Friday, November 13, 2009

Hey there!

Happy Friday the 13th! You do know why you never get blog updates from me anymore, right? It's because I moved! So this is just a friendly reminder to you awesome family members, friends and supporters to 'follow' me at my new site: otherwise know as All Things T.

I have just been able to start updating again so if do the 'follow' thing you'll get my updates- no twitter needed.

Hope you're having a fantastic day and don't forget to check out the newest episode of 'Hurtling Through Space at an Alarming Rate!' Thanks!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Home

What a year. I can't believe that a year ago next week, Michael Davies, Stephanie Thorpe and I launched our scifi webseries After Judgment and in doing so dipped our toe into this world of new media that I would now like to consider home. In less than a year, webseries and the platform upon which they exist, have become my life. I have been fortunate to have After Judgment embraced by the community and the critics; being nominated for a Streamy was such a thrill. I have been a part of two new webseries recently (as an actor) and have five new shows in development or pre-production, two of which I have written. I don't think that would have been possible if, a year ago next month, I had not launched this blog. I had no idea what I was doing or what I would write about but I knew that it would challenge me to define my own voice, give me a platform to explore ideas that were meaningful to me. And so birthed All Things T.

What have been my favorite posts? Probably ones you haven't read. 'The Perfect Man is a Vampire', 'Creativity', 'The Trade Off', 'It's a Bird, It's an Invisible Plane...' and probably my first post, which was untitled. I didn't know who was going to read them and I didn't really care (analytics aren't my forte), but what ultimately mattered was that I finally had a place to give my thoughts (and feelings) free reign and articulate them in a way that felt natural. I've found that I'm fairly personal, passionate and idealistic in the way I write and like to use 'asides' (as my Gemini brain often likes to comment on what I am thinking- it's like a Brecht play) and that format was never one that I could previously adhere to in college or even my early attempts at screenwriting. So it would always make me smile when someone would tell me how much they liked my writing style and how specific 'my voice' was; I'm just writing how I think! The feedback that I most treasure, however, is the occasional email or facebook post telling me that I have inspired someone. I hope that doesn't sound conceited (as I actually sat here for a few minutes figuring out what I should follow that sentence with, and that never happens), but I guess these comments make the countless hours that I put into a post worthwhile.

I am inspired daily by people, by a lot of you new media peeps who are reading this now. We are in the trenches are we not? Trying to climb up onto the other side where our content is valued and our risk is rewarded. We are redefining what it means to be a creative storyteller; master of our own destiny has a new meaning as we can control the idea all the way through to the distribution of it. We can also control our 'brand', how we are perceived and 'consumed' by our audience and our virtual communities, through our avatars, postings, blogs. Or at least we can try to. I may post a lot about my love of scifi and being a badass babe in training, but my real brand is 'my voice', the one that I have developed here on this blog, the one that has given me the courage to really go after the professional career that I can now envision, the journey of which I'd like for you to be able to join me on.

And so the voice has a wonderful new home. The uber talented principals at EQAL, Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried, have been kind enough to host the new and improved All Things T site on their exciting new Umbrella platform. My new site will connect all the dots: All Things T blog posts, my Twitter and Facebook communities (soon YouTube), webseries and acting updates, videos, pictures, you name it! And the best part is that there is a forum where users can be a part of it all; each post I make will have a forum in which people can foster discussions, thus hopefully letting us each inspire each other (but be constructive as I am a lethal weapon). So this will be my last post here at Blogger. I'm a little nostalgic as I've been on such an amazing journey this past year, and I can see it reflected in what and how I wrote, but it's time to get off the interstate and make my own tracks. So thank you for reading and supporting my blog and I hope that my new home is one you will come over often to.

Be back soon....but at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thinking of Blue Skies...

Today is a day of reflection for most. Where were you, how did you first hear, what were the first images you saw? I remember it vividly: the early telephone call, the assurance that my brother was OK, then the hours spent on a sofa in a western Canadian city far removed from the chaos, but still sharing the same glorious blue sky on a perfect yet perfectly devastating day.

It seems strange to access those memories, almost like an emotional recall acting exercise; I am really not a fan of 'going to those places' but it makes for a better performance. Okay, yes, now I'm remembering...but I'd rather not share. I'm sure you all have your own painful and confusing memories, and they are personal. One memory, however, I will share. It took place the next day. My parents were still away and I was sitting at my father's desk on his computer, watching the tiny Sony 13 inch TV he had resting on a small console by the window that framed the sky and an ocean view. I spent a lot of time in that office. It was dusk on the night of the 12th, and the CNN cameras were locked on the smoldering wreckage, the frame stationary; the shattered base of the towers bringing enough energy and movement to the screen that a pan or a zoom was unnecessary. I remember so clearly thinking, as the true horror of the spectacle was setting in, that things would never be the same. I couldn't fathom, for the life of me, how I could ever experience life through the same pair of eyes. I sat there, trying to make sense of that strong, complicated thought and I couldn't. I just knew it to be true.

