Friday, May 31, 2013

Never Hurt Anyone

I was in the checkout line at Shop Rite yesterday. An old lady in front of me complimented the bag boy by saying, "You're doing a great job." I thought to myself, "That's really nice of her. It does feel good to know that you're doing a great job." Then she said, "A little encouragement never hurt anyone." This was where I interjected with, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up."

"I beg your pardon," said the old lady.

"You can't just go around lying to people, especially the people that bag your groceries. A little encouragement never hurt anyone? That's bullshit and you know it lady. I knew this guy, his name was Stu. He was afraid of heights. Long story short, Stu found himself smashed like a Stretch Armstrong shaped pancake underneath a bridge, all because his friends encouraged him to get over his fear of heights," I replied.

"Oh my word. I'm so sorry he died."

"Oh he didn't die from that. He survived the fall. Later on, his family encouraged him to compete in the Paralympics. They suggested that he train for Wheelchair Basketball. As a part of his training Stu went to the ghetto and played hoops with some hard knocks. He came out of it victorious...and full of lead. Stu got shot up fifty times."

"Heavens to Betsy. I'm so sorry Stu got murdered."

"Oh he didn't die from the gun shots. He lived for a few more years. Then he died from a heroin overdose. It was a probably the result of all that encouragement though."

"Oh lord. That's something awful. Well, I'm sorry your friend died."

"Oh he wasn't my friend. He was strictly my customer and I was strictly his drug dealer. Hey lady, it looks like you're all bagged up. Why don't you get the hell out of here?"

Then I turned to the bag boy.

"By the way, she's right buddy. You really did do a great job. Now what did you learn today?"

"Say no to drugs?" said the bag boy.

"Yes...but...if you are looking for some, give me a call first. I would never encourage you to use drugs...but I will sell them to you. That's a guarantee. And call me if you ever need a second job. You're pretty good at bagging stuff."

Thursday, May 30, 2013


        Celebration is often found in sports. Sometimes you can celebrate too much (excessive) and get penalized for it. You can spike the ball, do some trendy dance, start humping the air, hump the football, hump the refs, hump the opponents mascot, hump your own mascot, hump yourself…
        It's quite different in the courtroom. If I can be frank, I don't think there's enough celebration in courtrooms. If you're found not guilty, you should be celebrating...hard. Do a crazy dance. Don’t know any crazy dances? Make one up. Who gives a shit? You’re not going to jail for the rest of your life. That's worth a hop, skip and a jig. What's that you say judge? You want to hold me in contempt? Sure, that's fine. Just let me finish this sweet ass dance move. Worth it! Do that Harlem Shake thing that everybody's been doing. Hell, do the Macarena. It’s a little outdated. But hey, people just might join in, triggering an impromptu flash mob.

(Side note, no, sort of in the center note: Be sure not to do any crazy dances if you are found guilty. Because, in prison you’ll get your ass beat (in so many ways). Big black dudes will be scoping out the new inmates. “Hmm. Who should we shank today?” Pan to the white boy who just sprained his ankle while doing the running man. “There’s our bitch.”)
        Back to winning cases and celebrating excessively. After you dance, celebrate some more. Spike something, perhaps the judge's gavel. Hell, bring your own gavel and spike the shit out of that. Have one of your buddies throw you a football, then a beer, then a hoagie for some reason. Shotgun the beer. Then proceed to eat the hoagie in front of everyone. Wait for someone to say, "Is he really" then finish their sentence with, "Eating a hoagie?...Yes, yes I am. Now go fetch me a soda pop and some Funyuns."

