November 29, 2016
Oh, for a muse of fire.
Oh, never mind, I got that. I just need time with her.
To do some Shakespeare, read aloud, write some stuff, plan some projects, dance around, and swim...but not with the fishes.
No, it isn't the inspiration I lack; it's the time lately. This fall has had a good bit of teaching in it, so my usual proclivity for creation has been slightly curtailed.
The classes have been fun, though. Lots of wonderful work being done by the students. I'm glad we have some of it on tape so they can see how amazingly gifted they are.
But time fills up and slips by too quickly. David Lynch says that one needs four hours to get in one good hour of paining. I say that's also true for writing, working on a part, and any artistic endeavor.
So as we enter this gentle winter's tale, I plan to find the time to do more of what means the most. And I hope you will, too.
Here's what's up on 72nd St.
This fall, I had the opportunity to act in Richard Linklater's new movie, LAST FLAG FLYING. It's sort of a companion piece to one of my favorite films, THE LAST DETAIL.
I got to work with Bryan Cranston (BREAKING BAD), and Steve Carell (FOXCATCHER), and found the entire experience extremely wonderful. Rick's a terrific director, his script is fantastic, his understanding of actors and character spot-on, and I think this is going to be an amazing movie. So fortunate to have been a part of it.
And it's reminded me how much I miss acting regularly, like I used to do.
So I've begun looking around at who's casting what this coming year, and I'm hoping my schedule can open up in a few spots to allow me to do something.
I used to act and write a lot - and teach on the side. Teaching writing and acting has taken over the actual writing and acting for too long now. Time to switch the balance if I can.
I was invited to a SAG-AFTRA meeting recently and it's nice to see behind-the-scenes of our union, and how things get done. I hope to attend more of these get-togethers in the future. Hats off to the actors who take part regularly, and who work so hard to allow us all to work at what we love to do.
Next week, I'm producing a play reading which should be quite a lot of fun. It's a dark comedy that had a really successful run in NYC, and which freaked out more than a few people. More news on that soon.
OFF BY HEART, the feature film project I've been working on for a year, has finally turned a possible corner toward production. More funding has been coming in, the steps have been slow but good, and I've learned to be patient with very little swearing.
I did something I never thought I'd do -
Yep, my book, WRITE YOUR MOVIE, is now out on Kindle. Many students have asked me over the years to put my special brand of insanity on the page, and I must say it was so much fun that my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. If you've ever wanted to write a screenplay but were wondering how to do it, this little book will get you going. Don't believe those folks who tell you that you have to sweat blood onto the page. You can write a good movie in a relatively short period of time, and have fun doing it. And option it. And sell it. And make it. This isn't Pollyanna thinking. It's real, and I can prove it!
You can order WRITE YOUR MOVIE with a quick click at https://www.amazon.com/Write-Your-Movie-no-nonsense-screenplays-ebook/dp/B01M0ZL109
I've also been in the mood to write a script for awhile now, and the pieces of one of my particular puzzles are beginning to fall into place just in time for winter break. I got the idea from one word uttered on the radio when I was only half listening, and it's haunted me ever since. Not sure if the story will work best as a play or a film, but the gestation period for the idea is coming to a close, and I'm anxious to block out some time and start writing!
Well, that's about it for now. I've been cast in a feature that will shoot in late 2017. As I wait for that, and other things, I've been offered four classes at two schools beginning in January. They should be fun. Unless I disappear into the rabbit hole of...
Till next time...stay very tuned.
August 22, 2016
My friend and former acting teacher, Charles Waxberg, came to see me play the role of "Clifford" in DEATHTRAP many years ago. Wonderful script by Ira Levin, who wrote ROSEMARY'S BABY. Great part, and such fun. Afterward, a bunch of us went out for dessert.
Charles didn't want ice cream with all the toppings. He just wanted all the toppings.
The waitress said she couldn't serve him just the toppings. It wasn't on the menu that way.
But he wanted them. He wanted the side things, the pineapple, the chocolate sauce, the strawberry not on top of anything else.
He wanted the nuts!
Part of my goal as an artistic person is to try to make some sense of things.
And lately, this has become my goal as, well...just me.
As a person. As a man. As a man getting older, and seeing life with new eyes. And it seems that less and less sense is being made. In my life, anyway.
And maybe it isn't just me. I see a lot of nonsense around me, too. And hear a good deal about it from others.
I won't get into politics or relationships or religion (although, damn, it's hard not to get into daytime TV - that stuff is thrust on you when you sit in a waiting room waiting to have your teeth cleaned, and you would rather just read your book - but I digress).
But what are we all doing with ourselves?
I often feel pulled in too many directions at once. Acting, writing, producing, private coaching, teaching, meetings...and I'm always on the lookout for good Thai food.
What's funny about all this isn't the work, or lack of work, or even the lack of good Pad Thai when I'm in the mood; it's the striving for something that's worth striving for, and how little of it there seems to be available to us.
I often find myself surrounded by people with absolutely no interest in things that I'm passionate about. People who can fund theater and film. But don't. People who can make a project happen, but can't understand why it matters. People who pretend to look for what we, as artists, have to offer, but actually overlook it, and get tangled up in other matters.
The temporary. The tangential. The boring. The normal.
The answer to all this isn't to change these people. It probably can't be done, and if it could, it would take a long time and require a change of underwear. The answer may be...to simply to strike out on our own.
Without enough money, enough clout, enough degrees, enough people, energy, time...without enough permission.
And do the thing that we, as artists, should know how to do better than anyone - trust ourselves and our own intuition. Being thought crazy is the one proof of our own special brand of sanity. We're not normal. And we don't want to be.
So this fall, maybe you'll be crazy, too. Maybe with me. Maybe without me. But crazy anyway. I'm still nuts about it all.
And sometimes all you need is nuts.
Here's what's happening on 72nd St...