Now I sit at a different desk in front of my own computer, with a different view of the same brilliant blue sky and a much bigger TV. Looking back, what are those things that I thought wouldn't be the same? No doubt our sense of security at home and abroad, politics, the economy, travel and obviously New York City itself. Those things have all played out. We now get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time and expect to see one of those Homeland Security leaflets in our rollie suitcase. We're conditioned to keep our eyes open for 'suspicious activity' as we are no longer oblivious to the hatred that exists towards this country and our way of life. We demand more transparency and accountability of our government, hold them to a higher standard if you will, and the new President is thankfully a shining example of such. We've weathered storm after storm of economic turmoil, the most recent shaking this and other countries to their core. Most significantly though, the effects of that devastating day shattered the shiny veneer that was our way of life. Because it really was just a veneer, a fancy piece of fake mahogany that was glued to a foundation of porous particle board. We had existed in a vacuum for too long, oblivious to the discontent; our shaky foundation had held up longer than it should have.

What about those other things though, the intangibles that I felt had already changed the moment the devastation began? Joy...Hope...Love...Grief. Were we relegated to feeling paler shades of grey instead of black because no personal experience could be as grievous as 9/11? And on the same hand, was it was inappropriate and perhaps impossible to ever feel incredible joy and happiness again? How could we have hope when the cards seemed stacked against us, and all it seemed that we could do was hope to survive? I struggled with emotions -what I naturally wanted to feel in a moment versus what I felt I should- because of how my brain would contextualize my own situation. I was lucky, blessed even. I had lost no one I knew but countless others had, so I had to honor their pain, and a country's. The ash seemed everywhere.

Today, that dusty grey remnant of the Towers, the Pentagon and flight 93 have been swept up by the wind and taken out to sea, or swept under the rug, depending on how you look at it. But regardless, we humans have proven to be quite the survivors. We adapted. We adapted to all the changes that took place around us, and though it seemed frustrating at first, we handled it and now accept our new reality, hopefully with a keener sense of understanding and perception. And as history has proven again and again, our hearts and souls have healed. Time dulls the pain, opens the door slowly to joy, until one day you feel whole again. Our capacity to feel love, to connect to others, to dream, is both mind boggling and awe inspiring to me. It so much more than neuro-receptors and the amygdala section of the brain.

In surviving, we had and still have the chance, even the responsibility to forge ahead. Don't you want to make something out of your life, leave a mark on society for the better, like right now? I know I do, and think I have finally found my unique path in which I can do so. I also, however, am reminded today how important it is to leave a mark on the people around you, the people that are your family and friends, and you can do that simply by sharing your love. It is our spiritual duty and our great gift. We have such capacity for love and such capacity for hatred. Let us chose the former. No man is an island.

I started out this post because I was going to link in the one year anniversary of a certain metamorphosis that took place a year ago tomorrow for me and all that has transpired since. It seems trivial now, in the context of today's memorial and the personal exploration I have done in writing this post. Perhaps I will write about it tomorrow as the past year has truly been life changing. But perhaps I wouldn't have been able to go through with that symbolic change if I hadn't had my eyes opened 8 years ago. Perhaps. So I sit here, thinking, grateful for what I have, focused yet idealistic on what is to come and reflective on what was.

Take the day to honor those lost and those that fight. And most importantly, honor your humanity and your capacity for love. It is a gift.

Be back soon,

All Things T

Monday, August 24, 2009

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

"I was sustained by one piece of inestimable good fortune. I had for a friend a man of immense and patient wisdom and a gentle but unyielding fortitude.

I think that if I was not destroyed at this time by the sense of hopelessness which these gigantic labors has awakened in me, it was largely because of the courage and patience of this man.

I did not give in because he would not let me give in."

Thomas Wolfe

Good thing I don't have due dates on these blog posts because seriously, I never know what my next topic is going to be until it hits me (usually when there is some serious physical distance between myself and my computer or the shower makes it difficult to type a note on my iphone). And the idea is almost always the result of a random conversation that, in the moment, seemed, well, like any regular conversation but somehow the next day it morphs into a platform for thought. Not to dissuade you, fair reader, from hiring me as a writer (as you'll be giving me topics to mull over and muse on if you happen to be in a position to do so) but I don't want to waste anyone's time by reviewing District 9 or writing about my food journal. Wait I do that. Sorry. But I really only try to twitter out that posts that are either embarrassing or fun (usually involving pictures of stealthy bad ass babes.)

