Future Man: Actors as Directors–Sometimes it works

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On occasion, I am privy to things in the course of my day job working as an on-set medic. I am the fly on the wall on film and television sets, there in case something bad happens, but, more often than not, just handing out Advil and Band Aids. This situation affords me the opportunity to observe multiple aspects of production life that most people don’t get to witness. I’ll not be getting into any deep, dark secrets or juicy gossip here (we all sign hefty non-disclosure agreements before every shoot), but having recently worked on a show with a well-known actor directing, I did want to give credit where credit is due.

Most people know Seth Rogen as a jolly, bearded stoner guy from myriad comedies. His laugh and voice are unmistakable, and his delivery is unique. Less-known (the joy of being behind-the-scenes) is his writing/producing/directing partner, Evan Goldberg, a childhood friend with whom he has worked for years. Superbad? He wrote it. Sausage Party? Likewise. The guy has pretty substantial comedy chops, is my point. When these two work together, it’s a rare situation where the separate elements of a team truly do function as a complementary unit.danny-mcbride-evan-goldberg-seth-rogen

The other day I was called to cover a few shifts on the upcoming Hulu show Future Man, a comedy starring Josh Hutcherson as a janitor and world-class gamer who is chosen by mysterious beings to travel through time to prevent mankind’s extinction. I’d never heard of it (there is always something new in the works in LA) but from what I saw in my short stint on the show, it looks to be damn funny, with awesome action to boot. And that’s what I wanted to discuss.

A lot of actors and writers with a track record in those areas are given directing gigs as appeals to their vanity, but with no real skill or experience in that role backing the decision. thumbnail-cdeab255fd2375819b7c0ffd286c57b4When that happens, more often than not, the director of photography steps in and does the heavy lifting while the neophyte director sits back and takes the credit.

This was not the case with Seth and Evan.

I cannot tell you (okay, I can, since I am writing this after all) how refreshing it was to witness such a smoothly-functioning team. This was an instance where both individuals worked in symbiosis, effortlessly communicating tweaks and adjustments to actors and department heads as needed, and all while getting a metric shit-ton of work done. For those in the industry, I’ll say this: 48 setups in a day. With action. With stunts. With effects. With kids. With a technocrane. For those not in the industry, here’s a translation: Holy shit that’s a lot of work crammed into a day.Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 6.32.40 AM

When a director knows what they want, can clearly explain what they need, and has the confidence to move on after a single take if they got their shot… well, it’s a beautiful thing. Seth and Evan accomplished that with style, and it was amazing to see. I’ve been in the industry a long time, and let me tell you, it’s rare to see this efficiency. What made it stand out was the utter confidence in their vision, as well as faith in their team. DP Cort Fey and his camera team (awesome folks with whom I worked previously on The Last Ship) are rock stars, and the communication and trust on display was a master class in how you’d like to see directors, actors, and camera all fit together like a well-tuned engine.

Complex action shots were nailed in one take. Not only because the talent and crew achieving them were skilled (they most certainly are), but also because Seth and Evan knew when they got what they needed. None of the dreaded time and morale killing phrases like, “Great, one more!” Or, “Perfect! One more for safety!” No. When they got it, they moved on to the next shot. A sign of a confident director, and quite a contrast from those who waste buckets of money shooting twenty takes of every size and every angle just because they don’t know what they want/need. It’s enough to drive any editor mad.eiseinstein_1928_editing_octoberAnd let me tell ya, I’ve seen the worst of that first-hand on other gigs. Like the unnamed showrunner who can write and produce, but certainly not direct (though his staff would never tell him even as he went $250k over budget in a single day.) Or the music video director given a feature… only to work the crew to death with his indecisiveness as he literally played other directors’ films on his laptop behind the camera to try to copy shots as he went.

To Seth and Evan I must give massive kudos. kudos-barThey seem like really quality dudes who also happen to be rock-solid in their behind-the-lens skills. As a crewmember who has seen a lot, working with such positive energy people who were also really good at what they do… well, despite the long hours, it was an absolute joy. That goofy stoner dude is a really good director. Who knew?

Now go see Future Man when it comes out later this year. It looks like it’ll be a blast, and I say that as a guy with zero fucks to give when it comes to critique. I have no horse in this race, it just looks like a cool show. I hope they prove me right.

