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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Penumbra from Beleeve Entertainment

In this era of Wonder Woman, I figured this is a great time to throw out a quick plug to two of my favorite Wonder Women out here in Hollywood – Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve from Beleeve Entertainment. When I started this blog/podcast venture, I was hopeful that it would help my efforts to network with other industry pros. I’m delighted to say Chelese & Shannan were my first two connections and we remain great friends to this today.

When I first interviewed them way back in 2014, they were about to film the last scenes of their movie Penumbra. Those shoots and post-production later, Penumbra is a completed feature decorated with some laurels and it’s now available for sale. Penumbra takes a look at the impact drug addiction can have on all aspects of a family and I highly recommend it. In this era of vibrant independent film, brave stories are being told by all manner of artists. They may not have millions of dollars in PR behind them but these stories are out there. I hope this little plug continues to help shine a light on Beleeve Entertainment as they keep exploring brave stories that need to be told.

My original interview with Chelese & Shannan is here:

You can purchase Penumbra here:

www.BeleeveEntertainment.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NBQSEDF/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_UcXAybZ17KNVN  (or search Penumbra in Instant Video)

Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/penumbrafilm

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

 

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A Note About Ron Greenfield

Hello, dear reader and hello, dear listener. A lot has happened since I had the chance to sit down and write in these pages. The election we all wanted over and done with is finally over and done with. And like with so many things we rush through, many of us wish we had a second chance at it to get it right. 2016 turned into 2017. Many celebrities have left us. Many new babies have joined us. The New England Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  A movie I wrote is currently wrapping up in post. More on that in the coming weeks and months. And on top of other constant changes in the dance of life, I’ve accepted a position at a cable network which has taken up much of the time I dedicated to this venture.

But I don’t want these pages to go idle completely. I’m delighted to report that traffic for the blog and currently paused podcast has held steady since November, 2016. I have several more topics and announcements to explore the next few weeks but as I’ve been thinking about my first post for 2017, one name kept coming to mind…

Ron Greenfield.

I hope many of you heard my interview with Ron in 2014. If not, it’s embedded below. I first met Ron over twitter (where I’ve done a ton of my networking) as he was expanding his “Aspects Of Entertainment” brand. Our conversations were easy, enjoyable explorations of this funny thing called Show Business. Ron had been there, done that on his extensive career. I, on the other hand, had only been in the biz for 10 years or so at the time so I was just getting warmed up.

Ron and I had several great conversations over Skype and email. He always knew how to offer advice without telling you what to do. When talking about my search for representation, I’ll never forget his simple pearl of wisdom – “Just remember, Tim, there’s representation and then there’s representation.” A great reminder. Ron had been in the trenches with many Hollywood luminaries bringing promotions, designs and shows to life. He didn’t like to bash anyone and he was never snobby about what he achieved. In fact, he struck me as just as fascinated and full of wonder for Hollywood after his career as he was before it all started. And even in his “retirement” he worked tirelessly on his website and putting together his collection of interviews.

Ron was fully committed to yet another new venture when ill health forced him to put the pen down for a bit. The fight was as valiant as any I had seen but on November 9th, 2016, Ron Greenfield left us at 66 years young.

Ron was a tremendous supporter of myself and these pages. It is only fitting that I return here in 2017 with a tip of the cap to top gent, talented artist and good friend to so many creators – Ron Greenfield.

Ron’s fantastic website Aspects of Entertainment is filled lots of wisdom and knowledge about entertainment:

http://www.aspectsofentertainment.com

Ron’s Book Perspectives Of Entertainment is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Perspectives-Entertainment-Ron-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B00B2Q5H36/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413309395&sr=8-1&keywords=Ron+Greenfield

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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I’m With Her…And Not Just Hillary.

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“When everyone looks good, everyone looks good.” – pro wrestling axiom.

It’s always been my intention to keep politics out of the blog but with the Presidential election less than two weeks away, I find it hard not comment on the implications of what we’re the edge of.

