Category Archives: Writing

I Know You

Sometimes it takes someone else’s words to let you know that you’re not alone. Sometimes someone else’s art speaks for us. Henry Rollins’s poem I Know You spoke for me.

Yes, that's a bit of packing foam in my microphone, and no, I still can't get it out.
Yes, that’s a bit of packing foam in my microphone, and no, I still can’t get it out.
You can't do a cover of Henry Rollin's I Know You, and Trent Reznor's A Warm Place without combing the fonts from Black Flag and Nine Inch Nail's logos.
You can’t do a cover of Henry Rollin’s I Know You, and Trent Reznor’s A Warm Place without combining the fonts from the Black Flag and Nine Inch Nail’s logos.

(If SoundCloud is still down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)
(Download the vocals only version here)

Have you ever read something and felt like the writer knew you, like they got under your skin and spilled your guts, like they cut to the heart of the matter and found out what made you tick? Have you ever felt apart from the world until a song lyric revealed the connections that bound you to it? Your situation was pegged in the length of a verse by that one perfect line that hit the nail on the head. Something that put your allusive emotions into perspective.

Have you ever watched a movie and saw yourself on screen? You blinked and suddenly you were the protagonist. You heard a love lorn line of dialogue and proclaimed, “I just said that today!” Has a dated romantic comedy had you searching your living room for microphones? Has a line from a screenwriter’s pen found its way into your breakup talk?

Has a stand-up comedian made a punch line of your secret quirk? Has a clever cat got your tongue and started saying things with it? Your thoughts streamed down their teleprompter. They outed you to the world. Did it surprise you to see the audience laugh with the comedian, as if they knew exactly what they were talking about? Did it feel like some of their approval rubbed off on you?

Has an artist that died before your time, peered across time and space, to plagiarize the thoughts from your head? These knowing Nostradamuses, saw your breakdown coming. They stepped on your grave. You felt it in your bones. They knew you before you were even there to be known.

They found a way to put into words the thoughts you believed would go unspoken, unmarked by your nearest and dearest. How you’d lived to find someone with the emotional capacity to share them. Here a stranger has seen you for what you are. They’ve shown you a truth about yourself, and it’s devastating.

Don’t think that this connection is less meaningful, because it didn’t happen face to face. If Stephen King has taught me anything, it’s that writing is telepathy. It doesn’t matter if the author was alive, if their work has been translated, remixed, or covered. Moving into your mind, their thoughts have taken up mental real estate. They’ve cast you as the hero in their story.

You learned that your most private peculiarity, was actually universal. You were stricken with a profound relief. Thank you dear author, dear singer, dear comedian. Thank you for letting us know that we’re not in this alone, that I am not alone. Thank you for making yourself seem vulnerable so that I might feel a little bit stronger. Thank you for quite possibly saving my life.

Black und White

I’ve never experienced this phenomena more profoundly as I did the first time I heard Henry Rollins read his poem I Know You. My composure melted away in an instant. I collapsed onto my cramped twin bed. True to his word, Rollins knew me very well. I was sobbing by the end of the first read through. Locking myself in my room, I listened to it for an hour straight, staring at the ceiling, seeing into something bigger than myself. This was over a decade ago, a time when I needed to hear it. I needed to know that I wasn’t the only one who operated the way I did, and Henry told me.

He didn’t stutter. He didn’t ramble, nor did he get lost in abstraction. Where I’d felt scatterbrained, he was collected. He preached with steadfast certainty. He’d broken a code and he was showing his data. With a cool composure, he spoke to the screaming silence of isolation. He brought calm to a conversation about rage. While so many growling vocalists brought brute force to their mic stands, he applied just the right amount of gentle pressure.

He wasn’t hiding behind euphemisms like “mental illness.” While psychologists argued about the map, Rollins told us about the terrain. He told it like it was.

He armed me with the language to communicate my inner workings, and instilled in me a strong desire to do just that. He got me thinking about deciphering myself for the benefit of others. He’d given me purpose.

Half Smile

It was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t find the right word for it. Following my roommates out for drinks, a strange pull beckoned me home before bar close. I had every intention of riding the night out with them. I wanted to meet people, to make connections, but my enthusiasm worked on a bell curve. I came out with a pocket full of high fives, only to find my fingers go limp in the middle of handshakes. I spent my quick wit on the pilling introductions, only to watch my jokes fall flat by the time the conversation got light. I was the one who brought the lull to the table.

I got low, but “depression” was the wrong word for it. It was too broad.

My James Bond composure came with a time limit. The moment the clock struck midnight I reverted back to Woody Allen. My charm turned into a pumpkin. The larger the crowd, the more I’d turtle up. Shifting the conversation, girls joined us in the booth. The more competitive the tone, the less I participated. The more overt my room mates’ intentions, the more subtle mine became.

A polarizing fear had come over me, but “social anxiety” wasn’t the right term for it. I could be social. In my element, in my sweet spot, I could hold my audience’s attention. I could read ten poems a night without so much as blushing. The stage was my domain, yet small talk always seemed like Everest.

Watching the screens mounted on the bar, I found myself paying more attention to commercials than I ever thought I would. Convincing my friends I had a prostate condition, I took more than my fair share of bathroom breaks.

Sure my breath quickened, but calling these episodes “panic attacks” would be a tad too dramatic.