We continue to raise money for our feature film, OFF BY HEART. I'll be posting some interesting stuff about our journey on that very soon.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at the 3 Rivers Screenwriting Conference back in May. Met some great people, reconnected with a few folks, and had a fabulous time. Kudos to Cathy Rescher for conceiving it and pulling it all together.
Met with Carl Kurlander and Erika Knox at Steeltown in Pittsburgh on some stuff. They're doing some really fine work there.
I had a chance to reprise the role of "Hiram" on WGN's OUTSIDERS again this season. Great show, fun to act in, wonderful people to work with.
Partnered up with Kristine Nichols on a publishing venture for my book, WRITE YOUR MOVIE. I'm very excited to see how it's all coming together.
Three schools have offered me five classes this fall. I don't think I'll be able to fit them all in, but I'll do what I can. There's certainly a diverse cross-section of topics, from acting to writing, to other aspects of film, so it won't be boring.
I was commissioned to write the screen adaptation of Linda Byrne O'Riordan's autobiography, THE LIFE SHE CHOSE. Just finished the first draft of that. It's called HERSELF, and will be making the rounds shortly.
Super-DUPER thrilled to be cast in Eric Red's next movie. Details are under wraps on that, but I'll let you know what's what when I can. Eric is a great guy, and a fabulous writer and director. He's done some of my all-time favorite movies, like NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL, BODY PARTS, and my favorite, THE HITCHER, so it's a thrill to get a chance to work with him.
Next up is a new writing project...noodling a few ideas about that. Recharging the batteries. Making some decisions. Contemplating the stars. Hope all is good with all of you...
...wherever you are...
Stay very tuned till next time...and next time is just around the corner...
February 26, 2016
They say that comedy comes out of pain. The laughter comes from the tears and the sad, not from the fun and the funny. And sometimes it comes after it all hurts so much that you just go numb from it, ya know?
My father passed away a few years back, and he always told me to write a comedy (I tend toward the dark side most of the time). I miss him. And last spring, for some reason, it was time for all the crazy bad-sad to come out in a crazy good way. And I wrote OFF BY HEART.
It was a quickie, just took a couple of weeks over spring break, and I was afraid to read any of it over as I was writing it, fearing that it may just be incredibly terrible. I tested the waters with a few folks I know and this sad story got a lot of laughs. It's a comedy. Once again proving that those clichés are often so true.
I didn't know if I'd have any luck getting it off the ground. It's a road movie, which isn't the easiest thing in the world to shoot, and I'd had the brilliant (kidding) idea to have one of the leading roles be a nine year-old girl.
Now, we all know not to work with animals and children (WC Fields had a point or two), but how to find a kid that age who could act? Not just one scene, but one who could carry a lot of the movie?
It took a nationwide search from NYC to LA, and lots of places in between (international, really, as we had submissions from Australia, too), and we ended up with over 80 kids to consider. I was quite impressed by the level of talent we were seeing, and the issue went from wondering if we could find a kid to wondering how in the world we were ever going to choose just one!
We ended up casting Amaya Press out of NYC, and she's amazing!
So I've been pretty swamped for awhile and anticipate that the rest of the year will be the same.
Now in the midst of teaching two classes, with two more coming up this spring.
Working with a wonderful writer on a historical mini-series about the French and Indian War.
Just cast in a feature film in Philly (say that three times fast).
And we'll be swinging into production on OFF BY HEART, lord willin' and the creek don't rise.
We should be finalizing casting very soon. (We saw so many talented people it was hard to choose the adult roles, too). Will Maloney is directing, Denis Maloney ASC is shooting, Pam Wise ACE is editing, lots of great crew people are coming aboard. Check out www.denismaloney.com to see some VERY exciting stuff. And give a listen to a couple of songs that are headed for our soundtrack. Josiah Martin's LOVE PICNIC at https://soundcloud.com/josiah-martin-135028974/love-picnic and The Canary Band's THESE WORDS at https://m.soundcloud.com/canary-band T
Take a look at our Production page here, too. More news as I get it, if I get it - do you get it? Good you got it. ;)
June 1, 2015
Well, it's the first of June, and the first day of summer for me. I run contrary to the typical calendar. Of course, I run contrary to a lot of things.
Things since August (how time flies), have been quite busy. I taught the entire academic year at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Classes in Directing, and in Acting for Directors.
While parking in Manhattan is cheaper than parking in downtown Pittsburgh during the day, it was a good year. Got to meet a lot of great students, work with some very nice fellow professors, and got quite hooked on the library there.
Also taught an acting class at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and did some private coaching. Doing some more coaching this summer with a student who is blossoming into quite an actress.
Of course all this teaching, enjoyable though it is, doesn't satisfy my itch to create.
So while I've also read enough books and watched enough movies to keep a normal person occupied for six years, I still had to do something.
So I wrote a book called WRITE YOUR MOVIE.
And I wrote a screenplay called OFF BY HEART.
And just so I can do some business, I got a new agent in NYC, and she's been really terrific.
It was a tough year going without acting, but I'm pleased that the film, RAZOR DAYS, by Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best, got released and screened at the Hollywood. Those two crazy kids are inspiring and I'm pleased to have played a small role in their movie.
I had an opportunity to do a play but can't simply because Actors Equity, my parent union, allows actors to be paid weekly rates that amount to less than minimum wage. Rather tragic, that. But life's too short to be political.
So I'm toying with the idea of writing a play. It may or may not gel (my mind takes its time to settle on its various obsessions), but it might be fun to try. Got a few ideas. And I'd produce it with a high enough budget that the actors don't feel that they'd be better off flipping burgers somewhere in Appalachia.
This summer is going to be a time of fun and reflection. And the beginning of Pre-production of the film of OFF BY HEART, which will commence shooting in the spring of 2016, in Pennsylvania, New York City, and possibly Los Angeles.
We're assembling key crew right now, and will be casting soon. So send in those pictures and resumes.
Well, that's about all for now. I know this post is a little different in format from my previous posts, but that's what life is about, isn't it? Change. Some things grow, others fade away. And the things that are most important stay with us forever. Still and always.
