Monthly Archives: October 2010

DisneyLiving – Ghoulish Greetings


Director Sebastian Davis, Producer Tess Ortbals

Ghoulish Greetings Spot #1

Ghoulish Greetings Spot #2

Ghoulish Greetings Spot #3

Published: October 31, 2010

Disney Living – A Post Coloring Tutorial

Hey folks,

Our friends over at Basher Films put together a detailed blog on the process of color correcting our Disney “Ring” spoof spot.  Entitled “Anatomy of a Grade” Chris Hall takes us through the process of matching the cool style of the original material.  I highly recommend it for all those interested in the emerging art of film coloring.

Check it out:

Basher films ( just announced the addition of the DaVinci Resolve to their facilities.  If you are in need of quality color correction at a reasonable rate – give Chris a call!

Happy Halloween!

Published: October 29, 2010

MooVision Goes Live

Moovision Logo

Hey everyone!   The complete site for the two webisodes series I edited just went live today.  Below are the details!


Click Here To Visit The Site

A tongue-in-cheek mockumentary Moo News team covers breaking news, investigative reports, revealing interviews and more for milk lovers coast to coast.






Lydia Sighting - MooNews Facebook Connect Episode

Click to see how we placed YOU into our episode!



We have 2 more episodes all finished, and they will be posted up there in the coming weeks.

MooLah Logo

Click Here To Visit The Full Site

Coronado and the Moo Mobile take Boston and Miami by storm.

There are 3 more episodes we’ve already finished, and they’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks…

Gourmoo Cookoff Logo

Click to view full website

Enter now to compete in Gourmoo Cookoff, a cooking competition featuring lactose-free milk. You could win a trip to Los Angeles, win premium kitchen gear and a dream culinary vacation!

The competition will be held in early December, and full episodes will roll out in February, 2011.  If you’re a cooking enthusiast, send in a video!!

Published: October 15, 2010

WCA 2010 Industry Forum – Not Your Mama’s Film Industry

Not Your Mama’s Film Industry

Every year the Women of Cinematic Arts puts on a killer conference with a line up of current power house players in the Industry.  On the whole, there are a ton of USC alumni and most encouraging – WOMEN in key creative roles.  Aside from hearing personal anecdotes on blockbuster movies and shows, it is also a great forum to catch up with up-and-coming peers in the industry.

I’ve been a volunteer for the WCA for the past four years and at every Forum as well.  I’m a bit of a junkie to these events.  But the value isn’t with the face time with these Industry elites – it’s really with the connection to the women in the audience.

The WCA is now about 700 members strong with a wide variety of people in various stages of their career.  From current students to working freelancers to young execs – We cover the spectrum.  And we also hire each other.  The Forum is always a great place to reconnect with old friends and new, and to seek out new opportunities.

I have to quote one member – an old friend of mine whom I started film school with back in ’05 – Kate Powers (MFA Screenwriting ’07 – now a writer’s assistant on Breaking Bad).  Her thoughts on the Forum:

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk, doing the *exact job* I dreamed of
landing when I started at USC — and I’m reasonably sure I couldn’t be here
without the guidance and lessons I’ve learned at these industry forums.

Kate is super talented, and I know she is going to be writing in the room on a show in the next five years, for sure.  I’ve had the privilege to direct her work which always had witty dialogue and fun comedic action twists that keep audience engaged.  If not for the WCA – I might have lost touch with Kate.

Yesterday I was able to touch bases with people I haven’t seen in over a year – and in some cases over 5 years!  All dynamic women with a lot of new exciting projects or job opportunities before them.  Many women were exchanging cards and figuring out how they can help each other in their objectives.  That was when it occurred to me…the WCA had achieved it’s goal.  Women supporting women in this industry.

I left yesterday feeling invigorated, as though I got a shot of adrenaline towards my goals.  The keynote speaker, Linda Woolverton, said you have to live your dream and every day work towards that goal no matter how discouraged or alone you may feel.  If you want to write – then write!  And as it turns out, most of the recent phenomenon “Alice in Wonderland” was written in the bathroom to avoid persistant animal distractions.  With organizations like the WCA, I feel a breath of relief, because it IS HARD and LONELY – but with them, that supposedly insurmountable mountain seems more like a challenging hike.

Thank you to all the volunteers and the School for all the hard work of putting on the Forum.  As always – top job ladies!

