Tag Archives: Jay Lowi

Welcome to my Annual Thanksgiving Edition where I give thanks. Or sometimes complain a little. But mostly gives thanks.

First up... My Wife. Number one. My kids. Right there. Spectacular. Thank you.

A quick long overdue thank you to Jeff Lowell. Who a few years ago said this in a DoneDealPro posting: “As for Bob, I don't think that, given his resume, he should be handing out advice that contradicts actual industry pros.” This said in reaction to some BAD advice I gave on an IMDb Screenwriting Board because at the time, I thought I knew it all. I didn’t. Not even close.

I had optioned a couple of scripts (never made) and had a couple of small independent film rewrites (made, but never distributed), nothing big. So... of course, I thought I knew everything about screenwriting.

Then someone told me about the DDP thread and I read it. I also looked Jeff up. He’s the real deal, but then most of you know that. To have someone of that stature saying that about me by name was an eye opener. Made me look at myself and realize my ego was much bigger than my knowledge by a long shot. Made me take a BIG step back. I realized having a couple of optioned scripts, of which there are hundreds out there, does not make you an expert. Yet here I was offering black and white advice about screenwriting when I had no business doing it. I hadn’t been in a production meeting, I hadn’t ever worked with a development exec, I had barely ever worked with producers, I didn’t even have a rep. Idiot. Was talking when I should have been listening and learning.

And I'm still learning, 6 produced films later. I just had a two week rewrite session with a director (Thank you Jay) on one of my spec films that goes next year and the amount I learned from that session alone is staggering.

Do I give advice now? Yes. Hey, I have a blog. But now I give it from a background as a produced writer who makes a pretty good living at it. I also rightly label it as my OPINION based on experience and not like I walked down off some mountain with Gold Tablets. If you learn one thing from this: One unmade optioned script to your name? Look for advice, don’t give it.

So thank you to all the writing pros who took me under their wings and to executives, both at the production company and cable network level, and to producers and directors who have let me suck the knowledge from their brains over the years. You’ve all made me a smarter better writer. I hope to never stop learning.

Thank you to my Manager, John. Not with one of those big management companies. An independent guy. We’re having a pretty special year so far. And next year looks even better. Which goes to prove that, yes, even though you often strive toward a big name manager, sometimes it’s better to find one who just believes in you even if he’s not a household name. Something I think new writers need to consider when they’re looking down their nose at a person they’ve never heard of who wants to work with them, waiting for a better offer from a bigger rep that may never come.

THANK YOU to the execs and producers that believe in and support my work. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude.

Thank you Jay Lowi. Ten years. TEN YEARS. Let’s go make a movie.

Thank you to my real life writing pals. All of you. The people who come and drink with me when I’m in LA. The writers who want to, but can’t make it. The writers I talk to on the phone and trade scripts with. The writers who I want to be successful in the biggest way. Your friendship is one of the things that makes this journey so much fun. Just know how much you mean to me. The writers on Twitter, who make me laugh and who make me happy when they share their successes.

I walked up to my wife 23 years ago and told her I was quitting my pretty successful day job to become a film actor and a screenwriter. Also maybe a radio DJ. She could have said, “Hell no.” Instead she said, “You gotta follow your dreams. But only if it takes you a couple of years.” (See why I always thank her first?)

That was enough for me. So I ventured out KNOWING NOTHING about any of these things or how damn hard it was to even be a part of them, let alone succeed. And in those first two years, I got my SAG card, did some movies and commercials, I was an actor was on a successful TV show (for 6 seasons in a microscopic part, but I was there getting paid to learn how to make movies and TV, Thank you Don Johnson), I optioned the first script I ever wrote to a production company at Warner Bros (never got made, and BOY is that a sad story), and I was on the air as a DJ on KYCY, a country music station in San Francisco. AGAIN, I KNEW NOTHING. I didn’t know how hard these things were to do so I went and did them.

I’ve had a Forrest Gump kind of life. Right place, right time. (Thank You God) Got to work for directors like Coppola, Eastwood, Fincher, Ron Howard, even Michael Bay in blink and you’ll miss me parts. But I got to watch them work. I’ve met and talked with acting heroes of mine I couldn’t have imagined meeting. They wouldn’t remember me, but I’ll always remember them. I’ve gotten walk around movie studios, and not as a tourist (although I’m sure I looked like one). The list of the amazing things I have lucked my way into is too long and boring to list. But damn... my grateful quotient is off the chart.

