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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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.

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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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Pulling Into Station

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Hello Dear Reader and Hello Dear Listener,

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve not recorded any new episodes of the Handsome Timmy D Express since 2015. There is a very good reason for this. Several in fact. Beginning in January 2016, my screenwriting workload grew exponentially. Thanks in large part to several years worth of networking, some screenwriting awards and increased experience in writing of course, I was able to hook up and work with several independent producers and directors to write a myriad of projects currently in varying stages of development. In order to make sure I hit all my deadlines, some things had to go on the back burner and well, sadly, the podcast was one of them.

Starting and making this podcast was one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made as some the above opportunities were in fact a direct result of the connections I made doing the show. I enjoyed just about every single second of making every single episode. However, I’m a one-man operation without interns or staff so the challenges of making a top quality show became harder and harder.  And I do NOT want to put out  substandard product. Over the course of March through May, I tried to schedule several episodes but found my workload was such that I couldn’t make the time work. Editing, promotion, posting across social media outlets, copy etc, while all very very fun, can take up an entire workday and with several screenplays being juggled those hours become more precious. In fact, I was hoping to announce new shows in the fall but a movie shoot schedule pushed that back as well. Never say never, maybe I’ll record a new season of episodes in 2017. I’d love to be able to make it work, but at the end of the day I am a screenwriter, not a podcaster about screenwriting.  I will still be blogging when I can various thoughts, quibbles and anecdotes from the world of writing when I can. And hopefully you’ll get to see one of these movies I’m writing sooner than later.

I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to every single person that listened. Based on the numbers of the various feed, many thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands of people tuned in across over 90 countries. I would have been thrilled to hit 10 countries but to have someone from at least 90 countries tune in is almost impossible for me to comprehend. Thanks so much, everyone and the episodes are still archived on the site’s index for your listening pleasure. And quick-fun fact about podcasts, people are still discovering the show every day. I hope the information and insight offered by my guests remains timeless and helpful to all listening whenever and wherever they tune in.

Along those lines, my guests took time out of their busy schedule to appear on my podcast for free. This was a non-profit operation. No one was paid a single dollar to take part and I can assure, I didn’t make a single dollar from the show. All I could offer was getting the word about their projects. This was just about spreading information and generating buzz in the digital do-it-yourself age. I can’t express my gratitude enough to every guest who appeared: Matt The Cat, Megan Karasch, Mike Doto, Dan And Travis, Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve of Beleeve Entertainment, Brian Veys, Joe Lidster, AJ Feuerman, Arnold T Blumberg, Talia Harari, Stephen J Llorens, Chris Garcia, Rizelle Januk, Mike Sundy, Ron Greenfield, Stephen Scaia, Rick Dominicus, Gordy Hoffman, Tom Krajewski & Jen Muro, Tom Grey of Player Piano, Simone Bailly, M. Dal Walton III, Sammi Kat, Dan Mason, Rory LaPointe-Smith, Paul O’Brien, Jon Matthews, Crystal House, Kyle C Mumford, Ramon Hamilton, Travis Rust & Stacy Gueraseva, Chavo Guerrero, Simon Guerrier, Gregor Collins, Daphne Ashbrook, Chuck Slavin, Jennifer Sharp, Kyle Newmaster, Amy Reynolds and Elizabeth Lombino.   These folk are all doing spectacular work to add to their sterling resumes and they have my best wishes for continued success.

I also have to thank John S Drew (who made the above photo), Dan Lackeye and Sean Reiser for linking to my show which provided a ton of new listeners. I did my best to plug their shows back and hope I was as helpful to them as they were to me.

