Initiation: written for The Gallows

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I’ve been so insanely busy since moving to LA that I didn’t have time to post anything to my blog about Initiation Night, the short story I wrote in support of The Gallows over the summer!

It was a total thrill to be involved in the film’s marketing campaign because The Gallows is exactly the kind of horror movie I love: gritty, realistic, and almost impossible to watch because you know scary sh*t’s going to happen every other second.

When asked if I’d be interested in writing a scary story in support of the movie, I immediately knew I wanted to borrow a few details from the film. A small town, a local legend, and kids creeping around a building at night: check, check, check. I combined those elements from a custom in my own hometown of high school seniors initiating freshmen at a seedy carnival on Labor Day Weekend, and worked with a very cool filmmaker in my own hometown, Lloyd Emmons, to shoot some trailers to accompany the story.

Since my professional background is in digital marketing, I think Wattpad’s approach to allowing brands to engage with readers is brilliant. First, it allows authors to introduce their readers to brands’ content within a context of a more welcomed, social “share” than a forced advertisement. Authors can then build their readers’ appetites for the branded experience (whether it’s a movie or TV show, etc.) in such a way that makes their readers genuinely curious about the product being advertised. Quite a few kids posted comments on Initiation Night asking if my story was the same as The Gallows and were intrigued that the stories were related – enough to express interest in seeing the movie on opening weekend.

Wattpad has put together a case study on the campaign here:

http://blog.wattpad.com/2015/12/01/brand-stories-spotlight-the-gallows/

Things that are no longer in NYC for me to miss

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The last time I moved away from NYC (before moving back, two years later) these were things I dearly missed during my time in LA:

1) Original Ray’s pizza on 6th Ave & 11th (now gone)

2) Late night dinner/early breakfast at Yaffa Cafe (now gone)

3) Brunch at Grange Hall (now long gone)

4) Movies at the Angelika (hasn’t been renovated since I was in college, bathrooms are intolerable)

5) Bendix Diner (now gone in both locations)

6) Drinkin’ at Motor City Lodge, Luna Lounge, Max Fish (all three… gone)

7) Seeing shows at the Mercury Lounge (now totally douche-ified)

8) Watching the sun rise from my rooftop in the East Village (can’t afford the East Village anymore)

9) Chilling at the Scratcher (still there, but Scottish Mark is famous now and Karl Geary is off doing Breaking Bad types of things)

10) Seeing NYC classics like Vincent Gallo and Moby strolling around (long gone)

Scary Movies

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Last night I had a terrible dream about Oculus, that super scary movie about a haunted mirror. I haven’t even seen this movie. I don’t even have the balls to watch the whole trailer when I’m home alone and yet it’s already messing with my head.

When I woke up this morning I realized that a project I’ve been working on for little kid readers about magical realism actually makes much more sense as a really scary story targeted at grown-ups. There’s a very, very fine line separating magic from horror. I actually find the topic of old-timey magicians during the age of vaudeville to be kind of terrifying.  Most of the famous guys, Houdini’s competitors, were grifters and tricksters in addition to illusionists, like the super shady Alexander C. who was rumored to have married over 14 ladies, some of them at the same time (wasn’t life grand before computers prevented us from breaking laws)?

These fathers of conjuring and optical tricks have always fascinated me, and their legacy lives on today in our fascination with reality TV mediums.

Said Joseph Dunninger, famous illusionist and friend of Harry Houdini, “There is one primary rule in the fakery of spirit mediumship. That is to concentrate upon persons who have suffered a bereavement.”

TV Shows I Volunteer to Executive Produce

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1.  The F Team

A reboot of the A-Team. A group of really shitty special ops guys bungle every assignment they’re given in the greater Los Angeles area.  The only casting requirement here is that Kathy Griffin must play Murdock. I think it would also be pretty great to see Jay Baruchel as a bumbling explosives expert.

2. Eugene Hwang: Food Poisoning Hunter

In a classic reality show format, a panel of personalities who serve as authorities on bad food experiences (my friend Spencer Wong, maybe Bourdain–what show wouldn’t benefit from a little Anthony Bourdain? maybe Johnny Weir because why not?) challenge my young friend Eugene to eat the most disgusting dishes in the dirtiest, C-rated dining establishments in NYC. There’s no gamification element here; we just wait and watch Eugene suffer.  This is a show that probably only my friends would truly enjoy, but it would be ridiculously easy to produce since it’s a slice of our daily lives.

