Friday, February 27, 2009

Now Playing: 365 Original Feature Film Titles, Loglines and Taglines

Has a movie ever changed your life?

I can point to one that absolutely, positively, irrevocably altered the direction my life has taken.

In the spring of 1992, as my junior year at UNC-CH was winding down, I went to see the new Robert Altman film THE PLAYER at the Varsity Theater on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. I was already a big movie nut before seeing the film, but the majority of my knowledge about the movie industry came from SISKEL & EBERT, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT and what I heard on the tram of the Universal Studios tour.

I'm not sure what it says about me that I felt a connection to the murderous sleazeball studio exec

THE PLAYER changed all that. I walked out of that movie wishing I could be Griffin Mill, the oily studio exec played so brilliantly by Tim Robbins. My mind reeled that someone's job was sitting at a desk, hearing writers pitch movie ideas and then saying "yea" or "nay." I loved the intrigue of the studio lot and the satiric look at the creative process that so often requires a deal with the devil.

That movie got me thinking about where I was going with my life and what my career path would be (the number one topic of most college juniors methinks). I had chosen my Poli Sci major because it was one of the top pre-law majors, but my feelings about law school had been steadily eroding for some time. I headed to Alaska the summer of '92 experiencing a real crisis of identity and generally feeling the fear.

Me, in Alaska, on the verge of an epiphany (and needing a shave + shower).

Long story short, you have a lot of time to think working the slime line of a salmon cannery, and my mind kept coming back to THE PLAYER. One day I had an epiphany of sorts at my campsite after a particularly long shift: no matter what you do you have to give working in Hollywood a shot. I graduated in '93 and by '95 I was living in Los Angeles and learning how to be a development guy as an intern Wendy Finerman Productions on the Columbia/TriStar (aka Sony) lot in Culver City.

As I was wondering what to do with this here blog, my thoughts came back once again to THE PLAYER, and one particularly funny and prescient scene. Larry Levy (played by Peter Gallagher) is the new hotshot exec at the studio where Griffin Mill works. Larry is bemoaning how expensive screenwriters are to the studio, and wonders aloud if maybe the execs in the room couldn't come up with ideas for features that are just as good....

I'm just saying there's time and money to be saved...
if we came up with these stories on our own.

Where are these stories coming from?

Anywhere. It doesn't matter.
The newspaper.
Pick any story.

'Immigrants protest budget cuts
in literacy program.'

Human spirit overcoming human adversity.
Sounds like Horatio Alger in the barrio.
Put Jimmy Smits in it and you've got

How about 'Mud slide kills hundreds
in slums of Chile'?

That's good. Triumph over tragedy.
Sounds like a John Boorman picture.
Slap a happy ending on it,
the script will write itself.

'Further bond losses
push Dow down.'
I see Connery as Bond.

(Thanks to for this excerpt, which I edited for clarity.)

This scene, in turn, reminded me of the many, many times I've heard my fellow wanna-be screenwriters worrying about protecting their script ideas from nefarious producers and studios. Always registering, trademarking and speaking in hushed tones about their precious ideas...

In my experience, ideas are cheap... it's the execution that's expensive. The days of the writer selling a feature pitch for millions without the accompanying polished, ultra-tight, already-written screenplay are all but gone, and besides, it's much cheaper for a producer or studio to option or buy a script than to "steal" an idea, develop and write it on their own and risk a lawsuit and bad publicity if the film is a success.

Unfortunately, the days of original screenplays (i.e. not reboots, reimaginings, sequels, adaptations, etc) being made into studio films also seem to be in danger (but I digress).

I am going to put my belief that it should be relatively easy for writers to come up with movie ideas to the test, and write a new one every day for the next twelve months, starting this Sunday March 1.

I am going to hone my abilities to write taglines on these film pitches because I think I would be great at it in "real life" and I want to put that belief to the test.

