Saturday, January 14, 2017


So far the writing is going great.  It's the best I've done in years.  It's really coming out and I feel good. about it.  I've been able to pick up right where I left off.  I think doing it as dictation has helped on the editing process.  At least I am finding that Word checking spelling and grammar is coming up with a lot few problems.  The biggest thing is checking for it getting the right word.  It's really as simple as "sun" getting written out as "son."  Lots of easy things like that.

My next goal is to take care of film making.  That is another thing that has really stalled with two projects just sitting in the editing abyss and not getting done.  I don't know what it is.  It is just so hard for me to sit down and edit which used to be my favorite part of the process.

The only thing I've been working on as far as films go is promotion.  I've reworked the plans for promoting them.  

There are 3 different kinds of festivals:
1) Small, completely online and very inexpensive.  They can be absolutely free and you might get 20 views out of it.
2) Active festivals that have been running for several years.  Usually a relatively small screening, about 200-300 attendees with an entry fee of $20-$50.
3) Festivals with feedback and workshops.  These are the really big festivals that have been around for a long time.  Many will have screenings with professional guests in attendance and 500+ attendees.  Some will even have readings of winning scripts and provide feedback.  These usually run $75-$100+.

Mostly I've been hitting the 2 level.  They are good, respectful festivals and certainly nothing to ignore.  For 2017 I'm changing my focus to the 3 level festivals.  There are fewer of them, their cost is higher which also limits the number of entries, but the results can be much bigger.  Many of these are listed in the top 100 film festivals and can have a much bigger yield with professional judges that can get more attention.  I've entered the script for In the Shadows of November in to a few of them.  
In addition to that I've also narrowed the field as for location.  I'm concentrating on, when I look at the level 2 festivals, those that are a few hours drive from home, Chicago, Milwaukee, etc, so that, if picked, I may be able to actually attend.  
So far so good.     

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Here we go again.  I'm really embarrassed at just how little I wrote last year.  I've got full length novels and over 26 short stories all written out by hand.  All I need to do is get them onto paper, well, computer paper, to get them published.  Last year I did almost nothing.  It shouldn't be that hard but I didn't have the drive to do it.
I started out this year by updating all the dictation software and getting a top notch set of headphones.  Spent some time getting Nuance Dragon Speak to understand the way I talk to it can help make it easier to transcribe what I've written.  Taught it to understand Gallif, aquilus, and other words you need to know in the Land of Starpoint Mountain.

Dear Gallif,
I'm so sorry that I left your story.  Unfortunately life in my world got chaotic and wasn't able to get back into your world for a long time.  You deserved better.  This year it will happen.  The Giant Lords will put you on trial for your crimes and you will face their judgement.  You will change the world just by taking a stand.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's a Copyright Jungle Out There

As it turns out this film is kind of illegal.

One Night Near Bedford Falls

I did this last November.  It's really a love letter to one of my all time favorite movies, It's A Wonderful Life, because I remember watching it at one of my darkest periods and it definitely rescued me.  As an artist making my own films I am also well aware of copyright.  I remembered that there was a case about AWOL falling in to public domain so I started searching.

In the 80's the film fell in to public domain after the studio dropped the ball and failed to refile the paperwork.  Everyone could, and did, use it which was a good and bad thing.  Stations were able to show it for free and it filled a big time slot during the usually low rated holiday hours.  In one way this brought about it's resurgence.  People who hadn't seen it in many years, or not seen it at all, got the chance to watch it again and fell in love with it.  On the bad side of things every hack in the world could use it and there were dozens of releases on video including Ted Turner vandalizing it in color.  

In the 90's, however, there was a change.  After several court rulings it was decided that when the film went in to public domain the rights to music purchased for the film, Buffalo Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight, went back to its original holders.  Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed dance to it, sing to it, there are call backs to it, and it is played during the credits so it's a major part of the film.  If you wanted to use it you would either have to pay them whatever they asked or rework so much of it you'd hurt the final project.  It stopped a great deal of misuse and, thankfully, AWOL was able to maintain it's integrity.

That was how I got involved in it.  When I wanted to use it for my tribute I had to carefully choose what scenes to show to avoid the song.  I even had to recut the sound for a brief clip and replace the music with more bells.  It put it out there and it was well received.