Giving up on waving down bartenders, I paced what little space I could, guarding my precious shoulders from being rubbed. After all, I wore my heart on my sleeve.

Pop psychology would have you wondering where I fit on the social disorder spectrum, where I fell on the Myers Briggs, or where to categorize me in the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. You could try to dissect me with all those “blunt little tools,” but you wouldn’t come away with anything of substance.

While giggles turned to cackles, my voice became a whisper. I waited until the group hit a critical mass, until I was sure that I was lost in the crowd. Then I disappeared, Batman giving Commissioner Gordon the slip. Off to fight crime from the confines of my bedroom.

The word “INTROVERT” hung beneath my face like a caption, I just didn’t want to accept it. At the time, I took introversion to mean shy, meek, and fragile. If you only looked at half of the data, you’d say that I embodied all of those traits, but if you watched me lead a counter demonstration against one of America’s most notorious hate groups you’d draw a different conclusion. If you listened to me speak at a writers’ workshop, you might mistake me for an alpha male. Drop me into an argument where I can speak with authority and you’ll hear Sherlock Holmes bubble up from my mouth.

It turned out the right word had been there the entire time, I just thought it meant something else. Introversion had less to do with how weak I felt, and more to do with what types of interactions I valued. While others needed a group to blossom, I excelled at the one on one, bringing things out of people others couldn’t see. While extroverts were the life of the party, I was the king of empathy. While others saw their emotions as splotches in an impressionist painting, I could translate mine into words.

The best part of these revelations was that they defused so much of the hate I’d been carrying. Extroverts were not the enemy. After a lifetime of jealousy, I realized that I possessed qualities that they might envy, that they might even need. Rather than flee them, I sought them out. As Sarah Silverman put it, “I’m looking for a Yin for my Yang, not a Yang for my Yang.”

Turns out, there might not be anything wrong with me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the hole in your heart is an optical illusion. It disappears the moment you change perspective.

His superpowers include: empathy, self awareness, and candor.
His superpowers include: empathy, self awareness, and candor.
If you consider yourself an introvert, and you've come to view that as something to be ashamed of, you need to read this book.
If you consider yourself an introvert, and you’ve come to view that as something to be ashamed of, you need to read this book.

After reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts, I found myself drawn back to Rollins’s poem.

I see Henry Rollins as a role model for introverts. He’s one of the good ones. The man wears his solitude like a superhero. He walks the earth, searching for himself, like Caine from Kung Fu, or The Incredible Hulk moving from town to town, challenging authority, saving villagers. He’s a poet, an author, a musician, an actor, a stand-up comedian, and a role model. He’s an international man of mystery, getting in his van, rocking off faces, stopping crime, and giving Ted talks.

Grateful for everything he shares about himself, I have an endearing affection for this man. It takes a lot to be a positive example of vulnerability. Along with George Carlin, Rollins’s candor is something I’ve tried to adapt into my own literary voice.

This all started the night I’d discovered I Know You. I had to capture that feeling of identification. I had to share it. I had to let people in on the secret, that we’re in this together, and there’s a community out there for anyone who wants it.

Lens Shot

Rollins’s speech resonated with me all the more, because someone had paired it with A Warm Place my favorite song (at the time) by Nine Inch Nails. A Warm Place has always been my go to instrumental for self reflection. If you’re making a meditation playlist, this song is mandatory (feel free to download my instrumental version to add to that list too, it’s also great for yoga, and other intimate encounters). It hypnotizes with its descending and ascending melodies, both sombre and tranquil, bitter and sweet.

When I decided to cover Rollins’s poem, I realized that I had to cover A Warm Place as well. I’ve always wanted to hear the song with grinding distortion, and heavy beats made from footfalls and whip cracks, so I added those elements to my version.

It’s not enough for me to just throw up a link to Rollins’s original recording, I had to pay homage to it. I had to read it myself. After all, along with Nicole Blackman and Saul Williams, Rollins inspired me to get into spoken word in the first place. Turns out, this is one of the most popular pieces for poets to read live. They’re Rollins’s words, but we all want to inhabit them. It’s his monologue, but we all want to star in it.

A Warm Place Logo

(If SoundCloud is still down, download the track)

As I mentioned, the idea to combine I Know You and A Warm Place wasn’t mine. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a recording of the poem without the Nine inch Nails song tacked on. I’m not sure who came up with the idea to combine these recordings, but they’re two great tastes that go great together. Although, I always felt jostled when A Warm Place started looping half way through Rollins’s reading, then abruptly faded after he’d finished. I wanted the recordings to fit together seamlessly, so I notated my version to do just that.

I got it in my head to transcribe the song myself, to put together my own minimal interpretation, a distorted melody, made fragile by heavy tremolo and thunderclaps. Not that I could hold a candle to Rollins’s deep rich voice, but I loved his piece so much I had to give it a go. This is a cover of a remix of a poem. I can’t think of a deeper niche than that, but it’s the universal themes that make it so endearing.

Over the last year, I’ve done over five hours of audio recording (if you include my audio book Terms and Conditions). This seven minute piece is by far my favorite. Please share and enjoy.

