Invest in yourself. Invest in your career.

Ever heard the phrase, ” It takes money, to make money” ?

I understand that now.

As a writer I need certain things. Okay, maybe I don’t need them, but I want them. I want coffee. I want a nice keyboard. A fast computer. A chair with good lumbar support. I believe these things will improve the quality and productivity of my writing.

Being an unpaid writer, one that writes for the sake of that dream chase, times can get tough. Money can get tight. So your investments must be worth it.

What I do is set aside money for my “career”. Here are a few things I’ve invested in.

1. New Chair.

2. A new computer/Software

3. Script coverage

4. Good breakfast, quick to prepare and easy to eat.

5. Website

I also keep track of these expenses. I have a specific folder just for exactly that.

You may see these things as unnecessary, but I see these as investments. There are plenty more. All of them have a purpose. They each play into my objective and  help me be a “writer”.

It’s no different from a butcher buying new knifes. Invest in yourself.

This lesson can go across the board with any goal. If you want to work out, lose that weight or get pumped to the max. Buy a gym membership — don’t feel bad. It’s for your “goal”. Go out buy a new hot tub, so after you work out, you can relax those muscles. Okay, so a hot tub maybe too much, but you understand my point.

These investments will have a purpose. Thus eliminating that buyer’s guilt. Remember to be true to yourself.

Let your career  guide  your investments. Invest in your goals. Invest in yourself. Invest in your happiness. It’s for the long run.

-REH

THE BIG WEST. It’s an Indie Western.

Earlier this summer I went to a fellow film making friend of mine, Mr. Gus Péwé, and told him that I would like to invest and produce his next movie — It was called THE BIG WEST. The script, I got to say it, was nothing special. Nothing to flip a lid about. It was brief. Short. Straight to the point. I wasn’t worried one bit.  This was how most of Gus’ scripts were. He had all that visual stuff in his head….waiting to come out on-screen.

Gus and I met in high school, where he was three grades below me. I think it’s safe to say we hit it off, mainly due to the fact we loved the same thing: Film. I graduated and Gus went on to make the short film  THE THREE VIVID DREAMS — eventually winning an award and tuition to the Interlochen Arts academy in Northern Michigan. Gus was always talented, but it wasn’t until this movie, where I really began to believe in his ability to direct an original film.

At school, he went on to direct a senior thesis project MY FAVORITE PLANET, which has since appeared at multiple festivals. During this period Gus and I had kept in good contact. But had never collaborated on much, due to the fact we’re on different sides of  the spectrum when it comes to ” genre” and ” story”. Our styles remain very different.

After Interlochen, he enrolled in the liberal arts school Denison in Ohio. There he made another short THIS VACUUM IS TOO LOUD. The film was recently a winner of the The Hammer to Nail Film Contest and is set to appear in multiple film festivals around the country. Gus was on his way. I enjoyed his success as much as he did.

This is when I decided to invest and produce Gus’ next film THE BIG WEST. With Gus at the helm as director, there was no doubt, we as a team were going to make something special.

With his creativity and my resources, we could really put something together that could further both our careers.

And that’s what exactly we did. Or that’s exactly what we have done.

THE BIG WEST is a tough one to put into words. It combines a western, science fiction, a buddy-journey story, with moments of comedy — See that’s another thing Gus is so talented at. He always said, ” I hate the idea of genres”.

This film is low-budget. Using our well-trained, very talented friends,  preparing our resources with vigilance, we shot the movie in a long 10 days. We have since put together a rough cut and I’m proud to say the investment was well worth it —  We made a movie. To me, nothing is more satisfying.

We have yet to set a release date for the film. As we are preparing for a local theater release. We’re working on a cut for the trailer, various marketing techniques and already started thinking about our next project — “Same Ghost Every Night”.

We’re creating. We’re striving. We’re trying. “Writer, director” at one time sounded great. But now I’m liking to sound of ” Writer, Producer”.

I always say, ” Surround yourself with people who inspire you, and there’s no telling what you’ll come up with”. I’m glad I met Gus.

Gus Péwé – Director

Tommy Colangelo – Original Music

-REH

That’s a good idea, right? — Premature story pitching

You got this plot line. Oh you love it. It’s great. Original. Exciting. You have to tell someone. RIGHT NOW!