And finally, I am going to focus on what I believe is the extreme importance of a great title for a film that seeks commercial success. I read the following in the "eZine" that I subscribe to a few days ago and I think it hit the nail right on the head:

A spec script must have a strong concept and poster that is "primal" and easy to tell - and a title that "says what it is"!

I am a firm believer in the necessity of a title that, in some essential way, "says what it is." Quick, what was the movie BODY OF LIES about? That film was referenced in an article I was reading and I couldn't for the life of me remember. I had to look it up- it was the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe-Leonardo DiCaprio flop ($70 million budget, $39 million domestic gross) from just last year. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't make any judgment on whether it was good or not, but I can say that a generic title like BODY OF LIES, that could just as easily be the title of a legal thriller or a woman-in-jeopardy film, did it no help. No one will have trouble remembering what the hell SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE or THE SIXTH SENSE was about...

One final thought... if, by some chance, a producer or writer or actor or director reads one of my barebones movie pitches and happens to like it, I say "adapt away." As these pitches are my intellectual property, I fully expect a "Story By" credit and all the lucre that comes with it. That said, I fervently hope you take my pitch, spend a few months writing and polishing it and a year or two producing and marketing it, and make us lots and lots of money with it.

But wouldn't it be much simpler to hire ME to write it with you and/or for you?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Reboot Finalists

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

I've said before that there are a handful of reasons why I'm rebooting and refocusing this blog:

Increase Exposure
Creative Challenge
Showcase My Writing
More Fun for Me, More Entertaining for You

I freely admit that this is all about furthering my career as a professional writer. I would very much like for there to be dollars at the end of this rainbow. It feels important for me to say this up front, as I don't want to be the guy who pretends he's doing something strictly for the art. The art is very important, but I've come to learn that money is also very important too.

Hopefully, art and commerce can co-exist in some meaningful way for me. I know that is a lot to ask of myself, but if you don't ask a lot of yourself then odds are you won't receive a lot from yourself.

Don't you think?

So, with no further ado...


A hybrid of the Fiction Writer and the Confessional angles. Here I would fictionalize the present and future of my life in journal form. The journal would begin on March 1, 2009 using my actual, or true past as the backstory.

In other words, I would use the actual raw material of my life to date as the jumping-off point for the adventures of Fictional David Rielly. The changes would be subtle at first; I wouldn't win the lottery on the first day or anything like that. But, over the course of the next year, I would add fictional wrinkles to my real life as a way to... see what I would do.

This option would be a study in wish fulfillment and worst-case scenarios. I would make my relatively uneventful life... eventful. Here I could experiment in meta creative visualization, as the purpose of fictionalizing my life would primarily be to make changes in my real life.

There's something here, methinks, but it might take some digging to find it.

I've always loved this tagline


This one falls under the Stunt category. What I propose is to pitch you an original movie idea every day for a year. Each post will include three parts: 1) a title, 2) a logline, and 3) a publicity tagline. Here's an example using an existing film:


2) When Ellen Ripley and the crew of the deep space mining ship Nostromo answer a distress call on a distant world, they must do battle with the murderous alien life-form they unwittingly bring back to their ship.

3) "In space, no one can hear you scream."

This option revolves around several areas where I have a great deal of history and interest. I've written thousands of loglines for scripts I covered as a reader. I've brainstormed plenty of movie premises (though nowhere near 365). Perhaps most importantly, I know that there are copywriters out there who are paid to write taglines for the theatrical release of feature films and I'd love nothing more to join their ranks.

What better portfolio piece could there be for that job than this?

I'm going to think about this for a week or so, do some preparatory work and then relaunch The Word Player on March 1, 2009 with the first installment of the new concept.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and responses. I'll see you on the 1st.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reboot Angle #5 > The Stunt

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

For the final possible route to the reboot, I want to consider the perennial PR favorite The Stunt. This is about getting attention, right, so why not do something sublimely ridiculous?

The first stunt that comes to mind is Charla Muller's 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy.* Perhaps you've heard of this one- for her husband's 40th birthday present, Charla gave him sex every day for a year. And then, naturally, wrote a bestselling book about it.

