Category Archives: independent

What Exactly Is a “Hipster Noir,” You Ask?

Well, I’m happy to report that I’m finally able to tell you all what exactly a “hipster noir” is, now that I’ve finished the brief synopsis of my very first supernatural, metaphysical mystery novel.

What started out as a series of comic character sketches back in May of 2013 during my morning commute to work somehow took form and became my very first 60,000-word novel by January of 2014. I had been calling it Hipster Noir, mainly because my main character, a private eye named Sebastian Holden, was inspired by a noired-up fellow I saw while waiting for a table at Otto in NYC. He was dressed like an old school detective, complete with trench coat and matching hat. The only thing that struck me as off-kilter was his great bushy beard, straight out of a day trip to Williamsburg (or, these days, Jersey City).

If Fred McMurray here had a grizzly beard, he'd be a dead ringer for Sebastian Holden, P.I..

If m’man Fred McMurray here had a grizzly beard, he’d be a dead ringer for Sebastian Holden, P.I..

After a bit of crowdsourcing for a more proper subtitle for the actual story being told, I settled on a title that I think captures the mood, tone and quirky flare of Hipster Noir –– The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse. Special thanks to my Twitter pals @ABOVEtheLine, @fuegopazzo, and @peacepumpkinpic for some amazing suggestions and brainstormings on Twitter.

And now, here’s the official “Story in Brief” lifted from the proposal I’ve been putting together:

Blending nuances of noir with geek subculture in a supernatural, metaphysical mystery, Hipster Noir introduces us to the queerest holistic detective since Dirk Gently –– Sebastian Holden, P.I., a Jersey City hipster whose host of fine-honed skills helps him crack even the most cryptic of cases, like “The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse.” When muse for hire Annie Hathaway is murdered, the fuzz quickly pins the rap on her spoken word-spouting boyfriend in Williamsburg. But Sebastian’s trusty gut instinct tells him there’s more to this mystery than meets even his third eye, and he thrusts himself head-first into a bizarre Universe teeming with vampire cabals, orange-blooded androids from tomorrow, and a haunted beach house that holds a dark secret, which just might be the key to solving Sebastian’s most perplexing case yet.

With a sundry cast of unconventional champions and supernatural scoundrels that includes a suicidal vampire, a world-jumping monkey-spanker, Death, and The Devil himself, plus boatloads of Bogartian banter and enough esoteric references to superheroes, indie flicks, and Castlevania to sink your battleship, The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse will prove a hell of a whodunit that will scramble minds, steal hearts, and leave its readers eagerly anticipating further misadventures of the strangest P.I. this or any Universe has probably never heard of.

What do you think? Sound like something you’d be interested in reading?

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Linklatering Perfekt, Plus Five Lessons to Perfect Your Filmmaking

Yesterday morning, my body instinctively woke me up at 6AM, which would normally be 7AM, but due to daylight savings time it was an hour earlier. And as I lay in my bed, I started thinking about the one film I made that I’m most proud of. It’s a short sex comedy called Perfekt. I shot this story about an aging Don Juan searching for his perfect match back in 2006, when I had only two other shorts under my director’s belt, The Coconut and The Hotel Edwards. What begins as a fun little sex comedy, with main character Matt (Bill Schineller) looking for the perfect woman, one who embodies everything he loves and who also happens to be a virgin –– culminates in an unorthodox confrontation with the near perfect Nellie (Kate Kenney).

Well, I’ve been gearing up to work with my girlfriend Marinell on shooting a book trailer for my good friend James Broderick’s book Stalked, his first work of fiction after a lifetime writing nonfiction like The Literary Galaxy of Star Trek and Now A Terrifying Motion Picture! For the trailer, I enlisted the aid of both Bill and Kate. Each of us go way back; Bill and I first acted together in a 1920s/flapper era production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and I’d met Kate when I was casting for my sci-fi themed rendition of Antony and Cleopatra, in which I originally chose her for my female lead, but she wasn’t able to accept. I was so impressed with her, I kept her contact info, and when I had my script for Perfekt, which back then had a very different original title, I reached out to Kate immediately and offered her the role of Nellie.

Looking back on all the years and other film projects I’ve worked on like my Indiegogo-funded Cerise and Mating Dome, no film contributed more to my education as a screenwriter, director, and filmmaker than Perfekt. The film is far from perfect, but the poignant performances from Bill and Kate, the visual story arced by Alain Aguilar, the poetry beneath the subterfuge of seemingly simple dialog, and Ventzi Assenov’s evocative score; and even the sexual comedy at the beginning that paves the path to a heart-rending finish –– all of it pulled together in a way that none of my subsequent works have yet been able to achieve.

Perfekt Postcard designed by Marinell C. Montales

Perfekt Postcard designed by Marinell C. Montales

And this is why I’ve decided to pull a “Linklater” –– to get the band back together in the spot where it all the drama went down for Matt and Nellie, and bring about a second installment of Perfekt.

And we’ll call it Perfect.

Of course, there are some definite things that will be different this time around; after all, it ain’t 2006 anymore. And like I said, as a self-taught filmmaker with over a dozen shorts under my belt, here are five lessons I took away from the making of Perfekt that I will perfect further when I start shooting Perfect in 2014.

5. Hire the right amount of crew with the right skills to do the job right. When I shot Perfekt, the budget had a hard stop at $5,000. With that, I was able to hire my first assistant director, sound recorder, boom operator, and a couple of productions assistants. Factor in Alain and myself, and we were a modest crew of around seven members. One thing I learned back when I shot Cerise with its larger budget of $15,000 and a crew of fifteen folks) is to always hire the right people for the right job. Oh, and always, always hire a producer.