As soon as the words come out of your mouth, you realize you have nothing. You can see it in the person’s face. It sucks. That original, exciting idea, suddenly deflates.

Next time this happens, do everyone a favor and keep it to yourself.

This has happened to me on multiple occasions.  Especially when I had a little too much to drink. Cause when you drink, things are always more exciting than they really are. I would have this, what I thought, was a brilliant idea…. and as soon as it came out. I regretted it immediately. Wow– That doesn’t sound anything like what I was thinking.  Visually you can see it. But sometimes words can’t explain what you’re thinking.

Premature story pitching is the best way to kill your story’s confidence and put it into shambles.

Your story needs to have confidence. You need to have confidence in the story. You need to believe in your story. Without confidence you end creating shallow writing–see Action Movies.

I learned to keep my ideas to myself. If one popped in my head, I’d silently jot it down in my handy-dandy notebook and carry on. It would sit in there. Growing. Developing, eventually sprouting legs, enabling it to walk.
Now once it started to walk, that’s when you start feeding the story. You do some research. You dig deep. Find that theme. You find that passion.

Timing is everything. You have to be your own judge to know when you can find someone  and say ” Hey, I have this idea….”

You’ll know right away if they like it or they don’t. Sure they may think it’s dumb. Or they may think it’s brilliant. But at least you went out there with guns and ammo and not just binoculars and a knife.

I use my friends and family all the time to test the waters on the story. Reading people’s minds is something you have to learn to do. Do they really like it? Or are they just saying that? I noticed when people like the idea, they add-on to it. Like suddenly they want to be involved. That’s a good sign. Or suddenly they mention it out of the blue or at a later time they bring it up. This too is a good sign. If the general public thinks it’s a good idea, hopefully that producer, actor, director will too.

Either way, if you’ve gotten this far, to the pitching part, then I believe the story is worth writing. It’s an indication that it’s not just a thought, but an actual idea. One that you can mold, grow and eventually write.

-REH

Hire your own personal boss or Be your own boss. The choice is yours.

I’m in search of someone who can be my own personal boss. He or she would be like any other normal boss. Demanding. Inspiring. Downright straight to the point.

See if I had my own personal boss, I work get so much more work done. The obligation to work would become so much easier — I would have a boss to report to. I would be obligated to be productive.

” Hoxie, I need that script on my desk Monday at 8am. No excuses.”

My boss would could keep focused.

” Listen, I’ve noticed a lot of your online activity is on Facebook and other social networking. Your page count isn’t meeting the weekly quota, let’s step it up!”

He or she would catch me sleeping at my desk.

” If you want to succeed at this job, you can’t be taking naps during work hours. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you! ”

My boss would push me.

” Uh, yeah. This week was slow for you. I’m going to have you come in Saturday and work on that scene.  Mmmk?”

My boss would  inspire me.

” Listen, Robert, this script you turned in, was fabulous. Let’s start working on that idea you had two months ago, I really think there is something there.”

If I couldn’t meet my boss’ standards then I could get ” fired “. And no one wants to get fired.

See this is the thing with writing for “free” — Writing for the sake of chasing a dream is tough when you’re not getting paid. When there’s no one saying you have to do it. Someday I’ll actually have a boss, in the shape of a producer or a production company, who I will report to. Hopefully. They’ll have deadlines, basic demands, standards. I’ll have to meet those. Then and only  will writing be a job in which I’ll have to do. Until then it’s strictly on my own merits.

That’s what separates this from a normal job. You go to work because  you have an OBLIGATION. I have no obligation to writing. The only obligation is to myself.

And that my friends is the secret to being productive. Have an obligation to yourself. BE YOU OWN BOSS. Because that’s why you’re doing what you want to do. It’s for you and no one else.

When you don’t reach your goals, you have a bad day. Be disappointed in yourself. Feel like shit. You failed. You deserve it. But remember there’s another day tomorrow, where you can still strive, and get it all back. That’s what separates the “strivers” from the rest. We feel that guilt of not doing what we should. If you don’t feel that failure, that utter guilt, then you’re not doing it right. And obviously  it isn’t important enough to feel bad about it anyway…

You owe it to you. Feel obligated. You have too.

Or you could always hire your own personal boss. $.
-REH

You Have No Time? I Call Bullshit.

Months and months ago I was only writing when I had time. But the truth is, I had plenty of time. I just wasn’t using it to write. At all.

I come across this excuse way too much. Writers who don’t write, that say they don’t have time. Or someone who wants to write, or intends to write, but doesn’t. I hear this “excuse” over and over again. It’s an easy one — Who’s to say you’re not busy?!

What you have decide is what’s important to YOU? If writing is something you really want to do, if it’s something you really care about, you’ll make the time to do so. That’s just plain and simple. But if watching the latest episode of Dexter is something that’s more important, then that’s your choice. But don’t say you don’t have time.  That’s not true. Instead be honest and say ” Yeah I have time, but I just don’t feel like using it” — That’s better.

This is coming from someone who’s a part time student, taking three classes. Working 30 plus hours a week. And still finds the time to write for at least 5 hours a day. Sure some days are better than others, but I always make the time. How do I do it? It’s simple math really. And with regimented schedule you can do it too.

Months and months ago, like I said I wasn’t taking advantage of this free time I didn’t know I had. I found other things to do, even know writing and becoming a better writer was my top priority.

So I sat down one day and broke my week down. I first had to identify where my time was going…

NOTE: This is different for everyone, I always rounded up and gave room for variables.

24 hours in  day. 168 hours in a week.

Average person sleeps 8 hours. As a writer, that becomes much less. But for sake of this, I’ll say 8 hours a day.

168hrs – 56hrs of sleeping a week = 112 hours remaining.

Eat 3 hours a day. At least. Shower 1 hour a day ( rounded up). Other priorities- 2 hours a day (rounded up).  So that’s 42 hours a week spent on showering, eating, and other misc chores. Now if you have kids,  pets, and/or a needy girlfriend this could be much more. Learn how to sacrifice.

112hrs – 42hrs = 70 hours remaining.

I work 30 hours a week at least. Most people work more. Some work less.

70hrs – 30hrs = 40 hours remaining

I have school. Three classes, I spend about 5 hours per class a week. That includes homework. This may double depending on your time you want to put in. Again you have to ask yourself what’s more important to you? I put writing before everything. So I see that 5 hours a week for each class is enough.

40hrs – 15hrs = 25 hours remaining

25 hours I have remaining each week, after everything. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you brake it down…

25hrs divided by 7hrs = 3.5 hours a day. This is time when you could write. That’s plenty of time to start your new screenplay. New novel. Or work out and loose those extra pounds. Again, what’s more important?

You make the time to do things that you care about. If it’s something you really want to fight for, you’ll do it. Otherwise, focus your energy on what you think you should. But don’t say you don’t have time. Because if you wanted it soooo bad….then you’d be doing it. You’d make it happen.

This process has many variables of course. But breaking down your time can really give you an outlook on how much of it you really waist. I try to fit some time in for just relaxing. Often it doesn’t happen. But the satisfaction I get from accomplishing what I set out to do, each week and each day, is much more satisfying than “relaxing”. This process also involves sacrificing. Set your priorities. Decide how much time you’ll put in.  Brake it down, see what’s left. Now utilize it!

Hope it works as well as it did for me.

-REH

How to Take Guilt Free Naps.

In some interview of Robert Kirkman, writer of “The Walking Dead”, when asked about his writing habits before he became successful, he said ” be prepared to sleep as little as possible”. He still had his day job, he would write whenever he could, staying up late, waking up early and so forth.

If you’re a struggling writer like me. Or just someone who has dreams of something bigger and better and still have those bills to pay, hence working the day job, then you understand it’s hard to find the energy to follow that “dream” or “passion” — To work on it and to successfully do it every day. And do it good. It’s not easy.

Some days are better than others. But there is one thing that is very consistent about the daily routine. I am always tired.

In fact I don’t remember not feeling that tiredness. Days are always filled with responsibilities and things to do. I don’t think this will change, until I’m able to quit the “day job” and fully concentrate all my time of what I want to do: write screenplays.