SUPER SIZE ME was another great stunt- only McDonald's for a month and he lived to tell about it. Budget: $300,000. Domestic gross: $11.5 million.

So, what revolting or endurance testing thing could I do in real life and then report on it here to ever-escalating heights of excitement and suspense?

I hope to avoid bodily things like not clipping my fingernails or eating only chickens.

How about a non-sexual abstinence-related stunt? "Meet the man who didn't read a book for a whole year!" Oh wait, millions of people pull that stunt.

What about... No movies or TV for a year. I think I could do it, but would it be interesting to read about?

This reboot process calls for a Twilight Zone marathon! Who's up for it?

I just thought of that great Twilight Zone episode ("The Silence") where one guy bets £50,000 that the other, a notorious chatterbox, can't abstain from speaking a single word for a year. I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it yet, but there are a couple great twists down the stretch...

What about no internet for a year? I could write my entries by hand and ask Mrs. Word Player to type them in here for me. Again, boring to read about (although the degree of difficulty on a personal and professional level would be extremely high).

This is only half the equation, but I suppose a good stunt would require at least one post every day for a year. Knowing how much work it required to make 90-odd posts in just under two years, I know that kind of commitment would at least communicate a high level of dedication and, if the conceit is solid, give the stunt a chance to build up an audience of readers who are assured of getting something new every day.

OK. This marks the end of the preliminary reboot process. Blogging for most people is an ongoing conversation with themselves, and I can say truthfully that these past two weeks have been good for me from a creativity-jarring standpoint. By focusing my attention on this matter here, I've begun a dialogue between my conscious and unconscious selves... and I think I have at least two ideas worth pursuing.

On Friday the 20th, I will make my next post and reveal what the finalists are. Then, I will enlist your help in selecting the winner. Thank you, as always, for your consideration.

*Bloggers note: I stayed in Charla's apartment in NYC way back in the fall of '89 when her brother and I visited the Big Apple on Fall Break from UNC. Thanks again Charla! If I come up with a good blog stunt, will you have sex with it for a year? Just kidding....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Reboot Angle #4 > The Confessional

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

Back in May of 2008, I read a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine about a twentysomething blogger named Emily Blount. In a nutshell, Emily fell victim to (or used to her advantage, or both) "oversharing," whereby personal details of her life and of the lives around her were fodder for readers of her personal blog and her work at Gawker.

This vivid and provocative interplay between voyeurism and exhibitionism is at the heart of my fourth possible blog angle, The Confessional.

Forgive me Father, for I have blogged my sins.

To be honest, I've flirted with this angle in posts here several times over the past couple years. I've attempted to transcribe some of my rawer and/or uglier feelings and experiences with the vague hope that a) there would be some sort of catharsis and b) others who had gone through or felt something similar would experience a twinge of knowing camaraderie.

a) often resulted
b) based on the very, very few comments made here, I can only assume that this was rarely if ever experienced.

Sad panda.

There are some obvious drawbacks to this angle, the biggest one that I am a monogamous, happily married man in his latish 30s who stays in far more often than he goes out. What good is a confessional if there's not that much to confess to?

Of course, I could always dig into the dirt I played in during my teens and my 20s, but that's more of a memoir angle. To really engage with an audience, methinks this style requires current events that have not yet played all the way out (and therefore some cliffhangers and surprises).

This angle does tie rather neatly into the inherent narcissism of blogging, but I question whether the kind of confessions that I have to offer would be of interest to anyone outside a small circle of intimates. I could confess my thought processes (impure thought processes?), what I really think on this or that topic or this or that person, but that doesn't have much viscera to it does it?

Of course, I could always turn over an old leaf and get into some trouble for art's sake.


