PODCAST EPISODE 006: Paul Chitlik (UCLA Screenwriting Professor, Author of Rewrite)

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Paul Chitlik has written for Twilight Zone, Who’s The Boss?, and Pamela Anderson’s V.I.P. In this episode, he teaches us some good writing habits, tells us where the best homemade pasta can be found, and critiques the Atlas Shrugged Movie Trailer.

Find out why they call him the Rewrite Mentor.

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From his website:

Screenwriter/producer/director Paul Chitlik has written for all the major networks and studios. He was story editor for “The New Twilight Zone,” and staff writer for Showtime’s “Brothers.” He was coordinating producer for “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol” and “U.S. Customs Classified,” starring Stephen Cannell, directing episodes of both. He wrote and produced the first network movie in DV, “Alien Abduction,” for UPN. He wrote, produced, and directed “Ringling Brothers Revealed” for Travel Channel. He has written features for Rysher Entertainment, NuImage, Promark, and others. He received a WGA award nomination for his work on “The Twilight Zone,” a GLAAD Media Award nomination, and won a Genesis Award for a Showtime movie. He has taught screenwriting at UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, ESCAC (the film school of the University of Barcelona) and EICTV, in Havana, Cuba. He has consulted for Ibermedia, the Spanish language consortium, the Chilean development fund, and various production companies in the US and abroad. He began teaching residential workshops in 2008. They’ve been held in Italy, Spain, the U.S. and will be in France in 2011.

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Why Book Stores Are Closing

[Photo from Oxford Daily Photo.]

This morning, I was horrified to see several large signs in my neighborhood:

BORDERS CLOSING SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!

What a HUGE mistake.

(Because now I won’t be able to walk down to the corner and see my new book on the shelf, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Really.)

I do know Borders had been planning this closure for a long time, but I was in denial. I noticed probably a year ago that they did a store-wide inventory — they even put a total dollar value on each shelf. Never a good sign.

But the businessmen behind Borders were wrong about one thing all along.

A book store is not about selling books. “That’s the simpleton’s view,” as Eman Laerton would say about other topics.

These aren’t just widgets we’re talking about here.

A bookstore is An Environment For Discovery. A Gallery of Written Ideas.

For those of us who have been disillusioned by formal education, book stores have offered an escape: a place to stumble onto new shit.

Since way back in high school, when I’ve needed creative juice, I’ve take a random stroll through a book store… to raise my awareness, study independently, and find inspiration in unexpected places. I’d sit down with 4 or 5 books at a time and dig through them. I’d usually go home with at least one.

I’ve purchased around 500 non-fiction books in my lifetime. I can’t put a price on how much I’ve learned from them. It’s millions of dollars worth of knowledge. And it wasn’t only the time I spent turning pages and moving my eyeballs. It was the time I spent staring into space, sitting on the floor of the book store, digesting alien ideas, wondering if this was the book that was going to reveal its secrets to me.

Say what you want about how “books are old media.” But there’s still something special about printing words on paper. It says “these words deserve to be here.” Anyone can make a PDF. It’s when you realize that even the copied words are worth killing a tree or squeezing an octopus.

But it’s not just the book, it’s the experience of being in the book store that matters. Instantly ordering and downloading exactly what you want with one click is not the same — and if you think it is, you’re one step closer to living in the fucking Matrix.

So long as people have physical bodies, GOING TO PLACES and DISCOVERING NEW THINGS THAT YOU CAN TOUCH will matter. That can’t happen when everything is linked and indexed and blurbed and reviewed and meta-tagged into sterility. 5,278,945 people Like this? Who cares?

Chaos must be involved. The element of surprise.

Me? I go to the book store to find what I’m NOT looking for. I want the book that I see out of the corner of my eye, just a few letters of the spine showing on the top shelf. Way up there, hiding from me. Probably in the wrong section, something I’ve never heard of. I don’t know who else has read it, and I don’t care. (Coincidentally, while writing this blog entry, I used some writing techniques I learned from The Art of Nonfiction by Ayn Rand — which I discovered during the above experience last weekend.)

