Your Favorite Movie Is Safe: Why There’s No Need To Fear Any Remake

OK, so this is a good news/bad news post.

GOOD NEWS! The Princess Bride is not going to be remade. (Not yet.)

BAD NEWS! Your favorite movie is going to be remade. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon…and for the rest of your life, there will be a remake of your favorite film, if there isn’t one already (there likely is.)

BEST NEWS! Your favorite movie will be fine even if it is remade.

I know some of you are already mad reading that. However, if you are in a place of listening, I invite you on a quick read which I hope will help you stop worrying and at least accept the remake because they are not ever going away.

Before we had Trump shutting down society at large to make us angry, the topic of a movie being remade was an easy to get internet mob mentality out in force. The fact of the matter is remakes are neither a new phenomenon or anything other than business as usual. And quite frankly, the sheer volume of anger said remakes has received cannot always be described as rational.

Movie remakes can be traced back to the late 1800s in French cinema and early 1900s in Hollywood: https://filmschoolrejects.com/hollywood-remake-history/

Why does Hollywood insist on a constant stream of remakes? For the same reason Hollywood does anything – because they make money. And before one writes that off as simple studio greed, that money being is coming from an audience who says “yes, I will spend my disposable income on a remake.”

Audiences don’t hate remakes. Audiences LOVE LOVE LOVE remakes. Audiences flock to remakes creating hugely profitable properties and have done for decades.

And they’re going to for decades more.

You don’t have to take my word for it:

*Love Pacino in Scarface? A remake.

*Netflix’s content creation empire was launched by House Of Cards – a remake.

*Which version of A Christmas Carol is your favorite?

*A Star Is Born – again – remade and not only ate up box office but brought tears to a live audience who forgot those are actors.

*We now have three different versions of Mr Spock – all supported by a robust audience, except actually for Leonard Nimoy’s at first. That was the one that got cancelled.

*”Wait – there were other Doctors BEFORE Christopher Eccleston???”

*Ocean’s 11, The Lion King, every other horror movie. Hell, I just found out doing research for this that Scent Of A Woman (which Pacino had to clear some shelf-space for) is a remake. Late last year, someone I know posted “Oh God! I can’t believe they’re making Little Shop Of Horrors!!” I asked which version was being remade.

*Also, West Side Story will have to thrown out with the bathwater as well. That’s all kinds of remake.

Here’s my favorite example to cite:

Clash Of The Titans in 1981 worldwide gross about $115,000,000 in today’s money (pretty good)

Clash Of The Titans in 2010 worldwide gross – $500,000,000 (spawned a sequel the sequel)

That is a gross increase of 400 million dollars. 400 million. 400,000,000 increase in business.

If Hollywood were to stop doing remakes, it would not just be a poor business decision. It would be malpractice.

But still, whenever a remake is announced, one can find a very angry corner of the internet – usually of a particular age group – expressing a near existential rage at the very IDEA that such a thing could occur. And often, the sourcing of that anger is well, I don’t want to say invalid or misguided but it can be driven from a false premise. Let’s take a look at some of those.

Looking at the Princess Bride for example. “But it’s perfect!!” many said to me about Princess Bride.

Hey look, I LOVE The Princess Bride. Tremendous storytelling from a master Director and the guy who literally wrote the books on modern screenwriting. Action! Adventure! Comedy!! And as if that’s not enough – ANDRE THE GIANT!!! Even though he was playing a bad guy in the WWE when it came out, this movie helped immortalized Andre as wrestling’s gentle giant good guy beloved by the public.

The Princess Bride is just WONDERFUL viewing great for any family!

Quick question about The Princess Bride – where’s the Black person?

Another question about The Princess Bride – how come the Spaniard is being played by a Jewish actor from New York?

The answer is there are no people of color in the Princess Bride. If I’m wrong about that, please correct me. There are two gay characters – and they’re the villains.

And back in 1986, casting actors out of their ethnicity was perfectly acceptable. It’s not so much these days. Mandy Patinkin is an AMAZING actor & seems like a very nice man. But in 2020, his being cast as a Spaniard out for revenge would create as much outrage as the remake has received and he would be out of the role by the end of the day it was announced.

So when news of the Princess Bride remake hit, I took to the facebook (something that actually ages me even now) and I said “Not only would I remake it, I would diversity the shit out of it!” Here’s my cast list for a 2020 Princess Bride:

Michael B Jordan – Wesley

Rihanna – Buttercup

Benicio Del Toro – Indigo Montoya*

James Franco – Humperdink

Randall Park – Count Grugen

Uzo Aduba – Vezzini (oh real damn conceivable)

Big Show – Fezzik

Jordan Peele – Miracle Max

Chelsea Peretti – Mrs Miracle Max

Laurence Fishburne – The Grandfather

Miles Brown – the kid

(Mr Del Toro is Puerto Rican but I’ve seen reports that he is of Spanish descent and was granted Spain citizenship in 2011)

You would have thought I posted pictures of murdered animals. This list and this very idea of remaking The Princess Bride was considered blasphemy. I should point out no one of color objected to this list. Just the opposite. All of the objections came from Left-leaning White people. In other conversations I had about this – the world seemed obsessed with this for two weeks – “Why does it have to be remade?” I was asked by some. “Why can’t today’s Black or Latino kids have their version?” was my response. Because the old one is notably absent of people who like them. Many cries of “why do they have to have one?” sounded quite a bit like the “why do Gays have to be married? Why isn’t a civil union enough?”

Because it’s not enough.

And look, part of me gets it. Part of me really really gets it.

Movies are not just movies. TV shows are more than that. They’re EXPERIENCES. That becomes all the more clear when you become a creator of these things. “What experience am I giving the viewer?” Thanks to the irresistible pull of nostalgia which only grows more powerful with each passing year makes those experiences something sacred, something precious that much never be touched or encroached upon.

While I see how a remake might feel it’s doing that, a remake is not doing that. Your most precious memories have nothing to fear from a remake. I’m not being glib. I’m being sincere. There is nothing to fear from the remake. So please allow me to assure you –

Your favorite movie is safe.

Nothing and no one anywhere can take away your experiences with your favorite movie. My two favorites are Jaws and Casablanca. Both have not technically been remade. Both have been remade thousands of times. Nothing and no one anywhere can take away those movies and my memories or experiences watching them. And as a working screenwriter, I would take the gig to rewrite either one of them tomorrow. (Oh, you want the shark to be the hero this time? No problem)

A remake is not a special edition recut of your favorite film. No one is going to come into your home, remove any DVD or Blu-Ray copies of that film. No one is going to delete any digital copies. Whatever your favorite movie is, you can watch it once every single day or however much you want until the day you die.

And a remake of Jaws is not going to magically erase the 45 years people have spent watching the original. (Sorry Mandela Effect)

I own the entire original Transformers cartoon series on DVD. It was my favorite as a kid and I’m glad to have it those pulls of nostalgia. I saw Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie. I liked it fine. I found it fun. I saw Michael Bay’s second Transformers movie and there my journey with Michael Bay’s Transformers came to an end. The box office receipts for that franchise assures Mr Bay and his crew that my absence from the theatres was not debilitating to their success. And Bay knew the moment he took the gig “not everyone who grew up on this will love this” because it wasn’t made for me or the generation who grew up on that cartoon. If we like it, great! But we’re gravy. The kids & teenagers at the time were Bay’s target demo. As they long as they enjoyed it and kept coming back for the sequels – mission accomplished as more perils for Earth and Cyberton were dreamt up. And I had my originals. Safe and sound on my shelf. Literally – everyone wins.

(There is one notable exception to this rule but we’ll get there)

“But the original is PERFECT!!”

No movie is perfect. Casablanca? Goddammit, why does Ilsa say “boy.” Jaws? Peter Benchley, the author of the book, has spent the rest of his life trying to undo the misinformation about sharks the story spread.

No movie is perfect. The memories of certain movies are perfect. The experiences and feelings that movie give you are perfect. And again – those are untouchable. Even as the world races into the future around us which is always a scary prospect as we grow older. The blue skies and golden sunsets that you felt/feel with your favorite movie are eternal.

There’s a reason the dying Tycoon was thinking of his childhood sled in his final moments. It was the one thing the world who hated him could not take away.

“The original should be good enough!”

OK, when you were a kid were you watching the newest, hippest cartoons everyone was talking about? Were you begging your parents to take you to that new movie opening because “Mom! Dad! EVERYONE is seeing it and I’m missing ooouuuuttt!!”? Did you race to get all the latest toys tied in with the biggest blockbusters of the summer? Was your wallpaper covered with Gremlins, Goonies and Marty McFly?

Of course it was!

Or were you watching the Marx Brothers every night? Were you looking up old episodes of the Milton Berle show used to fill up late-night weekend slots? Did you beg your parents to put in the VHS of Gunga Din just once more, pretty please?

Of course not.

Sure, you caught old stuff like the Three Stooges or Andy Griffith et al. But the children of the 1980s were not molded by the content of the 1950s. The children of the 2000s are not going to be molded by the content of the 1980s.

And there’s nothing anyone can do about that. It’s practically a kid’s job to hate the stuff their parents like. Before you argue that, remember your reaction to when your parents showed you their favorite movie. You don’t have to answer that out loud.

“But the original does not need to be improved upon!!”

This one always baffles me. Maybe there’s a remake out there that was trying to improve upon the original. Dear reader, if you know of one, let me know. I can’t think of a single remake that tries to do that. That’s just not how it’s done.

Let’s go back to the Princess Bride. Yes, I would diversity the shit out of it. No, I don’t think that’s necessarily an improvement. It’s updating, sure but that’s just making it more accessible to modern audiences and diverse audiences. Are filmmakers putting their spin on it? Sure. But that’s not unique to remakes. (The Temple Of Doom is one giant love letter to the Morlocks’ underground world in George Pal’s Time Machine)

If Hollywood was trying to improve a movie, then you’d be seeing remakes of long-accepted crap but fire up your favorite streaming service and you are not bombarded by remakes of Ishtar, Howard The Duck and Leonard Part 6.

Yes, Hollywood is trying to cash in with remakes of popular, established properties. But those are not efforts to improve. If you watch the original The Thing From Another World and then John Carpenter’s The Thing, you will see two totally different interpretations of the same story, both of their time, both trying to scare audiences, both in two totally different ways. Which one is better? In addition to the answer being totally subjective, both movies while similar are so different it’s like asking “what do you like better? Lamb chop or apple sauce?” 

Time is a funny thing. You graduated high school yesterday but really it was over 20 years ago, if you see what I mean. It’s easy to not see how much changes when we’re in the middle of the times we live in. The internet recently erupted when a bunch of people learned that Robert Downey Jr played a comedy lead – IN BLACKFACE!!! Tropic Thunder isn’t ancient history, it happened 12 years ago as of this writing. Your favorite movie is likely very outdated, dull and boring for today’s audiences. And it doesn’t matter what year “today” is in.

And as even that example shows, yes, Tropic Thunder does not fit 2020 sensibilities. Neither does The Princess Bride. So a fresh coat of paint for today’s audiences brings the story up to speed. No improvements made. Just sensibilities being recognized.

“I just wish Hollywood made more originals!!”

Fortunately, Hollywood makes a ton of original material but the success for those is mostly found in the world of TV where the profit margin is safer for original material and where an audience is more likely go “ooo, what’s this?”

But at the movies? Originals for many decades have long had an uphill battle. There are several production companies who have committed themselves to producing original, unique films that are different from everything else in the market. Sadly, they teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

No one wants you watching original material more than Hollywood. Many careers have been shortened and many fortunes have been lost in trying to get eyeballs in front of original material.

Apple TV’s rollout of purely original material was seen around the business as a massive flop (immediate resignations kind of flop) and they’re hoping to rebound with Foundation – an adaptation of Issac Asimov’s legendary novels. Disney+ hung their hat on a new Star Wars property and watched subscriptions roll in by the millions – literally.

Originals are the toughest property to try and sell and market. But Hollywood keeps trying and will keep trying.

“But I just don’t like remakes”

OK, fine. Never watch another remake again as long as you live. That is your right, your prerogative as a discerning consumer. Every single day you choose not to watch a movie and you can continue to do so. Watch what you like. Ignore what you don’t.

There is no obligation anyone is putting on you to watch a remake ever again. Sure, there’s some cultural pressure if the movie is all the rage but think about how many movies or TV shows that are major conversation pieces in your circle that you’ve actually missed? I bet it’s a lot. Hell, there’s no way everyone can watch all the award-worthy TV being made nowadays. Hollywood has lots of data that sees how much you choose not to see a movie.

“I don’t want to see a remake because I just don’t like remakes” is a perfectly sound reason to skip one.

Dear reader, I’ll be honest – I don’t always love remakes. In fact, I rarely like remakes. I like being surprised which after this long in the factory is all too rare. I love new, original fresh voices. “Beasts Of No Nation” blew my mind when I saw it a few years ago. But remakes being old stories up to speed with changing times only makes those stories last longer. It shows Hollywood reflecting changing times. These are good things that any smart business should keep in mind if they want to last. Adapt and overcome. Evolve or die.

No, remakes don’t ruin the original.

No, remakes do not improve the original.

No, remakes do not replace the original – especially in this age of movie/TV libraries at our fingertips.

Screaming at remakes is like screaming at the changing seasons. It’s like getting angry at nightfall. Time is going to move in one direction and the world changes with those times. I think that’s at the heart of all this. “My experience was so perfect! There does not need to be another one! Don’t replace those experiences…don’t replace me.”

Are you over 40? You’re not the key demo movies are made for anymore. I know. I’m there with you. It sucks and it hurts. Even those R-rated horror movies are made for 18 – 20 year olds, not us cynical old people who are stuck in our ways. It was true 40 years ago. It’s going to be true 140 years from now.

No remake anywhere is ever going to make me mad. No remake anywhere is ever going to upset me because remakes can’t take anything away from me or my experiences.

But as I said, there is one notable exception.

I type and post this on May 4th, 2020. I cannot pull up the original Star Wars movie on Disney+ I cannot reach over to my shelf and pull off the original Star Wars on Blu-Ray. Oh sure, I can pull up some special editions which have been recut, reedited and reshaped by new special effects. And the original filmmaker has forbidden any commercial release of the original film. There was a low-resolution version put on a DVD a few years ago to quiet those of us who complained but it’s not the same. The resolution is such that the film is actually difficult to watch.

This day has been dubbed “May The 4th Be With You” but The Force is not with me today.

I cannot watch the movie that I grew up on, the movie that made me love movies so much I’ve dedicated my life to them. That childhood favorite film that meant so much has been taken away from me.

No remake did that.

No sequel did that.

The original filmmaker did that.

It’s worth noting that many parents have relayed tales of trying to show their kids Star Wars and even with the updated special effects, the kids cry “BORING! Put on Pixar!” I get it. Yesterday’s Star Wars isn’t for today’s kid. But this kid from yesterday sure wouldn’t mind another look at the twin sunset with Luke Skywalker.

