Clearing the docket

I have a folder filled with half completed blogs.

Some of these blogs are thoughtful, some of them sad, some are simple updates, but all are incomplete.

Since my son was born, my squirting out “content” for the internet isn’t as regular as it used to be. Mostly because I don’t really do internet content much anymore, at least not the quick stuff. I used to attempt to do 2 videos a month and four blogs a month along with whatever podcast guest spots and articles I was writing for Nerd Reactor. Now, most of the stuff I do is development for TV-type stuff and live theatre. I do miss the blog days, and may return to them sometime, but for now, this is what it is and I’d rather develop for TV projects than do a blog about cooking just for the content. Also, my days are taken up with rearing a child, which I’ll get into in a bit. Regardless, most of my unfinished blogs discuss this stuff and I wanted this one to finally clear the months long docket.

Here we go…

For the past several months, I have been working on the summer edition of the live radio theatre I do called House of Shadows. This one is set in the 1950s and includes four stories instead of the three we normally do. I have been excited about doing a 50s themed show since the last HoS ended and as I write this, on the eve of the performance, I am eager to see everyone’s reaction to it.

This will also be the first show not solely written by my sister and I. Writer, podcaster and bon vivant, Gabe Llannas has contributed a piece inspired by the EC horror comics of the 1950s. Seriously, it is a glorious tale filled with nasty people dying to get what’s coming to them! …See what I did there?

Anyway, after the previous show, I was approached by a couple of friends wanting to write for the the next one and they asked me how our scripts worked. I had never really thought about how a HoS script is constructed before, so it was an excellent opportunity to dissect my work in order to figure out how it was done. After a few hours of looking at previous scripts, I was able to form a kind of “writing recipe” for the show. This is a document I would hand to others, helping to steer them toward a script that would fit with our program.

Here is a truncated breakdown:

Each episode is around 15 pages, which in the proper format should equal 15 minutes, give or take.

Pages 1-5: Introduce us to the world and the characters.

Pages 6-10: Set up the problem/conflict.

Pages 10-15: Spring the “trap”. Resolve the conflict and wrap up the character’s fates with a quick denouement.

I didn’t intend to stick to a recipe while writing the first episodes of HoS, it was only later did I realize that there was a formula we had developed. This formula isn’t new, by the way. It is essentially the standard formula for every story ever, only packed into a 15 page box. Almost every story you enjoy follows this formula from Rick and Morty to Lord of the Rings. I bring this up because I found it interesting and it helped get me over the fear of writing longer scripts. Before House Shadows I had been working on internet videos that ran three minutes or less. While I didn’t admit it to myself, I had grown comfortable writing sketches for Cinevore and Victorian Cut-out Theatre so it was very good that this project came along and kind of weened me onto writing long(er) form narratives. I am excited about this because it means that I have grown as a writer and as a creator and can now work on different kinds of projects in the future.

Anyway, wish us luck on the show tonight.

In other news…

I can’t take compliments.

I have never been very good at accepting compliments, which is weird because I write and perform things in the hopes that people will enjoy themselves. I’ve noticed that most creators have a weird relationship with compliments. We want people to like what we do and because what we do has roots in the deeply personal, when people compliment or criticize, it feels like we’ve been discovered somehow. Like we can no longer hide. I was discussing this very thing with a friend of mine just the other day and told him that the only person who managed to phrase how I felt about compliments was artist Wayne White. You might know White for his work on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, or from the Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer video or The Smashing Pumpkins Tonight Tonight video. These days Wayne White is a fine artist in LA and was recently the subject of the documentary whose title, a quote from Wayne himself, sums up my feelings regarding art and compliments - Beauty is Embarrassing.

Beauty is embarrassing, which is partially why I have trouble taking a compliment. I once wrote a series of love notes and poetry to a seventh grade girl when I was in sixth grade. A year difference doesn’t seem like that much now, but in middle school the chasm is huge. I felt like I was actually getting somewhere, when my poetry was intercepted by a teacher and read to the entire seventh grade class. This may come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but seventh grade boys are malicious pieces of shit and it took no time at all for these boys to recite my own poetry back to me after I got out of math class that same day. This was not my first brush with embarrassment and art and it certainly would not be the last, but it is seared in my mind even now. Decades from now when I am a withered husk of a human being and dementia has claimed what is left of my brainstem, I’ll still remember the laughter in that hallway. Messed up, huh.