More news soon on Off by Heart...coming soon...
September 2, 2014
August 12, 2014
I feel like going on and on (and on and on), about Robin Williams.
And I could. I have so many memories, all of them great ones, of what he did for me.
But I'm not going to talk about them here. Everyone has their own memories. The comedies, the dramas, the stand-up, the unstoppable talent, and the human being that he was. He changed so many of us and gave us that rare thing, joy in living.
I won't talk about his suicide, or my understanding that sometimes the happiest-seeming people are really suffering quietly inside. His death certainly brings the topic of depression into the light, and maybe that will be part of his legacy, too.
You can read about all of these topics all day on the internet. And more. So I'm not going to talk about what I'm thinking or feeling, or what a permanent feeling of loss his death will leave in me.
All I'll say is what may affect the future of someone you know. There may be a Robin near you. Someone who seems happy, but isn't. Someone who seems full of life, but is thinking about death.
I can't prescribe what we may be able to do. You know everything that I know. But the one thing we shouldn't do is ignore feelings of depression, in ourselves or in others. Be there, wherever there is, however you can.
With love and peace, to Robin, and us all.
June 10, 2014
The last six months have been ones of change. Some subtractions, some additions, and some quantum physics.
A new business venture started and seemed to be a brilliant move to make. So why didn't I tell everyone about it? Well, I told some people. A few. But a nagging "something" kept me from broadcasting it to the world. It just felt wrong somehow. Premature. Logically, it seemed like it should work, but some instinct kept me from making it totally official.
And sure enough, three months after it started, it fell apart.
As we go through life, we experience those things that seem logical in our minds, but feel wrong in our hearts. And we experience other things which are eternal; will last forever. Life is only experienced on the surface. It's truly lived deep down inside where our heart knows things our mind can only dream of. Learn to see what is fleeting, and what will always be. You may not come to know it by being logical, but by those small moments when you are quiet and still.
And regret nothing. This experience reawakened an old project which has now made great strides forward. And puts me closer to where I really want to be.
Here's what's new on 72nd St...
Marcus Morelli and I co-produced and co-directed a trailer for my feature film project, small time crime. Casting for key roles is going really well.
CORPSING is making waves as a feminist horror film, and I couldn't be happier about that. Yes, there's violence and bloodshed and nudity, but not the kind that meets the demands of those who like torture-porn horror. The film is really a drama, the story of a woman who...well. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out On Demand nationwide. (And now in Germany, Latin America, and going 'round the world, too!). Google it to find the best platform for you.
I've developed a lot of writing ideas lately. For scripts, and a few surprises. The percolation of new images has been extreme to the point of distraction. I've just recently chosen the order for some short projects (and some long ones), and am looking forward to going down the time tunnel into some long and lovely days and nights of writing.
There are some acting gigs in the offing and some theater projects, too.
And I'm acting in a movie this month called THE DEMON TONGUE (and keep your snarky comments to yourself, why don't you?). It's being shot by some wonderful people back in Pittsburgh, home of horror movies, or so it seems. A really great gang to work with, including director Chris Nicholson.
Got to shoot one of my scenes at Hartwood Acres which brought back memories of doing shows with Marc Masterson and the City Theater there. THE FOREIGNER, HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES. (And what memories they are!).
THE DEMON TONGUE should be released later this year. It looks like it's going to be a blast to watch. I'll keep you posted on it.
HOMEMAKERS, a feature film I acted in awhile back, is now making rounds on the festival circuit. It's a really intimate and touching little movie, and I hope it gets the recognition and release it deserves. Colin Healey wrote and directed with Rachel McKeon starring.
Keeping the Pennsylvania vibe going, I've been asked to take part in a project celebrating the life of Edwin S. Porter, who was born in my hometown of Connellsville. Porter worked with Thomas Edison and pretty much invented the concepts of editing and screenwriting. (Thanks, Ed). A pioneer of the motion picture industry, he directed a lot of films, including the classic, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY in 1903. We've been offered a beautiful facility and plans include a museum, gift shop, and a screening room. We also want to offer occasional workshops in acting, screenwriting and editing. If funding is secured, we'll also start a theater company where young actors can work alongside Equity actors from Pittsburgh and New York. We hope to tie it all in with The Laurel Highlands Shakespeare Festival, which I'm also developing with Chris Lacey. Scripts are already lined up for a full season. (Fingers crossed on funding).
I've been teaching my WAPD WORKSHOPS- Write-Act-Produce-Direct - and that's been a lot of fun. Just did a full semester at Seton Hill University with an absolutely fabulous group of students. Instead of teaching classes this summer, I'm doing some private coaching. And I've been offered adjunct professorships at two universities this fall. Not sure where I'll be...but I'll let you know.
Till next time, watch some movies, see some plays, read some books, do (a lot of) dancing, stay very tuned, AND - take a look at our trailer for small time crime here and let me know what you think of it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRuS0kXQ0AA&hd=1
September 9, 13
These entries of mine have often been somewhat philosophical as I've ruminated on certain aspects of life. Mostly, when you get right down to it, the pursuit of happiness.
After all, that's what we all want, isn't it?
We imagine that to do this, or have that, or be there, will bring us happiness.
But it isn't only that we want that list of things or activities or relationships. We want what we think those things will make us feel.
And we all have our own definition of that special feeling, which we seldom take the time to put into words.
I've narrowed my definition down to two very simple but important words. What they are shouldn't matter to you. But if you stop to think about it, you'll probably come up with words that define your happiness, too.
Thinking of these things has been helpful. A bit of introspection is good. However, of late, I've been busy.
And I've found, as many others have before me (and whose advice and experience I'd forgotten), that being absorbed in a worthy task does us more good than we think. In fact, it usually does us more good than thinking.
This new season feels different somehow. New things are stirring. Old things are taking on new shapes and meaning. I don't know what's going to happen next, but from here, things look fraught with potential.
