen until 50, sometimes 70 years later. Another key thing to remember when looking into dream interpretation, is that it is not completely accurate. For example, if you look up the meaning behind your dream about a piece of cheese; it is often difficult to tell exactly which type of cheese it was in the dream. This type of thing is of major importance, as dreaming of mature farmhouse cheddar cheese means you are coming to a new, positive stage in your life, whereas dreaming about moist blue cheese indicates you are likely to have limbs amputated if you ever travel to Scandinavia. It is for reasons like this that I strongly recommend only dreaming in supervised situations.



UNDERSTANDING TEA ADDICTION
A complex study into the complicated issue that is: Tea Addiction


Tea addiction is generally classed as one of the least bothersome addictions. The main signs of tea addiction are headaches, brown teeth and dressing like your grandparents. Those who have been inflicted with tea obsession often feel helpless due to how unversed medical professionals are on the subject, as they normally say to patients, "let's have a cup of tea and discuss this."

Tea is the third most common reason for not sleeping, coming in slightly behind depression, and the main reason - that it is not yet bedtime. People often think that people addicted to the caffeine in tea don't sleep well as they drink too late at night, whereas actually it is usually because the person is laying awake anticipating the morning's first cup of tea. This can lead to problems, especially if you wake up to find you are all out of tea bags.

Tea can be drunk with sugar, with sweeteners, and with relatives, who will often complain, "this is too strong for me." Tea is also versatile as it can be consumed in any situation, although I rarely drink it during sex - but that's probably because I've never had it.

Tea is great in all situations. Often after good news people will say, "lets have a cup of tea." It has also been used over the years during arguments, mainly because a fresh cup of tea can cause major burns if poured directly onto a moaning partner. Tea has also been customary at funerals over the years, although in recent years there has been debate as to whether there is any justification for causing major burns to corpses.

After the success of the AA for alcoholics, many people who were addicted to tea joined the TA, but were left baffled when their first assignment was a 9 month stay in Afghanistan. Of course, after realizing the TA was actually the Territorial Army, they instead set up Teaholics Anonymous, a place where groups of people from all backgrounds can sit around discussing their experiences. Tea is strictly forbidden, so members tend to bring strong alcoholic beverages. Things get very confusing on every third Sunday of the month as the AA and TA have to share a hall, and members often claim to belong to a different group than they came in with.

Farmers in some parts of Africa have been blamed for the epidemic of tea addiction. Harold Frumbleby, Director of Purchases at Starbucks said, "Ethiopian farmers make their tea available for less than $0.02 per cup." He went on to claim, "this is why we charge $2.45 per cup, to stave off buyers from being driven to addiction by those careless Ethiopians." World Leaders praised Starbucks and other big coffee chains for continuing to extort prices by up to 7995%, and believed it would save the Western World from tea addiction. President Obama is rumored to be planning a "War On Caffeine," but he may cave on the decaf option.

In Summary - all I can really do is to advise caution and moderation. You also must not drink tea whilst operating heavy machinery, as this may lead to spillages. Tea can also cause staining of the teeth, which is why tea has been banned in Hollywood since the mid-nineties.


Kid In The Front Row is on holiday for a week and shall be back soon!

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Monday, 29 March 2010

Why Struggling Actors Should Produce Their Own Work

If I hear one more actor say "there's just nothing out there at the moment" or "I don't have anything for my showreel" I am going to scream.

When you're starting out in the industry it's hard, I get it. But the industry doesn't owe you anything. And that can really frustrate me about young actors; they feel like they are owed acting roles, owed great showreels, owed everything. But the industry owes you nothing. And the thing most of you don't realise is that there are thousands of actors out there working harder than you. You need to catch up.

Acting, like Producing and Directing, is creating. Something didn't exist and now it does. If you do a short film TODAY, then you have put something out there into the world. It is a part of your legacy. Now it may suck, so you may not want to make it. But what's better, a film that sucks or a film that doesn't exist? To begin with, just by making something that sucks, you wipe out 50% of the competition, because the other half is sitting in offices and supermarkets saying "I want to be an actor".

Most actors get a bit scared when they get DVD's of their performances. It's usually "oh God, I wasn't as good as I thought". But imagine if before doing that film; you had made five of your own shorts and acted in them-- chances are your performance in the DVD you just received might be a bit better.

There is no need for an actor to wait for roles, CREATE the roles. If you want to play a nurse, make a film about a nurse. You want to be an astronaut, be an astronaut. You want to play a whore, play a whore. "But I have no money!" you say. Okay, well - how about you and two other struggling actors make a short film set in one location. 'An Astronaut misses his last day of training due to being caught with a whore by his girlfriend - who uses her nursing skills to help the whore who's struck down by a fever.' - there you go. Grab a camera, shoot it. You have a film.
Make a mockumentary about an out of work actor who has a fear of leaving his house. Make a film about a man who keeps watch over his garden as he's convinced the pigeons are Nazi's. Film a bunch of your acting friends talking about their fears and hopes and put it on YouTube, it's footage of YOU.

If you have showreel footage, you immediately overtake 80% of the actors currently doing the short film circuit.

Back to creating. Maybe you're scared by the term 'Producing'. A producer takes nothing and turns it into a product. He finds a story and finds the people needed to make it end up on the screen. You can do that. You can do it by borrowing your Aunt's camera, getting a friend to press record whilst you perform.
"But it doesn't look professional," you say. Casting Directors don't care. Whether it was Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or Katie Holmes in Dawson's Creek; the industry is full of cases where some struggling nobody who lived in a farm in nowhere managed to win a role by showing Producers/Casting Directors who they are. Tom Hanks on 35mm is Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks on your Aunt's camera is still Tom Hanks. I was watching a behind the scenes video of 'Vanilla Sky' yesterday; it was just Cameron Crowe and the crew messing around-- but every time Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz are on screen; they steal the show. Why? Because they have that thing. In their eyes, in their movement, in who they are -- they are great personalities, great actors. It shines through. YOU WILL SHINE THROUGH if you create video content of yourself, being yourself, and showing the world your talents.

There is no need to be distraught if you are not getting roles, or if Directors everywhere are ignoring you or saying "I may be casting next month," who cares; a lot of their films will be terrible anyway.

Go watch 'Ellie Parker' - it's Naomi Watts in a horribly rough and cheaply shot feature film; but what she does in the film is show off every aspect of her acting skills. She proves to the world how great she is. You can do exactly that.

Some of the best short films I have seen have been terribly shot. But if you can act, you should show people. You want to know what is worse? Terrible acting with beautiful photography.
It will ruin you. If a casting director sees you on TV or in your showreel or, even worse, in the cinema and your performance is wooden and stagey - then you're screwed. So go pick up a camera; this is the most freedom you'll ever have as an actor. Go create, go and become the very characters you want to play. The ball is in your court - and you need to smash it right into the Casting Directors face so he can't miss you.

"I am getting my reel together soon" should not be a sentence you ever utter.

This was a REPOST from June 2009. The KITFW is currently on holiday, and will be returning very soon. Stick around this week though for some GREAT Guest Writers!

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The One Where Lisa Likes Animated Movies - Guest Writer Lisa Marie Fabrega

Lisa Marie Fabrega is an actor, musician, and blogger - currently dividing her time between film, theatre and commercials; whilst somehow finding the time to write a guest article for Kid In The Front Row. As it turns out; whilst everyone else is at work, or eating dinner - Lisa is in the front row, watching animated movies.

The One Where Lisa Likes Animated Movies.
By Lisa Fabrega

I’m about to admit something I don’t usually share with others. Only those closest to me know this: I am an animated movie/cartoon junkie.

This wouldn’t be so shocking if I was, perhaps, 7 years old. But I am a grown adult. This makes for some funny situations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting in a movie theatre all by myself along with 200 screaming children and their parents. I’ve heard many a movie usher chuckle as I hand them my ticket for the latest Pixar release. I quickly run into the darkness of the movie theatre, so that no one else will know my silly little secret.


What is it about animated movies that I love so much? Perhaps it hearkens back to the earliest memory I have of watching a film—Disney’s "Snow White". I must have been extremely young when I first saw it, as the memory is so hazy, I only remember snapshots of the film--the creamy tone of Snow White’s skin, the Seven Dwarfs. I was so captured by the dwarfs that I was terrified of Grumpy as a child, so much so that I made my cousin move her Grumpy doll out of the room during a sleepover at her house because I swore I saw it moving in the dark.

Though the images might be hazy, I strongly remember the feelings I had as a small child taking in my first movie. I could enter a dark room and for two hours be transported to a magical world where things that only lived in my wildest imagination existed. Growing up in a dictatorship, animated films were one of the rare places where goodness always seemed to triumph.

Now as an adult, I recognize deeper aspects about animated films that I would have never consciously recognized as a child. For example--the extreme archetypes. They are amazing! In animated films, villains are fantastically over the top and possess powers that no human villain could possibly possess. Who can forget the utterly fantastic Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, morphing into a powerful dragon to fight the Prince? Or the Other Mother enticing Coraline into her world and turning into a large mechanical spider capable of stealing little girls’ eyes and replacing them with buttons? No human villain in a film can do what a cartoon villain can do! That alone is a reason to love animated films.

