For every cynic who likes to trot out the “making a big deal about the ‘New Year’ is useless and arbitrary” line, there are more of us who disagree. For whatever reason – culturally, socially, humanly – most of us 6+billion people collectively agree that, 18 days ago, something old ended and something new began. That collective thought has a power all its own – in ways that will probably be scientifically proven within the next 30 years tops (I’m lookin’ at you, Quantum Physicists) …well, assuming we don’t destroy ourselves before then.
Part of that excitement to come out swinging when the New Year bell rings, at least from my perspective, is a reaction to how little seems to get done in Hollywood between mid-November and January 2nd. “The Holidays” are something to be waited out. We wait for the new year to start. We wait for new budgets to be approved and for new hires to start and for everyone to be in the right mood to start thinking about new ideas & new projects.
And now that time has finally arrived.
One of my first to-do goals for 2016 has been to get my work in front of at least 30 new people by the end of January. This is a big deal because, while no one would ever call me ‘lazy’ as a writer, I have been very guilty of not being “proactive” enough when it comes to getting my completed work seen & read. I know that is on me to change. So, I am happy to report that so far in 2016, I have already gotten my pitches & loglines and at least one of my five spec sitcom pilots into the hands and reading piles of at least 14 new people (yes, contrary to most of what you hear, producers, agents & managers are people.) So far the response has been positive and hopeful. People want to read more and, really, that is all you can ask for. …but that doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off. The month is half over and I’m only halfway to my goal.
Meanwhile, I’m also still doing shows. I’m excited to start the new performance year off with a return to STRONG WORDS this coming Saturday in Silverlake. Maybe we’ll see you there?
By any measure, 2015 was a challenging year for me, you and pretty much everyone we know, but here we all are – still standing and looking forward to the new challenges and excitements of the new year. Before I completely plunge into ’16 though, I’ll take a quick and final look backwards at just a few particular measurements from the last 365 days, because I’ve been keeping track (sometimes my minor OCD-ish tendencies come in handy.)
I wrote a lot of words this year. The writing, both paid and un-paid, took many forms: short stories, screenplay drafts, monologues, ghost-writing, re-writing, long-form novel-writing, my weekly cartoon, some attempts at poetry (stop laughing) and other multi-media art/word projects. Some entire days were spent hammering away at the keyboard while other days I managed to make only my minimum self-imposed word count. In the end I averaged 525 words per day… which might not sound like a lot, but it comes to 191,625 words for the year (for reference, that is about one-quarter of The Bible.) If it still doesn’t sound like a lot of writing, all I can say is: Try it. …oh, and that total doesn’t include my 100’s of personal journal entries which, believe me, are even more long-winded than my blog posts. It also doesn’t include the extensive ‘notes’ I wrote for 23 friends who asked me to read & evaluate their scripts, monologues and short stories.
I performed in 18 shows this year. These were nearly all storytelling/monologue shows at various venues all over Los Angeles, but there were also a few attempts at straight “stand-up.” Some shows went great, a few times I tanked. That is to be expected. ALL shows were enjoyable on some level, and I was always happy to meet other writers & friends and hear their stories too. I am working on new stories for the new year.
I did a little of everything improv-related this year: I was hired to do some private coaching for a few very funny groups. I took a class at UCB to see what their system is all about and I did a few informal improv jams with old friends. All of it was fun, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I’m determined to do a lot more of all three things in the coming year because, for me, it always comes back to improv. I’ve actually been missing it terribly.
I had a good year. I did a lot of hiking, I ate more plants, a little less meat and a lot less sugar. I lost 15 pounds. In spite of a jacked-up knee, I managed to run a 5k in 35:45. I also meditated semi-regularly – just enough to make me realize I need to do it more regularly. I tried some new things this year too, such as banjo lessons, which were harder than I expected, in spite of my years of guitar playing. I even learned a little more html & CSS coding with the help of Codecademy. Career-wise, well, some years are slower than others, but I’m entering the new year with a lot of new, polished material and some interesting ideas.
…and hey. I hope YOU have a great year too. GOOD LUCK!
