Monday, March 31, 2008

A Writer's Paris

A friend is going to Paris this Christmas. She invited us to meet her there.

The invitation prompted me to re-read Eric Maisel's delightful book, "A Writer's Paris." I opened the book at random to page 97:

"Paris is a doable dream, and your writing is a doable dream. Both require the same nurturing, the same courage, and the same perseverance. Both come with a cost: Going to Paris requires some months of your time, and some thousands of dollars; writing requires some years of your time, ugly drafts, nasty rejection letters, and bitter disappointments. Are these costs too high? Not for Paris and not for the writing life."

Absolutely beautiful, and absolutely right.

Writers Store article accepted

Writers Store liked the article on "ideas."

We agreed on a new article for the Dec. issue.

These articles are fun to write, and I enjoy working with the Writers Store.

It's a great way to make use of all the extra material that I collected while doing research for Producing With Passion and Digital Video Secrets.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Over trained, caught cold

Too much yoga. Over trained and caught a cold.

Mind like mush. Difficult to concentrate on anything. Slept 20 hours yesterday.

Lesson: pay attention to body, stop when exhausted.

Author's Guild

Have applied for membership in the Author's Guild.

"The Authors Guild has been the nation's leading advocate for writers' interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression since it was founded as the Authors League of America in 1912. It provides legal assistance and a broad range of web services to its members."

Blurbs for Digital Video Secrets

Tomorrow I send off a dozen Digital Video Secrets galleys to people in the industry. Filmmakers, teachers, DP's, writers...

I'm asking them to give me a blurb ("Great book, loved it, everyone should have one...") only if they love the book and would recommend it to a friend.

Hopefully, several will love the book... I never know how people will react to a book. By the time it reaches the final manuscript stage, I have lost much of my objectivity. I'm too close to the project to see it clearly.

As I re-read the manuscript, 4 weeks after sending it to the publisher, I find several passages that I want to change.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Writer store article gone

Sent off Writer Store article. 1749 words.

Attached everything to the email that is needed to publish the article.
- head shots for Dorothy and I
- illustration
- Word doc (text).

Final changes, added the address of the web site for Stealing America documentary, and the ISBN number of the book.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Article for Writer Store is finished

The article for the Writer's Store EZine is finished. Tomorrow I package it and send it off.

I think it is a useful piece of writing. It may actually help people choose a good idea for their next creative project (book or film).

Article is scheduled to appear in June or July issue, to coincide with arrival of PWP in book stores.

Memorizing a script

This is the best thing I've found on how to memorize a script.

Note: The following material is excerpted from an interview
with actor and director Tony Noice.

1. Read [the script] and read it again, and read it again, and
read it again, because the most important thing to lay
the basis for memory is to really understand the
meaning, the deep meaning.

2. Find the intentions or objectives.
Go back to the beginning and now that you have a
knowledge of the essential core meaning -- what we
call the spine of the entire piece -- you then start
looking at your lines and break them down into what we
call intentions or objectives.

Determine why you are saying everything that you are

And by determining that, that already has a lot to do
with memory because the lines are not coming out of
the blue. It's not material to be memorized. As I
often say, actors don't memorize material, they make
material memorable."

Analyze the script, saying, 'What am I really trying
to get from the other person or do to the other
person? What behavior can I see in the other person
that will make me know I've achieved my goal at this

3. Mean what you say.
The act of experiencing, of really meaning what you
are saying and meaning it in terms of the other actors
-- really looking them in the eyes and trying to
affect the change in their eyes by influencing them
with whatever you are trying to do at that moment --
improves memory for the specific lines.

Don’t pretend to do it, just do it. Do it for real.

Picture yourself giving this information to a person,
a good friend who vitally needs it. And you really try
to get through to this person in your imagination.

You'll have trouble with this because acting is an act
of bravery. It really is hard to go out there and
really try to affect another person.

Use your imagination to not just remember the
information but really live the material, try to make
it as active as you possibly can by, in your own mind,
communicating whatever you're trying to remember to
another person.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What do I want to be talking about in 5 years?

Michael Wiese said that one of the things he tells his potential authors is "Ask yourself what you want to be talking about in 5 years."

Good question. What do I want to be talking about in 5 years? A few random thoughts:

- Cameras. I am fascinated by cameras of all kinds, including digital video and digital still cameras. This fits in with the Digital Video Secrets book.
- Portraits. The idea of doing a series of portraits is compelling. I've started doing portraits of local people, and have a few that I like. I want to do more.
- Yoga. I'm fascinated by yoga for people at the "edges," kids, old people, people who are ill.
- Travel. A real grab bag here: Living for a couple months in Paris, Montreal, and Vancouver. An eco tour of Costa Rica, a walking tour of France, and a walking tour of the Erie Canal. Living for a month in Amsterdam, and spending a couple months taking a house-boat or barge through the canals of Europe.
- Film making. I'd like to learn more about the films of Kurasawa. I'd like to write a really good script one day, something to do with personal redemption.
- How-to books and articles. I must have been a teacher in a past life, because the idea of empowering people to do things, helping them make their worlds brighter, obsesses me and has done so for decades.
- Creativity. Another grab bag. How to turn creative ideas into reality. How to survive and thrive--mentally, physically, and spiritually--as a creative person. The role of creative people in an information society. This one is very ambiguous. Just a potpourri of ideas with the sense that there's "something there."