Published: October 10, 2010

Don’t Make Your Characters Dumber Than Your Audience

There should be a universal list of no-no’s that every writer (and editor) should be forced to go through when they have completed their work.  Amongst them, in fact maybe even atop this whole list, is that your main character should never become dumber than your audience.  Here’s what I mean:

I’m in the last 150 pages of a 2500 page fantasy trilogy.   I have some real pet peeves with this series (which I run into in a lot of fantasy novels) , but here’s what just happened.  Throughout this complex, intriguing, and very good story we have gotten very close to this character named Fitz.  He’s had to endure massive tragedy, massive pain and punishment, and massive discrimination.  He’s strong-willed, clever, and dedicated to his King most of all (who was overthrown by his scheming brother when the King went searching for a way to stop the raids from evil foreigners on their coasts).

Now, nearing the end of this epic story, Fitz and a small group of others have traveled out of their land to find the good King and help him overthrow his conniving brother.  For Fitz, this also would mean that his wife, a woman whom he loves more than anything but believes him to be dead, and his daughter whom he’s never seen will be safe and that he can return to them.  We are close to these people, and we want Fitz to get back there and finally have something good in his life.

Fitz holds The Skill (like Jedi mind tricks – only a few people hold this power and some are evil), though he was never trained in it.  There is a group who are from the conniving King, however, who have been very well trained in it.  They have been following Fitz and his group into the wilds, hoping to corrupt his mind and find a way to hurt him.  Fitz and his group members have realized that a very minuscule Skill-link has formed between Fitz and another character in his group, The Fool (he was the King’s fool – kind of a mysterious prophet).  They are all concerned that this link could be exploited by the king’s Skill users to get into Fitz’s mind without him knowing, or worse – they could take control of the Fool’s mind and get to Fitz.

Then the conniving king recently communicated to Fitz through one of his Skill users that I know where your wife and daughter are.  I will rape her, torture her, and then kill them both.  You can do nothing to stop me. As you can imagine, this is horrendous news for Fitz.  However, he quickly realizes that there is no way any of them know where she is.  So he simply must not allow them to know.

A few pages later, The Fool begins acting strangely.  He asks Fitz if he would be okay with him visiting his wife were Fitz to be killed.  Fitz responds that he’d rather his wife (remember, she thinks he’d dead) never know that he still lives because she’d be hurt he didn’t come to her.  But the Fool persists with his pressure and Fitz says, “Well I don’t even know where she is specifically.  Only that she’s near this town called Buck Cliffs.”  And suddenly the Fool freezes, collapses, and acts exaclty like the last two times evil King’s skill users tried to take control of him.

What does Fitz do?  He gets angry at the Fool for acting like an idiot.  Even when the rest of his group claims that they found the Fool laying on the ground having violent dreams.  They even say, “It’s as if he’s been Skilling using.”  What does Fitz do?  He gets concerned the Fool is sick.  Eventually the Fool wakes up and Fitz has a change of heart, telling the fool he does with him to visit his wife if he were to die.  “Why on earth would you be telling me that, Fitz?”  He doesn’t remember the conversation – only as if it were a remnant of a dying dream.  What does Fitz do?  He still assumes the Fool is sick.

So here I am.  150 pages left, and my main character has been deliberately made an idiot by the author.  Why wouldn’t they realize that the Fool is doing exactly what they’d warned themselves about for days and days on end?  They would realize it!  Instantly!  And if they couldn’t prove it, Fitz wouldn’t be able to hold himself back from using the Skill to try and kill those other guys or at least use people’s minds to try and warn his wife.  Oh I’m certain he’ll realize that the others have now found the approximate location of his wife.  But not for a while (and the book is nearly over).  And in the meantime, I don’t believe anything any longer.  I think a hell of a lot less of the characters I should care most about.


Published: October 9, 2010

Pitch Anecdote #1 – Film Angels, San Francisco

Fail early.  Fail often.  Experience is worth more than anything, and failure can be even more valuable than success.

When we were just getting started, we were searching for anyone living and breathing to pitch our project to.  We got recommended by a friend to this group:  Film Angels They say that they’re “The world’s first professional Angel Investor group for independent film.”  Pretty sweet, right?  It’s based in the Bay Area, so there’s plenty of access to money.  It’s run by a guy named Thomas Trenker who is also the founder of the IIFF (International Institute for Film Financing).  They’ve got a huge group on LinkedIn, and you can get on the mailing list for their events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.  If you’re just getting started and you live in these areas, you should check out one of the events.  That’s how Tess and I got our foot in the door to pitch to the Film Angels.

We travelled up to San Francisco on a spur-of-the-moment decision back in September 2008, specifically to get our business plan in the hands of Thomas Trenker.  It was a long way to go, but at the beginning you have to make bold actions or nothing will ever happen.  The IIFF meeting was interesting.  Thomas has a great presentation he does after all the other speakers which is specifically about movie profitability.  He’s a numbers guy, so he had like 25 slides on what the best movies to invest in are – all told from the perspective of an investor.  And, to our astonishment (not really, we did a lot of research), the #1 genre and budget-level movie he recommended investing in was exactly the movie we had.