A quick disclaimer: This post is not meant to be Anti-Republican or Anti-Conservative. How one votes is their business and as a storyteller, my first question for my audience is not “who’d you vote for?” Maybe one day over some cold refreshment, I’ll share which Republican principles I passionately agree with. (Stay the hell out of my script, government.)

This post isn’t even meant to be Anti-Donald Trump. Though let me add for the record. I, Tim Davis, Screenwriter, TV Producer and former pro-wrestling referee hereby reject Donald Trump because of his rampant bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism, White nationalism, penchant for sexual assault, his disrespect of our Democracy, his possible sociopathic tendencies, fraudulent business practices and pathological lying. In whatever order you’d like. So actually, I guess yeah, I’m very Anti-Donald Trump. Sorry, Donald. Next time don’t be such an asshole.

Oh, go ahead and sue me Donald. I could use the publicity. Hey, maybe I’ll get to meet Jessica Drake in court! I mean, I don’t know who that is.

So suffice to say, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. And the idea of putting Hillary Clinton on the same scale as Donald Trump is at best, intellectual dishonest and at worst, completely delusional. Saying Hillary Clinton is just as bad as Donald Trump is like saying “this Big Mac I just ate for lunch was almost as bad as the day my entire family was killed in a house fire.” And that’s not an exaggeration. Churchill was a sexist alcoholic. Anyone calling him as bad as Hitler would be deemed nuts.

I was for Hillary before I was for Obama. And with respect to the honorable Senator from Vermont, he was unable to dissuade me away from supporting her. I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s not Donald Trump. (I can think of no living or recently retired politician I would not pick over Trump.)

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s the most qualified candidate to run for the Presidency in my no longer short lifetime. She’s the single toughest politician I’ve ever seen in said lifespan. She’s overcome more smear, more attacks, more lies, more so-called scandals, more debasement, more sheer persecution than I’ve ever seen. They started on her long before Obama. I remember so many grown-ups in the 1990’s: “Who the hell does she think she is? She’s the first lady! She needs to learn her place.”

Oh, she learned her place alright. Her place is first one across the finish line of every political battle she’s had. Dick Morris and Trey Gowdy are in a “where are they now?” file while Hillary’s on the cusp of her biggest win yet. There’s a name for people like that in sports – Champion.

After all that the overt and covert sexism our society has thrown at her, Hillary stands poised to become the first female President of the United States. And in an election cycle that can only be described as surreal, she’s become the overwhelming rational choice for sanity everywhere accumulating the most votes of any candidate so far.

So yes, I’m voting Hillary. I’m one of the quiet majority that is actually VERY EXCITED AND ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT VOTING HILLARY!!!! Sorry news narrative, all the Hillary voters I know are crazy psyched about it. Yes, we actually do indeed like her.

And not only am I voting for Hillary, I’m voting for equality. No, not because we need a “token female President” to catch up with the rest of the world. But because the prejudices of America still need to be overcome. Voting for Hillary is my way of not listening to the inherent sexism of our society.

If Hillary Clinton were a man, her popularity would be through the roof. If Hillary Clinton were a man with the last name Kennedy, she’d have a statue by now. “BUT THE EMAILS!!!!” George W Bush (hell of a painter) and Karl Rove (yikes) deleted 5 million White House emails. No one cared. A woman does an infinitesimal percentage of a similar infraction and society at large is scandalized? That right there is sexism 101. If you’re mad at Hillary’s emails and not mad at W’s, I highly suggest you have some gender-equality figuring out to do.

And you know something? I might have deleted the same emails. It’s politics. It’s a tough business. Show me your favorite politician and I’ll show you similar corruption. It’s more ridiculous than deflate-gate at this point. (How’s that ratings drop, Goodell? Good job.)

It’s quite remarkable that when I ask people often very specific reasons why they dislike Hillary I get two kinds of answers either a) long debunked conspiracy theories (she has in fact murdered zero people) or b) these vague, amorphous blanket judgements. “I can’t explain why I just don’t like her.” Who’d have thought ambiguity could spark such passion?