If I only read books that I’m looking for, they’ll tell me what I already know. What good is that?

I admit… that was getting harder to experience, because there are too many published books to keep in one store. Only the cheesiest, pot-boiling easy-sellers were kept in stock. I’d see several square miles dedicated to a bullshit biography on Lady Gaga (or some other pseudo-celebrity that’s “famous for being famous”) while anything published more than a week ago was in Clearance. That is, unless it happened to be on a required reading list — and we know all those books are time-honored crap for conformists.

Sad.

Why not go to the library, then? Because their collection is made of whatever people decide to abandon, stuff they couldn’t even give away.

There must be a solution, right?

Boutique shops like Writers Store in Burbank have figured that one out. Nurture a community (give seminars, panel discussions), stock the best products and tools for a particular profession (writing), and most importantly — make people feel inspired. I always think, “Just by walking in here, I’m a real writer.” Makes me wanna go home and get to work, but not before I buy something to thank them.

I think Private Libraries are another fantastic business idea. Old books, new books, it doesn’t matter — as long as they’re personally-selected for a devoted audience. Instead of coffee shops, why not pay to hang out in a media library personally selected by the Coen Brothers or Kevin Smith? Go there and study all day. I think we’ll be seeing those popping up in the future. If I’m lucky.

Let’s hope that the businessmen behind book stores grow to understand what a book store is really about, and can turn this all around. I repeat: it’s not about selling widgets. I’d hate to see book stores go extinct because they can’t understand that simple premise.

R.I.P., my local Borders. It’s too bad you couldn’t make it work. You were a corporate whore, but I loved you.

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PODCAST EPISODE 005: Anthony White (Ex-Drummer For Frank Zappa)

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In the late 1970s, Anthony White, an L.A. session drummer, auditioned for and played with the legendary Frank Zappa. He discusses his abrupt departure from the band after being replaced by upcoming percussion virtuoso David Logeman.

In this candid telephone interview, we discuss the audition process, L.A.’s studio climate in the late 1970s, what it was like to fill the gap between Terry Bozzio and Vinnie Colaiuta, the rehearsal sessions for You Are What You Is, his practice habits, and the psychological events that led to Anthony’s eventual retirement as a session drummer.

Anthony shared many dark business insights, which could help any struggling drummer who is seeking commercial success in the realm of progressive or math rock.

Find out more about Anthony White and his production / engineering / live lighting and sound career at his “under construction” website, Anthony White Productions.

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Craig Anton Interview

Craig Anton Interview

Craig Anton is an actor and comedian in Los Angeles, CA. If you look around, you’ll find his named attached to The Office, The Sarah Silverman Program, Tom Goes To The Mayor, Phil of the Future, Boston Legal, The King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Allie McBeal, Lizzie McGuire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, MADtv, Mr. Show, and a late night variety show in Hollywood called The Tomorrow Show, which he co-hosted with Brendon Small and Ron Lynch for 5 years. That’s a lot of heavy keywords to live up to.

At the time of this interview (September 2009), I contacted five other creative career candidates with questions. None of the others came through with Craig’s thoughtful tenacity. Most didn’t come through at all. And that sets us up for the first interview question.

Read The Interview!

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PODCAST EPISODE 004: Andy Alt (Interactive Marketing Director For Steve Vai)

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It’s been discussed once or twice that marketing professionals are driven by money, will suggest artists do things that compromise their artistic integrity to sell a record and enjoy exploiting naive teenage demographics — right?

WRONG! Meet Andy Alt, Interactive Marketing Director for Steve Vai — who not only manages Steve’s online presence (website, works with leading technology partners, encourages two way communication through social media, videos, forum), but also creates his very own, heartfelt music in an artsy duo called Swimming In Trees. (Imagine somehow blending that “Indie Hipster From Silverlake” sound with Eddie Van Halen Guitar Shredding. Impossible? Listen to them and find out!)

