Sunday, April 22, 2012

God Is The Stage Manager, You Are The Sleepy Slides Person

 I was doing slides at church today for the first time in a while.  And they’ve adjusted the position so much from when I first started doing it.  I’m probably the most senior member of the slides crew, I remember the days when we had to build the slides presentation from scratch.  On a church-owned laptop, that would be passed around from slide person to slide person like a nuclear suitcase, so the next person could build that week’s presentation.

But the church has grown, and the church’s budget has grown, and someone somewhere decided it was more efficient to have a paid staff member build the presentation, but still have a volunteer be the one to punch the buttons to make the slides go during the service.  Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they completely eliminate my position within the next year, and have a paid staff person punch the button.  It’s not any skin off my nose, I was a volunteer.  If they eliminate my position, I guess I’ll go direct cars in the parking lot or something.

Regardless, the past two weeks have been super exhausting, as I have been working on projects that MIGHT have schedules, that POSSIBLY have contracts, and WHISPERS of payments, and yes, I am indeed couching those things in vague vague Maybe Someday language, so as to not jinx the goings on.

But things are going on.

Unless they’re not.



So I’m tired beyond tired, and I’m sitting behind the computer.  The band leader has assured me that he didn’t know I was going to be doing slides today, and that the worship song selection of “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” in no way reflects the band leader teasing me, because the band leader knows (because I’ve told him several times) that is my most hated worship song.  I hate that song.  I HATE THAT SONG.  It’s like the most pedestrians, most banal worship songs ever.  And I have to punch the buttons that make the lyrics slide go and the band leader is grinning at me from the stage and I’m just tired.

“At least we got rid of Lord I Lift Your Name On High” the Stage Manager cracks.  Small comfort.

So I’m doing alright through the first service, haven’t biffed anything major, and then I hit the wall during the second service.  I’ve already sat through the sermon, I’ve already taken notes.  It’s not an especially taxing slide presentation, and so in order to keep myself awake, I’m going back through my sermon notebook and adding to my table of contacts and my eyes are growing heavy so I’m just going to close them for a moment.

And then I miss a cue.  The audience doesn’t suspect a thing, the pastor isn’t really thrown, because he’s really into delivering the message.  And in truth, the cue that I’ve missed is not a terrible thing, it’s not like nothing makes sense without the map of Phrygia up, it’s not like Colossae exists today anyway, since an earthquake allegedly took it out in 60 AD (see?  I told you I was taking notes.)

Anyhow, the Phrygia map is not up when it’s supposed to be and right as I figure it out, the Stage Manager, sitting next to me, gently stretches his arm over and hits the button so the map comes up on screen.  And there’s no glare, no frown.  Just a gentle stretched arm over, and a tap of the mouse.  And the Stage Manager smiles at me warmly.  Maybe he knows I’m tired.  Maybe he can sense that I’m under stress from maybe schedules, or possible deadlines or wispy promises of payments.  Or maybe he can’t.  Maybe he thinks I’m new and that’s why I missed the cue.  It doesn’t matter.

It’s just another metaphor to me about what God is like.  I am me, the tired exhausted slide operator who’s barely hanging on to consciousness during the second service of the day and God is the gentle Stage Manager who helps me stay on track.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s all I’ve got right now.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Freaking Out

And I'd LIKE to talk about why, but I learned that lesson last year with the Golden Gymnast Gecko that's not such a good idea.

But these pictures of Daffy Duck from Duck Amuck give an accurate opinion of my headspace.

I love Daffy. When I was a kid, I thought Daffy was obnoxious and loud and I wanted to be cool Bugs Bunny.

But now as an adult, I recognize and appreciate how Daffy lets all of his raging anger and frustration and anxiety out in spectacular bursts of emotion. Daffy don't care who sees. Daffy is pissed off, and has got to let it out.

And while I feel like I've progressed to the point where I actually don't have the energy to physically freak out the way Daffy does. Watching him freak out in Duck Amuck, or even staring at these lovely screen captures, makes me feel slightly better.

Yes, there's a story here people. And if we're all lucky, I can tell it in about a month or two...