4. Document the filmmaking process with photos, video, and (now) social media. It’s hard to think where I’d be without social media. I made Perfekt, Myspace was really just starting to be something. I didn’t know about Facebook, and there was no Instagram so you could easily and immediately share your on-set photos; I mean, we were still using digital cameras to take continuity shots, and not one of us thought to use that camera to take some shots of the crew working on the film. It was a vastly different time, and looking back, I’d love to have more than a tiny handful of photos of me on the set of Perfekt. So this time around, we’ll be documenting the process, and maybe even livestreaming the shoot, too.

3. There are many more factors than money involved in getting great audio. Audio prides itself in being the bane of every filmmaker’s existence, and it was no different on the set of Perfekt (or any of my other films, for that matter, with the exception of The Coconut, Speed Musing, and the Pepper Coat video, being silents.) Back then, I thought that if you put most of your budget into audio and hire a good sound guy, Hollywood-caliber sound will abound. Not so. There are many more factors at play in the battle for quality sound, like location, electricity, airplanes, and the like. This time around, I’ll be factoring them all into the shooting of Perfect.

2. Shoot the most important scenes first, especially when in an uncontrolled environment (like a bar). One hefty mistake I made while shooting Perfekt’s many bar scenes was shooting certain less important scenes before the most important scene in the whole film –– the climax. We were shooting at Bar Majestic in Downtown Jersey City, now a lovely spot called Razza, and we had the entire bar to ourselves all morning until 4PM, and I chose to shoot various quick scenes during that time, thinking we’d have plenty of time. By the time the clock struck four, the bar opened to the public, and I had to shoot the finale, a long, Woody Allen-esque conversation between Matt and Nellie, with a roomful of bar patrons having conversations in the background. We made the most of it, though, and still managed to walk out of the then Bar Majestic at a little after midnight with some solid shots and slightly subpar sound.

1. Be more organized in the editing room. This is the biggie, and if I were the kind of person who held onto regrets, this would be the only one: Not having a single copy of Perfekt in digital form to date. See, when I was prepping the film for delivery to Ouat Media, distribution was more about physical copies back then (evidenced by the $90 DigiBeta tape I had to ship to Canada), and because I had secured distribution for Perfekt, I couldn’t show it anywhere online ‘cause they had the rights for three years. Flash forward a couple years, when I swapped my MacPro tower for a MacBook Pro, but never loaded all of the files that pieced together Perfekt in a single location; there were files on every hard drive I owned, internal and external. So when I finally tried to make a digital file to share with friends, there were gaps in the original cut of the film because I simply couldn’t locate all the missing files. The good thing is that by the time Perfect is shot and ready for your eyes, it’ll only be available in digital form, and you can bet the farm that all those files will be in a single location.

Now that I’ve recapped what not to do in the filming of Perfect next year, and I’ve got my two actors 100% onboard, it’s time to start writing the script!

*          *          *

Filmmakers –– What are some lessons you’ve learned from shooting your previous films that you’ll be sure to steer clear from when shooting your next? List them in the comments below –– perhaps I’ll be able to add a few more lessons to my utility belt.

Tagged , , ,

Goals Versus Commitment in Crowdfunding for Indie Film

The other day, my girlfriend Marinell told me about an interview she read in The New York Times with Hugh Martin on “The Importance of Commitments.” I took a gander at this interview myself, and of course I started thinking about this concept of goals versus commitments and its relationship with crowdfunding for independent film.

A goal of $50,000 would've made this fun campaign for Total Frat Movie more successful than the goal of $300,000.

A goal of $50,000 would’ve made this fun campaign for Total Frat Movie more successful than the goal of $300,000.

Something I see way too frequently as Indiegogo’s manager of film and video is that filmmakers wanting to raise a lot of money. I mean a lot of money. Part of my duty as the guy who literally wrote the book on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers has become talking them down from the ledge of a $1.5 million ask and settle them into a target amount that fits more their lifestyle. This becomes much easier when I frame the discussion in terms of goals and commitment.

A filmmaker may need $250,000 to produce his or her feature-length film, but that goal won’t mean much if the filmmaker can only realistically commit to raising, say, $20,000, based on a variety of factors like the size of one’s current network and the amount of time he or she can devote to running the campaign. Therefore, my question to prospective campaigners isn’t what’s your goal?, but rather how much are you committed to raising?

Now, I’m the kind of person who truly believes that if a filmmaker wants to raise $1.5 Million for a film, he or she certainly can. But a look at some of the most successful Indiegogo campaigns –– Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, for instance, clocking in at 325,327 before their game was over, and Shemar Moore’s The Bounce Back, bouncing even higher up at $638,483 –– have been triumphant because of certain factors, specifically a passionate core fan base. But even still, angry video game nerd James Rolfe committed to raising $75,000 and was able to double-up that number instead of trying for $500,000 and coming up short at just over $300,000. Now, if we as filmmakers have less of a fan/subscriber base than these heavy hitters, it’s safe to say that $250,000 may be a difficult number to reach. But if we commit ourselves to raising a more reachable amount, then we open wide the possibility of shooting past our own commitment level and surpass even our most ambitious crowdfunding goals.

So before you crowdfund your next indie film, ask yourself not what your goal should be, but what you and your team can commit to raising, and then go on raise it!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Tale of Two Cons, Part One: Comic-Con International, San Diego

Some of you may have realized that I haven’t written a new blog post in about two months. Believe me, it’s not that I’d forgotten or because I’ve given up the writer’s Way for the suit-and-tiestyle of startup life (there are no suits or ties where I work). I’ve become quite the jet-setter since joining the ranks of Indiegogo, so much of my time is spent at 30,000 feet or prepping for film festivals and other big events worldwide.