So back to my point. It is usually through that nifty interpersonal activity called talking that I get the light bulb moment that inspires me to write. This time it was when a friend bemoaned a number of bad business decisions that she had made at her last job. "If only I had had someone to tell me that I should have signed that actor. I didn't know! I was just sitting there trapped in my closet of an office doing things as best I could on my own." There are a lot of other things that she regretted that I won't repeat, and her office was definitely bigger and infinitely better decorated than a closet, but the root of the conversation kept pointing back towards one definitive thing, her lack of a mentor. She was at a fantastic company, at least it seemed like one if you waited in the post modern chic lobby sipping your Americano, but her office might as well have been in Siberia for all the inter-office support she received as a junior manager. The corporate culture supported competition and secrecy; co-workers clashed about projects and clients as if collaboration was a dirty word. And there was no effective farm system to train the young associates; they either made it off of a desk or they didn't. And once they were promoted, they either learned how to swim or they sank. (Cue 'Swimming with Sharks' clip) Oh, old Hollywood. How I don't miss you.

No one doubts the value of a mentor so why do so few of us have one these days? Musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, creatives in general throughout history have looked to an elder for guidance and inspiration. Even well known artists of this decade admit to being mentored: Oliver Stone was mentored by Marty Scorsese at NYU, poet Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey. But in looking at my peers and contemporaries (both in corporate and artistic fields), either in traditional Hollywood or New Media, I don't see it (and if you do, skip to the bottom and just leave a comment ;-p)

The word mentor was first used in the Odyssey when Odysseus left his son under the charge of Mentor whilst he partook on his epic journey (and then the proper noun turned into a verb, but that is for another post, not to be written by me) so it's been around for a while. Given, us modern day whiz kids have access to information and inspiration any moment we chose by clicking on our Safari browser (Odysseus' son nor the majority of famous mentor/protege pairs had the interwebs to learn from) but I see such value in having someone take a personal interest in your career. Believe it or not (and I know some of you out there don't think people do anything that is not in their own self interest), these mentors did it because they wanted to and someone probably did for them. "Every student deserves to be treated as a potential genius." Anton Ehrenzweig said it well.

Perhaps that is why Seth Godin or Tony Robbins are so popular because they offer up a wide brushstroke of guidance, through their seminars and books, that is lacking in the work force. It's not tailored to you specifically though. The life and executive coaching sectors are certainly expanding but that is still a business transaction; the coach is helping you because you pay them to. Why is it that people aren't simply helping each other out anymore? And during this time of economic crisis and change, the need for this, the need for a mentor, is even stronger. But there in lies the problem. What would our potential mentors be mentoring us on...if everything is changing.

So I pull focus back to my own industry and the specific landscape that I inhabit: that of content creation and the attempt to monetize it on the web.. There is a fantastic article in Wired about 'Socialism' and the intellectual collectivism that is elevating the internet to a cyberland where we, as a society, benefit from sites like Wikipedia, operating systems like Linux and 'free' restaurant recommendations (from all the people that took the time to write a review) on Yelp. I would like to think that our web community is an offshoot of that idea; that the creative members of our space are a supportive community that often work to simply to elevate the original web content landscape, or within the context of my mentorship topic, help someone out...just for the sake of helping.

But here's the thing. How can someone be my mentor in the digital space, how can they 'help me out', when we are both struggling to monetize our own content, create an active and interactive audience around our own shows and be abreast on all new technological developments that affect the space that we distribute via so we can make a successful living at this? Is there one digital company that has 'cracked the code' yet? Nope. Regardless of the VC that does or does not back us, we are all at the precipice of big change and all of us are guestimating the outcome. So, if we are technically competitors then how can we foster a mentor/ protege environment? By changing the vertical nature of that relationship and re-examining competition.

I have always believed that that the sum of this industry is much greater than the individual parts. Gennefer Snowfield wrote a great article for on this topic called 'The Only Competition for Webseries is UnAwareness' where she posited that 'the underlying issue isn't competition (between series) but discoverability' thus content creators, especially those creating series within a similar genre, should band together and cross promote each other's shows, not consider each other competitors. Out of that article and subsequent twitter conversation spawned The Scifi Collective. Still waiting to hear what exactly that is, but between it and the soon to launch SciFinal site (where original scifi web content will have an awesome home) we're on the right path in joining our powers.

We also all got our starts in different sectors: entertainment, technology, law, etc but have landed in this upstart sector together because we see the opportunity to be a pioneer. Even if we can't foster a traditional mentoring relationship, like say Bob Evans had with his mentor Darryl Zanuck as Mr. Zanuck was the head of 20th Century Fox and Mr. Evans was a producer who aspired to such (ended up becoming the head of Paramount), we can each look to each other's strengths. The fact that we all didn't start in the UTA mailroom is a GOOD thing.