Not knowing what's going to happen next in life can sometimes be frustrating. But in a movie, it's, well...it's why we bought the ticket in the first place, isn't it? That's why we're here. To see what happens next.
So for this entry, I'm going to forgo philosophical ideas and simply list a few things that I've been doing. (Not everything. Some things are just waaaaay too personal).
Some of what follows are updates. Other things might interest you enough to get involved in them with me. And maybe the whole thing will encourage you to put together your own list. So...
This past summer, I wrote a feature script called EMPTY EYES. A lot of elements are in place to make it and we were hoping to shoot this fall, but fundraising continues. As it usually does. Will let you know when we have enough.
Macbeth still haunts me. I read and watch and ponder. Looking forward to seeing a certain production of it next summer. And maybe doing my own.
I'm now writing a script called LIFE BEHIND BARS. It's about two bartenders. Set to star David Thornton, Ashley Laurence, and me. I wake up excited just thinking of working on it.
My classes are proceeding apace with four this season - Acting for the Camera on Mondays, the Filmmaker Intensive on Tuesday mornings, Script Development on Tuesday evenings, and The Advanced Screenplay Workshop on Wednesday evenings.
The five hour lay-over between my Tuesday day/night classes leaves room for some fun activities. Like sushi lunches.
I'll be a guest at HORROR REALM in Pittsburgh on September 20, 21 and 22. Come on out if you get a chance. Should be fun.
I'm helping to organize the first of what we hope will be an annual 5k ZOMBIE RUN MARATHON in Connellsville, PA - THE RUNNING DEAD.
It's an all-day event with vendors (including our own DOGS OF THE DEAD hot dog stand), a Movie Crawl, Zombie Olympics, Tom Savini's make-up school will be there, we'll have a choreographer on hand to teach everyone the Thriller Dance after the race, and we'll be shooting a video of that, and having lots of other goodies, too.
Proceeds go to the Connellsville Patriots who will use them to fund care packages to servicemen and women overseas.
You can register online at www.downtownconnellsville.org/Zombie-Run.html and for more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Check us out on Facebook, too.
Our feature film, CORPSING, was released on August 6 on VOD nationwide and in some forein territories. You can check us out on Comcast, Time-Warner, Cox-Bright House, Dish, AT&T, iTunes, XBox, VUDU, Amazon Instant, Blockbuster App and Playstation. And -
- as of September 6, we've added Verizon and Charter and some other cable companies to the list. With more release platforms coming soon worldwide.
Claochlu Studios has been offered an ideal - and somewhat amazing - location for our theater productions. It's a crazy deal that may never close, but if it does, I'll give you the details right here.
Daily, I realize that my brain can only take me so far. I do the treadmill, lift weights, do my gym training, meditate.
I'm cooking (love cooking), and eating some pretty good stuff. (thanks, Patricia, for the bear).
I watch movies, and before the fall Academy screeners arrive, I'm revisiting some of the classics. Just got Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. If it still gets into me like Baby Jane did, oh, Bette.
And I listen to music that takes me where I need to go.
Am I still searching for happiness?
Yes. But not too hard. Instead, I'm keeping busy. And sometimes moments of it find me...right wherever I am. In the present moment.
The future will be whatever it will be. Time is always so short.
What would you like to do? Make a list. Pick something that inspires you. Know what you want...and why you want it. Figure out a plan. And get busy. You might be surprised.
Because what's coming just might be...your heart's deepest desire.
Till next time...stay very tuned.
June 18, 2013
Well, I'm back. Had some surgery that I'd been putting off. The recovery time was long and painful, but I'm glad to be just about human again. Glad to get out of bed, drop the top on the convertible, and cruise, Julee. (and if you don't know the reference, you have to stay in more).
I'd planned on being all Zen during my recovery time. Meditating, communing with the deeper part of myself, thinking about things that have needed thinking about, and hopefully drifting toward some wisdom, deciding on courses of action to take during this next phase of my life.
But it's hard to be meditative while screaming in pain. So I ended up watching some movies, reading some novels, and listening to music.
Now that I'm back, I long for the time to go Zen again.
Why don't we take the time for things like this when we're well?
How are we to discover what's truly meaningful in our lives if we don't allow ourselves the time and the space to do it?
One of the things I appreciated during my recovery was the Internet. But it got me thinking about something.
I've only been in the hospital twice in my life. Once was for a long-ago appendicitis. The other was for a knee injury sustained when a stage I was performing on collapsed. Performance interuptus. (But only for a moment because we went on with the show, even though blood was pouring down my leg. Luckily, I was wearing black pants). But both times were instructive because hospital stays were longer, and there were fewer distractions in those days.
I had TV and books and music, but I didn't have - the Internet. That wonderful, entertaining, instructive, diverting, and constant - constant - constant companion.
So while being laid up, there was boredom. Often intense boredom. Which eventually turned into a deep, calm, floating sense of discovery. Of myself. And of the world.
When I was released from one of these stays, I recall feeling how the air outside the hospital moved against my cheek in a light breeze. And noticing how green my car was.
I've thought about, and written, about this before. I've never forgotten it. How the temporary lack of stimuli allowed me to start noticing certain things that had been there all along.
We ignore ourselves far too much, and don't appreciate the beauty that surrounds us every day.
If we don't take the time - or the timeout - how are we to discover what's truly meaningful in this very temporary life that we have?
This time, given the chance again, did I allow that to happen?
Part of it was the attempt to do anything to distract myself from the pain. But part of it, I admit, was habit. "Hey, I wonder who emailed, who sent a Facebook message, who tweeted, what can I watch on YouTube, MST3K and Ted Talks today?"
I allowed the constant companion to distract me. The Internet was always there to keep me from myself.
You might say "discipline!". You're right. And I might say "Shut up."
So now that I'm nearly all better, and capable of doing the things I usually do, I'm spending part of my day...every day...lying on my bed.
Doing "nothing". And allowing that nothing to do me.
Twenty minutes a day. I set a timer. And I drift wherever I drift, and see and feel whatever has been there all along, unnoticed, ignored, unfulfilled.
So far, it's been the best twenty minutes of my day.
Maybe you'd like to try it. You never know what might be inside, just waiting for a chance to come out.
Here's the latest news from 72nd St...
I'm thrilled to tell you that our feature film, Corpsing, has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Fangoria Presents Films. I'm now working with Brainstorm Media in Beverly Hills to get the movie out there on August 6th.
We'll be on Video-On-Demand, iTunes, X-Box and at Amazon. The DVD should be released by the end of the year, for sale at classy establishments near you.
Fango is also running a contest right now to choose the artist for the cover art. Three very talented guys are up for it, so I hope you'll vote for the artist of your choice.
The U.S. deal has gotten us interest for foreign sales, so I'll keep you updated on that. Our first offer came in yesterday. And we may also do a small theatrical run. Speaking of runs...
...72nd St. Films is proud to be one of the sponsors of our first annual Zombie Run in my hometown of Connellsville, PA, this October. It's a different kind of marathon and we hope to have runners from all over come and join us. Schedules permitting, my local partners and I may also have a Haunted House and Spooky Movie Night. Plans are in the works. All to benefit the Connellsville Patriots, who will be utilizing the funds we raise to provide care packages to servicemen and women who are deployed overseas.
To get all academic on yo butt, I'll be teaching at West Virginia University's Writers' Workshop July 17-21. Log in and sign up for Craft Talks and full Workshops with me, or any of the other writers who will be there. I'll actually be taking a mini-vacation while in wild, wonderful West Virginia, staying for the duration and meeting all the wonderful people who attend.
Then it's off to Pittsburgh the following week where I'll be teaching an Acting and Directing Workshop for high school students for the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Classes will run all day from July 22-26.
New York producer, Alfred Sapse, and I are hard at work on our next project, which, coincidentally, will be shot in Fayette County PA, mostly at the former Conn-Area Catholic School building in Connellsville. Funny how these things work out. The feature film is a scary thriller called Empty Eyes. I'm now writing it and scouting locations. Casting later this summer.
I've just been cast in another feature film to be directed by Chris Nicholson, brilliant producer and director of the fun and spooky Haunted States of America series. More news on that soon.
And how do you stay abreast of all this? The Internet. For example, our first announcement from Fangoria is at www.fangoria.com/new/fangoria-presents-acquires-corpsing/
Oh, the irony, right? So listen. Google us. The movies, the workshops, the contest, the marathon. Keep in touch. But don't forget to take the time to shut us off. And turn yourself on. 20 minutes. Start now. And...
...stay deeply tuned.
March 12, 2013
Well, spring is almost here. And it makes me remember...
When I was about twelve years old, walking down a country road near where we lived, I smelled newly-mown grass. This triggered such a rush of inexplicable energy, and a passion so complete, so all-encompassing, that it seemed it could never be fulfilled. A sweet, painful ache to do something wonderful.
After awhile, I figured out that it was puberty.
It was like the time in junior high school when I went to an amusement park by bus. I'd been there many times before, but that year it was much more fun. I laughed all day and was so happy. The next year I went back, and the day was fine, but nothing felt as great as it had the year before.
After awhile I realized that the year before the kids in the back of the bus had been smoking grass and I must have been inhaling it.
Now, I'm not saying that school kids should smoke grass at amusement park outings. Although I am in favor of puberty. (Some people think I'm still in it). What I'm saying is that it amazes me that happiness is often accompanied by a complete lack of awareness of what is causing it.
If we don't know what makes us happy, how can we try to be...happy?
Other times, we're happy and we know it (clap your hands), and we know what's causing it, but we don't realize how lucky we are in those fleeting moments of joy. So the happiness is felt, but not appreciated as much it should be. And the chance to plan to keep it going is ignored...maybe until it's too late.
We enjoy it like we enjoy a fabulous meal that is soon gone. We say, man, that was delicious, as we drive away. Unaware that the kitchen is back there filled with all the ingredients that could have made the dish over and over and over again. And maybe we could have made it even better.
George Eliot said "The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand. The angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone".
Which is probably a finer analogy than me talking about new hormones and controlled substances. But it's the same point.
Robert Waller, unable to out-quote me since I can't find the book in which he said it, said something about us needing to notice when we're doing something that makes us happy, and endeavoring to do more of it. A lifetime of it, in fact.
As writers and actors, we get downright adrenaline-fueled joy out of the process of creating.
And as human beings we sometimes notice a feeling of joy in something we're doing, someplace we find ourselves, or someone we find ourselves with.
Our responsibility is to enjoy the moment while it lasts. And to not ignore our power to create more of those moments by designing our lives so that we can spend more time doing what we love, where we love, with whom we love.
So in this budding, ripening time, feel the breath of the season on your cheek, smell the newly-mown grass, and notice not only the spring in your step...but the summer that can be yours for the taking.
It'll be here before you know it.
Here's what's happening on 72nd St...
Well, we had a cast and crew screening of Corpsing, and I was so gratified by the response we got. It's such a strange little movie, and I was glad to watch others watching it and hear their laughter and talk to them afterwards. To the one who said. "Amazingly weird", I thank you especially. That sums it up very well.
Marcus Morelli, post supervisor, and Daniel Ramalho, composer, were such fun to work with. Distributors are now asking for the movie, and Alfred Sapse, our intrepid producer, is busily sending it out.
I'm doing the Horror Realm Convention in Pittsburgh, March 15-17, and hoping to meet up with some interesting people for some interesting talks like last time. The Day of the Dead guys are all just the greatest, and I'm hoping Daz makes it back from England sometime. So come on by if you have a chance.
Blaze, the Pacino project, continues to move forward, albeit slowly. I try to pace myself, knowing that not everything moves at what I'm told is "the speed of Jeff". (I wonder about these phrases that have been used to describe me; I've also been told that I sometimes speak in Jeffanese).