We were so giddy that as soon as his presentation ended I raced up there with our business plan, handed it to him, and said “This is exactly what you just pitched.  Point by point, this is it.”  He scanned it and was instantly impressed with the package we had.  On the spot, he asked me if we could come pitch to the Film Angels.  BOOYAH!  Tess and I had to celebrate with a Ghirardelli Sundae.

Our pitch, however, didn’t happen until mid-December.  It was a long time, and we did pursue other things during that time, but this was the opportunity we were really looking forward to.  It was such a perfect fit, you know?  Here we had the exact kind of movie that the head of the Film Angles had said was the best investment to make!  We assumed that, if we nailed the pitch, he’d recommend the project and that’d get us moving.  Right?

Enter Mid-December in San Francisco.

The location for the pitch was this uber-chichi little place on the outskirts of downtown.  They didn’t have fireplaces there but had flatscreen televisions each showing a fire burning in a fireplace.  These were all over, even in the bathrooms.  They had retro couches like the spaceship furniture in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  There was a bar where the owner of the joint poured us some wine and I talked to him about his second house in Tahoe and skiing in the winter while we waited for the pitch before us to finish.

The pitch room was a small little theater with stadium seating and lavish couches.  It really only sat about 10 people. The screen filled the entire width of the room so that when they turned our powerpoint presentation on we couldn’t stand to present without the projector blasting us in our eyes and having our shadows block the screen.

So Tess and I pitched the project to this small group of people.  Thomas Trenker wasn’t present.  We had pitched quite a bit before for a number of different projects at USC, so we knew how to prepare ourselves.  The key with a pitch is that you have to know your material by heart.  Not in a memorization way, but you honestly have to know everything, understand everything, and also know your presentation by heart.  If you memorize, guess what happens?  Your eyes move back and forth as you talk because you’re literally re-reading the text that you memorized.  And the moment you get distracted by just the tiniest bit, you’re screwed.   We had it down pretty good.

This preparation, however, is only useful when people listen.  Our audience at this pitch were all laying back in their stadium-seating sofas, wine in hand, and it was dark – definitely the worst conditions ever for a pitch.  You want a bright room where people are sitting up, alert, and haven’t had a few glasses of wine.  Tess and I recognized this early on, and it just got worse.

It really became clear to us that nobody was serious about anything.  About 2/3 of the way through the pitch these two drunken investors stumbled their way back into the room and interrupted us saying, “Who’s your cast?”   Get the hell out of here you ass hole! That’s what I wanted to say.  But I just said, “We don’t have anyone yet.”  We didn’t (that was one of our mistakes).  They then laughed and snickered private jokes for the rest of the pitch.  Incredibly rude, and in retrospect we should have said something.

At some point a guy in the back who had two different types of scarfs wrapped around his neck corrected us when we were explaining our distribution strategy involved four-walling a theater to exhibit the film for distributors who had already expressed interest in the project.  “Four-walling is also called self distribution.”   He said it to make himself sound smart to the other people in the room.   Nevermind the fact that if he was listening to us he would have known that four-walling meant that we were renting a theater out (aka:  four-walling).  I actually don’t think anyone else in the room knew he was wrong anyway.

When we finished the pitch, there was an eerie stillness.  Just to break the awkwardness one lady asked us if we had presales in place, which is a ridiculous question based on the fact that we didn’t have any cast attached.  Even if we did, I know know that it wouldn’t have meant a damn thing.

As we walked out of the room, a few things were abudandtly clear to me.  First, these people had never seen Thomas Trenker’s presentation on movie profitability, and in fact probably knew next to nothing about movie profitability.  Second, they didn’t care about movie profitability because they weren’t going to invest in any movies.  This was a get-together.

Sadly, there was a single thing that probably would have made a difference.  Remember the guy who asked who the cast was?  He wanted to rub shoulders with celebrities, and tell his buddies he’s financing a movie starring so-and-so.  If we could have answered him with a legit name or two who were attached, the conversation might have been different.  Cast matters.

Here’s the irony though.  Good projects draw good talent.  How do you sign talent?  Money.  How do you get money?  Have talent or distribution.  How do you get distribution?  Have talent.  How do you sign talent?  Money.  How do you get money?  Have talent or distribution.  How do you get distribution?  Have talent.  How do you sign talent?  Money.  How do you get money?  Have talent or distribution.  How do you get distribution?  Have talent….

To this day, I don’t know a single project that’s been financed through this group – and that nearly was two years ago.  Spectator Investors.  Some of them have the money, others don’t.  I don’t believe Thomas Trenker has any financial position to invest in anything, and he just arranged this group because he wishes investors would invest.  But they want something that doesn’t exist, so they never invest.