I have experienced nothing but support and kudos since stepping onto this quickly changing landscape. It's the first time that I didn't have to limit my identify to one field: I'm just an actor, I'm just a web producer or I'm just a writer. In the web community, I'm all of the above because I have to be. Being a multi-faceted creative is a fiscal necessity because of the budgets that we must deal with in this space, but in being such, we are setting ourselves up to reap the rewards when those budgets become bigger, when Madison Avenue has faith in the space or the web subscription model takes off (?). So what do we need to do to make certain this happens? BE BETTER. I need to be a better writer, a more knowledgeable producer, a more savvy salesman (I think my acting is pretty cool but you never know). I can learn from media blogs, conferences and articles as much as I can, but I can ultimately learn more from you. Would you be my mentor? I would be happy to be yours as well.

Be back soon.

All Things T

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meeting the Master

Greetings non-alien friends! It's been a week since
I published my Operation B.A.B.E. post- I don't quite feel like an alien fighting, action hero yet, what with a lingering cold, achy knee and a stubborn scale, BUT I know I'm on the right track and am definitely focused (with the help of @rudy) so follow me on Tumblr if you're interested in tracking my attempts at transforming into a bonified Riplesque action star.

Now, on to a fun All Things T segment we'll call Storytime with T:

Check out this letter I just found on my computer!!

Dear Joss,Well, first off…

Dear fabulous assistant to Joss, please allow this note to pass to him. It is brief, and besides me being an actor I am not crazy and I was an assistant at William Morris for a year and a half out of college so I know what you deal with and that you can just choose to not throw this away and put it in his inbox. Please? I appreciate it.

Ok- Dear Joss,I’m already running out of room…This little letter has been a long time coming…my agents and managers always dissuade me from doing any personal letter
writing- they think it is intrusive and desperate- but this is important:
You need to meet me because I could be your Diana Prince.
It happens that I am a huge fan of yours- yes, a Buffy devotee- but for the past year I have been surrounded by the same phrase upon people meeting me- ‘Wow- you should be the next Wonder Woman…’ I hear it all the time from casting directors to a person on the street. What does that mean? That I just really look like a young Linda Carter or do I possess that certain WW presence? Well I know that I’m supposed to play a strong, mythic character in my life and I know that I need to tell big, high stakes stories in my work so I think it’s both. I know my agent in Vancouver and other contacts here in LA say they are keen to put me on someone’s radar if unknowns are considered but what’s the chance of that? Plus, only I can relay to you the passion
that I have for acting and storytelling and
how the universe just keeps pushing me to contact you. I don’t know what happens next, but I promise you that our paths should somehow cross. Thank you so much for reading my little note.

Sincerely, Taryn O’Neill (


Yup, seriously! I wrote and sent this letter to Joss Whedon in the summer of 2007 after I learned he was writing the new Wonder Woman movie. I honestly believed that I was going to find a way to get myself in front of him. I rented all the old Wonder Woman episodes and even wrote a short script based off of the more dramatic episodes (I just found that document too but it's not registered so no you can't read it). But sadly Joss dropped off the project a few months later, and no, I never heard anything from him (I enclosed a postcard headshot along with the letter). But I really did send the letter, and I had completely forgotten about it until last night.

Cut to Comic Con last month:

I met him! I met Joss Whedon! And he couldn’t have been more un-enthused. Given, I had a little bit of liquid courage in me, via a few sake helpings that I had had during my lunch at the Hard Rock, but upon spotting him and Eliza (Dushku) in the lobby, I just knew that I had to introduce myself; I mean 'After Judgment' had been up against ‘Dr. Horrible’ for a Streamy, so I had the right. Hmmm, maybe I was actually intoxicated, and not just feeling warm and fuzzy, as Joss looked at me as if I were speaking German. I know I told him my name, what show I worked on, that I was upset at not meeting him at the Streamy’s thus wanting to introduce myself, and that I was a huge Buffy fan (and after a few seconds said Dollhouse too). Joss smiled, said 'thank you', there was an ackward beat and then I professed how nice it had been meeting him and turned on my heels and spead towards the bathroom.

Oy! I actually think I’m upping the drama a teensy bit in the re-telling of my encounter as it couldn't have been as uncomfortable as I made it out to be, but then again, a few hours later, I met someone who thought that Joss would have been very chatty with me, as apparently I’m his type. Apparently not that day! Ugh.