It has been a busy Fall so far. Although I’m currently “between paying gigs,” which can cause no small amount of anxiety and force some existential questions if one isn’t careful, I’ve also learned that the best use for these “down” periods is to re-double all creative efforts. Doing this helps remind me what really is (or at least should be) important to my mental health and feelings of well-being. Instead of wallowing in a place of fear, we have to see these times as a chance to remember why we’re here. Why we’re really here.
So, I’ve been writing. A lot. I don’t really measure my self-worth and feelings of well-being by my daily word count… but in some ways I do. Another draft of another screenplay. An outline of a new screenplay. Another pass at re-working all of my stories of Punk Rock misadventure into a new one-man show. Writing new stories too, and trying them out at some of my favorite essay and ‘spoken word’ shows around town – which also helps me re-connect with the many kind and talented writers and storytellers I know, but rarely get to see around town.
I’ve also been teaching some Improv and, I’ve been taking some improv classes. Even though I’ve been doing improv for, eeks, 20 years (!!), I eagerly signed up for a level 1 beginner class at the Upright Citizens Brigade training center here in Los Angeles while, at the same time, teaching/coaching some advanced Improv technique to alumni from UCB, iO and elsewhere. That isn’t as strange as it sounds. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing Improv, you can always learn (or re-learn) something in any improv class. I know I can, and did. It also helped re-excite my imagination, and helped me remember why learning, and doing improv has been such an important part of my life. It isn’t just about climbing on stage and getting some laughs from strangers. It is a way to approach life, people and the world with an open mind and a hopeful heart. If that sounds hokey to you, I’m OK with that. I had a good time in my level 1 class and I’m certain I will take some more UCB classes when my budget again allows. The UCB teaches a very efficient form of improv, a straight-forward “comedy delivery system” that, now that I’ve witnessed it firsthand, explains their current domination of the LA (and possibly the entire US) Improv landscape. Is it the only way to do improv? Of course not, but it is a great approach. No doubt about it.
And so we plow on. Getting the words out. Getting the thoughts down on paper. Climbing on stage. Doing the work – more importantly, enjoying the work. Trying to spread the joy.
Had an enjoyable weekend at the LA Indie Film Festival screenings, where I took a rare on-camera role in one of the shorts in competition. “Come and Knock on my Door” takes a bizarro behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the theme song for the 70’s TV show “Three’s Company” by the legendary Ray Charles (no, not that ‘Ray Charles‘ …the other guy. Seriously, look it up.) It was a great project and an awful lot of fun. Many thanks to writer/director David Schrader and Hybrau Productions. Here it is:
After the last posting, a friend emailed and reminded me that I had also promised to post a clip to another recent short film that I was in. “Absconded” is a comedy short that was a Finalist in improv Olympic West’s comedy video competition a few months ago. Here it is:
I recently finished a first draft on yet another comedy feature… it is a ‘spec’ of course – relax everybody. So now, while that 1st draft is cooling off and resting, there always has to be a “next thing” to start working on immediately… to preserve the momentum, the habit, the ritual of work (sorry, went a little bit Thomas Wolfe there for a second, an instant, a brief packet of time.) So, I am finally starting to work on the new version of my Punk Rock stories show. The last time I did the full, 50ish minute, show, I only had that much material – a lot less than an hour that I then stretched mercilessly. Now, as I revisit that older stuff, I’ve also got an additional hour (at least) of more punk rock stories. So now the challenge will be re-writing and cutting, cutting, cutting, to turn 2+ hours of material into a 48 minute show that is still funny, makes sense and that, hopefully, has some kind of point to it. So here is a “live” clip of one of my stories – told at the Comedy Central stage. You can find more on my funnyordie page too.
…as I mentioned recently. I have been doing some (very rare for me) on-camera stuff for/with friends. Here is the latest short film: A look “behind the scenes” at the creation of the title song for one of the 70’s most memorable sitcoms – in the form of a fever dream.
Interesting timing because “the Other Ray Charles” passed away just a few weeks ago after a long & successful career. RIP Ray! Much respect!
So here is the film “Come & Knock – the Other Ray Charles“
Enjoy. Comment. Share. etc.: