Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)tumblr_n25hg1eshy1rt7qgbo1_500

I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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My Latest Screenplay: TAKEOFF

This past November I participated in NaNoWriMo, and I wrote the feature length action film, TAKEOFF.

I never what will give birth to an idea for a screenplay. Historically speaking, it was something I was watching on television, reading, joking about, or talked with a friend about during an inebriated debate. I wrote UNIT C19 when I binged watched every episode of Storage Wars.

TAKEOFF was the result of my semi-guilty obsession with the television show Airplane Repo. Using re-enactments and interviews, our team of “airplane liberators” and high end repossession artists share their most risky, dangerous, and entertaining jobs. Retrieving monster trucks from backwoods rednecks and multimillion-dollar jets from bankrupt playboys, you have no idea what to expect next. It’s “reality TV” at it’s finest.

TAKEOFF follows Justin Case, a former military pilot in Afghanistan turned high-end repossession artist. Think MISSION IMPOSSIBLE meets GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS. Haunted by the loss of his friend during the war, Justin and his team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: stealing an airplane from a group of terrorists in the middle East. They soon discover they are the targets of a much bigger mission, one that’s spanning decades, continents and will test their bonds of friendships. There’s love. There’s sex. There’s bullets and bombs. There’s drugs and even a little bit of politics. It’s not too deep, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be an action movie, plain and simple. Michael Mann would LOVE directing this film!

This was a fun project because most of my screenwriting has been dramatic thrillers, while this was an unapologetic action film. It isn’t mean to grab hold of you, keeping you awake at night with questions about your own morality. TAKEOFF is intended to entertain as you quickly flip through the pages, watching the film in your mind, excitement building with each scene until you reach the climax, a dangerous, fiery-shootout in a foreign country! It’s 143 pages that just flies by!

I’m almost done editing it, and when I do, I’ll include a link of it here. In the meantime, you can see the rest my library of screenplays here.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

 

Hey Artist, Start a Newsletter!

I love creative people.

There’s something inherently fascinating to me about people that create art. Whether it’s painting, music, film, writing, racing, manufacturing, or some other creative outlet, I get a ton of joy out of speaking with people about the motivations and ambitions behind their art. If given the chance, I’ll give my “two cents” about how they can turn their art into their full time job. Regardless of the genre of art you create in, chances are my first bit of advice is to start a newsletter.

In the constantly moving digital landscape of today, the most important thing you can do is to deliver consistently. If you deliver quality work on a consistent basis, people will begin to incorporate your work into their lives. Just as we know what day of the week our favorite television show comes out, delivering your content on a consistent basis will create an expectation of delivery and people will work you into their routines to consume it. Dependability and reliability are essential for building trust. Again, consistency is the keyword here.

That’s where the newsletter comes in, and it’s actually way easier than you think. In the beginning, there’s no need to get bogged down by third-party websites and apps to help you deliver a high quality newsletter to thousands of subscribers. Google allows you to send up to 500 e-mails a day, so chances are that’s going to be more than enough to get started with.

img_6990Step 1: Ask your friends. Unless your artistic talent is a complete secret (why?!?!), your friends will know what kind of art you make and, if they’re actually friends worth having, they want to support you in your artistic pursuit (in the least financially taxing way possible). The easiest thing to do is shoot your friends a quick text message, asking them if you can add them to your new mailing list. Unless they’re a complete asshole, chances are they’re gonna say yes!

In the half dozen times I’ve done this, I’ve never once encountered somebody who didn’t want to be included in the newsletter. People I’ve added without their permission, however, never hesitate to let you know they’re not interested.

Step 2: Build a Spreadsheet. I’m sure the idea of a “spreadsheet” scares the most sensitive of artists, but when you’re starting out, having an organization system for your contacts is essential. The reason I recommend starting with a spreadsheet is because, later in the process when you’re ready to upgrade to those newsletter programs, you can easily upload your spreadsheet into your contacts list. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you do need to make sure that at a bare minimum, you have their First Name, Last Name, and E-mail Address.

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to manually input contact information, I recommend making a simple Google Form, asking for their contact information, which will dump their answers into a spreadsheet on your Google Drive. Post this Form on a landing page and share the web address on your social media accounts and include a link in the bottom of your e-mail.