You can read Henry Rollins’s poem in its entirety by hitting “Continue Reading.” Continue reading I Know You

Hyper Emotional Thoughts on New Year’s That I Probably Shouldn’t Post Online

If you’re looking for fluffy holiday sentiment to pass the time before the party is in full swing, Buzzfeed’s got you covered. If you’re looking for a way to set reasonable short term goals for the new year, there’s plenty of moon-faced smilers willing to sell them to you on Amazon. If you’re looking for a way to visualize yourself as a stronger more assertive person for 2014, then boy did you take a wrong turn on your way to Albuquerque.

I once made an impassioned plea for bloggers to gimme some truth, tonight I’m dishing it out. If you’re expecting my usual sympathetic voice, he’s going to sit this one out. Charm has to take a back seat to candor. Consequences be damned.

Last night, finishing this piece was the furthest thing from my mind. It felt like a lie, a last minute attempt to cushion myself from a blow I knew was coming. A frown I tried to dig my claws into and twist upside down. Things happened. My focus shift.

Forgive me if I rant, if I get abstract, if I slobber all over the place. At time’s like these, I have to let it all hang out.

For me, New Year’s Eve has always represented heartbreak and regret. The first time I got stood up was on New Year’s. Turns out, I was the alibi she gave her father when she ran away with her boyfriend. I loosened my tie around the time he called the house to ask where she was. He kept calling. Years later, I got involved with a roommate’s girlfriend (nothing to be proud of). When the ball dropped, she kissed him, and I bit through a champaign glass. The next morning, we all went to a restaurant with our best game faces on. I gave the group the old Batman goodbye. Bridge burned, lesson learned.

This year, the tradition continues. The details are mine to keep replaying in my head. You’re here for another reason, and pity parties are so 2013. Let’s get to what really matters here: how all this introspection applies to you. Hiding behind first person just isn’t my style. Let’s stagger on into the second, into your comfort bubble. Come on, be brave.

I’d like to issue you a challenge for the New Year, dear reader, and as sign of respect I’m going to issue a separate one to myself. I’m going to make my point using strictly positive language. Knowing me, this will be a herculean feat of self discipline. I’m going to talk about New Year’s resolutions, New Year’s expectations, and the yard sticks by which we measure our lives. From this paragraph on, I will spare you all the “don’t’s” and the “try not to’s” and the “avoid thinking about’s,” you tend to find in articles like this. I want you thinking about the things you try to cast out.

Let them in.

I’m flipping the script to spare you the compulsive pull of negative suggestion. Avoiding a thought has a way of turning it into the big red button that you just have to press. Thinking we’ve locked a thought inside a vault, we find the door in a place of prominence in our memory palace. My nasty thought is. It’s big, bright, and burst wide open. That’s okay. Sometimes you have to look at the elephant in the room to realize it’s a bull in a china shop.

The following self fulfilling prophecies are going to happen at midnight: you will contemplate bettering yourself. Goals will slip in through a breach in your subconscious. Your wish board will populate on its own. You will imagine yourself in 2015, looking back on what went down in 2014, and hope it was an improvement over 2013. You will make an empty promise, because you have to.

You will mistake hope for entitlement. You will mistake the absence of events for fate. You will mistake wishes for resolutions. You will contort the definition of Karma, and treat your built up stress like it’s good for a paid vacation.

Others will volunteer their resolutions. They’ll tell the monkey on their back that they’re smoking habits are in the past. They’ll announce their novel, their daily word count goals. They’ll have an end date in mind before they even get started. They’ll tell you their dietary changes, so that you can help enforce them. They’ll tell you about the numbers they expect to see coming from their scales.

You will tune out completely, and wonder who you are in the grand scheme of things. Your identity will split, like so much confetti. You’ll have to distort your self image to keep yourself from looking away.

Broaden your definition of success. Life’s grading spectrum is wider than pass or fail. There are goals, then there are stretch goals. Short sighted, we only see black and white. Counting our blessings, everything looks so binary. With our eyes on the prize, everything else seems like such a wash. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Focus on the bear essentials, everything else is just gravy. Get on top of your current workload, everything else is just extra credit. Find your comfort zone, then start on building an expansion.

The holidays have a way of tempering our egos. Social media has us comparing our party-scapes, contrasting our entourages. It rounds our expectations to the highest percentile.

We’ve seen so many stories play out, that we’ve been conditioned to think in three act structures. Each and every one of us thinks that we’re the protagonist, the underdog, the bright eyed lover. We give our memories beginnings, middles, and ends, bending reality into a movie trailer. This warps our expectations. Many of us will find ourselves pacing the scenery, waiting for the next act to begin. I know I will.

When it feels like we lost the plot, we need to hope the story is longer than we thought it was. We need to pitch ourselves a pretty lie to bide the time.

You will see this New Year’s Eve in the context of every other New Year’s Eve celebration you have on file. Let the fear of disappointment come, let it wash over you, let it kick off its shoes and make itself at home. There’s only one way this process will play itself out. You have to process it. This only passes when you lift the gate.

Let go.

Stew in your own juices. Lick your wounds. Get up close with your thousand yard stare. Let yourself feel the way you’re actually feeling. Let it bleed through to the surface. Let it show on your face. Pride is a wall. Shame is suspect. Dignity is the enemy, it stands in the way of empathy.

This is going to hurt. It’s supposed to. The jugular is open, take the shot.


Those of you who’ve gotten everything you wanted out of the year, feel free to skip out of the room in a trail of glitter. There’s refreshments, a rainbow parachute, and some lovely glockenspiel music in the lobby.