While the Confessional style has appeal to me as a reader, I'm not quite sure how I would approach it in a meaningful/entertaining way as a writer at this particular juncture.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reboot Angle #3 > The Fiction Writer

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

As luck would have it, I read an article in this week's Newsweek written by blogger Daniel Lyons who has, until recently, been writing the fictional mock diary blog The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. I didn't have any illusions about making money directly from blogging, but if I had this article would have dispelled them for good:

For two years I was obsessed with trying to turn a blog into a business. I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold. But reality kept interfering with this fantasy. My first epiphany occurred in August 2007, when The New York Times ran a story revealing my identity, which until then I'd kept secret. On that day more than 500,000 people hit my site—by far the biggest day I'd ever had—and through Google's AdSense program I earned about a hundred bucks. Over the course of that entire month, in which my site was visited by 1.5 million people, I earned a whopping total of $1,039.81.

1.5 million hits = $1,039.81. That pretty much blows.


The blogging angle I'm considering today is The Fiction Writer. At first glance, this one may be a better fit than some of the others I'm considering, if only because I have written quite a bit of fiction before in the form of screenplays. Also, and this may be so obvious that it doesn't need restating, I've read an enormous amount of fiction too. Writing fiction wouldn't require acquiring a new skillset, and that alone appeals to me.

But what format would best serve the blog post? Individual short stories? Serial fiction that asks the reader to "tune in tomorrow" (or whenever) for the next installment?

Blogging from the perspective of a fictional character that I've created? And if so, what world would I be exploring that could only be seen through that persona's eyes?

Here's a blog devoted to fictional blogs (or "flogs") that should make for interesting clicking should I pursue this route. Here's another.

My thoughts keep returning to my fifth and final screenplay Blood is Thicker. I never finished writing it, although I gave it nearly a year. Maybe I could repurpose it for the blog, stretch it out and finally complete it. How readable would screenplay-style formatting even be on a blog?


Maybe I should post the opening pages as a "first installment" and see?



Below one-piece wooden desk-chairs, the scabbed knees and
hand-me-down patent leather shoes of YOUNG CHILDREN fidget as
they endure a scorching hot morning of Sunday School.

The evil Pharaoh had decreed that
all male children born to his
Hebrew slaves should be taken to
the Nile river and drowned.
The children paying attention grimace at the thought. The
rest do their best to fight off sleep.

A wide-eyed young SCHOOLMARM paces at the front of the room, reading from an enormous Bible she somehow balances in the palm of one hand.

Jochebed kept the birth of her baby
son secret for three months. She
couldn’t keep him hidden forever
but refused to let him be killed by
the Pharoah, so she set him adrift
on the Nile in a small basket made
of reeds.

Every kid wears the threadbare black or brown Sunday best befitting the salt-of-the-earth country town residents. Every kid except for the TOW-HEADED BLOND BOY who sticks out
like a sore thumb in his brand-new seersucker suit.

A color illustration from one of the childrens' Bible of Moses being plucked from the basket by Pharaoh’s daughter.

The daughter of Pharaoh discovered
the baby and adopted him as her
son, and named him "Moses". Moses'
sister Miriam saw where Moses had
ended up and convinced the
Pharaoh's daughter to hire a Hebrew
woman to nurse the baby.
Children, do any of you know who
she hired to be Moses’ nurse?

Vacant looks answer her. The tow-head steals a glance out the window.

By the grace of God it was
Jochebed, Moses’ own mother!
Praise God! To save her son’s
life, Jochebed allowed the
Pharaoh’s daughter to treat Moses
as her own son and believe that the
orphan who appeared from nowhere
was a royal gift to her from her
own pagan gods.

Tow-head squirms uncomfortably in his seat as one by one the scrawny kids in the room shoot him a variety of DIRTY LOOKS.

Children, it’s not very Christian
of you to make the newest member of
our church feel different because
he’s an adopted orphan. His new
parents the Weisses are well-off,
yes, but they ain’t no Pharaohs,
and your new friend here ain’t
gonna part the Red Sea.

