Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MOONLIGHT - A Sort of Indie Movie Revolution

Oscar Winner, Best Picture 2017
This past week, as you already know because of all the commotion (possibly planned publicity) surrounding the Oscars Award Ceremony, an underdog Indie film, Moonlight, won the Oscar for best picture.

That, however, came about in a strange way because the powers that be, or the careless presenters who did not second guess the obvious error when they were handed the wrong envelope (Best Supporting Actress, Emma Stone) went ahead anyway and announced the wrong winner, thereby allowing three producers to give an acceptance speech for an award they had not won.

Who does that? Nice going Warren Beatty for not speaking up and allowing an obvious mistake to perpetuate. What were you thinking? Didn't you know you were given the wrong envelope? YES! He obviously did know and still announced the wrong winner. Why?

The short answer is he's an idiot. The longer answer is that he didn't want to expose either his or the Academy's shortcomings by trying to correct their mistake on live television. So he made the decision to make everything worse instead. Sorry, Warren Beatty but that was as lame as the movies you make.

But who really cares? It's just an award show. And that's according to Jimmy Kimmel.

Okay, enough of all that. We know that most of Hollywood is flaky. The proof is in most of the horrible movies they unabashedly make, year after year.

And that leads to my real story, the Indie Revolution.

A Chick-Flick with an awesome ending
I'm calling it The Indie Revolution because that's exactly what it wants to be and it has been on the verge of becoming a revolution for the last 20 years or so. Well, it's almost here and now. The Indie Movie Industry is officially the new kid on the block. Or they should be.

Not that any of this matters to Hollywood but it's about time they got their ass kicked playing their own game and they totally deserve it for being money-hungry charlatans with astronomical budgets that mostly produce lavish, uninspired movies as shallow as a puddle of muddy water.

I certainly hope this is a chance for independent writers to count in an industry mired by so many trivial stories and inept producers who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground.

But I really doubt it because the Hollywood elites and their machinations are well entrenched and stronger than ever and eager to spew out their few really good movies, such as 21 Grams or Thelma and Louise as notable bookends to a litany of studio losers in between.

But in all honesty, we must credit the writers and directors of such films. Thank you Alejandro Inarritu, Guillermo Arriaga, and Callie Khouri for your refreshing work.

"Blair Witch Project was the best example
of Hollywood's inept, greedy ways."

But forget the creatives, Moonlight's budget was 1.5 million and so far has grossed close to 28 million and counting. Not a bad ROI. (Go Arri Alexa! Forgive me. I'm a camera techie.)

In 1999 The Blair Witch Project debuted at The Sundance Film Festival with a small budget of only $60,000 and eventually went on to gross about $250 million worldwide making it one of the most successful independent films of all time.

That was almost twenty years ago and the number of independent films since then has grown exponentially and this year's Oscar-winning, Moonlight, will undoubtedly inspire the Indie Film Industry as we've never seen before.

What does that mean for Hollywood? Nothing, apparently. They haven't taken a clue since Blair Witch so what makes you think they will follow Moonlight's lead? BTW, kudos to Mahershala Ali for his Oscar-winning performance and props to director, Barry Jenkins for his vision bringing Moonlight to life in such a fascinating and unexpected way. We need more stories like this. Black stories. LGBT stories. Meaningful stories that are culturally important and relevant. Stories that lead with their hearts and minds and not their wallets. Well, sort of because it's always about the money first.

But you see, Hollywood makes money either way. To Hollywood, movies are all about DVD sales, cable distribution, global markets, etc. Hollywood could care less about blowing 100 million dollars on a lame movie because they know they'll eventually make their money back via one revenue stream or another either in the U.S. or more importantly, abroad.

"Art is secondary to Hollywood . . ."

Art is secondary to Hollywood because the big money is in high concept formulaic blockbuster films with the old tried and true themes and plots and gimmicks, otherwise known as, required scenes or set pieces that every movie must accommodate in order to be relevant and "successful."

Interesting Indie-like Film

And this is why Hollywood producers and apparently its writers are okay with their standard scripts because they are sure-fire money makers. Although that's debatable but the point is that Hollywood is always going to be Hollywood because they can be and they don't need little films like Blair Witch or Moonlight to influence them in any way because it's not about art but about the almighty dollar. We get it. Nothin new under the sun.

The LGBT Angle

Speaking of winners and losers and nothing new, let's mention the obvious. Hollywood still comes out on top because Moonlight is more than a culturally important film but also an LGBT offering featuring an all-black cast. And it's no secret that creatives, especially the executives and producers, and its influencers in Hollywood, for the most part are a big part of the LGBT landscape. Hmm, sounds like a win, win, win.

