Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Deadlines and Routines

August 6th, 2014
By



PROGRAM ALERT: The new August episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on channel 12/high def 1012, and will feature the Pacific Aviation Museum -- plus a profile of Burl Burlingame, the former newspaper writer, who is also a book author, musician and now works as curator at the museum. There's also a preview of their upcoming Biggest Little Airshow on Aug. 16 and 17 at Ford Island! For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

In my last blog post, I mentioned I'm a finalist in a national screenwriting competition that required the top 10 entries to complete a new script in about two months. Screenplays for feature movies average around 100 to 120 pages with each page representing about one minute of screen time. So cranking out 10-15 pages per week is pretty doable for most writers. The challenge though is writing good pages that will survive the inevitable edits, cuts, and rewriting that comes with producing a workable script. If you're writing a novel, you can wax poetic, spend time inside your characters' heads, describe locations in detail right down to the blades of grass or hue of the sky. Not so in screenplays, which have to move fast since Hollywood readers often make up their minds on whether they will read the script after just one or two pages. By page 10, many have already decided if it's a "pass" or "consider."

So I was churning out pages the first month, and thought they were pretty good. Except my story coach would pick apart scenes and prod me to develop the characters more in each of our weekly phone sessions, which is what makes this contest a unique experience for aspiring screenwriters. Script consultants like the one I'm working with charge as much as $75 per hour for their feedback (my sessions are free, courtesy of the contest); notes can range from a couple hundred bucks to a thousand or more. There are so many wannabe screenwriters/directors/filmmakers that a cottage industry has developed in L.A. to tap into that market, which generates 30,000 to 40,000 new scripts that are registered with the Writers Guild each year. Of those, less than five percent will even have a remote chance of being seriously looked at by industry players.

And this contest is one way to get to the top of the wannabes heap... if I win, that is. The problem is I was making up much of my new screenplay as I was going along, while dealing with the demands of producing my TV show and other video projects -- all on deadlines too. Then, after taking in what the story coach criticized or suggested, I'd go back and make changes that improved the script but put me behind schedule. My normal routines were thrown out of whack -- which can be a good thing. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts and do only as much as we're used to doing out of habit. We forget how much we're actually capable of accomplishing, unless we're pressed by outside forces.

With just one week left to turn in the first draft, I was at page 55 -- mid-point -- and had to write another 50 pages in seven days. To begin with, I'm not a fast writer by nature. Some of my prior scripts have taken years to complete or even start because I'd be carrying around ideas for a long time before the story kicked in. Also, I tend to procrastinate unless I'm faced with a deadline... which might be related to my early writing career as a news reporter back in New Jersey. Somewhere along the way, I got into a mindset that my normal routine was to do "x" amount of work per day to be finished on "y" to meet deadline "z" -- it's how I chunk out tasks and allot time to multiple projects I'm usually juggling.

But even for me, the prospect of crafting 50 plus script pages -- actually twice that since I know I'll delete half of what I write -- was daunting. Yet exciting too. Some days I woke at 4 AM to start work. My mind would keep writing even when I stopped to eat or watch TV before going to bed. I wasn't sure what direction the story was going in toward the end, and when I was stuck, my subconscious sometimes provided answers through the characters I had created. Somehow, I got the draft done and submitted it with a couple of hours to spare.

However, that was just the first deadline. A week later, I got back detailed notes from another reader/story analyst as part of the contest steps, and now have until Aug. 16 to turn in the final draft that will be possibly read by an A-list screenwriter and top management company in L.A. The notes were spot on and pinpointed story problems that were largely a result of making stuff up on the fly in the mad dash to the finish line for the first draft.

It's amazing how much we can do when we force ourselves to buckle down and deliver the best work we can do on a shorter timetable. Some people thrive on that kind of pressure. Others can't handle the stress of performing on demand. What's funny is when my wife and I are watching reality shows like Project Runway or Top Chef, there are always one or two competitors who seem so fragile and unable to cope with the time constraints, you wonder why they even wanted to be on the show in the first place! It's like that old saying, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen -- but if you enjoy competing, seek out opportunities that will bring out the best in yourself.

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To see video segments from past and current Career Changers TV episodes, check out the CCTV YouTube Channel -- now at over half a million views worldwide, and climbing!

Chinatown Tour - Part 4

June 10th, 2014
By



Erdman cover

Took awhile to get to this final installment of my Chinatown tour series, but hopefully, you'll see how it all comes together. At the end of the Honolulu Exposed Red Light tour in mid-May, my wife wanted to pick up a copy of Hawaii Business magazine because an old friend of ours, Dave Erdman, was featured on the cover as their Small Business Person of the Year (click here for that article). Isabel worked with him in marketing at Tropical Rent A Car, back when I moved here in 1985.

Dave co-founded the Direct Response Advertising & Marketing Association of Hawaii (DRAMAH for short) and that's how I met Isabel -- my future wife. The guy I replaced at Oahu Bindery & Direct Mail had been talking to Dave about starting this direct marketing association, so I stepped in for him (Paul Hilker, who became a minister). Dave roped Isabel into it as well since she was assisting him at Tropical, which spawned a bunch of successful entrepreneurs before that company bit the dust. He went on to create the PacRim Marketing Group, which focused on the Japanese visitor market initially. Dave is fluent in Japanese, even though he came from the Philadelphia area. Isabel wound up starting her own small publishing company, which put out the very successful Japanese Guide to Hawaii (eventually sold to Duane Kurisu, who owns a number of Hawaii publications and businesses -- including Hawaii Business magazine). Another Tropical alumnus, Jeff Hendrix went into advertising, and formed his own award-winning agency (Hendrix Miyasaki Shin, which merged with Core Group One).

It was a fun gang to hang out with, especially since Tropical RAC had great company outer island trips because they had a lot of "trade" with travel-related partners and sponsors. I was meeting with Dave and Isabel regularly to plan our DRAMAH seminars, which brought in internationally-respected direct marketing experts through Dave's connections -- primarily his dad, the late great Ken Erdman, who was one of the best direct mail copywriters in the business. Ken's books, articles and seminar talks taught me just about everything I know in regards to copywriting. Plus, our post-DRAMAH meetings pau hana sessions at bars and business mixers Downtown, led to me getting romantically involved with Isabel. So I hold Dave largely responsible for my marriage, now going on 29 years.

DRAMAH was an important and influential development in the local advertising and marketing scene. You had the major ad agencies, smaller marketing/graphics outfits, a few independent consultants, all vying for limited advertising dollars. Direct marketing represented a major shift in thinking from mass "branding" type saturation ads (mainly print and TV commercials) to targeted data-based approaches that emphasized tailored ads and pitches. DM people really were the first to use computers and build databases that could identify markets by key demographics -- right down to income, education levels, interests and so on. Needless to say, traditional Mad Men type ad agency people were skeptical... even resistant to much of what was espoused in our DRAMAH seminars. Why, you ask?

Well, the core tenet of direct response marketing is called A/B testing. To see what message works best, you create alternate ads and in the old days, mailed out test packages to similar sample groups. For big companies, a small test mailing might be 5,000 out of a mailing list that could have hundreds of thousands of subscribers or product buyers... or donors. Ready, fire, aim. You analyze the results, fine tune, test again, and eventually do a roll-out to the entire list. But for traditional ad agencies that spend the bulk of the client's money on big ad buys in the newspaper or on TV, they really can't afford to produce multiple commercials or print ad campaigns and pass that cost along to the client. Instead, they may rely on smaller focus group testing or just present a couple of options to the client and let them guess which will work best.

Now here's where DM enters the modern age. Remember I mentioned donors lists? The man behind some of those early mailing lists, Richard Viguerie, became a major player in politics -- specifically the Republican Party. They were masters at the targeted message and building databases for fundraising, which gave them a huge edge over Democrats until the Obama campaign brought in people who understood A/B marketing. If you were on the Obama email list, you no doubt received a number of donation requests -- each one maybe slightly different in what the headline or subject line said. That's because with today's powerful database tools, they can do instantaneous testing to see which appeals generate the most response simply by tweaking a few words or images. More and more online advertisers are doing the same. And it all began with direct mail.

Anyhow, we couldn't find a single copy of that Hawaii Business magazine with Dave on the cover in Downtown Honolulu! The only magazine shop on Fort Street Mall that had it in their window was closed for the weekend. Longs didn't have it and it was just mid-month. In Kailua, we couldn't find it in Safeway or Foodland either. We had to drive to Ala Moana and get a copy from the Barnes & Noble bookstore there. When my wife used to publish her Japanese visitor guide, she would often check the street racks in Waikiki to make sure they were being kept in stock by her distribution person -- because that's what the advertisers are paying for.

So the business take-away from this simple walkabout in search of a magazine is that you can have the most sophisticated online computer tools at your disposal for market research and advertising... but if you don't get out of the office and check things with your own eyes and ears, chances are you may miss the real reason your business isn't doing better.

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For daily viewing schedules of the new July episode of Career Changers TV, please visit our website. You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel, now approaching 350,000 total views for over 200 pieces we've produced. Contact me directly if you're interested in being a sponsor!

Chinatown Tour - Part 2

May 27th, 2014
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Before I resume my story about the Honolulu Exposed Red Light Tour, I wanted to share this comment on Part 1 from reader John Reid:

I hope the folks doing the Chinatown tour can find someone who can tell them about the strip bars next to and across the street from the Hawaii Theatre back in the 1980's (Club Darling which was next door on property that is now the park, and The Harbor Lounge located across the street that is now a French restaurant). Both of these were frequented often by a couple of local motorcycle clubs and have colorful histories. In addition, there was another straight bar down a small alley next to the theatre owned by Bill Mederios called the Alley Cat. They also don't want to leave out the site of the oldest bar in Honolulu, called the Pantheon over on Nuuanu and Bill Lederer's on Hotel Street where HPD has their Chinatown office. Visitors will also be interested in learning that live sex acts were performed in the basement of a building on the short street connecting Bethel Street to the Fort Street Mall called the Theatre of Venus. The then-president of the Devils Breed Motorcycle Club and his wife performed live sex in front of large crowds of Japanese visitors who were brought down in tour buses. This one was shut down by a prude prosecutor of the City and County of Honolulu. I was the owner and operator of Club Darling and the Harbor Lounge during most of the 1980's.

Interesting, huh? The current Honolulu Exposed tour focuses more on older history, but I'm going to pass along this info to the tour owners, Carter and Clinton. When I left off in the last installment, my wife had just returned from her search for a public restroom in Chinatown, and said: "Look who's here!"

I turn and see two guys I know -- local inventor, marketing maven, serial entrepreneur Mark Bell, who I've featured on my show three times (including his adaptation of the Scooter Cooler, which has had thousands of views on the CCTV YouTube Channel); and Kenny Kaminaka (also goes by Kurt or KK) who turned his house into the ArtZone, where aerial performances, plays and other works of art/entertainment have been staged. We did a segment on him way back in 2010, and KK is planning on building ArtZone 2 now. (Note: those are two older clips that were posted before YouTube allowed high def uploads, so they're kind of blurry.) Mark and Kenny were there with Alan Arato, who has been working with local concert producer/promoter Tom Moffatt for a long time and is a well-known entertainment producer in his own right.

The reason Mark bought the tour Groupons was those three are starting their own unique tour experience called Saving Paradise (here's their Facebook link) which, from what I understand, will be an interactive experience combining actors who portray characters, fun facts about Hawaii, food and drink. In effect, they were checking out the competition. But by the end of our tour, we were all talking about working together on one thing or another. That's what I love about living here. Being on a small island, where everybody knows each other or knows somebody who knows the person you don't know, there's a lot of collaboration. As I told Clinton and Carter, to succeed in Hawaii, you need to form partnerships with like-minded people.

Getting back to the homeless situation in Chinatown, I think we need that same kind of cooperation between private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. For the past three years, through the federally-funded Rescue & Restore program, I've been involved with the 808HALT.com coalition to address human trafficking in Hawaii. I've seen what can be accomplished when stakeholders from the private and public sectors, along with NGOs (non-government organizations) are brought together to share ideas, as well as resources. Homelessness is a social problem, but it's also an economic issue that needs to be tackled head on. It takes creativity too, and thinking outside the box -- or traditional public restroom model, for that matter.

For instance, in Europe I saw pay-for toilets with attendants who made sure the facilities were clean. Their presence also deterred vandalism. Why not build restrooms, staff them with unemployed homeless people who have been living in those areas, charge small fees for use of the facilities and put that money toward housing for the attendants, who are homeless? I've seen prototypes for housing trafficking victims that converts shipping containers into decent living quarters -- could that be part of the solution? I think it's going to take a variety of approaches, and some of those will fail. But we have to do something besides complain about it.

As for the tour itself, even though I've lived here since 1985, there were a lot of stories about Downtown Honolulu I had never heard before. Just walking along, looking up at the building facades while listening to Carter's entertaining talk, I noticed details I've missed all these years while hustling around to meetings (or bars back in my drinking days). Despite the lack of restrooms and the homeless problem, it's still worth taking the trip -- if nothing else, to remind ourselves what it's like seeing Chinatown through the eyes of visitors, who drive our economy for better or worse. What I saw was great potential amid the dirty faces and littered streets. There are new restaurants, shops, businesses springing up even as older ones shut down or move out after giving up the battle against crime and constant hassling by drug dealers/addicts/mentally-ill people. Ironically, things like tours and documentaries that recall Chinatown's darker side, could rally residents to save and preserve the best parts of the past while moving forward.

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Oh, one more coincidence: my wife and I were watching Pawn Stars on the History Channel last month, and who do we see walking into the Vegas shop with an item to sell -- Mark Bell! He offered them a test piece from Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the mammoth wooden airplane that barely got off the ground before it was grounded for good. Asking price: $10,000. As it happens, Mark's dad worked for the famously reclusive tycoon, which is how he obtained the unusual wooden structural sample (click here for the Pawn Stars link or check out Oceanic Time Warner's entertainment on demand channel for that episode). In the end though, they only offered $200 so Mark took a walk. Still, it was cool to see him on one of the weird shows I regularly watch.

But wait, there's more! In Part 3, I'll tell you about what happened right after the tour and how the guy on this month's Hawaii Business magazine cover -- Small Business Person of the Year, Dave Erdman -- was responsible for introducing me to my wife, Isabel.

For daily viewing times and more info about my Career Changers TV show, which airs daily on OC16, please visit our website and click on the YouTube link to check out segments from past episodes.

 

Happenstance in Chinatown

May 24th, 2014
By



A writer friend I've collaborated with on a couple of screenplays posted on Facebook that a word you rarely see these days is "ubiquitous." Which seemed ironic to me, since social media forums such as FB can turn a forwarded video, photo, comment or cause into something that millions of people will see on computers, smart phones, then later on national TV shows, even local morning news spots about today's "Viral Video" or "Trends & Talkers" segments. It's everywhere you look -- ubiquitous, in other words.

And since I'm in the media biz, writing scripts for TV/movie projects, plus producing a local OC16 television show that often features newsworthy people, my life is filled with moments of convergence... a surreal blend of real life merging with online interactions, nationally-broadcast TV shows, and live local news programming. One day I'm interviewing a subject for Career Changers or blogging about it in the Star-Advertiser, the next day or on the evening KHON News, I'm watching that same person talk about their biz or responding to complaints (like the new vertical wind tunnel at The Groove Hawaii, which is on this month's show). Then I hit play on my DVR, and see another familiar face appearing on a Food Network or History Channel show after we had them on Career Changers awhile back. A week or two later, I run into the same person(s) while out and about looking for my next story, completing the Circle of Media Life.

That just happened to me again this past week. I bought discounted Groupon tickets for the Honolulu Exposed Red Light Tour because I had never heard of it before, and it sounded interesting: take a walk through the seedy side of history in Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. Having researched stuff like opium dens, brothels, small pox outbreaks and other unsavory elements of Hawaii's past for scripts I was working on, this sounded like something right up my alley. Also, I wondered why no one else had offered this type of tour -- there were ghost tours, walking tours that focus on architecture, straight G-rated history, but nothing that included places like Club Hubba Hubba or the infamous Glades (btw, local filmmaker Connie Florez is producing a documentary about that... click here for details).

Now bear with me, because this trip down the rabbit hole interweaves a few seemingly-unrelated threads that all come together in the end. Last Saturday, my wife and I arrive at the Hawaii Theater where the Red Light tour starts at 9:30 AM. But we're early and having driven from Kailua after a couple of cups of coffee, need to find a restroom. Back in January 2012, my show was the first to air Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock's plans for a badly-need public restroom, which her Chinatown biz organization had raised money for. However, the experimental toilet program didn't receive enough funding to continue, ergo no place for us -- or other locals, visitors and of course, the ubiquitous homeless people -- to relieve ourselves. The closest coffee shops weren't open at that time, so my wife wound up walking down to the police station.

While waiting for Isabel to return, I nervously observed a rail-thin, wasted-looking woman growling and yelling madly at whoever walked past her across the street from me. She was scary, to put it mildly. On the way to the theater meeting spot, my wife and I had to stroll past smelly, filthy homeless men and women on just about every street and occupying every open space around the Hawaii Theater area. I'm not making any judgments -- just telling you what we experienced. What the solution is, I don't even know where to start. Wait, check that. I do know where to begin: by talking about creative approaches that involve partnerships between private interests and public services. I'll eventually get to that.

Anyway, our walkabout in search of a simple toilet answered one of my questions. Q: Why didn't anyone do a Red Light tour before? A: Who the heck wants to come down to stinky, dirty Chinatown in the morning, when you can't even find a public restroom or place to sit peacefully without mentally-ill people accosting you and getting right in your face! Still, having lived in New York City years ago, I've seen worse. Later, the tour guides said hotel concierges won't send visitors to the Chinatown area because of the homeless problem, so that's a major obstacle for their new venture to overcome.

First tour coincidence: the couple who run the Honolulu Exposed tour (click here for their Facebook link) arrive while Isabel is still on her bathroom run, and tell me they just moved here about four months ago and used to work for the Seattle Underground tour. I'm stunned because I had just pitched a TV series idea to the writer friend I mentioned up top, about how the Seattle Underground came into being after a huge fire destroyed much of downtown Seattle, which was originally built at sea level and prone to flooding. This was in the late 1800s. So city leaders figured it was a good time to rebuild the area higher. But cash-strapped biz owners who couldn't afford to go along with the plan, continued running their businesses while the new streets and sidewalks were constructed several feet above their storefronts. Eventually, to stop pedestrians from accidentally falling off the newly-elevated sidewalks, the city built right over the old buildings, creating an underground city where the dregs of society settled. Criminals, prostitutes, scammers, the homeless, all congregated down there. Meanwhile, the Yukon gold rush resulted in many fortune seekers coming to Seattle to deposit their newfound wealth -- making them ripe pickings for crooks. I learned all that from watching a Travel Channel show called "Hotel Secrets and Legends."

As it happens, when I told Clinton and Carter (she's an actress, although the name combo sounds like a Dem presidential ticket from the past) about my TV series idea, they looked at each other and said Clinton was working on a screenplay about little-known stories related to the Seattle Underground. However, he hasn't had much experience writing for TV or movies... and I have won a few awards, was repped by a semi-famous Hollywood manager, had scripts optioned, etc.

In fact, last week  I got word I'm a Top 10 Finalist in the Industry Insider contest, which spawned two prior winners who have gone on to major success: that new sci-fi series "Extant" starring Halle Berry in the ubiquitous CBS commercial spots; and a movie in the works called "The Disciple Program," starring Mark Wahlberg, landed on the vaunted Black List for unproduced scripts in 2012 after winning the Insider contest. So I'm in pretty good company just to make the finalist cut, and I'm thinking this Seattle Underground connection timing could be fortuitous if I happen to win and get some Hollywood heat. The tour hasn't even started, and already things look promising.

Just then, Isabel returns and says, "Look who's here!"

To be continued...

 

 

Fun and Games

April 30th, 2014
By



Groove medium

PROGRAM ALERT: The new May episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on OC16 (Oceanic cable channel 12/high def 1012). For other viewing times and links to the CCTV YouTube Channel low res video segments, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

While thinking about what I was going to write for this preview, it occurred to me that there was a common theme to the four stories. The lead-off segment is about The Groove Hawaii on Ala Moana, which features a go-kart racing track, plus other types of games and fun activities -- they also plan to add a vertical wind tunnel soon, and possibly a wave pool down the road. The next piece is about the Dev League computer coding bootcamp that recently started up at the Manoa Innovation Center. That's followed by a profile of a professional handyman -- "Mr. Tinker" in MidWeek ads -- who moonlights as a musician. And the closing segment is about LinkedIn being a game changer for recruiters/job seekers.

So, can you see the connection to the theme I alluded to? Each one involves work and play. Most of us need to work for a living, but without some kind of fun and games, life would be pretty dreary. Hence, the need for speed, sports, games to suit any age -- the kind of stuff you'll find at The Groove Hawaii. Then you have video games and virtual worlds that exist because of computers and the internet revolution -- that's where Dev League's coding programs come into play. In the analog world, people still enjoy making music and doing things with their hands, be it Mr. Tinker or the Makers Movement we did a segment on in our April show.

But where does LinkedIn fit into the work as play/play as work paradigm, you ask? Well, essentially LinkedIn is the grown-ups' version of Facebook. FB began as a crude way for some nerds to rate college chicks, then added text and more substance to the postings. Eventually, FB became a way for friends to share links to interesting or funny articles, videos, and addictive games that transformed a simple idea into a billion-dollar enterprise. Yet it still left room for LinkedIn to fill the business network niche... a more serious adult-oriented form of social media geared to career goals. Like FB, LinkedIn has expanded their technical capabilities -- and global reach -- enabling users to post their own videos, papers, links to projects, whatever might help make their personal profile more attractive to potential employers, job recruiters or business partners.

When I look back at how job hunting and relationships with employers have changed over the past three decades, the generational shift in attitude towards work and play really strikes close to home. My parents were in their 30s during the turbulent 1960s and very much subscribed to the work-is-work mindset of sticking with one company for as long as possible to get good benefits and have a secure retirement. Play was something you did only if you had lots of money and time to fritter away. I didn't become a teenager until the Seventies, but I identified with the '60s counter-culture movement that had sprung up -- the generation that eschewed corporate bondage and flipped the Puritan live-to-work ethic to the pursuit of individual self-fulfillment, whatever that might be. Which put me and my siblings at odds with the folks, who frequently reminded us that "life is not about having fun!"

Except it is. I watched my parents age and stop playing games with us once we got a little older (and to be fair, we pulled back from them as well). Since they devoted so much of their life to work -- to support us and provide for us too -- they didn't have time or energy for play. They had a comfortable nest egg when they retired, but had lost interest in play... they didn't have any hobbies, didn't care about sports, didn't want to go to Vegas or travel. I think a lot of older folks from that generation are similar in that regard, maybe more so on the Mainland than in Hawaii -- like in that recent movie, Nebraska. Talk about bleak and depressing.

The irony is that much of the stuff I loved to do for no recognition or reward as a kid, now seems so far removed from my original idea of "fun" because grown-ups have turned sports and games into such serious business. It becomes all about proper technique, winning and losing, accounting balance sheets, political correctness, posturing, ego, and most of all, money.

Anyhow, it just reminds me that life is short. Go out and have fun this weekend! Play games, find something that gives you enjoyment. Pick up a musical instrument or a paint brush. Do something, create something with your hands or mind. Work can wait...