Sometimes the Day Job takes over

While most of us would rather pursue our deepest passions every day of the week. For me, that’s writing, be it oddball short story collections, novels, or even screenplays, but from time to time it becomes necessary to dip one’s toes back into the waters of the dreaded, “Working for Someone Else.” This usually means little time for writing, as television and film production, more often than not, leads to 14 or more hour days. Sometimes, however, the end result is so good it’s worth it.

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Oh yes. Weeks of sleep later, I’ve recovered from my recent gig for FX and I have to say, it is shaping up to be a really good show. If you’ve ever been interested in the origins of crack cocaine in 1980’s Los Angeles, John Singleton’s Snowfall is the show for you. Check out the FX trailer.

It’s coming July 5th, so please, give it a try. We put a LOT of hours into it, and the entire cast and crew sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it.

Self-Publishing Can Work for You

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Alright, if you’ve been following my blog, you know it’s been a bit now since I started this self-publishing experiment, and I want to tell you a few things I’ve discovered.

First: If you don’t put in the work to publicize your books, no one will just stumble upon them. I’ve experimented with various methodologies, and while some work better than others for driving readers to deals, (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy are favorites), the cold, harsh reality is if you don’t actively promote your work often, it will go unnoticed. Have a plan, and follow it regularly to increase awareness and drive traffic.

Second: Reviews and ratings are crucial to increasing your download and purchase numbers. The more reviews I get, the higher the percentage of conversions I see when people follow a link to my Amazon page. This makes perfect sense, of course. Don’t just focus on Amazon, however. goodreads-logo-1024x576-7abf5bd8d98b9d10Goodreads is also a great source to introduce your work to new readers, and the community is a bit more self-policing than Amazon.

Third: Quantity is king. A single book won’t do much for you, but if you have several, or better yet, a series, you can drive traffic to your other books when you do a promotion for just one of them. I publicized a giveaway of Worst. Superhero. Ever. for five days (each with a different listing site, which is when Freebooksy became a favorite). The result was over 3,000 downloads (over 2,000 from Freebooksy alone), and in the weeks that followed, my other books began to see an uptick in purchases. A freebie isn’t always a bad thing. If you provide something that people like, a good many will purchase your other works. There’s no guarantee, and it may take months (some people download everything they find for free and eventually get to them), but it’s definitely worth looking into.

Fourth: Set up a mailing list (here’s mine for those interested in quirky short stories). People who enjoy your work and sign up for your list will most likely purchase your other books as they come out. Additionally, they’ll promote your work for you. Build a solid base of fans and interact with them, but don’t spam them. One thing I like is running potential cover designs by them for opinions. Another is to occasionally send a free short story, just because. These are people who genuinely enjoy your work, so treat them as such. They’re not just consumers, they are people who appreciate what you offer. Create a loyal fan base (by not being a dick) and you’ll stand a much better chance of gaining traction with every new release. MailChimp is a great resource for mailing lists, by the way. mailchimp

Fifth: Few will sell millions, but if you’re feeling frustrated or unsure, read this article about Amanda Hocking. She self-published her works (rejected by numerous traditional publishers) to help her fund a trip to a convention. Much to her surprise, they were a hit, and she has now sold over 1.5 million copies of her works.

There are no guarantees, but it’s better to try, and possibly fail, than to never try at all.

 

The Queen of the Nutters

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Fellow writers and lovers of quirk, I’d like to introduce you to my latest brain-baby, birthed in the midst of the holiday season. She’s a funny little thing, full of humor and whimsy, along with a healthy dose of “Where the hell did he get that idea?”

I’ve found the process of self publishing to be an interesting combination of daunting and invigorating. If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean, and if you’re reluctant yet considering it, I highly recommend it. Sure, the act of putting your work forth for public consumption and review is a little terrifying at first (and I highly recommend trying reddit’s DestructiveReaders for brutally honest critiques from your peers), but it gradually becomes less nerve-wracking. Some people will love your work, some will hate it, but very few will ever take the time to write about it to either extent.