I bring this up because I have been complimented recently by several different people regarding several different projects. That may sound like a brag, but I assure you that it’s not. These compliments came at times when I have felt at my absolute lowest. You know the feeling. You keep working on projects, but it seems like no one sees them or cares. Sometimes it can feel like your screaming into a void. Which is a bit how I’ve felt over the past two months. I have continued to work, but the internal mantra has been mostly “What’s the point? No one will ever see this or care anyway?” Which is typical self-defeating nonsense and really, that kind of thinking only slows you down.

Let’s be clear though, these compliments were wonderful and let me know that I was on the right track. They gave me a little boost in the work I was already doing and reminded me that I am capable of good work. However, compliments won’t start or finish the work for you. The work doesn’t get made on compliments and if all you ever do is talk, you don’t make anything at all.

Anyway, it’s nice to be complimented even if I stammer and deflect. It’s nice to know that people like what I’m doing and get something out of it. If you like what someone does, you should let them know.

…..

A few months ago, I spent an iodinate amount of time polishing my credits on IMDB. My producer asks me to do things that I’m not normally used to doing and I’m very grateful that she does.

As I was polishing credits on Victorian Cut-out Theatre, it dawned on me that this is a show I’ve been working on since 2012. The show has ran for close to 30 episodes with an early shoddy pilot and a few unofficial spinoffs. I even used a short animation in my style to pitch to Hendricks Gin (I never heard back). In the span of creating the show, my wife and I decided to move to Los Angeles/ decided not to move to Los Angeles. We had a baby. I got to write for some very cool projects; Some for the internet and some for public television. I got to script consult on some beautiful film projects. And I have worked uncredited on projects that are being pitched or are in development now for television. It’s been an elaborate five years and I’m grateful for the opportunities that Victorian Cut-out Theatre has opened up for me. And without saying too much, the interest is still there and the opportunities just keep coming. I sincerely hope this road continues.

Speaking of my producers and Cinevore, my wife and I recently got to host the funny and talented Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant on their cross country trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. It was an incredible visit and I couldn’t be happier to have seen them again. The last time we met in person was when my wife and I were visiting the east coast in 2016. They are working on super cool projects and deserve all of their forthcoming success. They have also been among my biggest champions and I really can’t be more thankful for their guidance and friendship. Excelsior, you two!

And finally…

On the subject of fatherhood…

Since our son has been born, my life is filled with a cocktail of laughter, exhaustion and terror on an almost daily basis and I am richer for it. He asks questions, sings, dances and has recently added “rough-housing” to his list of activities. I remember wrestling with my dad when I was very young, but have never been a very “rough-housey” kind of person. I assume that this is a healthy part of development but one can only take so many elbows or knees to the groin before you wonder if it’s premeditated. Regardless, our lives have gotten easier in some ways and more difficult in others.

A few months ago, we found ourselves in the ER and eventually the hospital with our little boy. He was having trouble breathing and had a high fever so it was recommended that we take him to the emergency room. This was a terrifying experience for both my son as well as my wife and I. Being a parent poisons you on some level. You want so much to protect your child from everything that when something out of your control happens, it kind of scars your soul a little bit. He’s feeling better now. After an overnight stay in the hospital and several popsicles, he appeared to be right as rain, but it was a horrifying experience for all of us. I hope that we don’t have to do that again for a while.

We are also currently attempting to potty train, which basically means that I am now a zoo keeper whose sole function is to clean urine off the floor. I consistently ask him if he needs to use the restroom and he almost always tells me “no”, which is a lie. Regardless, I think we’ll get over the first hump when he actually uses the toilet for the first time. The ease of this action should prove to him that it’s so much easier than carrying a sack of crap and pee around your waist, but learning to use a toilet, as with any endeavor, takes time.

Apologies for the super-long blog, but I hope you guys enjoyed it anyway.

Take care,

-Rob