But enough excuses for not writing. This month, I’m giving  you “A Tale of Two Cons –– Comic-Con International and VidCon,” one out today, and its companion piece due out on August 21st. Two posts for the two months I missed about the two cons I’d attended. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Last month, I attended the one and only San Diego Comic-Con for the first time ever, and what a marvelous experience it was. From DIY Iron Men meandering about the gray carpets to alien creatures stalking the children and posing for photo opps, Comic-Con is the premiere spot for all things comic book, movie, TV, and gaming, a veritable Geekopolis where it’s not only alright, but recommended that you unleash your innermost child and geek out. As a frequent attendee of New York’s Con, I have to say SDCC weighs in at a slightly higher class than NYCC ever could; while the latter fills up the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, the former spills out of the San Diego Convention Center and takes over the entire Gaslamp Quarter.

SDCC-2012-logo8 As an aspiring comic book/graphic novel author, the lessons I learned at SDCC about the comics industry, entertainment business, and beyond are also heavier. Last year, I had a hefty number of takeaways. [LINK to Broken Frontier article] This year, my conversations included S.M. Vidaurri (Archaia’s Iron, or The War After), Marcus To (Archaia’s upcoming Cyborg 009 –– apparently I’m a huge fan of Archaia Entertainment), J.T. Krull (Aspen Comics), and Jeff Smith (Bone and RASL) with brief eavesdroppings on conversations with legends like Len Wein and Jimmy Palmiotti, and some elbow rubs with Ed Catto, I was also representing Indiegogo at SDCC, so I got to speak with lots of folks who are interested in the “crowdspace,” like Jon Bogdanove, who had launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming graphic novel Strongman. If only I’d gotten to him earlier! However, if this Strongman: Volume One campaign doesn’t reach its goal, I hope to help Jon craft a “Stronger-man” campaign for Indiegogo.

I also had a great conversation with Steve Stern and Dan Cote, co-creators of the Zen: Intergalactic Ninja franchise from the late 1980s, who also have a pretty sweet side business in which they turn movie scripts into comic books. I’m thinking of working with these guys on my vampire/sci-fi/dramic (yeah, I just made that last word up) screenplay A Beautiful Unlife.

I remembered this from the old Nintendo 8-bit video game. Had no idea it was a comic, too.

I remembered this from the old Nintendo 8-bit video game. Had no idea it was a comic, too.

And there was also a high-octane panel I co-moderated with The Crowdfund Mafia’s CEO Michael Fultz featuring the campaign owners of some of Indiegogo’s top funded campaigns like Toby Turner, Sean Keegan, and Corey Vidal. Add on top of that lots of time hanging out with Lloyd Kaufman and the crazy-cool folks at Troma Entertainment and meeting tons of animated film folks thanks to Facebook friend-turned-real-life-friend Alexia Anastasio, I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience at SDCC.

But what good is a blog post without lessons? In a nutshell, here’s what I brought back from San Diego Comic-Con aside from a ton of new reading material:

There’s lots of talent out there, from illustrators to filmmakers. And in a world where everyone judges everything, that talent can sometimes go unacknowledged. Don’t get me wrong, I also realized there’s lots of stuff out there that probably shouldn’t have left the imagination. But the fact is it did, and it has audience because we live in a niche-driven world. Look at steampunk, which is picking up steam (couldn’t help it, sorry) more and more every year. In fact, I picked up the first two issues of Steam Wars, a ‘punked out version of Star Wars from the Antarctic Press booth.

I got my copies of Steam Wars signed by creator Fred Perry.

I got my copies of Steam Wars signed by creator Fred Perry.

Almost everyone’s interested in crowdfunding, and although Kickstarter itself was not at SDCC, I did feel its tremors in the Force in the form of campaign cards and even a display of sculptures that’s currently raising funds for production. Even though the kompetition was MIA, the concept of crowdfunding was very much alive and athrive; everyone I spoke to wanted to know about Indiegogo. In fact, my friend Alexia, who’s a huge advocate of my work and my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, spent a good chunk of SDCC introducing me to all the talented animators she knew, like Bill Plympton, the subject of her very own documentary Adventures in Plmptoons!, which was partially crowdfunded on Indiegogo. And at a party she invited me to, those introductions lead to deeper discussions, and a consensus was met –– crowdfunding is the future, and it’s now.

Artist’s Alley’s a tough gig, and I don’t know how artists do it. Marcus To was telling me this was his first Comic-Con that he wasn’t chained to a table in the Alley, and because of it he was a lot less stressed; he didn’t have to worry about not being at the booth, since if you’re not at the booth, you’re not making money selling your art. One thing I did notice is that if you want to get noticed, you have to be proactive and engaging, and not expect your work or your names speak for themselves. Most of the artists in the alley were more like graffiti on the walls –– they didn’t assert themselves or try and bring people to their tables. Many of them even looked bored, like they didn’t want to be there. It’s a hard gig, sure, but as with anything, you’ve got to make an effort if you want to steal the show.

Taking over the digital comics space one publisher at a time.

Taking over the digital comics space one publisher at a time.

ComiXology paves the future of comics, and comic creators need to embrace it. I’m really writing this to convince myself of it. I’m not into digital comics; in fact, I bought at least five graphic novel trades that I have on my tablet as reviewer copies that I haven’t gotten to because, well, they’re not in physical form. But ever since reading –– no, experiencing –– Batman ’66 #1 and seeing the potential that digital comics can have, I’m a proponent of this for my own graphic work, though I’ll still remain a reader of hardcopy comics. One of the shoulders I brushed against, but exchanged no words with at Graphitti Designs’ Dead Dog Party, was that of one of ComiXology’s co-founders, who was standing across from Paul Guinan, no doubt deep in conversation about robots. I’ll remedy that this October at NYCC for sure.

