Thursday, May 24, 2018

#StorytellingBeef - The Last Jedi

My response to The Last Jedi. I discuss what I feel is the biggest story issue that no one is really talking about. (A little longer than my normal videos). 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Done With the System: a testimony of screenplay submission & creative independence

I debated sharing this publicly, but it's something very important that's been burning in my heart, so here goes...

A while back, I shared on social media that I had sent my feature film script to someone important that I admire. Big reveal, that person is Taika Waititi. Now, let me be clear, I had no expectation that he would even see it, let alone respond, but it was important to try and put myself out there. For me, this was about something larger I am doing for myself as a creator and it took a lot of guts. I am still knotted up just thinking about the day I sent everything.

Taika Waititi has been a huge inspiration for me, and I wanted to let him know it by creating a video letter and also sharing my script, The Guide, with him. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably heard me talking about this story during the writing process. Taika Waititi is basically New Zealand's film king, and I would love to make the film in New Zealand. This is all big, dreamy stuff, and it was irrationally crazy to even try, but I was compelled to reach out.

I sent it to the two agents he has here in LA. Each envelope contained a card addressed to Taika Waititi, my business card, and a flash drive with my video letter, original concept art piece, and my full script in PDF form. I sent these out on December 17, 2017, and then I sent a Facebook message to Taika Waititi directly with the video on January 7.

Last week, I received a FedEx package from the Creative Arts Agency in LA returning everything. (I still haven't heard back from the second agency, doubt I will). The card addressed to Taika Waititi had been opened, and though they claim they did not read anything, I could see the files on the flash drive had been accessed 3rd of January, and the rejection letter they sent me was dated 8th of January. However, I did not receive it until exactly a month later.

The contents of the letter were typical, but also gave me an icky feeling. It wasn't the rejection aspect that bothered me. I have been rejected before and it comes with the territory of doing things the traditional way. It was the overall tone that put me off. It was impatient and annoyed, yet laced with polite verbiage.

Before I say anything else, let me make this clear... Taika Waititi is amazing and this post ultimately has nothing to do with him. It's the system that's the problem. I know these agencies have to spew these lines. I know there are legalities and they have to cover their asses. But just because it is this way, doesn't mean it should be.

I went to an event recently where a man in the industry likened Hollywood agents to demons from hell. A tad on the extreme side, and it brought a chuckle out from the room, but maybe there's a deeper point to glean from the comment, which reflects the state of the entire industry.

This is just one instance in a collection of many recently that solidify my need to be independent. Hollywood is corrupt, broken, and sick. The recent news in the past year regarding sexual harassment and assault is enough to prove that, but this also reveals there are violations of a different nature happening--the violations of creators and their creation.

My stories are like my children. I welcome contributions and criticisms from others, but at the end of the day, I will raise them in the vision that came before I even put pen to paper. I will not be harnessed or muzzled in my work, nor should anyone else be. Yet, like sexual harassment and inequality, this creative invasion and restriction has become the norm for Hollywood.

We need less meddlesome formalities and more trust in creators. Yes, there is a business side to the film/TV industry, but the scales have tipped to the advantage of the business side for far too long. It's time to bring back balance by giving weight to ingenuity and collaboration. Doing so involves risk, but any great thing does. Otherwise, we're going to be stuck in a never-ending circle of reboots, remakes, and sequels until the sun burns out. I don't know about you,  but that's not the future I want as a creator, and I think many viewers would agree.

I am tired of these "traditional" methods of getting your work out into the world being the only methods which are accepted by society as being "official." Work is work. Let the receivers decide what is worthy. These agents, managers, and middle men can't be the only ones dealing the hands. Balance is everything.

It's sad to say it, but the system only wants to help the system--to fatten and sustain itself. If the system won't help creators, then creators will have to help themselves, and each other. The truth is, we live in an age where anything is possible. We don't actually need these studios or agencies to make content. We can, and should, stand and create on our own. It is a much harder path, but the giants aren't moving for us, so we have to go around them. If we believe in ourselves, and what we are capable of achieving together, we'll soon be on mountaintops--standing taller and seeing farther than the giants ever have.

And sorry, but I couldn't help myself here...😏

"Sony, Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount, Fox... they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground..."

#Adulting - A Brief Life Update

A lot of big changes going on with me. 2018 began with a starter's pistol! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Concept Art Piece for my Original Screenplay!

Just have to share this piece my artist-partner-in-crime, Danielle Pajak, just completed for my original screenplay! 

