Austin Film Festival

Like everyone else who believes their doctors and not what they read on the internet, I’m still more-or-less hunkered down at home, servicing my remaining freelance clients remotely and trying, in between bouts of incredulity and despair, to remain positive enough to make constructive use of this time.

I don’t always succeed. I’m just saying I’m trying.

The Fall is the season when a lot of writing contests start making their announcements. A few weeks ago I updated to the screenwriting page here a mention that both of the scripts (a comedy feature and a sitcom pilot) I submitted to the Page International Screenwriting Contest made it to the Quarter-Finals, which I consider a “win” given how big a contest that is. Likewise, this week I was notified that the script I submitted (a sitcom pilot) to the Austin Film Fest & Screenwriting competition made it to “Second-Rounder” status, which is pretty much their equivalent of a quarter-final berth. This also keeps my streak alive in that every script I’ve ever submitted to Austin has at least made it that far. I think I’ve had six or seven “second-rounders.”

It is a small bit of personal good news in the vast ocean of bad news that we’re all living through. It would feel pretty stupid to try to make a big deal out of any of it while 200,000+ Americans have died (so far) from a deadly pandemic and many more are bound to follow. It is hard to justify sitting down and typing and trying to be “funny” for hours a day while the world is both literally and figuratively on fire. The words I manage to generate mostly seem lifeless, sub-par, and frivolous, like worrying about any kind of “creative output” is equal parts foolish and selfish. Every writer and “creative” friend I know is going through the same thing right now.

Having the time (and money) to sit and type is, admittedly, in a lot of ways a luxury and privilege… but it is also an earned privilege. Earned how? Earned by thousands of hours of writing for free, and working and performing for free, all in an effort to learn and get better. Earned by driving the same car for 20 years which, in Los Angeles, is probably considered a misdemeanor at least. Earned by helping every friend who has ever requested a “read” or some other help without hesitation or expectation.

It is also how I cope with my own feelings of anxiety and fear, and the things I don’t normally post about here on my little “hey, look at me!” website. The crisis we’re living through, and have been living through for the past four years has changed us all, and it will change the nature of our work. I hope we can all get to a point where we can look back on this chaos and carnage from a safe future vantage point. When we start to process it all, I’m sure new artistic movements will arise, the same way my beloved Dada-ists arose after the unspeakable horrors of World War One. In my darker moments though, I’m not sure how or when or even if we’ll get to that future point of safety. But I’m hoping we all do.

Stay Safe. Stay Hopeful.

VOTE on black background with American Flag

Fall Updates.

Things are getting busy after a low-key Summer. Unfortunately, won’t be attending the Austin Film Festival & Writer’s Conference in October this year, for the first time in what? three years I think… but the good news is – I’m busy partially because of the AFF.

“OGRE STONE” one of my “spec sitcom pilot” scripts that did well at AFF last year has now been picked up by a small animation company for development into a possible animated series. We are now busy creating presentation and pitch materials as I also start outlining the multi-episode story arc(s) for a possible series. It is all very much “early stages” but it is exciting.

In other news, I have shows booked in October and November but I still haven’t found a smooth, and visually appealing, way to post “upcoming shows” …so I’m still working on that.  Meanwhile of course, I am still meeting my weekly deadlines for Ask A Punk and Another LA Cartoon.  I hope you check them out.

Stay Strong everyone !

Time for more BBQ.

I’m thrilled to report the latest great news: The good people at the Austin Film Festival’s screenwriting competition just informed me that not one, but TWO of my spec sitcom pilot scripts advanced in their annual competition… so it looks like I will be visiting that sweet, weird city again this October.

Regular PlanetOC readers will recall that I attended the 2011 festival because one of my scripts (also a spec sitcom pilot) called  “Mass MoCA” made it into the top 5%-10% of submissions last year. I had a great time at the festival, met some interesting and creative people and learned an awful lot, so I’m really looking forward to attending the festival again.

