Monday, October 27, 2008

Conversation with a Teenager

A conversation with my 14 year old nephew yesterday sparked some inspiration within me.

We were driving in my car on the way back from the store and he asked me why Proposition 8 was a big deal. My reply: It's not just about gay marriage, it's about the idea that people want to write discrimination into the state constitution. He asked me, "is that even possible?"

I said, "unfortunately, it is." His reply: "that doesn't seem fair"

I'm a little taken back by the fact that my 14 year old nephew gets it but that there are hundreds of thousands in California who don't. They are afraid that this issue will affect our children...well guess what, it has. Now, I have to sit down and explain to my nephew why the religious people of California want to write discrimination into our Constitution. I have to make him understand that there are people who feel they need to "minister" to us about love while they go behind our backs and preach hate. The problem is, I don't know how to do that!

"But wasn't this country founded on religion?" he asks me. I tell him, "the way people act nowadays you would think it was, but it wasn't. Our forefathers came to this country because they didn't feel it was right for a country to force religion on their people, so they came here to North America to make a better life."

"So, then why do they force it upon us now?" he asked innocently.

"That's why this proposition is so controversial." I exclaimed. "People have forgotten what this country was founded on."

I know people say that they fear what will happen to this country if gays marry. That's the least of my worries. My biggest fear is: how can we raise our children in a society that promotes fear and discrimination? This is seriously gone from a concern of gay marriage to an act of civil rights. And I seriously thought in the year 2008 we were farther along and better than that as a country. But I had to explain to my nephew, on the way back from the store, that I was wrong.

I helped raise my two eldest nephews. The only lessons I wanted them to learn was that life is too short for hate and that you should never give up on your dreams. I fear that on the morning of November 5, 2008 the oldest will wake up to a world of second class citizens and will turn to me again and ask why. He learned in school the hardships that the African American community had to endure in the 60s when they fought for THEIR freedom. He was even taught how wrong it was that they were treated differently.

I love my nephews...they are like sons to me. I want to create a world that they can be proud to live in. I just have to pray that the rest of the people around us have the courage to do the right thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Inspiration at Ground Zero

This blog is about inspiration. Where it comes from...where writers find it. It's elusive at best; sought after constantly. Where do writers get it from? It's the one question I ask whenever I meet a new writer. Each writer is different and therefore they find inspiration in so many different ways.

When I'm asked what inspires me the only answer i give is: life. I am inspired by life! It's the most simple answer I can think of. I'm a people watcher. I'm always intrigued as to how people behave in public vs. how they differ in their private homes. I sit at the airport, or the mall, or while I'm at lunch and watch how people relate to each other or those around them. Each person has a story and, as a writer, sometimes I find myself filling in the blanks on their life.

Writing is often more or less a fictionalized version of how we interpret life. So I try to note everything around me.

One of my biggest inspirations thus far is my recent trip to New York City. The last time I visited I was 9. I don't remember too much about the trip, however. So I started this trip with a new fresh perspective.

I came to New York wit 6140 Productions to make a movie called The Four Faced Liar. We filmed for six days and I've had the last three days to myself to enjoy the city. This is where my true inspiration began. Although, we filmed at 4am in the West Village, I learned then exactly what the night life in New York is really like. That was quite a shock to this LA boy who always though bars closed at 2am.

But I found the night life inspiring. The people that were attracted to it. The way the buildings were lit. How they towered over everything, protecting it against the world. They're almost celestial bodies at night! I realized early on how New York is it's own character. There is something magical and surreal about the city. It's almost familiar even if, like me, it's your first time.

I walked around Times Square, around Broadway, around Chelsea, West Village and met my favorite actress and friend in Astor Place. Everywhere you go there is a small piece of history or architect that demands a tiny portion of your attention. It's splendidly marvelous.

Today, though, I have tickets to see my first broadway musical on broadway! Spring Awakening this evening at 7pm. (And theatre is a great inspiration!) However, this afternoon I took the liberty of taking the 6 train down to the World Trade Center. I got off the train and walked the three blocks to where these majestic buildings used to stand. Amongst the towering buildings still standing, there is a great hole when you look up. It's almost as if their shadow still rests there. It's humbling. To stand there and see the great emptiness and know, wonder even, what it must've been like to stand there in that same spot seven years previous and watch the towers, ablaze, full of concern, and fear, for the uncertainty. It's a fear I hope we no longer have to experience.

I made my way into the gift shop where I bought a few trinkets; my most treasured being a small metal bracelet I bought. They come wrapped in a small blue gift bag. They are randomly given to you and each one is embossed with a name of a victim from 9/11. I took my little blue bag and walked across the street to St. Peter's Parish. It once used to stand in the shadows of the towers but when they fell it became a relief center for so many including volunteers and fire fighters. I walked the grounds, saw the old headstones from the 1800's and stood in front of the little memorials inside the church honoring the victims of 9/11. I couldn't help but cry. I remembered eight years ago walking down the streets of LA holding a candle in memorium of these same people.

I slowly made my way back to the front sitting on a bench under the trees. I sat there in silence. The church so tall and strong out in front of me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the little blue bag, where my metal bracelet wait inside. I pulled open the draw string and out came my bracelet: Jerrold Paskins, died 9-11-01 at the World Trade Center. My eyes swelled with tears as I held the bracelet, saying a silent prayer for him..and for his family who, to this day, probably mourn the loss of him.

I put the bracelet on, put the blue bag in my pocket and and stood up from the bench. Just like the rest of New York, I too needed to get up and move on. The new building is in the process of being erected. It will always stand for a beacon of hope for a city of so many people.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Elementals: A Brief Synopsis

(Working Title)
By Michael Coulombe and Daniel Frank

"Elementals" takes place in present day Chicago. Kinetic Labs, a powerful and corrupt chemical manufacturing plant, sits nearby keeping an ever watchful eye on the citizens of Chicago.

Greg Kucowski, Tristan Bloom, Parker Howell, and Bryce Mackenzie met while growing up in a Chicago foster home. Life before entering foster care was no walk in the park. Each of them harbored a similar secret that not only put those closest to them in danger, but also kept them constantly on the run from those who meant them harm.

The foster home they each lived in acted as a sanctuary providing stability and safety. No longer being chased and no longer having to run from their unknown assailants, they all bonded and became family; confiding in each other their deepest secret. Upon exiting foster care they pursue various careers; however, are able to remain close to each other. No longer residing in the safety of their foster home, living a normal life becomes a struggle...Normal is so hetero!

Little do they know how connected they are to Kinetic Labs and vice versa...Sometimes the best hiding place is right under your nose

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October '08: David Dean Bottrell

New feature.

Once a month I will interview an author or playwright, or screen writer and have them talk about their journey as a writer. So, it is my pleasure to introduce David Dean Bottrell

1. What is the most challenging thing facing writers today?
I don't think the plight of writers has really changed that much over time. The question is what to write and what form to write it in. You have stay in tuned in to the world around you. Writing is always a response to lives we are all collectively living.

2. Where do you find your inspiration to write?
Funny, but I don't put much stock in inspiration anymore. It's great to feel excited about what you're writing, but unfortunately that feeling can evaporate in a milisecond. The greatest trick I ever learned was to keep writing after that initial excitement disappears. I try to trust my imagination as much as possible. I try to be ready to act on ideas that excite me. I also have to trust that something that I find engaging, funny or interesting will find an audience. Writing isn't for everybody. It's hard to start. It's hard to continue. It's hard to finish. I guess that sounds a little grim, but there's a strange reward that comes along with writing that's hard to describe. It somehow makes you want to try again.

3. What current projects are you working on?
I'm writing my first ever TV pilot. It's exciting and scary. Although I've acted on TV, I've never written for it. All my screenwriting experience has been for films which is a very different beast. At least I'm learning something new. I always like that. I just finished writing a book proposal based on my blog and there seems to be some interest in it. So that's exciting.

4. Who are some of your favorite writers?
There are so many. In the screenwriting world -- William Goldman, Scott Frank, Steve Zallian, Alan Ball, Charlie Kaufman, Pedro Almodóvar, Larry McMurty, Billy Wilder and Horton Foote. When it comes to fiction, I'm always amazed by writers who can bridge genres -- Especially those who can weave fantastical elements into their stories. I wish I had the breadth of imagination to pull that off.

5. What's your favorite genre and/or medium to write in?
I guess I'd have to say screenwriting since it's the medium that I have the most experience in. It's challenging and incredibly difficult. There are so many rules and you have to corral all your big ideas and distill them down until they can pass throught the eye of a needle. When I started writing my blog I was thrilled to have a place to stretch out a little as a writer. It's great to have a forum to tell all my show business stories. God knows I've got enough of them. I'm so excited that the blog has found an audience.

6. What is your ideal writing sanctuary?
I'm not sure I have one. I used to be intensely private and needed a lot of solitude to get anything done. But these days, I'm fairly flexible. Last summer, I wrote an entire screenplay in a local coffee shop and it was a terrific experience. I do what I can to make writing fun. If I'm feeling giddy, I might camp out in some joint with cool music and a lot of human traffic. If I'm feeling vulnerable, I'm more likely to take refuge in my home office. Someday, I'd like to go rent a cottage somewhere and write in some gorgeous, bucolic location. Hasn't happened yet, but maybe someday.

7. Do you feel that being an actor influences your writing?
Absolutely. By the time I started writing, I'd already been a working actor for over 11 years. My early scripts were technically a mess but all that performing had definitely given me a voice as a writer. It still helps me a lot with dialogue. All I have to do is read a scene out loud and I usually get a sense if it will work.

8. As of right now, what are you most proud of with your writing?
I adapted a book last year called "How to Cook Your Daughter." It's memoir by Jessica Hendra about her very troubled relationship with her father who molested her when she was a kid. When it was first sent to me, I thought it was too dark to succeed on screen. And then I had a small brainstorm about how the story could be told. Fortunately, Jessica was willing to let me take her book, put it in a blender and reinvent it while keeping the essential truth of her story in tact. The resulting final script is probably the best thing I've ever written. I'm hugely proud of it. It's out to talent right now, so hopes are running high. I guess when I boil it down, I'm most proud that I'm still a writer after all these years. I'm grateful that it has continued to evolve and grow. It still fits me.

You can check him out here at:

David as Lincoln Meyer on the set of Boston Legal