When my first (and to date, only, knock on wood) terrible review of my previous book, Worst. Superhero. Ever. worstsuperheroever_cover1came in, I was, by that point, ready for the inevitable. It had to happen eventually, a bad review is a rite of passage of sorts (and getting one from a reader who admittedly didn’t even go past the first short really didn’t sting too much). What I’m saying is don’t let fear of negativity hold you back. I’ve found the support and positive feedback from readers and other writers has overwhelmingly outweighed any negatives.

As for the publishing process itself, well let’s just say the writing is the easy part. With this, my third e-book, I’m finally getting the hang of the self publishing game, but it still takes hours to properly format the book, get the table of contents and back matter in order in a way that ensures Amazon’s acceptance, and do the final re-re-re-reads even after the editor has picked it apart.

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Shortly I’ll be putting up a separate post with links to some online resources I found helpful that should be of use to other indie authors. We are all in this together, and, at least in my case, I’ve found my peers to be wonderful and supportive. In the meantime, please give The Queen of the Nutters a read, and maybe even leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you’re so inclined. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and would love to hear your feedback.

Happy Holidays!

 

Worst. Superhero. Ever.

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It seems like only last month I released Lost & Found: And other odd short stories… oh wait, it was! Originally I intended to publish one or two large collections of short stories, but instead I took the advice of published shorts authors and broke my work into more manageable sized ebooks. Learning the ropes from people well-versed in the ebook world proved a fortunate turn of events, and now I’m releasing my second batch of quirky short stories, Worst. Superhero. Ever.: And other odd short stories

The book officially releases on Tuesday November 15th, but is available for pre-order on Amazon (and is part of the Unlimited program as well). Go get it! (is that the worst call to action ever, or what?)

Seriously though, it’s been a bit of a challenge getting this one to market while working  long hours in TV Land (my day job), but time was carved out and here it finally is. I would hope other aspiring writers take this as inspiration and perhaps a kick in the butt to keep working on your passion. Even if you pull 17 hour shifts (which I did several times this week), it is still possible to nurture your artistic side, even if things are hectic. Do what you must, but keep that creative spark alive! Your fellow authors are rooting for you.

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And thus my brain baby is released into the world. All joking aside (except that found in the book of course), I sincerely hope you decide to give this book a try. If you liked Lost & Found, I think you’ll truly enjoy the quirky tales in Worst. Superhero. Ever.

One last thing. If you’d like to be notified of future releases, sign up to receive my newsletter. It’s infrequent, not spammy at all, is only about book releases, and can easily be unsubscribed from at any time.

Lost & Found: And other odd short stories by Scott Baron

Talented author Anna Kopp’s review of Lost & Found

Words Matter

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I stumbled across Scott on a writer’s reddit thread and I loved one of his short stories, so when I saw he had an entire collection I had to check it out.

It did not disappoint.

There are four stories, and let me tell you they are so different and yet so similar. The first takes place in an underground city, the second in the Wild West, the third on a ship, and the last in a magical meadow. How can they possibly relate?

It’s the unpredictable nature of each and every one of them that keeps the pages turning. I guessed a dozen different endings while I read and I was wrong in all of them. This might not be my usual fairy-tale style read, but I didn’t mind at all.

I will definitely be checking out more of Scott’s work, and if you’re looking to take your mind…

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Art You Can Use

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We are surrounded by amazing things, and I’m sure many of you are collectors of beauty, as I am. The thing I love about usable art is that you get to enjoy works that please your senses while doing mundane things, like eating for example. Above is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. An art plate by Indiana-based Mab Graves. She has been releasing limited edition melamine plates with some amusing designs (and I just looooove the angry foods).

So this got me thinking. Why don’t we strive to make everyday things pleasing to our tastes? Why are things like plates boring? Why do we eat on placemats that only serve to catch spills, but don’t add anything to our day? I don’t think it would be as tough as it seems to add art to our daily activities.

Of course, some art would be destroyed by actual use, but things like melamine plates are meant to be used, and with a very reasonable price, why not make them daily dishes? If you’re a writer, why not use pens that inspire, like these gorgeous works from J&S Turnings?55009d45764b1-image

This post is a bit off my usual fare, but I am just loving my new plate so much, I felt the urge to remind people who may stumble across my little ramblings that it doesn’t take much to add cool art to your daily life.

If you have cool functional art, please share it, I’d love to see what others are using in their daily life.

Embrace the awesome!