Monday, April 02, 2012


Who had the greatest impact on your career?

Writers are usually asked this question when they’re at a bigger level of success than where I am right now. But bear with me…

I’ve never had a honest-to-God MENTOR mentor. I’ve had plenty of friends and professional acquaintances that have popped in and out and who I can call or email and be reasonably sure they’ll respond.

But someone like a teacher who took a long vested interest in what I said I wanted to do and helped me along the way, no, not really.

But there was a guy who, whether he realized it or not, changed my writing career entirely.

Back in 2005, before this blog began, I was directionally challenged, career wise. I was writing all the time, and finding more success with plays than screenplays (2005 was the year of ZigZagged Ostrich, still one of the best things I ever did) but I wasn’t trying to be a playwright, I was trying to be a screenwriter.

There was a contest, I don’t remember where I heard about it, but it was a faith based screenwriting fellowship based in the South. It was the first year they were holding it, and I firmly believe you should get in on the first year any contest is held. Less competition, and the organizers might not know what they were doing yet.

But it was a fellowship with a cash bashed award and I’m a Christian and a writer already based in L.A. so I felt like I had a reasonable shot against other Christian writers who weren’t in L.A., so I submitted a bio, an early draft of Pink Piggy, and a 10 page sample of Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I ended up being one of 12 finalists. Didn’t go any farther, though ironically Pink Piggy did. What I submitted as a writing sample to them grew up to be my first produced feature film four years later. I don’t think the fellowship went past 2008.

After I was cut from the last round, I received an email from a man who introduced himself as being the reader for the fellowship. They had received 150 scripts, which this guy had to cut down to 12. “I was glad to include you into that stack.”

And even though they went with five other winners, this man wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed reading Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream. “It’s a delightful idea with really fun characters and very clever dialogue. Keep up the good work.”

This man’s name was Jack Gilbert. When I did a Google search to see where he came from, I found Act One. So I applied there for their summer 2006 writing program, figuring that if he was there, and he liked my writing, I could get in.

Which I did. And my life changed.

I met new people: students, teachers, professional writers who I now count as very dear dear friends of mine. People who I can talk to not just about writing, but about God and life and my father’s cancer, and their lives, and their babies, and their health scares, and what in the world is going ON here.

I learned more about screenwriting. I learned more about God and how God wanted to be a part of what I was writing.

At the end of the program banquet, I was seated at a table with Jack Gilbert. And ironically a guy who was one of the winners of the fellowship I didn’t get (he’s a really nice guy, and someone who I now count as a friend).

The question was raised, “What did you learn during Act One?” And I said, quite honestly (because lying takes too much energy) that I learned I wasn’t as good of a writer as I thought I was. That I went into the program thinking I knew a lot, and came out severely humbled (in a good way).

And though I blurted it out because it was the truth, and not because I was looking for sympathy, Jack immediately jumped into the conversation and told everyone about Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream, and what a great idea it was.

And that was Jack for you. The most unassuming, mild mannered valuable champion by your side.

Jack went on to be my teacher in other classes. I would see him at prayer groups. I would chat with him about ideas I had for Walking Dead specs (that one placed in Austin’s TV contest last year.)

He wasn’t flashy. He didn’t need to be the loudest voice in the room. He didn’t seek personal glory or fame. But he knew so much. And he loved to champion other writers. He loved to teach. He loved to support in perhaps the most selfless way I’ve ever encountered. He loved God and he loved screenwriting, and you don’t get much better than that in a person.

Jack was a long distance runner, and last week sped full tilt into God’s arms (I refuse to say “went to be with the Lord,” it’s too passive).

I never told him the impact he had on my own life, how a simple email from him back in 2005 radically changed the course of my writing life and introduced me to a whole new circle of friends, a whole new way of thinking, a whole new way of life. Had he not sent that email, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I would most likely be angry, bitter, and a crappy screenwriter with no sense of structure or theme.

I never told him any of this, but I don’t have to. I know he’s looking down on me, on hundreds of his students, and he is smiling in that quiet way that only he could. Forever our champion. Forever our friend.

Who has had the greatest impact on your career?

Jack Gilbert. Unquestionably.