“She’s shady…she’s suspicious…she’s mean…I just don’t like her.” She’s arguably the most vetted politician to get this close to the oval office. As far as the mean stuff goes, I’ve never seen her more harsh than her male counterparts which leads me to wonder if there’s some kind of sociological thing going in our culture. Does her yelling to defend herself remind us of when Mom used to yell us to finish our chores? Do we as a culture not like seeing women in such forceful roles?

“But she wrote mean emails about the Bernie campaign” So what? Seriously, so what? Welcome to big league politics. Bernie himself said he wrote mean emails about the Clinton camp! And I should hope so. They were fighting a high stakes game. Remember when Obama called Joe Biden stupid on a conference call? Upset about that one? Of course not, because men are expected to do that. A woman does it – GASP! Spare my blushes!!

Hillary hasn’t had to break a glass ceiling. She’s had to break through a glass ceiling that was covered in concrete while covered in mud and shackled in chains that spelt out “Double Standard.”

And she is far from alone. Hillary represents the plight of far too many women who don’t get paid as much male counterparts, don’t get the respect they deserve and are still pushing past second class citizen status.

One of the front lines in the battle for equality is my own industry – Hollywood. There’s been much written and talked about in regards to gender issues in the movie and TV business. There’s good news – progress and awareness for the issue has grown in the past few years. There’s bad news – there’s a hell of a lot more than needs to be done.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’m just one guy trying to sell some screenplays and making some movies I hope you’ll enjoy, dear reader.

I do know we need to talk about it more. I do know that Hollywood, our culture at large and the living generations have a lot to figure in regards to equality. Being quiet won’t help. Being defensive, yelling and screaming won’t help. But talking about it might.

So allow to share with you some experiences I’ve had and why I’m proud to write in these pages – we need gender equality in Hollywood right now.

The majority of bosses I’ve had in the Entertainment Business have in fact been women. Actually, the majority of bosses I’ve had in my life had been women. Most of them were great – driven, passionate, inspirational leaders. A few of them were shit – power-hungry, insecure, abusive. I could say the exact same thing about all the male bosses I’ve had. Because women, like men, are people.

Things are improving in Hollywood, albeit too slowly. But I noticed something this past year that I found very interesting. I did an enormous amount of pitching. The majority of “yes, I’d love to read your script” came from women. Like A LOT. I don’t have the exact stat (writer not a mathematician) but I’d guess it was around 70% of my “yeses” came from women. It got to the point where I was only seeking women to pitch to. (And uh, don’t give me the “but women execs are nicer than men execs” No. No, they are not. No one has the time to waste on a sympathy read.)

I can’t tell you why this track record has happened. No, I’m not flirting with them or bribing them or anything like that. I pride myself on professionalism. Maybe it’s because my stories are more intimate character dramas concentrating on people over concept? Or maybe the concepts I have appeal to the female demo that’s growing in genre? Maybe because I treat these women like equals and with respect? Maybe none or all of the above – I don’t know and I don’t ask. Once I get a yes, the script is mailed with a big “Thank You.”

People fear equality in an irrational sense. “If we give X more jobs, then there will be less jobs for us.” Before you email with examples of that happening, studies have shown that equal opportunity has lead to growth and expansion in many industries. An interesting read on the subject here from someone who I’m guessing is not a bleeding liberal: http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2012/08/equal-opportunity-and-economic-growth.html

In other words, THEY are not coming to take YOUR job. THEY are coming for THEIR job which may in fact create a lot more of YOUR job. My own experience say my opportunities in my industry increase exponentially because of an increase in women gatekeepers in Hollywood. So keep ‘em coming, I say, I got a lot more scripts to pitch.

