We are all famous to a few people
The hard part - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

There’s a lot of hard parts when you start something new and if you continue in that endeavor, gonna be more hard parts. 

I find a big help in dealing with the obstacles, the hard parts, is to look for them and expect them. Not suggesting being a pessimist! 

Expecting things to go wrong because they do is a little different POV than that of a pessimist. The term realist might also come in handy. When things do go wrong, even things I didn’t expect to go wrong, I dive into a solution. Ignoring an obstacle or wishing it away will only slow you down. 

Had a dog barking across the street from a shoot. We were inside, but that dog was loud and could be heard in the background of all the dialogue. The clock’s running and, as always, not in my favor. 

I walk across the street to ask the owner if they could keep the dog quiet for twenty minutes to get a shot. Nobody’s home and the dog is behind a high fence, outside, and me being there is making him bark more. 

The clock’s running. If I can’t shut the dog up, my sound’s fucked. I can’t wait for the dog to quiet down because I need that time, all of that time, to shoot the script. 

One thing dogs have a hard time doing is barking with their mouth full. 

I walked back to our location, scooped up a couple handfuls of dry cat food from the owner of the location, went back across the street and threw them over the high wall, in every direction I could. Thinking that the dog might spend twenty minutes trying to find all the food. 

It worked. The dog stopped barking and we got the rest of the pages shot and on schedule. 

Luckily, that dog loved cat food. 

Sometimes the hard part is when it seems like nothing is happening. Things take a long time and as more people write books, make movies, music, everything you can post on the net, the more stuff to watch and read with plenty more on the way. 

How will any of us ever get our story through all the noise asking for people’s attention?

How much time do you want to invest in not creating, but in getting your work out into the world? 

What if it doesn’t work? What if you “build it” and no one comes?

Will you use what you learned and try again? 

Will you give up? 

The hardest part is not giving up. 

Don’t. 

 

Is this the wrong decision? - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Ever worry you made the wrong decision in life? 

If you answered no, you’re lying! 

There was a long span of time I was worried I had become someone who is best described as a jack of all trades and a master of none. 

The illusion of a trajectory in life that is without detour is an understandable illusion to believe in, and I did. 

Changing your mind was a weakness, I thought, and it was also to some degree a forfeit to succeeding, seemingly worse than failure. I can see what a dumb idea that is now. 

I’m not talking about “giving up.” Sticking with it, working hard for a long time to make things happen, all that IS a reality. I’m talking about be willing to change course because it is necessary and not doing it because it’s easier to stay where you are, deep in the illusion of a trajectory that looks grown up to you and those around you. 

The saying, “You can only sit in one chair at a time,” was always useful when I felt I burned too much clock time on the wrong goal. How else would I know if I didn’t try? 

The challenge is knowing when to move to the next chair. 

I’ve had a bunch of different words in my bio: photographer, installation artist, performance artist, comedian, actor, writer, director, editor, waiter, barback, busboy, bartender, background investigator, sound designer, private investigator, freelancer, filmmaker and I’m guessing there’s more coming. 

Did I just do a bunch of different shit my whole life? 

Kinda. 

Some of those things I did longer than others, some I got paid for, some not. I learned a lot doing all of them. Without being a bartender, I never would’ve met the woman I married (KZ). I also met some members of the mafia thanks to that day gig! Now that I think of it, that was a really cool job. 

All interesting chairs I’ve got to sit in over a lot of time and they all created the chair I sit in now. 

Don’t be afraid to try another chair, cool stuff can happen. 

What happens where there’s too much to watch? - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Spending far too much of my life as a child sitting in front of a television in the basement made shows almost into a place I would visit. 

The Fonz was working at a garage as a mechanic while I was at school, according to my logic at the time, and we would later meet and hang out while I watched “Happy Days.” Every show was a world, a neighborhood, a place to visit each week or re-visit if it was a repeat. 

TV was a great topic for conversation at school, which was helpful for a shy kid. TV still is a great topic but only if you and the person you’re talking to both watch the same shows. 