 

 

 

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A Guide To Working From Home

Hello there, Dear Reader. Well, since we last spoke, the complete absence of leadership at the top of the system has ground society to halt. Turns out putting clinically-ill incompetent people in charge has disastrous effects on all things financial, industrial, economical, entertainment and well, all of it. Who knew? (SPOILER ALERT: Everyone that didn’t vote Trump)

While we all hope for a vaccine to bring this Covid scare to quick end, the fact is that most medical experts believe that remains still a year away. Even some of those treatments that are garnering some headlines still need many months of trials & testing before they become widely available. So how long are we in this situation for? Trump says until the summer which means it’s likely until the winter. Even if the summer offers a reprieve and we do flatten the curve, chances are good we’ll be seeing another quarantine situation in the fall. Maybe we won’t but there’s a chance we will.

So…a lot of us are going to be working from home. Now, for a lot of writers like myself who HAVE been working from home for several of the past years, this isn’t that big a lifestyle change. But for millions more people with a happier path in life, this is a MASSIVE culture shock. I’ve already talked to a few friends who are having real trouble dealing with cabin fever, stress, anxiety, you name it.

Allow me to present some of what I hope are helpful tips for staying sane during these uncertain times. First disclosure, I am not a parent. Those of you who are dealing with the biggest challenge of this whole thing – figuring out how to work from home while making sure your kids stay educated and/or occupied. I just don’t know if anything I have to say here will be helpful to you but maybe there’s a good thought or two in here.

And again, that’s all these are – thoughts based on what helped me stay productive at home when all the temptations of goofing are all around me. Take them or leave them but they just might be worth giving a try.

SCHEDULE OUT YOUR WEEK: I love weeks. I don’t always love days. We have bad days, unproductive days but if we hit our goals for the week, we’re not off track. Sunday is a great day for reflection – what do you want to accomplish during the week? Where do you want to be or what do you have done by the next Sunday? For parents, this might be useful – what do you want your kids to have done by the next week? Making yourself a reasonable and doable to-do list one week at a time can help one maintain focus and actually give one a sense of accomplishment. And feeling we’ve accomplished something, like we’re doing something can help keep the walls from closing in.

MAINTAIN YOUR WEEK: I’m seeing jokes on the social media about every day being Saturday or Sunday. I would encourage against that. For example, I rarely write on Sundays. I like that to be a day of rest & relaxation so I’m ready for the week. This is easy during the football season but I do break this rule often. That said – even if you hate Mondays – keep a weekly schedule where there’s say a fun movie night, or some kind of date night with your spouse et al. The structure of the week is the way it is to cater to our sanity. Five nights of the week, even when we’re watching TV, we’re in a “work mode” concentrating on the task days at hand while the weekend is for fun and unwinding. Do your best to keep this structure. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of wine but turning every night into Saturday just gives you seven hangovers and those get old after two.

WEEKLY CHECKLIST: Something I started years ago and it’s been a lifesaver. I have a printed out weekly checklist of MUST DO things that I use every Sunday or Monday of every single week. These include things like cleaning the bathroom, checking up on bills, backing up the computer. (Fun Fact: My computer died for real in the middle of Murder Made Easy but regular backups meant Apple was able to restore it so that none of the movie was lost.) Treating your home like a business that has operational necessities just keeps everything running smoothly.

REGIMENT YOUR DAY: Granted, many of you are still working remotely and this done for you. If you’re not & you’re laid off, getting (waiting for) assistance, etc, I highly encourage you to create a workday. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle of what you want to do & what you actually do. Having set times for what you do when turns into a muscle memory that keeps you productive and on track for the weekly goal set above.

This a generalization but this basically what mine looks like on my most productive days:

Wake up before 9 AM. Walk the Dog (2 miles/one hour) Do the dishes, Shower/shave, emails/social media, lunch while watching the news, writing in the afternoon/evening, dinner, movie or TV, bed. Dinner & movie usually accompanied by a scotch on the rocks with a twist of lemon. Of course, this gets disrupted that crazy little thing called life but if I try to adhere to this schedule – well, that’s how I get my stuff written AND managed to stay in touch with the real world. Still – I need to incorporate more exercise but this has worked for me.

DON’T WEAR PAJAMAS & SWEATS ALL DAY: I very much encourage you to resist this temptation. I could write every script in boxers or a furry costume. No one would know the difference. But I still put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, which is what I’ve worn at 90% of my jobs in my life. Just the simple act of dressing the same as if I were going to a show or a set helps put my mind in the mode that it’s time to work. No, you don’t need to wear business suits & put on make-up but efforts in what you wear just helps your mindset. Changing into comfies or PJs at the end of the day puts me in the mind it’s time for Scotch and the WWE Network. If you’re wearing PJs all day and wondering why you’re not getting work done, I would suggest you might be forcing your mind to swim upstream.

Yes, I know some of you have perfectly productive days in your PJs. There are exceptions to all of these things. Rock-n-roll with whatever rock-n-rolls for you.

HAVE A WORK AREA AND A HOME AREA: If this is possible, try to create workspaces for work mode and home spaces for relaxation. I created a home office on side of a bedroom once and crossing an invisible threshold literally changed my mindset each time. This is the same sentiment as the one above but with space. I can’t recommend it enough. In my current place, I have a home office which is where all the writing & serious business happens. None of that gets taken to the living room or bedroom. This way – and even though writing is like constantly on my mind – I don’t feel bombarded by business all day and night.

GOOF OFF: Children get recess and play after lunch. Big secret – adults need the same thing. My dog isn’t super crazed or hyper but taking 15 minutes to have a wrestling match with her is great for both of us. She gets to burn some energy and I get a break from the computer screen. At the end, she gets a treat and I go back to work with a fresh perspective. Play is not something to be ignored. We never stop playing and we never should. No matter how busy or how much pressure one is under, ignoring needed moments of play only make the stress & pressure WORSE. Laughter, goofing off is all a reminder of a light at the end of the tunnel and probably the best assurance that things are OK at the moment. Just a little while of play every day can go a very long way to keeping you alert, productive and sane.

And yes, you are allowed to laugh, joke, be silly and have all kinds of fun during a crisis. On social media, be mindful that not every joke will play with ALL of your facebook friends but of course people should remember to have fun. It’s a stress-reliever and there’s no point in trying to stay alive if you’re not going to be alive.

BE PRODUCTIVE BUT REALISTIC: With every passing year, time goes by quicker and quicker. Our energy gets lower and lower, even for the most active of us. There are only so many hours in the day. Our society is one of “Do More! Be Better! Never Stop! Never Quit!” when really that can just drive us into a wall. So a lot of people are taking on new hobbies, new endeavors et al with all this “free time” on their hands. Be willing to say no to certain things, really big projects or endeavors if the calendar doesn’t lend itself to those. Figure out what you can do, do that – and then do more if you found that manageable.

Here’s a quick screenwriting example – when I’m writing a script, 10 pages a day is my goal. That might take me 45 minutes, it might take me 3 hours. But if I hit my 10 pages, I’m good. Some days I can write 20. Some days, I get stuck and only write 7 (this usually includes rewrites of the previous days work.) But for the most part, there’s really no reason why I can’t write 10 pages a day. I arrived at this because 5 pages was too little. 20 pages was too much. 10 pages was the perfect balance. If I do more, great!

BUY WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO EAT: I learned this from my freelancing days. As grocery stores get more stocked up, it’s easy to be tempted into grabbing as much as you can during infrequent trips. However, making a very specific list of what you want, what you will eat and sticking to that list can not prevent wasting food but also wasteful spending. The impulse buys (and I do them too) are the enemy. Especially as in these dire times, those without a lot of means may need some of the things we’re impulse buying.