Now, if you’re still looking for some great podcast to check out about the creative world for the upcoming holiday weekend or any weekend in particular, let me throw these options out there:

The closest thing to my podcast is “Making The Sausage” from fellow screenwriter and all-around top gent Nick Rheinwald-Jones. I had the good fortune of meeting Nick at the wonderful Austin Film Festival. Like myself, Nick found real industry pros to interview for his show about how the nuts & bolts of a creative profession works. He’s collected some great guests so far and there’s a lot of knowledge on his show:  http://previously.tv/shows/making-the-sausage/

For some criticism and analysis of the latest happenings in the entertainment world, check out the Hollywood Picture News. Loren Erlanger and Ryan Thompson along with some special guests dive into every possible detail examining how and why things work in the ever-changing world of TV and movies: http://hollywoodpicturenews.com/

One of the good guys in the podcasting world is Kenny Mittleider. He’s one of the passionate and knowledge fans of all things “geek” out there and offers several podcasts covering it all: http://geekyfanboy.blogspot.com/

Don’t forget there’s still plenty of great podcasts on the network I was proud to be a part of, John S Drew’s Chronic Rift: http://www.chronicrift.com/ Including of course, the Dan & Travis show who are the first guys who put me on internet radio waaaay back when.

And if you’re just looking from some great old music to discover, you’ll never go wrong with Matt The Cat as he explores The Juke In The Back: http://www.jukeintheback.org/

Thanks again everyone. It’s uncertain world these days, as it is most days, so I hope it’s a safe and happy 4th of July Weekend. Keep fighting the good fight!

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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Ideas On Ideas

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Happy New Year one and all! The holiday lights are down and everyone is pretty much back to work. I hope all the screenwriters out there have pen to paper fighting the good fight.

As we embark on an adventurous new year, I figured it’s a good time to explore one of the more difficult questions a writer gets asked:

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Much has been written on the subject. There are few straight or easy answers. Harlan Ellison famously acidic reply to this question: “When some jamook asks me this one (thereby revealing him/herself to be a person who has about as much imaginative muscle as a head of lettuce), I always smile prettily and answer, “Schenectady.” And when the jamook looks at me quizzically, and scratches head with hairy hand, I add: “Oh, sure. There’s a swell Idea Service in Schenectady; and every week I send ’em twenty-five bucks; and every week they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas.” 

In some ways asking a writer where they get their ideas is kind of like asking a gymnast how they perform an somersault. It’s a skill very difficult to explain but more than possible after a lot of practice. Of course, having an idea is not unique to writers. But having a large number of new and fresh ideas is an essential part of the writer’s job. Whenever I tell someone I’m a writer, I often get the response, “I’ve got a great idea for a movie!” to which I’ll sometimes reply, “That’s great. I’ve got about 50.” (And 50 is low but I don’t want to be unkind.)

Screenwriters are constantly bombarded by ideas and sometimes it’s harder to decide which one to pursue as opposed to thinking up bold new concepts. At the same time there are fair number of people who’d like to try writing or are even very experienced who have a hard time coming up with ideas.

This is by no means a definitive guide, but here’s some things that I’ve learned over the past few years that have helped me generate a constant flow of ideas for stories:

BE OPEN: This is actually harder than it sounds, depending on your ego. But a great way to be open to ideas is to – be open. Be open to new concepts, new opinions, new theories, new judgments, new…well, ideas. No matter how intelligent, intuitive or well-educated we are, there is always new things to learn in our ever changing lives. Shedding preconceived notions and retaining as much curiosity can be an absolute gold mine. In other words, revel in the fact that you don’t know everything.

Open your ears, open your mind, listen and watch the world around you. Everyday life is actually an endless supply of source material for story. Everyday scenes in life provide countless inspirations for writers. Don’t worry if the idea is concept or genius, just be open to what’s happening. Fantastic movies, novels and TV shows have been born out of those small struggles.

The concept for one of my pilots clicked into place while delayed in airport terminal and I started to think about a bunch of grumpy people being trapped together. Then I thought, what if everyone trapped together were a mix of criminals, outcasts and losers? Then I thought, what if they were exiled together in the last hiding place an Earth? What if that last hiding spot was actually a remote, hidden bar? A few weeks later the first draft of Finnegan’s was written. A year later, Finnegan’s was collecting laurels on the Festival circuit and today is in the hands of several gatekeepers.

A lot of ideas manifest and grow just by looking around and saying “what if…” Practice by trying to make a story, any kind of story, even just a concept, from things you see every day. You may be surprised how many are feasible and actually pretty good. (Honestly, I think I’ve thought of 10 movies just from walking the dog.)

Listen, Listen, LISTEN: This is similar to above but it’s worth going over. Listen to people. Especially people with dramatically different views and experiences than you.

Some of the very best writers I know spend their time at parties or at the bar asking people questions (and not pitching their stories.) And I mean A LOT of questions. One of the reasons I started the podcast was to ask lot of questions and to absorb the answers.

Talk to people you don’t agree with. Don’t argue with them, just talk them. Are you atheist? Find out why someone is a true believer in God. Don’t judge them, just do your best to understand them. Liberal? Have dinner with a conservative or vice versa. Explore all the layers that make up the difference of opinion and that far too often get lost in “YOU’RE WRONG.” This won’t only help you with ideas, but in creating real three dimensional characters and not one-dimensional stereotypes.

So much of writing is reliant on a distinct understanding of people. Not snap judgments or social media wisdom “People who believe in common core are stupid” kind of thing. I mean, a real understanding of people. Hopes, dreams, fears, adversities, pride and belief are the playing field of the writer. Sticking to only our own can be narrow-minded and detrimental.

READ: If you’re shy or don’t want to talk to people because they’re people and who needs that aggravation, there’s still plenty of ways to explore the world and the people who live in it.

You don’t have to be like Sarah Palin and read “all the newspapers” but there’s little excuse to not have a firm grasp on current events. I can think of several writers I knew of whom I suspected would fail because they just didn’t care about the current events.

Watch the news when you exercise. Read about your community on the subway or in waiting rooms. Read about other communities far away. Whatever news you like, as long it’s telling you “This is what happened today and this is what a number of people think of it.”

If you can’t stand the news or politics, fair enough. Every month fine publications are printing things you don’t know. For example, these are some of my favorite screenwriting magazines:

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“Breaking Bad” was inspired by a newspaper article, don’t forget.

Story mechanics are reinforced by story mechanics so it’s always good practice to be reading as many stories as you can. 

And don’t get mad, Script magazine, I read and like you guys too.

Write down well, everything: Waiting for genius or inspired greatness can be a very long wait. Many fail at writing anything at all because they’re waiting for that “perfect idea.” Many succeed at writing because they write down the imperfect idea and get to work on making it better.

Your local pharmacy or office supply store sells notebooks for literally a few bucks. Grab some. Take one with you everywhere you go. Or use the notes app in your phone or tablet.

Write down EVERYTHING that inspires you. Write down every little idea or even scene or line that occurs to you. Again, don’t worry about the quality or level of genius. Just write it down. The next thing you know, you’ll have a notebook filled with an armada of scenes, ideas, dialogue all kinds of things that could really save you as you write your story. Or maybe all those things will become one story. Whatever works, you’re the writer after all.

The more you write down, the more you’ll write down. The more you’ll be looking for stuff to write down, the more open you’ll be. And the more confident you’ll be because now you’ve got an arsenal of ideas under your arm wherever you go.

PAIN: This is the one I hear the least about in a lot of screenwriting literature and I’ll argue it’s the most important source for ideas – Your own personal pain.

No, I don’t mean embarrassing stories from high school or that time you got fired for being late too much or whatever. I mean the deep searing pain in your soul. I’m talking about the pain that comes from alcoholism or a childhood of abuse. I’m talking about the pain from rejection, from people hating you, from abandonment. The pain that makes people do drugs, cry endlessly or stay awake all night.

There’s a lot of other phrases like “emotional truth” but people are for the most part talking about pain. Of course, you can explore your happy place as well but conflict, drama, struggle, adversity and obstacle all come from the well of our own personal pain we struggle with every single day.

