Three Things

April 1, 2014

1. Last weekend was the final weekend at Sherwood Forest Faire, where I play François le Foutre, the “most fearsome fruit in all of France.” As the character, I’ve talked about my “gay pirate romance novel” for two years. This year I finally wrote and published it. Altogether, 339 books sold this season, not including the thirty-odd books that were given out as rewards for the Indiegogo campaign.

François will be re-appearing this fall at the Texas Renaissance Festival, in a brand new period-appropriate costume made (at least partially) of bubble-gum pink velvet. With the larger crowds, my goal is to sell 650 books so I can break the 1,000 barrier by the end of the year. That money would then get used to bankroll the sequel, whose title is still being brainstormed. (Leading contendors so far are “Yank the Plank”, “The Rear Gunner of Gaios” and “Look at the Size of that Cockboat”.)

2. Kind of humbling to think about how big some of the things I’m participating in are starting to get. Found Footage 3D is now 7 weeks away from production, and thanks to the right resources and a great team, our fan base is growing rapidly. The Kristen Stewart April Fool’s prank was seen by 2,000 people in just a few hours. That’s something I (at least partially) wrote, that’s been seen by thousands of people. Hundreds of people have read my book (far more than the 300-odd copies I’ve sold, as it’s been passed around the campgrounds). A screenplay I co-wrote has gathered 2.5 million in funding, en route to $5 million. When you actually stop to think about how significant that actually is, influencing something that thousands, if not millions of people will enjoy—and getting paid for it—it’s a pretty awesome feeling.

3. Want to give a shout out to Evelyn Talmadge of Goalsmiths. Over the last few years I’ve gone to see her a couple of times for a few sessions, and was reminded this week of the long-term benefits of the work she does. One of the thing she helped me with was an addiction I was dealing with, and this week I used the same tools to manage a diet change that I’ve been struggling with—and just like that, I cured myself. If you’ve got an addiction, trauma, or anything else you’ve been wrestling with consciously that would be better altered at the subconscious level, you should talk to her.


Goals for the Year of the Snake

February 5, 2013

Most people set their New Year’s Resolutions some time around the new year. Screw that. Mine are for the Year of the Snake.

  • Stage show at TRF. Write and publish a book of poetry (written by my character) that I can sell as part of that.
  • Sign with a writing manager.
  • Get paid as a screenwriter. At least twice. (I’m already one one the way.)
  • Edit 12 books.
  • Produce a film.
  • Finish and publish There’s Seamen on the Poop-Deck! Sell 100 copies.
  • Write and publish A Couple in Stockholm. Sell 1,000 copies.
  • Through all of that, make time for my wife and child. Leave them both with the experience of being loved, that I am there for them, that I am available, and that I take care of their needs.
  • Have our home and finances be a reflection of our greatness in the world.

 

 


Completing 2012

December 31, 2012

Every year I take a look at my goals from the previous year and set new ones for the upcoming year. This year I’m about two and four halves for 11. Not a great showing, but still, I think progress has been made.

  • Finish ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries and graduate into the PS Alumni.
    Done
  • 52 blog posts and 1000 visits a month by the end of the year.
    38 blog posts and about 500 visits per month. Like last year, I hit some major lulls, so the overall average is moving up, though I think it could continue to go up more with more consistent posting.
  • A stage show at TRF, getting paid a living wage for the time I put in. Write and publish a book of poetry (written by my character) that I can sell as part of that.
    No, although there has been some progress there. I expect to achieve this result next year.
  • Sign with an acting agent and land 2 auditions per week.
    Done the first part, not so much the second.
  • Land a paid screenwriting gig.
    I realized recently that I’ve had a lot of opportunities here that I’ve self-sabotaged. In 2005 I landed a paid screenwriting gig, simply because I did the work on a spec project that someone contacted me for and asked me to work on with them. Over the past few years, though, over and over I’ve seen some kind of opportunity to work on a project that I then just haven’t done the work on.
  • Edit 6 books. Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
    2, and 1.
  • Pay off all interest-bearing debt (including the car I just bought) and max out my wife’s and my IRAs for 2012.
    Paid off a lot of that debt, though not all of it. In the process of buying a house.
  • Finish three personal writing projects, and a rewrite of one more.
    I finished that  rewrite and am finishing another personal writing project right now.
  • Semi-finalist in at least one national screenplay contest.
    No.
  • Direct a feature film, or at least start pre-production on it.
    No.
  • Bring internal peace and confidence to the likelihood that my wife and I will be having children in the near future.
    We’re pregnant! So, there’s that …

I’ve got more work to do before setting my 2013 goals, so that’s going to be done in a separate post. I’m going to plan for awesomeness, though.

 


The Top 2 Percent

March 5, 2012

At this year’s Austin Film Festival, Shane Black said something to the effect of: Ninety-eight percent of this business is just awful. People lie, they steal, they screw with you, they ruin your work, there are thousands of disgusting, despicable people in this business that just make our lives a living hell. But we still do it. Because that two percent that’s good is so unbelievably amazing, we’re like heroin junkies looking for another fix.

I’m paraphrasing very liberally here, but go with it—I’m making a point.

I still remember when I won the part in Conversations with My Father: I was 13 years old, and of the hundreds of kids who auditioned, I was one of two selected to play this role at the Old Vic, “London’s most famous theatre.” When my agent told me, I started laughing—a release of tension I just couldn’t control. In her stern British voice she said, “Is that funny?”

“No,” I said, mustering up all the seriousness I could. I’m just . . . I’m happy.”

“Good,” she said, “you should be.”

I passed the phone to my parents, who spent the next however long discussing business details, while I spent the rest of my evening bouncing off the walls, thanking God, crying, and asking my parents how they could possibly expect me to finish my homework at a time like this.

That was the 2%. That was that moment.

Much of the run was great, too. The play starred Judd Hirsch, and before every show I’d go into his dressing room, and he’d give me notes from the night before. He was one of the most wonderful people imaginable. I didn’t think much of it at the time, it was just normal. But looking back, I realize what an amazing opportunity it was to have this legend of the theater coaching me as an actor. At one point during the run I thought I had mono, but I was just exhausted from traveling between home, school, and the theatre all day long—each about a 45 minute journey away from the other—leaving me with very little time to sleep.

But that, exhausted as I was, was the 2%.

When I was 24, six months into doing some spec work for a company in New York that was developing an animated sitcom, I had a similar experience. I was sitting at work when I got the e-mail: they were cutting me a check for $500 and were going to pay me hourly to continue writing for them. Again, I laughed, a continuous nervous exhale for several minutes. The guy in the next office over, wondering why I was doing an extended Butthead impression, asked me if I was okay. Again, I couldn’t concentrate—how could I possibly be expected to work at a time like this?

That was the 2%.

As it turned out, that was the day my career as a freelance writer began. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done—filled with struggles, failure, rejection, and a roller coaster of financial and emotional highs and lows—but ultimately one of the most rewarding, and although there have been times I’ve come close to going back to a j-o-b, in the end I just can’t bring myself to do it.

The challenging thing about creative writing is that these moments are so difficult to come by. You can spend years writing screenplays, or novels, and not get calls like this. Not get recognized for your work. So I’ve started acting again, which has a much quicker gratification cycle. A few weeks of auditions come with a lot of rejection, but my yeses also come much more regularly, affirming my sense of self-worth and the joy of working as an artist. After a play, people tell me how great I am. At Texas Renaissance Festival I won both Performer of the Day—an award given by the creative director—and Best New Character—an award voted on by the entire performance company. And last weekend, at Sherwood, the guy who created the stage act I’m participating in and has been doing it for 10 years, said “You could take a dump and the audience would love it.”

Needless to say, it was a compliment. That’s the 2%.

And although I’m exhausted, and although there’s plenty of gossip, and rejection, and nastiness in this industry, the compliments like these, and the laughter of the audience, and the occasional $20 bill in the tip box are so great, I’m like a heroin junkie looking for my next fix. Just one more. Just one more. I don’t think I can cope without one more.


Completion & Creation

January 1, 2012
As has become my annual tradition, it’s time for me to complete on my goals from 2011 and create for the new year:
  • What I said I’d do: 55 blog posts and  average 500 visits a month for the 4th quarter.
    What I did: 37 blog posts and ~400 visits a month for the 4th quarter. The latter isn’t bad, considering I didn’t post anything the entire 4th quarter. I actually hit my highest numbers ever in July, and was headed up, but then just stopped blogging.
  • What I said I’d do: Finish three screenplays, one in time to submit to AFF, Nicholl, and several other screenplay competitions.
    What I did: Finished one. Submitted it to AFF (didn’t make it past the first round), Blue Cat, and some other places. And I discovered that I’ve made just enough as a screenwriter that I don’t qualify for Nicholl.
  • What I said I’d do: Attend San Diego Comic-Con, Austin Film Festival, WLT Agents’ Conference, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, and the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, as time allows (some of those my be on conflicting dates).
    What I did: Attended AFF. Tried to register for Comic-Con, but I made the mistake of waiting two days to buy tickets, and they were already sold out. Bonus mention: managed to create my own weekend writing retreat to finish Postville, and it worked very well.
  • What I said I’d do: Start acting again. And get paid for it. God I miss acting. And getting paid for it.
    What I did: Started acting again. And got paid for it. Technically. I probably made about $1 an hour at TRF, when you look at all the time and expenses that went into it. But it was well worth the investment, both to my emotional psyche and (ultimately) to my pocketbook.
  • What I said I’d do: Edit 12 books. Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
    What I did: One ghostwriting project and two book editing gigs. But I also closed some good technical writing contracts, produced some technical videos, and developed scripts in other ways. So on a professional level, I’m happy with how things turned out.
  • What I said I’d do: I want to produce $25,000 in revenue in the month of January. This will require, rather than just surviving at the game of being a professional writer, growing a pair of balls and creating something completely new. It’ll mean finding clients who  really recognize what good content is worth, and who recognize that I can provide it.
  • What I did: Not $25,000. But I did end the survival aspect and started doing the writing that I love, and getting paid well for it. And I found clients who recognize what good content is worth, and who recognized that I could provide it, and have been getting rewarded for that.
Goals for 2012
    • Finish ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries and graduate into the PS Alumni.
    • 52 blog posts and 1000 visits a month by the end of the year.
    • A stage show at TRF, getting paid a living wage for the time I put in. Write and publish a book of poetry (written by my character) that I can sell as part of that.
    • Sign with an acting agent and land 2 auditions per week.
    • Land a paid screenwriting gig.
    • Edit 6 books. Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
    • Pay off all interest-bearing debt (including the car I just bought) and max out my wife’s and my IRAs for 2012.
    • Finish three personal writing projects, and a rewrite of one more. At the moment this looks like screenplays will be the larger portion of that, but I don’t want to limit myself, in case I decide, for example, to write a novel. I should also mention that this seems somewhat ambitious, given my results from this year, but I figure if you reach for the stars, you won’t come up with a handful of dirt.
    • Semi-finalist in at least one national screenplay contest.
    • Direct a feature film, or at least start pre-production on it.
    • Bring internal peace and confidence to the likelihood that my wife and I will be having children in the near future.

Catching Up

December 26, 2011

It’s been a while. My last post was three months ago, and since then a whole lot has happened. With the end of the year coming up, I’ve been thinking about my annual completion of goals/creation for the New Year, but in the meantime there are just so many things I want to talk about.

  • Acting: Went on cast for the Texas Renaissance Festival, and pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do. Created a swordfight that everyone was talking about. Won Performer of the Day on the third weekend, and Best New Character at the end of the season. Made a lot of friends, and had just a ton of fun. And I’m setting myself up to do more with that (hopefully in a way that I can actually make money at it) in the coming year.
  • Books I’ve read: Reading for AFF seems to slow things down on the reading front. Up to a point this year, I was counting the number of books I read, and then I stopped, because it just seems weird that the entire couple of months I’m reading 30+ scripts, I don’t get to count any of that toward my book count. But whatever. I’ve been on a crusade looking for self-published books that have sold well, as a possible avenue to finding property to adapt into movies. To that end, I just got done with Waiting for White Horses by Nathan  Jorgenson. As a storyteller I felt the drama could have been much more consistent; as a screenwriter I felt it could have been much less meandering; as an editor I felt it was way overnarrated; and as a product of the twenty-first century I would have preferred the plot move in a different direction. But the literary fictionist in me could appreciate it for what it was – a product of love, and a deeply personal story to which anyone familiar with rural America can relate.
  • Movies I’ve seen: Been a lot of these. Two of the recent ones – and also two of the best I’ve seen this year – were Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (in IMAX – totally awesome) and Midnight in Paris. Both had really well-written scripts with strong character voices.  Also watched the entire first season of Dexter (and can’t wait to see more), and got to see some amazing stuff at Austin Film Festival – the ones I still think about, and talk about, are The Artist and Butter.
  • Screenwriting: Taking ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries. Although I am, at this point, about three weeks behind, the information and the attitude of the class is really amazing, and I’m hoping to spend the next week or two catching up. Tonight I get to watch The Usual Suspects, starting with the end first. Fun. The script I’m working on is the true story of Ragen Chastain, the world’s only plus-sized professional Country & Western competitive dancer. And I’m continually taking Postville to the next level.

I guess that’s it for now. Catcha in the New Year for completion and goals.


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