I was at a pal’s barbecue chatting with someone who asked if I watched “Game of Thrones.” Because I had’t seen the show, they immediately went looking for someone who did. It was a Sunday, there was a season finale that night, within hours so it was a hot topic, and for some, the only topic. 

Now that there’s a billion different things to watch on the air, on cable, online and on demand, the odds of two people watching the same show are considerably smaller. 

I met someone in Boston in the 80’s who grew up without a television in the house and it was like meeting a foreign exchange student. I referenced “The Brady Bunch” and they didn’t know what I was talking about and that, sadly, seemed kind of impossible to me. How could someone not watch television? How could someone not get a reference to Marcia Brady? 

It was a parental decision, no TV in the house makes smarter kids, was the theory. If that was the case, I was a an extremely dumb human being. 

There are so many pop culture touchstones stretched across generations, many available on YouTube and the options for distraction in addition to television and movies are growing at a constant pace. 

Recently, I watched a few seasons of “The Odd Couple” on Hulu because I want to be ready for the next barbecue! 

I wonder if there’s kids being brought up without the internet as a decision and not the result a lack of funds in the household budget.  I’m guessing no. 

Keeping kids away from technology at this point in history seems like an incredibly bad idea. TV, not so much. 

It’s not about the views - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

"Nothing really changes," was a phrase I remembered as I posted the Vampire Mob graphic novel trailer. 

My late, great friend Marnie Cardozo said it in reference to life before and after an exhibition at a big gallery, a great review, having your picture in The New York Times. Nothing really changes.

Marnie was an artist and she was right. 

Five years of big gallery exhibitions, great reviews, your picture in The New York Times. then, yeah, things will really change.

I’m not discounting that things can change quickly and have in the past for lots of people. The internet can make some crazy stuff happen.

I’m simply pointing out that this idea of “overnight success” is a very nice story but it is not the norm. It’s what makes people quit. 

If the result is the only thing that will satisfy you - views, reviews, awards, cash - if that’s what fuels the fire in your belly, what happens when that result doesn’t happen? 

How long can you pursue a dream before you start to feel foolish if there isn’t a result to show whoever it is you’re trying to impress? 

Another question, why are you trying to impress them? 

image

I was talking with someone recently about an online project they made and their characterization was that the series was “struggling.” 

The view counts were going down with each episode. 

Yup. That happens a lot. 

The attention of the world is what the Pacific ocean looks like to one person or a few, on a tiny boat in the middle of it - Fucking huge.

How can you tell everyone you made something?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointed out in 2010, “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003.” (hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin, who both referenced this stat.) 

Maybe you’ll “get lucky” and something will happen that will make millions of people know you exist, instantly. 

The reality, with that stat I referenced above, probably not gonna happen. 

I released Vampire Mob season one in 2010 using a view ransom method: episode one needed to be viewed 5,000 times before the next episode would be posted. I know what it’s like to stare at a view count number and not see it move much.

People had a lot of advice for me, mostly about how I was screwing everything up. “The audience won’t wait,” was one thing I was told more than once, an opinion backed up by a talent agent, so it’s GOT to be the truth.

When do you talk to the audience? 

Some folks barked SEO advice and others advised more “tits and ass.” 

Quick fixes, magical SEO tips, blatant attempts to appeal to an audience with sex, not gonna make magic happen. A regular release schedule might have worked, but why would more people watch? 

Maybe I did screw it up, but I had to try to do things differently. 

The worst mistake I made was going against my gut because I thought it was good for business and also, WAITING. I’ll take the mistake over waiting any day. 

While I was waiting I learned it was all about the audience. With no new episodes coming, I hung out on Twitter and Facebook with the audience. If I only showed up when I had episodes, I was an asshole. 

Making two online series and now a graphic novel I’ve learned what genuinely keeps me going: 

Hearing that the audience is happy with what I’ve made for them, that’s more important to me than anything, including views. 

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error to see that being an indie storyteller is about telling stories to the audience and “hanging out after the show.”

And luckily, I like hanging out! 

It’s not about the views, it’s about the audience and years of hanging out. Yes, you read that right: YEARS. 

Start now. Don’t wait. 

Are two people reading this? - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

Telling jokes to extremely small numbers of human beings is part of the process in learning how to do stand up comedy. 