It is also these extreme characters that serve as wonderful, subconscious learning tools for both children and adults alike. As an actor, one of the things I love about the artistic medium of film (or theatre for that matter) is that it confronts the audience with a vision of their own humanity. During this confrontation we are forced to look within while observing the world being presented to us in the film or play. We see parts of ourselves in the characters in front of us.. The extreme archetypes of villains in animated films are fantastic ways for us to face the darkest parts of ourselves within a safer context. None of us can turn into a vicious dragon (if you can, call me) or a terrifying girl-eating spider, but we can certainly relate to feelings of anger, isolation and jealousy. Though most of us may be nothing like the Other Mother in Coraline, there are certain parts within us that feel a twinge of recognition when she screams to an escaping Coraline “I need you!!” in that wretchedly, co-dependent way. The beauty of the animated film is that the animation provides a thin veil of separation between ourselves and the extreme evil of villains. I may be angry, but at least I know I won’t turn into a cartoon villain named Maleficent. That makes me feel a bit better when the Irish/Spanish temper in me starts to rise!

Animation also makes serious themes easier to swallow. Some of us may bristle at a heavy hitting environmental docu-drama, but most of us can watch the staggeringly beautiful “Princess Mononoke” by Miyazake and feel deeply affected by the destruction of nature in that film. Once again, the veil of separation between our humanity and the animated world allows us to reflect upon ourselves without getting turned off by yet another human being telling us what to do.

Last but not least, most animated films have uplifting endings. We are bombarded every day with gritty indie films that portray the extremes of our human existence. Most of these films have endings that leave us feeling empty or unresolved. Now, don’t get me wrong-- I think it’s important to show life as it really is, and I myself love gritty “realist” films. But we live in a world full of depressing news and daily catastrophes. Sometimes after a rough week, I don’t want to watch another film that leaves me feeling sick to my stomach or that shows me “how bad things really are”. Sometimes I just want to be uplifted and told that somewhere out there a fish named Nemo is finding his Dad after being lost in the ocean for days.

So, there is my dirty little secret out for all to see. And actually, writing this made me realize, there is a lot to be proud of in my undying love for animated films. Not only can animated films serve as wonderful conduits for our imagination in a world that frequently under-rewards creativity, but animated films can also serve as wonderful tools for self-reflection. Best of all, animated films in general are uplifting and provide much needed escape from a world that increasingly grows complicated and nerve-wracking. Recently, a very, very dear friend of mine passed away. After feeling numb for hours and crying profusely, it dawned on me that I already knew what would make me feel better. So I popped in “Flushed Away”, let those singing slugs do their thing, and before long I was laughing and smiling at how much my friend would have loved that film.

The Kid In The Front Row is currently on holiday, eating lots of burgers. But if you're interested in eating healthily, head over to Lisa Fabrega's blog Whole Person, Balanced Life.

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Strange Currencies - By The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter is a film geek (his words, not mine) from Toronto, Canada - where I hear they also have movies. He writes a wonderful film blog called The Dark Of The Matinee. I always thought being a film reviewer would be quite a fun thing, but as Mad Hatter explains in his guest post, it's not as straight forward as you might think.

Strange Currencies
By The Mad Hatter

When and how did this happen?

One moment, I’m watching movie after movie and soaking each one in for all it’s worth. The movies I watched furthered my amusement and cultured my opinion – sometimes all at once. But then I had to go and do something to screw that blissful existence up. The days of watching for watching’s sake were gone, and the days of near compulsion had begun. The seismic shift that set this tremor of geekdom off was seemingly innocent: one day, I started a movie blog.

It all started innocently enough. I was bored of blogging of my day-to-day life, and thought I might get more of a creative spark – and likewise the potential for a wider audience – if I focused my writings on a particular passion. Movie watching seemed the natural fit, since beyond listening to music it was the only thing I did excessively (sidebar: what would life have turned into if I’d started a music blog instead?).

So with a clean slate and a new url, I began to chronicle my own cinemania, and for a while everything was just fine. Then after a year or so, I started to notice a slight change in how I watched movies and what I watched. I was no longer just watching for watching’s sake. Any new movie I saw was seen through the eyes of a studious wannabe critic. I’d ponder star ratings mid-film, burn quotes into my memory for soundbiting purposes, and even began (horrors!)…taking notes!

That was bad enough, but it all got worse during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. This is the time of year that I’m actually on vacation – yes, I take time away from work to watch movies nonstop. In ’08, this experience went from being nothing but fun, to actually becoming work. It wasn’t enough to watch three or four screenings a day, I started filling in the remaining free hours of the day writing about what I’d just seen.

The shift in my attitude was probably best exemplified the night I returned to my apartment at midnight, knowing full well I had to wake up at six a.m. the next morning. I thought to myself “I could write about one of the movies I’ve seen today, or I can hit the hay now and get a solid six hours sleep”. To paraphrase INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE: I chose….. poorly.

Am I now writing about the movies I watch, or am I watching movies in order to write about them? Have I become completely incapable of turning my analytical attitude off and quite simply be entertained by a movie I’ve never watched before. My nerdy movie obsession seemed bad enough with the fact that the “To See” list is literally never-ending. Soaking all of these titles in with half my brain focused on what I’m going to say about it later damn near takes that obsession and turns it into full on lunacy.

Now indeed, I realize, that the easy answer is to just “stop writing”. Believe me, this fact isn’t lost on me, and was actually underlined by a recent conversation with a pro blogger who reminded me that while I might not get paid to do what I do, I have the luxury of quite simply deciding not to do it. Unfortunately I fear that I can’t go back; that even if I was blocked from every port of access to the Internet, I could never again watch a movie “just for fun”. I’ll always be making mental notes just in case the movie comes up in conversation and someone asks me “what did you think?”

Sometimes, I think back to the first movie I saw. I remember being that wide-eyed five year old kid sitting next to his granddad and watching Pinocchio valiantly try to escape from Monstro the Whale in his tiny boat. I wonder if that kid would even recognize the hit-count junkie of a grown-up he’d turn into.

But before the shame can truly take over, I remind myself of one simple fact. That I’m writing about something I truly love. I’m doing it even though nobody is paying me to do it…I’m a champion of positivity in a very cynical community…and that I’ve met a lot of really great people, and had some truly exciting opportunities because of it.

So indeed, I might be past the point of just being able to “watch a movie”. I might have fed the figurative mogwai after midnight and now there’s no changing him back. But if that change affords that Monstro-fearing kid the opportunity to express his cinematic thoughts on a limitless scale…then indeed the Gizmo I once was is gone for good – I’m Stripe now, and watching movies just got a lot more interesting because of it.

Read more from The Mad Hatter over at The Dark Of The Matinee.

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

A Message For You From Yourself

You need to give yourself a pat on the back. Really, what you've done is pretty incredible. I am talking to you. You, that special person who, despite everything, is still working hard to achieve your dream.

Despite having to pick the kids up from school, you are still writing. Despite being flat broke, you're still taking acting lessons. Despite the daily grind of your horrible, monotonous job, you're still directing short movies in the middle of the night. Despite everyone around you believing you are NOT a writer and NOT a director and NOT an actor, you're still going strong. You are still creating things. DO YOU REALIZE HOW AMAZING YOU ARE?
Give yourself a pat on the back. Give yourself some ice cream. Treat yourself to a hooker. Seriously, you're amazing. How can that be? How can it be that after hundreds of people saying "but you're not really doing much with your little films" and despite people who are really important to you saying "It's cute that you're trying to write," despite all those things that would make any sane person scream and want to hide away forever-- you are still here. You are still going on film directing courses, you're still listening to podcasts, and reading film blogs, and trying to turn that idea in your head into something on a page or a screen. You are still doing that.

Have you ever stopped to appreciate that? Let me tell you now, you're winning here. Despite the world doing that thing it does, where it builds these big walls and says "I think you'll find life is lived in this way..." you've managed to climb the wall again and again. Despite the horrible job, the negative people who pop up every time you leave the house, despite it all - you are HERE, RIGHT NOW, agreeing with what I am saying. You have worked your socks off, and you are still doing it.

This might be your 14th short film, it might be your 26th screenplay, it might be your 363rd audition. They may have proved that you are a failure. And they are right. Right up until the time you become a success. You're pretty amazing. You inspire me. You're still going.

You are Steve Martin, eight years into being a stand up comedian, wondering where his audience is. You are Tom Hanks, carrying people's bags into hotels. You are Jack Lemmon, sleeping in abandoned buildings, wondering exactly when it is you're going to get an acting job.

You're amazing.

Keep up the great work.

This post was a REPOST from September 2009. The Kid In The Front Row is currently on a beach somewhere, and will return soon...

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Friday, 26 March 2010

Movies, Moments & Memories - By Meaghan Couture

Meaghan Couture is a writer, blogger, and film lover. The day I knew she was definitely my kind of person was when I saw the simple, yet very effective tagline on her Wild Celtic blog. All it says is "I am a dreamer." That's my kind of person, and this is my kind of blog post.