CAREFUL WITH THE WINE: I lost 15 pounds. During the holiday season. That’s lost weight. Not gained. More exercise? Sadly not. Improved diet? God no. However, during the winter I did cut waaaaay back on wine. A glass of wine is good for you. Red wine has antioxidants according to many credible sources. But wine is also packed with sugar (which I have to be careful of) and empty calories. I lost 15 pounds of just empty bloat and even though it wasn’t that much “Have you lost weight?” greeted me everywhere back when humans could be around each other.

BOREDOM IS THE ENEMY: Nothing succeeds like success but there’s nothing quite as seductive as doing nothing which becomes so engrossing that the thought of doing anything becomes repugnant. Look, I’ve not come close to achieving everything I wanted to in life but possibly one of my proudest accomplishments is that in my personal time I have not been bored IN YEARS. I’m typing this late on Tuesday night. You think I’m up late typing because it’s some kind of chore? I love writing! Words. Any words. All words. This is fun for me. And part of how I’ve stayed productive is be actually pursuing what’s fun for me.

The sentiment I can relate to the least is “I have nothing to do.” I do not have the time in my life to write all the movies and shows I want to, but good Goddamn I’m gonna try. On our persons at all times, we have the collection of all human knowledge and wisdom. The modern phone & computers resemble the super-computers dreamt of in the far future in 70s sci-fi. What is that thing that makes a tiny spark that makes you feel alive? It’s easy to neglect that in the day-to-day or doldrums of quarantine. If the answer is something you don’t know, it’s a great time to find out.

ONE DAY AT A TIME: This is definitely in regards to the pandemic. We all have the biggest, most life-altering questions on our mind right now:

*How will I pay rent/mortgage?

*Will I find work again?

*Will my kids be safe?

*Will my loved ones make it through this?

The answer to all of those questions from any source is the same – I don’t know. There is no sugarcoating the severity of what we’re going through. I’m typing this on a day where the US death toll is now 4 times that of 9/11. That doesn’t mean we need to – or should, quite frankly – live in fear.

When the NBA closed down, I knew this was something we’d never seen before. I saw a lot of people say “it’s the flu” or “we’ll be fine” or “it won’t be THAT bad.” I’m sorry to say that every expert who said those sentiments were wrong has been proven right. I am glad to say that being one of the very scared parties in those early days (a few weeks ago) has helped me figure out how to cope. Everything is changing every single day, so there really truly is no point in worrying about what might happen next week because no one has any idea what next week might look like. So make your calendar, schedule your activities, continue taking every precaution you can, keep checking in on those who matter in your life but remember – and this is true during non-pandemic times – everything can change in an instant.

Again, not all of these will work for you but if you’re stressed & overwhelmed, this ever-handsome & always-modest screenwriter hopes he was able to offer something you can use to alleviate some of that stress. And if you’re hurting & suffering, don’t be afraid to reach out to those who can help. And if you’re strong & healthy, reach out to those you can help.

Here’s a look at what’s next to my desk in my current home office:

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Cults On Parcast

 

Last year, I have the pleasure and privilege to write several episodes for the renowned Cults podcast on the Parcast Network. The good folks at Parcast have numerous channels broadcasting a slew of terrific deep-dive documentary style podcasts released every week. I’m delighted to have contributed to the Cults series which was a rewarding challenge but also incredibly educational.

Here are links to the four stories, I wrote. Each one is about 2 45 or so minute episodes, perfect for long walks to sprucing up the commute. These do, however, go unapologetically to some dark places. Parcast endeavors to be as truthful (and tasteful) as possible with some disturbing subject matter so there’s aren’t for the kids.

RAËLISM – Claude Vorilhon went for a hike one day which he claims led to being contacted by the alien race which supposedly created humanity. He then launched a following of free love & orgies – all at the behest of the aliens – that continues to this day.

Raëlism Part 1: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e45-raelism-claude-vorilhon-30009346/

Raëlism Part 2: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e46-raelism-pt-2-claude-30009456/

THE RIVER ROAD FELLOWSHIP – Listener discretion very much advised. Victor Bernard convinced dozens of families that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. He lead them to create a commune in remote Minnesota. What happened next was true horror which lead to manhunt across several countries.

River Road Fellowship Part 1: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e70-river-road-fellowship-victor-30480298/

River Road Fellowship Part 2: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e71-river-road-fellowship-pt-2-30513126/

NEW VRINDABAN – This is a truly epic story of a con-man who created America’s Taj Mahal, the Hare Krishna city of New Vrindaban in West Virginia. But within those halls, he inspired the crimes of theft, committed sexual deviancy and even ordered mafia-style executions to hold on to his power.

New Vrindaban Part 1: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e75-new-vrindaban-kirtanananda-30646284/

New Vrindaban Part 2: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e76-new-vrindaban-pt-2–30679172/

LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS CHURCH: (AKA STRONG CITY) Wayne Bent felt his church wasn’t interpreting the Bible literally enough. So what does he do? Branches out to create a commune where convinces people he’s a Messiah and cuddles naked with underage girls. This all leads to a trial which captivated the nation.

Lord Our Righteousness Church Part 1: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e89-lord-our-righteousness-church–45895763/

Lord Our Righteousness Church Part 2: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/409-cults-28501448/episode/e90-lord-our-righteousness-church-pt-46190054/

I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed writing them. These are a fascinating look into a darker side of our reality, but they also can answer a lot of questions about human behavior in some of today’s headlines.

And if you like these, dig into the other content Parcast has to offer here: https://www.parcast.com/

Happy Listening!

 

 

 

 

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No, Virginia, The Patriots Are Not Cheaters

“It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.” – former St Louis Rams head coach, Mike Martz

“There isn’t a day that goes by since 2003 that I haven’t questioned … that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,” – former Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney.

“Do your job. Maybe the one word that isn’t in that’s implied is ‘Do your job … well.  It could be enough to make the difference.” – Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach

Not sure when you’ll be reading this but I’m typing this a few hours before the kickoff of the 2019 NFL Season. There’s a lot to object to about the NFL. As an organization, they still not remotely take domestic violence seriously. They have a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who does not understand the basic difference between right and wrong. The participating athletes sometimes suffer debilitating injuries that even the millions they make doesn’t always make up for. If you’re a consumer who chooses not to watch football, quite frankly – I don’t have a counterargument for you.

I still like football. For all of its flaws, many of the participating athletes will tell you it’s an amazing game with incredible rewards not often found elsewhere. I’ve also found the game of football to be an incredibly accurate metaphor for the game of life. Whatever one does for a living, or even in personal relationships, we’re all engaged in game of inches. We’re all fighting and clawing through bombarding obstacles just to move forward be it one yard, fifty yards or one inch. I see so many parallels between football and life when it comes to missed catches, punching it through to the end zone, even embracing our rivals. So I remain a fan. And as one who learned to love football in the fair city of Boston, I remain a fan of the New England Patriots.

In February of 2019, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lead the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl win. I actually had to stop and count for a second (wait is it five or six?) Their Super Bowl record as a coach and quarterback combo is 6 wins, 3 losses. There are some combos wishing for that playoff record or a similar ratio for their regular season. That particular Super Bowl stat is kind of unheard of. And there’s a good chance they’re not done. Entering this season, Belichick and Brady are both widely recognized as the greatest coach and greatest quarterback of all time. Sure, that’s some that disagree and those are some hella fun barstool debates that will happen every Sunday between now and next February.

