July 30, 2014

I Was A YouTube Superstar And Didn't Even Know It

Recently, I got an email from a fan who'd seen my short POOL DAYS on YouTube. My films get uploaded from time to time without my consent and when it happens, I usually ask folks to limit them to 2-3 minute clips. When this fan sent the link, I was surprised to see that my film had an astounding number of views--nearly 1.1 million, and over 1,500 comments too. I was a YouTube superstar and didn't even know it!

Unfortunately, the uploader of the film had titled it "Gay Short 033" (!) and did not include any information about me, the actual title, or links to my other films. The situation was both frustrating and somewhat exciting, given the number of people who were responding to my work. When the original film was released as part of BOYS LIFE in the 1990s, it was a big success and seen by maybe 100,000 theatre goers over the course of a couple years in realease. But now, in mere months on YouTube, more than 10 times that number had watched it. Of course, if I had a dime for every click...but that's another story.

Anyway, this time I thought I'd take a different approach with the errant uploader. I messaged the guy and told him he could keep the full clip online but on one condition: he needed to properly credit and tag the video with my information and links to my other work. I figured if all these people like my short, they should be able to find my other films too! These days, in the indie world, it's all about building and bringing your audience with you so this seemed like a way to do just that. He replied to my message in a couple hours and changed all the info and, since then, we've had a lively discussion about my film's sudden viral life.  

What's most interesting in all this is that I've had to sit in countless meetings with executives, producers, and investors over the years about gay-themed projects and the general response is that there's little to no audience, especially if there's teenagers involved. In fact, one of my fellow young adult authors John Green (THE FAULT IN OUR STARS) has an infamous and terrible story of a producer meeting where he was told, and this is a direct quote, "The only thing Hollywood hates more than smart teenagers, is smart gay teenagers." Yet there on YouTube, one of my movies about a smart gay teenager gets over a million plus views with no promotion or publicist or anything. Go figure.

This is all the more timely as, currently, I'm working on a new project, a 12-part series adapted from one of my YA books called BEST SUMMER EVER. It's based on my novel TALE OF TWO SUMMERS about two best friends, one gay and one straight, who have their first big romances over the course of a summer. It's being done independently, for now (see above)...or at least until someone wises up to the audience that is out there. In that same interview John Green said, "I hope Hollywood will prove this movie producer wrong someday." Not sure if/when that will happen, but I think the Internets has maybe done this already.

So make sure you check out BSE on other social media spaces (FB, Twitter, YouTube) for more details to come. In the meantime, you can watch POOL DAYS below.

July 21, 2014

Weird Al Is Back, Educating Fans About "Word Crimes"

Weird Al Yankovic is back! It's been a while since he made fun of pop music so vigorously--3 years since "Polka Face" skewered Lady Gaga. But now he's back with his 14th album which he spent the last week debuting with 8 new videos over 8 days on his Vevo channel.  

As a writer, my favorite by far is "Word Crimes" which is not only hilarious but also quite educational when it comes to common grammatical mistakes. And, at the same time, it sorta takes the piss out of one of my least favorite pop songs of all time "Blurred Lines". Enjoy as you laugh and learn about the Oxford comma.

July 18, 2014

That Time I Tried To Cast Elaine Stritch

Yesterday, Broadway legend Elaine Stritch died and social media blew up (at least mine, that is) with toasts, tributes and many recollections by people in New York who knew her over the course of her long and distinctive career. Not only was I a great fan of her work both on stage (A DELICATE BALANCE on Broadway in 1996, extraordinary) and film (if you haven't seen WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR, see it) but I also tried to cast her in a movie once. The part seemed a perfect fit for her, a boozy but wise and spunky aunt who befriends a gay man at a wedding. I mean, isn't this what she did for a living?  :)

Anyway, the producer of my indie comedy I THINK I DO called to make an offer. We were a low budget film offering scale for 5 days work. So when he called the number the casting director gave him he was somewhat surprised to find that he was talking directly to Elaine Stritch. For many years, she did not have a manager or agent and performed this role herself. Well, if you can imagine Ms. Stritch as her own agent then you can probably imagine where this story is going. She was tough, contentious, demanding and frank about what she needed. But as a low budget film, we didn't have much to offer, other than a fun role. Needless to say, after a short negotiation, she did not take the offer.

I was disappointed to hear this news and wondered if maybe a personal call to her directly might change the situation. The producer gave me a strange look, like someone who had been in battle, and said "I don't think so." I was recently watching a wonderful documentary called SHOOT ME about Elaine's last years in New York and Tina Fey talked, somewhat warily, about Elaine on the set of 30 ROCK, saying "you never knew what you were gonna get". Elaine was famously abrasive and tough and unpredictable...which is probably why she was so good too. And she was funny as hell, especially on 30 ROCK.

The TIMES has a lengthy obituary which ends with a fitting quote from her one-woman show. However, they neglected to mention her agenting herself which I think says a lot about this inimitable woman who made her own way and set her own unique course in an unforgiving business. She was an amazing actor and outsized personality whose talent and spirit, not to mention her way with a Sondheim song, will be dearly missed.

July 1, 2014

Rick Springfield Wrote A Novel And Is Still Singing

I was at the gym yesterday and "Jessie's Girl" came on the radio. 33 years later, it still holds up remarkably well. Listening to it, I noticed it's not only an tightly crafted pop song but an amazing story song too. It's easily one of the most memorable songs of the 80s.

So today, over on the Hollywood Reporter's website, I notice that not only is Rick Springfield still singing, he's actually writing prose stories too. His first novel MAGNIFICENT VIBRATION is out and it's gotten some pretty good reviews too. It's about a guy who discovers God's cell phone number but also has themes about the (dim) future of the planet given the way we treat it. Heady stuff for an 80s heartthrob who is now (gulp!) 64. It's doing so well he's already penning a sequel as well. Could be some fun summer reading perhaps. 

I also enjoyed a comic little ditty Springfield recorded for the THR podcast "Off The Cuff". It's a song called "If Wishes Were Fishes" and, though maybe not as catchy as the song that still pays his bills, it's a very clever and country-style song about, well, himself....at least it seems that way. You can listen to the song here as well as the podcast too.