There’s something about Troma that folks don’t understand, and it’s this: They do it right! Say what you will about the films themselves, but love ‘em or leave ‘em, Lloyd and the Troma Team get them made and distributed on much more than an indie scale, and they’ve been doing it for almost forty years. I was even fortunate enough to get Lloyd on the panel, and aside from a few “Llewd” comments about how folks tend to break into the industry (something about having strong lips and good knees, I believe), Lloyd brought up the most important thing about doing anything –– put your mind to it and do it.

That's the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, myself, and Megan Silver hanging out at the Troma booth.

That’s the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, myself, and Megan Silver hanging out at the Troma booth.

Every experience should enrich our lives, and all the time I spent at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con have added more Ka-Blam! to my power-packed drive to move forward with my own Siren’s Calling in the smartest way possible to ensure I get my next story out to audiences. And the same way SDCC piqued further my interest in comics culture, VidCon –– the premiere YouTube festival –– gave me a deeper appreciation for the world of online video. But more on that next week!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Auteur to Author, Part 3: Crowdfunding for Filmmakers Comes Full Circle

The circle is now complete –– I’m officially an author!

On Saturday, April 6th, I had my first-ever book signing for Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign, published by Michael Wiese Productions this past March.

Image

There I am reading to a captive audience at Tachair Bookshoppe, Jersey City.

The combination reading/signing was held in my favorite city in the country –– Jersey City, which also happens to be where I’ve lived for seven years now –– at a quaint little local bookshoppe called Tachair. The evening was special in many ways, mainly because I was surrounded by those who have been most supportive of me and my creative aspirations over the years. In the house was my lovely Lady Marinell, of course, to whom my book is dedicated; my brother Walter and sister-in-law Patti, who nearly made me well up when they told me how proud they were of me; and James Broderick and Vince D’Onofrio (not the actor, the playwright), two great friends, respected mentors, and former colleagues of mine from my days at New Jersey City University, where I’d taught Civilizations courses over the past ten years before trading in my adjunct status for the more reputable title of manager for film, web and video at Indiegogo.

Also in attendance were some exceptional folks whose friendships and support I’ve cherished over years, including Michael Ferrell and Devin Sanchez, two-thirds of the creative team behind the indie film Twenty Million People, which was successfully crowdfunded on Indiegogo between April and June of 2012, raising $13,515 on a $10,000 goal.

Amid a packed audience captivated by my personal stories of how Crowdfunding for Filmmakers came about and the various chapters I chose to read from, the evening was made even more significant simply because it was hosted by Tachair Bookshoppe. See, back in April, 2012, I wrote an article about Jersey City’s lack of a physical bookstore for Jersey City Independent. At that point in time, Tachair was a “roving” bookstore that would set up their tent at all the different markets and festivals in Downtown Jersey City. But partly because of my article and the spirited reception it received online, Aleta Valleau, her son Paul, and her mother Carol set up shop on Newark Avenue where they now sell used books, best-sellers, and books by local authors like me (and I hear those sell better than those best-sellers!)

Image

A throwback to the Cerise acrostic poem days –– an appropriate thank you to to a bookshoppe dedicated to preserving the written and spoken word.

It has been an amazing journey, and it’s not over yet! From crowdfunding my short film Cerise during the early dawn of crowdfunding for indie filmmakers to writing my first blog post in my “Tao of Crowdfunding” series, which would go on to inspire Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and onto my current calling as one of two film gurus at Indiegogo helping filmmakers to craft successful campaigns, I’m certain none of this would have been possible without the blessings of the crowd –– Not my initial book deal with MWP, not my book being made available on Amazon, and not this book first book signing.

Make no mistake: It’s because of all of you terrific folks who’ve entered into my life, and who have allowed me to enter into yours, that I continue to receive such humbling triumphs and rewards, and I’ll pay it forward in helping our community make their independent filmmaking dreams come true, one campaign at a time.

That, and making a few more of my own come true, too. Stay tuned for more on that!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five Too Few: Dynamo 5 and the Legacy in Need of a Renaissance

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved superhero comics. And yes, I’m talking mostly about the mainstreamers –– Batman and Robin, Green Arrow, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I also have a pretty strong affinity to many of the underdog champions, like Metamorpho, Elongated Man, and Black Lightning, who aren’t as well known by the masses. And I don’t mean for this opening paragraph to be so DC-centric, but I don’t marvel as much at Stan Lee’s breed the way I used to in the ’90s; back then, you couldn’t tear me away from any stories starring the amazing Spider-man, uncanny X-Men, or my personal favorite Marvel misfit of the time, Ghost Rider.

One thing I’ve always been skeptical about as a somewhat closed-minded teenager reading comics in between classic works of literature was any superhero from some other universe outside the main solar systems of DC and Marvel. I certainly tried a few titles: Valiant’s Ninjak, Dark Horse’s Hellboy, and Image’s WildC.A.T.s and Cyberforce. They all seemed to center around pale imitations of A-listers and popular superteams, with the exception of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, of course, which was badass in story, art, and originality.

It wasn’t until many years later that I opened my mind to the idea that cool heroes could exist outside the worlds of DC and Marvel. After joining the Broken Frontier staff, I conducted and wrote up an interview with comics and TV writer Jay Faerber, who was penning a crime series I enjoyed immensely called Near Death, that I found out about two other superhero-oriented series he worked on from 2002 to 2009 –– Noble Causes and Dynamo 5.

Dynamo 5 –– an original superhero team with unique abilities and real world problems.

Dynamo 5 –– an original superhero team with unique abilities and real world problems.

Even though I’m only two trades into the Noble Causes franchise, I’m already hooked, although not nearly as much as when I started reading Dynamo 5. I’ve read all five trade paperbacks, all in the course of a couple of months. See, after I met Jay at NYCC and had him sign my copy of Near Death #1, I snatched up a copy of Dynamo 5, Volume One: Post-Nuclear Family and turned it over to read the back cover, and I was immediately intrigued by the story’s originality:

He was the world’s greatest hero, but Captain Dynamo was not a faithful husband. Now he’s dead and his family is trying to piece their lives together. As his enemies descend on his unprotected city, Captain Dynamo’s widow rounds up his five illegitimate children, each of whom have inherited one of their father’s super-powers. Can these total strangers come to terms with their powers, their father’s legacy and each other as total chaos erupts?

With Noble Causes, Jay blends the superhero mythos with soap opera sentimentality, which all other action/adventure books of the superhero sort steer clear of. But by embracing it the way he does, Jay allows us into the everyday lives of this highly unlikeable but strangely fascinating family; plus, we see it all through the unbiased eyes of Liz Donnelly, the widow of the late Race Noble, much the way readers view the world of The Great Gatsby though the eyes of Nick Carraway. What Jay does best in Dynamo 5, however, is shift the focus onto five young strangers-turned-family members trying to cope with the knowledge that their father was Captain Dynamo, a Superman with somewhat less of a moral code when it came to extramarital affairs, and that they have now collectively inherited his role as the defenders of Tower City since his death.

When I had picked up this first volume of Dynamo 5, I honestly wasn’t in the mood for another superhero title; I’d been trying to round out my comics knowledge with indie titles, ones funded through crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and old crime and horror comics as research for my own upcoming series Siren’s Calling. But when I opened that gorgeous cover by Mahmud A. Asrar, I got through Post-Nuclear Family in a single sitting. As a matter of fact, I made it through each of the other four volumes in the same manner –– one shot, one after another. I was that engrossed in the lives of these teens-turned-teammates in this fresh take on the Teen Titans. This was not your typical superhero story, but rather something fiercely different and very similar to the graphic literature I’d been consuming. It fit right in with my research, and every book gave me tons of enjoyment, too.

And then I reached the end of Dynamo 5, Volume 5: Sins of the Father, and saw that the series had come to an end.

Victor pushes the limits of his newfound strength battling against aliens in Dynamo 5, Volume 5.

Hector pushes the limits of his newfound strength battling against aliens in Dynamo 5, Volume 5.

But the story wasn’t over.

How could it be over? One of the characters I’d seen mature from a visor-wearing Cyclops to an Incredible Hulk (sans the skin tone and Rob Liefeldian muscles) lies on the ledge of the dark side and I needed to know what was going to happen to him. But there was nothing more to the story except a holiday special. No Volume Six. No closure. Nothing.

I’m not sure why Dynamo 5 ceased its run after its fifth volume. There had been talk of another miniseries called Certain Death,” but the last anyone heard of that was from Jay’s old blog back in May, 2011 and a few pages illustrated by “Sins of the Father” artist Julio Brilho that’s posted on Jay’s Facebook page. Aside from that, the series seems to have remained “aborted.”

Until now, perhaps?

Recently, some smaller press publishers have reinstated lots of b-side superheroes like X-O Manowar for active duty. I gave some of them the benefit of a read, and none of them resonated with me the way Bridget, Hector, Gage, Olivia, Spencer, and even Maddie, the widow of Captain Dynamo, had. Don’t get me wrong, Valiant’s Harbinger, Dark Horse’s Ghost, and even DC’s Swamp Thing and Animal Man are all great action/adventure stories, but that’s where it stops for each of them. The kind of substance and humanity that Jay penned into every issue of Dynamo 5 is what’s lacking in just about every superhero story today. Now maybe substance and humanity don’t sell many books today, but perhaps what’s more important is having an audience that cares enough to help Bridget here lift Dynamo 5 to new heights and finally resurrect it from “Certain Death”.

Can we be like Briget and resurrect Dynamo 5 from "Certain Death"?

It’s kinda funny, but when I left Jay’s setup at the Image Comics booth at NYCC, I handed him a calling card for my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers and said something along the lines of “if you ever want to crowdfund another few issues of Near Death, let me know and I’ll help you do it through the crowd.” But while his tale of Markham, the hit man who has a near death experience and vows to save a life for every one he’s taken, was compelling from first issue to final, the ending in Near Death #11 felt finished and complete. Markham lives in my head, and I know exactly what he’s doing, and where he’s doing it, too. But the kids from Dynamo 5? They’re in a limbo of my mind, an unfinished chapter that’s perhaps yet to be written that the fans would love to read in a single sitting, and once again become further invested in a superhero story with more substance and humanity than any other currently on the racks.

Or am I the only one who thinks this way?

I can’t be the only one.

Can I?

*          *          *

C’mon, Dynamo 5 fans, speak up in the Comments below and let me know your thoughts, and whether or not you’d love to see a Volume 6 hit the comic shelves from Image soon.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

From Auteur to Author, Part 2: Crowdfunding for Filmmakers Arrives on Amazon

After six months of writing like a rock star, including one complete rewrite and two full revisions, plus another two rounds of copyediting with an editor, and most recently an in-depth review of its first galley proof, my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign is yet another step closer to your bookshelves.

In fact, my (not-so-)little 255-page tome of crowdfunding tidbits and tactics is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

I’m still hard at work with my amazing editor, Gary Sunshine, and our layout editor, Gina Mansfield, to make Crowdfunding for Filmmakers read smoothly and look snazzy, keeping in the vein of the blog posts that inspired it (“Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” and “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette,” as well as “Twitter Tips for Crowdfunders,” featured on Ted Hope’s Indiewire blog). I’m very honored to have this book added to the Michael Wiese Productions catalog alongside other best-selling books like Save the Cat! By Blake Snyder, Directing Actors by Judith Weston, Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz, and many others covering topics ranging from screenwriting to film editing and beyond.

For now, set your sights on what these awesome indie film and crowdfunding folks are already saying about Crowdfunding for Filmmakers:

“John has been a practitioner and teacher when it comes to crowdfunding. This book helps anyone learn from his experience. Readers will be empowered to turn their ideas into action and action into money and success.” –– Slava Rubin, Founder & CEO, Indiegogo

“There is actually a science to the new zeitgeist for artists known as crowdfunding and John Trigonis’ Crowdfunding for Filmmakers contextualizes the history as well as outlines a step by step method to a successful crowdfunding campaign in an easy and enjoyable read indispensable to any and all future crowdfunders.” –– Filmmakers Jayce Bartok (The Cake Eaters, blogger MovieMaker) and Tiffany Bartok (Tiny Dancer)

“What do ancient Eastern philosophy and crowdfunding have in common? John knows and illustrates this connection wonderfully in Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, a very thorough look at not only crowdfunding, but social media, promotion, sales tactics, and so much more.” –– Daniel Sisson, Daily Crowdsource

“Chock-full of fantastic funding tips for your next movie by a filmmaker who has been through the process firsthand.”  –– Brian Meece, CEO of RocketHub, The World’s Funding Machine

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers is scheduled for a February 2013 release, which means my 35th birthday will be extra special this year, as this book marks my first step into a larger frontier –– that of a published author and crowdfunding consultant. And I couldn’t have achieved any of it without the help of my community, my ultra supportive family and friends, the generous funders behind my short film Cerise, who helped pave the road toward the brave new realm of crowdfunding and book publishing, and especially my girlfriend Marinell, who pointed out this road to me, revved me on to write the proposal for this book that I hope will instruct not only filmmakers, but creative artists of all sorts, in the art of successfully crowdfunding their next projects.

There’ll be more to come in the months ahead, so stay tuned to Hat & Soul for the latest on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers. In the meantime, click here and order a copy today (and tap that “Like” button, too!)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Riding the Writer’s Road: Three Lessons Learned in Three Months of Writing

Today marks the beginning of my fourth month writing The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and on May 1st I should have a complete manuscript ready to turn in to the editors at Michael Wiese Productions. Back in December, I wrote a post called “Tao Te Trig: The Flow, the Muse and the Working Writer’s World” about what I’d learned during my first month of being a working writer, so I thought I’d continue that here with three important lessons I’ve learned in three months as an author.

Lesson #1: Get Organized, Stay Organized
I’m no stranger to the written word; I’ve written at least a couple thousand poems (if you count my napkin poems of 2000 – 2003), a dozen short stories, one five-act play, and four feature-length screenplays (two of which are still with us) and the one thing I’ve learned is to get and stay organized. I wrote about my ten pages a day screenwriting philosophy, but I find each type of writing demands different requirements and so each requires unique organization.

Sometimes the texture of a napkin is more conducive to a decent poem than a page from my Moleskine.

For The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, I spent a day and broke each of my eleven sections into weeks. I worked a four-day per week writing schedule, my days off from teaching, and squeezed in some extra hours on the days I did work but had a substantial lull between classes. If I finished my weekly quota, I refrained from getting a head start and instead worked on something else; I was already being pretty ambitious with my weekly schedule as it was, and sticking to it was challenge enough.

Now, I have a complete first (and rough) draft of my book of about 300 pages (more than I ever thought I’d write!), which will now need to be cut down during the revision stage; and a new stage means new organization.

Lesson #2: “Be Impeccable with Your Word”
This is the first of four agreements I took to heart from reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s book of Toltec wisdom The Four Agreements, which I discovered buried at the bottom of a box of books at one of the universities where I teach.

The Four Agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz.

You may wonder why my two blogs, Hat & Soul and The Trigonis Review, don’t have a regular frequency for posts, and that’s because I refuse to push any of my writing out into the world that isn’t at its very best. An idea is precious, and it exist in our minds in its purest form; there it retains 100% of its power to inform, to inspire, and ultimately, to transform. Once we attempt to translate that idea into words, it will undoubtedly lose some of its original essence because words are all too human while the idea itself is divine. By the time we choose our words, we may only be getting across to the reader 75% of the actual, untainted idea.

Therefore, in order to maximize the power of language, writers must be impeccable with our words. If we know we can say something more clearly and concisely to ensure that our readers will understand exactly what we want them to understand, then we owe it to ourselves and to our readership to put forward only our very best writing.

Lesson #3: Resistance is Futile
As much as I don’t want to admit this to myself, let alone to all of you reading this, I spent a great deal of time resisting my natural calling as a writer. I’ve always prided myself on being a poet, and I’ve been trudging along this mysterious life with a suitcase packed full of self-imposed rules of what it means to be a poet –– Always Think Deep Thoughts; Always Appear Beat and Brooding; and above all, Never Sell Out, which oftentimes means only the first two words of that sentence for me.

"Untamed Muse" by Tom Kidd: A great depiction of my vision of a poet.

Sometimes it takes more than a imaginary muse to tell you how it is and help you see the world through a different pair of shades.

How did The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers come about in the first place? My girlfriend Marinell and I were talking one night about how so many crowdfunders were benefiting from my first Tao of Crowdfunding blog post, and she suggested I write a book about it since I’d been grumbling about not having an actual book of poetry published yet. I declined, to which she retorted that I really should start making money off my writing. Initially, the poet in me got upset, but the writer hidden deep inside heard the call. I wanted to write a poem, but instead I wrote a solid proposal with the idea in my mind of proving to Marinell that a legitimate book publisher would, in fact, want to have this book as part of its catalog. Interestingly enough, I didn’t need to prove anything to her –– she already believed in me with utmost certainty that I could do it; instead, I ended up proving it to myself. The rest is history and a Twitter hashtag.