But something else this other person said colored my experience in a unique way. He said that Joss’ script for Wonder Woman had sucked. I'm sorry WHAT!?! He said that it was just a rehashing of Buffy characters and read like a Buffy episode. Hmmm, Joss, someone who I dare say I idolize, wrote a bad script? (*this is of course one person's opinion*) He couldn’t crack the Wonder Woman riddle of how to re-interpret the comic material to make it worthy of a big screen adaptation without seeming dated and hokey? Maybe he’s not perfect after all.

And maybe he was a little intimidated by this feisty, slightly inebriated brunette in Wonder Womanesque boots who grabbed his arm, yammered feverishly and then left. Maybe he is as overwhelmed by the main convention floor and the thousands of comics, of fantastical stories and mythologies that already exist, wondering why do I even bother, there are so many talented writer/creators out there already, as I was. Maybe.

So I'm not going to put Joss onto that pedestal anymore; well maybe not one so high. He was indeed the one who created a TV show that I lived and breathed, Buffy. He created a tangible world that revolved around a strong, conflicted and unique female character that I deeply connected with. It was almost as though it was through this show (and Alias) that I could come to terms with the fact that I never quite felt normal as a girl- didn't have the same impulses and desires of other people of my gender to settle down, have kids, lead a normal life. There was nothing normal about Buffy Summers (or Sydney Bristow), either who they were or what they did...and they were fierce (hence the Operation BABE). The character and the show woke me up and may be one of the reasons that I write today. But as for Joss, I don't know what moves him, drives him to write. But I know he reads WIRED for inspiration, exactly like I do. So instead of dwelling in the doldrums about my lackluster first date with Joss, I rallied the way I always do, I get to work, something I always do when feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. I will work with Joss one day, I have no doubt, but it will be a collaboration in some fashion. I believe that I too can create fantastical, thought provoking, moving worlds that people want to visit. Because what my meeting with Joss and The Con gave me, besides aching feet and a perma-grin, was a reminder that we all start out on the same playing field, we all start out as fans.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I think this is why I love doesn't let me get away with anything. Namely my Gemini tendencies of coming up with a great idea and then losing interest in it a month, a week or even a day later, especially if I'm working on it solo. But with Twitter, I have a team! I put it out there and the twitterverse gets hold of it, creates momentum, takes it to a new level and then keeps me accountable for the follow through. Yikes! But also, very cool. We ARE champions of our own destiny but that doesn't mean anything if we don't act on our dreams.

So let's get to the point- Operation B.A.B.E.

B(adass) A(lien) B(ody) E(ndeavor)

Here's my tweet:

Yup, that's right. I'm going to pretend (ie. act, which is what I'm trained and experienced in doing anyway) that I am up for the lead role in the upcoming Ridley Scott directed prequel to 'Alien', where to do the role of Ripley justice (or whatever form that role is re-written into), I will have to be a lean, mean alien fighting machine. With cleavage (let's be honest). So I have decided to document/journal/blog about my training, my periodic results, articles and tips that I find to help the process along, and most importantly my personal and professional discoveries.

But first, before I go (to the gym no doubt), what was the genesis of this Tweet you ask and what were the responses that lead me to take this single thought and turn it into an Operation? Well I was coming back from the gym, bemoaning the strict diet and exercise regime that I was just starting to shed the excess pounds that I have put on as of late (due to vacation, writing for long hours, Comic Con and a few episodes of day drinking with my girls and evening out with my hubby) when I read a tweet from @Whedonesque. It basically said that Eliza Dushku was's first choice to play a young Ripley in the recently announced 'Alien Prequel'. Umm, why should Eliza get to play such a kickass role? Just because she is hot, ripped and can kick some ass? Well hell yes! She may not hold a candle to Signourney Weaver in the acting category (sorry Eliza fans, but maybe after she has more meaty roles under her belt and some theatre?, but maybe not even then) but do you know what? She already looks the part, she walks the part...and that my friends, is half the battle. So I took a moment and then tweeted the above. Because when it comes down to it, Ripley is the type of character that I want to play as an actress. It's why I got into this messy business to begin with: I know I look like a normal gal, but underneath it all, I feel anything but normal: I feel like a misunderstood badass. I started martial arts training years ago because I connected with 'Buffy', I pulled every string to audition for 'Alias'. And as many of you know, I believe I am secretly an Amazon and actually started writing because I attempted to write a Wonder Woman short that would get me an audition with Joss (but that's another story). In a nutshell, I want to play kick ass, life or death defying I better be able to look like one.

The response I got from friends and strangers alike was no less than awesome.

My favorite?:

If this doesn't get you motivated then what the hell does?! Plus, more importantly, I had tweets from people who said that I had motivated them to kick it up a notch themselves and aim for something big as well. Hell yeah!

