Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday eBook Sale at TouchPoint Press

My publisher, TouchPoint Press, has all of their eBooks at 80% off from 12/18-to-12/24.  This is a perfect opportunity to pick up my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" and other great titles.  Use the promo code SANTA when checking out.

Here's the link:  TouchPoint Press Bookstore

Read what people are saying about my book here:  Amazon User Reviews

Monday, December 15, 2014

Writer Tip #11: Start Living Your Life Now!

My lovely wife and I out living our lives
I talk to a lot of budding screenwriters and filmmakers on the internet.  The underlying feeling I get in most of these conversations is that they are living primarily in the future.  That they feel that their lives won't really begin until they sell that script or make that movie.

Having a dream is a good thing.  Having a goal is a good thing.  Working toward either of them is even better.  But I have some advice for you.

Start living your life now.

Even if your wildest dreams come true and a major studio makes or picks up your film and it generates a billion dollars in worldwide box office, you will never be able to buy back the time you are living now.  Some people believe their talent is their most valuable commodity.  It isn't.  Time is always your most valuable commodity.  Take full advantage of it.  Each hour is equally valuable -- whether you spend it now in a grubby apartment or later in a Hollywood mansion.

Plus, there's no guarantee you will eventually succeed at your goal.  Or even live another day. Never forget that.

Here's another fact.

Making an independent film generally doesn't change your life.

Will it be fun?  Yes.  There is a thrill to being on the set.  It is fun working with actors you've admired for years.  Fewer things are more exciting than finally seeing your film on the big screen for the first time, but after all of the fuss and festivals and slaps on the back, one morning you're going to wake up and discover that you are still the same person who were before you made the film.  If you weren't happy with who you were before you made the film, you probably won't be happy with who you are afterwards.

So learn to be happy now.  Enjoy your life as you live it.  Be present.  Let "success" in the movie business be a bonus to a life well lived, not the all-encompassing goal.  Otherwise you will be disappointed.

Other Tips:

Friday, December 12, 2014

FD Automatic Video "Red Shoes"

I have had the good fortune to work with quite a few of the local rock'n'roll legends of my youth.   One of those legends was Face Dancer.  Capitol records released their album "This World" in 1979 and their single "Red Shoes" was on the radio constantly in Baltimore.  It is a lively and memorable tune.

I never saw the band itself during its prime, but I frequently enjoyed one of its offshoots, Growing Up Different, during the 1980s.  Recently, the band attempted to regroup and I had to good fortune to watch four of its original members, Scott McGinn, Jeff Adams, David Utter and Billy Trainor rehearse.  Sadly, the original singer, Carey Kress passed away but he was ably replaced by Steve Hancock.  The group certainly displayed the old magic, but the reunion ultimately didn't pan out.  Scott McGinn and Steve Hancock decided to continue the Face Dancer legacy and FD Automatic was born.

For their first release, Scott and Steve decided to remake the classic Face Dancer song "Red Shoes."  They recorded the remake in Ross Hancock's studio.  Scott played the bass, with a pick I must add.  (An important detail to me since I am learning the instrument myself.)  Buffalo Lee Jordan played drums.  Aaron White and Robert Fiester played guitars.  Steve sang, obviously.  I attended the session with Timothy Ratajczak.  We were invited to participate in the backing vocals.  Fortunately for the sake of the recording, we had to leave before they recorded those vocals.  Personally, I like the new recording better than the original.  It has a rawer more enthusiastic sound.  There was only one thing it needed:  A video!

Yours truly, Teri McGinn, Scott McGinn, Timothy Ratajczak
The making of the video was a reunion in and of itself.  My fellow Towson alumni, and co-writer on so many films, Timothy Ratajczak was slated to direct.  He asked me if I was willing to edit.  I said yes.  Then he asked another one of our Towson alumni David Butler to shoot the film.   David usually works as a director but he was happy to get behind the camera to work on the video.  It was a fabulous Towson State reunion.

The video was shot in one day against green screen using a Red camera.  Then it was my turn.  Tim and I edited the video over a couple of weekends.  I must confess that I learned quite a bit about After Effects during this edit!  In the end, David jumped back in do the final visual effects, color correction and mastering.

Here's the video:

The project was a pleasure to work on from the beginning to the end.

Download the album on iTunes Here:  FD Automatic
Or Amazon here:  FD Automatic
Or CDBaby here:  FD Automatic

And, as always, be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

Some other fun videos I edited:
Crack The Sky: Mr. President
Greg Kihn: Horror Show
Nils Lofgren: Alone

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Open My Eyes" premieres in Florida

My film "Open My Eyes" premiered in Florida last night.  Neither I, or my co-writer Timothy Ratajczak, were able to attend the screening.  However, from what I have heard and seen on social media, it seems like a great time was had by all.

The faith-based feature film was directed by Gabriel Alfonzo and stars Dominick LaBanca, Jeannie Garcia,  Sharon Oliphant and  Heloisa Alves.   I want to applaud the talented cast and crew for all of their great work and I look forward to announcing news regarding it's release and distribution in the very near future.  I, for one, can't wait to get a copy.  I saw a rough cut of the film, but I haven't seen the final, color-corrected version yet.

Here's the teaser trailer:

Check out the film, and also check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It makes a great Christmas gift -- all year 'round!