Inclusion is vital in Hollywood. There’s a limited number of plot lines and jokes. There’s a limitless number of ways to tell those plot lines and jokes when all ethnicities, cultures, orientations and genders (oh, the people who think there’s only two – they’re in for a shock this next century) are brought to the table. And no it will not be done at the expense of the White Man.

It’s always interesting to hear those who voice opposition to equality. Some basically say “I will not let you do to me what I’m doing to you.”

My girlfriend is writer. It makes me furious to think opportunities will be denied her just because she’s a women but I know they are. It’s happening and it needs to change. Some of the best producers I know are women. Some of the most kick-ass people creating their own brands and kicking down doors are actresses. The new trailblazers in the industry bring new stories, new visions and new frontiers are in fact women. “Murder Made Easy” a feature film written by yours truly, just wrapped production and our producer was a woman who was smart, tough and invaluable in making sure we got every shot we needed in the schedule and budget allotted.

When I look at who has inspired me the past few years as I fight this good fight in screenwriting, the majority of them are women.

While we have a long, long way to go and I certainly have not been perfect in this area, equality should be a no-brainer. Putting barriers in front of someone is asking for those same barriers to be put in front of you one day. I put these words on the page saying I stand with the moral justice that is equal rights for all. But there’s a selfishness to it, because I’ve seen the benefits to my own career the equality has brought. I want those people brought to the table because they may be the exact people who will look at me to write their stories.

Or as Hillary Clinton put it at the Convention: “when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.”

I’m with her. Because she’s for me.

Don’t forget to vote for freedom, for democracy and for equality.

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The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Conquering The Ordinary Afternoon

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There’s a natural enemy out there that I dare say all writers have to confront at one point or another. That enemy is – real life.

Whatever your genre, be it deep space fantasy adventure or small intimate character drama taking place in one room, a writer has to immerse themselves into their imagination as fully as one jumps into the deep end of a swimming pool.

I often cite the analogy of writing to swimming. You’re still on the planet Earth, you’re still amongst matter, you’re still able to move around and see even if you can’t utilize all your senses. Being in the space of the imagination is just like that – you’re still on the planet Earth, you’re still able to move around and see if you can’t actually talk to, touch or interact with your created world or characters.

The act of writing can take the writer into “a zone” if you will. Others have compared this to the zone an athlete gets into during a big game. Complete and total focus on the task at hand. I can tell you from experience that I’ve felt time disappear when writing. I’ve emerged from writing sessions actually confused about the time and date. When one commits as much of their mind as they can to their story, it’s often hard to switch gears back to the real world.

And as hard as it is to come out of the zone, it’s sometimes even more difficult to get into it. Especially when stupid, pesky life gets in the way. Writing during the week with a day job is, I’d suggest, one of the biggest challenges of writing. You don’t want to get fired so you can’t goof off doing your screenwriting at work. But work and even commutes alone (hi, 405) can take a ton of energy, physical and creative, out of you.

If you just write on the weekends, those aren’t so easy either. Let’s say you’re not hungover from an evening of Washington Apples and lite beers, you use your Saturdays and Sundays to go to the bank, do your grocery shopping, get your oil changed, see family members who are asking why you’re so busy writing and not seeing them. Precious hours to jump into the pool and swim with your stories fill up quickly.

It’s not always easy to imagine how to fend off an invasion of giant aliens on the surface of Mars while picking up your dry-cleaning or remembering if you already have corn on the cob at home. So after being at the Doctor’s office, day-care, on a dog walk or whatever, it’s hard to then jump into your extraordinary nature of your story in the middle of a perfectly ordinary afternoon. The stresses of real life can be the arch-enemy of your imagination.

Fortunately, there are ways to find the time and/or get into the zone so to speak without letting the fridge go bare or the tires fall of your car.

This list is by no means definitive, of course, but these are the things that have helped me manage my wicked fun workload with the annoying responsibilities of the real world. To add some credibility to that, this year I’ve completed several treatments, two pilots and two feature scripts. And I’m on track to finish two more feature scripts. Maybe more. Time and workflow management are not a pipe dream.