The CHURCHBELL rings, signaling the end of the service. As the kids scramble towards the exit, the tow-head looks wistfully out the window at the people streaming out the church’s

He perks up when MR. and MRS. WEISS, dressed nattily in white suit and sundress, emerge and walk towards the schoolhouse. They both wave at him when they get close enough to see him through the window.

The boy nearly jumps out of his
seat when he hears a loud series of
pops that he thinks are
firecrackers. Then he sees his
brand new mom and dad sink to their
knees as red splotches soak through
their Sunday best.

The tow-head is frozen in his chair, MOANING as he watches Mr. and Mrs. Weiss turn towards each other for one final look before toppling over into the grass.

The tow-head jumps up from his seat. Through the chaos of screaming churchgoers dragging their kids to safety, the boy watches as two men in black suits calmly throw their machine guns into the back seat of a brown Cadillac and drive out of the parking lot.

Sometimes the gunmen are driving a
Caddy, sometimes a Mercedes, and
one time they were on goddamn

And you’ve been having this dream
for how long Mr. Redd?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reboot Angle #2 > The Expert

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

"Suddenly, everybody's an expert."

Even though I heard this sarcastic comeback plenty growing up (often preceded by a long sigh), it appears to be truer than ever in the blogosphere.

Wouldn't you like to be an expert too?

Many blogs provide hard, demonstrable expertise in gadgetry, computers, cars, knitting etc. Many more are written by people who have positioned themselves as gurus of, how shall I put it, less verifiable topics such as fashion or love.

Then there are blogs that put a satirical twist on expertise, like the juggernaut Stuff White People Like.

What, if anything, would I be qualified to write about from the perspective of an Expert? I think there is a wide gap between an "expert" and an "enthusiast", in much the same way there is between a "genius" and the merely brilliant (which I touched on in this old post.) If I had to call myself an expert in anything, it would probably be screenplay structure.

it was fun to Google-image search "Screenplay Structure"

I was instructed in covering scripts the studio way at Sony/Tri-Star, studied screenwriting at UNC-Chapel Hill, UCLA Extension and Writers Boot Camp, and tinkered with the script for B. MONKEY with Oscar-nominated director Michael Radford as his Development Assistant. On top of that, I've read and written coverage on at least 2000 scripts for numerous Film and TV production companies and written five of my own, one of which I developed intensely with Emmy-nominated screenwriter (and my then-manager) Jim Thompson.

Despite all that, I'm still uncomfortable calling myself an "expert." Besides, the last thing in the world I want to blog about for any stretch of time is screenplay structure. After almost a dozen years as a development guy, it's a miracle I don't need glasses and/or a lobotomy.

I could probably stretch my thoughts on just this record to two posts.

What else? Well, this is even further down the ladder from "expert" to "enthusiast," but I'm passionate about music, particularly funk, soundtracks and house. I'm an avid music collector, music mag reader and have some experience as a deejay... but aren't there enough record reviewers out there?

I've been married for almost nine years- does that make me an expert on marriage (wait, don't answer that).

What topics could I write about expertly from a satirical viewpoint?


If this was easy, I guess everyone would be doing it. Wait a minute, everyone IS doing it! There are almost 27 million bloggers in the U.S. alone, and I'd be willing to bet that at least 10% of them pass themselves off as experts. Could we have almost 3 million experts living in this fair land of ours? Who knows, you may even be friends with one and not even know it (although most experts like to announce their expert status pretty early on...).

My expert opinion is that I need to mull this angle over for a while and see if I have the chutzpah to call myself an expert even once more.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Reboot Angle #1 > The Curator

This is part of my blog reboot process. For the origin of the thought of the motivation of the why and the why now, please click back here.

What to do?

This is one of the major questions in anyone's life, but I believe I've found an answer and I've been working on it for quite some time now.


This leads inevitably to another big question:

How to do it?