Earlier this week I put it on youtube and, in a few days, I was contacted by YT that there was a copyright notice from Paramount Pictures on the use of the film.  They didn't demand it's removal but they wanted to make the complaint known and offer me a chance to defend my actions so I started researching again.  As it turned out there had been a recent change in the copyright that I wasn't aware of.   

AWOL is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift.  Paramount had successfully petitioned the courts that since the movie was 'a derivative' of this story and they still owned the story that, therefore, they owned the film.  The courts agreed.  At least it's a relief to know that the future of this film is in safe hands.

As for my film it gets to stay out there.  I can't deny I was pretty surprised that the short film under a different name was able to catch the attention of Paramount.  Maybe because it's used respectfully someone decided it wasn't worth making a fuss about.  I probably will never really know.     

Friday, March 25, 2016


I entered the pilot script for In The Shadows of November in a script festival.  It wasn't accepted and they sent me back a rather detailed description of what they liked and didn't like about the script.  The interesting thing was their description of the pilot.

In the Shadows of November (PILOT)
By Bill Albert
In the Shadows of November - From Out of the Clouds is a sci-fi pilot set in a near future in which society struggles to survive in the aftermath of a series of nuclear attacks. Set in Louisiana, the story focuses on Austin, Lisa, Ross and Sean, a group of friends who rely on each other to survive, trading now useless electronic items for food. Unable to communicate with the world beyond their town, the group try and piece together what cities have survived and if they can ever leave. Two strangers arrive at the group’s home, bringing news of the world beyond but also untold danger to their door.

The thing that struck me is they were looking at it all wrong.  The story isn't about the four people in Louisiana, they only appear in the pilot episode, after that it follows the character of November as she travels across the United States.  It's about how she effects people as she goes and, steadily, we learn what a mystery she really is.  I felt that since it was called In the Shadows of November and the character is November it was clearer that the story was about her.  
They invited me to tell them what I felt about their comments and I very nicely responded.  I explained to them where the story was headed and that I would work on a rewrite making it clearer.  I'm completely true about that, I will rewrite it and stress the series that would follow is about this main character. 
Hopefully better luck next time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I've noticed that over the past year or so my writing has become more political and contemporary.  I don't know if it's because it's an election year or I'm just becoming more socially aware and want to say things.  
A few weeks ago I wrote a short script called A Good Guy With A Gun.  It was in response to NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre who promoted gun rights by saying "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  Though I agree with most of the 2nd Amendment I am not much a fan of the NRA and this catch phrase is really over simplifying the situation.  It is careless and dangerous and I showed how bad it was in a script.
There are two characters in this story, Jerry, a younger male, and a public defender lawyer assigned to him.  It takes place in one scene in one room so it would be easy to shoot.  I put a listing on FB and got a response from a man looking to play the lawyer.  Well, he sent me the URL for his IMDB page.  He was quite experienced so I went a head and started talking to him.  When I told him what the premise and message was he went in to offense.  The question I ask in the script his how do you know the difference between a good guy and a bad.  He said that was not a problem and it was very easy to always know the difference.  The situation I had set up was to far fetched to ever happen.  I asked him how he could guarantee that and he said it just wasn't possible to confuse a good guy and a bad guy.  He went on to tell me my protests were unfounded. There was no reason to restrict guns and I was just wasting my time.  
It was the first time I've had to defend my writing.  After a few rounds it occurred to me that he was not interested in getting cast in one of my films.  The original posting made it clear the direction this film would take so, after a few rounds, I politely said goodbye to him and signed off.  
I've never ever had to defend my work before.  Luckily it was a minor skirmish, just a few lines with a stranger online, but it was an eye opening experience of what I could face if I continue to to write in this style and fashion.  I kept calm and deliberate and refrained from any personal attacks.  I just stated my beliefs.
Honestly, it felt good.  I also made me realize how much I've changed on things.  A year ago I wouldn't even have attempted to write something like this let alone defend it.  Despite everything I never really felt like an author.  I'm realizing that yes, I am.    

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Things have been going along great this week despite some bad, and some good, technical issues.  Wish they were all this productive.
The bad thing was the new format for footage for The Burning Room.  It looks good but it comes out as huge files that aren't easy to transport and even harder to work with.  Getting them compressed into a more usable format wasn't very easy either.  Maybe it's just my puter is 5 years old but some programs just won't work right.  It could be a PC vs Mac thing but the program everyone swore about at PATV froze up at home.  It would sit for hours and hours preparing to run and then nothing would happen.  Finally loaded the footage up in to Premiere Pro CC and exported it to mpeg files.  I can finally edit them now.  I understand mpeg is becoming the standard for video files because it can adapt to either system better than the rest.  
It brings up to one of the things that still gets me about video.  You will eventually get to that point where you hit the button and just wait, and wait, and wait.  Despite the magnificent things that puters can do really fast that is one thing they don't do in a hurry.  Today was made up of lots of things going on with going back every 30 minutes or so to start a new export.  Finally getting it done.
On the good side of things finally got the dictation software up and running.  This is making putting the books together very easy.  I can sit down and do a whole page of hand written fiction in about 20 minutes.  I'd definitely recommend it. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016


What a day Saturday, the 27th was!  

I spent a few hours on Thursday putting the set together.  I had to take out the carpet in that area of the studio and then the dance mat that had been underneath that for a long time.  It gave us the floor we needed and helped create the feeling of confinement in an old abandoned place.  Added wooden crates, an vent from a dryer, and girder to make it look good.  I think it came together really well.  Last thing I did was scatter book ashes around the room before I left.

The first thing we did was just sit down and read through the script.  That way we had one definitely good soundtrack of the dialogue in case there was any loss or contamination that we missed on the set.  It also worked out some of the kinks in the script and got everyone in to the flow.
After that it was make up and costume work for a few minutes.  I felt bad because we had talked about putting stage blood on Chelsea's hands.  I was just going to smudge a bit but it all came pouring out and completely covered her right hand with blood.  Holy shit!  It was all over the place.  Luckily we were outside so it didn't stain anything but it'll look like something really bad happened for a few days.  Had a green army jacket for her to wear.  It was a bit big but it fit the character and gave the nice feel of someone on the run.  Alice gave herself some bruises with the make up and it looked like she took a hit or two on the way down.  Yes, she wore it home when we were done.  I'm not surprised how many actors do that.  Honestly, I would do.
We started shooting on the set about noon and just kept going.  Josh took over the camera work, he's forgotten more about the tech side then I will ever know, so I could concentrate on the performers and we covered a lot of territory.  It's much easier when I can trust someone on the camera side.  This was the most experienced cast with professional television and stage work.  They knew that there were times you just kept going.  It also was a benefit because Danny, who plays the State, knew to keep his locations continuous so he's saying the same thing in the same place every time.  He also kept the actresses on guard and I remember Tera admitted being actually frightened the way Danny grabbed her hair at one time.  Perfect.

I had divided the filming in to four blocks.  The second and biggest block was the actual interrogation.  We spent most of the time on that one so there are lots of opportunities for editing choices.  Then we set up a dolly and just went through it once non stop slowly moving the dolly back and forth for establishing shots.  One point I thought it looked so good I just let it sit there awhile to film them.  There are very few shots with all four characters on the screen at the same time but I wanted to make sure there was at least one.  I purposefully want to hold of an establishing shot to give it a nice Hill Street Blues feel.
About 3:00 or see we finished the actresses and cut them loose.  Literally.  As prisoners they spent most of the day zip tied to the chairs.  They really gave it their all putting up with it being uncomfortable for much of the day.  They were really professional.
After that there were just a few shots with Danny.  We had talked about how the State would react to everything and we shot it several ways so I'll have more choices in editing.  Danny also gave it a lot as we don't see his face so 99% of his performance is in his voice.  
Finished the last shot about 3:30 and spent 20 minutes tearing the set down, transferring footage, packing everything up etc.  We ran a bit long but I had spoken to Ray, who had the studio after us, and he was really cool about things.  There might be a few pick up shots to get later but I think they will just be details of the set.  It's just be close ups and easy to do without having to build the entire room.
Off to editing!