Movies, Moments & Memories
By Meaghan Couture

Films, movies, videos, motion pictures ... whatever you happen to call them, the most wonderful thing about films is that we all have had an experience with them. Movies are such a part of the normal human experience now. Whether you are in New York City, Seoul, Sydney, New Delhi, Paris or even a small town that is known to a handful of locals - every one of us has seen a film and chances are one of those films changed you once you had seen it, even in a subtle way. Humming a tune, quoting your favorite line, being named after your mother's favorite actor, that sort of thing.

Looking back on my childhood, I remember being captivated by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I watched those with such admiration and awe. The music, the dancing, the tempo, the movement and sway. I grew up with these people from the 1940s, never knowing those actors had made their movies 50 years before me. All I knew was I wanted to be like them, to sing, to dance, to be joyful. Those, to me, were pure films full of real performing. They move me, make me feel like a little girl again sitting on the edge of my mothers bed in pajamas and pig tails just glued to watching their every movement with childlike wonder and admiration.

I spent years in my youth singing, twirling, and dancing. I think we all have one of those films from our past. That one movie that stuck with you, moved you, changed you, shaped you in some way. The horror movie your babysitter let you stay up to watch that kept you awake for two years with your batman flashlight clutched in hand, making your dad check twice under the bed and in the closets for boogey monsters. The first movie you watched with the opposite sex, the sweaty palms and nervous giggles when your mom asks if you want a soda. The first time you see a kiss on screen and fall totally, hopelessly in love with that actor, begging your mom to buy you his poster and doodling little hearts around his name in your notebook.

Movies have a special place in all of our hearts. We hope that one day a moment in our lives will be like a scene from our favorite movie: a big romance, an awesome "I quit" speech to your boss, a time where all of your friends get together at your favorite spot, a crazy weekend in Vegas where a tiger ends up in your bathroom, a day when, perhaps, aliens come to our planet and we blow them away. These films are a reflection of ourselves, of our imaginations and we all dream a little more than we had the day before them.

A more recent memory I’ll share was when I had gone to see "It's Complicated" with my family on Christmas and the whole place was packed, everyone in a jolly and festive mood. Sitting next to my mother, sharing popcorn with my sister, fighting over the Goobers box with my father, all of us about to watch a film we had agreed upon on the car ride over...it was an experience that made me feel like the past wasn't such a faraway place after all. The people around us were enjoying themselves and when the movie started, the energy in the room was so interconnected it felt like we were all in it together. Have you ever had those moments? When the whole room is so focused on enjoying the movie that it's like you all aren't strangers at all, but old friends that hadn't seen each other in a while. Everyone was laughing at the same parts, turning to the people beside them and pointing at the screen, repeating parts to those who had missed something because the whole room was rolling with laughter. These, these are the memories we all share, the parts of us that are most the same. We are all, deep down and underneath, just Kids In The Front Row.

You can read more of Meaghan's writing at her blog, by clicking here.

Care to share?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Seven Days In The Sun

I am going away for a week.


I have gathered some of my favorite writers to do some guest posts here, so make sure you stick around. There'll also be a few reposts of things I wrote back in the day, too (like, from over three weeks ago).

See ya.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Have You Got Anything Better To Do?

"There's no problem you can have that someone hasn't already solved, and wrote about it in a book."
-Will Smith.

I was having this discussion with a friend yesterday about reading on the train. She reads a lot of personal development/self-help books. She gets a lot from it but, at the same time, almost feels a bit silly for reading them, especially when she's on the train. There's a bit of a stigma to it, when you're reading a book on a train called something like "How To Change Your Life And Heal Your Soul". That stigma is that book is wishy washy nonsense, you're weak for needing to read that stuff. Furthermore - when you recommend a book to someone, especially regarding personal growth, success, how-to-books, etc-- the general response, from most people, is no thanks, or I've too busy to read it.

Regarding the stigma on the train -- WHO CARES? We all die anyway. When you die, aged 87, will it matter that at 29 years old you were reading a self-help book on a train? No. The book may be nonsense, of course; but you'll only know that for sure after you read it. What's the big deal? The most exciting, fun, and creative people I know like to read. They like to stretch themselves. I'm really lucky in that I have a few close friends who I am always sharing books and websites with -- that's how I am now, much more than I used to be--- I love to get stuck in and read and learn.

I'm not sure if it's just an English thing, or if it's prevalent everywhere; but I find most people like to think they know everything they need to know. I read a lot of books on creativity, psychology, health, history, etc. These things; for me - carry information, ideas and stories that can, will and do MAKE LIFE BETTER. Even if they're crazy theories I don't believe in-- wow, how great; how great that I read that idea, mulled it over, and came out the other side with my views more strongly in tact.

It boggles my mind how so many people can be SO UNHAPPY, yet still refuse to indulge in new ideas. And they keep trying to change things and fix things from the same perspective as before. Within the limitations of their belief systems.

"The book you don't read can't help." -
Jim Rohn

"I've been too busy to read it." - NO YOU HAVEN'T. If you've been on Facebook, or on a train journey, or sat on the toilet seat, or spent twenty minutes moaning about something-- you've had the time and opportunity to instead indulge in something that will drastically improve your life--- reading.

I really feel that if you are unhappy with your happiness, creativity, finances, family life, health, tiredness, literally anything... there is something you can be reading that will help change your life. Tiredness is the worst excuse because what causes tiredness and world-weariness is the lack of opportunities, personal hardships, lost dreams, hard days at work, depression - and these things are caused by us not fulfilling everything we want to fulfill in life. So we gotta work towards them!

I could sit on Facebook all night poking girls and talking to my friend Jeff about how pissed off I am at Bryan for not coming to that party last week, or I can read about European History for a project I'm considering doing. I can watch that soap on TV where everyone is cheating on each other, or I can read that book about screenwriting. I can sit in my room wanting to scream because I have no money, or I can read a book about success and wealth. I might find 90% of the book stupid, I might find that I know most of the things--- but there might be that one little piece of gold; that one perspective that someone somewhere else in the world once wrote - and it's the one thing that will turn my world around.

Have you got anything better to do with your spare time? In the past six months or so - I have developed a real passion and interest in things that I never expected. And interestingly; they're opening up new and exciting opportunities for me. Almost by magic, my work opportunities have come more in line with the things I've been reading.

"Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune."
-Jim Rohn

Right now, I'm reading Anne Frank's Diary. It's great to read it again - such an incredible book. Really takes you to the heart of wartime in Europe in a way precious few other things do. It's amazing how much you can learn from that young girl; from her predicament, her views on the world, the legacy she's left behind. Charlie Chaplin's autobiography has been far more beneficial to me than all the times I've played on my PSP, more relaxing too! I've also been reading pretty much every Arnold Mindell book I can get my hands on. Life-altering stuff. Next week I'm going away- and am taking a big book about European History with me - it's my new fascination.. learning about the richness and diversity of Europe, especially in the last hundred years, within the context of it's many struggles against Nazism, Communism, etc. I won't even begin to pretend I know a lot about these things-- but I'm getting there. And it's important. Important because, when I meet a German person, or a Spanish person, or an Irish person or a Serbian person-- it's great to know more about who they are, where they've come from and what they've been through.

"How many books have you read in the last 90 days? Zero? Wisdom of the world available, change your life, change your future, develop any skill you want, earn the kind of income you want, have all the treasures you want, equities you want, relationships with your family that you want, everything that you want available, and the wisdom of the world to help you get it; haven't read any books in the last ninety days? You have MESSED UP!"
-Jim Rohn


What are you reading? Why is it important to you?

Care to share?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Green Zone, Iraq, and Privilege.

I saw GREEN ZONE yesterday and it really stirred something up in me. Iraq, I hate to say, hadn't always meant a great deal to me. It was this thing that happened, but seven years have gone by and I'm more likely to discuss my favorite yogurt flavors than talk about Iraq. But recently; I've been thinking about it. There were no WMD's. We all know this but I keep repeating it to myself. There were no WMD's. They were the reason we went there! We, as in, my people, my nation. I say we because I feel a sense of accountability-- our actions did a lot over there and it's questionnable how much was good.

It's amazing how I know so little about the ins and the outs of the conflict. It's a privilege I've been afforded due to where I was born that I don't have to worry about nightly bombings on my head. That same privilege has allowed me to change the channel when the news didn't interest me, to watch an episode of Friends rather than spend twenty minutes learning about the thousands and thousands of dead and displaced Iraqi citizens. We did that. Our nations, our part of the world. Whether we're pro war, anti war or apathetic; those choices are privileges we have that people in Iraq didn't get to have.

When watching Green Zone, these things really hit me. Seeing a perplexed Matt Damon running around wondering where all the WMDs were; it brought forward the insanity of it all. An insanity which I already knew but had seldom settled on, probably because I was watching episodes of Entourage.

There are a few lingering master shots in GREEN ZONE, I remember one right near the end; we see the town, aircraft overhead; and building after building exploding. By really focusing on the truth of what I was seeing, it really bothered me, really made me realise how lucky I am in my life.

