My Writing

Top Posts of 2016

Keanu

10. Keanu!!!, in which I review the Key and Peele film.

make-money-tumblr.jpg

9. How Should I Spend My Lottery Winnings, in which I make plans for a couple million bucks

jack-reacher

8. The DO’s and DON’T’s of Action Flicks, in which I compare and contrast the original Jack Reacher film with Skyfall

Racist 01

7. How to Spot a Racist, a post that is even more important today than it was when I wrote it in 2013

anger

6. The Greatest Depictions of Single-Minded Emotion, a continuously popular blog

cali

5. VOTER’S GUIDE: California Propositions and Measures, a helpful voting tool

spine-01

4. Back Story, the story of my debilitating back injury and the miracle that went with it

Ghostbusters-Kate-McKinnon-Melissa-McCarthy-Kristen-Wiig-Leslie-Jones

3. Ghostbusters (2016): A Superfan’s Perspective, my thoughts on the reboot

Kill Me Now and AVGN

2. Going Long: Reviews for “Kill Me Now” and “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie,” reviews of a couple of independent films made by popular Youtube artists

Jennifer Fichter 02

1. Predator versus “Predator,” my take on female teacher sexual scandals

 

 

A Tale of Three Blogs

I have started another blog.  This will be my third.  So I thought it might be useful to let you all know about the other two.

 

Wolf In Wool Tales

On this blog, I post the things that I write (novels, short stories, screenplays, etc.).  I’m currently working on a comic adventure called Sick Day.

You can check it out here.

 

Managing Thoughts

This is a blog that I add to when I have something to express regarding my philosophies on managing people and a business.

You can check it out here.

The Habit

While filming the opening credits for The Sheepdog Show I got into a conversation with a homeless lady.  She told me she was tired of people assuming she was a drug addict.  “I’m addicted to food,” she said with a laugh, and then shrugging, she added, “Oh, and I smoke cigarettes.”

About this time, a friend expressed concern to me about my relentless pursuit of artistic endeavors.  He told me he was seriously worried I might end up in the streets trying to produce these projects.  (Ironically, this was the same conversation where he was trying to convince me to pay him for helping, but I digress.)

From late 2011 until very recently I have been struggling financially.  It has made it very difficult to get things done.  I mean, PayDay was my last major accomplishment, and thay was 2012.  My eyes have always been bigger than my wallot, and in America, when a risk doesn’t pay off with financial gain, you are labeled a loser.  Between the struggle, the “failures,” society’s pressures of success, and the slow churn of results measured against the relentless rolling clock, some may say I am put of my mind for continuing down a pathway of all or nothing total ruin, and I suppose when looking at Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting different reaults), they’d be right.  After all, how long before I’m selling my body on the streets for an imdb credit?

But I assure you, I don’t have a drug habit, just an art one.

On the Subject of Credit

If you don’t work in the creative realm, you may not know this, but it’s true.  One of the biggest fears of the artist is that someone will steal credit for your work.  Personality issues play a role in making collaborations more difficult, and this is the singular trait that scares us all the most.

Who are these idea vampires?  And how do I avoid them?

I am not immune from the accusation myself.  Yeah, on more than one occassion, I’ve had a collaborator or potential one accuse me of some pretty henious things.  It’s simply not how I work or ever have.  Certainly, failing memory may distort a person’s perspective on who came up with what detail (a plot point or character name, for instance), and I’m as guilty as anyone of getting those details mixed up from time to time.  But I’ve never stolen an idea, story, or the work of another person and claimed it was my own.

Not once.

The reality is that I’ve been blessed/cursed with so many ideas of my own that I could never use/complete all of my own work.  I don’t need someone else’s work to make me feel somehow accomplished.

So it gets me thinking, why do we fear this so often?

1) In the arts, most of our work goes unrecognized.

It’s true.  Even if you are a superstar, there’s a body of work that goes into all of this that will never – and often should never – see the spotlight.  It’s part of honing your craft.  It’s also a part of trying to find your place in a crowded space.  But the way it works psychologically is that each new idea will be THE idea that will propel you and your work into centerstage.  The last thing a struggling artist needs is for THAT project to be stolen out from under them.

