Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Delta Zulu Chronicles: One - My Quarter Life Crisis

" Dude, you're crazy." - Stephen Brou, friend and Co-Star in Delta Zulu as Dwayne Tanner 

When you have a mid life crisis you begin to see things for what they really are, and most people make the choice to change something in their life to make themselves happier; the experience can be quite impressive. A quarter life crisis is about a quarter as impressive, yet your young naive ego manages to convince yourself that it is the most important moment of your life.  My first quarter life crisis was towards the tail end of the Summer of 2010. I made the decision that I was going to live out of my car,  because that's what all the cool kids do. The lease on my apartment was up and I was at a crossroads in my life where I had no clue what I wanted to do next. I sold or gave away almost everything I owned and decided that I was going to spend an indefinite amount of time living in my little blue Toyota Rav 4 until something happened, and at the time I had no clue what exactly this 'something' was. After canceling an unfinished web series only six episodes in and sitting on a pile of half finished scripts, I decided to use this new chapter in my life to start with a fresh clean slate. I like clean slates, and for some inexpiable reason moving into my car was wipe of the slate. A lot of people felt sorry for me, thinking I had no choice but to live out of my car and I was offered couches and guest bedrooms on a daily basis; they couldn't understand that I made the choice to do this. There were those who thought I went crazy and became a nomadic recluse and they were probably right. I spent most of my free time at the beach and parks in the morning and at coffee shops and bars at night writing alone. It was during the moments of solitude when I was with my pen and paper that I felt like my life had a purpose. I wasn't depressed or going through some sort of quarter life crisis, I was on a journey to write, and I would soon find out what exactly I was looking for out of this quest.

For the longest time I wanted to write a post apocalyptic, military, zombie movie but I found myself saying "It's been done before".  In my quest to write something different I wrote treatment after treatment finding nothing that I could ever settle on. It wasn't until one night that an idea would seem to spark out of no where. I actually remember this moment very clearly considering the amount of alcohol I consumed. I was drinking the cheapest beer on tap in a cheesy sports bar that I am now embarrassed to admit was the birthplace of Delta Zulu. I don't remember why I walked into this bar in the first place; it wasn't a creative place at all, in fact I think I went into the bar to get away from a long day of writing and maybe chat it up with one of the scantly clad waitresses who wore sexy referee uniforms. The imagination has no prejudice, your next big idea can come in any environment and you'd be a fool to not write it down. I immediately started penning down the mental vomit that was spilling out of my head and onto a napkin. Five beers and ten napkins later I had Delta Zulu..

When a good idea hits you, you know it. If you've ever felt the immediate sensation of burning instinct run through your nerves then you know it.  Nothing else matters except putting the pen to the paper and putting the words on the Final Draft document. I wrote up a general treatment, I flushed out a couple key characters that would tell our story, and when I thought the time was ready I brought the idea to my 4 closest friends who also happened to be filmmakers. This team of four would sit at the driver seat of my first feature film idea. Now try to imagine a bus being driven by four drivers at once, horrible idea right? Being a loser living out of his car this seemed like one of the best ideas ever.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Delta Zulu Chronicles - Prologue

"See, this is why you can't have nice things." - Cody Cohen, Delta Zulu Technical Advisor.

I am a professional failure. Throughout my whole entire life I've always been one with big dreams and high aspirations but I constantly left a dusted trail of failures behind me. At a young age I discovered the art of cinema and I knew immediately that film making was the career I wanted to spend the rest of my life failing at. Fresh into college I started professionally failing immediately by dropping out of the Television and Film program at San Diego State University. Shortly after I would start one unfinished project after the other. Finally at one of the pivotal moments in my professional failing career I would give birth to the greatest failure of my young adult life, a film that was called Delta Zulu. Delta Zulu was a film that seemed like every independent filmmakers dream project that looked one hundred percent legit on paper. Only a professional failure like me could bring a movie like Delta Zulu to a pile of dust that would be blown away and soon forgotten like every other unfinished indy film. Watching something that you've literally poured your blood, sweat, jizz, and tears into painfully melt away in front of you is a hard thing to bear when you're a twenty-five year old failure. But as a professional failure this is what I work for... and live for. The professional failure is used to watching his dreams disappear in front of his face, and he is used to the sting of defeat and criticism from his peers. He relishes these feelings and charges these moments of demoralization because that is what he lives for. Some may say that he gets a sense of satisfaction from these moments of absolute failure, but that is the mark of a true professional failure. 

When I first moved to Los Angeles I was a closet pro failure, until I realized that I was finally amongst my people. In L.A. you learned to wear your failures like medals' of honor. Those who told  the war stories of long lost passion projects, were legendary heroes. This made me realize that being a failure was an essential part of being a professional artist. Some of them eventually became successful and showed us that there was light at the end of the tunnel for those who endured and got lucky. I found when I started telling my own war story, of Delta Zulu, it would captivate quite the audience.

The story of Delta Zulu would always start off with me trying to pitch my unfinished movie as sort of some last bastion of hope for my ego. When the conversation finally steered itself to the question of where the final product was, I always found myself telling the real story behind Delta Zulu. I didn't tell them a story about mercenaries fighting zombies and renegades in post apocalyptic Los Angeles. I told them the story about a group of aspiring filmmakers who had their dreams crushed when all odds were against them on their feature film debut. I found that the listeners of each story always preferred the story behind of the making of Delta Zulu; it was filled with much more drama and better characters than it's fictional counterpart. People seemed to love to hear the story of my failure as much as I loved talking it. It was very therapeutic. I discovered that people didn't necessarily love hearing about my failure, instead they enjoyed hearing the story of someone who tried to do something they believed in. Commonly I get the question if I would do it again if I had the chance, and the answer always is, "In a heart beat."

I have learned that being an artist is to be a failure, but one that never gives up. This is the story of one of my ultimate failures, my attempt to make a feature film called Delta Zulu with a rag tag crew of fresh faced filmmakers and a fist full of high interest credit cards. Many probably think that reliving this low point in my life probably tears away at my heart each time I tell the story, but in actuality I can't help but to laugh to myself even when I remember it privately in my day dreams.

As a writer I feel it is my duty to be as honest with you as possible. The stories I'll be telling are from my perspective and to my best recollection. The following is a real story about real people and isn't meant to portray anybody in a negative tone. I apologize if this blog ever gathers a lot of attention and those of you portrayed in this story feel like you weren't depicted honestly. I feel like the reason people are drawn to these true war stories is because they are real, gritty, and uncensored. I hope the readers of my story learn something for my mistakes, and you take those lessons from my failure with you onto your next adventure. Before I start this story from the beginning I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen as I share one of my greatest train wrecks. Enjoy.