As for the rest of you, the one’s swaddling your wounded egos, the one’s clinging to expectations that stretch out the door, I want you to lean in.

The rest of this is coming in hushed tones, mumbles, and whispers.

Next time we have to set clearer expectations. Lead with our hearts on our sleeves. Point them out, remind people that they’re there, explain how fragile they can be. Take the risk on the chin, before the stakes start rising, before we find our calendars landing on introspective holidays.

We need to respect our role in the decision. Whatever side of the table we land on, both players are here for the same audition. Both players get their turn to be the actor and the casting agent. Monologues are for mirrors, dialogue is where it’s at. There has to be balance, an understanding, mutual respect. Trust has to be a factor, if you’re really doing what you think you’re doing.

Just be honest, be clear. If you need special handling, use clear imagery. If you’re looking for something specific. Then specify. If you need your role defined from the get go, then say so.

The fantasy is that this will happen at first sight. That it will happen organically, and blossom into something purer than words, an unspoken bond, coded telepathy, kindred spirits with signs aligning. We want to believe that romance is an enterprise onto itself, independent of our input. We hold our breath as fate deals our hand. We walk into a minefield with a blindfold on.

How’s that working out for us so far?

You have value. Your feelings matter. You deserve better. Ask and receive. Next time. Keep telling yourself there will be one.

I’m giving this advice to an abstract audience. It’s something I need to hear myself. Everybody needs a little assurance, even if it has to come from the mirror.


This all might be subject to deletion. A sober man’s cover up. Right now, my tongue is so loose it feels like it’s going to fall into the snow. Restraint is so 2013.

Some of you can follow this plot. You know just what I’m talking about. Those who have to ask why we feel this way, will never know. Them’s the breaks.

Empathy works in different frequencies.

For those of you who follow my blog, our regularly scheduled programming will be back when it’s back. Right now I’m feeling a little bit truthsome.

If I’ve ever had a message to hammer home, it’s this: it’s okay to be low sometimes, just don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Ah fuck it, I just used negative language.

Franchise Fixes

Hollywood is dead set to refresh everything you’ve ever seen. I figure if I can’t stop them, then I’ll show them how it’s done. What film franchise do you wish you could take back to the drawing board? Not for nostalgia’s sake, but because there’s something worth exploring there.

Fixer 2

Here’s how my new series will work: you give me a film franchise in dire need of repair and I’ll write you a fully realized pitch. As a former script reader, I’ve written over two-hundred coverages, as well as treatments, and script notes. Having pitched to networks and studios, sat in on meetings, and the board of the Minnesota Screenwriters Workshop, I can say I know my way around a screenplay.

Rather than criticize the parade of titles Hollywood dishes out, I want to pose alternatives. If I say I could come up with a better plot, I better have a narrative to back it up. Any mega fan can recognize where a series fell flat, but it’ll take some imagination to wrench it back up off the ground. It’s one thing to say The Phantom Menace lacked a clear protagonist, it’s another to give it one.

I’m not just going to make an abstract series of demands for J.J. Abrams to check through when he’s making the next Star Wars movie. I’m going to write a condensed outline of what that movie might be. Explaining my reasoning, I’ll show my work, and welcome objections.

I’m going to start by scraping the bottom of the barrel, the films with so many entries they’ve destroyed their own continuity. The ones that no longer resemble the classics they came from. The ones that jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, and stepped in the Eopie poop.

I’m talking about the sequels that took spec scripts and shoe horned their series mainstays in, because it was cheaper than writing a fresh script (Die Hard and Hellraiser I’m looking in your direction). I’m talking about the franchises that were ruined by investors who thought it would be a good idea to bring aliens in (Highlander fans are still pretending part 2 never happened). I’m talking about the reboots that did more harm to the brand than good (Nightmare on Elm Street is not supposed to put you to sleep).

Here’s my proposal: I want to tell new stories with new characters, in the same universe. Let’s take the best parts of fan fiction and put them up on screen. I’ll make controversial proposals that could spark heated debate. I’ll take the backbones of these franchises, and spin them on their heads. Knowing that most of these properties are already being remade, I’ll pitch something so far out of the left field, no one will see it coming. I’ll be the lightning rod to direct your nerd rage at, the spark that ignites yelling matches between geeks, the free lunch for trolls everywhere.

Fixer 3

Here’s my stance: I’d rather refresh a franchise than reboot it. Let’s tear down the old sets and rebuild from the ground up. Forget about Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, a retelling that missed the social commentary of the original. Give me Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a familiar concept from a different vantage point, with a whole new cast of characters.

I don’t want to see a young Captain Kirk face off against the Borg. I want the series to boldly go to a plot line it hasn’t gone to before, to show us new worlds, and give us new moral quandaries. Don’t get me wrong, I love this new cast, but I don’t want to see them in another story with a Khan-like villain. Captain Picard became Captain Ahab over the course of four movies, let’s not have Kirk go through the same transformation.

We don’t need to meet a young Connor Macleod, we need to meet his Highlander brethren. We don’t need to paint the mask of irony on another Eric Draven, let’s have a Crow film starring a woman. We don’t need a found footage Jason movie, we need a Friday the 13th with a protagonist who is just as compelling.

Do we need to see what’s in the Freeling family’s closet again, or could we meet a new family with a similar Poltergeist situation?