WRITE EVERY DAY: Writing every day isn’t just about completion. The more you write, the more it becomes habit. The more it becomes habit the more it becomes weird when you don’t write. My schedule got flipped around two weeks ago and I couldn’t write during a particular day. I can’t begin to tell you how that threw me off. Like one of those days when you’re constantly late or everyone seems to be in your way. The universe is just off.

About 4-5 years ago, getting into the writer’s zone was hard for me. It would sometimes take me an hour to warm up. That was not so good when some days I only had an hour to write. But force myself to write every day I did. (Yes, you are going to miss some, don’t panic) But before I knew it, I’d crack my software open and bam there I was, right in the zone.

Writing every single day and writing A LOT solves a ton of a writer’s problems. Including but not limited to getting in the zone.

WRITING RITUAL: Something else that helped was a ritual. I write to music (“yeah, no shit, everyone does”) but I choose specific soundtracks and music to each story. For example, earlier this year I wrote a story with heavy religious themes so I queued up some Gregorian Chants and things like that. I like to write to soundtracks and techno so I’ll choose accordingly material that matches the story I’m writing.

But the specifics aren’t as important as the ritual. Something that can hold your hand as you step into the pool. Queueing up the music helped a ton for me. I know other writers who can’t write without their favorite cup of coffee or tea at their side. All for it.

Maybe one likes to exercise before they write or do 15 minute meditation. Whatever works is whatever that works.

Just don’t do the whole “I can only write when I drink” thing. That’s more or less a myth and can lead to severe alcoholism and other destructive behavior.

CALENDAR: The best $14.95 I spent this year was on a calendar that’s on the wall right next to my desk. It’s so basic, so simple and yet you’d be surprised how many writers I talk to who don’t use one. When managing multiple projects and a day job and a family, looking at the week or month to see where you can work on what is a no-brainer. My stress level has plummeted just by being able to mark down “OK, Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll write this then Thursday and Friday I’ll write that.”

I know we like to think of ourselves as artists who are prisoners to their muse and the vagaries of inspiration but we’re also professionals who can be organized and pragmatic.

And it’s all in pencil so as the schedule gets messed up or you have those days where your writing time is just eaten up you can roll with the punches.

Seriously, next time you find yourself asking “where am I going to find the time to write this week?” Look at the calendar, you’ll find it.

PAD AND PEN: Even cheaper than a calendar are a notebook or notepad and some pens and/or pencil. We’re writers, not typists. I’ve filled more notebooks than I care to admit with story notes, character thoughts, ideas and concepts. I keep one with me just about everywhere I go so if a thought strikes from out o nowhere, I can write it down instead of shoving it away while talking to my mechanic. There’s also apps that do this on most if not all phones. Something strikes you as interesting? Write it down. No excuse not to.

UNPLUG: I don’t do this as much as I used to but I know other writers swear by it. The internet is a source of endless distractions. From twitter to facebook to instagrams of lunch to news to politics to games starring candy to adult entertainment and even looking up obscure movies on imdb. (Seriously, how can anyone with an internet connection ever be bored?) If all of those things are whispering in your ear like the devil on the shoulder – unplug. All of those things will wait. Any emergency will call you personally. Turn off the internet and fight to forget about it for a while. It’ll be hard at first, missing the endorphins those little notifications set off, but that rush will be replaced by writing – and finishing – more.

EMBRACING THE ORDINARY AFTERNOON: After a while of writing a lot and honing your craft, the real world becomes not distraction but an asset. And I mean for your writing, not just living. Many a writer has written about the importance of unlocking yourself from the keyboard.

Revisiting the first point, if you write every day, your story becomes a part of your subconscious. You’ll dream about it. And soon everything in life becomes connected to your story. Let’s say you’re stuck on a fight scene but then at the grocery story you’ll see two people trying to get the shortest line which may set off a line of thinking that actually cracks your problem with the scene. Nicholas Meyer has famously told the story that he didn’t know how to direct Star Trek II until playing with some rubber ducks in the tub.