In blog terms, one possible way to write and reach an audience is to be a Curator. The way I see it, a Curator devises an ingenious concept, begins contributions of his own, and then often asks his audience to contribute to whatever the theme is that's been selected. The blog then serves as a growing themed museum filled with the creator's contributions and/or editorial choices of what's been sent in to him.

An example of this theme is PostSecret. In the words of it's creator Frank Warren, it's "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard." I was first turned on to PostSecret in book form, and it's compulsive reading- you really get the sense that these are actual weighty secrets that people have unburdened themselves of (in strikingly artistic-yet-simple ways) because of the anonymity provided.

Not a bad thing to have your blog published in book form either, I imagine. Some other examples of this format are 1000 Journals and Lost (no not that LOST, the book of lost and found pet flyers from around the world).

So, what are some possible angles in the Curator vein that would match up well with my skill- and interest-set? I first thought about this direction a few weeks ago when I was filling out one of those "25 Random Things" deals on Facebook. I wasn't that interested in listing a bunch of random stuff about me a la "I've been a loyal Crest user my whole life because I used to really believe that Cavity Creeps lived on my teeth" so I decided to create a "25 Random Things: Starf*ker Edition" and list some of my Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind.

Would they remember meeting me? Maybe not.

Here's the list:

1. I’ve talked on the phone with Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery.
2. I helped Liam Neeson prepare his “Best Picture” introduction for IL POSTINO in the weeks before the 1996 Oscars.
3. I’ve driven Alfonso Cuaron in a golf cart.
4. I’ve seen Harry Dean Stanton’s band play live.
5. Robert De Niro smiled and nodded his head at me when I walked past him wearing my “What’s up cuz?” baseball cap on the set of THE FAN.
6. I’ve taken a whiz next to Richard Farnsworth.
7. I’ve ridden an elevator with Maureen McCormick.
8. I’ve stood in line for drinks behind Brian Grazer- his hair looks even more ridiculous in person and he was unnecessarily rude to the bartender.
9. I’ve been on a conference call with George Romero.
10. I’ve introduced myself to Chevy Chase.
11. I’ve had James Marshall autograph my TWIN PEAKS memorabilia.
12. Christopher Walken drunkenly tried to pick up my then-girlfriend while at the same table I talked FIRE WALK WITH ME with... Harry Dean Stanton (different night from #4).
13. I’ve had lunch with George Lazenby.
14. Jennifer Beals stopped my friend and I on the street and asked us what time it was.
15. I saw Andre Agassi puke.
16. I’ve taken a meeting with Dave Thomas and discussed the possibility of STRANGE BREW 2.
17. I’ve been screamed at by Wendy Finerman.
18. Richard D. James has ridden right by me on a bicycle.
19. I’ve had lunch one table over from William Shatner. (can you feel me straining to reach 25?!?)
20. I talked about Lee Marvin with Donald E. Westlake.
21. I helped arrange a date between Michael Radford and Winona Ryder.
22. I’ve shaken hands with Tony Curtis.
23. I drank beers with Mark Borchardt and talked music with Mike Schank.
24. I’ve had my picture taken with Mike Brito.
25. I’ve gone to a nightclub with Mike Tyson.

Soon after I posted my list, a couple other friends wrote up their 25 starf*ker moments and I thought, "Hey, what if I created a site where people around the country could submit their lists of celebrity encounters?" For an hour or so, I was really excited about this idea. Then two distinct feelings set in and I abandoned ship. The first was "Imagine the lies people will submit and the lawsuits that will follow." The second was "Do I really want to contribute my time and effort to the already sickening* celebrity culture?"

* yes, I know I am complicit!

Still, it got me thinking. I've already way overshot my allotted hour here, but I want to do some actual productive brainstorming to see if there something lurking in the Curator vein for me.

Something about mixtapes and mixtape covers? I have a sneaking suspicion that's already been covered, but I would love to scan all the mixtapes I've made (and that have been made for me) and post them, and ask others to do the same. I don't know about you, but I used to spend quite a bit of time with scissors and glossy magazines to create something fun for the cover.

