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)→
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…
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.
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.
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 RisingRequiem. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In an effort to mine the depths of self referential art, I’ve written a spoken word song about love songs. If it was any more meta it would be a camera plugged into a TV, in an endless feedback loop.
The lyrics have been pieced together from famous songs with the word “Love” in their title. It references hits by everyone from Elvis Presley to Bon Jovi, from Soft Cell to Nine Inch Nails, from Radiohead to Kanye West.
If you haven’t heard one of my audio shorts before, this bit of word play is a great place to start. It’s a progressive piece of pop; a funky clavinet riff paired with a bendy synthesizer, and an upright bass, above a collage of found sound textures, and a tight beat. Give it a listen!
An account of how self-promotion feels like panhandling, and all the crazy ways bloggers beg for hits.
Every Little Hit Counts
Standing on the offramp of the information superhighway, we’re not panhandling, we’re directing traffic. With our thumbs up, we’re not hitching rides, we’re asking for “Likes.” With our signs held high, we’re not pleading for sympathy, we’re giving you something to skim as you pass by. Pull into the overpass and follow our links. Roll your windows down and leave a comment in our caps.
Pay what you feel. If you can’t give us a dollar, give us your attention. If there’s no room in your cart for another piece of art, we’d be happy to make your wish list. If you already have one, gift a second to a friend. Feel free to embed a copy in your gallery. Feel free to put our writings on your wall for all the world to see.
Every little hit counts.
It doesn’t matter how you found our site, we’re just glad you came. Stumble out of the cold. Join our circle, around the bonfire of the blogosphere. Lurkers are always welcome. If you’re hungry, you can always dip into our RSS feed.
We all have stories to tell, and knowledge to impart. We’re all down in the same dump searching for an audience. Don’t worry about anyone talking your ear off, we can count our points on our fingers. We can make our statements in five-hundred words or less. Holding your attention with drawings in the sand, we all use the same hobo glyphs: the guy punching a hole through his screen, the woman taking a hammer to her monitor, the age old ax through the keyboard.
There is wisdom in our ravings, observations in our obscenity, proverbs in our profanity. We don’t have much to say about Miley Cyrus’s joint puff, but we can tell you all about our own addictions. We don’t have much to say about Jennifer Lawrence’s haircut, but we can tell you all about the issues we have with our own appearance. Subscribe to our sage advice and we’ll give you something you’re not going to find in any BuzzFeed. Continue reading Every Little Hit Counts→