3.  Tha Hood

This is a reverse concept show based on Diff’rent Strokes. A rich white dude dies and his spoiled brat kids go live with their family’s black maid and her kids in Crenshaw.  All joking aside, I actually wrote a pilot for this situation comedy and won tickets to a weird event at which I met Robert Smigel and Norm MacDonald told me all about his pee saved in bottles when I bummed a cigarette off him. Truth.  I couldn’t even make up the kind of stuff that happens in LA.

4. Situation: California

A nuclear reactor has some kind of scientificky malfunction on the coast of California (just like in Japan) and a weird zombie-like virus infects all of the residents who were exposed to the radiation. The US government seals off the state to prevent the infection from spreading, and those who are trapped within state boundaries have to battle zombies as well as other survivors for power. Think Point Break meets World War Z with a dash of Private Practice and a hell of a lot of guns.

5. Chance and the Big Guy

Chance Munroe, a down-on-his-luck, aging bit part actor in LA, teams up with his college roommate, a divorced single dad living in his ex-wife’s basement, to make a living as bounty hunters.  The first time I started half-heartedly writing a pilot for this, I thought, no one will ever want to see a 1-hr drama about two unsuccessful guys trying to get money. Now, after the wild success of Breaking Bad, I’m not so sure about my original hypothesis!

5 Things I Did Not Know When I Moved to New York

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I’ve been here a while now, so it’s okay to admit these things. I am pretty sure I am not alone in these rather humbling experiences. Correction: I really hope I am not alone in these experiences, because if I am, I am a far greater nerd than I thought.

1. I did not know about wasabi. In my defense, I also had never had sushi before moving to New York, so I was a victim of the oldest trick in the book (which is the one where your sushi expert friend tells you to eat a big gob of wasabi straight up, because they insist it is delicious, and then fire comes out of your eyes and nostrils and you pray to Jesus for sweet relief and can’t wait to try that trick on some other unsuspecting doofus).

2. I didn’t know that you’re supposed to pronounce Houston Street like Howston Street. Naturally, now when I hear tourists repeat my mistake, I become enraged.

3. Drugs are everywhere. Growing up in the Midwest, I honestly thought drugs were like, super duper hush-hush items of secrecy and that police wearing riot gear with giant German Shepherd dogs were lurking around every corner in the big city just waiting to bust people with drugs. I did not know that approximately 97% of New Yorkers keep marijuana stashed away somewhere in their kitchen. I could not have imagined the possibility of a drug dealer riding his bicycle to your apartment at any hour of the day or not.  The 14-year-old Vanessa Huxtable tattletale that still lives inside me wants to say “awwwwww” in a you’re-gonna-get-it voice every time I smell ganja on the sidewalk.

4. Midtown is not cool. I was under the impression that, thanks to pretty much every single movie I saw as a kid set in New York, all the action was in Midtown. As it turns out, Splash!, Tootsie, Working Girl, and Kramer vs. Kramer were all liars. As it also turns out, my parents probably should not have let me seen a lot of movies I was allowed to see at an impressionable young age. True fact: Kramer vs. Kramer was almost directed by Francois Truffaut. Imagine.

5. There are no secret underground nightclubs featuring magic shows, like the one in Desperately Seeking Susan. Trust me, I’ve searched. This, to me, is a serious failure on behalf of every nightclub owner in this city. I’m sick of fake burlesque shows and “speak-easies” (people, there was this thing called the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, and it’s been legal to drink alcohol in this country for 80 years, so enjoy that $17 “secret” martini). If you want to really buy an alcoholic beverage and consume it illegally, buy a Tecate and drink it in the alley behind my apartment building with all the other dudes who hang out at the taco stand downstairs.  And let me know if you know how to do any magic tricks or if Rosanna Arquette stops by.

5 Cool Dudes

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A list, in nonsensical order, of some seriously cool dudes that I was thinking about today while waiting for the F train. Pointless? Yeah, but so what? This is my blog and I can make lists of whatever I want!