So I'm going to be disciplined. I'm going to be fierce. And do it on my own- at this point anyway- without the help of food delivery service or a trainer. Because I have a mortgage and bills (but I would be happy to shoot another national commercial or sell one of my webseries- by all means). And I'm going to keep track of it over at my brand new Tumblr blog:

So, see you on the other side...guns blazing!

And kick some ass people.

All Things T

Thursday, July 30, 2009

James Cameron, Would You Like to Date My Avatar?

San Diego, CA

July 23rd, 2009

Convention Center

Int. Hall H

(Zoe Saldana has just introduced Felicia Day to James Cameron...)

“Hello Codex, a pleasure to meet a fan as always, and aren’t you a sprightly thing.”

“Well actually my real name is Felicia but hello King of the World, I mean Mr. Cameron. It’s an honor meeting you. Your 'Avatar' clip was quite the visceral experience.”

“Wasn’t it? Didn’t you feel completely immersed in the world of Pandorum and the Na’vi?”

“Yup, totally felt like I was right there, fluorescent plants and 10 ft. tall blue avatars and all.”

“Excellent! Plus, I’m also trying to make a meaningful film about respecting our planet.”

“Wow, really? Cool. Have you seen 'The Guild'?”

“The what? Oh is that your web show? (Felicia nods) Well no, I’m sorry but have been a little immersed in making the next earth shattering film that exceeds 'Titanic' in both emotional resonance and aesthetic achievement.”

“Wow that’s cast and I just want to defeat Kael’Thas, he’s a frakking tough mob boss. And we also want to entertain our amazing fans. We made a music video about Dating our Avatar- did you hear about it? Really awesome, one of the Whedon brothers directed it and Sandeep got to rap.”

“Well that sounds lovely, look forward to checking that out one day. Maybe you’ll get a panel here next year."

“Oh we did, it was sold out.”

“Really? Well mine too of course. But great to hear and good luck to you and your show”.

“Yup, you too JC, Look forward to wearing some nifty 3-D glasses when you premiere in Dec.
By the way I think Zoe would make a great Wonder Woman..."

(Not that James Cameron has anything to do with Wonder Woman, that's Joel Silver)

Fade to Black.

Obviously this is nothing like what a meeting between James Cameron and Felicia Day would be like (or what it would look like in Final Draft). And I apologize if my description of either the Avatar screening or the WoW jargon (and Felicia’s use of ‘frakking’) was off as I a) couldn’t get into Hall H during the Con thus did not see the 'Avatar' footage and b) am not a WoW player (and googled WoW highest level and found that there are no levels?) so I used creative research to add a tinge of semi-authentic detail to the exchange. But why the fictitious exchange at all? Because it illustrates an epiphany that I had upon leaving The Con. I suddenly realized that Hollywood’s sparkling gem, their biggest spectacle teased during the convention, the future of entertainment itself, the 3-D movie, is just trying to do what 'The Guild' already does: make the audience feel like they are a part of the show.

It’s crazy when you think about it? Really good web content is such because it is interactive. 3-D movies are special because they take you out of the two dimension viewing experience and bring you into the aesthetic world of the story. Both mediums are aspiring to the same thing-to create a heightened emotional experience, thus bond, with the narrative and characters…but only one is authentic. Both are immersive, one is interactive.

What does interactive really mean? It’s such a buzz word amongst web producers as creating an immersive and permeable world around your show is the holy grail (and apparently something that is monetizable). Finding a clear, non-contested definition of the word is actually a little difficult but I like the following definitions:

-Interactional: capable of acting on or influencing each other
-Any type of media that allows the user to influence and react to it.

Another definition that isn’t pertaining to media but nonetheless has an interesting implication is this:

-Synergistic: used especially of drugs or muscles that work together so the total effect is greater than the sum of the two (or more).

Greater than the sum of the two. Isn't 'The Guild' reflective of that thought? Two Seasons of episodes + Fans doesn't simply yield the intense success that has befallen the show. Something else happened here (above and beyond favorable YouTube placement and ICM), something I can only attribute to the initial fan involvement in Season 1; the fans became veritable, vested producers. As most of you know, fan donations allowed for Season 1 production to continue; the show would have ceased production if it were not for the well clicked PayPal button. Yes, the niche fan base was already there because of the WoW tie in and Felicia’s name, but it was a good show, something not embraced by the mainstream Hollywood machine (as it originally a TV pilot) and they supported not only with their comments but with their credit cards. And Felicia and her team acknowledged these donors (both on the site and by thank you notes apparently) and thus valued them . This initial infusement of money allowed the show to continue, then flourish and finally find the wide and fervent fan base it now has. Look where the show is at- deals with Xbox/ Microsoft (which means Yahoo now too?), sold out panels and signings at Comic Con, Wil Wheaton now a cast member of the 3rd season. All because Felicia, Kim Evey and Sean Becker made a great show that fans found they could actually be an integral part of. They could comment, converse and even contribute. (The pic above can be found at this fan's blog)

