Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Tetris Movie in Works?

September 30th, 2014
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UPDATED OCT. 3: The public relations contact for Tetris got back to me after I email Henk Rogers, and has confirmed the details in the linked article are true. So the Tetris movie is for real!

I was going to post a program alert about the new Career Changers TV episode that will premiere Thurs., Oct. 2 at 7:30 PM on Channel 12/high def 1012 (a.k.a "OC16") but I just saw a movie biz news item that says the Tetris game is being turned into a live action feature film. According to this article, "The film is being developed by Threshold Entertainment, best known to gaming crossover fans as the studio behind the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. That film, which grossed $70 million, was one of the first to take a video game license to the silver screen..."

Followers of my show may recall we featured Henk Rogers in a couple of segments that told how he got the worldwide rights to Tetris, and about his interest in things like Burning Man. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2. Fascinating guy! I just sent him an email to ask if the Tetris movie deal is for real, and if he had a hand in negotiating the film rights. It's supposed to be a big sci-fi epic. While I'm happy for Henk, it's another sign that Hollywood seems to be out of original ideas for films that might actually appeal to adults with functioning brains.

Speaking of which, my Industry Insider Top 10 finalist script wasn't chosen as the winner... so no all expenses paid trip to L.A. for me to meet with A List screenwriter Sheldon Turner, who provided the premise for the contest, and the industry execs affiliated with that competition. Sigh. I was bummed, but felt my screenplay was one of the better things I've written. So I submitted it to the Black List, which was started by an agent who informally asked other agents and movie execs what their favorite scripts were that year. It became a big thing to have a script on the BL. Many of those BL scripts got produced and became hits with critics and the box office. For writers who weren't on the A List or still waiting for their breakthrough sale, getting on the BL could be a tremendous boost to their careers.

The creator of the BL, Franklin Leonard, began a commercial version to rate unproduced scripts from screenwriters like myself, who might be seeking representation or hoping for an outright sale to professionals who have access to the posted screenplays. The paid BL readers who evaluate the scripts for $50 a pop, rate each submission on a scale of 1-10 in different categories that agents/producers care about. Anything over an "8" is deemed worth considering and represents the top 5 percent. Thousands of scripts have been rated over the past couple of years since it began. In effect, BL acts as a filter for busy movie execs who rely on professional readers (and certain contests) to separate the crap from the diamonds in the rough.

Anyhow, the script I wrote for the Industry Insider contest scored an ''8"... which puts me on the hot list for recommended screenplays in Hollywood. It's called BLOOD MOON, and is based on the "inugami" curse -- kind of like a Japanese version of the werewolf legend -- which I first read about in the late Glen Grant's "Obake" collection of local ghost stories.

As fate would have it, I got to know Glen's protege -- Lopaka Kapanui -- who continues to uphold his mentor's legacy by retelling stories he first heard while working as an assistant to him. Lopaka finally got the rights to use the "Chicken Skin" name for his own ghost tours, and has some special events he'll be doing for the month of October. You can here more about that, plus his recent marriage to Tanya, by going to the CCTV YouTube Channel where we've posted segments from the new episode. Strange how it all comes round, huh?

Seeds of Hope

September 3rd, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new September episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over half a million views!

August was crazy busy for me so I didn't have time to weigh in on the elections (no surprise Neil got trounced -- I've written in this blog that right after he got elected, he and his "team" promptly alienated supporters by ignoring them), Kawainui Marsh plans (I live next to the marsh and can tell you the same objections being raised now were raised over 10 years ago by residents -- and ignored by the bureaucrats who get paid to do these pie-in-the-sky fantasy park plans), or UH athletics/football problems (again, same old obstacles ignored by the State Legislature and public at large).

And yet, my latest show is about people who are doing positive things without government help or involvement! What started as a short feel-good piece on Seed Restaurant in Kaimuki, near Big City Diner, grew into something much bigger once I started talking to the couple behind the venture. I was a bit leery when I first read that it was affiliated with a religious ministry because I consider myself an agnostic and have issues with organized religions in general. However, Jordan and Sonya Seng, the couple behind Seed and Bluewater Mission in Palama Settlement are... well, different than what you might expect. They met at Stanford University. His background was in academia -- he wound up at Harvard, writing papers on nuclear proliferation/WMDs and warned about meddling in the Middle East back in 2001 before we invaded Iraq (his analysis was quite prescient). She studied music, sang professionally  (Jordan taught himself to play instruments so he could back her up) and acted in commercials, TV shows, musical theater productions. Jordan's stories about growing up on the run with his fugitive father is pretty incredible too.

None of that stuff is in the two-parter we're running this month. I'm saving their personal back story for a future show because I want people to hear why they started Seed Restaurant and understand that this is how change happens. They had no experience whatsoever in the restaurant biz. But they were trying to help the homeless, survivors of domestic abuse, sex trafficking and prostitution, ex cons... people who have largely been left to fend for themselves without the tools or resources to rebuild their lives. And here they are half a year later, with a thriving restaurant that sticks to their core principles of "justice." They are accomplishing more with far less money than city, state and federal agencies have spent on countless studies and pilot programs. Yes, it's on a small scale -- but that's how you tackle big problems: one person, one step at a time. I love what they're doing. Check out my show, and I think you'll be impressed too. Maybe even moved, like I was.

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Speaking of tackling, I have to get in some last licks about the UH home opener against Washington. Months ago when it was announced season tickets were at an all-time low, I used that opportunity to upgrade our seats at a decent price. We've been there at Aloha Stadium, rain or shine, win or lose, and stuck with them through the tough times, which made the winning seasons even more special. When Ben Jay commented that football might be dropped, I knew he was talking about a hypothetical scenario set in the future -- not something imminent. But I hoped it would light a fire and make people realize you can't take things for granted. Sure enough, there was a much bigger crowd for the first game than was projected. And the stadium management blew it.

My wife and I got there around 2 PM for the 4:30 PM kick-off and we could already see the parking lots were nearly full. Traffic was backing up around the stadium. Hundreds of people waited hours to get into the lot, then waited in lines for tickets, or gave up and went home. Not a great way to entice fans to come out to future games. Inside the stadium, it was obvious the management expected the dire predictions of a small crowd. There were fewer concession stands open than we've ever seen at a UH football game, including during the Von Appen Era.

This is what negativity and pessimism does. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The team is expected to be bad, so people won't come, so we'll plan on them not coming, and then when they come, we won't be ready to handle the crowd, so they'll have a bad experience... and then the future crowds will meet their initial low projections. Sheesh.

My one gripe about the UH effort on the field was a moment of indecision by the coaching staff during the first half of a tight game: fourth and one inside the Red Zone. The Bows had Washington on their heels. Joey Iosefa was plowing over people. We had already scored twice on the Huskies defense. Now, if this was Navy or Georgia Tech, which runs triple option, they don't hesitate. They line up with the QB under center. Sometimes they snap it quick. Other times they try to draw the defense offsides to get a "free" first down. If the defense doesn't bite on the hard count, they'll call a time-out or take a delay of game penalty, then kick the field goal.

So why didn't we at least try to draw Washington offside BEFORE calling the time out, instead of running a trick play AFTER the Huskies had a chance to regroup? That's also what I don't like about the shotgun in short yardage situations. It literally limits your options on running plays and takes away the QB sneak. Heck, even back when I played high school football, the quarterback and center always had an "automatic" tap on the butt play to snap the ball if there wasn't a defensive lineman covering the center. With a running QB like Woolsey, that should be part of the short yardage package.

Anyhow, I still liked that they went for it on fourth down instead of just settling for the field goal. Like the folks who started Seed Restaurant, sometimes you have to take chances and have faith in people to make things work.

Deadlines and Routines

August 6th, 2014
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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
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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.