The screenplay is called The Guide, and I don't want to give away too much here, except that it is a fantasy/fairy tale with adult protagonists. Most fairy tales feature young adults or children, so I'm switching the game a bit with this story. I am going to be sending this script out to some potentials in the next few weeks and I am really excited! And, nervous haha. 

Anyway, here is the piece, it's called Creation Story because I wrote a creation story for the world in the screenplay. What exactly is going on and what does it mean? Well, if all goes the way I hope, you'll be able to watch it unfold on screen someday!

Creation Story, by Danielle Pajak

Review| The Breadwinner

Read my review of The Breadwinner on Reel World Theology!

Review| The Man Who Invented Christmas

Read my review of The Man Who Invented Christmas 
on Reel World Theology! 

Review| The Man Who Invented Christmas

Monday, November 27, 2017

#Review - The Punisher

My review/analysis of the intense and provocative series from Netflix, particularly its unique use of violence as symbolism.



Reel World Theology Post - The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Good day, world. Be sure to check out my latest Reviewing the Classics piece on Reel World Theology. This one was very special for me as I got to learn a lot about the amazing Lotte Reiniger, who has been instrumental to me this past year. Click below! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So what does "Phoenician Rises" mean?

Original Phoenix Logo by Danielle Pajak ©

I think it’s important as an artist to find something to represent yourself and your art. It provides a way for both yourself and others to truly connect with your work and make it memorable. It may also serve as a way for you to hone into the deeper meaning of everything you do. I've named my future production company Phoenician Pictures, and online I am Phoenician Rises. The reason for this isn't because phoenixes are cool, though that goes without saying, but the term "Phoenician" is one of deep significance to me. The symbol of the phoenix covers three key areas in my life and creation...

The phoenix is a bird found in several ancient cultures through mythology and legend. I have always loved the way the phoenix is portrayed. It has the soft beauty of the peacock mixed with the fierce intensity of the eagle. The phoenix bird is the symbol of rebirth, of dying and becoming ash and dust, then being born again into fire, a blazing light for the world to see. As a believer of the Christian faith, this symbol is obvious in its significance. We die to ourselves and to our sin, and through the resurrection of Christ we are born again. Now, a phoenix dies and is reborn many times, and I believe a Christian life is no different. If we want to be the blazing light of fire to the world, we have to die to ourselves daily and live in a new way, as a new creation.

The second way I relate to the phoenix is through heritage. My grandfather is from Lebanon and he often will go into lengthy discussions about our heritage. I really enjoy it and find it fascinating. One of the things he will discuss is the Lebanese as the Phoenician people. Lebanon was once called Phoenicia in its ancient days. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians were great scholars and inventors. The Greeks and Romans referred to them as 'traders in purple', denoting their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail. This beautiful color dye was used for many things, namely royal clothing. The Phoenician alphabet is where most of our modern alphabets arose from, and also where the word ‘phonetic’ comes from in reference to language. In the Bible there is a region called Phoenix, and the Phoenicians are referenced several times. 

Original Phoenix Logo by Danielle Pajak ©
The Phoenician culture is extremely relative to me as a person, and not just because of my heritage. They were traders, innovators, and artists. They resided mainly on the coast, and I personally have an obsession with coastal life and the ocean. They loved the sea and were known also for making great maritime vessels and seeing the ocean as a doorway to possibility. I would have fit right in!

The last bit is that I am from Phoenix, Arizona. Which can sometimes feel like the land of sun and fire haha. So for obvious reasons that makes sense. I still think it’s funny that all these things connect and serve meaning for me. I always have a desire to be reborn and reinvent myself. I am fueled with fire with a passion that I want to use to ignite others and share the light with the world leading people to the love of our Lord and redemption.

All this talk reminds me of a moment in Batman Begins, when Bruce expresses the importance of the symbol:

“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. I can't do this as Bruce Wayne. A man is just flesh and blood and can be ignored or destroyed. But as a symbol... as a symbol, I can be incorruptible, everlasting.”

I think this is an incredible truth. We are all just human, liable to make mistakes and hurt others, but when we channel our callings into holiness and goodness, we can make those callings symbols and let those be where our legacy lies. Superheroes and athletes are the best example of legacy passed down through symbols. We don’t have to have a named symbol, but there will always be something that people remember us by, that signifies who we were in our vapor of time on this earth.

What we do in life, echoes in eternity. 
(from Gladiator, 2002)