The exploration of that pain is extremely difficult but in many ways it’s necessary to become any kind of writer worth a damn. If you’re hiding or lying about the pain in your life, it’s going to be hard to sit down and write a scene where your leads come to terms with the pain in theirs. Not impossible but hard. And the quality of the drama won’t be there.

We’re artists. And artists not only recreate the world around them, they also explore the world inside of them. How many times have you said during a movie or TV show “It’s like they know exactly what I’m going through?” It’s because they do and they’ve had to face it in order to bring that story to the screen. It’s easy to feel like we’re alone with our pain but the reality is that there’s a whole audience out there who are feeling exactly what we’re feeling.

If you want to be a writer, be ready for tears on the keyboard.

Hopefully this post offers a way to several new ideas. Which one should you write? That’s up to you. But I always let myself be possessed by one. In other words, I may think of an idea on Monday, let’s say. If I think about it every single day that week, I’ll ideally start it the following Monday. If I forget about it or it gets lowered down the ladder by other ideas, I’ll start it much later.

Great stories possess the soul of the viewer, but first they have to possess the soul of the writer. The idea has become something I HAVE to write. Keep writing, keep being open, keep listening, keep reading, keep exploring your pain until you find one.

I hope these pages are at least somewhat helpful as you embark on the good fight. Have a great 2016, everyone!

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 Success Of Failure: An Interview With Jennifer Sharp

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Screenwriters constantly have to do deal with feedback and notes. They should always be listened to and considered. But then there’s THOSE reads. Those reads that say “this script is horrible” or “you can’t write.” Festivals and coverage services can be great sources for criticism but you run the risk of sometimes getting that kind of reaction.

Joining me to talk about how to handle that is Jennifer Sharp. Director of the feature film “I’m Through With White Girls” and an award-winning screenwriter as well, Jennifer shares some of the soul-crushing reads she’s received. But she also talks about how that doesn’t have to be the end. This a great conversation about having the resiliency to block out those who hate your work and finding the people who will love it. Enjoy:

For more on Jennifer and her films, check out her homepage.

www.jennifersharpfilms.com

Jennifer can be found on twitter with her brand new handle: @jensharpfilms

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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Once More, With Feeling: An Interview With Daphne Ashbrook

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Daphne Ashbrook is an actor who has probably appeared in your favorite show. With a resume in theatre, film and television shows ranging from “Knight Rider” to “Murder She Wrote” to “NCIS” to “The OC,” just to name a few, Daphne’s honed her craft into an incredibly successful career. She is a favorite among science fiction fans as well for being one of the few people to appear in both “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who.” In recent years, she’s branched beyond acting by releasing several albums “Grace Notes” “All Good Dreamers” and penning a memoir on acting “Dead Woman Laughing.” 

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Daphne’s latest adventure is writing, producing and starring in a new short film, “Once More, With Feeling.” Inspired by a true and frightening turn of events during a trip to Joshua Tree, “Once More, With Feeling” tackles intense issues such PTSD and suicide but with a humorous slant as well. As you’ll hear, Daphne’s indefatigable spirit is sending her on an artistic journey where she has to relive her fears. This is a great and inspiring listen which brings home the courage needed to bring your vision to life. Enjoy:

Once More, With Feeling IndieGogo fundraising site:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/once-more-with-feeling–2/x/3052639#/story

Once More, With Feeling FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/OnceMoreWithFeelingmovie?ref=hl

Once More, With Feeling website:

http://once-more-with-feeling.weebly.com/

Once More, With Feeling IMdb:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4813566/

Daphne Ashbrook’s website:

http://www.daphneashbrook.com

Daphne Ashbrook Official FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/reallydaphne?ref=hl

Matthew Jacobs’ “Doctor Who Am I” website:

http://www.doctorwhoami.com/

The Official “Doctor Who Am I” Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/doctorwhoami?ref=hl

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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