Don’t misinterpret this as a complaint because, honestly, these guys don’t intend to be pulling your leg.  They just don’t realize what they’re doing, and often the people pitching to them don’t realize it either.  We were only half aware, and in retrospect there were plenty of elements we didn’t understand or know about during the pitch.

The key to this post is this:

Despite the depressing reality of this experience, I would recommend everyone go through it. How else will you learn?  How else will you know when you meet a legit investor?

This story does have a happy ending.   Film Angels offered us two pitches that night – the other was in Palo Alto (aka: the heart of Silicon Valley).   There we met a guy who didn’t have the money to invest, but has an unbelievable passion for movies and has become a great friend who has commited himself to helping get the film financed.

The Palo Alto pitch will be the subject of the next post on this topic.  See, out of darkness can come light!

Published: October 7, 2010

Disney Halloween Spoofs – It’s Alive – Ahhhh!

Hey All,

Come check out my Disney Living Halloween Spoofs up on YouTube.  Disney Living is launching a Costume Contest.  Check out the details below from their YouTube Channel (via Facebook, too).

Disney Halloween Spoof: Ghoulish Greeting #1

Let Disney Living trick and treat you to three scary movie spoofs and participate in our Halloween contest with your own video. More details below. Don’t get too scared…these videos are just frightfully funny e-greetings for you to send to your family and friends this Halloween season!

Disney Living invites YOU to create your own Ghoulish Greeting video and enter it in the “Happy Halloween from Disney Living Contest” for a chance to win one of five $100 Disney Store gift cards. All you have to do is videotape an original Halloween video greeting including this Disney Living Happy Halloween Graphic:


and at least one Disney character costume (store bought or homemade). Then post your video as a “video response” to one of these three Halloween Video Greetings.

See full contest rules here: CONTEST RULES and terms of use here: TERMS OF USE



Ghoulish Greetings Spot #1


Ghoulish Greetings Spot #2

Ghoulish Greetings Spot #3


Published: October 5, 2010

The Double-Edged Sword of New Ideas

It’s funny how new ideas arrive.  I don’t get them a lot.  Maybe a couple of really good ideas every year, but definitely not more than that.  As a writer, though, we always have to be in search for those new ideas, and willing to open our minds to and chase nearly every idea that comes along.   We must test whether or not it actually is an idea worth really thinking about.

I read a lot.  Partially because I know I need to, but I actually love learning and gaining insight into other storytellers’ minds.  I read the news a lot, and try to keep up on scientific developments – particularly in Physics and Astronomy (I’m just very interested in those subjects).  Recently however, I’ve been reading a 2400 page fantasy trilogy which has been a drag.  As with many fantasy books the concepts are great, the characters are great, but the author gets so carried away with the minutia of the world that he or she forgets to tell a gripping story.   But this is where my mind has been for the last month or so, except for the 15 hour book-on-tape marathon I had in which I listened to The Elegant Universe (all about String theory).

So yesterday, I climb onto the orbital trainer at the gym, and start my daily exercise routine.  Within a few moments, no more than a minute, a new idea had spawned in my brain.  For the next 1/2 hour while I was on the machine, I followed that spark of an idea and saw where it led me.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  There are strong elements of every boy’s childhood in there, but with a fantastic sci-fi thriller angle, all set in a great location which I’ve never seen in a film before.  And the kicker – I tend to think BIG – and this is an incredibly small, contained idea that could be made for just a few hundred thousand dollars – if the production team was right.

So I pitched it to Tess, just the concept, and she dug it.  It’s now been a full day, and I still think it’s got a lot of potential.  “Where’s that double-edged sword you mentioned?  Isn’t this a good thing?”

Well… here it is.  Writing is hard.  And writing from a brand new idea is very hard.  So while it’s great to have some cool new idea that I can actually <em>see </em>specific moments in my head that are thrilling, that’s all I’ve got.  Will it blossom into a full and interesting story?  It can.  Will the idea be worthy of the time commitment it’ll take to develop and write?  I could.  But will it?

This is the double-edged sword of a new idea.  It’s a spark, but nothing more.  Taking it from a spark to a complete, satisfying story full of lifelike characters, twists and turns, and hopefully interesting new ideas… well… that is very hard.   And these sparks are dangerous.  Potentially very dangerous.   Here I am now with at least 4 other scripts at some stage of completion, which can all develop into great scripts, and I am drawn to write something new before finishing those.

As Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio say, “Your premise will make or break your script.”  That’s wonderful advice, but equally important is having the dedication and fortitude to actually finish what you start.  We are not writing ideas, and we are not writing premises.  We are writing complete, compelling, and satisfying stories!

Published: October 2, 2010