Two people was the smallest audience I’ve ever performed for and they were one of the best audiences. 

Why? 

It was a shitty open mic in Santa Monica at The Novel Cafe, which I believe is still there. 

I somehow ended up hosting the end of the night and when two people sat down for the last comic at the same time four people left, the audience was now two people, total. 

After the last comic’s five minutes, those two audience members applauded and they weren’t faking it. They had spent the previous five minutes genuinely enjoying the jokes and the circumstances of the show - they were the entire audience. 

I let them know that was the end of the show and they were bummed, a rarity in an audience for a comedy open mic, being sad it was over. 

I offered to tell them jokes since they weren’t there earlier, they’d be new to them. 

It ended up being part comedy workshop, part conversation and part performance. Mostly conversation, but with my part of it being much louder, which I pointed out. 

A really great way to go through life, being amplified louder than anyone in proximity at all times. And annoying. 

The reason they were a great audience is that I knew they wanted to be there and they knew I wanted to be there. 

It was a free show for them and I was performing for free, so the work (comedy) could be judged on its own merit. 

Kind of like it is now on the internet. 

I don’t know how many people will read this, but if two enjoy it, cool. 

How to Create a Graphic Novel From a Live Action Series (Part 4) - Confessions of a Lucky Storyteller

image

For the record, and as stated in part 3, I don’t know how to do this, yet.

Drawing a horrible version of page one, my page one, drawn by me, was the start of seeing some of the logic in what a graphic novel/comic book script does.

What could I SHOW and not SAY? 

What HAD to be said by the characters? 

Why didn’t I learn how to draw better? 

Those were rotating questions as I looked at each page in the VMob season 3 live-action script. 

I started marking up that script, circling what was useful and what I could lose, or rather, needed to lose. 

And again, you definitely want to find some comics and the scripts for them to get some of the flow in your head. Read what’s on the written page, see what’s on the drawn and lettered page.

At least that was the case for me. I needed to see it.  

There’s definitely *some* parallels between telling a story with moving images and sound and telling one as a graphic novel, but they are still completely different. 

Seeing pages from Vampire Mob Issue 1 drawn by JM Ringuet is a very different workflow than what I’m used to being a writer/director/camera operator/director of photography/editor/casting director… (you get the idea).

When I was looking at panels on one page JM sent me, I actually thought, “He’s crossing the line!” Then I remembered, there is no “line” in a graphic novel.

I’m not calling shots. I’m not editing. This is different. I write the words, the “letter to the artist” and those words have to do almost all of the work, at least the part that I can do. 

At the moment, 17 pages have been drawn by JM Ringuet and Deron Bennett is lettering them. 

It looks fucking killer! 

I am genuinely psyched outta my mind how Issue 1 is coming together and I’m having way more fun than I thought I would working as a writer and only as a writer. 

It’s weird not having more control, that part I admit. I’ve burnt a lot of my life’s clock time learning the skills I needed to be able to make stories.

Drawing and lettering wasn’t on the list of those skills so I am the writer on this project. I like it, a lot.

This is a new form to tell stories in for me and one that will mix in more easily with writing, directing, shooting and editing stories told with moving images. 

Sometimes cool shit happens. 

Thanks to everyone who has helped and continues to support Vampire Mob! 

This is one ride I will remember for the rest of my life. 

There’s lots more to say about creating a graphic novel and there’s a fuckton more for me to learn. That’s what keeps it fun. 

I’ll be sharing more of what I learn here. 

Is hourly thinking the problem?

I always hated the mall as a kid and I still do. There’s nothing about the experience of shopping that is attractive to me. 

When drones can drop everything off at our doorsteps, sign me up! 

However, a parking lot filled with people selling all kinds of stuff, that I might stroll through for fun. 

People watching can give you great story ideas. Watching people’s stuff, even more so! 

Back in the day, the drive-in movie theater in Fishkill, NY would only come to life once a week, on Sundays, for a huge flea market. It’s currently a strip mall. 

As a kid, I was always up for walking around there for a couple hours, even when I didn’t have money to buy anything. 

