Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Serious Silly

This past week I finished a second draft on an hour long pilot (to be shot next month), directed the majority of scenes for my THE DRACULA FILES prequel,wrote two short films (also to be shot next month-- but the client rejected one of them), gave a critique, reviewed five sketches with my church group, and had a strategy meeting for a new children's book project.

And I just finished the first of six feature scripts that need to be read and reviewed by Thursday.

But first I have to be funny. About an unfunny thing.

I've been hired to help lighten a video special on "protecting your child from predators." The creators rightly think that the special will get rather heavy, and want a few comedic bits thrown in to make the journey more tolerable.

Not an unprecedented tactic. From Shakespeare lightening his tragedies with comedic characters to LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL finding the humor in the horrors of the holocaust, writers have protected their audiences from depression overload with comedy.

But for someone who can't even watch LAW & ORDER: SPORTS UTILITY VEHICLE, this assignment is especially tricky.

I have one of the two scripts down (see above), and have one more to do.

So tonight, between reading about the man in the moon and a greeting card company, I'll be telling the tale of a goofy dad and a silly son.

Wish me luck.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Made Up Problems

Many of my brothers and sisters work with kids. Shell helps them develop; Mark oversees their physical education; Patty home schools them; Mary raises them; Bob… well, I could go on, but there’s only so many gigs of space on the internet.

I work with kids too, sometimes. But I think the sibs have it easy. Their kids aren’t imaginary.

I spent today staring really hard at a wall, my bookshelf, the screen door, and the lights above my desk (two regular bulbs, one twisty fluorescent power saving bulb, one burnt out bulb), all while trying to figure out what a certain pretend kid needs (psychically) that can only be provided by a babysitter from an alien dimension.

I got notes from the producers on my first draft on Monday; and several people from my writer’s group sent in notes as well. So I have a rewrite due in a few days. But that can’t be done with knowing about this kid’s personal needs.

Shell can interview her kids and watch their behavior to figure them out.

That’s what I do, too; but what happens when the kid won’t talk or act? Just sit there waiting for me to tell him what to do, as if I’m supposed to know?

(Actually, I’m guessing Michelle has encountered the same problem.)

If Mark has trouble with a kid, he can just make ‘em do extra laps. (I know this to be true; I have listened to Bill Cosby.)

Maybe I should make my make-believe kid do laps. Maybe I should change the babysitter into a gym teacher. Yeah, there’s an idea!

So now I have a kid doing laps, and a gym teacher that fulfills his needs in an unknown way.


Back to work.

The kid. The kid. The kid. Maybe I should replace that bulb. Does being twisty really save energy? Right, the kid…

And so it goes…

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Friend and fellow writer Clare Sera made the trades today, check out her mention in Variety.

Pretty fancy schmancy when one of us has a sale; more so when the sale makes the papers.

Way to go Clare!

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Window

Personally, I blame the etch-a-sketch.

It was in the cupola, the small room that sits on top of the house that served as a bedroom for Mark and me. Not much room up there, just enough space for two cots and a dresser.

Mark and I were sitting on one of those cots, having a reasoned discussion over the current ownership of the etch-a-sketch – us both being reasonable young children. Somehow the reasonable discussion ended with Mark’s head being reasonable propelled through a window.

Now breaking things that required money to fix was a no-no in our household; so we weren’t worried so much about Mark’s head as the window – knowing full well that both our heads would roll when the window breakage was discovered.

But the cupola had advantages; the biggest being the narrow stairs that led up to the room. Our parents rarely, if ever, made the journey up those stairs.

So our solution to the problem was to ignore it, and hope that the window repair elves would magically show up one night.

Months passed; no elves. On cold nights, a sleeping bag would have to be stuffed into the hole in the window to keep out the elements. We could survive hypothermia more easily than discovery and punishment.

Until the day of the storm. Mark and I were out of the house, unaware of the impending events.

A rainstorm was on its way – had been kicking up for some time. And Dad sent Greg up to the cupola to make sure our windows – our windows! – were closed against the rain.

When we got home (where were we? Fear erases memory…) Dad was waiting for us.

“Mark. Sean. I have something serious to discuss with you.”

Serious – it was bad already.

“Because of the storm, I sent Greg up to your room to check your windows.”

That was it. My life flashed before my eyes, but being short up to that point, gave my time to imagine a few other people’s lives as well.

“And sons, the wind was blowing so strong, it actually blew out one of your windows. So I need you both to be very careful up there, in case there is any broken glass.”

“Really…” I said.

“I did notice the window looked awful weak,” Mark said.

I nodded in agreement. And later that week, the window elves showed up and replaced our window.

And that is how Mark was able to live to see his 40th birthday.

Happy Birthday, bro.