“A writer is always working” is an old cliché but it’s not without some truth. Our stories are never far from our thoughts. There’s no clock where we punch out at the end of the day. Once our minds are trained to it, we have no choice but to design our tales while in line at the DMV, on hold with the cable company or while pretending to listen to our significant others.

Real life then becomes not a distraction that gets in the way but a necessity to keep our minds fresh. We’ll see the trees if we walk out of the forest so to speak. Still, it always sucks on those days when you can’t get back to your keyboard but this is an imperfect science looking at an imperfect craft.

As writers we have the privilege (insanity?) of straddling two worlds. We get to be there for our real friends while ruling over the lives of our imaginary ones. We shudder in terror at the atrocities on the news while staying up late creating disasters for our characters to overcome. Those two worlds seem at odds but in actuality, they should work in synch with other or crossing over as needed to get your story to where it needs to be for you to tell it.

So next time you’re picking up dry-cleaning, don’t forget to figure out how to fend off an invasion of giant aliens on the surface of Mars.

Mars

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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The Blank Page

Blank Page

A lot of writers fear the blank page. Much has been written about that empty, white monster staring back at a hapless author bereft of ideas who doesn’t know how to fill the space. And for many aspiring, new writers the blank page can be one of the scariest obstacles to face.

I have a confession to make. And I make it with no braggadocio but this is a fear I can’t relate to.

I just can’t. Mainly because I can’t recall any time when I was scared of the blank page. Maybe writing term papers in college but I even tried to make those fun much to the appreciation of my professors. I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when the blank page filled me with any kind of trepidation, nonetheless dread.

Not only am I not afraid of the blank page, I actually like it. OK, here’s the real confession – I love the blank page.

Love love love it.

I remember being in a museum years ago and a young art student was setting up an easel in a room to paint, I’m guessing, a reproduction of a painting on display. Or maybe it was the most brazen art forger in town but either way it was a fascinating juxtaposition of both sides of the journey. On the wall hung the completed piece after God knows how many years of practice, discipline and struggle. And just a few feet away was a young person just at the starting line, organizing their paints and brush while the large white canvas waited patiently to be filled with visuals that could make the eye go “Wow.”

Is it really that different for us writer? Our ideas are the paint. Our words are the brush. The blank page is literally the writer’s canvas, waiting patiently to be filled with our expression that will hopefully make the mind go “Wow.”

The blank page is the beginning. Chapter one, paragraph one, sentence one, word one.

The blank page is like the last day of school right before summer break. It’s that delicious anticipation of leaving the real world behind an entering another place, another reality or the endless confines of the imagination.

Where do you want to go? Gotham City, Tatooine, the prom except this time you’re the best dancer our there, the middle of a football field, a World War I battlefield, deep space, the deepest ocean (Jim Cameron’s probably driving a submarine there now) – you can go anywhere you want through that blank page. It is a writer’s own personal TARDIS.

I mean, come on. How awesome it to type stuff like:

FADE IN:

EXT. DEEP SPACE – NIGHT (ESTABLISHING)

The blank page was my gateway to every story I’ve ever wanted to write. I feel very fortunate that I always saw it like that. Something else that happens to me every time I finish the first draft of a script and I mean, EVERY SINGLE TIME, that I hit fade out and date the cover page – I want to go on again. Like when you were a kid (or an older roller coaster enthusiast) and you finish the roller coaster and your first thought is “I don’t care how long the line is, I want to go AGAIN” or when you put your favorite song on repeat.

I want to do that again and again and again. I cannot date too many cover pages.

And the way to get there is through the blank page. So as result, I see it not as this daunting white beast staring back at me from the abyss. Instead, the blank page is possibility, imagination, an old friend of never-ending potential.

The blank page is EXCITEMENT.