But there still remains a large portion of the population that think the Patriots are cheaters. That their success can be summed up with stealing some defensive signals on video tape or even more ridiculous – deflating footballs. Not only is this a false narrative, it’s an unhealthy one that actually does more hope to the people crying “CHEATER” than it does the Patriots.

Even as a Patriots fan, I’m going to be as objective as possible here. And I ask you, dear reader, to do the same. I ask you set that piping hot hatred aside for these pages because as you’ll my point here is not to get you to love or even forgive the Patriots. Because many people hate the Patriots, not for any kind of cheating, but for their success.

I don’t want to go down to deep a rabbit hole – this is actually still a post about screenwriting – but it’s easy to point out how flawed the accusations are.

In 2007, Eric Mangini famously reported the Patriots for videotaping defensive signals on the sideline. No getting around it – Patriots broke the rules. When confronted, Bill Belichick offered an explanation that he misinterpreted the rules as to mean videotaping signals was fine as long as the video was not used during said game. Commissioner Goodell didn’t buy it so fines were levied.

But the stigma was created by many fans everywhere because it offered a great comfort. It offered the sigh of relief, “SEE! The Patriots aren’t really that good” They had something they could use as an excuse should their team lose – are having already been defeated by – the Patriots.

Now, here’s the thing in the NFL. It’s not really great defense to say “everyone does it.” But everyone does it. There are probably about 32 teams that videotape signals in the NFL. They will be videotaping signals this weekend. You know who else videotapes signals – NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. Hell in 2006, when the Miami Dolphins tried to buy a bootleg videotape of Tom Brady in practice, ESPN’s John Clayton dismissed it because videotaping your opponent is just part of the game. He was much harsher when the Patriots were busted, of course, because the Dolphins are established NFL winners while the Patriots were decades-long losers. They just can’t be that good, right?

Rulebreaking is not an anomaly in the NFL. It is a woven part of the game. Teams use violations every game to their advantage. Some of those false starts and off sides calls that get a flag thrown? Strategy to throw off the other team or move the chess pieces around.

The Patriots broke the rules and they got punished for it.

But if one is to be honest – people aren’t mad the Patriots cheated. They’re mad the Patriots won. The St Louis Rams Greatest Show On Turf was supposed to cement their place in NFL history as perhaps the greatest offense to ever play the game. They were supposed to roll over the Patriots like the Bears did way back in the Rock-N-Wrestling days. This is something numerous longer fans of football told me. Instead, the Patriots pulled off an upset over the Rams shifting the paradigm and changing the balance of power in the NFL.

What happen next is actually heartbreaking. The St Louis Rams were back on the field the next season. Did they compete in the  Super Bowl? Not until this year would they return. That’s a 17 year gap. 17 chances they had to return. 17 chances to get that second ring. 17 years later, they were back in LA. In the meantime, the Rams suffered a collapse that was hard to watch. They were consumed by the bitterness of the loss. They never got over it and as result, that team never even came close to touching that greatness again.

Kurt Warner has said on NFL’s “A Football Life” that the loss changed their culture and an atmosphere of negativity poisoned the team. Running Back Marshall Faulk continues to preach that the Patriots cheated and videotaped their practice. But that has long been debunked with no shred of truth. Marshall Faulk is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. He defines elite athlete but he clings to this accusation in a way that’s maybe more validating than the wins he accumulated.

Most sad of all – it’s not easy to recite this but – former Rams head coach Mike Martz gave damning testimony that the NFL pressured him into not accusing the Patriots of cheating. Where was Mike Martz? In a cabin in Idaho. Why? Because ever since that Super Bowl ever single coaching gig he got ended in miserable failure. In one of Martz’s final stints as offensive coordinator, NFL cameras caught his quarterback Jay Cutler scream “Tell Martz I said ‘fuck him.’”

Bill Belichick is competing for his seventh Super Bowl win as a Head Coach this year. Mike Martz, unemployable in the game, told ESPN this “It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.”

One can’t blame Mr Martz really. It’s comforting to say, “they cheated” or the even more pathetic “I don’t know what they did but they did something.” That’s a lot easier to say then “I lost. I failed. I wasn’t good enough, not that day.” But quite frankly, everyone has to say that on those terrible days. That’s not limited to football and failure is something no one is immune to.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument, the Patriots are dirty low-life cheaters. They stole that game from the Rams.

 Here’s the rub.

What happened to the Rams after that game – that’s still not the Patriots fault. 32 teams are going to face heartbreaking losses this year. How they respond is not the responsibility of their opponents.

Martz’s Rams had several more seasons to compete for a title. They became a shell of themselves. Kurt Warner returned to the Super Bowl in a valiant but losing effort to the Steelers. He’s admitted it took years from him to get over the first Rams loss but now has embraced a much healthier attitude about looking at life. In other words, instead of sour grapes, drink the fine wine.

The best answer – and quite frankly, best defense – for the spygate allegations came from one of their fiercest opponents, then-Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher. Mr Cowher knows more about football than you & I combined. The idea that his team, his dominant, kick-ass steel curtain Pittsburgh Steelers would lose a game because of stolen signals on videotape was an idea he found insulting to himself and his players. He’s gone on the record several times dismissing the idea: https://www.espn.com/blog/pittsburgh-steelers/post/_/id/4294/cowher-dismisses-impact-of-spygate

It’s a great summation of this problem. If one thinks their team is being beat by deflated footballs and stolen signals – one’s team has much bigger problems than the Patriots.

“But, Tim, you’re rationalizing their cheating.” Nope. I’m arguing that speeding tickets should not be treated like committing murder.

I don’t have to turn to the Patriots or any Boston propaganda. I actually can turn to one of their most hated opponents for this defense because they understand what competition is all about – adapt and overcome.

This is a phrase I’ve heard from several professional athletes I’ve worked with. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Great advice that works on and off the field.

Here’s the reality of football people don’t want to talk about – it’s not a fair game. “But it’s supposed to be!!!” Sure, but it’s not. Without even pointing to the numerous 60 – 10 scores that liter college football let me ask this question – let’s pit the Kansas City Chiefs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Know what’s fair about that game? Nothing. Not one Goddamn thing. Oh wait, both teams wear red.

“But it’s supposed to be an even playing field!” That’s the ideal sure and the NFL introduces a lot of parity into the league. But barring major injury – anyone really think the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks, Chiefs and Rams are missing the playoffs this year? Also, the NFL does not care about an even playing field. Google NFL Winnipeg for more.

“Saying other teams cheat is no defense for the Patriots!!” It sure isn’t. Just because other teams steal signals doesn’t mean the Patriots should be forgiven or overlooked for videotaping signals from the sidelines. However, in the context of the NFL where the Jets were caught deflating footballs, where the Vikings were caught heating footballs, where Bill Parcells would open stadium doors to effect the wind during field goals, where players are fined every single week for dirty hits and suspended for banned substances – please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me the NFL is some pure wonderland of innocence. It is good & evil, right & wrong, man’s  strength & flaws, angels & demons, all vying for every inch between the 20s.

Also, want to call the Patriots out for Spygate. Fine. But there’s a looooooong list of teams who committed similar crimes that received no such outrage. That’s the very definition of double standard. 10 teams break a certain – “it’s all part of the game.” The Patriots break the same rule – “THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN CHEATERS AND THEIR SUPER BOWLS DON’T COUNT!!!!”

No. That’s not how it goes.

There was a Super Bowl between the Ravens and the Niners a few years back. The refs let the players play hard to the part where certain rules were neglected all game. So the Niners were constantly holding illegally – but no calls from the refs. In the end, when one of the Ravens was seen holding one of the Niners illegally there was mass outrage from the Bay Area. But that’s not how it works – you can’t accept an overlooking of the rules that benefits your team, then cry foul when it doesn’t. That’s truly not fair.

