Life

House of Cards

Pardon me while I vent for a minute. I usually don’t like airing out family or personal problems online, but this situation is bothering me so much, I can’t help it.

My older brother, Jason, has had his share of problems in life. For a few years, my family and I had limited seating to what some could fairly call a train wreck of adult realities colliding with unchecked childhood fears and aggressions. Both he and I seemed to have a problem adjusting to the world around us as we grew older, and we both took to various vices to cope with that growing dilemma.

One thing I won’t do is pretend that he was a saint, or free from fault. Hell, for the longest time, being around him infuriated me, because he knew me so well that he could push my buttons with ease. Remembering the friendship we had as kids was painful if only because that person was still inside him, buried beneath the hard exterior shell of an angry, embittered adult who couldn’t cope.

When Jason met Stacy, he was in one of the calmer times of his life: steadily employed, somewhat happy, and getting by. My family took to her pretty quickly, mostly because she seemed to fit in so well with us. Over the years, we had come to embrace our dysfunctions as a family unit – that we would always be more like the Griswolds than the Beavers – something we accepted as long as we took it in stride and knew that, no matter the problems, we all still loved each other deeply.

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Life

In Vino Veritas

I made a decision three weeks ago.

Actually, I made several decisions.

Hastily, and, one, drunkenly, which I highly advise against, but that’s not something I’m going to get into online.

These few decisions, while made in quick succession, have had slow-acting repercussions, and now I’m sitting here wondering just what in the hell I was thinking. Actually, that’s not entirely the case. As much as I loved my job at CPR, and as much as I miss working with the great people I met there, I left for a good reason. While realizing that does take some of the sting away, one of the most difficult adjustments to make has been not seeing those very people on a daily basis.

When I was sitting in my apartment that Tuesday night, going over the same, tired, and never-ending argument my boss and I had hours earlier, I could see the writing on the wall: in spite of how hard my manager, myself, and the other techs there were working to keep that place afloat, the ship was sinking.

Fast.

And, unfortunately, it wasn’t for a lack of business, because the customer base was there. It was because the captain of this ship was absent ninety percent of the time, and when he was around, most of his time was spent second-guessing every little decision my manager and I had made, shifting his “number one priority” on-the-fly, and then getting upset, and questioning our work ethic, when we didn’t immediately latch on to his new change-of-plans.

It was an exercise in maddening futility, an argument that kept going in circles, and one he and I were having more frequently. We needed more employees to handle the workload, he said there was no money; we needed to order parts more frequently so we could finish repairs on time, he said there was no money; we needed to advertise more, he said there was no money. Yet, in spite of all of this, he still had the audacity to blame my manager and me for the dwindling sales and a piling workload.

His concept of “time management” was do everything. Now. Stop whatever you’re working on and start doing this. Stop doing this and start doing that. Why are you doing that when I clearly said to do this?

He was a nightmare to work for, and while I’m extremely glad to have that stress out of my life now, I still find myself missing that place.

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Life, Silver Creek Productions

The Times Were Always Changing

Still you are blessed, compared with me!

The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!

And forward, though I cannot see, I guess and fear!

Robert Burns – To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough (1785)

There have only ever been a few times in my life where I have really questioned where I’m going. Sure, like most people, there were always those moments where I briefly wondered what was next, but actually sitting down and looking at my life subjectively isn’t something I do much. The last time I did, though, I came up with a very detailed plan; an exit strategy for leaving the 9-to-5 life behind for the first time, and finally starting on the path to a career I’ve dreamed of since childhood.

The plan was working, to my surprise, and I knew it was because I was being careful; not taking unnecessary risks, and only putting money into making this plan a reality when I had it. The results I started seeing because of this careful determination were so encouraging that I had to wonder why I waited so long to get started. But I also had to tread carefully. One misstep, and everything I’ve worked toward these last six months would easily be jeopardized.

I just needed to stick to the plan a little while longer, and then I would be safe to chase that dream.

The best laid plans of mice and men, right?

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Filmmaking, The Days Never Know, Writing

The Blind Leading the Blind

Hank over at Write To Reel asked if I would give him a testimonial to use on his site, and after finishing it last night, I thought I’d put it here as well in case there are other writers out there looking for some great insight on their work.

How better to learn a new craft than to study it judiciously? To disassemble, remark upon, and appreciate the work of others who have labored over their craft as much as you have yours?