Besides, if you blow it on the first few pages, you’re going to rewrite them anyway so seriously no pressure. In my experience, Act One of a script or the first 25 pages get rewritten exponentially more than the rest of the script. Those first blank pages are where you can really screw everything up or to put it another way – it’s where you can really have fun.

The top of the mountain is the goal but you can’t get there without starting from where the rock bursts from the ground.

My suggestion is don’t run from the blank page. Don’t fear it. Embrace it. It’s our canvas. It’s where we find our stories, sometimes even find ourselves. It’s where we face our fear and discover our bravery.

The blank page is where we become writers.

*And if you’re wondering what’s happening at night in Deep Space, then I’ve really done my job.

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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On The Importance Of Tits And Dragons

550x298_Ian-McShane-teases-huge-Game-of-Thrones-season-six-spoiler-8316

Ian McShane is a master of his craft. I don’t know if I’d call him a genius because that label sometimes discounts the many hours of disciplined work and practice someone puts into their profession. But Ian McShane is a master. Just watch any episode of Deadwood for evidence. But the 73 year old actor has an incredible resume of achievements from “Dallas” to “Pirates Of The Caribbean” to his famous series “Lovejoy.” If I ever have the privilege of meeting him I would shake his hand in Congratulations on a stellar career.

Recently, Mr. McShane has raised the ire of many genre fans for giving away spoilers for his appearance on “Game Of Thrones.” He gave a response in the Telegraph which said, “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape…I was accused of giving the plot away, but I just think get a fucking life. It’s only tits and dragons.”

Here’s the original Telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/03/11/ian-mcshane-game-of-thrones-is-just-tits-and-dragons/

I encourage you to read the entire article because there’s a lot more than just the “tits and dragons” line that made the headline.

And before you get excited, this isn’t a complete rebuke of Ian McShane’s comments. He’s done more than enough in this business to be entitled to whatever opinion he has. Besides, interview quotes are tricky. Was he just joking? Was he rolling his eyes at internet outrage? The quality of “Game Of Thrones” is pretty much undisputed so I’m sure he’d have some very glowing things to say about the script and experience. Of course, the internet being the internet, that’s harder to find than the mean comments.

But he does bring up some interesting points about internet outrage, spoilers and the genre experience.

Ian McShane cannot be more correct when he says “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape.” One just has to look at the ongoing feuds between many Bernie Sanders supporters and many Hillary Clinton supporters to know that’s true. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are putting an exemplary debate exchanging ideas in the political discourse. Some of their surrogates, however, are shouting at each other on talk shows and across social media. (Following the example of those they profess to love is some advice that wouldn’t go amiss.)

As I have explored in these pages, the keyboard can be a sword bringing bravery to many a troll. The black and white image of one quote taken out of context can instill an extreme judgement of “HOW COULD THEY?!?!” when in fact there was much more to the story.

I ain’t mad at McShane’s comments because every once in a while (or maybe every day) internet outrage really does need to be told to chill the fuck out. Judgments shouldn’t be made on one out of context quote, but by meticulously researching all aspects of a story. And I say this from no high horse. This all has to be learned the hard way. (“Well, OF COURSE, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” said I in 2003. We all can be very wrong about who we believe in.)

I was blocked on twitter not that long ago by a fellow Democrat who was losing her mind about Bernie Sanders ATTACKING Barack Obama. Mr. Sanders wasn’t in fact attacking Obama, but just pointing out how his policies differed from the President’s. In a very reasonable manner. It’s also reasonable to guess President Obama wasn’t mad at Senator Sanders comments. Disagreements happen all the time in politics but the mere suggestion that Bernie Sanders wasn’t the enemy lead to a barrage of rage from this person toward myself and several other people. I’m a loyal and proud voter of Barack Obama but I apparently betrayed the cause by not being mad enough at Bernie Sanders it seems.

(I’ve received the same rage by the way from some Bernie supporters for not loving him so much. There is no political bent that is immune to the pitchfork mentality of mob outrage.)