It turns around Andy is as creative and philosophical as any abstract-minded artist, a self-taught multimedia wiz who uses any tool available to share his fun ideas. I’m not at all surprised Vai has partnered with him.

In this episode we talk about a new website he and Steve are starting called GuitarTV.com (coming soon!), a new hybrid instrument Andy has built, and what will get a guy like Andy to leave his creative fun (house) to go see other musical artists and what gets his attention.

From his website:

Andy Alt has brought his guitar playing into the music world of Los Angeles through live performance, recordings And film. He can Be heard on Fox’s “Back To You” TV Series, Epic Records’ “Shut Up Stella”, USA Television Network “Characters Welcome”, Music Research And Studio Recordings At Walt Disney/miramax Studios, Gina Schock through Interscope Records, Long-term Relationship (Feature Film).

He can be seen on YouTube Live opening up and playing with The Roots, The Black Keys, Poogie Bell, Clipse, Gina Schock Of The Gogos, Zack Wiesinger, Ashley Mendel Feat. Ben Kenney, Mia Sable, The Black Heartthrobs, Travisty Theory, Blitz The Ambassador, Becky (Keanu Reeves’ Post-dogstar Project), Joe & The Jungle, Tara Johnson, 2nd Day Crush, The Dirges & American Idol Finalists Shane Simon & Gina G.

Simultaneously, Andy has kept up his interest in innovating brands through concepts and marketing and is the founder of Bands and Brands. In his portfolio, you’ll find a diverse set of forward-thinking brands such as Ibanez, Guitar Center, Fender Musical Instruments, Guitar Center, Ovation/Adamas Guitars, Steve Vai, Favored Nations, Intel, Belkin, Sun Microsystems, PayPal, Lamps Plus, Simple Green, Bonne Bell, Openeco.org, St. Bernard Project, Zapzyt, Dixon Drums, Worst Case Scenario, University Games, eJamming.com, UCSD, Gibraltar, Deca.tv & Reunion Blues.

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The Mysterious Octopus!

Here’s a two-minute video I animated in After Effects.

The Mysterious Octopus is a sci-fi / fantasy cartoon concept I created and wrote with an old friend during all of 2009. It cost me thousands of dollars and a year of my life.

I spent part of 2010 trying to re-imagine it, but decided to just leave the concept as is and release it.

After posting all of the scripts, character bible, and theme music last month, I realized that a simple video would get the message across much better. It cost me an additional $60 for stock video (the swirling galaxies and the burning paper).

As sarcastic as the video is at times, I think the show concept is great — but after reading the works of Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, I know the scripts need to be darker and heavier. There’s no strong message in them, and to me, that makes weak art. (That’s the reason I sat on it for almost an entire year.)

BUT: What I’m most proud of is assembling the work of Lance Myers, Stephen Cox, Douglas Showalter, and some random images from Google Image Search into something cohesive to tell a little story.

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PODCAST EPISODE 003: Jymuloxx Cortribbonz (Director-Producer For Nickelodeon)

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Who here doesn’t remember the 1980s show Real Gibbons on Nickelodeon? I’m not afraid to admit I still have a worn-out (and now autographed) VHS tape with the first 3 episodes, but still haven’t been able to find any clips on YouTube. Well, here’s the man who started it all. After 12 years of being inspired by his shows, I’m honored to present this candid interview with the temperamental director-producer, Jymuloxx Cortribbonz. Guess where Adult Swim got all their animation techniques? You guessed it.

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PODCAST EPISODE 002: Micah Chambers-Goldberg (Director, Illustrator, Fine Artist)

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I met Micah Chambers-Goldberg at a U.F.O. Convention. Turns out he’s a bad-ass animator, illustrator, artist, and all-around creative genius.

If you don’t believe me, watch this video he directed and animated for “Things That Go Bump In The Night.”

…and listen in to the above episode as I am intimidated by not only his monster-building skills, but his calm, spiritual personality.

From his website:

Micah Chambers-Goldberg, known for his unique ability to transform the whimsical imagination into fantastical imagery, is a versatile and accomplished artist in Animation, Illustration, Film, and Fine Art.

While Micah conveys the wondrous beauty within the ridiculous and supernatural, he maintains an authenticity in all forms of his artistic expression. His current film projects include Who Stole the Mona Lisa?, an animated short commissioned by Astral Artists (slated to run at the Kimmel Center for The Philadelphia International Festival Of The Arts in 2011) and Things That Go Bump in the Night, a live-action/stop-motion animated music video for Tommy Space and the Alchemists. He is also completing illustrations for the children’s book, The Princess and the Peanut (published release in 2011).

Micah, who currently resides in Los Angeles, received his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. During his time at UARTS, Micah not only interned at Dreamworks Feauture Animation Studios but also completed his thesis film, Brain Juice, which took “Best in Show” and was well-received in film festivals all over the world. Upon Micah’s relocation to Los Angeles, he spent several years painting live, on-stage, for Def Poetry Jam poets and musicians, as well as illustrating published children’s books such as Stone Soup and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. He also designed toys and showroom environments for JAKKS Pacific, the third largest toy company in the U.S. Most recently, Micah wrote and directed an award-winning short film, The Lifter Upper, which is currently traveling the film festival circuit and attracting much attention and critical-acclaim.

Now, as a renowned filmmaker, animator, illustrator, and fine artist, Micah Chambers-Goldberg continues to inspire his audience to see life in a broader spectrum of color and possibility.

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PODCAST EPISODE 001: Dan Oster (MADtv, Titled Sketch Project) – SPECIAL 200th EPISODE!

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WOW! Our 200th Episode.

Who better to celebrate it with, than the guy who was interviewed on it, comedian Dan Oster?

In this special episode, Dan talks about his experience on mainstream comedy television, teaches us some technique and theory behind sketch writing and celebrity impressions, and the launch of his own web series.

From his website:

You might best remember Dan from the bio that you are currently reading, Beyond that, he has worked as a cast member on the hit Fox television series MADtv and performed in Amsterdam with famed sketch/improv comedy theater Boom Chicago where he also acted as assistant director.

Dan is the driving force behind Titled Sketch Project, having conceived of it after noticing the water level rise every time he sat in his bathtub. According to legend, following this discovery, he ran down the street, dripping wet and without his clothes, shouting, “I’m naked! I’m naked!” That day, TSP was born.

A Los Angeles native, you can currently find Dan performing with fellow cast members Jen Burton and Lauren Flans in Lost Moon Radio, a brilliantly-written live sketch show and kindred comedic spirit to TSP. Dan is also one of the original members of The Improv Space theater, having been involved with them since 2000. He continues to perform and teach there whenever possible.

Among the things Dan is not proud of is the fact that he spent a year as a karaoke jockey and that he once had a guest appearance on ABC’s Hank.

Check out this link to see Dan’s latest Character Reel.

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Review: Michael Schäfer

Michael Schäfer, a musician in Germany, sent me a video this morning — he wanted to get my input. Here’s what I have to say.

• This guy is expressive with his face and body. You can pick up on some of the meaning of the musical statement from the faces he’s making. He’s less worried about playing correctly and more focused on telling the story. Typically I’m annoyed by face-making because of how music has been hijacked by a bunch of posers and dancers. But Michael is playing the music with his whole body, rather than trying to look cool.
• Lots of dynamics and tempo variation here. It’s not locked to a stiff, robotic grid. That’s refreshing to me.
• He’s playful about it. It’s not at all a “perfect” performance, but it’s organic and he keeps the energy moving. If you can see past the technical issues (ambient lighting and audio), it’s an impressive little composition. Pretty chords. More people should feel uninhibited about putting their ideas out with whatever gear they have, like this guy did.

He asked me if I can imagine Morgan Agren playing it, and I definitely could. I’d love to hear what this would sound like played by a full band. It would require musicians who are sensitive to the nuances of the piece — more like orchestral players than rock players.

Great job, Michael.

If anyone else would like to send me their videos for a review, put them in the Forum and I’ll post the best ones here.

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