And here I am now, closing in on my 34th year and I finally understand that while only living the life of a poet I’d been neglecting my “Unlived Life” as a working writer; I never believed someone would want to pay to read something I’d written. I’ve since unpacked my old Million Miler filled with fabricated Rules and the faintest whispers of Resistance and embrace the scribe’s boulevard up ahead, with all its curves, turns and crossroads, and green lights as far as the eye can imagine.

*       *       *

What are YOUR thoughts about life on the “scribe’s boulevard”? Writers, any advice you’d care to share from your experiences? Readers, any thoughts from the reader’s perspective of things will help us pack this Comments section for the long journey ahead.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Top Eight Movies I Saw in Theaters in 2011 (Because I Only Saw Eight Movies in Theaters in 2011)

As many of my closer friends on Facebook and those who follow me on Twitter probably know, I spent the bulk of 2011 writing, teaching, and doing research for my second feature-length screenplay Caput. That research took the form of film noir, and I spent just about all of my free time seated in front of an old 23-inch Magnavox tube television watching everything from Billy Wilder to Nicholas Ray, from Jimmy Cagney in The Public Enemy, White Heat, and a bunch of what falls between to everything from Humphrey Bogart and a few titles from Edward G. Robinson.

So needless to say it’s a bit difficult to pull together a “Top Ten” list when you’ve only seen eight movies in total through the course of a whole year. And even though I spent an entire week in Cannes during the Festival du Cannes with my short film Cerise, I didn’t even get to see one film while I was there. Not one!

But out of what I did see in theaters during 2011, here’s how they rank up:

8: Green Lantern –– Okay, it was “Boys Day Out” and my buddy Dave and I saw this in 3-D and afterwards compared the movie to all the Green Lantern comics we’d ever read, and concluded that this isn’t really the best interpretation of GL.

7. Captain America: The First Avenger –– It’s been a heavy year for comic-related movies and me, and although I’m not much a fan of Marvel Comics or even Captain America and the Avengers for that matter, I found this movie to be entertaining at best, and quite ridiculous at worst.

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo –– This was the last movie I saw in 2011, and while it was very well-done with great performances by both Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, it’s really nothing more than a straight remake of the superior Swedish version (and not the best testament to any skill David Fincher may have as a director).

5. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold –– The only doc I saw this year, and a humorous and informative one at that! I definitely recommend this one.

4. X-Men: First Class –– Entertainment at its best. I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the X-Franchise, with wonderful performances by both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the conflicting “brothers” Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).

3. Source Code –– A semi-brainy film for sure (Oh, how I love anything dealing with parallel worlds and other Michio Kaku-like stuff!) in the guise of an action drama. A fun ride which offered up a few minutes of heady conversation at the diner afterwards.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes –– By far the most entertaining action film I’ve seen in a long time, and although the CGIed apes could be a bit distracting (mainly at the beginning), my enjoyment wasn’t all that hindered. This experience was enhanced by the fact that I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes in an AMC Dine-In Theater in Menlo Park, NJ (there’s something to be said about watching a movie like this over a juicy burger, crisp fries, and a Blue Moon fast at your side!)

1. Midnight in Paris –– An absolutely beautiful film and (in my opinion) Woody Allen’s best work to date (but that could also be because it caters to every fiber in my being as a writer and aficionado of classic literature!) This experience, of course, was made even more special because I saw it with my Lady Marinell in Paris (around the midnight hour, too) with French subtitles. Viva la Paris!

As an added bonus, here’s a proper Top Ten List of Films I Wanted to See (But Didn’t) in 2011:

1. L’Artiste
2. The Flowers of War
3. Anonymous
4. Melancholia
5. Another Earth
6. The Skin I Live In
7. The Adjustment Bureau
8. Coriolanus
9. Sleeping Beauty
10. Win Win

Most of these are on my Netflix, and once I’m done with my brief James Bond phase, I’ll start catching up on these 2011 films.

That’s all for now, folks. It’s been a superb year for blog writing, poetry writing, classic movies, and book writing for me, and I’m hoping 2012 continues this tradition tenfold.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Bird on a Limb: My Facebook-Updated Family Tree

I was always a good kid, at least according to my Dad. I was quiet, introspective, always thinking and always creating. Even as far back as before my mother died, while the grown-ups were talking grown-up things in the living room, I would be in my room quietly playing with my Star Wars action figures. At birthdays and Christmases, long after unwrapping my Millennium Falcons and Fortress of Fangs play sets, I could be found sitting Indian style beside our artificial tree trimmed with kitschy1970s ornaments carefully cutting out the He-Mans and Skeletors on the Masters of the Universe wrapping paper.

That little boy isn't me, but it may as well have been; I loved that play set!

I grew up (somewhat) and learned the value of a dollar and the importance of a dream during weekends selling French fries and stirring egg cream sodas at flea markets, street fairs and carnivals. I finished high school with long hair and a four-year scholarship to NJCU, finished college in five years as a B student with a batch of poems under my arm ready for grad school, and I completed my term at Brooklyn College in two years still sporting a B average but with a better batch of poems bound in customary Master’s Thesis fashion.

Then I grew up some more (sort of), going on to be a Renaissance man of sorts –– published poet, DIY filmmaker, one-time guitarist, part-time blogger, rabid social networker and freelance professor drifting between various universities across New Jersey. Overall, I consider myself pretty fortunate to be living this particular life without anyone telling me otherwise; whenever I wanted to be different, and ultimately when I needed to be myself, I’ve always had a solid limb on the tree of my being out on which I could perch and sing freely, and this limb is my family, which has supported me in everything I’ve done, from tracing comic book covers for some extra pre-teen spending cash to going away to London for a summer to study Shakespearean theater and acting at the Globe to making films today.

