Wishing all of you a great holiday and even better New Year!!
Wishing all of you a great holiday and even better New Year!!
Things are getting intense. In a good way! My radio segment *just* went live on AM radio to a pretty big audience! The show, Lele’s Week in Review, is a 90 second parody of entertainment news done by my character Lele. I write, produce and voice it. It’s A LOT of fun. And a lot to do. I bang out/record a new episode every single week.
Two radio stations have it: Rhythm 105.9 in Yuma, CA and now WWRN 1620 AM Urban Classics (as part of the Just Wake Up Morning Show every Friday at noon EST) which is in Lehigh, PA. They’re both syndicated out to smaller stations. Total listeners so far: about 250,000. Not too shabby.
WWRN started as a digital channel, I met them when they interviewed me about Chilltown, I had just started the segment with Rhythm 105.9 and they were interested. WWRN kept growing and growing and now, it’s finally made them jump to AM. Cool factoid: WWRN is co-owned by former 1990’s phenom Damion “Crazy Legs” Hall from the R&B group Guy. I feel it’s a real opportunity for me to increase brand awareness.
Meanwhile, I’m working about 6 1/2 days a week on the new series. Post-production is so incredibly involved, it’s a much bigger chunk of work than I anticipated. I’m *hoping* the first seventeen episodes will be in the can by sometime in January but at this rate, who knows. And there are three additional episodes PLUS the trailer that have to constructed. I’m getting bleary-eyed just thinking about it.
Also, every day, I spend a few hours knocking out a spec pilot script. I’m mentally raking myself over the coals with this one cause I feel really strongly about it and it’s….complex. FYI, the secret to writing something that’s complex? Keep it simple. Or, at least, make it look/feel that way. Something that’s a lot tougher than it seems. I’m hoping this script will be in the can by the end of December.
And after that? Three new writing projects–a short and two new digital series (which I’m hoping to be in production with by Spring.)
Like I said, it’s a lot. So once again, I’m going to take it a little slower with this blog. Only post once in a while and after the new series is in the can and I’m gearing up for promo, I’ll start again. Mostly cause I’m hoping that my journey promoting and being out there will be helpful to people.
Til then, I’ll leave you with this from the great Frank Ze.
An intense couple of weeks. Am in the final stretch of post for my series and hoping I’ll be done in a few months. This part is a bear. Each episode has many pods that are strung together to make a narrative–approximately 35 per episode. To say it’s been challenging to manipulate them all is an understatement. Plus, I’m reanimating certain bits just to make them tighter and brighter.
Meanwhile, also, about a month or so away from completing a pilot script. There’s a lot going on in this particular show–and the character development is raking me over the coals because I want them to be idiosyncratic and compelling. Plus, I have limited time to write because of production so my days been nuts so it’s been a challenge.
But a few things happened recently that further legitimatized the digital series realm and it’s the wind that keeping this operation afloat!
First, Jon Stewart signed a deal with HBO to produce digital shorts for HBOGo. This is a huge coup and really interesting. After 17 years at the Daily Show, Stewart could’ve done anything–certainly a new series at HBO. Makes a big statement that he’s doing small, bite-size shows for the network. He said the bits he’s planning will be political in nature.
Then, Project Greenlight, the reality series spear-headed by Matt Damon is now Project Greenlight Digital Studios and opening it’s virtual doors (partners include Miramax.) It’ll be crowd-sourced, streaming curated digital shows.
Also, Sundance Episode Labs released the list of participants and many of them come from the online world. And reading the bios, I realized: Ok, there finally is true legitimacy here. Not just for tween vloggers. But web series writer/directors.
It’s all very very encouraging. And I’m starting to feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.
Finally, I went to an screening of an indie film, A Cat’s Tale, that some friends, Rick Mowat and Paula Landry did. Paula produced and Rick (who’s a comedian/writer/director/actor) directed. Upcoming writer Anna Capunay wrote the screenplay and Rick helped with it.
Rick and I have collaborated before. He’s been in a few Woody Allen movies and also stars in an upcoming animated project I have. The film also stars Rick’s former comedy partner, Marty Grabstein (he’s also former voice of Courage the Cowardly Dog.)
I really liked it.
They did a little crowd-funding but the budget was ridiculously low. They initially mounted it as a play, then a few months later filmed it. They used Govinda Angulo, one of the brothers from the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning doc The Wolfpack, as DP which is very cool.
I was really impressed with the end result and what they were able to do with the limitations they had. It also was incredibly encouraging. It’s nice to see friends moving forward.
The film was sent out to festivals so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them. Meanwhile, you can see the trailer here.
Confession #1: Sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) I wake up in the morning and feel like a failure. Why? Duh. Cause my career isn’t where I feel it should be. And, partly, cause I had a Quick! Easy! Fast! kinda-sorta success when I started out. And since then? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to catch up. This is not about depression, btw. I’m not depressed. In fact, I’m a happy person and actually pretty optimistic about how things will turn out .
The Background: I made a big rookie mistake when I started: I actually believed my agent/manager would get me work. So I didn’t spend every waking hour networking and writing writing writing. Yeah, I had more ideas. Yeah, I worked on some. And wrote a few spec scripts. But since right out the box, I sold a spec script to a network (with virtually no experience under my belt), I thought it would just magically keep happening like that.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
My first deal was so over-the-top good–thank you 800-lb gorilla attorney and (former) manager!–that I literally thought I could retire in a few years. And could have, based on that contract.
The Hitch: Retiring in a few years was based on one teensy weeny little thing. My show had to go into production. It didn’t and ultimately I was kicked to the curb with the rest of the writer debris. Sayonara former agent/manager! Don’t forget to write! JK, you never did in the first place.
It is very very hard to come from something seemingly MAJOR to, well, nothing. But ultimately, the whole confidence imploding, trial-by-fire shitstorm experience got me one good thing: my hustle back. Cause you can’t succeed without it.
Confession #2: I thought I was fairly unique, you know, with the whole success to failure trajectory (well, except for country singers, meth-heads and some has-been rappers). That everyone else who had experienced the initial kind of success I did had go on to even mega-better things. And I was waiting for, as Mark Duplass has said, “the cavalry” to come for me. “Hey you! We heard you were really talented, you know, with that deal you had. Where’ve you been? Want a job in my writer’s room?” Nope, nada, zilch. (Yeah, I got over that notion pretty quickly.) Plus, not for nothing, it’s super isolating to toil away (yes, in obscurity). Especially when you’re working solo. Those Capital F plus Everybody’s Doing Better Than I Am and It Sucks To Be Me thoughts tend to creep into your psyche.
Turns out my story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s pretty common. Lately– mostly cause I’m in the last leg of production and second-guessing every single thing–I’ve been reading a lot of stories from super successful people who’ve detailed their own “failure” narratives. And you know what? It’s been incredibly empowering. Cause I’ve seen that my struggle is pretty much par for the course. Just read this brilliant/harrowing/ultimately kick-ass redemptive account by wonderful writer Nina Bargiel who went from being in the writer’s room on Lizzie McGuire to cleaning shoes in a gym. And, coming back. With a vengeance!
You know that meme that crops up every now and then on FB? The one what shows a mixed-up convoluted squiggle as the real trajectory of success? It’s true.
And all the choices I’ve made post my original fall from grace were pretty much on point. (First thing: don’t stop writing/creating/hustling. Second thing: don’t depend on an agent to get you work. That’s really not how it works.) And failure is part of that equation. It’s what separates the metaphorical men from the boys.
So that whole waking up in the morning and feeling like a failure thing? Yeah, it still happens. But I own it and know it’s only temporary.
(Victor, in the middle, with April Hernandez-Castillo–one of the stars of the film)
Victor Cruz–no not the athlete–is a great actor/comedian I was lucky enough to meet about seven years ago. Gil T, another great comedian who originally was part of the legendary comedy duo, The Most Brothers (HBO, Fox, opened internationally for some of the biggest names in the business) had worked on some shorts with him and when I was thinking about doing Chilltown, Gil recommended him. Highly.
I’d known Gil from a project we worked on together that Comedy Central *almost* bought. I was the writer/producer and it was so much fun and Gil was so incredible in it I knew we’d work together again. Plus, his word meant a lot to me. I already had cast him in Chilltown.
I hired Victor, essentially, without an audition and never looked back. He crushed it when we recorded voiceovers. Subsequently, I’ve hired Victor for nearly every project I’ve done. He’s THAT good. And so professional. And and all-around nice guy. Ok, I’ll stop gushing.
A few years ago, Victor was at my house recording voiceovers for a new project and when we were done, he mentioned he was thinking about doing a movie. At the time, he was working on The Other Woman and Nick Cassavetes, the director had given him some pointers. We spent a long time talking about it (mostly cause I’m a HUGE John Cassevetes fan and love Nick’s work too).
So imagine how thrilled I was to hear Victor’s film, The Stockroom, not only came to fruition but was featured in the prestigious Urbanworld Film Festival. Victor not only stars in it, but wrote and directed it.
The screening was off the chain. It was packed. Gil who had a role in it, flew in from Florida (where he now lives). The movie’s a fictionalized retelling of some of Victor’s experiences working as a stockroom manager at the Gap back in the day. It was a no budget movie and Victor did the most with what he had. They had an indiegogo campaign, raised about $7,000 and ended up making it work. Which is really impressive.
What was most compelling to me (aside from the film) was the Q&A after where all the actors told the audience to pursue their dreams, no matter how tough, no matter what they were. It truly was inspiring.
I think it’s safe to say, everyone floated out of the theater. I know I did.
It’s going to be screening at some more places. Catch it if you can…