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Will Belzec be the belle of the ball?

A few years ago I was on the phone with my brother, Jeremy talking about our favorite subject, horror movies, when he suggested an idea for one. It was, I thought, a fresh angle in the zombie genre -no easy feat. The demon seed was planted and I sat down to write it; after, of course, learning the software of Final Draft (for screenwriting). Six months later I had a script, Belzec: The Made Undead. We are talking 2 hours or so of writing and research and rewriting almost every night of the week. But it wasn’t my first foray into long form writing. I’ve written three novels, two of which you can find on Amazon. So, the hard work was not alien to me. As a matter of fact, I loved it. A writer writes. I tore into that script ravenously like a zombie into flesh.

But then I tried to get it made. Now that’s hard. First I tried working all my connections made during a long career in advertising, querying producers and filmmakers I’d met along the way. I got some interest. Lots of constructive criticism. But, alas, no serious bites.

And so I decided to enter Belzec into various film festivals around the country, of which there are many. Kind of like a fisherman setting out lines, and utilizing the incredibly helpful Withoutabox platform, I put my script out there.

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Boom. The script was accepted into one festival after another. Wow, I thought. That’s more like it! Still, I had experienced my share of literary rejection so I tempered my expectations. And then I started winning. A lot. In 2011, Belzec: The Made Undead received the following honors:

1st Place Chicago Horror Film Festival “General”
2nd Place Nevada Film Festival “Horror”
1st Place The Indie Gathering “Horror”
2nd Place Waterfront Film Festival “General”
1st Place Action on Film Festival “Horror”
1st Place Action on Film Festival “Sci/Fi”
Semi-finalist: Landlocked Film Festival
Semi-Finalist: SoCal Indie Film Festival
Finalist: First Glance Film Fest
Finalist: Write Movies Competition
Official Selection: Naparville Film Festival
Honorable Mention: Hollywood Screenplay Contest
Honorable Mention: Shockfest

I went to several of these events to receive my prizes. What a crazy thrill that was! Along the way, I met all kinds of scribes, filmmakers and fascinating characters. I picked up an agent. Flew to Hollywood. Talked with directors. The whole shot.

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First prize, The Chicago Horror Film Festival
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First prize, Action On Film
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First place, The Indie Gathering (Dig that trophy!)

And yet, it still didn’t get made. Like a videogame warrior, I did not give up. I revised my script and this summer entered it into a few more festivals, including one of the best shows representing the horror genre, Shriekfest. In my first go-around, Belzec didn’t even place at this show.

This year, I am a finalist at Shriekfest, one of twenty scripts selected from many hundreds, perhaps thousands; I don’t know. But I’m in it and I’m thrilled. The script is also an official selection in several other shows. But Shriekfest is the darling. My cramped fingers are crossed.

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Zombie movies are everywhere. I know; I’ve seen them all. But there is always room for one more. Particularly one with gravitas.

And while I don’t expect Legendary Pictures to call, there are myriad other companies out there specializing in horror. Bottom line, I wrote something I would want to see. Something I’m passionate about. My good friend, John Coveny (The Closer, Trust Me, Longmire) once told me to write about what I love. And so I did. Belzec: The Made Undead was/is a labor of gory love.

Getting this movie made is my Great White Whale. It’s at the top of my bucket list -right up there with seeing my three daughters graduate from university. Should Belzec ever be produced it’s highly unlikely my daughters would see it. It’s pretty gnarly. Still, when I overhear them bragging about how their daddy made this commercial and that poster my heart just bursts. Imagine what they would say if their pops created a monster movie. That, my friends, is what success looks like.

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Behind the camera, back in the day…


Can’t. Stop. Writing.

Per my agent’s request, I am expanding a short story I wrote into a detailed movie treatment for Dark Castle Entertainment. Surprise: it’s a horror piece, an allegory about man and nature.

I post this news because it’s my news but also because the writing of said treatment comes at the expense of other endeavors, including this blog. While writing is homework for many people, it is nothing short of my passion. And like most passion, it’s all encompassing. In other words, once I start writing I don’t stop. It is like climbing a mountain. You want to get to the top. If I pause too long between efforts there is fear, perhaps unfounded, I will lose the motivation to continue.

But it’s more than that. Selfishly, I also do not want to stop. Getting in the zone (be it on a screenplay, novel or advertising campaign) is one of the most exciting feelings I know. My whole being is focused on the task. I think of nothing else. I want to spend time with nothing else. If this sounds like a love affair between man and story that is because it is. Obsession would be an accurate description.

I once read that former adman and famous screenwriter/director, John Hughes wrote many of his screenplays from start to finish without stopping for anything, including food and sleep. In longhand! His passion is obvious in the stories he created. But even if it wasn’t, Hughes’ obsession is completely understandable… to me anyway.

I started writing my treatment on Sunday and I’ve logged ten hours or more on it every day and night since. I will be done this weekend. Since I am not employed right now so-called real work is not a distraction. Yet, I am a husband and father. Though tempting, to not honor and take pleasure in those roles would be sinful. My middle child celebrated a birthday and my father is in town. I also take my children to various activities. In addition, I am equally fanatic about working out, finding one hour every day to do so.

Therefore, there have been plenty of breaks. Good, important, life affirming breaks. Yet, you’ll notice I call them “breaks” as if my real life was about writing and all the other stuff merely a distraction. I’m hoping other creative people can relate.

My solution has always been the same. It’s also the same message we tell our clients when they wrestle with branding versus selling: You gotta do both! It ain’t easy. In trying I sometimes make painful decisions, choosing art over everything else. But it gives me so much joy and satisfaction…

I wonder if some of you are “wired” the same way and, if so, what do you do about it?