More on this later...

Publicizing Digtital Video Secrets #1

Digital Video Secrets is at the publisher and in the editing/design stage.

While I wait for the galleys, I am starting the process of getting blurbs. I'm having a dozen manuscripts printed and bound. Several writers, filmmakers and producers have agreed to look at the book. If they like it, they will give me blurbs.

These are busy people, so I'm grateful and appreciative of their time. I hope that I can help them in the future.

More on this later...

Publicizing PWP #1

Finished a couple things for PWP publicity:

1. Finished a draft of an article on "Finding the Right Idea" for a book or movie. The article contains the essence of Chapter 1 of Producing With Passion.

Sent it out to some of the smartest people I know for review. Got back several suggestions for minor changes. One said it was a pretty good article.

I tried to make the article as useful as possible. I figure if I can help people find the right idea for their next creative project, that's a good thing. If they also decide to buy the book, that's even better!

2. Wrote a brief proposal for PWP workshops and sent it out for review. I think a series of workshops coordinated with the book release and book signings would be a Good Thing. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

After the writing comes the selling

Just back from a publishing seminar in Los Angeles.

A few short notes. No time to blog...

1. Writing is half the job. Selling is the other half.
2. The first three months, publishers market books aggressively. After that, less so, if at all.
3. Royalty income is a myth for 99% of the books published. I talked to a best-selling (in my niche market) writer, and she said that she earns most of her money from seminars and selling books on the table at the back of the room.
4. Everything changes when you publish a book. People treat you differently. I signed my first autograph this weekend. I was returning from lunch when someone said, "You're Tony Levelle!" and asked me to sign their copy of Producing With Passion.
5. When looking for a book idea, ask yourself, "What do I want to be talking about in 5 years?"
6. Book income these days comes from book signings, workshops, seminars, etc.
7. Best formula for long-term writing success is this: provide an honest, high quality product that makes people's lives easier and saves them money.
8. When leaving home for book signing gigs, pack books not clothes. That way if the bookstore has no books when you arrive, (maybe sold out while waiting for you to appear) you pull books out of your suitcase and stack them on the table.
9. When the distributor's sales person pitches the book to a bookstore buyer (Barnes and Noble, etc.) he or she will likely have 2-3 seconds to tell the buyer what makes your book different, and why the buyer should stock it. 2-3 seconds! That's all the time a typical buyer will take to decide whether to pass on your book. When I asked the distributor's rep what she needed from me, as a writer, she said, "Don't tell me about the content. I don't need to know that. What I need to know is 'what makes it (your book) different than all the other books out there. Why should the book buyer take it. Tell me why it's different."
10. When writing books, aim for a steady stream of 'doubles and singles' as opposed to the 'home run.' Home runs are always possible, but a steady string of doubles and singles will build income and a sustainable career.
11. Create a "myth" for your book. Every book has a story behind it. Tell that story.
12. Learn to use Amazon. Post short videos of yourself (giving useful information), add comments, use list features... Amazon is continually tinkering with the site and developing features that authors can use to increase book sales. Read the Amazon "increasing your book sales" tutorials.
13. Foreign sales and translations are a Big Deal. When you are speaking or holding a workshop in a foreign country, it really helps to have a translation on the table. Even though everyone reads English, a translation will increase sales.
14. Revise a book when you have 20-30% new material.
15. When you revise, try to keep the page numbering the same. This lowers the cost to the publisher. They don't have to 're flow' (do a new page layout) on the book or create a new index.
16. Use Power DVD to do screen captures.
17. A copyright consultant told me that single frames of movies, with acknowledgment of copyright holder, are "clearly legal" under Fair Use law. (This is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. This is 'gossip over the water cooler.' If you want to use someone's copyrighted material, talk to a copyright lawyer.)

Much more to write about. Collected about 10 pages of notes.

With two books out (Producing With Passion, June 08. Digital Video Secrets, Spring 09) I'm told that my plate is full. I have a full time job creating buzz for the books, writing magazine articles about the books and planning workshops and seminars.

Meanwhile, I continue daily writing discipline and collect material for next book.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I have to memorize a 44 page script in the next 5 weeks.

Memorization is not respected in our culture, nor are the techniques taught. At one point in history, learning how to use memory was an essential part of every educated person's repertoire of skills.

It's clear to me that some sort of memory techniques are essential, i.e. the ones described in Lorayne and Lucas's The Memory Book.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck with learning the script the hard way. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

I go a page at a time. I read 2 lines and repeat them until I remember them. When I remember them I add another 2, until I have the entire page memorized. When the entire page is memorized, I close the book and deliver my lines--without inflection--into a recorder. When I have the page down, I repeat again, adding inflection and "spirit."

When this crunch is over, and I have time, I plan to learn memory techniques.

Nice letter from Ken Burns

Got a nice letter from Ken Burns today.

He thanked us for our good words about his work, and wished us well with Producing With Passion.

He declined to blurb the book. He gets so many requests that if he started endorsing things, he'd soon end up spending all his time doing endorsements.

We mention him in Producing With Passion as a role model for first time filmmakers, and I'm glad we did. Very classy guy.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Producing With Passion -- Reviews

Pre-release book reviews for Producing With Passion:

March 2008
Microfilmmaker magazine