2016 In Review

Despite the eternal struggle that was 2016, it was an extremely productive year for me professionally.
– After 5 years, my first feature film, Uncommon Law, is officially complete & available on digital, DVD, & Blu-Ray!
– Completed the first draft of my debut novel, “Into The Black.”
– Directed two plays: “Much Ado About Nothing” at Parkview High School and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” at Collins Hill High School.
– Taught high school drama for three months at Collins Hill.
– Shot the video portion of a found footage YA horror novel I’m working on.

All in all, a successful year! No time to slow down, because my goals for 2017 include:
– Editing “Into The Black” and querying agents.
– Writing & editing the found footage novel.
– Finishing the three screenplays I’ve got in various stages of completion.
– Resuming work on my urban fantasy novel.
– Making more regular blog posts on here.

Time to get at it!

Exciting news! Uncommon Law has been selected for the 2017 Atlanta Independent Film Festival! The movie will be screened on Saturday, February 4th at 8pm at Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre in Atlanta! If you haven’t seen it yet, this is a prime opportunity! It is also available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital in the shop.

Visit www.atlindiefilmfest.com for tickets & full details.

The hits keep on coming! My first feature film, Uncommon Law, is now available for streaming and digital download from Vimeo On Demand! For the low, low price of only $9.99, you get the movie, the blooper reel, and the audio commentary. And if you prefer DVD or Blu-Ray, you can still preorder a copy in the shop!

This movie has been my baby for the last five years, and today marks the first day it’s officially available to be watched by people all over the world! To say this is a dream come true would be an understatement. I hope you’ll give it a watch and that you enjoy watching it half as much as I enjoyed making it!

ul-preorder

After five long years, the time has finally come for the release of Uncommon Law on DVD & Blu-Ray! It’s been a crazy journey getting to this point, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with the world. Uncommon Law is now available for pre-order in the shop!

Details:

  • Special Features include a blooper reel and audio commentary with writer/director Brian Work, actor Mick Taylor, and production manager Amy Morrow.
  • Blu-Rays cost $20 and DVDs cost $15.
  • Shipping is free within the United States.
  • Discs will ship on or before November 15, 2016.

About Uncommon Law:
After years of bailing each other out of bad dates by pretending to be married, best friends and longtime roommates Brendan & Melissa receive a court notice that they are now common law married.

Uncommon Law was written & directed by Brian Work, and stars Mick Taylor, Christie Vozniak, Myles Grier, Jules Nobles, Rob Epstein, Mandi Christine Kerr, Kyle Tutton, & Lacey Patten.

Trailer:

Today is National Book Lovers Day, so it seemed like a good time to share my Ideal Bookshelf! I got the idea from IdealBookshelf.com, and thought I’d take a photo of my own. Narrowing it down to 20 books was hard, and several of my favorites I only have in ebook or audiobook form (which is why there’s no Jonathan Maberry on here.) I tried to cover most of my bases: novels, graphic novels, plays, and books on writing, film, and acting.
  • The World of King Arthur by Christopher Snyder: I’ve been doing a lot of research on Arthurian mythology, and this is one of the best resources I’ve found thus far.
  • Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee: This is the book that got me into reading comics. My roommate at the time handed me the first issue, and I got hooked pretty quick.
  • Nightwing Vol. 1: A Knight in Bludhaven by Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel: Nightwing’s my favorite comic book character, and this is the beginning of Dixon’s great run on the title.
  • Kingdom Come by Mark Waid/Alex Ross: This whole graphic novel is a work of art. Fascinating storyline with amazing artwork.
  • You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day: I’m a big fan of Felicia Day. Her “just do it” attitude is inspiring and uplifting for creative types looking for the push they need to make something big happen for themselves. But most importantly, this book was important to me for helping me come to terms with some of my own struggles with anxiety and depression.
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton: My favorite Michael Crichton book. I vividly remember being engrossed in this book during high school, and then being extremely let down when I saw the movie.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling: I didn’t read the Harry Potter books until last year (I know, I missed the boat there),
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Throughout high school, I didn’t read a whole lot. The vast majority of my reading during that time was fanfiction. A Game of Thrones is what got me back into reading, and ever since then Martin has been one of my biggest influences as a writer.
  • Paper Towns by John Green: I’ve started getting into YA lit over the last couple years as I’ve been wanting to write something for that audience, and John Green’s books have really struck a chord with me.
  • The High King by Lloyd Alexander: I loved The Prydain Chronicles growing up. The High King struck me with how epic it was, and with how ruthless Alexander was with his characters.
  • Changes by Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files books have passed A Song of Ice & Fire as my favorite series, and Changes is my favorite book in that series. You want to talk about a book that changes the entire complexion of a series, this is it. The whole second half is just a non-stop, edge of your seat thrill ride.
  • William Shakespeare: The Complete Works: Originally I was going to include Macbeth and Much Ado on this list, but rather than cut something else I just went with Shakespeare’s complete works instead. I’ve always been a fan of Shakespeare, but somehow in the last year I’ve found an affinity for analyzing and directing his work.
  • The Collected Plays of Neil Simon, Vol. 1: I did a study on Neil Simon in college, reading and analyzing 20 of his plays and then writing a play in his style. Helped me gain a whole new appreciation for his work.
  • The Lion in Winter by James Goldman: My favorite play. Even though I’ve mostly transitioned to writing and directing, this is one play that I’d still love to perform in.
  • Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier: A must read for anyone involved in improv, sketch comedy, or acting in general.
  • Directing Actors by Judith Weston: I love the way Weston talks about working with actors, communicating with them on their level and using playable direction. That’s guided me as a director since I first read this book back in 2003.
  • Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez: This book helped inspire me to say to hell with the odds and try making my own movie. Granted, my first attempt in 2004 failed… as did my second attempt in 2005. But years later I would finally succeed with Uncommon Law!
  • Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder: I’ve used elements of Save the Cat in every screenplay I’ve written in the last ten years. Although I’ve begun deviating from the structure he defines, it’s a wonderful starting point for anyone getting into screenwriting. And I still swear by his breakdown of genres as the best way to think about story.
  • Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland: After years of writing by the seat of my pants, I picked up Outlining Your Novel and used the system within to outline Into The Black. Thanks to that, I’ve written more on ITB than on any of my previous writing projects that fizzled out partway through. 102k words and still going strong!
  • On Writing by Stephen King: Part memoir, part book on writing craft, tons of valuable information for writers.