There’s also the matter of spoilers. In this day and age, they’re getting harder and harder to avoid, but as I’ve mentioned before, apps like this can be a lifesaver:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/unspoiler/oookgbbhgojdebhnmkmhgfagoiknifgi?hl=en-US

Typing in Game Of Thrones into that app might have kept fans safe from the secret being spilled. It’s impossible to ask the whole world to be quiet about spoilers but there are earmuffs out there that we can wear.

But then there’s the matter of dismissing the genre. In all honesty, I don’t think that’s what Ian McShane meant to do. However, for a great number of years, many us who lurked in Comic Book shops have had to deal with our passions being dismissed with an easy wave of the hand. The explosion of genre programming today shows that those passions weren’t just passing phases and they should not have been so easily dismissed.

Recently, even I was gobsmacked by the amount of attention the new “Captain America: Civil War” trailer got. I don’t mean the buzz but I mean voluminous articles breaking down every shot. Spider-Man’s uniform being combed over. New theories about the plot were written in great detail. People went nuts over this trailer. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Why in the hell would anyone spend so much time and energy over a single few minute long trailer?

The answer is quite simple: It’s important to them.

VERY important to them.

Some scoff and say that Comic books, sci-fi and escapist entertainment is nowhere near as important as serious drama. Perhaps not. That is the endless debate between critics and fans.

Then of course some say that people shouldn’t get so emotionally invested in these kind of genre things. It’s not as important as cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world that need fixing. “Why don’t people spend more time worrying about that than the new Godzilla movie?” some will ask with furrowed brows of disappointment.

Those furrowed brows are missing a very key point. Cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world are WHY genre is so important. The words nerd and geek have now become affectionate labels for those of us who spend time watching the TARDIS materialize or dress in Starfleet uniforms. It’s easy to forget that the words nerd and geek used to be (and maybe still are) some of the worst names you could be called on the playground. Bullies earned their stripes by inflicting as much torment on the geeks at school and as far as dating went? Forget it.

The “It Gets Better Campaign” reminds us these trends are still there despite the mainstream money-machine that genre has become. So when school is a place of abject terror, when home is a hell of domestic violence, when the steel grip of depression keeps you clawed down, it’s hard to know where to turn.

Many people find not just solace and comfort, but pure bliss in the pages of a fantasy novel, the images of comic book or the wild adventures found in deep space. That faraway land isn’t just mindless escapism but where our troubled minds can escape the painful, chaotic asshole that is real life and find some kind of peace.

And that is the one place I would respectfully disagree with the estimable Mr. McShane. Many of the people who are so invested in shows like Game Of Thrones ARE in fact getting themselves a life.

Yup. Genre entertainment can be damn silly. The sets sometimes wobble and the acting can reach over the top proportions.

Yup. Genre entertainment can take itself way too seriously. Fandom can overreact to the slightest changes in canon and should sometimes take a step back a bit. (I still for the life of me do not get the rage at Goyer & Mazin’s She-Hulk jokes. Google that if you don’t believe me or maybe don’t.)

The world is unfair. The world is filled with tragedy that can strike at any second. The world hurts. Genre, escapism and entertainment, I put it to you dear reader is not just spaceships and superheroes. It is medicine for those hurts.

People often ask me if I’m ashamed of the work I did in Reality TV. “Are you kidding?” is usually my reply. I spent more than a decade laboring to entertainment millions upon millions of people. Even some of the small shows I worked in got around 700,000 viewers. That’s a SHIT TON of people when you think about it. If the show I was working on was a way for those folks to unwind, relax from their day and deal with whatever they were stressing out about, I’m not only not ashamed of the show – I am HONORED to have been a part of it.

Yup. Genre entertainment IS people’s lives. And it will always be of vital importance as long as there are hurts that people need healed.

And besides, the description of “Tits and Dragons” I daresay would attract a great number of viewers. I mean, come on, a show about tits and dragons – how can you go wrong?

dragons1

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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