THE CHOSEN

My routine consisted of a good mix of daily tasks. Walk the dog. Eat. Wash. Socialize (virtually). Work. Walk the Dog. Maintenance. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

But then. Something changed. Something ominous.

The signs began slowly. An off-handed comment. Odd behavior. I could sense right away the best course of action. Avoid. Steer clear of the chosen.

The frequency of outbreaks increased. Friends. Colleagues. No one seemed immune. Once bitten, formerly kind and quiet human beings became damned, driven by their madness to infect others.

The monsters loomed around every corner. A new infection every hour. Countless lost. Who would be next? Could I hope to be a lone survivor?

Lulls in the terror proved foolish time spent hoping. Time that could’ve been running. Or hiding.

Keep vigilant. Dismiss all human instincts to feed curiosity. Pretend you don’t hear the voices. Look away from the horror.

Family came next. My own family. Swept into the tide of chaos.

At that point, any remaining moments of freedom dissolved into dust. I found a fortress to hold my ground. My last hope. Costco. Hiding behind the towering warehouse stacks. Stay still. Keep cold. Lose my scent. I could avoid them.

Silence. Then vibrations. I breathe relief as I realize it’s my phone. But, who could be calling? Family! They found me. I could run no longer.

My only consolation: the zombies gave me a choice on how I would meet my end. So, I chose to stay dry. I said no to the bucket. You can too. Just pay the $100.

TONE IT UP

I spent years hiding my playful side because I couldn’t contain it when I was a kid. I bounced off the wall, making my mom beg for mercy. I couldn’t control my accelerating energy. I suppose it contained pieces of my needy side, as well as pieces of an unbounded creative drive. Without stopping this paragraph to sit on the therapist couch, I can conclude with some confidence that I had issues, some of which I may understand. Regardless, for my own safety, my parents kindly urged me to “tone it down.”

It worked. I could fake functioning in the adult world as a balanced, reasonable human being. I even managed to secure a professional position at a leading computer consulting firm. The corporate culture promptly conformed me even further to think about how I present myself to the world. I resisted in many ways, trying to throw my supervisors off with wacko faces during serious meetings, and pushing the boundaries of good taste. Many of my superiors practiced extreme patience with me, and my professional character deepened. But, the inner me couldn’t help but push and prod to make an appearance. It oozed out of all of my microscopic skin holes.

In the process, much of my inner child got shoved down far enough that it’s hiding inside somewhere. I must make efforts now to tap into my playful side after years of fear-conditioning. Actually, trying makes it harder. The control runs counter to the concept of freedom. Channeling might be a better term. Tapping into that flow of my inner play by letting go of my control.

I see some signs of success. I found myself dancing at work yesterday. It was not a dance of grace, but more of insanity. I didn’t plan it, which I guess works best for play. It was especially victorious because I didn’t care what people thought of me. Any moments we spend worrying about the opinion of others always prove to be time and energy wasted. Those opinionated others have their own reasons for pushing their issues on me like a Super8 projection lamp shining through their inner home movies. I no longer want their issues on me. I prefer to live my movie in the moment. Starting right now.

I mean, first thing in the morning.

Working on Ensemble Characters for TV Pilot

I’m still figuring out how I want to use this space. How often? What kind of material? How raw? For what purpose? However, I spent much of my life spending too much time trying to perfect things, such that it became a comfort to always work on a project without getting to the end. So, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. I try to write every day, so I will share bits and pieces for now.

My first post on my personal blogging site was about my web series, but already, I’m switching direction for a while. Today I worked on some characters for an original ensemble TV pilot, which I have to finish before I get back to the web series. I’m trying to hone in on their unique qualities and voices. It feels weird to talk about it so analytically – not sure if that’s helping me or getting in the way.

I’m concerned because I’m in love with the premise of the show. As a result, my obsession may be clouding my judgment of how the characters are working at their core. Do I need to clarify or improve the characters? Do these characters feel different enough from each other? Are they interesting? Are they cliché? Do they seem like people we could follow through many stories? Do they have enough conflict and flaws to support the funny?

I’m going to list just the basics of the characters without any reference to the setting or premise of the show – just to see if these characters could work simply on their built-in differences and relationships.

Bobby Snow (lead) – crafty, mischievous, and blatantly honest. He pushes boundaries using infectious charm. Always showing a big smile, he can be aggressive with his laughter, almost like he’s passing it on by force. He pushes others into pranks for his entertainment. He loves imitating his friends and enemies, and makes up weird voices.

Joseph Petruzzi (Bobby’s best friend) – professional, by-the-books, passive-aggressive and sarcastic. He tries to embarrass his brother Tony, even though Tony never learns. He often responds by blinking his eyes with a dry stare, and making his commentary under his breath. When he’s trying to make a point, he pauses at unusual places in his phrasing as his thoughts catch up to him. He says things like, ”ya got me, ya got me?” Ultimately, when faced with BS, he feels compelled to call them people on it.

Tony Petruzzi (Joseph’s brother) – opinionated ego-driven teacher. Tony always considered himself to be a free spirit, rebelling against the professionalism of his family. Unfortunately, he’s a dreamer who never seems to be able to follow through any of his dreams. He carries himself with a laid-back, live and let live attitude. He proudly refuses to judge anyone. He’s a loud-mouth with no filter, because he really doesn’t care what others think of him, (even if it would do him some good).

Erica Savage (Tony’s ex-wife) – manic depressive. Her moods are literally triggered by changes in the weather. She still relies on Tony as a friend when she’s not terrorizing him. She can be hyper-sexual, but also emotionally sensitive, encouraging and comforting, but also controlling. When she wants to take control, she can overpower a conversation. If she feels challenged, she will repeat words like “Listen! Listen! Listen!” and “dududududududu!” Other times, she huffs with condescension and biting criticism. She delivers instructions with authority and takes no prisoners. She has no patience for the weak.

Roger Szymczyk (colleague) – fresh out of college, naive and trusting. He wants to be accepted by the others. They are happy to corrupt him. Wide-eyed with open cartoon-like face, he tells pointless stories, and doesn’t always read the situation right. He can be clumsy from trying to hard, excitable and giddy, and loves gossip. He has shoved his true playful and creative nature under a shell of conformity, and now it’s bursting out of him with pent-up energy.

Frankie Shepherd (colleague) – wise veteran with plenty of funny, gripping stories with colorful details and a hearty laugh. He will pull you aside with his arm around you to give advice like it’s a secret. He often says “My my!” Ultimately he’s lonely.

Sandy Lagos (colleague) – smart, careful, and fearless. She prefers to keep her life private, but a dark sense of humor emerges. She only loses her composure around Roger at times due to their chemistry, even though he never notices. She can be coy , but also a straight talker, not easily shaken. She shares her opinion easily, and hides her sensitivity.

Co-Habit Web Series Project

It’s been almost a year since I released my web series Baby Time! What have I been doing all that time? Mostly I wrote a bunch, including a new sitcom spec for BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, a couple of re-writes of the outline for my feature film POLKA, a new draft of a TV pilot BLACKOUT (written with 3 other talented writers), and…

New Project Announcement!

… a new web series based on my #CrainStreet tweets.

The #CrainStreet tweets are just snippets of moments I have to endure when visiting my parents.

It’s called Co-Habit. Probably. It was Cohabitation. Then it was Co-Habituate, which is my personal favorite, because it mixes the idea of cohabitation with the complications that come when two people agree to live together and therefore build habits together. But, I fear that the title is hard to say and thus complicates spreading the word about it.

CO-HABIT
A comedy about the absurdity of cohabitation. Karen and Craig endure boredom, mindless habits, and domestic bliss. Commentary provided by their observant dog Dainty.

Dainty_BR_Front dullmoment

So, now I’m assembling my directing notes. Here’s a summary of my thematic analysis:

The series will take a satirical look at the intimacy of living with someone, focusing on the following themes and ideas:

  • annoying and mindless habits and patterns
  • numbness that develops over time due to these patterns
  • regressive behavior (acting out like a child) with our partners

Conclusion: Ultimately, I believe that part of the reason we gravitate towards the patterns and the numbness is to keep ourselves safe from regression and the unpredictable traumatic conflicts that we risk when we engage emotionally.

So, in other words, I’ll have plenty to mock.

Here’s an example of the kind of mindless exchange I endure when I visit my parents, and so I have expanded on it in the series:

CRAIG
I still can’t believe that the fridge repair guy called first.

KAREN
I know. It was about 1:30. I remember because I had just talked to my sister. The phone rang. And it was him. Next thing I know, he’s ringing the doorbell.

CRAIG
Fast huh.

KAREN
Yep. He called. Next thing I know, he’s ringing the doorbell.

CRAIG
He must have called from his car.

KAREN
I bet. Unless his office is nearby.

CRAIG
I think he has an office nearby. He could’ve called and gotten over her quickly.

KAREN
It was real quick. He called. Then he rang the doorbell. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two later.