Does Ridley Scott need to take us to the engineers’ home world in Prometheus 2, or could we take a pit stop in one of the worlds they’ve decimated already? Maybe he could introduce us to a creature in the engineers’ arsenal that makes the Alien xenomorphs look like kittens in comparison, something the Predators wouldn’t have a chance at hunting.

If Clive Barker really wants to wow me with his next Hellraiser movie, he’d make Pinhead the protagonist, and have him take on a even more malevolent foe. OR make the cenobites one of two feuding demon mobs our hero is forced to play against each other, like a grifter with a debt hanging over her head. OR he’d go back to his original concept and make the cenobites other worldly sadomasochists with no affiliation with the afterlife. These creatures aren’t moralists, but explorers in the further regions of experience.


Your job will be to tell me what series you think is broken, in the comments section. I’m not going to catalogue their problems (the rest of the internet has got that covered). My job will be to prescribe a solution, to pitch a fix, to adjust an established universe to accommodate a brand new story. I’ll write a treatment that hits every major plot point, with a logline and everything. I’ll give you conflict, a character arc, the whole shebang.

You’re welcome to come back and nitpick, to respectfully disagree, or to shout heresy until your lungs bleed.

With a little luck we’ll come up with something so cool that we’ll feel compelled to free it from its source material and turn it into its own thing.

Full Red Submersion (Audio Short)

A piece about seeing red when your space is violated.

I was thinking of calling this "Red Drew Redemption" but thought better of it.
I was thinking of calling this “Red Drew Redemption” but thought better of it.

(Download the instrumental version here)

Have you ever felt so rotten you were afraid people could see it in your face? Reading your micro expressions, they caught the instant your smile fell out of synch with your eyes. From there, your audience put all the pieces together. They took a second look at your posture; your arms crossed over one another, like a Jolly Rodger made flesh, and they just knew.

Shifting your weight to one heel, you leaned away from their scrutiny, drawing a border with your free foot. Ignoring these cues, they breached your comfort bubble. They listened as the inflection dipped from your voice, as your confidence waned, and your tongue twisted. Your composure seeped out, like a sigh through your lips.

Your shoulders slouched. Your accent shift. Your customer service mask slipped. There was a draft where your armor should’ve been. Your space had been invaded. You were exposed. Your audience got in on your introversion. Finding their way into your attic, they were pulling out your insolation.

I’m talking about that embarrassing moment when someone calls you out for having a bad day, when you’ve done everything in your power to bury it. This is about the sense of violation from someone telling you how you’re feeling.

I have to admit, I wrote this one shortly after ending a career in retail where I’d accumulated my share of these experiences.

The calming musical accompaniment is there to contrast the heated prose. The melody rises in subdued hums. The beat echoes across a vast space. The throbbing synth-bass was inspired by College’s song Real Hero (you might recognize it from the end credits of the movie Drive). These combined elements make this my catchiest track yet. Check it out. Continue reading Full Red Submersion (Audio Short)

Nuke the Fridge

Are you feverish from franchise fatigue? Do you suffer from sequelitis? Has nonstop nostalgia left you feeling nauseous?

Are you stricken with sickness at the silver screen? Are the prevailers of popular pictures only pitching placebos? Are you missing the mystery at your marquee, the thought at your theater, the brains at your box office? 

Do you require a remedy for all these reboots, an antidote for antiquated archetypes, an inoculation from adaptations?

You’ll have to get sick before you can get better. You’ll have to subject yourself to something that insults your intelligence so completely that you won’t be able to suffer through another installment. You’ll have to let Lucas and Spielberg fire you up, before you can burn that bridge. You’ll have to watch in quiet awe as they…

Drew Jones 1

A Screenwriting Professor’s Prophecy

When the market crashed, our screenwriting professor decided to put his curriculum on hold for a day. The giant notepad, which usually featured terms like, “Drive, Goals” and “Conflict,” had a graph on it. Drawing in a deep breath, he searched his eyelids for the right words. “This is a hard industry to break into. It’s about to get a whole lot harder.”

Our professor had a vision of the future; a time when the average theater-goer had less change rattling around in their pocket. A time when seeing a movie would be reserved for special occasions, when there was a big title to draw a crowd. With everyone tightening up their belts, they’d be less likely to take a chance on something they’d never heard of.

He foretold the death of the original premise. He saw a marquee filled with familiar titles; a handful of franchises with annual entries. He saw each of us sitting on stacks of unrequited spec scripts. He saw the image of the lone screenwriter cracking his knuckles at the typewriter, replaced by a committee in a boardroom.

Soon, the studios would make sure that everything on their docket was a tentpole picture, a safe bet blockbuster, a for certain sure thing. Production costs were too high to gamble with. A few box office bombs, would unseat studio dynasties. Risk had to be eliminated. It wasn’t enough to have bankable actors, audiences had to be built in.

Shaking his head, our professor paced the room. “The only properties studios will take chances on are ones that have been proven in other mediums: comic books, young adult fiction, romance novels, Mattel action figures, and boardgames.”

We had a harsh truth to face: our career making masterpieces were bets no one was going to take a chance on. Battleship had a better shot at making it to the big screen than our coming of age flicks.

With his eyes clenched tight, my professor saw the battlefield of art and commerce. He saw commerce raising art’s severed head, atop a mountain of slain pitches.