Writing isn’t physically draining, but very much emotionally draining. The endurance it takes to sit down and start writing, is more over whelming than actually writing itself. So “after words” — I can feel like a zombie ( Maybe that’s what inspired Kirkman?). Then when you add work, school, to-do lists, and other various common bullshits of life, the experience kinda sucks. Success becomes the only option in many ways.

I have a cure for all that pain. It’s called nap time.

It’s hard to take naps nowadays and not feel guilty. Shit, when we were in pre-school, they used to make us take naps. Now, that you’re an adult, you take a nap and you’re suddenly ” lazy”. Unless of course you’re an elder.

Some critics will say you’re not working hard enough —  When I write I want to be fully involved; often  I produce trash when I can’t keep my head up, let alone my eyes open. My work becomes riddled with errors, red squiggly lines burn my eyes.

I find a cozy spot on the floor. That’s right, I said the floor.

Now sleeping on the floor is the trick to the guilt free nap. When you’re on the floor, you’re really not that comfortable. You’re merely there to rest. That’s all it’s about. To regenerate. To get that blood flowing. To feel better.

Here are the steps I take:

1. Open your current project. Or get it out. Put it in the open where ever you do your work. This helps, so when you do wake up, it’ll be right there and you can jump right back into it.

2. Set an alarm. I usually do 45 mins. Knowing I’ll hit the snooze for another fifteen. They say you shouldn’t nap anymore than that, because your body will go into a deep sleep….

3. Find a pillow. Not a big one; a small one. I use a throw pillow from the couch. It’s small, not exactly comfortable, but enough to rest my head.

4. Make a spot near your workspace. Place your pillow there and lay down. Now the position you lay is very important. I lay on my back like some kind of vampire, arms crossed on my chest. It’s not usually how I sleep, but I’m always tired enough, so it doesn’t matter. If you can’t sleep in a different position than normal, then you aren’t tired enough for a nap. Again it’s not about comfort, it’s about resting.

5. Close your eyes. This is the easiest part.

6. Sleep. 45 minutes to 1 hour– Guilt free.

The floor works wonders.  If I landed on my bed or couch, I could be out for many hours, resulting in a really bad day of productivity. So it’s got to be the floor.

Dive into your work as soon as you wake up. Don’t hesitate to do so. Don’t ease into it. Just start working. You’ll feel so much better if you do.

I hope the guilt free nap works for you. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but use it wisely when needed.

-REH

Progress Makes Perfect.

I cleaned out my desk the other day. Where deep in back I had some screenplays that I had written a couple years back, when I first attempted to write movies.

I think writers are always changing. If you look at some of the most famous authors, you’ll see their writing change through out their career.

I see it like a infant. They say  the mental capacity in which we take in the first six years of life, is more than we will take in for the remainder. Our brain is like a sponge. Then as we age, it dries up. Not taking in as much.

I can compare that with screenwriting. Those first couple of years, we produce crap, just like a baby, but slowly and surely, we learn. We learn formatting. Story. Structure. We find our voice; we learn how to talk.

And that’s what these screenplays were: Garbage.

This specific script, I remember being so excited about it. I couldn’t wait for people to read it. I was so damn proud, I was telling everyone about the story, about the theme and major plot points.  And when it was  finally complete (9+months) I handed it out like I had created a masterpiece. That was clearly not the case. I had no idea.

It was shit. Plain and simple. And not just the story, or structure, but the writing itself. Grammar errors, sentence structure, everything was just bad.

I had to smile. Because I look at my work now  and see the major strides I have made in the last years. It’s truly amazing. Sure I  still  have a long way to go, but just to see progress helps me keep wanting to get better.  If there’s progress, then that’s all that matters. Because eventually you’ll get there.

I can now understand why bodybuilders do the before and after shots. They want to see their progress. Well that’s my advice to you today: Go back and look at something you had done. Compare it to now. Is it better? I hope so. And if it is…you’re doing something right. Keep doing it. Progress makes perfect; eventually.

-REH

I had just purchased an orange.

It was Halloween 2011.

I had purchased an orange the night before at the local produce market. I had so much hope; it had so much hope. I have craved the  fruit for some time now and I couldn’t wait to eat it. The thought of it made my mouth water…

The peel was tough to take off. A bit ridiculous really — I was already frustrated. So then I bit into it, straight into the skin. It was bitter tasting and my lip started to sting. Disappointment came over me.