Years of going to that flea market resulted in an understanding of the culture: There were “pros” and then there were people who were pretty much having a garage sale at the flea market. 

The pros had nicer signs, displays and were in the business of selling other people’s stuff they found at a markup. Some were dealers of antiques, others sold concert T-shirts or socks in bulk. 

My parents, sisters and me eventually went to the flea market as sellers, very much using the garage sale on location approach. 

A guy tried to talk down the price of my aquarium, pointing out that another seller had a similar aquarium at a lower price. I was a kid, sitting on a folding lawn chair, looking up at him, a grown up, who I just recommended go buy that other aquarium.

The guy left.

My father laughed, having watching the entire exchange. Later I sold the aquarium to someone else at the price marked. It was genuinely fun. The whole thing went well, cash in our pockets and we sold a ton of our “crap.” 

Years later, my father, a fine woodworker and me, a photographer, returned to that same flea market to sell what we made, by hand.

We sat in front of a table filled with what people were only complimenting, seemingly as a consolation prize they were giving us on what was obviously a slow sales day. 

It was a bust. We were in the wrong place at the wrong price selling to the wrong people.

Thinking hourly, plus the actual expense involved in making jewelry boxes, mounted color photographs and the cost of renting a spot at the flea market, that one outing was a total loss. 

We never went back. 

If I think hourly about social media, writing, creating two online series and now a graphic novel, on the books, on a spreadsheet, in terms of profit and loss, everything I’ve worked my ass off making for thousands of hours is a total loss. 

But I don’t think hourly.

I know everything I’ve worked my ass off creating is a gigantic success. 

No, not on the books, not in terms of profit and loss, not yet, at least. 

I had to prove to the audience and to myself that I knew how to make stories happen. I’m just one guy, so it’s going to take time for people to discover my work and me.

The audience helped me tell stories no one else would. Now those stories exist and can be seen, for free. 

This is what some would refer to as “the hard part.”

It’s the part I forget about, like I think many of us do. The part where we don’t get paid anything by the hour, for years. 

I have no idea what’s going to happen. Maybe this won’t work. 

Meet me back here in three years.

Why three years? Because time is what’s needed right now. 

Whatever time you have, invest some of it in creating a cool life. 

I love when the bad guys lose

Reading stories about people getting busted for crimes thanks to social media makes me happy. Really happy. 

The trails we are all leaving on the internet don’t disappear completely.

The town square stretches across states, countries and continents.

Everyone has a camera and posting pictures creates a relational database that can be used to connect people and places.

The bottom line: we won’t be able to hide our public and private personas.

Who we are at home, work and out in the world are now chained together, forever. 

A lack of authenticity will be harder to hide.

Making mistakes, committing crimes, failure of any kind is going to be witnessed by a lot more people. 

Trust, reputation and not being an asshole are finally a valuable commodity!

Because if you’re trustworthy, if you have a good reputation and if you’re nice to people, all the time, for years, good stuff will happen. 

There’s still work to do. You can’t just be a nice person and success rains down on you. But I think the mistake many are making is not acting like who they really are. 

The shortcuts won’t work. The people looking for ways to work a system or be successful quickly are going to fail, most of them that is. 

If we’re all focused on results and not on being a human being, first, the results will be all that matters. Results rarely inspire people when that’s the only part of the story they hear about. 

The advantage is to individual storytellers, artists, musicians and creative humans working in all media. We can be human beings because we are.

The disadvantage is to the giant corporations trying to be human. They can’t. 

That’s the way it works. I think. 

I am psyched out of my mind that I got to see this giant change in storytelling history.

I went “all in” five years ago, seeing that something was happening and it was the riskiest and best decision I’ve ever made. 

And way more fun! 

Is being Indie a club of some kind?

Let me preface this little rant by saying I love people who go out and make stuff happen, without waiting for permission. 

It’s one of my favorite things in human beings, the will to ignore the need for gatekeepers, validation or permission and just create.

I am happy to report there have never been more people going indie to make films, books, art, music, dance and a variety of other creative product in a variety of media.

There has never been a time in the history of humanity when so much was being created and we are lucky to be here, you and me, to see it happen. 