Gone would be the days of the breakthrough independent feature. Art house theaters would play blockbusters. Indie would go from a production method to a genre, a flavor of romantic comedy, where every title had animated box letters, and every trailer had a soundtrack with a glockenspiel and an ascending choir.

The independent studios would disappear back into the lots from wince they came. For those of us who wanted to write the next Swingers, the next Clerks, or the next Pulp Fiction, we were shit out of luck.

Hollywood didn’t need us anymore. It had all the stories it would ever tell, and it would tell them over and over again.

As harsh as this truth was, our screenwriting professor felt a responsibility to tell it. Sadly, his prophecy came true.

Drew Jones 2

Déjà vu at the Drive-In

Franchise fatigue doesn’t just put the audience to sleep, it costs the medium its credibility.

For every remake, reboot, and reimagining, the world is denied the next great series. For every sequel, prequel, and betweequel, there’s an original premise that will never get green lit. For every spinoff, alternate timeline, and interwoven TV tie-in, there’s a universe that we’ll never get to explore.

For every screenwriter whose brought on to put in a draft on a franchise feature, a personal project gathers dust. For every property acquired in a bidding war, a piece is passed on for it’s lack of attachments. For every fresh spin on a familiar story, a script reader is forced to put a five star screenplay on the blacklist.

Every time we upgrade a classic, we lose a comment on our own times, viewers are denied a fresh perspective, and society misses out on a discussion it should be having.

Turning a blind eye to originality, the industry looks at dated blockbusters through VHS tinted glasses. Acting like the art form plateaued in the 80’s, they leave a generation with nothing to strive for. They recast our childhood heroes with whoever has the squarest jaw this week.

The more we pine for the past the more we fail our future. Retro worship costs us the next great light saber, the next proton pack, and the next flying Delorean.

Drew Jones 3

Jump the Refrigerator

We live in an era where franchises have so many iterations that they’d rather hide their numbers behind a suffix. The prequel is now: Origins of The Beginning of the Alpha Genesis. The sequel is now: the Return of the Revenge of the Unleashed Chronicle. The threequel is now: The Salvation of The Final Chapter of The Last Revelation of the Rising Requiem. Anything after that is a variant of the original title, give or a take a “THE,” here and there.

There comes a time when every franchise, overstays its welcome. When its returns diminish. When it reaches the limits of its universe. When its curators write themselves into a corner. When an entry leaves such a bad taste in our mouths, that it will be a long time before we’re hungry for another one.

This happened when the writers of Happy Days strapped water skis to Arthur Fonzarelli so he could jump a shark. This happened when Lucas and Spielberg had Indiana Jones crawl into a refrigerator to survive a nuclear blast. It happened when the director of Terminator: Salvation grafted a CGI Schwarzenegger to a stand-in, reminding everyone of the film they’d rather be watching.

Brand recognition became a bad thing. I can’t wait for the rest of these franchises to jump their shark, to nuke their fridge, to counterfeit their Arnold.

Have Superman throw his S, have a kid with Lois Lane, and kill General Zod. Have the Dark Knight swipe his Bat-card, perk his Bat-nipples, and face plant when someone kicks his Bat-cane. Kill Professor X, give Deadpool typed commands, and katana blades coming out his hands. Give Peter Parker an emo haircut, have him build his own webbing, and take on more villains then anyone could possibly give screen time.

Give the Ewoks their own movies, Chewbacca a Christmas special, and digitally insert Jabba the Hut where he ought not to go. Count the midi-chlorians, have Vader scream “Nooooo” at the ceiling, and swap out old ghost Anakin with Hayden Christensen.

These franchises get to be the life of the party, so long as they bring something new to it, something to keep the guests coming. The problem is, the hosts keep it going too long, until someone inevitably invites Scrappy Doo, Cousin Oliver, and Jar Jar Binks to piss on everything.

The snake image comes compliments of
The snake image comes compliments of

Let My Heroes Retire Already

Disney just secured the rights to Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Arc taught me everything I know about plot structure. The heart ripping scene from The Temple of Doom gave me nightmares. My father and I bonded over The Last Crusade. I grew up hoping Lucas would adapt Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis game into a movie. I’m an admitted Kingdom of the Crystal Skull apologist. Dr. Jones is still my default Halloween costume, but I don’t need to see another movie in the series.

Die Hard defined action movies in the 80s and 90s. Bruce Willis brought vulnerability to the action hero. There was a message buried beneath his one liners, and social commentary beneath his catchphrases. John McClane was losing his family. The modern world was passing him by. He was an underdog until terrorists struck, and his run and gun cowboy ways saved the day. I grew up loving this character, but I don’t need to see another chapter in his story.

Terminator 2 taught me how cool swearing could be. I’ve mapped out its timeline on napkins in barstool arguments. I found dark poetry in its chase scenes, existential questions in its explosions, and benevolence in its blood drenched backdrops. Still, I don’t need another one.

Go ahead and let Indiana Jones enjoy his retirement, give John McClane his pension, and sell the old endoskeleton for scrap. Let’s move on.

Drew Jones 5

A Eulogy

My favorite comic book series was John Constantine: Hellblazer. Constantine was more of a grifter than a superhero. He fought the minions of hell by pitting them against each other, a hustler stuck between feuding mobs. He wasn’t fighting for God’s cause. He just wanted an edge on the other mug punters, to carve a path outside of Heaven’s jurisdiction.