The crazy thing is seeing the division within the Allied American Units. Not only was there a war with Iraq, there were plenty of wars within the Western forces. The film is fictional, in part, so the specifics may not be exact-- but my guess is that it's pretty accurate. We only have to look at Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti disaster to see how a bunch of agencies who are all there to do good, end up squabbling and fighting; causing unneccesary stress on a situation. Put that into a conflict situation, and the implications are even more frightening. Within the concept of 'us versus them', inside of 'us' are a whole lot more of 'us and them's'.

This blog isn't really about Green Zone and it isn't really about Foreign Policy or politics or warfare. It's just me, a Film guy who doesn't know much about Iraq, finally realizing my country played a huge part in what went down. And whilst some good was done and necessary things acheived - there's a lot that concerns me, that I feel accountable for as a citizen of my country. The privilege of being English, or American, is that we can choose to be uninformed, or to indulge in what our media tells us. And I guess I'm just realizing my responsibility, as a human being: I need to care more.

Care to share?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

This is Ourselves Under Pressure

She says it's only in my head,
I said "I know, I know it's only in my head."
-Counting Crows

There was this time in school when my interests went down a different road to my friends. I didn't notice it for years, then it suddenly started to be very apparent. They went to bars and got drunk, I went to my room and watched Billy Wilder movies on repeat. It seemed a bit strange at the time -- but it was the most natural of things. I was becoming who I am; the film guy. It's weird to look now; to think back to those times. It's weird how my coming out so strongly in favor of my passions; I could get weirdly marginalized by that. "So what movies do you like?" - my answers were not that kind that guys respected, and definitely not the kind that interested girls. It's strange because; years later-- that same feeling of being different, dare I say being a bit marginalized still comes through. Just the other day I got a ride home from this girl I've known for years; since we were kids in fact. And she asked me, "so where do you go out with your friends?" The correct answer being a list of particular clubs and bars that hit the cool list. I don't hit the cool list, I don't even know the cool list anymore. My friends and I, we go to see movies, or we go for drive arounds in cars, or we board planes and head to Poland or some place. Now of course, I find those things pretty cool - but in front of a twentysomething girl in the place I'm from-- those things don't resonate as cool. My responses were met with an awkward 'what? really?', followed by silence. I know that silence.

I should state right now that, when I used the word 'marginalized,' it's a bit silly. In the history of people in the world being marginalized; 'film loving young people' are one of the less important. But thinking about it right now -- I realize it's played a big part in my life. It plays a big part in a lot of people's lives. It's HARD to stand up and say "I don't know that movie," "I am going to earn a living being creative," "I love ABBA." (I don't actually love ABBA, but interestingly; felt the need to clarify that in brackets-- I'm even marginalized within myself; haha.)

It's hard to be what you want to be in life. In fact; rather than a generalization - let me talk about me: I find it hard to be me, in my life. I find it hard to write, hard to create, hard to be comfortable in what I do around people. I have complete and utter belief in my tastes, in my creative instincts, and in everything that entails -- but I get this nagging feeling sometimes that, until I get a million dollar pay cheque and a giant premiere, they aren't quite justified. This feeling didn't originate in me -- it's larger than that. It's a part of the world somehow. What I mean, is that-- in a success-oriented society, in a world that expects a hard day's work in the office -- the creative process and its journey ARE marginalized; they are seen as less than; and they're only given respect when they get reported on an entertainment show, or when Brad Pitt comes to your Premiere.

But then - as I write all this; I feel a bit like an insane paranoid. I think, when I was 16; I had to come across this attitude a lot: What do you really want to do? How will you ever make money? Why are you listening to Bruce Springsteen? Why are you watching that show on repeat? How long are you going to keep this up?. Now that definitely WAS real: but now, I feel it so strongly in my head sometimes--- I feel like the only thing stopping me from writing a screenplay that will change the world is this inner voice that says all the things everybody else said when I was 16; it causes this pressure so intense that I have no idea how to explain it.

I have played this character, you could say; and I've been doing it for many, many years- and the character is: Mr. I-am-talented-I-know-what-I'm-doing-I-am-who-I-am. This part of me, he does a lot of projects, he always knows where he is going, and he is expected to succeed. And in any given moment, if his definition of success hasn't been reached.. then he keeps working at it day after day, moment after moment.

So when I talk to some old school friend who says "what are you up to?", then Mr. I-am-talented-I-know-what-I'm-doing-I-am-who-I-am thinks "fuck, I'm not Spielberg yet. Come on; create, create, create!" ---- the voice comes out every time I take a job that isn't, y'know, the big dream; in fact; I even find movies hard to watch because a movie is a message that 'somebody wrote and directed me; and it isn't you, loser.' And talking of being marginalized; it's the 'Kid In The Front Row' part of me that gets pushed down by Mr. I-am-talented-I-know-what-I'm-doing-I-am-who-I-am. 'Mr I Am' says: "I need to create a project, I need to achieve, I need to get this career in gear!" 'Mr Kid..' says "I love movies! I love Chaplin! Ooh, I'm going to write something delightfully funny!"

I wanted to speak up about this because; every time someone accuses me of 'sitting around all day watching movies,' or of 'not having a real job' or any of those things; they should realize, they don't need to criticise me; I'm on it. I have so much I am determined to achieve; to the point that I find it hard to enjoy a good book, or a computer game, or a walk in the park; because I don't feel I have earned the privilege.

This crazy pressure is a little insane, but I would imagine it's something many people can relate to. This voice tends to get crunched up and hidden inside your head; hidden inside lines like "I am currently working on six scripts!" or "I had nine auditions today!" --- in fact; every Facebook status that says "I had my fitting today; can't wait for next week's shoot!" is someone saying "LOOK, I'M TRYING. I'M DOING EVERYTHING. I'M GETTING THERE! CUT ME SOME SLACK!"
I guess I want everyone who's ever knocked a creative person's efforts; I guess I want them to read this.. it might help them realize that, in all actuality- we're all working really hard. And for all you creative souls, I hope this helps you to see that, when the world beats you up and when you beat yourself up----- you're not alone. I'm working just as hard as you, I'm just as tired as you, and I'm here for you.

"We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record baby
Than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you're tired and you just want to close your eyes
And follow your dreams down"
-Springsteen

Care to share?

True Wisdom!

It's time to quit waiting for

Perfection.
Inspiration.
Permission.
Reassurance.
Someone to change.
The right person to come along.
The kids to leave home.
A more favorable horoscope.
The new administration to take over.
An absence of risk.
Someone to discover you.
A clear set of instructions.
More self confidence.
The pain to go away.


Get on with it already!


(Stolen from Jack Canfield's book 'The Success Principles.')


Care to share?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

'Breaking Upwards' And Olivia Thirlby Rapping.

Here's a cool looking movie; cool in that indie-style-relationship-based-flick-of-the-year kind of way (previous archetypes: In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, 500 Days Of Summer, Away We Go, Little Miss Juno's Playlist State).

Here's the trailer:


Decent-trailer, right? Watchable. The woman is slightly annoying. Cool. Anyways-- what I love is this attempt at promoting the movie. It's been online for three months and has had hardly any views, so their viral attempts probably aren't working as hoped; but still, I love it! Looks like they're having fun. Check it out..


Care to share?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Which Film Would You Want Played At Your Funeral?

Okay, so they don't play films at funerals; but if they did, what film would you show at yours? Everyone who's ever known you is gathered - whether this is in a church, or in a gathering afterwards (you know that thing everyone goes to and makes small talk until there are no more prawn sandwiches). Everybody is there, and rather than everyone listening to a song and saying "Wow, Dancing Queen really reminds me of Johnny..." instead of a song, it's a movie - you only get one..


What film would it be? And would you allow popcorn?

Care to share?

Dancing Blog To Blog.

I Love My Rainboots is a great place to start - you can feel the energy and originality bouncing off the page. The Struggling Actress rarely seems to be struggling at all - especially when it comes to blogging. The name Mind Body Psychotheraphy will either excite you and make you think 'nonsense.' Either way, check it out; it's inspiration, and it's colorful. I Love Being Gay is not something I've ever felt the need to say, but this new blog certainly does. I find the Jungian Psychology blog fascinating, and I continue to be jealous of the non-stop creativity of Color Me Katie. I also like Asleep In New York but cant' quite explain why. The Intermittent Sprocket comments a lot more on my blog than I do on his - so, I'm trying to even that up by mentioning him here. Wild Celtic is always writing something new - how am I meant to keep up? Because I Saw The Film is so cool.

Care to share?

Alex Chilton, RIP.

I don't know a great deal of Alex Chilton music - but this song, 'The Ballad Of El Goodo' from him and his band BIG STAR, is one of my favorite songs.

Care to share?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

If You're Going To Burn Out, Do It Conciously!

It occurred to me this morning; in the midst of creative burn out, that I have two options. I can struggle to write, force ideas, and beat myself up for not getting anywhere. Or I can have a sandwich, spend time with friends, and have a nice cup of tea. Either way; I'm not writing or creating anything useful, so I may as well accept it and be happy with what the burn out is telling me.

I have written a feature this year, I've put a short out, I've written a blog on a daily basis; and by and large have been very happy with the quality of the output. I have also taken on other projects in the past few months; filming and editing videos every week for a charity organization, doing filming work with psychotherapists - and many other things. I can conclude that, yes, I've been busy.

As soon as I wrote a feature screenplay a couple of months ago, I immediately set the task of creating a new one. Being that the one I wrote wasn't a comedy, and I'm most comfortable in comedy, I felt pressed to begin another screenplay. Hence I've had a month of trying to force it out when there's not, really, anything to force out. It's like going to the bathroom; you can do it when you're ready or you can force it out early and cause yourself a lot of damage.

The burn out is a message, either I've done enough work for now or I have nothing to say at this moment in time. The problem with us creative fools is that we feel major guilt and anger when we don't create. But years from now, when we look back at our successful careers - whether we created or didn't create on this particular Thursday and Friday will hold little relevance.

A factor in this is external pressure, or perceived external pressure. Everyone I know tends to see me as creative, always doing something. I've often found myself playing up to that role. When people ask 'Kid, what are you working on?' I feel a pressure to name six things and have an excited look on my face. It gets harder and harder to say "I have nothing on the go right now, maybe I'll make a ham salad sandwich."

It can be really crippling to be asked what you're working on; because the question can often be an attack. The attack is "I work 9-5 in a hard underpaid job, supporting my family and paying my bills. So Mr Filmmaker, what have you been doing?"

This is crippling because you feel a victim of their judgement. Personal growth, or psychological growth (whatever you want to call it) has allowed me to not be oppressed by the question; I take it on board and say; "I'm working on a sandwich today. Ham salad."

More often than not though; nobody is attacking me or pressuring me, I'm doing it to myself. And that, in essence, creates burn out, or is at least a large factor. Not only do I create, I also do it when resting; I am constantly on the look out for ideas. I was watching 'Ally McBeal' the other night; and I recognized that when I watched it ten years ago, I was completely involved-- but this time I was half involved, half thinking about starting a script, wondering what I had to say; and considering blogging about it. And this is NOT 'Kid In The Front Row' behaviour. I want to be passionately involved in watching things I love and passionately involved in creativity; but I want them to be separate.

And therein lies the lesson of this particular burnout. It has enabled me to regain that rested, happy child who wants to hide out in his room and watch 'Ally McBeal.' I am thankful for that!

Care to share?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Interview With Film Make-Up Artist STEPHANIE WISE

One of the most important elements of a good film, is good make-up. However, especially in the low-budget independent film community - the needs of the make-up department are often misunderstood and overlooked. This is usually because of a lack of interest and/or awareness from producers and directors; but a lot of it also comes down to a lack of representation; somebody to speak up and explain to the rest of us why it's so important. Luckily, there are people like STEPHANIE WISE: A New York-based Make-Up Artist of over a dozen features and numerous short films.It isn't just her knowledge and experience; but her passion for what she does that is really inspiring. I've had the privilege over the last couple of years of becoming good friends with her and learning a lot about what she does; and I hope we're able to bring some of that to this interview.

What made you want to become a make-up artist?

Makeup is something that has always intrigued me, sometimes I think that I was predisposed to becoming a makeup artist. When I was a child, probably around the age of 10 or 11, I saw behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Exorcist. At that time, I knew nothing about makeup artistry, and I wasn't particularly fond of horror movies, but I was genuinely fascinated by the special effects work that was showcased. I know that it's not difficult to genuinely fascinate children, but of all the things that captured my attention when I was young, the imagery of that makeup team working their magic stuck fast and actually remained in the forefront of my impressionable young mind. I remember telling my grandparents that I wanted to be a special effects makeup artist back then, and I used to experiment with my mother's makeup and face paint and a menagerie of other materials that I thought looked like blood or monster skin, etc. I have pictures of my cousins with cheese-wax "bullet wounds" on their arms that I must have done when I was 12 or 13.

During my time in college, I was in pursuit of an art degree, but I didn't want to be a secluded fine artist or an art teacher or an employee in a gallery. I didn't know what I wanted exactly, and no one could really satisfy my questioning. So, I finally decided to return to something that had always been interesting to me, which was makeup. A bit of research and the counsel of a trusted professor lead me to believe that I could, and should, take makeup and special effects seriously. I'm so happy that I did, because I love that this profession. I love that the work of a makeup artist in the film industry is a blend of painting, sculpture, event coordinating, and human relations. I love the camaraderie of working with a team, as well as the entirety of the film crew. I enjoy using brushes and paints and powders, and I love applying the various mediums of makeup to faces and skin. I have a fascination with faces in general, so it's very satisfying to finish applying a makeup design and then watch my work perform as the actor speaks and gestures and expresses emotion.

So how did you get started in the industry?

I began by chasing after any opportunity that I was qualified for. I had some legit makeup experience from work I had done for theatres in my hometown, which definitely helped me obtain jobs fresh out of make-up school. Of course, I wasn't getting paid then, but I was meeting people in the industry, which was of much greater value. No job was too small, I didn't care if the script was promising or if the director was determined to get festival attention, I didn't even care if the makeup I would be doing was challenging or not. Sometimes I worked as a set PA, not doing anything related to makeup at all. I just wanted to be doing what I wanted to do, wanted to be a part of something creative and engaging, so I took advantage of every chance that I got. During that time, I was working in cosmetics shops to pay the bills and stay close to my desired field. After about two years of this, I had finally met enough of the "right" people and had gained enough experience to quit the day job and start freelancing full-time.

How do you find work?

These days I get most of my work through referral, which is wonderful because it means that I work with the same people quite often. The independent film world in NYC is like a family that way; the higher-ups find that they work well with certain people, so they continue to hire them job after job. Trusting work relationships develop, groups of professionals become units, colleagues become comrades. Often I'll get calls for jobs that another makeup artist was offered, but couldn't take, so they recommended me instead. I have likewise passed-on many jobs to other makeup artists who I know and trust.

I also still peruse Craigslist and Mandy.com for work when there aren't any upcoming jobs on my horizon.

I feel there are a lot of misconceptions about what you do, from the attitude "It's just make-up," to another belief that, on a low-budget, the needs of the make-up department can be overlooked - have you ever come across this in your work and how does it affect you?

Unfortunately, I come across such attitudes fairly often in the low-budget indie world. The effects can range from something as simple as not being provided with a surface to place my tools on, to not being allowed to stand by monitor.

It seems that in the film community, many professionals are familiar with the purpose and function of multiple departments, not just their own. I imagine that this stems from either studying the film-making process in school, or having been a part of so many productions that the different jobs become common knowledge. My job is an exception.

Why is that?

In general, no one besides my fellow departmental colleagues fully understands what makeup artists do. I feel that the misconceptions and improper attitudes are merely the children of inexperience. Perhaps one reason why makeup can be seen as unnecessary is because the history, advancements, and purposes of the makeup industry have not been canonized along with the more "important" aspects of the motion picture legacy.

That's interesting...

Makeup is a very specialized discipline, just like camera, lighting, and sound, but unlike those fields, few are taught about make-up in film school.

I wish that others knew more about what makes a good makeup artist good, and what their needs are. It wouldn‘t just be a benefit to makeup artists, it would save so many productions a lot of unnecessary stress and headache. It just goes to show that ignorance is not bliss. It can put a strain on people who are relying on one another to get a job done; If one doesn’t know what the other needs, then both suffer. For example, I want to have the actors ready in a timely manner, but for that to happen, I need for them to be called at the proper time. I try to discuss and confirm certain logistics like this before a shoot starts, but that’s not always possible, (or taken seriously).

This is a shame, because a good makeup artist can be a valuable ally to the crew. Besides developing the visual qualities of the characters and affecting the overall aesthetic and mood of the on-screen imagery, there are many things that makeup artists do that others wouldn’t think of or know how to fix. We hide sunburn, cover unwanted tattoos, scars, and birth-marks, maintain continuity if an actor starts to noticeably suffer from a cold, allergies, or sleep deprivation, keep a look-out for eye and nose boogers and ear wax, correct signs of aging or too-prominent facial features, and put artificial structure and color back into a face to prevent it from looking flat or distorted. It's not always glamorous work.

The dexterity of a makeup artist and quality of his or her makeup design can add production value, or diminish it. No makeup supervision, (or poor makeup supervision) can lead to problems with photography, lighting, post-production work, disposition of the talent, and cause audiences to become distracted.

Makeup is necessary and important because it is a part of the whole. The makeup department is a member of the team, we are on the side of the greater goal of the production. With that said, I admit that I did choose this line of work for myself knowing that I would face stereotypes and misconceptions, and I still like and want to do what I do. Everyone faces discouragement, such is life, but it would be nice to receive as much respect as the better understood departments do.

Leading up to a shoot - how much preparation do you do?

I do as much work in pre-production as I do during a shoot, or perhaps even more. It is an arduous process. A well done pre-production is usually impossible for me to achieve without plenty of caffeine, eye-strain, and mental anguish, as I'm sure most professionals in the film industry can relate to.

Most of the minutiae of my job needs to be organized before principal photography begins because so much hinges upon the importance of continuity. For a feature film, my prep work begins with reading and re-reading the script. I have to identify and familiarize myself with every detail that will affect my department, and conceptualize ideas for each character before I can do anything else. Then, I compose a scene-by-scene breakdown which itemizes the individual continuity notes for each character who appears in the scene, as well as relevant information from the script.

I can be a bit over-zealous when it comes to my break-down, but it makes my job so much easier when every detail is accounted for prior to principal photography. The movie-making process is stressful enough as it is, anything that I can do in advance to help myself and my department work more efficiently is worth the extra effort.

Apart from the continuity break-down, I also have to plan the final makeup design for every character, as well as all special effects makeup and effects gags. This involves a lot of dialogue with the director, since I have to make sure that we share a common vision and come to an understanding about certain logistics and design elements. When all of the organization and designing is done, (or, sometimes, while I'm still in the midst of it) I also have to figure out a budget breakdown, obtain the products/materials needed for the shoot, and make sure that they are organized, clean, and ready for use.

That sounds like a lot of work. I think us Director's have it easy!

It is very common for me to become a recluse during the pre-production process, because I spend so much time racking my brain to develop ideas and fine-tune the accuracy of my continuity notes. But it's always a worthwhile endeavor.

What do you want from a Director? What is the ideal relationship?

What I want from a Director is a collaborative, mutually respectful relationship. I think like an artist, so when I have an idea, it is usually more of a conceptual brain child than a practical solution. In order to develop satisfactory makeup looks, I envision characters in various spaces and under lights of varying colors and intensities. I consider mood and emotion and symbolism. I also consider realism and practicality, when appropriate. So, when I sit down with a Director to talk, I want the chance to creatively engage with the person who is responsible for the creative vision of the entire film. I ask lots of questions, and I appreciate lots of carefully considered, insightful answers. I also greatly appreciate reciprocality and collaboration. I work best when both the Director and I can present solid ideas to one another, and then use what we like to formulate new ideas.

I don't particularly like it when a Director has no ideas about the makeup at all and leaves me to guess at what the desired look is, but the absolute worst case scenario is when a Director is completely unwilling to trust my expertise. I hate, hate, hate, being shown a picture and told, "This is what I want, do exactly this".

My work is a thing of pride for me, I want to create my own new and interesting work for each film, I do not want to re-do something that someone else has already done. I want to share and participate in a holistic vision, I do not want to be force-fed it or left to figure it out on my own. I like it when a Director values and encourages that.

Stephanie Wise was the Make-Up Department Head on the feature film 'Meskada' (Dir: Josh Sternfield), which is premiering at the the Tribeca Film Festival in April, 2010. .

Care to share?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Secret To Manifesting Abundance Positively - A Short Story.

All through life, Geoff Fripp struggled to make his dreams come true. More than anything, he hated to admit, he struggled financially. He tried everything. Most of all, he kept listening to positive thinking life coaches and always found them inspirational, but he couldn't help but wonder: why didn't their formula for success ever work for him? And then one day, it did.

He became a life coach. The job was very easy -- all he had to do was write articles using the words 'abundance' and 'manifest,' and keep a steady sun-tan. He wrote a book called 'Manifesting Positive Abundance' and sold the book to twenty three year old actresses everywhere. Now, when young actresses are asked how their careers are going they state "I am currently manifesting positive abundance," whilst struggling to make $5 in tips a night.

Geoff realised how foolproof it was being a life coach. He inspired people by making them believe they could achieve positive outcomes using visualization and belief. And if that didn't work there was always his twelve-step $500 plan, which helps manifest plenty of abundance - even if only for Geoff Fripp himself. When people failed to achieve their dreams-- he told them, "you're being negative! You're not believing in the universe, you won't succeed until you gain abundance." The person responds, "But I believed in the universe and I posted Epicurus quotes on my Facebook wall, I did everything. Now I'm getting tired."

"Aha, getting tired," said Geoff. "Tiredness is when you're not on song with the universe. You won't be not tired until you're ready to not be tired and are in alignment with your untiredness."

"Now I'm confused?" said the tired and confused man.

"Confusion indicates your positive vibrations are not active. You are not vibrating," explained the Life Coach. The tired and confused man, feeling confused and tired, played it safe and enrolled in a discounted online seminar for "Vibrating And Shaking Positively," but soon realised he'd joined an online support group for Parkinsons Disease.

Geoff had come a long way. It was amazing how a man who, up until a year ago worked as a repair man for a supermarket, could know so much about the laws of the universe. Despite often struggling to fix the faulty sink in his old job, his new career was easy. His YouTube video of the Earth spinning around, overlapped with Martin Luther King quotes had garnered him eight million hits and four million dollars in advertising revenue.

It turns out, after all, that all of the life coaches/positive thinkers/law of attraction people/makers of The Secret were right: You can attract abundance - and you do it by being a life coach and selling books about the law of attraction.

Kid In The Front Row GOOD KARMA THOUGHT VIBRATIONS are now on sale. For the small fee of $5 I will think positively about you. This will manifest endless joy and abundance (just not for you).

Care to share?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Screenwriter SCOTT ROSENBERG Interview.

Scott Rosenberg wrote 'BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.' With that alone, I am happy to stop right there and declare that he is one of my favorite screenwriters. But, as it happens, he also penned 'CON AIR,' 'THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD,' 'GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS,' and many others - as well as creating one of the best TV shows of recent years, 'OCTOBER ROAD.'

I'd like to start by talking about 'Beautiful Girls,' because it's one of my favorite films. I wish there were more films like this. Did you know it was going to be something special when you wrote it?

“BEAUTIFUL GIRLS’ came about because I had been working for months on the script for “CON AIR”. In those days, the studio would make you write a detailed treatment before sending you off to script (it was a way for them to avoid paying a step). Between “THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD” and “CON AIR”, I was fully submerged in a kind of nihilistic porn: violence, anger, racial epithets, death. I was numb as a statue. And I found myself, back in my hometown outside of Boston, during one of the worst winters ever. I was waiting for Disney to approve “CON AIR”. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of seven years. The snow plows were driving by my window. Many driven by my buddies from high school. When it occurred to me: “there is more quote “action”, going on with my buddies here -with turning 30 and not being able to deal with the women in their lives - than in twenty Jerry Bruckheimer movies. I remember very clearly, saying to my kid brother: “I am going to go into my room and write a script called “BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” but it’s going to be all about guys.” Five days later I emerged with the script. It just poured out. I didn’t think it was special. It was a piece of catharsis. It was entirely written for myself. Which is probably why it resonated with so many people. And, inexplicably, still does to this day...

I think it's the kind of screenplay that everyone tries to write when they begin screenwriting, the script about a bunch of friends in a small town figuring their lives out. But rather than having the complexity and subtlety of 'Beautiful Girls,' they tend to be quite boring and soap operatic -- were you concerned about this when you were writing yours? How confident were you?

Nah. Because I don’t think it was such a common trope then as it is now. There was the gold standard, of course, Barry Levinson’s “DINER”. But I tried never to even think of that one. Because then I would have just been paralyzed. Because that film is nearly perfect. A few years ago, I was skiing in Colorado, and I was in a bar and some snow-boarders in their early 20s came up to me. They had heard I was the dude that wrote “BEAUTIFUL GIRLS”. And they wanted to tell me that their whole group of friends watch the film once every few months. I told them that is so cool. And that MY friends and me used to watch “DINER” once every few months. And the snow-boarders shrugged and asked me: “What’s ‘DINER’?” And I realized that “GIRLS” was for these kids, what “DINER” was for some of my friends. And that was perhaps the coolest thing of all...

The film feels like it's been made by a writer/director - you can really feel a singular voice coming through. What interests me, is that it's really hard to know what is your voice, and what came from Ted Demme. What was your working relationship like with the Director; and what things, for you, did and didn't work out how you wanted in the film?

The journey of that film was insane. Originally, James L. Brooks was going to direct it. Which was kind of like we’d hit the lottery? Huh? James L. Brooks? The living legend? Who never directed a film he didn’t write? How is this possible? And why? I worked with Jim for 5 months on the film. Meeting actors. Hearing them say the words. Refining the script. And then, Jim dropped out. It was rather devastating. I think he just felt, end of the day, that he was a Jewish in his 50s, who’d been rich for a long time, how much commonality did he really have with a bunch of blue collar mooks from Boston? But working with him had been like the screenwriter equivalent of going to Harvard Business School. It was amazing. After he dropped out, we flirted with some other names. And then the idea of Teddy came up. I wasn’t that familiar with his work (he had only done a few films; and worked at MTV), but upon meeting him, one thing was clear: he WAS one of the guys I grew up with. He just had this amazing one-of-the-lads quality about him. And his enthusiasm was infectious. And he loved the script.