I've also toyed with collecting cliches, a la "All limo drivers smoke cigarettes."

How about a list of experiences that people have of that weird sensation of learning a new word and then suddenly seeing it everywhere? No wait, this is supposed to GROW the site, not shrink it....

How about short-form experiences of truisms that have proven not to be true, a la "The family that prays together stays together" or "Defense wins championships"?

Hmm, this is hard.

How about a list of the greatest excuses ever uttered and the fallout from uttering them?

Help me out- what could/should a fellow like me curate here at The Word Player?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

word player 2.0 > Research

Snapped this John Baldessari at LACMA, where there is still virtually no blog-related art

Yesterday I decided to take a week and attempt to conjure a "reboot" concept for this blog that, when executed, would fulfill me creatively AND reach a wide enough audience to serve as a marketing tool for my services as a professional writer. Now that I've laid out what my goal is, I think it makes sense for me to tackle this assignment as I would any other gig. I've heard from many other creative professionals that just as doctors are often terrible patients, they are their own worst clients. I will try to be levelheaded as I give and receive direction to and from myself, but I am Hollywood-adjacent so there may be obscenity-filled tirades and pandering illogic.

I know that this is a pipe dream, but what the hell: what could really make this process interesting is if you chimed in with thoughts and direction for me to consider along the way. As a work-from-home freelancer since 2001, the thing I miss most about office life is the ease of collaboration, the bouncing back and forth of ideas. The end goal is to create a blog concept that's entertaining and/or thought-provoking enough that you would want to read it regularly, so why not help me sculpt it out of clay?

So, now that I have my creative brief in front of me and I've had some time for contemplation, the next step is a little research. To be honest (I say that a lot , don't I?) I don't read many blogs nor do I read about blogs other than the occasional article in the newspaper. Let's look at the current state of blog affairs and see if we can spot a burgeoning trend or identify an underserved niche that could be helpful.

Technorati, one of the primary search engines designed specifically for combing through blogs, has a "State of the Blogosphere: 2008" post that is as good a place as any to start. Here are some interesting stats:
  • comScore MediaMetrix (August 2008)
    • Blogs: 77.7 million unique visitors in the US
    • Facebook: 41.0 million | MySpace 75.1 million
    • Total internet audience 188.9 million
  • eMarketer (May 2008)
    • 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users)
    • 22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12%)
  • Universal McCann (March 2008)
    • 184 million WW have started a blog | 26.4 US
    • 346 million WW read blogs | 60.3 US
    • 77% of active Internet users read blogs
Wow. So I am one of approx. 26.4 million bloggers in the U.S. That's a lot of competition. I'm glad I gave myself a whole week to figure this out. It's good to see that 77% of internet users read blogs. That's encouraging.

My background is in the entertainment industry, and according to MediaMetrix 4 of the top 10 entertainment sites (OMG, TMZ, Asylum and Perez Hilton) are blogs. Good to know.

Other than Jessica Alba (who is currently tagged in an amazing 15,499 blog posts), who and what are people blogging about? Barack Obama is tagged in 223,934 posts, while the iPhone has a whopping 184,991 tags. I could check these numbers all day- it's fascinating to see what people are spending their days talking and writing about.

Here's what people are looking for in blogs, based on the top Technorati searches:
I've never seen an episode of ALIAS- apparently I'm in the minority there. Several of these searches mean little or nothing to me, hmmm.

Here are the top 10 blogs by "authority" (or, how many other blogs have linked to the site in the past six months.)
  1. Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post
  2. Engadget
  3. TechCrunch
  4. Gizmodo, the Gadget Guide
  5. Boing Boing
  6. Official Google Blog
  7. Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done
  8. Daily Kos: State of the Nation
  9. Ars Technica
  10. Smashing Magazine
OK. Two politics/news sites, and eight technology sites. No fear of me going there.

this will still be my command post, so please don't suggest a travel journal
of my experiences at the world's best water parks.