I then noticed a dark brown spot near the top. It was old. I had chosen an old orange. It gave me a reason to toss the whole damn thing in the trash and waste it, I did.  For me, it was like I was punishing the orange. I had this grudge against the fruit. I was mad and sticky. My lips still stung, the bitterness of the peel wouldn’t go away, but yet as I threw it away, those terrible things didn’t go with it. I decided to take it to the next level of spite.

I would never have an orange again! I proclaimed. I was done with all oranges Excluding clementines. Of course.

This orange left me with nothing more than an acidic stomach, sore lips and sticky fingers. What good does that do? It’s supposed to give you vitamins and nutrition. Help keep you from getting sick — well no wonder no one is eating these things. They are a pain in the ass.
Now it sits on the top of my trash can. One bite taken from it. This is the orange the ruined all oranges for me.  It looks good. It sounds good. But it’s never what you expect. The orange resembles a relationship in many ways.

-REH

Saving your work. The obsessive paranoia of a corrupt file

I couldn’t imagine what it was like for a writer to save their work before computers. Imagine how devastating a fire could had been or a flood….oh lord.

Now with the advances in computers and memory storage, writer’s seem a little bit less paranoid of losing their work to a catastrophic disaster. Well then again…

We still have fires. floods, but now we have, viruses, corrupt files, technical errors. human errors. blah blah blah….I think it’s gotten worse.

I don’t know about you, but I am very paranoid about losing a hard days work.  If  it’s happen to you, you understand why; I was broken, like three days of work, completely lost, and I had a REAL hard time trying to get it back, to reconstruct it and build it up yet again. It’s emotionally draining.

But I remain okay to this day. I continue to write everyday and I continue to save everything I can. And with further advances on backing up your material, the paranoia, the obsession , the insecurity, is a little less than what it used to be.

You’ve just written your finest lines in the past five weeks. You save it — “Save as”. Then “yes” on “overwrite”. You got it, it’s saved. Ahhhh feels better…

You know what? I better save it one more time to my portable flash drive and my external hard drive. You save it four, maybe seven more times — just in case. You even go back and open it and see if everything is there.

Ahhh it’s there. Now I can “exit” out. It’s asking me if I want to “save”? Wait, I didn’t save it? I thought I saved it. Why would it ask me again? Better do it another six times just in case.

This can be such a process, a time consuming matter that can occur every time you attempt to retreat from your desk. But trust me it doesn’t have too.

Here’s what I use…

DROPBOX. It’s a online free storage, where you place a “Dropbox” file on your computer and every-time you save in this file, it automatically syncs it up with a folder online. It’s great. I think I get about 2 GB  of memory for FREE, that’s plenty to store the last two years of work;  word documents take up about zero amount of space. I also use this to transfer files to another location. My printer sucks, so I use a friends. I’ll often log onto my online “Dropbox” via internet, on his computer and upload the file to print. WA LA! SO easy…..and it’s online, and nothing can destroy that… But if something does, I always have this to back it up…

External Hardrive. It’s one TB. I know, a lot of memory. I back up everything on here, not just my writing. It’s hooked up to my computer, so when I save anything, it’s easily accessible. It’s small and capable of moving at fast speeds when needed. Meaning if there is an emergency,  I could be easily remove it to avoid any disaster.

Example:

FIREMAN ” Sir you can’t go in there, there’s a fire!”

ME ” I have to, my hard drive is in there, and by god I can’t let that burn!”

Portable USB Flash Drive. This is most popular way of backing up your files among the English.  What’s nice, is that you can carry it around, not only do you feel kool, but it’s very accessible at any moments notice.  24/7 all day, every moment, of every second you can have your work attached to you. That soothes the paranoia…

Email. The cheap way and I think underrated way, if these were rated. Just email the file to yourself. It will be in your email until you delete it. Before Dropbox I use to do this and then save the email in another folder. It worked like a charm. And eased my pain…

These are all good options to save your work. And I hope they cure your insecurity of losing your files. SO, unless a flaming computer virus hits the internet via my computer, then somehow links to my USB and breaks into my Email, deleting every file in site…. I think I’ll be okay. For now.