Were there disagreements? Sure. There will always be. But most of those came during post. Teddy and I agreed whole heartedly on every piece of casting. On locations. On set design. If we argued it was over some things in the final edit. But nothing terrible. A perfect example of how we worked was the day Teddy came to me and said there should be a sing-a-long a la “THE DEERHUNTER”, in The Johnson Inn. Wouldn’t that be a great way to introduce Uma’s character and show the guys’ special bond. But what song? Teddy was thinking maybe “HAPPY TOGETHER” by The Turtles. I knew, immediately (and this was well before it became a karaoke favorite and Boston Red Sox anthem), that it had to be Neil Diamond. “Sweet Caroline”. Teddy wasn’t so sure. One night, we took the cast to a bar in Minnesota for some after-wrap cocktails. There was a piano player there. I surreptitiously gave him ten bucks and asked him to play “Sweet Caroline”. He did. The place went crazy. Everyone singing along. Including Matt Dillon and Noah Emmerich. But Teddy always said, it was when he saw a waitress, gliding by, holding a tray laden with cocktails, wailing to the song, that he “knew Scotty was right... And that it had to be Neil Diamond..." That was how it was with us. He made a wonderful film. I miss him...

Do you think you would have worked together again? Were you close friends?

Teddy and I were good friends. We had a complicated relationship. Sometimes we were as thick as thieves, and planning on doing our next thing together. Other times, we were at each other's throats. He was the one who first convinced me to do television. We did a pilot based on a novel I wrote, called "GOING TO CALIFORNIA". Sold it to the WB. We shot a pilot but it didn't get picked up. Years later, Showtime bought it. We recast and did 20 episodes. So, you see, Teddy and I were always looking for shit to do together. His passing was great tragedy, as he was really starting to happen; to really come into his own as a filmmaker.

It's amazing how you went from 'Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead' and 'Beautiful Girls' - to working on a giant blockbuster like 'Con Air.' How did you get involved in the project?

“DENVER” was the hot script that year. It was one of those “No One Wants To Make It But Everyone Has To Read It” things. And I got a ton of attention. Disney brought me in and handed me an “L.A. TIMES” article about the real Con Air -a Federal Marshall program that transports prisoners across the country. They wanted me to come up with an idea. But they “didn’t want ‘DIE HARD’ on a plane. Good luck.” So I just noodled on it for a while. Listened to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers records. And once I happened upon the notion of the guy who had never met his daughter - that his wife had been pregnant when got busted - I saw how I could make this thing work. That sightline was so clean. It allowed me to adorn the thing with the craziest motherfuckers; the most absurd dialogue and set-pieces. Because, when all is said and done, he was just another man trying to find his way back home...

There's a big myth for writers trying to get into the industry; who feel that to work on anything with a big producer or studio, means no creative control and constantly having to incorporate other people's ideas - has this been your experience?

The script is always going to be co-opted. Because with a budget that big, it’s the only thing they can constantly tinker with; it allows everyone to sleep at night, knowing that, somewhere, someone is working on the script. I think you have to do your best work, and hope much of it flies. But you also have to be realistic: “SPIDER-MAN” or “GONE IN 60 SECONDS” or “THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER” -these are not the sad, sweet personal stories about my ancestors coming over from the Old Country. So I can be mercenary. I have to care. I have to make it deeply meaningful for me, so I can do good work. But I also have to divest myself emotionally. Because chances are good you will be re-written. My motto has always been: "Don’t Fuck With My Small Movies. Do What You Need With The Big..."

With 'Con Air,' you were writing about characters who were murderers, rapists, pedophiles -- is that particularly challenging?

First things first: I have never understood why people thought Buscemi’s character was a pedophile. He was described as a mass murderer who killed a bunch off people up and down the Eastern Seaboard. And that the way he killed made “the Manson Family look like The Partridge Family.” There was never a single mention of children. Somehow, when he has the scene with the little girl, people just jumped to that conclusion; that he was pedophile. It was the strangest thing to me. I was simply ripping off “FRANKENSTEIN” -monster with little girl. Did anyone ever accuse Frankenstein’s monster of being a pedophile? Nope. I think Garland Greene deserves the same respect. Ha-ha.

As far as writing murderers, rapists, etc., I have always believed one has to find the humanity in even the most dreadful of characters. No one - not even Son Of Sam - is without a shred of decency; Ted Bundy had a mother who loved him at one point. If you can find an access point - a way to give make even the most unsympathetic of characters mildly sympathetic in places... Then you will have a fully dimensionalized villain. Or so it seems to me...

I noticed when watching 'Highway' that you also produced it. Did you hire the director yourself?

I did. Along with the execs at New Line. Todd Phillips was originally going to direct it. It was called “A LEONARD COHEN AFTERWORLD” -which is a terrible title, but is a part of the lyric from the Nirvana song “Pennyroyal Tea” (”give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/So I can sigh eternally... “). This was before Todd was Todd. And he eventually bailed because this movie he had been trying to get set-up finally got a green-light. That was “ROAD TRIP”. Which was rather ironic. Because my film was a road trip picture, too. Albeit a much darker one. Involving drug dealers, mobsters, circus freaks, hookers and the weekend Kurt Cobain killed himself.

After Todd dropped out, and we were looking for his replacement, a short film made by an NYU student came across our desk. It was called “ATOMIC TABASCO”. We were rather knocked out by its balls, its bombast, its confidence. We met with the director, James Cox. And were rather knocked- out by his balls, bombast and confidence. There was something about his manic madness that I thought was perfect for this film. The tone I wanted the movie to have, was sort of the manner in which James Cox lived his life. So we hired him. And we made a pretty cool film. Jared Leto, Jake Gyllenhaal, Selma Blair, John C. McGinley. And, in a show-stopping scene, Jeremy Piven (who replaced Vince Vaughn at the eleventh hour). But the exec at New Line who had championed the film left just after we delivered it. And the head of the studio never liked it. So they re-cut it; replaced all of our dope songs with lesser versions. And sent it straight to DVD. I have actually never seen the new version. And never will. It’s too painful. But I learned a lot making that film. And had a good time doing it...

Are you interested in directing at some point?

I think I would like to very much. I am not sure if I would be any good at it. Have come close a number of times. And for various reasons, it didn’t happen. Having spent a lot of time on many sets, watching many directors, there are some days you say to yourself “God, I could do better than this moron!” and then other days, you think: “wow, this guy is talented. I could never do what he does!” So I go back and forth. The “year of your life” thing kind of freaks me out. Insofar as I could work on so many projects in a year as a writer. But as a director, you are basically eating, drinking, sleeping and fucking that one film for at least an entire year. But we’ll see...

I was re-watching 'Gone In Sixty Seconds' the other day, and during the big car chase at the end, I wondered-- how the hell do you write something like that? How do you make a chase scene or a fight scene exciting? Whenever I try to write them scenes, they read like instruction manuals.

Funny that you ask. I wish I had a copy of my first draft handy (I can find it for you eventually), because that is exactly what I wrote in the stage directions. I wrote something like “look, I ain’t lazy. But chase scenes are like sex scenes - the only thing more boring than reading them is writing them. So I’m not gonna do it. We’ll hire a director and he will make shit happen!” Or something like that. For the final chase - the big one - I actually scripted all of the beats... But not for any of the earlier ones... I, quite literally, wrote, “and now DIRECTOR’S CHASE SCENE #2 begins... “ It actually gained a bit of notoriety.
A lot of people thought it was ballsy of me. It wasn’t. I just had no desire to waste my time. But that movie turned out to be a huge disappointment to me. The original script was very, very cool. It got that amazing cast. And then we hired a director who just wanted to shoot car porn. Another film I have never seen the final cut of...

What is it about not seeing a final cut, would it be that painful? It reminds me of Woody Allen, when he says he's never watched any of his films again, I'm never sure I believe him. I bet he has 'Annie Hall' on DVD..

With some of these films, you sort of grok that they are going to be shit; that they are not going to be what you intended when you first got that tiny spark. Which is why, yeah, I don't buy the Woody Allen thing. 'Cause he has made so many amazing movies. But I have not. So things like "DISTURBING BEHAVIOR" and "KANGAROO JACK" and "GONE IN 60 SECONDS". Yeah. Easier to just not watch them. And remember what they once were. And what they might have been. (mind you, not a one was on its way to being "HANNAH AND HER SISTERS". But still... )

Small, character based dramas, or big action films, which do you prefer writing?

I love it all. I really do. At this moment, I am deciding on what I should write next. I have six ideas I am currently toying with. Three of them are small and entirely character- driven. One is a whacked-out sci-fi horror thing; the other two are hugely commercial, big ideas. So I really am all over the map. What I’m most interested in is that the next one is different in tone, scope and story than the one I wrote just before. That’s all.

Nick Hornby is another writer with a really distinct voice, did you consult with him at all when adapting 'High Fidelity' or did you take the book and go your own way with it?

I didn’t. I wish I had. I am such a fan. But I was working with the director, Mike Newell, who was attached to it at the time. I am sure he met with Nick. But I didn’t. That was a case where I was sent the book in galleys. I had no desire to take on another project (I was way overbooked at the time). But I read it anyhow - because I was a fan of Newell’s (who had directed “FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL”) among other things. And the book just spoke to me. I was, like, who is this Nick Hornby and why is he living in my brain? Because I am a huge music guy; and I have had lots of struggles with girls and commitment and all that stuff. So I took the job. And did several drafts I thought were pretty good. I moved it from London to Boston, of course.