The Catholic Review recognizes "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God"

I was raised Catholic and my mother was a subscriber to the Baltimore Catholic Review.  I always read the movie and music reviews.  (Although I must confess that I often sought out the films that they condemned.  Sorry.)  Therefore I was quite flattered when they recently gave my book a nice blurb last week in the numbers and names section.


Glad the Catholics are stepping up.  Now where are the Protestants?

You can buy the book here:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

Writer Tip #10: Make It Real

Ernest Hemingway on safari in 1934.
The old adage goes:  "Write what you know."

That's true.  When I am approached by a budding writer who works as a policeman during the day, I advice him/her to write a police thriller.  When I am approached by a budding writer who works as a doctor during the day, I recommend that he/she write a medical film.  Not only will their specialized expertise enhance their story, it will make it easier to sell.  If you don't have any previous credits or awards to tout, your personal experience on the subject matter will give you credibility in the eyes of producers or publishers.

However, you shouldn't take "write what you know" too literally.

You have got to admire a writer like Ernest Hemingway.  He was a man's man who lived a big, exciting life.  He went to war.  He went big game hunting.  He ran with the bulls.  And he wrote about it.  Writing about what he knew didn't limit him.  However, sadly, most of us writers don't live those kinds of lives.  Our lives are boring.  No one wants to spend ten dollars to see our stories.  After all, if you are good writer, you spend most of your time staring at a flashing cursor on a computer screen.  Therefore, we have to rely on our imaginations.  And that's a good thing.  It would be a boring world if only policeman or criminals could write crime films.  Or only astronauts could write sci-fi films.  However, you still have to make it real.  You have to make it personal.

This is particularly true if you write on assignment.  Oftentimes, I have been asked to write projects outside the realm of both my experience and interest.  I have found that the key to making such a story interesting to both myself and my audience is making it emotionally true.  In a sense, I put myself through the same kind of emotional preparation that an actor goes through upon receiving a role.  Even if the story is outside of my personal experience, I always find something emotionally true to me to lash onto to make the project real to me.

None of my films are autobiographical, however, if you were to read my memoir "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God" and watch my movies, you would see definite parallels between my life and my movies.  Considering how guarded I was emotionally prior to my near death experience,  I am shocked about how much of myself I reveal in some of my movies.  For example, In addition to writing "The Encounter," I also edited the film.  I remember sitting stunned after Jaci Velasquez gives her monologue about her suicide attempt.  The events she described were based on an incident in my own life which I never discussed with anyone -- changed to suit the character and circumstances of the film.  Strangely, I didn't find it too self-revelatory when I wrote the scene on paper, which would only be seen by a couple dozen people. but it was another thing entirely to see it performed for the world to see.

Do I regret it?  No.  In some ways "The Encounter" is my most successful film in the way it engages the audience.  In fact, based on audience reactions -- both observed and read --  I have discovered that the more emotionally personal the script is to me, the more emotionally involved the audience becomes.  That fact encouraged me to believe my memoir would find an appreciative audience if I wrote it.  And it has.  It hasn't been a bestseller -- so far -- but it seems to have deeply touched many people who have read it.

As a screenwriter, you will find yourself in a particularly good place if the script also resonants deeply with an actor.   That was the case with part one and part two of the "Revelation Road" films (they were actually one film and broken in half in post.)  Brian Bosworth really found some life-changing emotional truth in his role.  His performance, which I believe is his best as an actor, is the locomotive that powers the film.

Here is Brian discussing the film and its implications in his life:

When you write, make it more than just words.  More than just a story.

Make it real.

Other Tips:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Suzanne Shepherd: A Gift of Fire" premieres

A documentary film I edited, "Suzanne Shepherd: A Gift of Fire" debuted last week in New York City.   The film is about Suzanne Shepherd, a gifted character actress who is also an influential acting teacher and theatrical director.  Suzanne is perhaps most recognizable in roles as mob mothers-in-law.  In "Goodfellas," she played Ray Liotta's Jewish mother-in-law.  On "The Sopranos," she played James Gandofini's Italian mother-in-law.

The film is a definite labor of love by writer/producer Wendy Sayvetz and features interviews with a wide variety of Suzanne devotees including Alan Alda, Danny Glover, Joan Allen, Bebe Neuwirth, the late Jill Clayburgh, director Larry Arrick and South African playwright Athol Fugard.  Wendy started filming footage in 2000.  While in Baltimore shooting the film "A Dirty Shame," Suzanne mentioned the prospective documentary to her director John Waters.  John Waters immediately recommended Steve Yeager to direct the film.  Steve had already won the audience prize at the Sundance Film Festival for his documentary about John Waters called "Divine Trash."  Steve brought me onto the project and the rest is history.

Producer Wendy Sayvetz with yours truly working on the
film in my dining room.  You'd be surprised how many
films were born or finished there!
The film was extremely well-received in New York by an audience studded with Academy Award winners.    Sadly, my lovely wife and I were unable to make the premiere since I had to spend the day locked safely away in a communications secure location in Washington, DC, working on my next film.  A pity.  It sounded like a great party and people loved the film.  I look forward to seeing the film next on the festival circuit!

Here's a little trailer we made a few years ago.

Be sure to read my book:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.