Which brings us back to the 3-D spectacles of Hollywood. Competition for your entertainment dollar is at it’s peak, with the recession hitting everyone’s pocketbook and myriad narrative products vying for your attention. Plus our ability to accept visual spectacle is evolving exponentially. Our brains have adapted to processing special effects/CGI so we aren't particularly wow'ed when we see Los Angeles being destroyed by a massive earthquake due to the 2012 Mayan End Date or the Eiffel Tower crumpling to the ground because of some weird green energy lasso. But when we first saw dinosaurs in 'Jurassic Park', didn’t your jaw drop? Mine did, and my heart soared with the experience. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Now I take it for granted. The 3-D jump aspires to put the audience back into that place of awe, where movie going is special and moving and new. 'Coraline' and 'Up' had that effect on me. But the effect will soon fade.

Wanting to connect with other fans, and with the creative product itself will not fade, however. That’s what makes Comic Con such a viable platform for Hollywood to premiere its new products on. The fans are clamouring to have an interactive piece of the movies, stars and directors that they are fans of. Comic Con is really the only chance where die hard fans will be guaranteed geographic access to their heroes, maybe even have the opportunity to engage in a quick question and answer session with. If that fan/ Hollywood star/ filmmaker interactive experience is authentic and exciting, then thousands of fans at the panel will spread the seeds and viral word of mouth takes off. But that’s where the interaction ends. Instant gratification for the fan, but short lived.

So this is our chance. This is our chance as web content creators and pioneers of the digital entertainment space to embrace the opportunity of creating stories and worlds where fans are a valued and viable component. Let's step away from producing TV lite and move towards creating the best narrative experiences that we can possibly film, and then acknowledge that that is only one part of the equation.

Be back soon,

All Things T

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's in a name...

My brain feels like a newborn solar system. I have so much flying around on different orbits and trajectories: planets, moons, sightings of an occasional gamma ray blast from afar, a solar flare and a few asteroids keeping things interesting (and dangerous) all circling the center point that is my sun. And as often happens, at least in sci fi, a comet just hit an asteroid and caused it to change course. I was going to explore my two competing interpretations of ABC (Glengarry Glen Ross reference for those of you non-Mamet peeps) stemming from a chaotic week of brain churning panels at NATPE, an unexpected (and ill-fated) audition and an important week of writing- but hold that discussion. I'm watching a battle. No, not the battle to save the earth from the Asteroid (!) but a battle between David and Goliath, the man and the machine, the indie innovator and big media. To Syfy or not to Syfy...that is the question.

A lot of discourse has flooded my twitter timelines over the past few months about the name change from Sci Fi Channel to Syfy, a transition that occurred this past Tuesday. Did it really bother me at all or give me pause during the day to reflect on it (except the ill-fated timing of the roll over being on the same day as Michael Jackson's funeral)? Nope- I am a Sci Fi Channel fan but I'm really busy trying to create my own sci fi content, so if the icon on the bottom of my screen is a bit different, I'm not going to pay much attention to it. But discussions have continued to pop up revealing that many people feel very strongly about the name change. Why? Well from some posts it looks like it is basically being taken as a 'diss' by the authentic science fiction fans. That changing the name of the channel to a word that sounds the same but looks different is straddling both sides of the fence; the channel wants to retain it's hard core sci fi fans but not be off putting to potential viewers who might shy away from such associations. Maybe it is a diss but the reasons behind, it in my humble opinion, are valid, at least from a commerce point of view. NBC/Universal, the behemoth that owns the channel, wants to be able to control the copyright to the name. When someone Googles a 'Sci Fi show', unlike a TNT show or a TBS show, the genre, not just the channel results are posted. NBC/Universal also wants to be able to own the name for purposes of branding and merchandizing. Though the idea of someone buying a Syfy t-shirt who is not a sci fi fan is befuddling, what I think this issue gives rise to, on the eve of our most hallowed of events (Comic Con), is the disenchantment and disenfranchisement of the science fiction fan. We don't have a home of our own- no planet to speak of that is just ours.