But I don’t think Mike was ever going to really direct it. Because “FOUR WEDDINGS” had been such a huge success. I think he, too, wanted to do something different. Not another romantic comedy. So we both sort of left it at the same time. Then John Cusack and his gang came in. And Stephen Frears. The movie is excellent. But let’s be honest: nearly everything that’s great in the film came from the novel. The novel was just so damn good. I hope to meet Nick someday. We’ve had several near-crosses but it’s never happened. But I continue to read his novels. Always awaiting the next one with delight...

“October Road' was something really special. How did the opportunity arise to make the show?

My friend, Gary Fleder (he directed “THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD”) was in a meeting with the ABC president, Steve McPherson, when McPherson commented that “BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” was one of his favorite films; why doesn’t someone do a TV version of that? Gary called me and asked me what I thought.

I was coming off of a few years where I had sold lots of scripts, but none had gotten made... And if actors aren’t saying your words, then the process isn’t complete, I don’t care how much dough you’re making. So I said “sure”. I brought in Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, who I had worked with on a short-lived Showtime show I created called “GOING TO CALIFORNIA”, which ran for 20 episodes in 2001, before Showtime was cool. Josh and Andre had been working on “ALIAS” and they were game to create a show with me. We were sort of looking for a way in, an access point, and then Andre said: “why don’t we dramatize what happened to you, Scott, in the wake of ‘BEAUTIFUL GIRLS’?” Because “GIRLS” was based entirely on my buddies from home. And some of them really got their feelings hurt and felt exposed (we are all pals again now; in fact, I am on the train to Boston as I type this, for this is the weekend of our annual ski trip!). We all collectively thought that was a great idea. Changed it from a movie to a novel; added the whole “is he your son is he not your son” and went to town. That was a great experience. I loved that cast. I loved that world. We had a very small but very rabid fan base by the time we went off the air. People still freak out when they find out that was my show. They gush in ways they never gush about any of the other stuff I’ve done...

There's something very dramatic and compelling about someone coming home, and the effect that has on him and the people he originally left behind. We see it again and again in your work - in 'October Road', 'Beautiful Girls' - and even in 'Gone In Sixty Seconds' --- is it coincidental that you've revisited this theme or is it something that fascinates you?

I jut think it’s something that is so utterly universal and relatable. It’s not a clerical error that perhaps the most famous line of dialogue in the history of movies is” “there’s no place like home.” We all come from somewhere. And we are always trying to get pieces of it back; no matter how good or bad it had been. Youth is a state of grace. Even if you were impoverished or abused or infirmed. You were young. You were unformed. You were home. It’s funny because we played with a lot of those themes in “LIFE ON MARS”. I find myself writing these overlong tone poems about the exigencies of “home”. And, yes, all through my work “DENVER”, “GIRLS”, all the TV shows, “GONE”. Hell, even Cameron Poe in “CON AIR” just wanted to get the fuck home.

But I don’t think it’s very unique. It worked for Homer. Why shouldn’t it work for the rest of us?
I can never put my finger on what it is exactly, but when watching your films, I always think of Billy Wilder - is he a big influence on your writing?

Well, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I am sure there are a lot of film and TV critics that would beg to differ with you on that one. Wilder is my all-time favorite. An old girlfriend of mine and I used to have “Billy Wilder Night”, where once a week, we’d watch one of his films, so we were sure to see the entire canon. And it’s rather astonishing that the same guy made “DOUBLE INDEMNITY”, “THE APARTMENT”, “STALAG 13”, “SOME LIKE IT HOT”, “SUNSET BOULEVARD” “THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH”, “THE LOST WEEKEND”, “WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION” and “SABRINA”. I mean, really? Are you kidding me? The range of subject matter; all of it, no matter how hilarious, suffused with a kind of darkness, a skewed morality that was just so bold and compelling. And the dialogue! I mean, the guy was just off the charts. I devoured that Cameron Crowe interview book with Wilder. And it is my second piece of advice I give to neophyte writers (the first being: “just write!”): watch Billy Wilder movies. Watch them all. And try not to be intimidated but rather be inspired...

It disappoints me when perfect shows like 'October Road' get taken off the air. Would you have liked to have taken it a lot further?

Of course, I would have loved that. “LIFE ON MARS”, too. But television is a funny thing. There are so many variables. So many factors. In both cases, we hadn’t begun to scratch the surface of those characters, nor the places we wanted to take them. But the good thing about the creative process is that no character ever truly dies; parts of them are reborn into other characters. In the new show, “HAPPY TOWN”, you’ll see some traces of some O-ROADERs. As well as in the script I am currently writing. It’s like some weird form of Buddhism. The souls of a character is reincarnated long after he is no longer a corporeal being...

Despite the fact that 'October Road' seemed very much like your baby, there were a lot of different writers working on the show -- how do you work with writers on your TV projects?

We have a staff. A writers room. Storylines are generated out of the writers room. Approved by the network and studio. And then a writer goes to script.

But every script goes through my computer. I am in charge of “the top edit”. The “voice pass”, as it is sometimes called. So all of the scripts feel like they are of the same piece. Sometimes I have to rewrite 80% of a writer’s script. Sometimes it’s only 20%. But we have been blessed, in that we have managed to assemble some truly talented, truly splendid writers on all three shows. We really are just hoping for a hit, so we can keep these people coming to our
offices rather than to someone else’s..

What can you tell us about 'Happy Town'?

“Happy Town” came about during the writers strike. We were still working on “OCTOBER ROAD”, but we could read the tea leaves. The was walking the creaky steps of the gallows up to the waiting hangman’s noose. But we so loved the world. The small town aspects. And we thought: what if we did a version of “OCTOBER ROAD” where shit actually HAPPENS? Wouldn’t that be novel? We were also thinking that nobody does scary on TV anymore. And I mean scary but not “CSI” or “CRIMINAL MINDS” forensic porn scary. And not vampires and werewolves and zombie scary either. I mean, just scary. My partners, Josh and Andre, were degenerate “TWIN PEAKS” fans. I was not. But Stephen King’s novel, “’SALEM’S LOT” is, for my money, one of the most perfect horror tales ever written. So you can find much of the “HAPPY TOWN” DNA in those two works. Plus “OCTOBER ROAD”, of course.

It’s a small town spook show, centered on bucolic Haplin, Minnesota, a place that knew darkness years ago - when seven disparate people disappeared, over the course of seven years. Locals called it the work of “The Magic Man” -so named because he “had the ability to make people vanish that bordered on the mystical.. “ Well, by the end of the third episode, he returns. And he has returned at the worst possible time! It is a very cool, very unique piece of television. It stars Geoff Stults, who played Eddie on "OCTOBER ROAD" (as well as other O-ROAD alum Jay “Physical Phil” Paulson and Warren “Big Cat” Christie), and Amy Acker, Sam Neill, Lauren German, Robert Wisdom, Francis Conroy, M.C. Gainey, Steven Weber and Abe Benrubi. A truly wonderful cast. I hope you’ll watch...

Of course! Definitely. What advice can you give to upcoming screenwriters? What is the biggest mistake you see young writers making?

The biggest mistake I see young writers doing is thinking they are ready to be read after writing one or two scripts. Bullshit. You ain't. You are still learning your craft. Learning to crawl. And don't let that story you read in "VARIETY", about the college freshman who sold his first script to Warners for 3 million dollars. Sure, he might have. But God also made Michael Jordan and Eddie Van Halen and Alex Rodriguez. There are always gonna be Talent Freaks. You ain't one of the them. How do I know? Because they are rarer than rare. Keep writing. Always Be Writing. I wrote ten scripts before I got an agent. 14 before one was made. If I look back at those old scripts, sure there were some decent parts. But most of it was crap. How could it not be?

The other mistake made is to try and get a job in show biz while you are paying your dues. Jobs in show biz are for the folks back home. So Ma can say to the ladies in her book club: "Petey is working for Ryan Seacrest!" The problem with working for Ryan Seacrest? It will be a 16 hour day. And you will think about it when you are getting ready for bed. No. Get a job bagging groceries. Or driving a truck. A job that you don't give another brain cell to when you punch the clock at the end of the day. So you can go home and focus on what is truly important at this phase of your life: which is writing.

When a writer is convinced they have a great script, or two; what should they do?

When you think you have a great script - if it really is great - they will find you. The town is starving for great scripts. It sounds awful and pat and overly simplistic: but if you want to succeed as a screenwriter, write a dope script. I am not saying that shitty scripts get made. Of course they do. More times than not. And a good 65 % of working screenwriters should have their laptops revoked. But at some point, they wrote that one. That one that people noticed. A Zen approach is a good one. Don't do a mass mailing introducing yourself to every agent in town. Don't foist your script on the guy at the next table in the diner, who happens to be reading "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER". Just know that they will find you. It sounds strange. It's not. L.A. is a city fueled by the frantic frenzy to find the next great script. The key is write it. And then watch them tumble...

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