“But the Patriots look for any competitive advantage and bend the rules as much as they can!!!”

Read that last sentence again. People have said that like it’s bad. Quite frankly, if your team is not doing that, the Patriots aren’t the ones you should be mad at. There are self help seminars all over the country teaching people these lessons. There are corporate meetings all over the world right now employing this strategy. This is something I see in the entertainment business all the freaking time.

Look for every competitive advantage and use the rules – even bend them – to your favor. Yes. All the time do that. That’s great. That’s how many great things have been achieved across all walks of life. 

And this is probably one of my biggest grips with the bitching about the Patriots. Want to be mad at them for Spy Gate? Fine. I get that. I mean, again, if you’re going to mad teams for that kind of infraction, there’s another 31 other suspects but OK. But to mad at the Patriots for doing what they need to do to be successful – that’s the very height of bitterness. That’s completely irrational. It makes no sense and it sums up on the unhealthiest philosophies out there – “In order to lift myself up, I’m going to pull you down.”

Only it just doesn’t work that way.

Playoffs. January 2015. The Ravens accuse the Patriots of using an illegal formation to get certain players open as receivers. One problem – it was not remotely illegal. Just wasn’t used that often but perfectly legal.

The Ravens lost the game. They would not return to the playoffs until 2019.The less said about those 4 years for the Ravens the better. Well, it is worth mentioning they’re a team which publicly said Ray Rice only backhand slapped not punched his fiancé.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

The very next game, the Indianapolis Colts GM Ryan Grigson -tipped by the Ravens who were mad they lost the previous week – complained to the NFL about a deflated football. Everyone heard about this one. Deflategate.

I won’t spend a lot of time debunking this because I really don’t have to. A simple google search does it since the New York Times, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and even high school science fairs have alllllll debunked deflategate. Wired magazine even debunked the Tom Brady cell phone smashing because without destroying the server, destroying a cell phone is pretty meaningless. Even the Indianapolis beat reporters demanding Belichick & Brady’s heads have printed mea culpas regretting they even touched this story.

“But Brady was suspended” Sure was and an NFL even said it was because they wanted the Patriots punished more for Spygate so this was a make good.

The Colts went on to win 3 or the next 4 Super Bowls. Correction – they collapsed in historic fashion. Instead of trying to improve, they clung to the false notion “if only the Patriots didn’t cheat, we’d be Super Bowl Champions.”  No, they didn’t and no you wouldn’t be, Colts. GM Ryan Grigson & Head Coach Chuck Pagano (who would never back the deflategage allegations) were embroiled in a bitter power struggle which saw both lose their jobs. They work on other teams and both in a lower capacity. The Colts mismanaged their talent so bad, they placed the incredibly talented Andrew Luck behind a porous offensive line which saw Luck accumulate years of injuries. He just retired from the sport.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

So while everyone else was crying cheater, while the NFL actually changed certain rules like the eligible receiver play they used against the Ravens or revisiting the catch rule because it cost the Steelers a win over the Patriots, while everyone else was screaming, yelling & moaning – the Patriots just went to work.

The Patriots won in 2015 after Belichick stared down Pete Carroll and spooked him into throwing. (I’m not convinced Lynch punches it through anyway, was 0-5 from the goal line that season but still)

The Patriots won in 2017 wearing down an explosive Atlanta Falcons team to mount the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The Patriots won in 2019 in a defensive slugfest that saw them make just a few better plays than the resurgent Rams.

Since 2015, they appeared in 4 Super Bowls. They lost 1 of them.

From 2002 to 2012, they appeared in 5 Super Bowls. They lost 2 of them.

To think that is because of stolen signals (something that is super common even without videotape) or deflated footballs is at best, completely misinformed and at worst, total madness.

The Patriots lost some of those Super Bowls. You will hear no accusations of cheating from them about Tom Coughlin’s Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, who won with a quarterback considered a backup.

After losing an upset to the Eagles, the Patriots took the offseason, got some rest and got to work. They won the next Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams averaged 30+ points a game in the regular season. The Patriots held them to 3 points.

I listen a lot sports radio. I hear it all the time. “How do they do it?” “This has to be the year they collapse.” “They can’t be this good year after year.” “How are they still around?”

There’s no secret. There’s no mystery. It’s on the walls of their locker-room. Hell, it’s on T-Shirts they market to the general public. It’s the mantra and motto of the entire organization:

“Do Your Job.”

And as Coach Belichick’s quote at the top clarifies – do your job well. As well as you can. Every day. Strive to improve. Do Better. Whether you win or lose. Do Your Job. Do it well.

This another reason why I’m a damn proud Patriots fan. This philosophy has done so much for me and my accomplishments. Do your job.

In the screenwriting world, there’s a lot of snake-oil out there for sale. Writing is a difficult task to not only engage it but to even wrap one’s head around. I have an aptitude for it. I enjoy it. I love sitting at my desk. I’ve had a ball writing this!

One thing I’ve learned being a writer of numerous projects that have gotten off the ground and enjoyed by millions of people – is there is no magic bullet to make it easier. There is no “do this on this page” cheat map. There is no trick. There is one magic formula – sit down and get to work. Put one word after the other in the best voice you possibly can. Then put one page after another. One scene after another. One script after another. Keep putting the words down.

In other words: Do Your Job.

But what if the words aren’t good enough. There’s answer for that too – adapt and overcome.

That’s the secret. That’s the magic formula. Do Your Job.

The Entertainment business is probably even more unfair than pro sports. I see and hear it too much – “they’re not THAT good a writer, they just happen to know the right people.” “Oh the only reason so-and-so got that gig is because they slept together.” “if I was a different color and different orientation, I would have gotten that job,”

And it is all BULLSHIT. Time spent complaining about that should be time spent doing one’s job, honing one’s craft, arming oneself against the unfair obstacles that will be thrown your way. I’ve been in entertainment since 2003. I’ve been screwed over and given rotten deals many times. It’s part of the game. These pages aren’t filled with complaint about that. Instead, my laptop is filled with screenplays. Doing My Job.

“But, Tim,  there IS cheating that happens out there. It must be called out and punished.”

That’s right. There is. And it should be. As I said about the Patriots have been punished (falsely in the case of deflategate) so it’s long past time to move on.

And that cheating in life is not going to go away. Vent to your partner. Bitch to your friends. Go ahead, get it out of your system. But then – adapt and overcome. Do the one thing you can do in the face of life’s unfairness – Your Job.

Because if you don’t, if you let it eat you, if you let it color your lens, if you continue to scream at phantoms and bitter false narratives, it will poison your progress. There will be failures. Defeats. Hearbreak. Hell, rejection is practically the currency of a screenwriter. Get up. Shake it off. Move on to second down.

Bill Cowher stuck up for the Patriots. He didn’t get caught up in the cheating accusations. He’s a proud Super Bowl winner & one of the most respected coaches in Super Bowl history. He did his job.

Tom Coughlin stuck up for the Patriots when they were accused by Mike Tomlin of messing with in stadium communications. Tom Coughlin beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Twice. He did his job.

Bill Belichick’s Patriots have been called cheaters, frauds, fakes, every name in the book. Hell, I’ve been harassed publicly for wearing Patriots T-Shirts. They heard it all. And they did their job. They’re 6 and 3 in the Super Bowl.

So as we begin this Season, the Stairway to Seven. I present the 2019 New England Patriots.