The NYC pilot (still underwraps), is going great. A world that I'm having a lot of fun bustling in.
A bit of bad news. My project, SHADYside, pitched to a Pittsburgh-based company last year, was ignored by that company, and now has been registered by that company as its own idea.
I always advise registering projects with the Writers Guild before showing them around, and I do follow my own advice. But since I was asked to partner with this company I figured it was safe and hadn't done it.
When I heard about what happened from my own personal Marvin through the grapevine, and asked the company about it, I was told that since I hadn't registered it, they took it, and that this is "the way professionals do business".
Sorry. It isn't. And while my faith in humanity was shaken momentarily, I realized that it was my fault for trusting. Lesson learned. Again.
And besides, we're still shopping my newly-registered SHADYside from here. Screw the torpedoes. I didn't register it first, but...I'm glad I saved all those old emails from the company!
I hope that no one else in Pittsburgh is taken in by what is a very impressive sales pitch.
And now, back to NYC fun. A new series of films is in the works, putting a different spin on some Shakespearean tales. I just finished the treatment of the first script, and more are on their way. More news on these as soon as I register them (heh-heh).
We have a growing list of plays that we want to do and have just been offered a fabulous building in which to do them. The venue will also accommodate film projects, and some ancillary businesses. Trying to lock the deal on that. If it happens, we'll be branching out into all kinds of new ventures.
Meanwhile, classes continue till the end of April, some new classes are being offered elsewhere, and I'll keep you updated on special workshops that are happening this summer.
Till next time, stay very tuned...and smell the grass. (the lawn kind).
January 16, 2013
In the wings. The moment before. Concentrating. Relaxing. Letting go.
Now ready to step out from the darkness into the light, and then...
Sometimes, we find ourselves waiting in the wings instead of being in action - acting in the stage of life we're in - doing what we really want to be doing.
Because while we may feel ready for it, it isn't ready for us. Not yet.
There's a lull in the universe, waiting for us to be aligned with it.
We need to let the preparation go into the past, the moment to be what it is, and the future to be whatever it will be.
Until then, we prepare. Sometimes consciously, reading, thinking, walking, writing. Talking to the dog.
Sometimes unconsciously, while we cook, drive, do yoga, meditate, shower.
Sometimes the dog tries to get into the shower with me and everything gets mixed up, although he's getting better at meditating as long as we do it together on my vibrating yoga mat.
But I digress.
See? I digress. In the middle of writing this, I do something else, think of other things, and then...
...get back to getting ready to be ready.
And what am I ready for? What are you ready for?
Anything you can dream. Anything that's truly in your heart.
But it isn't easy. Not just because we digress, but because we get anxious. We try to force things. We get frustrated. Instead of waiting for nature to take its course.
Sometimes, after we've done all that we can, all that's left is to relax and allow the moment to happen. Because it will. It's coming. And in its season our still calm will fire into passionate action.
The play's the thing. Patience develops character. And life is the way we play it. Because just maybe...the wait is worth it.
Ready when you are, Sergeant Pembry...
Here's what's happening on 72nd St...
I finished writing the treatment for Blaze for CHAL Productions (Al Pacino's company), in Los Angeles. It's been accepted, and we await further funding for further steps in the process. The film is to star Pacino, and if we're lucky, a few more very amazing actors.
Also finished another job, writing the script for a pilot for a production company in NYC. This is a very closed project, so I'm not permitted to say much about it, except that I'm very excited about its potential.
Meanwhile. the terrifically talented Daniel Ramalho has finished the music for Corpsing in Brazil. Now all that's left for all-around-movie-dude Marcus Morelli and me is to wrap up the mix before we take the monster on the road. Marcus and Daniel and I have plans for more movies soon.
Teaching three classes - Acting - Writing and Producing the Short Film - and my own little invention - WAPD - which covers writing, acting, producing and directing in a way that's fast, fun and informative. Doing some private coaching, too.
Putting together some Seminars and Workshops and planning on doing a little traveling here and there. West Virginia University is bringing me down to lead a four-day workshop in screenwriting this summer. They sound like great people, and I have Patrick Conner, actor and scholar, to thank for letting them know about me.
Doing the Horror Realm convention in Pittsburgh again in March. It was a blast the last time and I'm looking forward to meeting everyone that comes by.
I'm also very proud to be a founding member of a new company, Steel to Reel Services, LLC. President Robert Podurgiel and I started this up, and I'm very happy to report that we've attracted some very talented and dedicated partners. Our mission is rather broad, and covers a wide range of film and theater projects, as well as the creation of a variety of ancillary businesses in other areas. First investments are in, and our weekly meetings are leading to a possible event for the company in the next several months.
My manager, Lawrence Mattis, is getting a screenplay of mine around to some very influential folks. My hope is that it gets sold, and if so, I'll blog by a pool in Santa Monica.
Well, that's about all I have time for today. Going to do some writing, then make popcorn and watch a movie with the dog. My screeners are piling up, and so far Moonrise Kingdom is our favorite. But tonight feels like a Straw Dogs kinda night. Oh, yeah - one more thing -
- if you haven't checked out this whole website for awhile, there are a few new items on other pages I hope you'll take a look at. Finally got to do some updates. Meanwhile, I allow time to slip forward, toward the things held in store.
Till next time...get very tuned...stay very tuned...and play it like you feel it.
September 26, 2012
Having finished reading Stephen Hawking's brilliant A Brief History of Time, I'm now listening to his equally nifty The Universe in a Nutshell while on long drives to far places.
This has caused me to figure out my own version of the universe and infinity which I'd love to share with Hawking, but there's no contact number on the box the tape came in. Could this be part of the chaos theory?
If anyone is interested, I think we all live in a ball.
I've also been cooking some good food, but usually eat alone. Like now, having a wonderful breakfast of bacon infused pasta, which shows that fat molecules can multiply at any time of day, although evenings are usually more fun as they sometimes include wine.
Attempts at exercising are proving difficult as I swim and there's no water here. Well, there is, but not enough. I may take up air hockey. I have an air table and a puck and everything.
Due to my schedule, I'm not getting enough sleep. This is because I'm usually awake. I find consciousness necessary for negotiating traffic, although lack of rest has caused problems in calculating the square root of how to get my shoes on in the morning.
I think that stretching our minds into other places is crucial for growth and doing so is having an effect on mine, although I'm not sure what it is yet. No drugs are involved except for Dunkin Donuts coffee, which is actually better than Starbucks if they add enough sugar.
I hope that you're stretching something, too.
Here's what's up on 72nd St...
Just got back from NYC, where I was for awhile, but not long enough. Lawrence Mattis, my manager at Circle of Confusion, and I are strategizing on Corpsing and on another script of mine that's getting some interest. More news on the latter if the interest goes anywhere.
Hung out with my buddy, Michelle Pirret, and talked music, theater, philosophy, love, life, and the need for Thai food.
NYC just keeps getting better all the time. Looking forward to being back there (very) soon.
Post production on Corpsing is now finished thanks to the tenacious work ethic of incomparable post supervisor Marcus Morelli. All that's left is the final music and the mix. I may have some test screenings soon. Not sure. But if I know you, I'll invite you. If I don't, we should meet.
Claochlu Studios productions of Dracula and Macbeth are in the planning stages, no pun intended. Too busy to do much on them yet. But they're often on my mind.
The NY pilot is going well. So happy to go down the rabbit hole of writing again.
The LA feature with CHAL is still in the story phase and proceeding nicely.
Teaching three classes - one acting, one writing, and one directing. Great groups of students, all of them.
Just did my first convention as an invited guest at Horror Realm. Agent Lee made it so easy, and he and everyone there made it so much fun. It was wonderful to see some old friends, and to make some new ones.
Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best were there with their new feature, Razor Days, which they were kind enough to have cast me in. I was disappointed to miss the Friday night screening (as it turned out, I was only available on Saturday), but I heard great things. I admire the hell out of those two go-getters who go out and get those movies of their made. Looking forward to seeing it as soon as I can.
Congratulations to John Tiech, whose book, Pittsburgh Film History: On Set in the Steel City, was published recently, and features me and the 72nd St. Film, Corpsing. It's available at Barnes and Nobel, or you can order it on Amazon. Yay, John!
Uhm...I think that's it. Gotta run. The Cosmological Constant is calling. Until next time...stay very tuned.
August 16, 2012
Dear Dr. Jekyll and Patrick Bateman,
I've often been fascinated by the Yin and Yang of things. The balance and imbalance of life. The idea of following a program of daily living, interspersed with periods of passionate projects that consume me with obsession.
I love both of these, and hope to always balance myself between them.
I also divide my time with the seasons of the year. Despite what it says on the calendar, winter always comes on December first for me. Spring arrives the first of March. Summer, June first.
And now, fall is almost here, teasing me with locust song in preparation for its turn at the wheel on the first of September.
I like these patterns, and try to follow them as Somerset Maugham did with his own designs in his life. His were often noticed after the fact. Mine are usually designed, but open to change. Our patterns are different, but the idea is similar.
You may notice the actual pattern he used as a literal model embossed on the covers of the first editions of his books. One of my copies of The Razor's Edge has it. I hope to find a copy of The Summing Up with it someday.
I don't have a literal pattern designed to put on things. If I did, it might be one of the Buddha wearing a Groucho Marx mustache and glasses.
In any case, the wheel is turning for me soon, with major and minor life changes on the horizon. As Maslow said, "If our nature is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful and happy".
So here's to designing a pattern in your life. One that includes all that makes you smile.
Here's what's up on 72nd St...
Corpsing is finished except for tweaking, and I'm looking forward to a few test screenings with friends to get some feedback before the final lock.
I leave again for New York the first week of September. Off to SoHo House and a meeting with my manager on Corpsing and other projects. Seeing some other people I know. It will be good to wander through Strawberry Fields.
I've just been offered a writing job with Al Pacino's company in LA. Luke Toma and I will be developing with Barry Navidi. The story is kind of hush-hush at this point, but it's going to make for an exciting project with some of the most talented people I know. More info on this one as it takes shape.
Several theater projects are in the works, including some Shakespeare and a new script of Dracula I've finished. It's quite bloody, sexy and fun...and there's music and dance in it, too.
As always, creating work is about developing projects, and developing projects is about creating a team. I feel good about where things are going. And look forward to that cool and bracing air of autumn.
Until next time...stay very tuned.
July 13, 2012
"It's hot. Tarzan hot. Brooklyn was never this hot".
Those are lines from Neil Simon. Lines which just so happen to fit the current temperature around here which, a few days ago, was 104.
Mark Twain said, "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it".
Yes, it's hot. But it's July. So shut up already. It's just a phase we're going through. It'll get better.
Unless you don't like cold weather. Then it'll get worse.
But one thing is certain, and that's that it'll change. "This too shall pass". (I don't know who said that).
There is wisdom in knowing the constants, and wisdom in knowing what is fleeting.
Some things fade. Others never do; you can go away for years but as soon as your seat hits the saddle again, they all come flooding back.
I pick up a new book and the old adrenaline rush is there, keeping me awake long past midnight, reading.
I watch a Bogart movie I've seen a dozen times and the thrill is new again.
As we pass through our limited span of days, what will we remember as we fade away ourselves?
A look. A laugh. A touch.
A thunderstorm seen from the back porch swing while sitting next to my dad when I was six years old, my feet stuck out straight in front of me, legs tense with the excitement of a flashing purple sky.
How many moments do we allow to blow away in the tepid winds of everyday? How can we hold onto the ones that want to hold onto us?
Their pictures play behind our eyes like new old movies, their voices whisper soft but insistent in our ears. And the tingle is there in our fingers as we hold a hand that is no longer holding ours. But we should hold onto it anyway.
And see again.
Never let go of the memories that don't want to let go of you.
Here's what's happening on 72nd St...
Well, I'm acting in a feature film this month which has proven to be quite fun. Great group of cast and crew. Will let you know when you can see it and where. Be patient. These things take awhile.
Speaking of which, Corpsing is moving to a completion date of post production of July 31st.
The trip to the Seton Hill Writing workshops was fun and informative. They'd screened one of my movies the night before I got there and it was an evil pleasure to listen to people talk about it (and say nice things - thank God), and not tell them that I had anything to do with it. One guy said that there had been a small child in the audience and that his mother had been so engrossed in the movie that she hadn't shielded his eyes which may result in the kid needing therapy someday to get over those scary images. Ah, it's the little things that make me feel warm and fuzzy.
Meanwhile, I toy with ideas, wanting to write one of them as soon as there's time. Which will be soon. There are new storms coming to enjoy. Things have been very busy, and I hope to have more detailed updates for you soon. And by the way...
...thanks to all of your who have written to me about this blog. Those of you I know, and those of you I haven't met yet. I'm happy to share some of my babbling with you, and glad to know that at least some of it makes sense. I don't write from a point of knowing, but of trying to figure it all out myself. Stay very tuned. Until next time...
June 20, 2012
Well, it's summer and today is the longest day of the year.
Sometimes, they all seem like the longest day of the year, ya know what I mean? Just end already, enough, let me slip back under the sheets and try again tomorrow.
But some days pass by too quickly. On short days, I'm sorry to see them go and wish the moments they've given me would linger longer.
We don't always control which kind of day we get. Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, our days suck.
But we do have a choice to at least try to make every day a good one.
I was up early this morning, e-mailing business stuff from coast to coast.
As I sit here now, listening to Sinatra remind me that my petty problems are timeless and universal, I feel better. (Thanks, Frank).
Later, when I mow the lawn in the blistering heat and have an icy cold beer afterwards (just one), I'll feel productive.
And then when I work on my oil painting on a comfy back porch, my mind will shift into neutral and I'll forget to ponder the past or fret the future. At least for a little while, I'll create. It won't be perfect, this painting, or this day that I'll make. But it'll be mine.
Salinger said, "It's this goddamn business of trying that makes an actor in the first place". Well, it's this goddamn business of trying that makes a writer, too. And it's trying, despite the blue meanies of the world, that makes us human.
Today, I'll try. To enjoy the moments. And if memories come, I'll try to focus on the good ones. And if fantasies of the future show up, I'll try to remember that the future is...whatever I'll try to make it.
Here's what's up on 72nd St...
The ADR / Looping section of Corpsing is coming along nicely. Other components of post production are being scheduled throughout the month of July. More distributors are contacting us, wanting to see it. This is good.
The WAPD Classes for HotTalk LA are written and ready to shoot as soon as I have a few days off. The "live" classes are filling up, too.
A play may be in the offing this fall. We shall see.
SHADYside is going through its tedious but necessary budgeting phase.
Seton Hill University is presenting a four-day series of workshops for writers starting this week. It's called In Your Right Mind, in case you want to sign up. On their first day, after the campus ghost tour, they're screening my film, On Sabbath Hill. I'm out of town that day, but will be attending as a student, one day only, on Friday, hoping for more inspiration from those hallowed halls.
Until next time...stay very tuned. And have a great day.
June 2, 2012
Things have had a way of simmering down to the essentials lately. Condensing into the sweet stuff. Letting the unimportant stuff evaporate.
It ain't easy. Life keeps rearing its ugly head and poking its nose into my business. Insisting that I take unexpected trips with it to places that I'd rather not go. Like Wal-Mart.
On some days, I have a program that allows me to touch on all of my projects and take care of personal and family matters, too. A schedule. A routine.
On days when this goes well, I feel like a Zen Master, moving from activity to activity with effectiveness and ease. When it doesn't go well, I feel like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, trying to dump the guns, run the coke and make the meatballs. All while being chased by a helicopter.
On others days, I allow obsession to rule the hours with a single project. I enjoy these days the most. They take me into a time machine, where I can write or paint and totally lose myself in the process.
Either way, life reveals itself as a combination of activities and emotions that move by far too fast if we don't take the time to experience them. And savor the experiences.
As writers and actors, we need to allow ourselves to feel. To be present in what we do. To really look at each other and see. Talk to each other and listen. And to really love what it is that life has given us. Every single day...and night.
Some things don't last forever. And some things do. There's magic. But only if we believe in it.
Here's what's up on 72nd St...
I recently did a Brown Bag Lunch interview with Jack Sullivan in LA. It's on YouTube if you want to give a listen. Jack's with NAPTE and is one of the finest guys in the business.
Lots of my former students out there kicking some butt lately.
Congrats to Mona Zhe, who developed her film, The White Heron, in my screenwriting class. It was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival and Mona went over to appear. Yay, Mona!
Jonathan Auxier's novel, Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes, is at Amazon, as is Roger Rudick's Confessions of a Comfort Girl.
Nick Kizina's Web series, Nevermore, starring Tyson Sears, just premiered.
And of course Kourtney Kang continues to write and produce those TV shows like How I Met Your Mother.
I'm really proud to know these folks and wish them well in their work, and their lives.
I'm now in development on SHADYside, a romantic comedy series with Bohemia Group Los Angeles, CMG, and Fifth Avenue Entertainment. I'm writing, and acting in this one.
Horror Realm in Pittsburgh, PA invited me to appear at their upcoming convention. I'll be there one day only, Saturday September 22, so stop on by.
More classes start this summer in downtown Pittsburgh. And the online classes for WAPD start soon, too.
And Corpsing is entering its final phase of post production with the team of Marcus Morelli and Levi Graft joining me for what promises to be a different kind of night at the movies.
Drop a line if you want. And stay very tuned. Until next time...
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