Nothing wrong with being a hungry Hollywood producer either. But it's us, the audience, the end user who ultimately pays the price for their capitalistic ways, whether we like it or not.

After all Xfinity's HBO programming is still peddling 20-year-old movies. Go figure. Plenty of poor schmucks are still buying them too. Whether they like it or not.

Not exactly breaking news, but it's all about advertising dollars, my friends.

And you thought this was an Indie Revolution?


Thanks for the Advertising Revolution, Hollywood!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What Would You Do With a Death Sentence?

New Kindle and Paperback Cover
In 2009 I prematurely published my first novel after a harrowing brush with death while editing. Among worst things (divorce) and despite all the chaos surrounding my life at the time, I still consider my first novel A Death For Beauty, a small success.

I can't even begin to tell you what I went through between 2007 and 2009, except to say those were the best and worst years of my life for so many reasons.

I can't explain how all these strange events (open-heart surgery, hip replacement surgery, divorce, writing, editing and publishing my first novel) intersected my life at a time when I was drowning fast in a difficult marriage with three wonderful children.

I'll spare you the shit story. Life is full of them and I'm just one more victim of a horrible relationship (and so was she) who was down for the count and so far I've made it through 8 more years of turmoil because my life never seems to get easier. Cry me a river. Nobody gives a shit and that's ok. I'm not looking for sympathy. Just stating the facts that might inspire you if you're going through difficult times.

"I'll cite Ernest Hemingway
as my favorite author."

I'll cite Ernest Hemingway as my favorite author because he had the discipline to write in the midst of so much chaos and drama in his life and he was smart enough to use many events in his life as a basis or as inspiration for all his stories. It's an amazing body of work. The Snows of Kilimanjaro being one of my favorite short stories of all time.

Since I like to focus on the positive I've reinvented myself in other ways until my time is up on Earth. Sounds dramatic but life is full of drama, folks. After my heart surgeon game me six months to live, events like that tend to change your perspective in life if you can survive through such an ordeal.

My theory is that most people don't take their life seriously until it's too late. Newsflash folks, we're not immortal. Life is short and there's simply no time to waste. I remind my children of that and it's the most important thing I can teach them.

The strangest thing is that I set out to write a Western novel and turned out something, a cross between a Western and a mystery using many of the troubling events in my life as themes in the story. Go figure. The ending of ADFB is especially personal to me because I use all my children's names and I managed to deepen my characters with traits borrowed from my older children.

Tentative New Title and Hardcover
It's amazing how things work out. Overall I think this is a very successful story that works on so many levels. It's a shame I wasn't able to get the publicity at the time to launch this book properly but I was in a worse place at the time and limited in so many ways due to health issues. Bottom line, I should've waited until my health improved but at the time I wasn't sure I'd survive at all.

The good thing is that this story is set in the past, 1863 to be exact so in that sense it is timeless and readable for those interested in that time period, which in this case intersects with Abraham Lincoln as President during the Civil War. So the potential for another release of this novel is in its very near future.

The new book cover for the paperback is shown here. The main difference is the title is bolder and larger, set in a Subway Novella font, which gives it that worn and torn feel, befitting that turbulent era.

In hindsight this is the book cover I think works best. Although I like the previous covers, especially the hardcover depicting the farm.

Dear reader, please realize you must
always live your life as if you were dying.

I really fussed with that cover as I do with most of my work. Once I get an idea I try dozens of variations until I settle on the best one. The hardcover really shows the farm and the hard life Virginia lived comes through those images and really captures the essence of her amazing and improbable story.

The central theme is uncertainty and despair. Other relatable themes on a smaller scale are also weaved through the novel and in retrospect, I'm not sure how I pulled it off at the time but it all works.

If there is one objection to any of the story it is that I threw so much into it that for that reason alone it can seem unfocused. Sometimes less is more although I have no regrets with the novel's outcome. My main problem was the opening pages and I'm happy with the first pages now but you never know. I've thought of revamping the whole thing into a short story with a much simpler story line.

Anything is possible and just a matter of time. And when I say time I realize that I don't have forever and whatever changes or goals I have now, I can't hang on to much longer.

Dear reader, please realize you must always live your life as if you were dying.

Because you are.


For my next post I'd like to talk more about Ernest Hemingway and his amazing legacy and what he has meant to me as a student of literature and how this great author has inspired me to keep writing.

Subscribe for more posts like this.

For those of you interested in the ADFB novel, I'll post the first pages of this story in Screenplay format, which is also in the works and I'll talk about the benefits for novelists about learning to write screenplays.

Don't miss it!