Step 3: Pick a delivery day and stick with it. As we went on ad nauseam earlier, consistency is key. Think about what day you’re want to send out your newsletter, and be sure to consider the time you’ll need prior to create and deliver the content. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’d also spend some time thinking about “where” your content fits into your subscriber’s lives. If you’re a motivational writer, you may want to consider sending out your e-mail early in the week (when people are motivated) and early in the day (when people need a jumpstart). If your speciality is nature photography, maybe think about sending out your newsletter in the middle of the week, while people are making plans for the weekend. (Bonus points if you can build the expectation into the title of your newsletter like, “MAD Potential Mondays” or “Don’t Die on Saturdays.”)

PRO TIP: With a little searching, you can easily find an extension or Google App that allows you to send e-mails at a later date. Find what works for you!

Step 4: Engage. You want to share your art, you asked your friends if you could share it with them, you found a day that works for you, and now you’ve sent out the first edition of your art newsletter. Congratulations… now get back to work! Now is the most important time to engage with your readers. Ask them what they thought of your art. Ask what they’d like to see in the newsletter. Ask if they’d consider sharing it with their friends. This first wave of support is the most important, you want your readers to share your content, letting the ripple extend beyond your reach. Feed the animals and they’ll feed you back!

Step 5: Monetize. Okay, this is way down the line (most likely months or years), but it’s worth keeping in mind early in the process. When it comes to cultivating an online presence, the most important thing you can have is a robust mailing list. Having a solid mailing list allows you direct access to your readers, which opens up longterm financial opportunities like brand cultivation, selling merchandise to your readers, or advertising space in your newsletter to sponsors. I promise you don’t need hundreds of thousands of fans, in fact, some people (like Kevin Kelly) believe all you need is 1000 true fans.

Sounds easy enough, right?

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Instagram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Let’s say you’re an artist, like my friend AaronHe draws cartoons containing some odd, dark, creative characters. I really like his stuff and one day I can see it on shirts and skateboard decks (apparently he’s already done shirts, so he must be onto something).

I asked him if he’d considered starting a newsletter, and he (like many), simply thought it was too much work. I told him it didn’t have to be too crazy, just one comic and a little paragraph about it, with a call for sharing at the bottom. Again, the guy goes to school and he works nights, so the free time he does get he tries to spend with his girlfriend, his pitbull, or drawing. The thing he does not want to do is spend his hard-earned free time building spreadsheets. I totally get it.

I might have begged him to reach out to his friends and ask if they would be interested in receiving his newsletter, and he did. I laid out the four steps above for him and told him about another artist that I’d give the same advice to…

Week 1: First Newsletter. He sent out the newsletter to his closest 20 friends from his Gmail account. Just one comic on Friday. A few people responded, but it wasn’t a standing ovation his first time at bat. No biggie. Onward!

Week 2: Second Newsletter. The all-important follow up. Successful delivery of the first newsletter shows that you have the ability to craft and deliver an e-mail (good for you!), but when the second e-mail newsletter shows up in your readers’ inbox, their thinking shifts. They recognize you’re serious about this newsletter thing, so subconsciously, they’re gonna give it a tad more attention than they did the first time. Again, a few more people responded, complimenting him on the cartoon and newsletter. He even got a few shares on social media and picked up a few new readers. Progress!15302514_373258299674168_1234013622_o

Week 3: He missed it. Sometimes life gets in the way, or you aren’t inspired, or whatever, but he did not send out his newsletter on the third week. To many newsletters, this could be a death wish. He tried, he got off the ground, but crashed on week three. One could assume in the finicky world of e-mail newsletters that many would have crossed him off the list and moved on with their lives…

But that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, he received a few e-mails like, “Hey! It’s Friday. Where’s the newsletter?” In just two short weeks, he had already worked his way into the Friday routines of some of his readers. Circus clowns only need “that one person” to laugh in order for everything to be worth it. Your newsletter shouldn’t be much different, if it matters to one (other) person, it’s worth it!

He buckled down and got the newsletter out for Week 3. His tribe was content… for now.