Of course, there’s downsides when a great deal of change happens in a relatively short amount of time and social media appears to be the place where those downsides grow quickly. 

One downside is what appears to be a quid pro quo economy of support growing among indie folk of all kinds. The idea that help or support must be returned to those giving it in the exact same form is a flawed system built on entitlement. 

We gotta be able to give support without expecting *anything* in return, because otherwise a bartering system of support will create resentment. 

Being “Indie” seems to be a label people sometimes use as the sole reason they should be supported, because they’re Indie. Like that’s all they have to say, “I’m indie!”

Yes, we all need help and support in campaigns to create projects and to spread the word when those projects have been created. However, when there are going to be so many more of us makin’ stuff, we all can’t contribute to every single indie campaign and we can’t all retweet every indie project. 

Why?

Brace yourself for some tough love - No one cares about you or your project and you can’t make them care by using the word “indie.” 

"Indie" doesn’t make me care. Does it make you care?

Just that word, indie, doesn’t do a fucking thing.

Here’s why - What does Indie actually mean?

I don’t know why you want to create whatever it is you want to make and it’s not my job to find out. 

"Support Indies!" is a shitty battle cry. 

Like, “support charity!” Which one? Why? 

What if a project is indie but you don’t like it? 

Do you *have* to support it just because it’s indie? 

I get Tweets from people asking me to help their campaign because I’m indie and they’re indie. Keep in mind these are tweets from people I’ve never interacted with before, but since they used the top secret word, “indie,” I must parrot their agenda. 

Who said that’s the rules? 

We can’t *just* be on Twitter when we need something, otherwise it will be a clusterfuck of people yelling, “Watch! Support! Read! Retweet!” and that would suck.  

It takes a long time to be good at anything. 

It takes an even longer amount of time to be good enough at something that other people might notice. 

Add to that the number of distractions asking for our attention and whatever it is you do, it’s going to take years to build any size audience. 

Sorry. 

There is no quick ROI in social media. 

Sorry. 

You gotta put in the time, you gotta hang out, you gotta be a human being and talk to other human beings, talk that isn’t selling them something. Because even when you’re “indie,” you’re not excused from having to put in the time and be a person. 

Indie is not a club and proclaiming yourself to be indie doesn’t do jack shit. 

Again, sorry. 

Be an authentic human that doesn’t solely advertise their projects and do that consistently, for years, and you will see cool stuff happen. 

Honest. 

Groupthink Is Where Innovation Goes To Die

image

Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by like-minded people? 

Groupthink can be extremely valuable.

It can make people pour ice water over their heads, myself included, and raise over $100 million for a cause. And yes, I am aware there’s a water shortage. 

I wonder what story people need to tell themselves to solve the worldwide water crisis? What act can individuals make videos of themselves doing that would inspire awareness and donations? 

I am sure that’s a question many have been asking for months. 

You can’t engineer human beings to do what you want and as our attention continues to be fragmented, it’s hard to even get someone’s attention. 

Innovation is disruptive and people hate change, which is why groupthink kills innovation, unless innovation is the goal of the group. And even when it is, social dynamics, hierarchies and egos can still easily crush ideas.

Innovation doesn’t have to be huge. 

When the new employee asks the person training them, “Would BLANK be a faster way to do this?” and the answer is, “That’s just the way we do it,” that’s groupthink.

There’s a story about a tractor-trailer trapped by an underpass that was too low for the height of the trailer and it has all traffic snarled. Cops, firemen and the driver of the truck can’t figure out how to remove the truck without doing more damage to it and the underpass. 

A 5-year old kid is among the people stuck in traffic who got out of their cars to get a closer look.

The kid tugs at a fireman’s coat and tells him he has an idea. The fireman smiles like any adult would at this proposal and with nothing better to do, he bends down to hear the idea, imagining it has to do with a superpower or Transformers. 

"Maybe take the air out of the tires," the 5-year old kid says to the grownup fireman, who is wearing the same uniform as all the other grownups who didn’t have that idea.

The kid was right, it worked.

The world doesn’t need more organizations, more validation systems or more opportunities for groupthink.

The world needs kids of all ages with ideas of all kinds.