J.J. Abrams and The Mystery Box

A must watch for writer’s seeking inspiration is a TED Talk where J.J. Abrams shares the source of his ideas. He talks about being inspired by the feelings of hope, potential, infinite possibilities and mystery that an old box he owns since childhood with a giant question mark painted on it’s side represents.

What’s inside the mystery box?

“I realized that blank page is a mystery box. It needs to be filled with something fantastic.” – J.J. Abrams

“In whatever it is that I do, I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential.”
— J.J. Abrams

Hope this TED talk inspires you as much as it has inspired me.

Footprints in the Sands of Time…



When I was nine I memorized this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The Psalm of Life”. It inspired me to create; to make stuff; make art. No matter what.

Old penguin classics with yellowing pages where the very first books I read. It took longer than most children to coax me into learning to read. Poor literature like the Dick and Jane books with their “Go, Spot, Go!”. I figured if that’s what books look like I would have more fun with mud.

Luckily I discovered Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson and his A Child’s Garden of Verse. Simple words weaved into prose that took my imagination to foreign lands. “..To where the roads on either hand Lead onward into fairy land, Where all the children dine at five, And all the playthings come alive.” That little book inspired me and I kept on reading.

Discovering the tales told by clever Scheherazade to out smart the Sultan in “One Thousand and One Nights”. The dangerous adventures of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s series of detective novels and stories.

I remember each and every good story I’ve read and feel as if I experienced it myself. Why? What’s the formula, what’s the key to this kind of work? Imagine your mind as a universe. Galaxies, planets and stars all created by you. Created with a simple thought.
You are like a tiny God within this mysterious endless world that waits to be discovered. A world that waits to be brought into our own through your art. Now grab your laptop or a pencil and your notebook and start writing, drawing, recording. That’s how I rid myself of creative blocks and find the drive to finish my work.

Imagination is like the universe, limitless. We unknowingly limited it with our fears and doubts. “Will it work?” “Will it sell?” “Is it a terrible piece of art or literature?” This line of thinking stomps out your creativity and leaves you desperate and depressed. Forget all the rules, the do’s and don’ts and most importantly the have-to’s and create from your heart. Stories that last are stories told directly from the heart.

Those fears of “Being a starving artists” “No one cares about your work” or “No one appreciates my work.” useless thoughts that drain you out. I have no idea what this crap is doing running around my brain sometimes but I think those depressing thoughts just might be there as a warning sign. It usually happens when we need a break; like a long walk or cozy nap; or need to stop procrastinating and create something; anything; no matter what.

After many years of successful ideas and very bad ideas I’ve learned to treasure all of them. This thing that we do with making art or words or moving pictures is something special; something sacred. It might not make you famous or a millionare but it will inspire someone somewhere and that’s what keeps me going. I’d love to leave just a little footprint in the sands of time that might just shine a little hope into someone’s life.

A Psalm of Life
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

The Short Awesome Manifesto: Go Forth and Make Movies!


The most beautiful films were painted with moving pictures. Worlds of silent, faded,  jittery black and white images told the most magical stories.

From silent to sound to HD video the medium of motion pictures has seen constant change. Shown in vaudeville side show tents to intrigued or confused audiences who at the time couldn’t imagine The Great Train Robbery or Nosferatu.

Together artists radiating with passion, crazy brave pioneers and mad scientists poured their passion into a limited experimental technology establishing motion pictures as a legitimate medium. Hollywood glamour and celebrity worship came as a result of the industrial era’s “sell everything” mentality.

This hundred year old marketing strategy no longer works in an age of global communication. The big flashing Hollywood lights are slowly burning out and have become obsolete in a world where one-click distribution of your film to a global audience is freely available.

Video is everywhere. High resolution HD in cellphones and DSLR cameras. DVDs can be self published with sites like Amazon’s CreateSpace. Filmmakers, authors, artists directly engage with their audience online. Promoting a culture that is not consumer driven but community driven. The way we do business is rapidly shifting towards a more honest right-brain approach. Shed your business suit and get comfy in your PJs. Go create the films, the art, the books you want to see.

Ideas to Get You Started
There are countless methods to making a film. The web is abundant with answers to all your filmmaking questions. A rough idea of what you could do is…

  1. Write your script. As a side note if you run into writer’s block pick-up a book like “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Great techniques to unblock. My favourite is keeping a notebook handy by your bed. Every morning write two pages. Letting go and scribbling words down without a care.
  2. Create a “Pitch Film” or “Lookbook” It could be an animated storyboard of your film with voice overs. Use photos, drawings animate in After Effects or Flash and for sound try a Zoom H2 with Audacity. Your goal in creating this is to have something solid that gives the look, feel and pacing of your film.
  3. Get a site going for your film. Run a social marketing campaign. Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Let people around the web know about it. Start up a blog or vlog on YouTube. Start pulling in the audience you’re trying to speak to.
  4. Use KickStarter to collect your budget. You get to create the films you want to see and the audience gets to help make films they want. People who pitch in on the budget can get producer credits, DVD or Blu-Ray copy, merchandise, tickets to the premiere, ect.
  5. Make the damn movie!

The era we live in allows us to be passionate again. Like the grandfathers and grandmothers of the cinema we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.