Step into any creative writing classroom, lecture, or seminar, and one of the first and lasting assignments you’ll be given will be to read. Read everything, as though the world is ending and the only way to spare it is by absorbing as much of its literature as you can.

It can be a daunting task, especially when all you want to do is sit down and write the next great American…whatever, but the importance of absorbing as much as you can from other artists cannot be stressed enough.

I didn’t care about reading when I was a kid. I liked it, sure, but only when it was able to hold my interest for more than two sentences. Unfortunately, that habit of skipping past great pieces of work carried on into adulthood, even when I was reaching the point when, ironically, I needed someone to sit down and read my work; to tell me whether or not I was kidding myself.

Hypocrisy notwithstanding, I sought out to find other writers who shared the same passion, but had the patience to guide me in the right direction. I knew I had something of value, even if it was buried beneath pages of unnecessary scenes and characters, and I just needed the right readers, who could see where I was taking the story, even if the draft they read wasn’t worth their time.

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Development, Filmmaking, The Days Never Know, Writing

The Kids Stay in the Picture

Back in 2002, my good friend let me borrow two books that firmly placed the possibilities of true independent (see: no budget) filmmaking in my mind: Robert Rodriguez‘s Rebel Without a Crew, and Bruce Campbell‘s If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor. While Campbell’s autobiography was more about his entire career up to that point, he went into great (and hilarious) detail about the events and struggles involved in getting The Evil Dead made. Combined, these two icons of independent filmmaking not only explained their own experiences in great detail, they also showed how possible it was for a group of dedicated people, with very little or no money, to actually pull off producing a feature-length film.

The problem I had in 2002, though, was that I was only sixteen, and my friends and I (in spite of how talented they were — and, thankfully, still are) had even less money and experience that could go towards such an ambitious project. We tried, mind you, but not very hard. The technology at the time wasn’t anywhere close to where it is today, nor as cheap. Our only real options at the time were to shoot digitally (which we couldn’t afford), shoot on film (which we definitely couldn’t afford), or really go for broke and shoot on Hi-8. While I had very little experience then, even I had good enough sense not to go that route.

So we put those ambitions and ideas on the backburner, telling ourselves that one day we’d come back, though I don’t think most really believed that. Despite what we told ourselves, the entire process seemed too overwhelming that I really didn’t think it was possible for us until the cost and technology changed. Fortunately, however, I took away two very important things from that experience: one, that someday I’d come back and try again, and, two, if I was going to make another attempt, we’d better have something solid to shoot.

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Writing

We’ve done crazier things…

Well, it’s been nearly a year since my last post. I’d like to say that I spent all of that time doing really interesting, inspiring things, but mostly it was spent working; you know, that time-sink that most of us have to do in order to go about with our lives.

However, that’s not to say some amazing things haven’t happened. In fact, in the past month or so, my friends and I have finally decided to jump into a project we’ve wanted to do for as long as any of us can remember: producing and filming a feature-length film.

While everything is still in an early phase, we are about to start principal photography in about a week, so I’ll keep this page updated as best I can!

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Characters, Development, The Days Never Know, Writing

Write What You Know

After a marathon, caffeine-and-tobacco-fueled writing session yesterday, I finally finished what I am now considering the final draft of The Days Never Know. Down the road, there may be a few changes necessary, but for all intents and purposes, I am considering it finished. Once I was done, and after finally eating, I began thinking about just how much the story grew and changed in only six months, so I went back to the old drafts to see those changes first-hand.

Those early drafts were exceptionally long-winded, and had far too many characters. So one of the first changes I made was dropping nearly every character, and starting from scratch. I either combined multiple aspects of characters into one, or just removed them altogether. As I began working on a new draft back in November, I noticed a major shift in the overall mood of the story. The earlier drafts were more about the events these characters shared, but this new version was focused more on the aftermath; on how each were was affected by this one event.

However, another important aspect of the story began taking shape as well. I had unintentionally started basing these characters, not on other people as before, but aspects of myself; the certain flaws and defects that I see. That’s not say each character is a thinly-veiled version of me, but that I infused one defining characteristic of myself into each character. As soon as I realized I was doing this, I had to stop and ask myself if this was the way to go; doing so could easily result in cut-and-paste characters that lack any kind of depth or personality. However, I decided to let this new development ride for the time being; I could change it in later drafts if need be.

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