The good stuff always sticks anyways…

https://www.dropbox.com    SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

REH

Good film directors know how to use music: Three examples

Martin Scorsese. Sofia Coppola. Stanley Kubrick.

If you don’t know these film directors, try Googling them, you may find they are responsible for the direction of one of your favorite films.

After watching many  great movies, I have come to the conclusion that they all have sometime in common: They all have great soundtracks. Thus giving me yet another clue on how to make a good movie…

It may just be coincidence, but I doubt it. I have also come to the conclusion that good film directors know how to use music to tell a story.  And I think it’s safe to say, the scene or movie can create the song.  Sometimes literally — with original soundtracks.  But most of the time , not literally, using songs we already know and have heard before.  But they always seem to make the song memorable.

When you’re driving down the road, listening to the radio and a song comes on and immediately you remember the scene from one of your favorite movies. Now that’s power. The workings of moving images with sound is incredible. Suddenly you’re overcome with the feeling that scene held along with the song that it came with. This is when you know the director has correctly chosen the right song for the right scene. That’s not easy.

Good movies have good soundtracks.

ROCKY. STAR WARS.TITANIC. GOODFELLAS. 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY. PULP FICTION. THE GRADUATE. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. APOCALYPSE NOW…oh god, I could go on and on. But I know you know multiple songs played in these movies. And if you heard them, images of these characters and their actions would or could be played in your head. That’s power.

Music is used to create the scene.

I think good directors do this so well, it really in a sense made them ” good directors”.

*Of course, picking the right music is the second task, first you must have the right material and the right actors. So let’s give the screenwriters and actors some credit too…. But the director must direct a strong enough scene, shoot it right and correctly set the mood. But what really tops that scene off, is the music. It’s the whipping on the banana split. Without it,  the scene wouldn’t have been nearly as good, says Captain Hindsight.

Lets break it down now!

Here are three great movies, by the first mentioned group of directors. In each scene the music is crucial. It sets a vibe. The images by themselves wouldn’t be as powerful with out the music. That’s just all there is too it. We could really get into the science of it, but we won’t. We will sit back, watch these scenes and take it all in. I must note  different song could completely change the complexity of the scene. Each of these tunes were chosen on purpose and for a reason… It really separates them from the group.

1. FULL METAL JACKET — ” These Boots  Were Made For Walkin” — Nancy Sinatra

This is a transitional scene. We are changing location, from boot-camp to Vietnam. I know — big changes. Big changes call for big changes in ” feeling “.  Kubrick chose this song wisely. It comes right after one of the darkest scenes in the movie and becomes the biggest turning point; a break into a new act. It’s not so much the lyrics that really penetrate the scene, but the feeling of the song, the rhythm and the beat that really sets the  vibe.

FAST FORWARD TO 1:57.

For more of Kubrick’s work, check out THE SHINNING — where he masterfully ques up one of the scariest movies of all time. See ” The Shinning Hallway Scene”.

2. VIRGIN SUICIDES — ” Magic Man” — Heart

This is a montage and intro to a key character in this movie. There isn’t much to say, because Coppola decided to show it all with music, images, character movement and then going into a brief narration to fill any holes. Although an easier way to tell a story, the scene says it all. Everything you need to know in a short two minutes. Unlike our last clip, the lyrics add a special touch…

3. Goodfellas — “Atlantis” — Donovan

This scene, which I think will go down as one of most memorable scenes in film history, is a huge turning point in this movie and our characters actions here  will ultimately lead to their demise (spoiler!). So it’s crucial!  The song emits a special feeling, one that I can’t pin point, but really makes this ultra violent scene, something very ” dreamlike” or “gentle” in many ways.

FAST FORWARD to 3:07

Check out THE DEPARTED. The first few minutes are well worth it. Many great songs set the vibe.

I could have chosen many movies with various great scenes. I chose this because to me, they were the most memorable. I’m sure you have a scene, with a great song, that really sticks out in your mind…

I’d like to thank YOUTUBE.

For other great movie soundtracks: Drive, 2001 Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars, Social Network, Pulp Fiction, Requiem For Dream, The Graduate…

-REH