“Leave The World Behind”

“Leave The World Behind” is a book that hauntingly parallels our time. The story of a white family of four (Archie, Rose, and their parents Amanda and Clay) on vacation in an AirBnB where there is limited (if any) cell reception only to be suddenly disrupted by an elderly black couple (G.W. and Ruth) who claim to be the owners of the house and that a massive power outage had occurred across the entire east coast.

The two families are soon awkwardly forced to share the space while trying to determine the cause and scope of the power outage. On top of the general awkwardness between the characters, there are inexplicable occurrences that are noticed throughout the house and the yard only to exacerbate the mystery behind their predicament.

The story masterfully explores the human condition in what is believed to be life or death situations to battle situations like starvation, infection, and isolation. The author (Rumaan Alam) narrates the story almost like a work of epic poetry; abundant in description and emotion but with very little dialogue between the characters.

I had never heard of this book or author before a few weeks ago. I found the book accidentally in the Charlotte airport, but this New York Time Bestseller and National Book Award finalist has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time. An absolute must-read!

The Matrix Resurrections

When I saw the first The Matrix in 1999, I was a freshman in high school. A movie that went on to win numerous awards including four Oscars. It was recognized as the dawn of a new Renaissance in visual storytelling and effects while also showing that those eye-candy movies can also have just as much heart and emotion; a symbiotic relationship between the characters and the audience. I’m able to recognize and appreciate all that now, but back then when it first came out, that simple line delivered so dryly yet humorously by Keanu Reeves, (“I know Kung Fu.”) is all it took back then to hook me in.

Twenty-two years later, The Matrix has changed. Neo has… reverted? I guess you could say. But one thing is certain, the original writers and directors of The Matrix trilogy have not lost a step in immersing you back into the world they created and it felt like being reunited with old friends and family members… and we all know that feeling of being separated from friends and family a little too well these days.

Some minor spoilers ahead.

Roadrunner

I have written a few times before on here about Anthony Bourdain’s life and his work. He was a line cook until he got really lucky and wrote his way to the top of the news, entertainment, travel, and culinary circles. I have called his writing “poetry with a serrated edge.” As I became more and more familiar with his work both in television and print, I quickly realized that his artistic voice was one of the most intelligent I had ever heard. I watched and read everything he was in. I watched and read what he had mentioned to be his inspirations. I even managed to secure an autographed copy of his last cookbook before his death. Needless to say, I’m a big fan.

When I learned about the inevitable documentary that I was certain would be made about his life after his death, I was excited but also afraid. I was afraid of one of my literary heroes being portrayed not as a monster, but as a man who lived a life of unspeakable pain with no relief in sight. During the two-hour run time of the Morgan Neville documentary, my conclusion was simple. Anthony Bourdain was a genius who had traveled over 660,000 miles (the equivalent of circumventing the globe twenty-six times) in search for purpose.

He was a man who would become obsessed with pretty much anything and everything that held his attention. He was a loving father even though he traveled over 200 days a year. He was painfully shy and awkward. He was an enigma; and every one of his fellow friends, chefs, journalists, family members and film crew shared their memories in a way that would be considered as unapologetic as Bourdain himself.

I recently came across somewhat of a controversy that the director used AI (Artificial Intelligence) to digitally recreated his voice for three lines in the film as part of the VoiceOver narration. I can see and understand why this can be seen as downright creepy and unethical. However, the lines that were digitally created were from emails that he had written to colleagues and friends. Again, I can understand the questionable judgement here on the side of the director, but at least he didn’t (as far as I know) digitally put words in the mouth of a ghost that were never there before.

Whether you’re familiar with Anthony Bourdain or not, I would highly recommend this documentary as a very intimate look inside the life of one of the most unique and unabashed people of the last twenty years.

Introducing My Coverfly Page

Summer vacation: a time to be bestowed upon sniffly-aged kids wanting nothing more than to go catatonic in front of their smartphones and eat pizza for breakfast. But for teachers like me, summer vacation consists of exactly those things with about three dozen passion project ideas barricading through my cerebral cortex trying to get to the front of the line and stay there long enough to keep my ADHD at bay.

This summer, as you can probably imagine, warrants something a little extra. With this past school year being a psychological gauntlet for teachers and students alike, it’s no wonder I want to do something extra extra. And I figured what would be a really good idea is to try to start fresh again. To take a long, hard look at what little I have been able to accomplish beyond survival this past year and re-introduce it to the six and a half people that read my posts regularly, and more importantly, introduce my work in a unique way to many more people and hopefully keep their attention.

For the past decade since completing my Master’s Degree, I have written and submitted several of my screenplays to dozens of festivals around the country. Many of which have actually done quite well and I have received significant recognition and accolades for my work.

However, the elusive goal of having any of my scripts optioned, sold, and produced continues to allude me like a thief in the night. Nevertheless, I soldier on, honestly feeling not as defeated or deterred as I believed I would be by this time. (The accolades do help.)

I am able to manage, edit, update, research, and submit my screenplays to festivals around the country using Coverfly.