Tom “Tom Brady” Brady

“Double J Jeff” Jarrett Stidham

Brandon “Fortune Favors The” Bolden

Rex Burkhead-ing “To The End Zone”

Damien “The Omen” Harris

“My First” Sony Michel

“King” James White

James Develin “Eggs”

“Lucky” Philip Dorsett

Julian “Ladies And” Edelman

Josh “Flash” Gordon

“Better Call” Jakobi “And” Myers

Gunner “Run All Over Youski” Olszewski

Matthew “Saved By The Bell” Slater

“Nefarious” Demariyus Thomas

“The Carney” Ryan Izzo

Matt “Belichick’s Other Favorite Sport” LaCrosse

Jermaine “Eliminator” Eluemunor

“Bill And” Ted Karras

“Love” Shaq Mason

Joe “Me So” Thuney

Marcus “Laser” Cannon

Korey “Ritchie” Cunningham

Isiah “Doesn’t Lose He” Wynn

Michael “First And” Bennett

John Simon “And Simon”

Chase “Better Get The Catch” Winovich

Deatrich “Word To The” Wise

Adam “Don’t Call Me Malcolm” Butler

Byron “Colin” Cowart

Lawrence “What A” Guy

Danny “Give “Em Hell-ton” Shelton

“Money In The Bank Champion” Jamie Collins

Dont’a “Inferno” Hightower

Elandon “On Ya” Roberts

Kyle “He’s Van Nuys” Van Noy

Ja’Whaun “Yes, I Do Drive A” Bentley

“The Clique” Shilique Calhoun

Stephon “Not Gil Less” Gilmore

Jason “No, I’m Devin” McCourty

Devin “No, I’m Jason” McCourty

“Mighty” Joejuan Williams

Terrence Brooks “No Quarter”

Nate “Siskel And” Ebner

JC “Just Catchin’” Jackson

Jonathan “Break Your Bones” Jones

Obi “Wan Kenobi” Melifonwu

Patrick “Everybody Wang” Chung “Tonight”

“Big Ben’s Favorite Target” Duron Harmon

Stephen “Gotstokicksi” Gostkowski

Jake “Beetle” Bailey

Joe “Find Your Beach” Cardona

 

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Murder Made Easy – NOW AVAILABLE!!

Hello dear reader & dear listener – it is with great excitement I can announce that Murder Made Easy, the independent feature film written by yours truly is now available for purchase on blu-ray from major online retailers everywhere. It’s never been easier to pick up your copy of what Horror Society calls “American Psycho meets Clue.”

Murder Made Easy is a love letter to old fashioned murder mysteries made famous by Agatha Christie and a slew of other great writers. Film buffs will see homages to crime classics “Rope” & “Sleuth” among others – I don’t want to give too much away. It is a whodunnit after all. The logline is very simple – friends come over for dinner, one by one they get killed – by whom and why?

Since our world premiere at the Women In Horror Film Festival in the fall of 2017, we’ve been so fortunate to receive an outpouring of support from the independent horror community. It’s funny because Murder Made Easy *technically* isn’t a horror film – but those fans missed this kind of mystery and have embraced us in a way we are most grateful for.

Bringing any film to life is a back-breaking challenge which brings new challenges and obstacles each day. This appreciation of the process is why you won’t hear too much criticism of other films on these pages. Murder Made Easy was a true labor of love. Director David Palamaro had a clear vision and his passion for the material was infectious, driving us all through long, hard days until we reached this shore – a critically acclaimed film now available for people to enjoy.

Big thanks to our distributors ScreamTeam Releasing and MVD Entertainment Group for this widespread Blu-Ray Release.

“But, Tim, I don’t buy Blu-Rays. I only watching stuff through streaming.” That’s OK! Watch this space – more news on that coming soon.

And just in case you missed it on my front page, here’s the trailer. Thanks so much and please help spread the word! Independent film can’t survive without your help. Fight the good fight!

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Mean Gene Okerlund 1942 – 2019

“Bobby Heenan taught me, be the first one up and the last one to go to bed.”

“If you were to hang the chef for making a great taco, you will have hung an innocent man.”

“Hillbilly, I don’t want to spend the weekend shoveling horseshit.”

In 2012, I had the great privilege to work on the (so far) only season of WWE Legends’ House. I pride myself on being cool around celebrities but when I had to interview Mean Gene Okerlund for soundbites, I was genuinely star struck. I stumbled over my words, couldn’t ask questions clearly, ugh, it was awful. But Mean Gene being a 40 year pro thought nothing of and easily carried me through the interview. I was beating myself up and I learned in that moment to never again be star struck – he was a colleague, a coworker, not a celebrity.

 
It’s no exaggeration to say that Mean Gene became one of my closest friends on the entire cast & crew of the show. I asked a few questions about Wally Karbo & Verne Gagne and he knew I was legit. I got so good at interviewing Mean Gene he would request me daily – “you’re interviewing me today, right, Timmy?” We got our interviews down to where I got the bites I need to with one or two word questions. Mean Gene did indeed become my colleague, my coworker – and my friend.
 

It’s a wild thing to work closely with someone who was such an ingrained part of your childhood. But Gene Okerlund could not have been nicer, more cordial and above all – more professional. He was an industry pro who was game to do anything to make the show everything it could be.

Gene was also always complimentary to folks, making sure people were smiling and laughing. One time in an elevator at a casino, it was just me & Gene. A grandmother and her young grandson came on. Gene could be have been quiet, kept to himself but instead lit up and told jokes to the young boy. He then says to the grandmother “Anything goes wrong at this place, you send them to me.” No cameras looking. No one looking. Just Gene wanting to make people – everyday people – feel good.

My girlfriend at the time visited us on set. Gene was very taken with her and would ask the other wrestlers if they met her. “Hey, Hacksaw, did you get a look at the armpiece on this kid? Stunning!” he would bellow across the dinner table. Yes, that’s an antiquated saying but Gene was from another era and the intention was of the highest calibre.

Gene paid me two enormous compliments. It’s legend in the business that Gene like an after dinner cocktail. He didn’t say no to a before dinner cocktail either or one during. Several days he’d say to me “Timmy, when are we drinking?” I pride myself as one who never drinks on set or during. But after hours, the second to last day of shooting, myself, another crew member got to enjoy a nightcap with Mean Gene Okerlund & Pat Patterson who shared with us some of the best stories of their time in the business.

The second one came a few weeks into the shoot. I kept my experience on the small indie scene in the early 2000s to myself. I wanted to the wrestlers to know me as a TV Producer with a wrestling knowledge. When I opened up to Gene that I did in fact go to pro wrestling school in Rhode Island and reffed some indie matches, he beamed. “You should have gotten in the business! You’d have done great!” I don’t regret my decision to concentrate more on TV & movies than wrestling especially as I’ve been involved with producing wrestling from 2011 – 2018. So in a roundabout way, I did get in the business. To have the endorsement of someone with the success of Mean Gene Okerlund give me his own personal stamp of approval, well – that’s one award no one will ever be able to steal off of my shelf.

I never asked Gene for an autograph or to record a voicemail message as some other folks had. He had become a friend and that seemed wrong. When I got home from the shoot, I was delighted and flattered to see an email from Gene thanking me for all my hard work and the hope that we would work together one day. And it wasn’t lip service. A LinkedIn request soon followed. Unfortunately, we didn’t work together again but during the time with Lucha Underground, I got the chance to reconnect with Gene at a convention in Chicago. He lit up seeing me and was ever bit the gentleman his sterling reputation suggests.