But sometimes there are other branches helping to hold you up that you may not have noticed, or perhaps you may never have been aware of.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of my Dad’s death as well as the first anniversary of my discovery of new family members on my Dad’s side. Actually, it’s more accurate to say these hitherto unknown branches of my family tree reached out and discovered me.

Thanksgiving, 2010, with Marinell Montales, Andrea Bertos Quintaglie, me, and Danny Androutsos.

I never knew much about my Dad’s side of the family because whenever he would tell me stories about his past, I would be more interested in drawing Ninja Turtles or making up intricate stories starring my Super Powers action figures; I was too young to appreciate them. Instead, I recollect only brief bits: My grandfather John owning a coffee shop in Athens and drawing when business was slow and my Dad crying as a boy whenever school was closed are little more than vestiges now. The story I remember most tells of how my Dad was marooned in New Orleans because of a stomach virus, and his fellow Merchant Marines had to sail back out to sea and couldn’t wait for him to recover. The reason I remember this one is because I wrote up a story about my Dad for my feature writing class when I was a journalism major at NJCU. That tape-recorded interview I did with him captured the last remnants of his voice before the cancer left behind only a whisper.

The only other thing I remembered was that my Dad had a cousin who lived in Florida named Chris Bertos. That’s how I met Andrea Bertos Quintaglie. She reached out to me through a Facebook message with the subject heading “looking for” and a message that read:

Hi John…I’m looking for a John Trigonis who would be my second cousin on my dad’s side (Chris Bertos) This John’s dad’s name was Teddy and has since passed away. I was just thinking of this person & wanted to make the connection…so if you are the right John (because 3 John Trigonis came up) and you would like to connect with your dad’s family respond…Thanx, Andrea

After I let Andrea know that I was in fact the right John Trigonis, we exchanged a bunch of Facebook messages, and I learned so much about a part of my family tree I hadn’t even known existed. Apparently, I not only now had newfound family members here in the U.S., but there’s a whole flock of second and third cousins living in New Zealand, many of whom knew my Dad. And through Andrea, I was able to make the acquaintance of Nina Bertos Androutsos, Nina Bertos Papadopoulos, and many more of our Kiwi cousins whom she had connected with through Facebook and some serious Sherlock Holmes detective work.

Last year, Andrea held a truly splendid and emotional Thanksgiving celebration, and I finally got to meet her, as well as many other cousins of mine, many of whom proceeded to spin some interesting stories about my Dad; many of them recalled instances when he would come to family gatherings, dance, drink and be merry; others reminisced a tale or two that’d been passed down through the years about how the two dads would get into all sorts of trouble when they were younger.

My Dad, a troublemaker?! Well, blow me down!

At this festive gathering of newfound family, I also had the pleasure of meeting a cousin of mine from New Zealand, Danny Androutsos, whom I found to be a kindred spirit; he’s a musician who happened to be on a world tour –– something Kiwi men do as a rite of passage. It felt as though all the years removed between the two of us were stitched up in the few hours we spent together that Thanksgiving, as well as the couple of nights we spent running around New York City with wine, tasty food, and plenty of catch-up conversation.

What’s more, Andrea and the family attended the Big Apple Preview of Cerise back in December, 2010, which made the event even more special for me because not only was I showcasing my latest short film to my friends, supporters, funders and family, but I was also able to introduce my brother, sister and family to Andrea, Danny, and my other cousins, and it was a heartwarming spectacle to see them all interacting throughout the evening.

My cousin Danny rockin' out at Bar Medusa in Wellington, New Zealand.

I grew up with a large family from my mother’s side; my brother Walter and sister Renee, as well as my brother’s family –– my family –– not only make up the bulk of the branches of my family tree, but they have also been the trunk, never moving, always there, for good moments like graduating college or not-so-good; when my Dad died on December 14th, 2006, my brother and sister were there for me at three in the morning to let me know that it’ll be alright. Perhaps I’d always taken the idea of family for granted, and now, having had some new dots connected on a part of my Dad’s bloodline I’d known little to nothing about has added more balance to my identity as a Trigonis.

I’ve always been proud of my Greek ancestry even though I still know very little about where I come from; I’m especially fond of my surname; Trigonis (Tρυγώνια) means “bird” or more accurately, “turtledove,” and, interestingly enough, is most famous for its use in the old Greek proverb “Μ’ένα σμπάρο, δυο τρυγώνια,” or “One shot, two birds.” I started thinking about identity and ancestry a while back when a man named Vasilis Trigonis reached out to me on Facebook asking if he and I might be related. What’s more interesting is that he’s from Thessaloniki, Greece, and according to him, in the nearby city of Veria there’s a high concentration of people with our same surname. But I’ll leave this story for another time.

Interesting fact: The mythological Phoenix is the natural life partner of the τρυγώνια...

But perhaps Vasilis was right when he wrote that he’s “quite sure that soon or later we’ll discover the story of our ancestors.” And in my case, along came Andrea, and because of her, I’m a few layers deeper to discovering my roots. It never really mattered so much to me when I was a kid, or even when I emerged from grad school with my MFA in poetry. But now, to know that for all these years I’ve been supported by the family I’ve known and loved all my life and a family that has only recently been unearthed but has been there all along gives me a strangely mystical feeling, one that makes me proud of the little I’ve accomplished in this short span of life, and unravels a reason as to why I’ve been able to safely land on any limb I choose without having my song’s get muffled or lost in the leaves. The stronger the limb, the stronger the support for this turtledove to sing from any height.

And if there’s a Facebook in the Great Hereafter, I only hope my Dad might look down past the cosmos this Christmas, 2011, to give this, my latest status update, a “Like.”

My Dad and me, circa 1982, maybe. I've since traded in my pistol for a pen; I'm sure I've made him proud.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,920 other followers

%d bloggers like this: