Here is a list of general questions that I came
up with that I thought I would ask if it was ME visiting a
filmmaking web site.
How did you get started in the movie business?
I did what most other people I know... I
volunteered. I worked for free for almost 6 months before I got my
first paid gig. Even then, it wasn't a king's ransom. I'm constantly
amazed at the fine professional skills that get hired for bottom
Do you believe in film unions?
YES! It's amazing what a low-budget crew is asked
to do for less than minimum wage pay (hours versus rate). Low-budget
tend to care very little for what happens to the crew as long as the
shot ends up in the can -- hence runaway production where film
production moves to Canada
and pays no benefits, poor wages, etc. Film crew members struggle in
to make ends meet, so I can't imagine what it's like in
where they pay slave wages and no benefits. When a production
company says that filming in
shaves 10-15% from the total budget, do you think that extra $10
million dollars comes out of the star's salary?
Are you a success in Hollywood?
No. As far as I can tell, there are only 4
career positions that have reasonable control of their financial and
artistic futures: actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters.
Everyone else can make a decent living, but only after 3-6 years of
terrible pay and conditions. Since I'm not in those 4 career
positions, I'm pretty much a Hollywood
prole at the moment. I just wanted to make that clear at the outset. In my
small way, I hope to provide you with some information to make YOU a
success in the world of filmmaking.
Are you a member of a union?
No. Unfortunately, fortune and happenstance
made me miss my chance twice. Darn! Hopefully, the third time is the
How do you become a writer?
I've heard the quote 'A writer needs to write'
many times and I would say it was true. My journal, published work,
whatever -- I always find myself back at the keyboard. About getting
published, though, I would say that family connections are very
important. Many people I know are farther down the road of success
than me because of relatives. I'm not bitter (wish I had an Uncle
that ran a publishing firm or studio), just realistic. Be prepared
to meet people with no track record and minimal ability
to string a sentence together who
have spectacular writing deals. Don't let it distract you. Less than 400 years ago you would
have almost NO chance to succeed without the proper genealogy. Now
your chances, based on merit, are probably better than 50%. That's progress!
After that, drive is very important. Although I
majored in English Lit in college, it did little to prepare me for
actual publishing. Now that I've written over a dozen books, the only
advice I can give is persistence. I've been able to put 'Author' on
my tax returns for about 6 years now and I can say that I still work
very hard to pay the bills. But... my life's always interesting.
What more could I ask?
What translators write your books in other
The publishers handle that part, so you cross
your fingers and hope for the best. One of the neatest things is
when a publisher ships you a copy of your book in Chinese or
Japanese. The pictograph transcription is thrilling and exotic, especially when you can't
read a word of it. Seeing your book translated makes you proud to be a writer. Or when
a friend calls from a different
country and saw your book on the shelf. Could there be a better
feeling of satisfaction?
Can I contact you... will you reply?
I'm sorry to say that I get a lot of email that
is directly work related -- and a staggering amount of spam. I try
to reply when I can, but I'm sorry to say I get overwhelmed. I wrote
a letter to my favorite author when I was in high school and never
received even a form letter response and that made me slightly
bitter at that author.
What can I say? I'm guilty of the same crime. If I don't answer, I apologize in advance. I
guarantee I've read it and appreciate it. Any time I spend
responding to emails will take time away from my working and writing. So if you
write and don't get a personal response, know that you contributed
to my next work!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Visual art mostly. Michelangelo, Goya, and Picasso
are my favorite artists. In literature, I read Kazantzakis,
Mailer. In poetry, Auden,
Wordsworth, and Byron. In general fiction, Cussler, McClean, and
Weldon. Also, I couldn't live without Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series!
A word of warning though -- when I read
interview with authors I like, I've found that the influences of my favorite authors are
rarely artists I enjoy. Have you had this experience, too? Isn't
What made you choose to work in Hollywood?
I've had a wide variety of careers including
Loan Officer, Mortgage Processor, Police Department Statistical Analyst,
Mail Carrier, Graphic Artist, Video
Store Manager, Paperboy, etc.
I got the film bug a few years ago, saved up
some money (since I knew I wouldn't make any the first year), and
headed for Hollywood.
Have you received rejections?
From almost every publisher of note ;-).
Luckily, I had great publishers such as Focal Press that believed in
me. My most successful book has shipped more than 60,000 copies, so
while I'm no Stephen King, I believe a publisher's faith in me has been
justified on more than one occasion.
How do you deal with the people that don't like
your books, and tell you so?
Critics are not an endangered species.
Sometimes it seems that everyone thinks they can do it better. The
question is -- why don't they? It takes a lot of forethought, time,
and energy to create any work of art. Sometimes it seems impossibly
difficult and there are enemies on every side. You just have to rely
on your instincts.
Don't criticize your critics. It's very easy
to say that they couldn't and wouldn't create what you have. I try
to objectively see if what they have to say is valid. Seventy-five
percent of the
time it's either sour grapes or perfectionism that can't be obtained
in the real world. But that 25%, ahhh, that is gold for you to
harvest. That 25% is the forest you've missed for the trees. Take
that constructive criticism, embrace it, and make your work of art
Are you another wanna-be in
Isn't everyone until they're successful? I try
to DO, however, before I talk.
How much time, per week, do you spend writing?
I'm from the old school that thinks that the
most creative writing comes from potent beverages and not chemical
enhancement. Witness the skill and longevity of Hemingway versus the
flashpoint interest of Burroughs (can Junky really compare to The
Sun Also Rises?). I write every single night, but my output varies
based on my duration of focus.
How much directing has you done?
I've directed three short films and two
commercials (both for cable TV). I think the director's greatest
strength is working with actors. If you don't like that, you may be
able to produce some terrific movies (i.e. Kubrick), but I don't know
that you have very much fun.