For anyone who isn’t a regular reader and doesn’t know what a big deal this is (to me, anyway,) let me explain. The screenwriting contest that the AFF puts on every year is considered the second biggest & most influential writing contest of its kind (it is generally agreed that the Nicholl Writer’s Fellowship competition is #1.) This year’s Austin contest drew nearly 7,000 entries, so having both of the scripts I entered land in the top 5-10% (again) is a pretty solid accomplishment… and when you couple that with last year’s strong showing, it demonstrates a certain level of consistent quality in my comedy writing – especially when it comes to sitcom pilots. As I said, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Here are the quick loglines for both of the scripts. I might post them on this site for downloading at a later date, but for now I’m keeping control of the material and only sending it out to specific industry folks etc.

OGRE STONE

“‘Arrested Development meets ‘Game of Thrones’ in a sitcom of Epic proportions.”

I <3 YOU, LULU

“In the tradition of ‘I Love Lucy,’ a successful young musician and his totally loose-cannon of a wife, both madly in love with each other, take on the world.”

…now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue my preparations for this Thursday’s big “Don’t Tell My Mother” show… and I have to book my flight to Austin.

Welcome to 2012

The new year is less than a week old and already plenty busy. Before I get to all that, I’ll do a quick recap of the year we just wrapped up.

I would be lying if I said 2011 wasn’t a challenging year. Just like nearly everyone else I know, I dealt with a lot of changes – some good. some bad, some just different, but when all things are considered 2011 was a much better year than 2009 and 2010 so we’re clearly trending in the right direction. Some highlights:

  • I did a lot of shows all over Los Angeles – mostly “reading/essay” shows, which got me on some new stages, introduced me to some new people all over town and, since some of the shows were recorded for various podcasts, got me a bit more into the ears of the world’s cyber-citizens.
  • TWO of my spec ‘sitcom pilots’ were recognized in 2 different writing contests,  which raised my profile a little bit and gave me an excuse to finally travel to Austin Texas for their unbelievably awesome film festival.
  • I picked up some interesting freelance work – “adapting” the scripts of some Japanese anime feature films for their english-language DVD releases.
  • I had a lot of fun teaching some very funny & creative people in both improv and writing classes.
  • I wrote. a lot. You have no idea how much time I spent sitting right here, typing away… which is one of my favorite pastimes.
  • My home-away-from-home; Bang comedy theater got a big injection of new people, ideas & energy. This is always a good thing and it has definitely increased my excitement to “get down to the theater” just to see what is going to happen next.
  • I put my long-running punk-rock advice blog, Ask A Punk on “extended hiatus” after three and a half years of weekly posts (never missed a deadline people!) I didn’t take the site down, so if you’re interested, you can still go check it out and read every post. I’m still getting mail from some readers, which is nice, and I tell them the same thing I’ll tell you: I reserve the right to start it back up at any time… so stay tuned.
  • I entered the world of podcasting with an East Coast friend and, even though we’re still developing our ideas, it has been a lot of fun taking on the new challenge – both technically and creatively.
  • I saw Bigfoot. Twice.

Looking ahead now to 2012:

  • I already have some exciting shows scheduled (see the calendar link to the right of this post) including, in a few weeks, a return engagement at Comedy Central’s “Sit n Spin” show… one of my very favorite gigs here in Los Angeles.
  • Next week I start teaching a ‘level 2’ improv class at Bang.
  • I’m in the final draft stage of yet another spec sitcom pilot and the outlining stage of the one after that.
  •  Even though I put AAP on hiatus,  I’m still hitting my weekly deadlines on my cartoon blog, Another LA Cartoon. The feedback I’ve gotten on that has been thrilling and there might, might even be a small “gallery showing” in my future. More on that as it develops.

I hope 2012 is a great  year for you, for me & for everyone.

( PS: OK, I didn’t see Bigfoot. )

Deep in the Weird of Texas.

… just back from eight days and nights in lovely Austin TX. Every (good) thing you’ve ever heard about the town or about the Austin Film Festival is absolutely true. The first half of the trip was an exhausting marathon of trying to cram in every panel, roundtable, screening and party I could into every day & evening. Once the “conference” part of the festival was over (on Monday) the last four days were spent just going to screenings and taking long walks all around Austin (ok, there were a few parties to attend as well.)

The change of scenery was probably good for my head and so much of what I saw and heard during the festival was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and get re-inspired. I can’t wait ’til next year.

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