Safe travels to my dear, long-time close personal friend, Mean Gene Okerlund who leaves us at 76 years young…

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Sing Your Songs

The last time I wrote a long form blog was to articulate why I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton and ally for women’s equality. Shockingly, the case for was defeated in favor of a rich, white con-man whose false promises appeal to the rage and fear generated by an ever changing world.

Election night of 2016 was a stunning moment. Looking back, I’m ashamed at my own response. I saw people openly weeping. I heard too many stories from those close to me about the hopelessness and hurt they were feeling. The glass ceiling was firmly back in place. Voter apathy was never more damaging. White nationalism was made mainstream. The thousand lies from a man who were not equal to the sin of one lie from a woman. The idol of the rich, white man (on both sides) was revealed as the real symbol of America – not the shining city of the hill that Ronald Reagan once so nobly described.

As someone firmly rooted in the Left, I have no problem saluting Ronald Reagan. Or George W Bush. Or George HW Bush. Or Mitt Romney. We’re not in a Left vs Right struggle now in America. We’re in the midst of a moral crisis in which we as a nation are deciding who we are.

Now, I want to be clear about something – it is now more than apparent that a hostile foreign power interfered in this election. We do not have a legitimate President at the moment. The office is filled but it is vacant. He should not be recognized and how that story plays out is a long way from over.

But the Russian interference does not take away from the rampant “fear of the other” on the side of the right. Nor does it take away from the exceptional privilege on the left. To put the needs of a progressive ideology over the needs of the many pretty much cancels out said ideology.

So who are we? What are we doing?

Election night when they called Florida for Trump, it felt like the death blow. The path to victory was pretty murky after that. Like a lot of folks when dealing a befuddling question, I took to social media. I went on to facebook and wrote something along the lines of:

“OK, if he wins, what do we do?”

Despite being a scatter-brained creative who likes to color outside the lines and fill his blog with typos, I’m blessed with a healthy sense of pragmatism. Yes, I know how oxymoronic that sounds but that’s where I like to live. I would have no success in the arts if I didn’t have a strong sense of practicality.

So what do we do?

It’s late June, 2018. The election has only become more stunning. The unthinkable nightmare is the new normal. I cannot believe he’s lasted this long. I’m a lot more upset about him now then I was when he was declared victor. And with 2020 around the corner (for you younger readers – time really flies by as you older) it appears that he maybe there even longer.

In the almost 2 year timeframe, I and many others have marched in protest at the injustice and rampant corruption. I know people who’ve not only volunteered but have become involved. As in running – and winning! – in local elections. There is a blue wave. It is real. It is not future tense. It’s happening.

But is it enough? And does it quell the feeling of helplessness when children are screaming in cages for the simple fact that they were born a different color?

So what do we do?

It’s been an odd feeling for me. Recently, Murder Made Easy played at the Dances With Films Festival here in Hollywood. (We played the Chinese Theatre – I mean, HOLY SHIT) I had the great fortune of meeting a slew of great filmmakers. They had noble stories of how to fix the world, confronting today’s problems, tackling inequality and breaking the injustice at its core.

And then they’d turn to me and say “What’s your movie about?” Sheepishly, I responded “well, it’s an old fashioned murder mystery.” At times it felt like one going to a civil rights protest but their main contribution was bringing the snacks for everyone.

However, everyone lit up. Smiles widened. When asked by the festival what I felt people should walk away from Murder Made Easy with I said simply, “Fun. Indie movies can be fun.” Several  of my fellow filmmakers concurred, telling me, “we need fun movies – especially today.”

Love letter to Agatha Christie aside, I do actually write stories which tackle the human condition, how we hurt each other as we help ourselves, despair, isolation, self-destruction. Those are things I like to write about. And again – it’s fun.

So for a few hours though, a movie can help us deal, can keep us sane, can help us catch our breath as we continue to say “no more” “enough” and “resist.”

We need to keep marching. We need to keep calling. We need to keep protesting.

And the artists out there – we need to sing our songs. I believe it was Johnny Cash who said after 9/11, an artist had to put pen to paper. Just to try to understand.

Our attention spans have become hyper-focused on the moment. Yes, we are in a national moral crisis. But it’s easy to forget we are in just the latest national moral crisis.

The DNC called me a few days after the election and told me that we are doomed without fundraising help. I told them, if we doomed, I’m not going to waste my money on a futile gesture. The poor fellow on the other side didn’t have much of response. His talking points were to point such an awful picture that people would scared into giving over money.

My experience has taught me that fear can be a terrible motivator. There is a strong argument agains that sentence but in this situation, I refuse to believe in doom. I’m not blind to the threat we’re under. I’m not turning away from the blatant racism that the US government is perpetrating at the border. And I’m not going to rationalize a single thing this administration has done.

But the path out, I believe, is through one of hope.

The more we believe we’re doomed, the more Putin has won. But the fact is we have a track record with some of this stuff.

We as a nation did not accept slavery. We fought our way out of that. Yes, massive prison reform is needed. John Legend sang his songs and is bringing attention to that.

The unrest we’re facing today kind of pales when compared to the 1960s. Sure, the hippies grew up to be the 80s Reagan’s and yes, red hats remind us that the desire to segregate remains strong. The marches must go on. And as we march we must remember – it was not a sense of “we’re doomed” that drove people across the bridge in Selma.

I didn’t defriend or block any Trump voters on facebook. I actually talked someone out of voting from Trump when I should them a speech from Trump where we said he would proudly eliminate her job. I get why many are turning their backs but I’m not sure that’s the answer. Nelson Mandela shook hands with his captors upon release from prison.

Sing your songs. Many who voted for him rationalized injustice, ignored racism and embraced their fears. Sing your songs. Let them know. You’ll be surprised how many will hear you.

It’s easy to feel like being creative is a waste of time. But look at many of your favorite artists and movies. I don’t need to see your collection but I know some if not many were inspired by times such as the one we’re in.

Sting sang about fields of gold but he also sang about the exploitation of the working class. “Brass watch, a check, maybe three weeks to live…”

Every look up the “Sunday Bloody Sunday” U2 sang about?

The heavy metal I grew up on featured some of the harshest criticism of war out there. And speaking of, the final episode of Blackadder Goes Fourth – a sitcom – is possibly the most powerful piece on World War I that I’ve ever seen.

Children are being ripped from their families. I’m seeing the new tax laws just brutalize people’s finances. Around the world, we are no longer being recognized by the allies with whom we defeated genuine evil.

Future generations are going to look back on these very days and ask “How?” Just as we do looking back on the insanity of slavery and the absurdity of segregation.

So sing your songs. We need them. Nope. It won’t fix everything. It won’t replace practical action like protest, volunteering and getting involved. But they will help.

We need to laugh. We need to hope. We need to be inspired. We need to counteract our worst ugliness with our purest beauty.

In pain? Sing your song – someone else in pain needs it. Badly.

Helpless? Sing your song – it will help someone else.

Hopeless? Sing your song – it will bring hope to others.

Sing your songs. They will drown out the vile hatred that comes screaming from under a red hat.

My signature for all my writing correspondences for a while has been “Keeping fighting the good fight.” It’s a phrase that can be traced back to the Bible. And I used it as an anthem of encouragement to my fellow writers as we all face times of rejection and self-doubt. It takes on a much more literal meaning nowadays.

So dear reader, we will talk more soon. Until then, keep fighting the good fight and sing your songs.

Below is one of oldest and dearest friends who’s been an inspiration to me, Genevieve, singing her song on one of the Sing for Hope pianos in New York City. Go on and give her page a like, then go sing your songs.

https://www.facebook.com/genevievemusicpage/videos/634820003545975/

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