Finally, thank you to the readers of this Blog. The numbers who read it constantly amaze me. I appreciate you, too.

And everybody have a Happy Thanksgiving.




Thanksgiving. One of my personal favorite holidays. Being thankful for our family and friends and work and eating. Love the eating part. And as I use the treadmill in my office and actually try to shed some of this poundage in advance of next year’s grueling schedule, (Thank You God), I am mindful that I have to eat and drink less. But not on Thanksgiving.

So, in that spirit, I present my let’s be thankful, writing edition.

I am thankful for:

My wife and family for their support over all the years I made zero money doing this. Enough said. I’ll tell them the rest in person.

This year. It has been amazing for the friends and colleagues who have supported and believed in what I do on the page. The Development Execs who trust me with their assignments and rewrites. To take their notes and implement them, still keeping the integrity of the story. The directors who were open to my thoughts about story.

The producers who actually like my stories enough to pay me for them whether in an option or a sale, you have no idea how wonderful you are. Now make the films, ok? :)

Jay Lowi. You are a frickin’ saint. And I loves you man.

My manager, John McGalliard. In and out of the hospital this year and taking calls and making deals in the recovery room. The man is a monster. Now get me some more jobs. :)

Jeff Willis. Production Company Exec and my sometime writing partner. And good friend. We sold a script and the film got made this year. A miracle we got to see and get paid for. Plus it turned out to be a good film. It’ll be out next year.

The BSides – Ok... not writing but the rock band I play in. My great friend Dave. Tom, Gary, & Stew. May not be writing, but playing music keeps me sane. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy new guitars.

Andre. My friend. Brother. Uncle. Weirdness. Enough said.

The writers I commiserate with. Old friends. New friends. You know who you are. You are indispensable to me. Don’t change. Don’t go anywhere, except up. I wish all my writer friends nothing but success. And for the ones already successful, continued upward success.

I’m thankful I was talked by friends into writing this blog. They thought I had something to say about writing. And people have responded with nothing but positive messages back. Thank you for that.

To the people who have reposted and supported the Blog this year. Scott Myers, thank you. Paul Zeidman. Jeanne Bowerman. Ben Kay. To name but a few.... thanks.

I’m thankful for work. Right now I’m rewriting an original script I sold from a pitch. And this part of the blog should be instructive. I gave the pitch in a meeting, promptly forgot about it when I heard nothing back for months. Heard even later from the Production Company that they loved it and wanted to buy it. I had no notes, no story, no nothing. And I had four weeks to write the first draft.


Ten months later the company had me in for a notes meeting with my Development Exec, who is GREAT by the way. Yes, it took ten months from my four week deadline to get back to me. And... She was very positive that my script needed some tweaking. Like throw it out, keep the premise, and rewrite the whole damn thing tweaking. From a whole other angle. It was a spirited meeting and she, of course, was correct. And by the time we were done with the meeting I was thinking that all the notes were my ideas anyway.

This leads me to my point, which as I think about oyster dressing and pumpkin pie, has taken me a while to get to. Not all notes are bad. Many of them are good. Some of them are excellent. These kinds of notes can make you look like a better writer if you’re open enough to realize it. Being an open minded collaborative writer will win you a career in this business. They’ll want you back because you understand the process. This is important.

You will also get crazy, insane, what the hell did you just say, notes too. But as I’m sure you heard before, it’s important even with these kinds of notes to try and find the note behind those notes. What they’re really saying. So you, as an incredibly creative writer, can implement the spirit of those notes rather than the exact story killing note. (or implement the other notes so well, they’ll forget they gave you the crazy one you ignored).

Plus, if you are perceived as a cooperative writer, you can argue your side of any note. You can’t be afraid of doing this. And knowing your story inside and out and all your characters so well that you can say what they’d do in any situation, even one not in your story, goes a long way to you being able to argue against a suggested sex scene that would ruin the film.

However, if they are paying you, they always have the last word. So make it a good sex scene if you have to. If you don’t they’ll just hire me to. And remember, I want you to succeed.

So... I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat, drink lots of wine, hug your family and friends. Then on Friday, instead of fighting the thousands of crazies out shopping, go write. And be thankful that you’ve got that desire.

I’m going to step back for a moment and thank a couple of directors who calmed my nerves and helped me get ready to direct this short film. Elise Robertson, a wonderful LA director, who told me if I didn’t direct this she’d kick my ass. And one of my closest friends, my collaborator, experienced director, and film directing professor at Chapman’s Film School, Jay Lowi, who loaded me up with all kinds of knowledge I had to cram into my head in about three days. He was the one who told me to edit each scene in my head as I shot it so I wouldn’t forget a shot or to find a shot I hadn’t conceived of to complete what I imagined to be the finished scene. It was brilliant simple advice and it worked.

I spent the few days I had before shooting getting my shot lists together and breaking down each day's shooting schedule. I also looked at the film as a whole to decide what tone, overall look, and recurring themes I would use to advance the story visually. I broke down each character so I could communicate to the principle actors what I wanted each one to distinctly portray.  Again… there was NO SCRIPT, just an outline so this was important.

I was unbelievably fortunate to get such wonderful actors who were open to my sometimes strange ideas and spur of the moment concepts. This film wouldn’t have turned out so well without the great performances and the special things they brought and added on their own.

I’ve also been fortunate to be on sets with some iconic directors as a minor league actor. Coppola (twice), Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood (twice), David Fincher… the thing they all have in common, that I could see, is that they hire good crew people, tell them what they want, and LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS. I saw no micro-managing and that freed them up to direct. To do their job and get their vision on film. Yes, the buck stops with them, but it’s a less crazy buck. I attempted to do the same thing in my small way on this film. And it worked. You trust people and mostly they respond with their best work.

But what I really loved about directing was the rush I got from it on set. How it just opened up floodgates of creativity in everyone. How as a director you can see something in a rehearsal or a first take and that makes you come up with the one thing that makes that scene special. Something you would have never thought of writing the script. This was an eye-opener for me as a writer. And will help me in the future throwing out my preconceived notions and personal ownership of my own writing and trust other directors do what they need to do with it. It was a GREAT letting go of ego lesson.

Once we were done shooting, I realized my job was not even half through. Post production, editing, sound effects, reshoots (yeah, reshoots), original music, titles, color correction, who knows what else.

Editing is surprisingly fun, especially if you have an amazing uber-experienced editor that has been recommended by a great director (who actually puts in a very good word for you with the editor).

Rick LaCompte is that film editor. Not a short film editor. His CV is filled with successful films. The posters from those films cover the walls of his huge work space. He even said, “I don’t usually do short films.” Again, I am amazed and grateful for my good fortune. Thank You God.

He proceeded to give me an eye-opening education on the art of editing. And it is an art. He is patient, understanding, endlessly creative, and honest. It didn’t take but about half a second to trust him completely. He didn’t let me down either. He has an uncanny talent for looking at all the footage for a scene as a whole and then effortlessly manipulating it to make it look better than you pictured it. And then building from there, remembering the smallest things he’d done in past scenes to achieve the tone, the look, and theme threads I told him I wanted for the film. An artist. I cannot recommend him more highly.

Yes, the reshoots. Even though I thought I was so careful with everything, I did not get two transition shots I needed for the final action sequence. Bad me. No one’s fault but mine. The film doesn’t work without these shots and as much a magician as Rick is, we couldn’t work around it. So, in the next three weeks I’ll shoot the scenes. Thank goodness the actors and the DP are game. When you miss shots you recorded on a Red camera, you can’t just film them on your IPhone and hope no one will notice. So I have to rent the camera again for a day, too. I complained to Jay Lowi about my stupidity and he laughed and said, “Happens to everybody. Just chill and go do it.” He’s my hero.

Until the reshoots, I can work on sound effects with Rick and original music with my composer, Thomas Tissot. And baby, am I lucky to get him. He’s a creative, fun musician and I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with. I’m getting him now before I can’t afford him anymore. He’s got a BIG future. And I’m meeting tomorrow with a title effects guy to do something special with the main title. We’ll see if he can do what I want and how much it’ll cost if he can.

This small experience as a director is going to make me a better writer. It already has.

I had time to do all this because for the last two months, I’ve been unemployed and it afforded me the time to get a lot of the post-production done. Well, unemployed until yesterday. Got word from a production company that a script I wrote with my good friend, Jeff Willis, is heading for production and they need a rewrite. Now. So, after we get the notes next week, we’ll be starting on that. And I’ll leave the composing to Thomas and free up a day to reshoot what I missed while we write.

My goal is a finished film by March first. Ok. Mid-March. (I don’t want to scare Thomas) And to have a director sample I would be proud to show any executive. I think I will.