How to avoid the vampires:  This is how we all are.  You simply have to build trust.

2) Some people confuse input with output.

Let’s say you ran into George Lucas in 1975, and he asked you, “What do you think of the name ‘Han Solo?'”  If you responded with “I like it,” you still don’t get a writing credit.  At the very most, you might get your name listed in the “Special Thanks.”  But you probably won’t get that.  Why?  Because people have sued for that credit in the past.

That’s bonkers, you say.  Yep.  It’s also the most extreme example.  Let me give you a more common issue that falls under the input/output confusion.

Let’s say there is a film project that you are working on with a group of friends.  You have story meetings, and then one of your buddies goes off and writes the script.  This pal comes back with the screenplay, and he’s written “Story By” and has the whole group and then “Screenplay By” and has only his name.  Well, that gets some people hot, but that’s pure ego.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  He got the credit he deserved.  George Lucas, who came up with most of the characteristic of Indiana Jones and the overall plot, got a “Story By” credit.  Anyone that takes more credit than George friggin’ Lucas for their contribution is hereby exempt from being able to complain about Jar Jar Binks and metachlorians.

The reality is, a true painter can take a close look at The Mona Lisa and tell you what kind of paint Leo used.  What kind of canvas.  An experienced, learned artist can tell you what brushes and strokes were used.  They know, because they’ve been going to Michael’s for years, bought the gear they’ve needed for their art, and have employed those material and techniques themselves over and over again.

You must separate the true artist from the “artist, in theory alone.”  The artist, in theory alone maybe took one good photograph in college, keeps saying things like “If I just had a better camera,” talks a lot about taking pictures, but hasn’t done squat.

Ask a lot of questions, gauge the knowledge, experience, and work ethic of your collaborators, and save yourself a lot of work for nothing.  Because working with these lazy dreamers will mean just that.  You’ll be doing most if not all the work, and they’ll think they did it.

3) Some people are thieves.

I’ve found that a lot of people are afraid of the gatekeepers.  They think the money men will steal your ideas and capitolize off of them.  That’s how Hollywood works.  And Broadway.  And Bollywood.

The reality is, that’s how a lot of the people who sit around obsessing over thieves work.  They will simultaneously try to boost their standing In a project and marginalize the work of others.

Sure, there are thieves in Hollywood, but most of them are the poor schlubs trying to make a name for themselves.  You know, just like your collaborators.

Here’s a good example.  “Clerks” gets bought by Miramax, and the guy that played Randall expected some sort of compensation.  No, Kevin and Scott never told him he would get a piece of any far-fetched payday, but they also never told him he wouldn’t.  For his part, Kevin Smith shrugged off his actor’s inqueries and blamed Miramax for not writing that into the deal.  He was hungry and desparate and saw his own contribution as the only role being rewarded.

In this, Kevin was niave and wrong.  He forgot what he owed to those who worked on the project with him.  He was getting a check and a movie deal.  How would it have hurt him to share a little of that money to those who owed a debt to?  After all, his little film had just won the lottery, and while he had bought the ticket, his cast and crew had helped him scratch it.

How to avoid the vampires:  First, no matter how uneven the odds, write out how you intend to payback your contributors.  In black ink.  Give them copies.  And in the unlikely event you strike oil, live up to your obligations.  Don’t give away the farm.  Make intelligent decisions, but never undervalue the work of others.

Likewise, don’t be a push-over.  Take the proper credit for the work you do.  Know exactly what you’ve done and what that’s called.  Don’t blow up your own ego, but don’t let someone else’s ego cause you to back away from staking claim to what’s rightfully yours.

Not until they can pay you for it.

Not unless it’s the truly smart thing to do.