Week 4: Back on it. Now that he knew his cartoon newsletter was not only being read, but also anticipated, he got back onto the newsletter game with more fervor than ever. He worked hard on his craft, working long hours into the night. He was being relied upon now and he promised himself (and them) he wasn’t going to let them down. He started promoting, and sharing, and encouraging others to sign up for the newsletter. The rest? You’re gonna have to join his newsletter to find out.

If you’re an artist, consider starting a newsletter. It’s simply another venue for you to display and disseminate your art, but unlike Facebook and Twitter and those message boards you thought would promote you, direct e-mail is the most likely to be opened and acted upon. If you’re knocking on their door, chances are they’re gonna open up for you. And when they do, I hope you’re standing there with your best art in your hands, ready to share.

CHE

P.S. If you want to join Aaron’s newsletter, leave your name and e-mail address below and I’ll pass it along to him!

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Instragram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Stacking The Deck

As someone who is doing his best to be constantly creating, I am always looking for avenues to share my work with people, and hopefully make a little cash at the same time. I host an entire podcast on this very idea, but I wanted to take a minute to rattle off a few of the easiest ones you can get started off with. You know, if you were into this kinda thing.

Podcasts

For The Mystery Tin Podcast Network, we have a website with an RSS feed that delivers our entire content. The individual podcasts are broken out into their own feeds listed in the iTunes Podcast Marketplace. If you’re doing any kind of podcast, you need to be on iTunes. With millions of people listening to podcasts now, that’s the #1 place they go to subscribe. The “Top Podcasts” and “New & Noteworthy” sections of the iTunes podcast marketplace is where advertisers find their shows. You need to do everything you can to get in there.

Outside of advertisers, iTunes makes a strong point how the podcasts will always be free. One possibility of making money from your podcast is to post it on Youtube also. It is true that most people listen to podcasts from their mobile device, but don’t count out the amount of listeners that will find you on YouTube. If your listenership is active and vocal on your YouTube videos, Google will ask to advertise on your podcast and start cutting you checks. (Before you jump to conclusions, the payout is less than $2 for every 1,000 views)

Writing

There’s obviously a few simple venues here. You can blog, preferably daily, to earn money through advertisements. You can start a newsletter and raise a few dollars by finding sponsors. Or if you’re a long form author, you can take the direct route and self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle or one of the print-it-yourself sites.

I’m planning on self-publishing the book I’m working on currently. The part I’m looking forward to is having it available in my own online store, but with a special caveat: each book purchased will come with personalized, handwritten dedication page inside the book’s .pdf. It’s immensely personal yet remains entirely digital. Your readers will be gladly toss in a few extra bucks for that.

Photography

If you’re a good photographer, don’t be afraid to let people know about your work. If you’ve taken a photograph that features a product, person, place, or something else with an Instagram account, tag them in your picture! It’s not selling out, it’s showing up. Especially when they notice your post and like it!

The more you share your work with others, the attention you’ll receive, and that’s what sponsors are looking for. Brands are looking for their biggest supporters to turn into even bigger supporters. If there’s a company you love out there, take pictures and tag the company. You’re living in the worst case scenario, a zero sum game. Best case scenario? They reach out to you for content. Now you’re cooking with gas.

Marketing

If you’ve got a few irons in the fire, you’re gonna need to alternative giving each of them their proper amount of attention and promotion. The attention is the hard part, the promotion is the easy part.

Give yourself some time to sit down and schedule out your social media activity all at once. Promotional tweets and Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. can all be scheduled in advance, with your real time live-tweeting happening around them. Changing up the copy will help keep your readers from getting “brand fatigue” but if you can schedule out a week of automated sales messages, you can focus on the attention part of your art.

What other tips, tricks, websites, life-hacks, or magic tricks have you discovered in your delivering own creative endeavors? Share them below!

Chris

Serial Killers, Black List Reviews, and Creeping Self-Doubt.

All in all, there doesn’t seem like a path for this project to reach the big screen.”

For the last few months, I have been working really hard on revising my horror screenplay, The Chessboard Killer. Based on the horrific true story of Alexander Pichushkin who, from 1994 to 2006, rose from an everyday grocery clerk in Moscow to the infamous Chessboard Killer, one of the Russia’s most prolific serial killers. The script is creepy and eerie and psychological. I really love this story and I would love to see it on film one day.

When I uploaded it to the Black List the first time, the two reviews I received were mixed. I received one “higher than average” score and one “much lower than average” score. Most importantly, both evaluations echoed some of the same points in order to make the script better, including “the way the film is currently structured makes it inherently anti-dramatic.” Wow. That’s a stab to the gut. But okay, I’ll bite.

The Chessboard Killer is told in three, interweaving plot lines: the killings, the trial proceedings, and a discussion over a chess match between two people, all braided together from start to finish. I recognized that by starting at the end (with opening statements in the court proceedings), there is no question whether or not the killer is caught and brought to justice. Anti-dramatic. Bingo.

So I restructured the script again. I put the court proceedings at the end, and added a few more scenes digging into the psychological imbalance of our killer, as well as elaborating on a few more areas that required my attention. When I finished, I confidently revised the hosted script and requested another review with high hopes of my reorganized horror thriller. I fantasized that I had made all the necessary changes to not only get a high score, but start down the path to being “green lit.” It’s all there. It’s perfect. I even wanted to submit it to the Austin Film Festival. And what’s the best horror screenplay list called, The Blood List? Check.

Yesterday, I received the third review, and much to my dismay, it was only slightly better than my lowest score. I stewed on the score for well over an hour, sitting in Los Angeles traffic on my way home after work. Honestly, it hurt my feelings. My brain was flooded with self-doubt. I thought I’d finally been exposed for my amateurish writing style. Had I been exposed as an imposter? Am I even good at this? I went to bed last night depressed, questioning all the time I’ve spent writing things that will never be read, or seen, or filmed, by anyone… so what’s the point?

I woke up this morning feeling relieved. I cycled back to The Chessboard Killer. It was my third screenplay, written back in 2011, before the Black List was what it is now (I’m currently starting my tenth screenplay, for what it’s worth). But the time felt right and I just wanted to make the script work so badly. I hoped that all the experience I’d gained since 2011 would help me turn it into a good, scary film worth watching. But for some reason, I just couldn’t do it. The words of my mother echoed around in my head, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”

I love writing screenplays and I have no intention of actually stopping. What I really needed was a sign that this project was no longer worth my full attention, energy, or emotional investment. The final review wrapped up with that line, “All in all, there doesn’t seem like a path for this project to reach the big screen.” That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Although the Black List reviews were not favorable to my script, I found them very helpful. I reminded myself these bad reviews and low scores were of the screenplay The Chessboard Killer, not Christopher Hills Eaton, the guy who wrote The Chessboard Killer. It was the story that wasn’t working, not me as a writer or a successful human being. This particular screenplay doesn’t have longevity, but perhaps others will.

I’m killing this script and moving on to the next one.

CHE

LOVE & KRYLON: The #SixWeekSpec Challenge

tumblr_nc9ctpuN4k1rt7qgbo1_500As you can tell, this is my first post in a long time. That’s because I’ve been hard at work writing my latest screenplay, LOVE & KRYLON (click the link if you’re a member of The Black List). I was one of the “Selected Ten” involved with the #SixWeekSpec challenge, put on by screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe in association with The Black List. Starting September 1, 2014, I had six weeks to deliver a feature length screenplay (90+ pages) to The Black List to receive four professional reviews.

If you would like to see what I wrote for Geoff, as well as the experience of the other “Selected Ten” writers, go here.

tumblr_nc8831aDmo1rt7qgbo1_500Overall, I thought the process was really fun. Once I get the idea in my head for a story, I can crush out a solid outline in no time. Starting with that outline, I was able to finish the first draft of the screenplay in just over ten days. After that I continued to expand and refine elements of the script until I had to turn it in on October 15, 2014. When it was over and finished, I was really freaked out that I had spent six weeks writing a story that didn’t accomplish anything. My friends already knew my “twist” before reading the script, so there were no fresh perspectives on my story. Of the friends I shared it with, only a handful of them returned with notes (or even really acknowledged they received it in the first place). As excited as I was about this opportunity, it sadly dawned on me that many of my friends just weren’t interested. It was just more reading. The ones that were interested, responded with great notes.

tumblr_ndjndh579P1rt7qgbo1_500My reviews were overall positive, with my script scoring above the average. The feedback the reviewers provided was incredibly constructive, with the same needs and areas of attention mentioned by all of the reviews. Perhaps surprisingly, this breeds confidence in my storytelling, as many of the changes could easily be worked out in further drafts and as I continue to grow as a screenwriter.

The positives of my script, and the prospects that lie ahead, were extremely flattering. In my one moment of self-promotion, I’m going to give you a few of the best quotes about LOVE & KRYLON.

  • “One of the clear strengths in this script is how the writer is able to make one of the billboards in the story a character. This billboard is really what the story tracks from page one to the fade out and it stays with the audience throughout all of the plot and other character developments. The final image with the billboard is full of angst, satisfaction and an overall saddening emotion that encompasses the entire script.”
  • “This reads like a festival title; a film that would be made for as cheap as possible, hope to gain some attention and buzz on the festival circuit, and then be picked up by a distributor… By and large, coming-of-age films are low-risk/low-reward endeavors; they tend to have limited success in theaters because of a presumed lack of stakes. That’s not an issue here, so with enough buzz this could find a way to get a limited theatrical release in addition to VOD/streaming.”

So what’s next? I’m going back through LOVE & KRYLON, editing and refining based on the feedback I’d received from The Black List. Once I finish the next draft, I’ll probably quickly send it around and post it back to the Black List to get another review (hopefully an 8) so that I’ll have a SOLID base of views, and reviews, for starting my hustle in 2015.

I’ve also outlined my next project. But I’ll update you on that at a later date.

CHE

Breakup Letters to my unmade scripts

ImageFrancis Ford Coppola said his “films are like ex-girlfriends, once they are finished, you never go back.” The analogy stuck with me because the sentiment is an important one: learn when to stop working on something and move onto the next one. And when you do, don’t look back.

I heard John August mention the concept of a writer composing letters to old projects as a method of accepting the choice to move on. It sounded a bit extreme but I figured it might be fun to bust out all my old scripts and give them one last critique. (Apparently I’m good at the “Compliment Sandwich.”)

These screenplays embody moments in my recent past. They are an accurate survey of my passions, interests, decisions, journeys of self-discovery. Through writing I’ve been fortunate enough to indulge in fascinating topics including police pursuit statistics (Pursuit), storage unit auctions (Unit C19), Russian serial killers (The Chessboard Killer), secret societies (The Brotherhood), dream psychology (Dream Job), oil drilling techniques, World War II, small town politics and more.

It was all so exciting and new. Each relationship was unique. They inspired me to try things I had never done before. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t the steadiest of a partner. From the booze-and-rebull fueled one night stand on the bathroom floor to the 11 month “cops and robbers” love affair and the eerie guilty pleasure that landed me a literary agent. I asked for a hammer for my birthday. I became obsessed, delusional and sometimes even hysterical, walking around the room talking to myself. I used to wake up before sunrise to put in some quality time before neglecting them for days, maybe even weeks. There’s no doubt this was a difficult time… for both of us.

I changed. They DEFINITELY changed.

There were times when I didn’t even recognize some of the things I’d initially found so appealing. The relationships evolved into something complicated, something neither one of us had really foreseen from our blank slate start. We grew up. We matured. We did it together.

But now I need more. I have grandiose plans for my writing. I want to delve into history with a fresh, dramatic perspective. I want to explore the gritty moments that explain why it is “hard to be a human being.” I want to make people laugh and cry in a comforting, uncontrollable manner.

I need to move on to do this.

I promise I’ll think back on the times we had together fondly. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

So where should I start…

***

I knew the truth would come out one day

It was the summer of 2007, between my junior and senior year in college. That winter, my fraternity had been kicked off campus. Having narrowly avoided expulsion, I tried to figure out a way to keep our fraternity going underground. You know, pledge people secretly? Skull and Bones shit, kind of.

BAM! It hit me like a “swing” from a pledge father’s paddle.