Just my thoughts,


PS In the middle photo, Mark is the screaming lad. The cool kid in the cowboy boots is yours truly.
In the the bottom picture, the guy looking like it made it to the top of Mt. St. Helens without breaking a sweat is Mark. He's actually dead tired. Embarassingly out of shape. We had a makeup artist do him up so he'd look less dead and sweated out. His sisters and I are in the picture to hold him up. I had to carry him back down. Or maybe he carried me... the details get a little fuzzy over time.

Friday, July 20, 2007


The idea is a serialized adaptation of Dracula, made to be viewed on the web. Each episode of THE DRACULA FILES will be five minutes in length; ultimately there will be between 50 and 60 episodes.

I met with a few producer types, and one of the suggestions was to write and shoot a prequel – showing the unique style of the project, and showing whether I can pull it off.

So I wrote a prequel, and starting Friday will shoot it.

I was asked if I found a donor to fund the shoot. Nope.

Using all free labor and free equipment, and paying for it in food and the glory of getting to work with me.

My friend Mark is running camera; Nicole, an asst editor on SUPERNATURAL is editing; and I got folks like Dave, Suzanne, Stacey, Natalie, Catherine (she’s cute) and a whole bunch more to act in it.

So if you’re in town on Friday night, and want to be an extra in a film…

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


As I have been learning more about being a partner with my spouse; and as I yearn more to see her success; I grow more in understanding.

Ginger Rogers said:

"When two people love each other, they don't look at each other, they look in the same direction."

And perhaps we stumble towards an understanding of love rather than mere attraction.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Scary Bits

Some of y’all have been asking for more details on some of my happenings, so here ya go:

One of my favorite books is DRACULA by Bram Stoker; quite possibly the scariest book I’ve ever read. And I’ve been yearning to adapt it for the stage or screen.

But there is a problem adapting this book – at least the heart of it.

Part of what makes the book so darn chilling is how it is told: Stoker gives us the story from shifting angles, using journal entries, letters between characters, newspaper clippings, ship’s logs, etc to tell the tale.

There is no third person omniscient, no “Dracula hides around the corner as Mina makes her way down the hall” type stuff. We only know the little bit that the characters know. And with the constant shifting of point of view, we as the reader have to put the story together. The story isn’t told; it is caught in fragments.

The audience is more involved, which makes the stakes higher, which makes the scares scarier.

But you can’t have a film with someone standing around reading some letters for two hours. So every movie and play has shifted instantly to third person omniscient, which is just fine.

Until now.

It has taken me a while, but I’ve finally figured out how to tell the story in a way that would do Bram proud.

The Dracula Files.

Stay tuned for more…

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers."

-George Orwell

Friday, July 13, 2007

Frigga Fobia

Cynopsis reminded me that today is a rough one for folks with Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13), or even worse Friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th).

She failed to mention these other less-well known fears:

Cinefriggatriskaidekaphobia – The fear that New Line will release yet another slasher film starring Jason in a hockey mask.

TGIFriggatriskaidekaphobia – The fear that eating at a franchise sports bar 13 times will result in food poisoning.

ThorNotFriggatriskaideka-n-sleepaphobia – Fear of spending all day Thursday the 13th thinking it is Friday the 13th, and then be two hours late for work the next day because you slept in.

MissaFriggatriskaidekaphobia – the unreasonable fear that you will not know that it is Friday the 13th and feel guilty for the rest of the year for missing out on some good phobia time.

So if you see someone cowering in a corner, be kind. Oh, and balance out the universe by giving a black cat some love.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sellars as Olivier doing Richard III as Written by Beatles

Some inspired silliness from Peter Sellars.

Cath hooted over this video at work; Cooper was prompted to ask if this started William Shatner's singing career.

Thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for the link.

Puts me in mind of friend Sam, laying us all out on the floor in hysterics as he rendered "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a very, very serious spoken monologue.

"Thunderbolts" -- severe look to the right, eyebrows arch -- "and lightning" -- look straight out -- "very" -- pause for dramatic effect, slight shiver -- "very frightening" deep breath, soak in the moment...

What are your suggestions for the best (or worse, depending on your point of view) lyrics that could/(should never) become dramatic monologues?

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pouring Rain

So now that I've said how busy I am, let me tell you:

I'm sick. Out all day with a throat screaming in pain, which has become a clogged head.

Oh, and my desktop computer won't start. So no access to e-mails or general files, or my calendar.

Because attempting to juggle all the projects due plus a full week at WB and plans to make a short film were way too easy...

Things that caught my attention since the last post:

Our worship leader at church mentioning that eternity isn't something that happens later, but is something that starts right now.