Over its 25 year run, Constantine got his nearest and dearest killed, betrayed his allies, and watched his sister get carted off to hell. He used sex magic, attempted suicide, and murdered those who’d crossed him. He was an anti-hero we couldn’t help sympathizing with. He wore a cocksure smile in the bleakest of times. He quipped in the face of evil. He flicked off the devil.

DC ended the series when they revamped the New 52. Hellblazer was rebranded as Constantine, a young mage who battled spandex clad baddies alongside Batman and Superman. Warner Bros plans to return John to the big screen in Justice League Dark, while NBC plans to bring a different interpretation to the small screen. The synopsis for the TV show makes it sound like a clone of Grimm, that might as well be called Johnny Demon Hunter.

I own all 300 issues of Hellblazer, many of which cost me a pretty penny. I’ve modeled my hair cut after the character’s trademarked blond spikes, but as far as I’m concerned he is done. These new iterations are just wearing Constantine costumes. They don’t care about the old fan base.

They’ll swap the snarky sacrilege for Catholic iconography. They’ll trade John’s light hearted quips for a chip on his shoulder, turn him into the squinting brooder that all heroes inescapably devolve into. They’ll never capture the downtrodden charmer audiences fell in love with. To them he is just another property to cash in, another title to throw at the wall in the hopes it will stick, an echo of an idea, handed to desperate writers, who just don’t get it.

I say, put him out of his misery.

Skull fridge

Nostalgia Needs to Die

Old characters are always reintroduced to new audiences, but their spirits fade with every reproduction. They’re modernized, made younger, more attractive, more likable, and more vanilla. Their jagged edges get soldered off. They bear but a passing resemblance to their counterparts. Superman sulks as Metropolis comes crashing down on its citizens. A jet black Robocop fights soulless drone bots, while Khan’s wrath is reduced to a starship crashing into the shore.

The heroes that are allowed to age get taken places they were never meant to go. Indiana Jones shares the screen with martians, the Terminator’s gut spills over his robot frame, and John McClane looks so very tired. Their stories have been mishandled and they’ve lost their luster.

Drag a property through the muck too many times, and it turns toxic. It spreads a contagion over a crop of coming attractions. It contaminates its spin-offs and bogs down its tie-ins. It ignores its own continuity and insults the audience.

There will come a time in every series, when it’s too risky to put out another entry, when an unknown low budget property is a safer bet.

I’m nostalgic for the good old days, before the majority of movies were made to capitalize on my nostalgia.

My generation has come of age. We’ve taken our place as a key demographic, but please Hollywood, stop pandering to us. Stop trying to sell us our childhoods back. Stop catering to our adolescent selves and give our adult selves something to chew on. Stop giving us what you think we want, and give us something we don’t yet know we want. Bring the wonder back. Surprise us.

Drew Jones 6

Spring Forward, Fall Apart (Audio Short)

When cabin fever strikes, we all get to reenact Pink Floyd’s The Wall, here’s something I wrote about it.

All and all this iPhone is just another brick in the wall
All and all this iPhone is just another brick in the wall

(Download the instrumental version here)

I wrote this poem just as the leaves started to turn, and slowly but surly it became a self fulfilling prophecy. The cold has gotten so harsh that my dog refuses to step on the sidewalk for fear that the ice will chill her paws.

The clouds overhead have become a fixture. The stars won’t be back until May. The monochrome landscape isn’t as inspiring as it was a few months ago. Anything worth describing has been buried beneath a layer of white out.

There’s a city to explore, but subzero temperatures have a way of narrowing my field of vision. My introversion has gone from a choice, to something that’s necessary for my survival. If I wander the streets too long, I’ll die of exposure.

So here I am at home surrounded by a wall of screens.

I’ve got a season of House of Cards to watch. I’ve got a crackling electric heater. I’ve got a fridge full of left overs, and a dog demanding that I feed her. I’m comfortably numb, zoning out on the internet, wondering if there’s anybody out there.

My Time Travel Romantic Comedy Pitch

What’s missing from the time travel romantic comedy genre? A harsh dystopia. What if every manic pixie dream girl, was secretly a talent scout from the future? What if someone told you your magnum opus finds an audience long after you die? This story is a commentary on where I think the entertainment industry is headed.

Hand me the keys to the Delorean and I’ll show you an alternate timeline. Here’s some of the irresponsible things I’d do with a time machine.

"Drew, you just ran over Hitler with a Delorean!"
“Drew, you just ran over Hitler with a Delorean!” “HE WAS IN MY WAY!”

My Time Travel Romantic Comedy Pitch

This isn’t a synopsis, it’s a loose pitch, a parade of plot points, a poll of possibilities. If you think it’s something worth developing, say so in the comments.

Logline: A publicist travels back in time to seduce an author whose fame was achieved after his death. Her firm specializes in corrupting these unsung geniuses with stardom, and reaping in the profits.


In the not too distant future: every film, TV show, and video game is based on an established work. New intellectual properties are considered risky investments. The corporations with the most time-honored masterpieces in their vaults own the entertainment industry.

Ashlynn is a scout for a publishing firm. Charged with copywriting classics before they enter into the public domain, she gets to these stories before their audience can. Violating restrictions on time travel, her firm has offices that stretch back to the dawn of the printing press.