1) Barack Obama. The dude is like ice. Just cool.
2) Kurt Russell. Seriously, this guy is crazy chill. If I were on a sinking ocean liner, stranded on an island, dealing with some serious BS in Chinatown involving magic, managing a mini-golf in Oregon… pretty much in any situation, Kurt Russell has things covered. Also, I really like this picture of him with like, a time warp effect coming out from behind his head.
3. Shane Black. This dude wrote almost every good action movie you’ve ever seen, and directed Iron Man. Bow down.
4) Jeff Bridges. No explanation needed.
3. Shane Black. This dude wrote almost every good action movie you’ve ever seen, and directed Iron Man. Bow down.
5) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This dude was named NBA MVP 6 times. He was in Airplane! He kicked it with Bruce Lee! He is all-around awesome.

Light as a Feather… let’s play a game

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My paranormal YA book is being featured on Wattpad right now, and as part of the feature we’re playing a little online game of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.  As much as I loved the role of storyteller within the game when I was a kid, it’s a challenge coming up with more than twenty weird ways for someone to die every day. I try to stay away from predictions that are a little too possible. Back in the days when my friends and I would play the game at slumber parties, half of the fun of the game was that the storyteller would always try to crack everyone up with the absurdity of the death prediction. Killer clowns, angry bears, law mower accidents… these were the ways in which as middle-graders we all predicted we’d go. I found this really cool site that details 350 actual, horrible ways to die. I am a Tycho Brahe fan and had no idea that his bladder had burst! I feel for him, as I feel for the poor gent who laughed himself to death watching The Goodies.

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If you loved the game, check out the ongoing fun happening at Wattpad. If you dare, you can ask Hannah Simmons to play the game with you, and enter to win a pair of new pajamas from Victoria’s Secret, a pizza, some Netflix, and a scary book – all the makings of a great slumber party.

Movies I Seriously Cannot Wait to See

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This is looking like it’s going to be a pretty great summer for movies. On my must-see list:

1.) The Bling Ring. I adore Emma Watson and I think Sofia Coppola is a genius, so I have high expectations for this one even though the subject matter in the hands of another director would probably be trite and annoying.

2) Man of Steel. Henry Cavill. Wowza.

3) White House Down. This movie looks like a giant turd-burger and the trailer is like, 70 minutes long, but I will pay to see Channing Tatum in just about anything.

4) Insidious Chapter 2. After seeing this movie, I will probably be too scared to ever sleep again. 

5) The Heat. Melissa McCarthy is the funniest woman who ever lived and this movie is just going to be awesome. 

6) R.I.P.D. Hello, Ryan Reynolds. I love you.

7) The Wolverine. I want this movie to be my life. Or, rather, I want to live inside this movie and be BFF with the Wolverine. 

8) We’re the Millers.  

9) Paranoia, starring Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, and Garry Oldman. There is no possible way this movie could be bad. I don’t even know what it’s about and I want to see it.

10) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  I have very high expectations for this movie in that I expect it to be way better than Twilight and Blade combined. And I think it will be.

 

 

Top 5 Chocolate Bars

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This has been on my mind for a while, so I needed to post it and move on with my life.

5) Chunky Kit Kat.  Once you’ve had one of these bulkier treats from England, your regular American Kit Kat bar from the office vending machine will simply no longer suffice.

4) Whatchamacallit. An oldie but a goodie. This candy bar really takes me back to the Halloweens of my childhood. 

3) Lindt Milk Chocolate Pistachio Bar. This is the kind of chocolate bar that you need on hand when your pet is sick or when you’re in the middle of an emotionally charged break-up. This is the description from the Lindt website: Experience the luxury of whole pistachio nuts, covered in a smooth white almond creme and enrobed in Lindt’s finest Swiss milk chocolate. Is this really merely a chocolate bar? Because that description reads like a vacation I’d like to take.

2) Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar. Simplicity, sometimes, is perfection. This is the man, I’ve had a crappy day at work but I’m not going to mess up my chocolate with any caramel or nougat-y stuff kind of bar. For the purist. Keeping dentists in business.

1) Ritter Sport Cornflakes bar. When other candy bars see that yellow wrapper, they pack up and go home. Game over. The king is in the house.

Whew. Now on to more pressing matters, like catching up on The Mindy Project on hulu.