Okay, so an autobiography sells more than a biography, but this person is basically illiterate.  They won’t be writing a word, but they’ll be telling you their whole story.  It’s okay to put their name on the book.  It’s maybe even okay for you to simply be a ghost writer and take NO credit for your work.  But that’s because their name is what is for sale.  If you’re working with someone no one is buying from, who perhaps has a somewhat recognizable name in rock music but wants to take the credit for the drawings you’ve done, you’re only feeding their ego, and we’ve already talked about what to do there, haven’t we?

Bottom line:  I would rather walk away from a project with my ethics intact than steal from someone else, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

Also, I’m done with vampires.  They suck the blood out of the art and leave it dead.  And why?  Because they crave their own immortality.

Drive a stake though that nonesense.

Be a Part of the Dream!

I’m officially putting out the call.  Starting right now, you are all on notice. Here’s the deal.  I am a fairly self-aware guy, and I know there are a lot of positives and negatives about me.

thumbs up

THE POSITIVES:

  • I’m creative
  • I’m persistant
  • I take criticism fairly well and adapt
  • I have no shortage of ideas
  • More importantly I can distinguish good ideas from bad ones
  • What I start, I finish (unless limitations – almost always financial ones – simply make the work impossible to complete)
  • What I finish is of the highest standards possible within my limitations
  • I have the experience, passion, and drive to be a great writer
  • I’m a good actor
  • I’m a decent rapper that works hard at the craft
  • Though I don’t get enough practice, I have the natural ability to draw.

THE RESULTS:

  • MC Chalkskin’s two albums and various singles, which you can listen to here for FREE!
  • Two episodes of “The Sheepdog Show,” which you can watch here.
  • Three music videos for MC Chalkskin, which can be viewed here.
  • My first feature length film was made when I was twenty, and if you’re brave, you can watch it here.
  • Tons of other shorts, behind-the-scenes videos, and the like, which are on the two channels linked above and also on nerdreactor.com.
  • Performances with so many great artists, including MC Frontalot and MC Lars
  • I’ve produced live shows, theatrical performances, etc.
  • An honorable mention for Best Writing at the 48 Hour Film in LA (2008)
  • I’ve written several published comic books, poems, and short stories.
  • Eagle Scout.
  • A bachelor’s degree in theater arts.
  • Ten plus years of management experience.

GNM

THE NEGATIVES

  • My mind does not always wrap around technical concepts
  • I don’t generally know how to properly promote creative projects once their done.
  • Then there are the financial limitations I mentioned earlier and the fact I have trouble fundraising, finding sponsorship, and asking for money.
  • I’m what classy people call “an eccentric.”

THE RESULTS

  • Well, the first one is actually a pretty positive thing, I think.  Because of my limitations, I often get to collaborate with a lot of great artists.*
  • I have trouble funding the projects in the first place.
  • Financial limitations take their toll on the work at times, though I think the sum product is greater than the parts in general.
  • The work does not get the attention, audience, and recognition that it should (in my humble opinion).

Wolf In Wool 02

So here’s where you come into all of this.  It’s pretty obvious I need help.  I need help in the front and in the back.

THE FRONT:

  • sponsorship
  • fundraising
  • finding financial backers that are amped up on creating the kind of content that I am capable of churning out.

THE BACK:

  • reviews
  • marketing
  • finding the audience that is looking for the kind of content I am capable of churning out.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Support the art by downloading it, buying it, watching it, bringing it into your life!
  • Go to Chalkskin’s Amazon page or to any one of the pages linked off my imdb page and write a user review.  Start the conversation.
  • Share it with your friends and family.  Anyone you think might groove on it!
  • Help me with the nitty gritty of the front and back.  Get me in touch with the right people.  Those who will share in the dream!
  • Contribute to fundraisers or hit the paypal button on my website.
  • Inspire me!
  • Encourage me!