Ashlynn specializes in finding authors who gained notoriety after their deaths. Traveling to when they were in their prime, she wins them over with sweet talk, and publishing contracts. For minuscule costs in the past, she reaps massive benefits for the future.

Ashlynn’s firm is responsible for an alternate reality where Edgar Allen Poe lives to become a bored true crime author, where H.P. Lovecraft struggles to step out of the shadow of his Cthulhu mythos, and fame gives Henry David Thoreau a new found affection for the big city.

Ashlynn pressures Herman Melville into writing a sequel to Moby Dick. It undermines the original’s message, turning the series into a precursor for Jaws.

As a scout, Ashlynn does her best to avoid the firm’s temporal agents, dark figures who travel back in time to enforce the firm’s agenda. They make sure their golden geese keep laying eggs. Whenever an author has a flight of fancy, these shadow figures clip their wings. Sabotaging lives, the agents put these writers back in front of the blank page. The firm regards their authors, who would never have achieved acclaim without them, as their prose spewing property.

Ashlynn watches the agents detain Emily Dickinson, when she tries to burn her journals. She sees them catch Franz Kafka trying to do the same. When he writes about their “Kafkaesque” time bending schemes, she’s surprised to find they publish it as it is.

Ashlynn thwarts Sylvia Plath’s suicide attempt. The agents throw her client into a padded cell, where the price of daylight is a page of poetry.

"Drew, you just hit Bin Laden with a flying skateboard!"
“Drew, you just hit Bin Laden with a flying skateboard!” “IT’S CALLED A HOVERBOARD, OLD MAN!”

Continue reading My Time Travel Romantic Comedy Pitch

Choke and Mirrors (Audio Short)

(Download the instrumental version here)

A short story about a haunted medicine cabinet, with a fresh twist on an old jump scare.

A Franchise is Born Again

Hollywood is so bankrupt for ideas they’re remaking box office failures. Brand recognition is more important than critical reception. I invite you to be a fly on the wall as a major studio mines your childhood for the last lingering piece of nostalgia.


A Franchise is Born Again

Somewhere in Hollywood, a studio head looms over his executives. Armed with a small clicker, he circles the boardroom. With a flick of the wrist, he puts a slide on screen: a weathered face at the center of a sculpted wheel. Its features are all but flattened, with the exception of a long stone tongue.

Leaning into the light, the studio head stares straight into the projector, “Research has shown that the Mayan calendar year was several days too long. This pushes their end time prediction from 2012 to the summer of 2015. The dawning of…”

Flicking his wrist, the words “THE AGE OF ULTRON” fill the wall.

The studio head’s shoulders sink, “The same summer that Disney releases The Avengers 2 and the new Star Wars movie. When Warner Brothers releases Batman VS. Superman, and Universal launches Jurassic World.”

Flicking his wrist, the studio head pitches the clicker across the room. The executives duck. The final image is of a mushroom cloud blasting through a marquee.

Running his fingers down his face, the studio head growls. “This, my brothers and sisters, is a block-buster-apocalypse, a block-alypse. A sign of our end times. If we don’t get a major franchise into production, our investors will be raptured.”

Cupping his hands in prayer, the studio head looks to the ceiling tiles. “We need a motion picture miracle, a remake revelation, a prophecy for our profit margins. Someone bring us back to the Garden of Eden and find me an apple that’s ripe for a reboot.”

The executives slouch in their chairs, adjust their skirts, and turtle-up in their suit coats.

The studio head pops open a can of Diet Coke. There’s silence as it fizzles.

Taking a sip, the studio head wipes his mouth. “Did anyone sleep last night? Hell is licking at our heels people, and your eyes are as red as the devil’s dick.”

An executive, at the far end of the conference table, reaches into her colleague’s suit. Pinching his nipple, she twists until he shrieks. She withdraws her hand as everyone turns toward the sound. The studio head zeros in on the panic stricken executive.

Smoothing his tie, the executive says, “I… Uh, I might have something.” Continue reading A Franchise is Born Again

Cheek to the Ground


I’ll sing this song
With my cheek to the ground
With my eyes on the sky
And my head in the gutter
The world passes by
In big giant strides
Or maybe you all
Seem so tall from down here

Wine breathes better in the bottle
Wine flows better down the street

A pavement pillow
A cement spread
A parking space
Where I rest my head
I have an arrangement
With the asphalt
With this patch of ice
And this pack of rock salt

Wine breathes better in the bottle
Wine flows better down the street

I stepped on a crack
And broke my back
Wasn’t watching
Where I was going
I stepped on a crack
And broke my back
Had my eyes on
Where I had been

I’ll sing this song
With my cheek to the ground
With the stars falling
Into the grass
The constellations
Have some place to be
Or so it seems
At the rate they pass

Wine breathes better in the bottle
Wine flows better down the street

A debris duvet
A black-eyed come on
A patch of laurels
To rest my head on
I have an understanding
With the underbrush
With this pile of leaves
And this puddle of slush

Wine breathes better in the bottle
Wine flows better down the street

I stepped on a crack
And broke my back
Wasn’t watching
Where I was going
I stepped on a crack
And broke my back
Had my eyes on
Where I had been

On where I had been
On where I had been
On where I had been