This month I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of wrapping up the first draft of Into The Black, the fantasy novel I’ve been working on. I’ll make another post later to go into more detail on that.

While talking with a couple friends who are also participating, the subject of character sheets come up. I’m a big fan of character sheets. I’ve got one that I fill out for all of the notable characters in any fiction project or screenplay that I write, and another more in-depth one that I use for POV characters. The sheets I use were pieced together from multiple ones that I found online (credit: dehydromon & The Lazy Scholar) and modified to fit my needs. They’re constantly evolving as I find new information I want to include, & a lot of my projects require specific fields that aren’t a part of the base sheet you’ll find below. Change yours up and make them your own!

Character sheets are good for a lot of things, but there are three main reasons why I love them:

1. Fleshing Out A Character

This is the obvious reason. After I became a member of Team Outline, I started to really enjoy developing my characters before I ever started to write the story itself. I found it extremely helpful as a means of fleshing out characters who I hadn’t quite grasped yet. It’s easy to come up with ideas for POV characters and other main characters as you write, but too often minor characters fall by the wayside. Having a predefined set of information to fill out gave me a great starting point, and in the process I’d usually grasp onto something that gave me a solid idea of who the character is.

Ideally, every character should have a rich enough backstory and defined personality that you could tell the whole story from their perspective. Now, it would be a very different story from the one you want to tell, which is why you didn’t choose them as a POV. But if you’ve taken the time to dig deep into that character, identify who they are, where they came from, and what makes them tick, they’re going to jump off the page a whole hell of a lot more than one that’s just a generic stock friend/co-worker/family member.

2. Differentiate Characters

Worried that your characters are too similar? At a glance, you can check their sheets and make sure they have distinctive appearances, backgrounds, likes/dislikes, you name it! Sometimes this has to do with physical characteristics, which is usually the audience’s first impression of a character and how they keep them separate in their minds, and sometimes it has to do with how they speak or where they come from. Having character sheets saves you from having to dig through your memory or hundreds of pages of story to make sure you didn’t make five characters who all unintentionally look like Dolph Lundgren.

3. Keeping Track of New Information

This has to do with more than just looking back at your original notes to make sure you got so-and-so’s hair color correct. As I’m writing and I come up with more information or details about a character, I’ll go back and add that information to their sheet. That way, instead of having to find the specific chapter where I mentioned something, I can just refer to the character sheet and find the information (along with a footnote saying where in the story it came up.)

This is where the three sections at the end (Biography, Additional Notes, & Things To Include Later) come in handy. Biography is where I place background information & things from the character’s past. Additional Notes can be anything that doesn’t fit into the other sections, from personality traits and desires to questions that I still need to answer. And then Things To Include Later is where I put ideas for things I want the character to do later in the story (obviously.)

 

Character Sheets (Microsoft Word)
Character Sheet (this is the basic one pasted below)
Character Sheet (Full)

Basic Information
Name:
AKA:
Birth Date:
Age:
Place of Birth:
Current Residence:
Occupation:
First Appearance in the Story:
Theme Song (what song best describes this character?):

Physical Characteristics
Gender:
Sexual Orientation:
Height:
Weight:
Body Type:
Race:
Skin color:
Eye Color:
Hair Color/Length:
Scars/Tattoos/Piercings:
Distinguishing features:
How does the character dress?
Equipment or anything else they carry with them:
Mannerisms/Speech Patterns:
Habits (smoking, drinking etc.):

Interpersonal Connections
Immediate Family:
Close Relatives:
Ancestors:
Significant Other:
Allies:
Enemies:
Mentors:
Followers:
Friends:
Heroes:
Rivals:
Pets:

Other Information
Known Languages:
Religion:
Magical Abilities:
Talents, Skills, & Special Training:

Most Important Relationships
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Biography

Additional Notes on This Character

Things To Include Later

Death (If Applicable)
Death Date:
Age at Death:
Place of Death:
Manner of Death:
Last Words:
Resting Place:

This past March I was given the opportunity to direct a production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at my old stomping grounds, Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA. I’ve worked with the students there several times before, including a 24 Hour Play Festival I ran for them back in December, however this was my first time directing a full play over there. But when your favorite teacher from high school asks for your help, that’s what you do!

I was only getting half the class for my show, and the class had significantly more girls than guys. I already knew the teacher was going to need a lot of the guys for hers, so I decided to go a non-traditional route with mine. As much as I love Much Ado, it suffers from an unhealthy dose of misogyny, being a product of the time in which it was written. I’m an unabashed feminist, so I decided that the overarching theme of the production would be “screw the patriarchy.” Rather than gender bend characters, I opted instead to maintain the genders of the characters and cast women to play the members of the patriarchy as pants roles. It created a dynamic that wound up working extremely well, changing up the power structure and highlighting the misogyny in the play. It’s so commonplace in media to see men making sexist remarks to women that it’s easy for those occurrences to skate by. When you have women making those same comments to other women, it shines a light on the absurdity of it. In the end, we did the show using only three male actors (for Benedick, Claudio, & Borachio.) As for the style of the play, we went with steampunk because I wanted something that was close to our world but different enough that it created a little separation. Also, I just like steampunk, and the kids jumped at the chance to make their own steampunk costumes.

I made some cuts to the script, both for time and because I needed to get it down to 16 actors. I condensed the non-Dogberry portion of the Watch down to Verges & Seacole, and cut Antonio entirely, giving most of his lines to Balthasar. The only doublecasting was with Ursula/Sexton, and the only full scene to get cut was Act I, Scene II (between Antonio & Don Pedro.) The majority of the other cuts were to remove lines that referenced older myths & legends, and other things that would have been completely lost on today’s audiences and didn’t do anything to further the plot. I also edited a couple of the problematic (read: racist & anti-Semitic) lines. “If I do not love her, I am a Jew” became “if I do not love her, I am a fool,” (borrowed that change from Joss Whedon’s version) and “I’ll hold my mind were she an Ethiope” became “I’ll hold my mind, e’en were she uncomely.” Just in case anyone is interested in using my edit of the script, I’ve made it available to download here. And if you use it, please let me know! I’d love to know how it works out for you.

This was my first time directing Shakespeare, and it turns out I was in good company because most of the kids had never performed it. They were understandably intimidated, so a big part of my goal was to help them feel comfortable with the language. We spent the first three weeks of rehearsal in the classroom analyzing the text and going through it line-by-line so they knew the meaning of every single word they said. It was a given that a lot of the language would be lost on the high school audience, so it was extraordinarily important that the actors knew exactly what they were saying so the meaning would come across through them. We also did a lot of work on physicality, because I’m a big fan of physical humor and wanted to inject a lot of that into the show.

I’m happy to say that the students absolutely nailed it. From watching them, you never would have known it was their first time performing Shakespeare. They were funny as hell, and by the time we got into dress rehearsals I was getting goosebumps every time we got to the dramatic scenes. I don’t think I could have been any prouder of them if I’d tried. I can honestly say that I’d hold this production up against any college Shakespeare performance I’ve ever seen, as well as a good bit of the professional Shakespeare I’ve watched.

I was blessed with a fantastic cast and crew who made my first experience directing high school theatre such an amazing, rewarding, and unforgettable experience. Watching them get it, really get it, made my day every single time it happened, and it happened a lot. And after it was over, having a student come to me and tell me how much my belief in them made a difference in their life… Well, that meant the world to me. That right there is why teachers do this. Sometimes I wonder if students know that the whole time you’re making a difference in their lives, they’re making a difference in yours as well.

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Much Ado Banquet

Been crazy busy for the last few months, so I’ve fallen way behind on this (and it’s also why I’ve watched so few movies lately, but incidentally has allowed for a lot of audiobooks.) So here’s a long-delayed update for something that absolutely nobody reads because I really just do it for my own benefit.

Movies

  • Deadpool (2016)
  • Zoolander 2 (2016)
  • Zootopia (2016)
  • The Loft (2015)
  • Spectre (2015)
  • The Voices (2015)
  • The Witch (2015)
  • After Earth (2013)
  • Odd Thomas (2013)
  • Slightly Single in L.A. (2012)
  • The Strangers (2008)
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)
  • The Cat’s Meow (2001)

Books

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (audiobook) — 4/5
  • Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari (audiobook) — 5/5
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum (audiobook) — 4/5
  • Skeleton Creek (Skeleton Creek #1) by Patrick Carman — 4/5
  • 14 by Peter Clines (audiobook) — 5/5
  • The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew by Cracked.com — 5/5
  • I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High by Tony Danza (audiobook) — 5/5
  • Predator One (Joe Ledger #7) by Jonathan Maberry (audiobook) — 5/5
  • Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison — 4/5
  • Jerry Finnegan’s Sister by Jack Neary — 3/5
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare — 5/5
  • The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling (audiobook) — 5/5

Music

  • Art of Dying – “Everything”
  • Blue October – “Fear”
  • Darius Rucker – “Miss You”
  • James Bay – “Hold Back the River”
  • Keith Urban – “Somewhere In My Car”
  • Rise Against – “Tragedy + Time”
  • The Summer Set – “Missin’ You”
  • Take That – “These Days”
  • Thompson Square – “I Can’t Outrun You”
  • twenty one pilots – “Tear In My Heart”
  • Twin Atlantic – “Fall Into The Party”

Didn’t see a lot of movies this month, but I did rewatch a couple Disney classics that I haven’t seen since I was a kid; unfortunately, for my money neither Dumbo nor The AristoCats holds up overly well, although I actually enjoyed AristoCats a bit more.

Movies

  • The Last Five Years (2015)
  • The Revenant (2015)
  • Sisters (2015)
  • Here Comes The Boom (2012)
  • The I Inside (2003)
  • The AristoCats (1970)
  • Dumbo (1941)

Books

  • The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith (audiobook) — 4/5
  • Rot & Ruin (Rot & Ruin #1) by Jonathan Maberry — 4/5

Music

  • AFI – “A Deep Slow Panic”
  • Anna Kendrick – “Still Hurting” (from The Last Five Years)
  • David Bowie – “Lazarus”
  • The Dreaming – “Painkillers”
  • Halestorm – “I Am The Fire”
  • Keira Knightley – “A Step You Can’t Take Back” (from Begin Again)
  • Mumford & Sons – “Believe”
  • Natalie Imbruglia – “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
  • The Struts – “Could Have Been Me”

Two movie highlights this month: The Force Awakens and Begin Again.

First, the obvious: The Force Awakens was everything I was hoping for out of a new Star Wars movie, and may have just taken the spot as my favorite of the whole series. It exceeded all of my expectations and then some. Well written, great story, awesome new characters, and superb acting all around. Daisy Ridley & John Boyega were hands down the perfect casting choices. Even BB8 was a joy to watch. This is not only the Star Wars movie that fans wanted, it’s the Star Wars movie that fans needed.

And then there was Begin Again, the movie that has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Despite just discovering it, I’ve already watched it several times and shown it to a few of my friends. It’s a modern movie musical by John Carney (writer/director of Once.) Unlike a Broadway style musical where characters randomly burst into song, the songs in Begin Again come from the fact that the characters are musicians, and these are their songs. It has a beautiful story & music, and I absolutely love Keira Knightley in this role. Great performances all around, really. Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld… all pitch perfect. The characters feel real and have wonderful story arcs. My emotions were riding high while watching this, as it’s a cathartic, heartfelt story about moving on. Highly recommend.

Movies

  • Santa’s Little Helper (2015)
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Begin Again (2014)
  • Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)
  • The Call (2013)
  • Seven Psychopaths (2012)
  • Four Brothers (2005)
  • Elf (2003)
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
  • Trading Places (1983)

Books

Music

  • Adam Levine – “Lost Stars”
  • Begin Again Soundtrack
  • Butch Walker – “Santa’Self (F*ck Your Christmas Party)”
  • Keira Knightley – “Like A Fool”
  • The Maine – “Santa Stole My Girlfriend”
  • Relient K – “I Hate Christmas Parties”