I had taken a few film classes. Other members of my fraternity were film students. So I got to thinking… What if we applied for some kind of “independent project” to produce a film… about pledging. We could recruit people we wanted to be “pledge brothers with” (haze) to “volunteer” to be actors in our film.

In the school’s eyes they would have been volunteer “actors” in a student production. To us, they would be pledges.

So in one long night, I locked myself in the downstairs bathroom of my parents house (intentionally reminiscent of my fraternity house basement) and wrote The Brotherhood, a chronicle of pledging that wholly deserves the “Inspired By a True Story” disclaimer. Sure, I may have changed a few things, came up with my own Latin oaths and switched up the “special handshake,” but remember this was intended to be a student reproduction of our pledge process. I kept it (somewhat) legit.

I think that’s when I realized that I loved the idea of shooting The Brotherhood more than actually getting 40 college dudes to stop partying and banging chicks for long enough to produce a student film. I was totally convinced that my friends and I could have pulled this off seamlessly if we were only given the chance. Sure, there would be speed bumps, but there’s always issues, we’d just handle them as they came along. Come on, we’re bros!

I just figured if my brothers wanted to stay friends and haze some kids while doing it, this was the best way to do it and get back at the school that didn’t want us to remain friends anymore. Not only were we going to haze kids… we were going to film it.

It may have been in everyone’s best interest that this relationship didn’t move on to the next level. It was heated and exciting, but there wasn’t much thought in it. I struggled to develop character but I resorted to things I was comfortable with. I was lazy. Who am I kidding? Think of all the trouble we could have gotten in if this whole “pledging movie” thing went south… yesh.

So Thank You Brotherhood. You were my first… well, not really, I had written one back in high school when I was a sophomore that was utter garbage, but it was really more of an exercise in the structure than something to invest fully in. I remember the night itself more than the main characters. Just the way I want to.

I haven’t seen you in a while, Brotherhood. You may be lost forever for all I know, but that too may be for the best. Do I really need to hash up these old memories? Do I really need to know if the main character actually survives pledging and makes it to Initiation Day?! Do I make references to The Skulls and Animal House? (No, yes and absolutely.)

It’s been over six years since I wrote this script. I moved back to California after college, while a majority of my fraternity remained in the Northeast. They’re still a pretty tightly knit group. I think a bunch of them are engaged to women we went to college with… many of them from sororities. They live together in groups of 2s and 3s. They meet up for drinks weekly… maybe the brotherhood part of it actually worked.

I’m in and out of communication with most of them now. I miss calls every once in a while and I absolutely intend to call them back. Life gets busy, you know. Who knows, maybe saying goodbye will free me up to catch back up with those guys.

***

tumblr_mnw7tbhM7x1rt7qgbo1_500I don’t remember how it started. I only remember how it ended…

I was either in law school or working at the civil litigation law firm when a pamphlet about Safer High Speed Pursuits came across my desk. It was mostly an information packet about high speed pursuits and the methods in which police departments were choosing to address the obvious safety concerns. I found some of the tactics interesting, others amusing, and some downright ridiculous.

That was until I stumbled onto the Starchaser program (http://www.starchase.com). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was something straight out of the movies or The Need For Speed video games. It was a very cool “toy” for someone who may or may not be a fantastic driver. If the beacon misses, it could potentially do some damage. To do this safely requires experts, I thought.

Generally, when there’s a serious situation that needs to be handled, law enforcement calls in the SWAT Team. With nearly 500 high-speed pursuits a year resulting in millions of dollars in damages and civilian deaths, why isn’t there a “SWAT Team” for high speed pursuits?

So the idea was born: a SWAT Team for high speed pursuits. We could even market it as G.I. Joe, Fast & The Furious, and SWAT all rolled into one action-packed movie! There’s NO WAY this film wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser. I called it “Omega Unit” because if you absolutely needed a chase to end, you call in these guys.

I put everything I had into it. I would wake up early and race home after work to write. I was also commuting from the East Bay to San Francisco, in which I had up to two hours of sitting in traffic brainstorming. It was all I thought about.

And let me tell you, I overwrote the shit outta that script. I had every detail described down to the license plates on the squad cars. It was really more of a light novel with a (somewhat foreseeable) twist ending. After 11 months of churning through this action packed screenplay (subsequently changing the name to “Pursuit”), I decided to step out of my comfort zone and submit my screenplay to a competition…

… and I won.

Well, kind of. I entered the screenplay into multiple categories, one of which seemed to be geared exclusively towards alumni of my college. In the categories you WANT to win (Best Action Screenplay, Best Dramatic Screenplay, etc.) I was nowhere to be found, not even in the honorable mentions. But then… down at the bottom of the list… I WON! The “Award for Excellence in the Screenwriting” (the award for my college’s alumni) was awarded to me with nobody else even listed. No honorable mentions. No nothing…

I think I was the only entrant in the category, but fuck it! A WIN IS A WIN IS A WIN.

There’s a number of reasons things didn’t work out with Pursuit, chiefly the fact I never felt good enough about it. I knew it was overwritten, and I knew it was a high concept film, and therefore, unfortunately, a high budget film. We are all Pursuing something and ultimately, the film’s police pursuits were more enticing them the main character’s personal pursuit.

I may be moving on, but I promise I will think of you often. In fact, every time I red line my girlfriend’s scooter and the 125 CC hybrid engine “roars,” I imagine myself being the amateur Grand Prix racer in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon…

… then I snap back into reality and carefully apply the brakes.

***

tumblr_mnwc91YaJf1rt7qgbo1_500There’s only one place advertising can’t get to us… yet.

It literally came to me while I was sleeping. I don’t know if that means I had a Steve Jobs-esque moment where I imagined the future, or maybe the technology I had just dreamed up already exists. Either way, I shot out of bed and frantically scribbled down everything I could remember from my dream, which eventually became “The Dream Job.”

Imagine what would happen if corporations had the technology to provide product placement in user’s dreams. They would become the world’s most powerful company, opening up a whole new venue for companies to attract customers. Now it would essentially be impossible to escape the clutches of big business.

When I submitted the screenplay to the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition, the criticism it received was mixed. They referred to it as a “psychological corporate thriller” before really knocking me down a few notches. They said story I built around the central concept of “dreamvertising” was fascinating, but my current interpretation of the story wasn’t as compelling as it could be. The twist ending was praised, but the payoff could be much MUCH bigger.

I wanted this to work SO BADLY. We sought therapy from screenwriter J.B. White, but it became apparent I still had growing up to do. I kept working on it, hoping to explore the depths of our relationship. I fine tuned. I edited. I dreamt. But in the end, like the very technology the film revolves around, it seemed as though this screenplay would only find traction sometime in the distant future and if I was to have any chance of actually making it one day, I would need to move onto other, new projects.

Out of respect for what we had, I won’t continue to drudge up the specifics. It wasn’t right for where I was in my life and career. Plain and simple, we weren’t meant to be at this point in time. To rehash the reasons why won’t do either of us any good in the long run.

So goodbye for now Dream Job. I hope that one day our lives will once again intertwine and we can finally see the sweet, sweet magic we could make together.

***

tumblr_mo58tfd8RX1rt7qgbo1_500I found myself wandering through Golden Gate Park for hours… all alone.

While procrastinating in law school, I ran across news articles on Alexander Pichushkin. (For those of you who aren’t going to click the link) Alexander Pichushkin claims to have murdered 61 people in Bitsa Park in Moscow, Russia over a period of 15 years. He lured homeless people (and later friends of his) to obscure corners of the park with offerings of Vodka, only to smash in their heads and throw their bodies into open sewer hatches. Many bodies were never discovered.

That’s fucking crazy.

I read everything I could about him. I even consulted Russian-speaking friends of mine about translating the court transcripts into English. I dove into the Russian legal system and examined the case’s progress. I watched interviews and documentaries. This was my very own case study that I wasn’t getting any law school credit for.

I was fascinated by the duality of Alexander’s life. For everything the outside world (including his family) saw of him, he was incredibly “average,” nothing deserving of extra attention. If he had a different mindset he probably would have made a decent spy. He was invisible. Yet by the end, he claimed to have erased the lives of 61 people, intentionally and methodically.

I wanted to see this as a movie, but due to foreseeable legal woes, I decided I wanted to do a “reimagining.” But where? The third most visited park in the United States could provide the right amount of cover for a blossoming serial killer… The main character would kill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Two years later, I finally decided it was time to stop “saying” and start “doing,” so I got to writing. I would write late into the night, the street light outside my window illuminating my desk into the early hours. I spent hours walking around Golden Gate Park, imagining the scenes I was writing in the very trees around me. I would dictate scenes into my voice recorder. I remember finding places that I thought would be good hiding spots for sneak attacks. I located sewer openings large enough for a body to be dropped in.

I walked alone through the streets of San Francisco, just like Alex did on the streets of Moscow. Not bothering anyone. Not doing anything unique. Just moving with the current, yet completely disconnected. Is this what it’s like?

It was another relationship where I put everything I had into it. I asked for a hammer for my birthday just so I could have something to hold while writing. A totem for the times when I had to embody my own version of Pichushkin’s gruesome claim to fame. I overwrote everything, from the dialogue to the analogies and the (somewhat) disturbing murders themselves. I wanted it all out there…

And when it was all finished, and I was to go back and trim the fat, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have anything left. Writing the script left me emotionally drained, withdrawn and somewhat reserved. I was numb to the killings. Alexander Pichushkin said he felt numb and “withdrawn” after his first kill. He saw things differently from that moment onward and knew his purpose in life…

Was this script my first real kill?

***

There is no greater representation of the “American Dream” then the slew of storage auction shows that took to the airwaves over the last few years. The idea that you can purchase someone’s abandoned property and make yourself rich is the quintessential “something from nothing” story. By now we all know that most of those shows are staged, but the one that I really liked was the show on TRU TV, “Storage Hunters.” This particular show was a little more gritty than the others, with units often being seized by police because the it contained contraband, etc.

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I thought… what happens if the winning bidder finds a DEAD BODY in their storage locker?

The police would confiscate the entire locker. Or would they? Even more importantly, what if everything in the storage locker, BELONGED to the dead person?

So it began. The story just flowed out of me. I started it on Monday, I worked on it late every night before taking a trip to our family house in Tahoe for the weekend where I finished the script on Sunday afternoon. The characters were somewhat shallow with dialogue pushing the plot, but I knew that I had stumbled onto something interesting. Something appealing on a guilty pleasure level.

Martin Benham’s relationship is falling apart and he hasn’t had anything published in months. He’s “flipping” storage units in order to make some extra money, the latest of his schemes to avoid abandoning his dream and getting a real job. He buys a unit and discovers a dead girl wrapped up in the back of the unit. When the police show little interest in solving the girl’s mysterious death, Martin takes it upon himself to circumvent the law and determine what really happened to her. What he discovers is shocking, and could cost him everything.

It was a fun read, but the screenplay didn’t really gain speed until my manager called and told me an agent was interested in reading it and speaking to me. Revision after revision, I flushed out the parts that needed attention. The twist grew. My relationship with the story had evolved, like any successful relationship. One thing lead to another and by the end of the summer, I had an agent, a manager and we were working with a producer on further refining the script. Looking good!

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It was the first screenplay that a number of people (other than the usual suspects) said was something they’d pay to see. They found it interesting and provocative. They identified my writing style. They were (a little) surprised by the twist at the end!

The process was long and arduous but ultimately ended up fruitless. Politics.

To be honest, I’ve had a hard time moving on from this story. I wasn’t finished! I didn’t break up with Unit C19, it broke up with me. It was finished before it every got started.

The wind was taken out of my sails and I fell into a slump of writing depression. I did research for half-a-dozen projects. I started half-a-dozen others. I wrote shorts and a dramatic pilot, but I haven’t finished a feature length screenplay since.

Nothing helps you get over the last one like the next one, right? This happens all the time in Hollywood, I just have to get used to it. This is the profession where you kill your darlings. Suck it up! I need to put everything about that story away somewhere and move on, just leaving it behind… like an abandoned storage locker on “Storage Wars.”

Simply put… I need to fall in love with another story.

CHE