Here are the following scripts I have on display on my Coverfly page at the time of this post:

  1. “Ripper”: The never-before-told true story about a rookie cop from Scotland Yard and his hunt for the elusive, gruesome, and brilliant Jack the Ripper. (Top 15% Finalist, Nicholls 2013; Official Selection, PitchWeek 2020)

2. “Lapse” (Feature and Short): After being beaten within an inch of his life and left for dead, Andrew wakes up in the hospital with a rare form of amnesia where he only remembers what caused the amnesia and nothing else. When everyone around him tells him a different cause for the amnesia with each passing day, Andrew must figure out if those around him are trying to prevent him from really remembering anything about his past and why. (Winner, LA Crime & Horror Film Festival 2018 [Short]; Quarterfinalist, ScreenCraft Horror Festival 2019 [Feature])

3. “Rompecabezas”: After finding a plastic bag filled with puzzle pieces, a clever and determined little girl pieces together her mysterious and terrifying future. (Finalist, WildSound Screenplay Festival 2020)

(No Image)

4. “Stray”: A career criminal and veteran detective square off over a tragic accident. (Festival Results Pending)

(No Image)

5. “A Thousand Words”: Desperate for a Prom date, Nicholas goes to extremes to track down his mysterious dream girl that he sees in a photograph. (Winner, Miami International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition 2011)

You can also read additional information about me, my work, and contact information through my Coverfly.

The Last Blockbuster

Picture it: anywhere in America, mid 1990s. You’re a teenager at the cusp of society deciding for you where you are going to land on the social-dynamic food chain. It’s Friday night. You just finished a rough week of navigating the concrete jungle known as high school. What are you going to do?

Well if you were anything like me and pretty much any other teenager in the mid 90’s, you asked your mom to drive you to the local Blockbuster Video to rent a movie and/or video game so that you’ll-not only have something to do on a Friday night-but you’ll also have something to talk about on Monday.

Your average Blockbuster Video was about the size of an average fast food joint. The smell of popcorn, sour candies, and low-grade carpet shampoo fill your nostrils as your eyes are met with categorized metal shelving of movies by genre and release date.

For many, it was an anthropological marvel of people of all shapes, sizes, classes, and creeds all in one communal place with one (primary) question in mind: what VHS or DVD case was going to call to their attention this time?

“The Last” Blockbuster,” directed by Taylor Morden, tells the story of how this fairytale franchise won its place in all of our hearts with nostalgic reminiscing by a slew of actors, comedians, and filmmakers most popular of that era.

But the history of how this franchise came to be and how it blew up as one of the most successful businesses of the late 20th century is just part of this story. The documentary focuses on Sandi Harding; the last manager of the last remaining Blockbuster Video located in Bend, Oregon, and her fight to keep the store open for the town.

It is a cute little documentary filled with nostalgia that will restore your faith in humanity.

Where Should My Story Go From Here?

I have decided to conduct a little experiment and would like to invite all my readers and subscribers to participate and provide feedback and suggestions.

I started a new story the other day. Generally what I’ve been doing lately that is pretty new, but has been working effectively is I write out new story concepts, opening scenes, dialogue, etc. BY HAND. Some studies have shown that handwriting engages the brain more (or certainly differently) than typing does. In any case, I wanted to share with all of you the first few pages of this new story I’m working on and would love ideas or suggestions of what should happen next.

This is a VERY RAW draft of a few pages. I have no working title, no planned story arc, no resolution in mind. I don’t even know what genre this will end up being… I’m that early into the process. This is more like a free-writing exercise that I wanted to expand on and put some flesh into it. Let me know what you think.

“Ready Player Two” – Ernest Cline

Once upon a time, back in 2011, I read a book that changed my life.

It was a story about me, or, at least, I saw a lot of me in the main character. A lovable high school loser who loved video games and movies of a bygone era. He related and compared his life to that of the characters in the game and movies he loved so much. Then, throw in there the most savage scavenger hunt ever conceived for the ultimate prize. “‘Willy Wonka’ meets ‘The Matrix'” as so flawlessly described by USA Today.

Nine years later and after an abysmal film adaptation, the sequel to the NYT bestseller brought about an older Wade “Parzival” Watts living the life of a recluse billionaire; hidden away (though not ignorant) from all the major issues of the world that seem to be worse than ever. Along with the older Wade comes a different OASIS experience known as ONI that gives the user a seamless experience that gratifies the senses so intensely, it fools the user’s brain into thinking it’s real.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!!! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK YET!! (more…)

2020

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? What can I express that hasn’t already been expressed among millions of people around the world? This year will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most challenging. The most tragic. The most hostile. The most… apocalyptic.

The word “pandemic” literally became the word of the year according to Webster’s. A word that maybe a handful of us encountered in science fiction disaster movies or archaic medical textbooks. And yet it is also a word that has been debated primarily in the United States; the very existence of a pandemic-by definition-was (and tragically in some circles) still is underplayed or even denied. Over three hundred thousand dead as I write this sentence… and yet some still deny. (more…)