Let’s do this!!

dream

 

*People like Andrew Gregory Grant, Brian Canini, Richard Baker, Jason Nestler, Kariem Marbury, Jaz “The Hookmaster” Williams, Godson, Karl Olson, Leron Gray, Dennis Ingram, Jim Lakin, Michael Magnuson, Rama, Chase Pado, Beat Kingdom, Dominic McNeil, Mark Shapiro, Kathy Robbins, Yochanan Winston PhD, Rahis Khan, Sangeeta Singh, Mahmoud Maanaki, Candice Thiem, Jesse Dillon Sorrells, Mark McKinney, Peter John Ross, Kurt Braun, Debra Plante, Laine Perry,  Mike Maletic, Nathan Hodges, Jen Kolhagen, Charles Castro, Aaron Frantz, Tiffany Tocco, Katesh Law, Dierdra Welch, Peggy Elliott, Kat Savering, Melissa Wintringham, Carl Gannon, Jess Kreusler, Brian Massolini, Jef Snopel, countless others at Kent State University, Jill Ceneskie, Gena Arrington, Stella Ingram, Sarah Melick, Ashley Bank, Angela Lynn Cousins, Tiffany Williams, Cristina Leduc, Kei Min Kim, Sasha Janea Miller, Haydar Alayidi, Misha Sedgwick, Monique Fleming, Sarra Wolfe, Brittany Skipper, Shawnna Lynn Kimball-Price, Cj Eddy, Kloey Graff, Anna Caroline, Dylan Boisvert, Kawika McGregor, Elaina Pajimula, Kry Mai Love, Cienna Buchanan, Bethany Steers, Amanda Hernandez, Amie Lynn, Jessica Nigri, and so many others!  I mention all of these talented, wonderful people, not to name drop, but to thank them for their amazing contributions to the work that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of with them.  And also to show just how many people are involved in the work.  How many are getting experience, exposure, and the sense of pride you only can get from chasing your dreams!  Talk to any of these people, and I think they would tell you that I am a collaborator with their best interests as well as the best interests of the project in mind.  This isn’t about my ego.  It’s about the stories that must be told.  The ones that are burning their way out of my chest and bleeding all over the floor.

Prologue – Would You Read this Book?

This is one fucked up way to end the holidays.

Those were the words that entered his mind in that moment.  If he had believed they might be the last words he ever thought, maybe he would have something else to say about everything, but as it was, it seemed a fitting enough way to sign off.

No more words.  No more deeds.

As a boy, he had never been able to open his eyes underwater, but somehow he was looking around without any burning. All around was murky, muddy water, shady and blue. If he couldn’t save himself, he would breathe it all in, filling his lungs. The world would darken around him, and he would sink into the quagmire at the bottom. He would have to act quickly if he wanted to live.

Only, he wasn’t sure he wanted to live.

No more dreams. No more nightmares.

And to think. . . I actually shaved for this.

He had had enough of this world, and it seemed to know he thought so. After all, it was the earth that was trying to kill him.

Bubbles rose from his nostrils as he looked up at the thick sheet of ice above his head. He couldn’t see a break to the surface, but he knew if he looked hard enough, he’d find the opening his body had made that landed him in this silent, frozen hell.

No more debts. No more harassing phone calls from creditors.

Where’s my left shoe? I don’t remember losing that.

There was no telling how long he had been in the cold water, but he knew there couldn’t be much more time before everything would start happening. Already, his fingers and toes were numb. Already, his chest and stomach were crying out for warmth. Yet he found serenity in it all. Maybe it was God’s hush bringing this calm. Yeah, maybe that.

Or the head wound.

No more tooth decay. No more hair loss.

Did I remember to pay the waitress?

Blue hands hung in front of him. They reminded him of the limbs of a tree, blown lightly by a passing summer breeze. He knew they were his, but he couldn’t feel them anymore. It struck him funny that this was all there was left. Just to float. And then to die. No fanfare. No trumpets or a flickering film of his life passing before his eyes. Just this.

Just water and cold and pain and death.

No more sunrises to break the dawn. No more stars burning overhead.

I wonder if they’ll ever find me down here.

He forced himself to recall the events of his life, to the moments that led to his demise. He conjured the faces of those he loved into the dusky bog. It almost made him feel criminal to do that; to bring them down here with him. So he closed his eyes. Life had just one last lesson for him:

How to let it all go.

No more fading memories. Just. . . no more.

Wait a second! I wasn’t the only one that fell in!

Book Cover 01