        Or, you could just voice your excitement. Start reciting the most difficult rap lyrics that you can remember. Then, start skatting. Make the court reporter work hard for her money. Then let her know that she's working hard for her money by singing Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For The Money." Finally, exit the courtroom and every other room by kicking the doors open in a Michael Jackson-like fashion.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Popular Dance

I’d like to think that most popular dances were the result of some unfortunate condition which involves a story about an underdog. Take for instance, Timmy. Let’s say Timmy went to his senior prom. He went stag, not because he chose to, but because no one and I mean no one would go with him. It’s sad, but true. He had a reputation for being a terrible dancer and being…an epileptic. But, Timmy wasn’t going to let that stop him (Well, he would try anyway). Everyone knew Timmy had epilepsy, everyone but the DJ. The DJ had his disco balls spinning, colored lights flashing, and glow sticks twirling. At some point an angry student shouted, “I’m sick of the same old dance! I wish someone would come up with a new one!” Coincidentally, Timmy was walking across the floor toward the punch bowl when he had…an epileptic seizure. Timmy began to flail frantically like Mick Jagger after eating 50 pixie sticks. This was the first time people witnessed what would later become…the Harlem shake. Like a true teen coming of age movie, everybody joined in, doing the Harlem shake—making it damn near impossible to tell if someone (Timmy) was having a seizure. The next day a Harlem rapper saw a clip of these high school students doing this crazy dance and he said, “I’ma sample that like I’ma sample some 1970s song.” Needless to say he called this dance the Harlem Shake.

        The same goes for that “brush your shoulders off” dance move. I bet some kid, we’ll call him Timmy, just had some really, really bad dandruff and was trying really hard for people not to see it on his shoulders…at a dance probably. Next thing you know, people are joining in, and a dance sensation was born. White flakes filled the room creating a confetti-like spectacle. This would have been fine if it were the Snowball Dance. However, this was the Spring Fling. And the white confetti was actually Timmy’s dandruff.

Macho Men

I love macho man talk. Not Macho Man Randy Savage talk, however when guys talk about macho things. Most notably, hot chicks. You have that one friend who groans sort of like Macho Man Randy Savage when he sees a hottie. Hmm, maybe this has to do with MMRS more than I thought. Anyway, you have that friend that says, "Ughh. I would totally hit that. Would you hit it? Let's hit it together." Easy bro. You're not going to hit that. You're not going to tap that. You're not going to score. It always comes back to sports with macho guys.

        I wish I could hear a group of dudes just be honest with themselves. For example:

"Mmm. I would like to have sexual relations with her. But, unfortunately she appears to be way out of my league."

"I'm picking up some great vibes from this one over here. I bet she's a great conversationalist. It looks like I found a new girl friend. And by girl friend, I mean a friend that's a girl. Strictly platonic."

"Aww yeah. I would give it to her... on my mother's love seat, all through a long, very long...commercial break. Then we would finish watching the Notebook."

"Mmm. I'd love to bring her back to my place, cuddle up and show her photos from my childhood. Then I would give her money for a cab because my car is broke down in the driveway. It's been there for a while now. I should probably do something about it. Public transportation is the pits. There are a lot of smelly people on buses. Hey, you know what? Let's get out of here. That girl I've been checking out is actually my aunt. If she sees me she'll want to go back to my parents' house and look at pictures from my childhood."

"I banged her last my dreams."

This is for my co-worker that likes to spy on me.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Body Consultant

I like to jot down notes in my notebook. Sometimes I go back and check out what I've written just to see if I stumble upon anything that's actually good. Here's an entry from sometime in March of 2013. It's quite the hidden gem.

The Body Consultant:

You can't trust someone who measures a space by how many bodies he can fit into it. I bet every mob has a guy that's in charge of such matters--probably called the Body Consultant. "With a trunk this size, you can fit 5 average sized people & one tall midget, easy." "You can fit 2 average sized people in the fridge and one fat midget in the freezer." "You can fit 15 Guatamalean midgets in here."

This just in: Two average sized guys got caught smuggling in 15 Guatamalean midgets in a 1990 Honda Civic Hatchback. The Guatamalean midgets were smuggling in fruit stuffed with cocaine....Actually you know what? It turns out they're not midgets. They're just 15 average sized Guatamaleans. They're naturally tiny people.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reel Life: Finding The Door

As an avid, yet amateur writer, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of my own inspiring reverie. However, I deem my efforts to inspire people in the business quite trying. Professors, students and even a homeless man on the corner offered a sense of optimism. The homeless man, a beacon of a worst case scenario, kept his wisdom concealed but wore his regret on his face. He was and is a simple yet complex form of inspiration. I don't know him, but I would bet all of my grandmother's wisdom that he in fact has a story to tell. If "published" work and recognition are forms of currency then consider me the homeless guy on the corner. Because my grandmother's imparted wisdom and a bunch of untold stories are all I have left. This is in no way a "woe is me" tale of battered ambition, but a realistic scope of the industry from where I stand--the heart of South Jersey.
               College offered a great deal of empowerment. Professors instilled in me the proper faith needed to keep a dream alive, but also encouraged the fortitude to keep a thick hide for those bitter seasons of cold rejection. They served up a glass half full of aged aspirations. And believe you me--I drank it down because college students love free things that free their inhibitions. Soon I was drinking straight from the bottle. Once I finished the pilot to my sitcom, I took the proper steps to get it out there. The steps entailed writing query letters and proposing them to literary agencies in the hopes of finding representation. I sent out at least 25 query letters to agencies ranging from the cream of the crop to agencies that had lesser cliental. I patiently awaited a response, anything to show that I touched base with someone or something. Overall I received two responses. One came in the form of a courtesy email which basically stated that they didn't deal with screenplays and things of that nature. The other response came four months later in the form of a professional letter on a company letterhead. It stated that, because of copyright issues, they were unable to view my proposal. And if I happened to see anything on television similar to my idea, it would be just a coincidence. In a delusional state of mind I took comfort in knowing that my query didn't get lost in the mail and I'd be so lucky if this agency stole my idea. I haven't written a query since. After researching the formalities of such proposals on the internet, I became inundated with the realities of the business. It turns out one should acquire a manager before proposing anything to agencies. Whether my findings were fact or fiction, I was left baffled like the first time I discovered a catch-22. By the time graduation came, I felt like I had so much to learn. I guess that's why so many people go to graduate school. But, for someone who was already sixty grand in the hole, I wasn't about to ante up into the American dream pot. So, I took my B.A. and called it a day.
               Moving forward, I put my work on a shelf both literally and figuratively. This was my stage of trying to get my foot in the proverbial door--somewhere, anywhere that involved television or film. I've always been on the path of learning. And once I learned that there was a new film studio in Pennsylvania called Sun Center Studios, I knew I had to find the door. I contacted the president of the company to inquire about employment. I sort of figured that he wouldn't get back to me. It turns out, I figured right. So, I browsed the Sun Center Studios web site and made a stunning revelation--like most studios, this studio offers tours. I contacted the president, inquiring about tours this time. Surprisingly, he replied, quickly I might add. He asked me to state the purpose of the tour. I told him that I am a writer, director and I would love to use the facility in the future. Well, I guess he'll get back to me when the future arrives. Until then maybe I'll sneak into Sun Center Studios, pose as a custodian, find a dry erase board, write out a script and wait for someone to discover my genius (Mostly joking, partially sarcastic).
               People always talk about finding that one connection, that one in. I thought Curt was going to be my connection. A co-worker of mine, a title searcher, happened to golf with this man named Curt who is a writer/director/producer. Next thing you know I had a meeting scheduled with Curt at his office in New Jersey. He also has an office in L.A., but no big deal. I knew going into it that this wasn't a business meeting, however a sit down with a seasoned mover and shaker of the industry. Therefore, I needed to conjure up some intelligent and important questions like, “What are the intelligent and important moves I need to be making?” However, he answered all of my questions in one sentence that tortures me every time I hear it which was, “You need to move out to L.A.” Unlike most like-minded people, I don't have the luxury of making that move. Adulthood and local responsibility take top priority. From what I'm told, the chances of me getting into the film industry if I move out to L.A. are pretty good. But, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Well, there was at least one.
               I had a chance to work as a P.A. on a local feature film. I would have had the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of Cory Monteith and David Morse. Talk about stellar acquaintances, especially for my first feature length film. Unfortunately, I made one huge mistake, perhaps the most invaluable lesson yet. When the director's assistant called me and asked if I was available to work on the film, I hesitated. First of all I was flabbergasted by the fact that I was even called upon. My responsibility instincts kicked in and I tried bargaining with the woman, proposing something like, “Would I be able to work half of the shooting schedule?” This was a big no-no. The reason I suggested half of the shooting schedule was because I already had a full time job (clerk typist, mind you) and I'd have to clear it with my employer. I could have used two weeks' vacation. However, the entire shoot was four weeks. The woman seemed to be receptive to the idea and said she would get back to me. Translation: We'll find someone else who will work the entire shoot (someone less complicated). If there is anything that I learned from this experience it is to just say yes and adjust your schedule accordingly. Make it happen. There's no time for maybes. Next time my answer will be, “Yes, yes, a million times yes.”
               I picked up my first issue of IndieSlate about ten years ago--before I started film school. An article about story structure caught my eye and I've held onto it ever since. I thought about that article recently and it has inspired me to change my aspiration lens from a phantasmal dream to a celluloid reality. My focus now is on a short independent film which I'm currently writing. Like the essence of story structure, I will see it through from start to finish, hoping to bring it to full fruition. This is the direction that I'm going in right now. Perhaps it's the direction I should have been going all along.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Silver Screen Reflections: What's Reel?

        As viewers, we idealize the situations, emotions, and resolutions found in motion pictures. The feel good qualities in such films can cause cinematic swooning—a term that I think I just made up which is the heart warming sensation induced by charming cinematic moments. Because we've been predisposed to these strategically placed feel good moments, we subconsciously accept and expect a “standard” development to the story. Therefore we’re submissive to the same old soundtrack and choreography (so to speak) found on the silver screen--which reflects our reality. Many people feel that life imitates art. I agree, but not completely. Life and art have been performing an intricate dance together for quite some time—all the while interchanging the lead every so often. Film is a medium that’s influenced by life. However, life is very much influenced by film due to escapism. Sometimes the vestige of our celluloid dreams transfers to our reality and we long for those movie moments. We will never live the lives of our favorite characters. However, we can learn from their stories and what makes them so remarkable.
  Most films are written with a particular formula in mind which is called the Three Act Structure.  It is comprised of seven elements: the Inciting Incident, Plot Point 1, the First Culmination, the Midpoint, Plot Point 2, the Climax, and the Denouement. Most days in our everyday lives abide by a similar structure. It's similar because it's predictable not because we always have plot points throughout our day. For instance, we are familiar with today because it happened yesterday, much like we're familiar with most films because we've seen other versions of them. Great films and terrible films follow the same structure. However, what sets great films apart is the content, most notably the details and the moments. Details can be the smallest element in a story, but they can have the most profound impact on an audience. A simple melody played on a ukulele could accompany a simple piece of dialogue. Two characters could be exchanging passionate looks, which consequently signals a pivotal moment. It’s these “film imitating life moments" which make us wish life would imitate film. It seems like an impossibility. However, theoretically it should be feasible because if film is an image in the mirror, life is the muse standing in front of the mirror. Since we idealize these projections, they somehow become more real which inevitably amounts to an unrealistic expectation.
  It's the super focused eye for detail used in film which captivates us. Details such as proficient lighting, stimulating movement, insightful pauses, incendiary musical scores, the sound of silence, and last but not least, special effects. Unfortunately, for the most part, we seem to miss out on these things in real life. I haven't had the pleasure of growing up with the sound of a gradus symphony being played in my honor. And I doubt you have either. Unless you're listening to the classical station all day everyday, then maybe there's a slight chance that a cinematic-like score could sync up to a euphoric moment. But, you can't possibly fit all of these cinematic elements into your day without making it feel phony. I digress.
There are different details and moments that we can focus on in our everyday lives. Very seldom do motion pictures illuminate something unsuspected that's extraordinarily moving. If our mundane lives could speak, they would say something similar about themselves. Relatable things such as life lessons, especially that of our peers, are the details we often overlook. It is not unusual to be mindful of our own minds. However, I think we should be the audience of our surroundings, accentuate the details in life, and lose ourselves in the moment--even if it's a precarious one. Find the time to let alternate perspectives inspire you. Let celluloid dreams be dreams and an exciting, unsuspected reality be your future.