And friend Jodi giving a devotional to my church drama group, focusing on coming to Jesus "like little children." Lots of cool stuff in her chat, but I was expressly grabbed by a children's story she read that talked of a place where all people were graded by either gold stars or gray dots. Anyone in town could put stickers on you -- gold or gray, depending on their judgments.

Of course, the hero of the story only wanted to get a bunch of stars stuck to him, and not dots. Until he met a girl that neither stars nor dots could stick to -- she had spent time with the maker, and didn't put stock in either the good or bad judgments of anyone else.

That's an oversimplification of an already simple story, but there's the gist.

Put me in mind of a story of John Houseman when he ran the Acting Company. He wouldn't let his actors read their reviews -- good or bad -- because he felt they would start performing for the reviewers and not for the company.

Just my muddled thoughts,


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Busy Business

Business is good. Zondervan sent me word that both LARRYBOY AND THE SINISTER SNOWDAY and LARRYBOY AND THE EMPEROR OF ENVY have gone to additional printings.

And an out-of-town producer has hired me to spend the next month writing a television pilot.

Catherine got her SAG card (Screen Actor's Guild).

Willow Creek is producing a short I wrote for use in their service.

I have two more shorts being produced through Yake Films, this time for Carman 5 Star Entertainment.

And I'm hoping to shoot a prequel for my THE DRACULA FILES project at the end of July.

All to say that I am too busy to sit here writing to you about random stuff like what I have going on business-wise these days. But I just did, so... there.

Go watch a T.J. Dallas video and entertain yourself for awhile.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, July 06, 2007

Better Storytelling

Thanks to Jennifer for sending me this link to a Christianity Today article on Donald Miller (of BLUE LIKE JAZZ fame).

Here is an excerpt:

"Truth is rooted in story, not in rational systems. The Christian mission is not well served when we speak in terms of spiritual laws or rational formulas. Propositional truths, when extracted from a narrative context, lack meaning. "The chief role of a Christian," he says, "is to tell a better story.""

Interesting... keep talking...

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rodent Cuisine

There’s a rat in the kitchen…

And it is a very good thing.

A group of us went to see Pixar’s RATATOUILLE on Sunday.

Okay, I already said Pixar, so I shouldn’t have to say anything else, but I will anyway. And I will start by saying that the movie has a few major handicaps.

First, a new Pixar short shows before the movie, and it is HI-larious! Which only sets the bar really high from the get go.

Second, this is the story of a rat who ends up cooking in a restaurant. A disgusting idea.

And third… Oh, forget about the handicaps – they only work to make the experience more delightful!

Brad Bird helms the project (I know you have seen THE INCREDIBLES, so good for you; and if you haven’t seen THE IRON GIANT get over yourselves and see it now). Brad does his usual… hey, you! I said go see THE IRON GIANT now! Why are you still reading?!!!

Sorry about that (someone has to mess it up for the rest of us). As I was saying, he does his usual job of turning things on their head. A kiddie flick about superheroes that is really an adult film about family? Sure. A story about a boy and his made-as-a-weapon-ready-to-destroy-the-world robot having heart-warming depth? Why not?

Just give him your French rat in a kitchen challenge, and he and the sous-chefs of Pixar will whip it up into a soufflé so intricately light and beautiful, you will ask for more.


Funny? Oh, ho ho ho, yes.

Beautifully animated? Told with visual panache and elegance, check.

Has heart? Hey, this is Pixar – of course it has heart to spare!

And it has surprise…

The folks at the bouncing desklamp are known for spending time making their stories tight. But not just tight – surprising and tight. And I don’t mean with the big twists (the rat was dead all the time! No wait, that is a different movie…)

I mean within the basic plot. Certain things need to happen in the story, and we as an audience know they need to happen. For example, in this plot, the food critic will have to, at some point, review the restaurant.

But how it is done… ah! That is where the master cook comes in. Salt and pepper will work just fine; we have seen salt and pepper work fine before.

But the master thinks wider than salt and pepper to spices that we would never have thought of – yet once tasted we think, “but of course! Saffron is perfect!”

And it is just those touches, those dashes of unexpected perfectly chosen spice that makes RATATOUILLE quite possibly my favorite in a long line of favorite Pixar movies.

So get a comfortable table, an appropriate bottle of wine (or tub of popcorn), relax, and enjoy your meal.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, July 03, 2007


There is a humorous e-mail called “Why We Love Children” floating around (authors unknown). The first vignette is titled: “1. Nudity.” Here it is:

“I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom, that lady isn't wearing a seat belt!"”

I like this story, not only because it is funny, but because it is quite G-dly.

We point in shock at all manner of impropriety, while labeling the doers as “bad” for upsetting our sensibilities.

Yet G-d sees past the nudity to the more important fact that one of his kids is putting herself needlessly in harm’s way.

Just my thoughts,