I've chosen not to have advertisements on my blog because I think they look cheesy and I've never approached the kind of traffic numbers that would produce any meaningful income. This, though, is pretty startling:

The majority of bloggers we surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800, but it’s paying off. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month.

Looks like 100,000 unique visitors per month is a magic number.

Another interesting place to take the current temperature is Blogger's "Blogs of Note," a daily pick by the Blogger staff. Here are the conceits of the last ten Blogs of Note:

Expat Journal
Expat Journal
Tablescaping (the art of, it seems, setting a good looking table.)

OK, a little more room to play with here. Interesting.

I'm now going to return to my paying clients (I'm working for myself on spec), but I feel I've done some good foundation work for the days to come. Plenty of food for thought. Next I will select five different general areas in which to brainstorm a specific angle for the reboot. Then, at the end of the process, I'll give it all some more consideration and announce the "winning" direction.

Tomorrow's blog angle will be "The Curator." See you then.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

the word player 2.0

This past weekend, a friend said "So, I see you don't post very often on the blog anymore."

This is true. I feel like I'm lacking enough subject matter to post with any regularity, and waiting for inspiration to strike only provides me with sporadic bits and pieces to chew on.

"Inspiration is for amateurs," someone once said about writing. I agree to the extent that you can't rely on it on a day-to-day basis. It is, however, invaluable in creating a keystone around which other pieces of the puzzle can coalesce.

I can't bring myself to write movie or record or book reviews due to the sheer glut of material already out there on the subject. Besides, I want to continue progressing as a professional writer, and the paid critic is a dying breed.

When I started this blog, more than anything it was a new channel for me to funnel and explore my creative impulses after hanging up my screenwriting boots. For over five years straight I'd been constantly working on one script or another, often taking more than a year to "complete" one. I really, really enjoyed the immediacy of completing something short and sweet in one sitting. Blogging not only flexed new writing muscles, but I quickly discovered that it kept me limber in other valuable areas as well.

After a year or so, however, I got the feeling that I was writing only for myself and a small handful of friends. If you'll permit me to speak frankly, I'm at a stage in my writing development where I need to either be writing for an audience or writing for money. Writing for neither is simply unsatisfying (sorry amigos), and gives me the unshakable sensation that my time would be better spent elsewhere.

So here's the crossroads where I find myself today, the fifth Wednesday of 2009. In the four years I've been seriously pursuing copywriting, it has become the first career path in my life where I can genuinely see an intersection of ability, confidence, earning potential and job satisfaction. I love doing the work, I just can't seem to find enough of it on a consistent basis. In the last 10 days, I've had three jobs that I thought were in the bag fall through. Two of them were because the client decided to call in favors with friends of theirs who are writers and try to get the work done for free.

I can't compete with free.

I am promoting myself as a copywriter as best I can using other more traditional channels, but as of this morning (hell, as of this hour) I am determined to exploit this forum more vigorously and inventively. I need to draw more attention to myself in order to reach the pivotal demographic of people who have money to pay writers to write. This is not an easy pill for a mellow introvert to swallow, but them's the breaks.

Now, I realize that blogging about the internal workings of my mind (what I've essentially been doing since the end of the "Bend Me, Shape Me" series) is never going to draw a crowd (and is probably boring as shit to most of you). I also know that I have now reached the end of this post without inspiration striking me with a swell solution to my dilemma (damn).

So, over the next week or two I will brainstorm here "live" for an hour every day I can. I'll see if I can come up with a new central conceit for this blog that will not only engage me creatively, but also have a realistic chance to draw a much larger audience to the site than the one I currently enjoy (an average of 45 page visits/64 page views per day).

I encourage you to chime in. If you've never been here before, a quick glance at the Labels running down the right-hand side should give you an idea of what sort of subject matter I respond to historically.

I market myself as a concept-driven copywriter, so I should damn well be able to come up with a marketable concept for myself.


We'll see what the process creates. Lacking inspiration (so far), it's time to turn to perspiration.