The Science Fiction Channel (later changed to it's abbreviation) was birthed as an offshoot of the USA Network when it was owned by both Paramount and Universal. Both studios had libraries of science fiction content that found a natural home on the new channel and apparently Issac Asimov was even on the board. Original scripted content on cable channels didn't exist. And check out the wikipedia entry. Do you see how many times the ownership of the channel or its parent company changed? I'm suprised that the channel lived to see today. It did continue to be a natural home for network or premium cable genre shows in their second run. Then original content started popping up and Sci Fi had first run programming though low cost productions- like 'The Invisible Man' and 'The Outer Limits'- which were produced outside 'the circle' of Los Angeles. But primarily, Sci Fi Channel was a syndication landing strip for sci fi/ fantasy/ horror series and movies that had been deficit financed by other networks so needed to recoup their costs and ultimately hope to make a profit. For us fans of sci fi, it just meant that we knew to click on the channel if we were looking for something sci fi to watch on Saturday at 3pm or 1am on a Sunday as it is now.

But then the channel was forced to grow as the TV model changed. The syndication model was no longer effective in bringing viewers, thus advertising dollars, to a stand alone cable channel. The DVD release of TV series, one not regulated in its rollout 'window' like feature films, made watching 2nd run programming practically obsolete as the content was now available, on demand, in the palm of your hand (in the form of a DVD). Channels had to create original, unique programming to catch the attention of audiences so that the channel would become a destination. A great example of that in recent years is AMC. Would you ever think to click to that channel and see what was on if it had not been for 'Mad Men'? My image of that channel was akin to that of Turner Movie Classics, old movies, in black and white, probably introduced by some old TV star. But now, because of Matthew Weiner's brilliant show, I am hyper aware of the channel and will take notice of its schedule. So, original programming became the mandate. Over a matter of the past ten years this has become the norm, over the past five years, the fare has become top notch, edgy comedy and dramas started butting heads with the likes of the 'West Wing' at the Emmys. Do you remember when you were shocked as opposed to complacent about your cable programming being as good or better than network fare? USA Today reports today that network numbers are down double digits this summer because of strong cable fare. This doesn't surprise me as shows like 'Burn Notice', 'Royal Pains', 'True Blood' and 'Nurse Jackie' are at the top of my TiVo list.

Cable has competed effectively with the networks in scripted comedy and drama fare. But how do you compete when your product is sci fi? You don't, you can't, it's too expensive to produce unless you have the support of massive ad campaign or two. And come to think of it, you aren't even competing against sci fi original fare on network TV, as it rarely survives, you are competing against movies, often hundred million dollar ones. Most great science fiction will forever stay within the pages of a book or comic as the resources are just not there to support the transference of it into a live action filmed product. So we settle for hybrids. Tried and true story and characters arcs that are set in a semi sci-fi setting, dusted with fairy dust. That way this product can someone appeal to the masses even if they have no idea who Neil Gaiman is or what the Singularity refers to.

So what does this mean for the newly rebranded Syfy channel. Apparently the image one conjures when hearing the word Sci Fi is that of a geeky, overweight fan boy who resides in his parents basement playing WoW, with no steady income. Really still? Didn't anyone read my evolution of geek post? But apparently that stereotype is still alive and well. And Syfy didn't want to be solely identified with that specific audience, even as its numbers were growing, for fear (I'm assuming) of alienating potential brand sponsors. Plus, much of their viewership growth can be attributed to the popularity of their non sci fi programming, such as 'Ghost Hunters', 'Wrestling' and 'Scare Tactics'. They also have a growing mainstream audience base (including females) that responds to it's quirkier scifi comedy fare, that of 'Eureka' (I'm a fan), it's new sister show Warehouse 13 (I'm a potential fan if they expand upon the history/ mythology of the artifacts on the website and reduce the quirk factor) and its scifi fantasy lite movies. I know they are trying to umbrella this array of content under an 'Imagine Greater' motto but it's making the mistake of trying to convince the real sci fi fans that the channel is still for them. It's not, it's kinda, maybe, partially for them, sometimes.

So, what about the real sci fi fare, the mind tingling fiction that pulls us into worlds more fantastical than our own? BSG legitimized Sci Fi for a long time. It was their network competition heavy weight show (that better frakking win an Emmy this year). But now it's over and I can only imagine how nervous the network is about the 'Caprica' and 'Stargate: Universe' launch. Mass consumption, at the levels needed by corporate America, of serialized science fiction (save for the anomaly semi sci fi 'Lost') has proven to be difficult. Why didn't Syfy pick up 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles'. I assume because it was simply too expensive. Look at where most of their original shows are shot? Canada. Because the production costs are cheaper and the talent is as well. Even star names make significantly less under the SAG cable contract, ask the cast of 'Mad Men' and 'Damages'; I doubt Lena Hedley would be keen to relocate to Vancouver and take a big pay cut to keep the TSCC franchise alive. The mini-series 'Tin Man' was brought up in a discussion tonight as a highlight of SciFi's original content achievement. I have to say I never watched it, mostly because I'm actually not a fan of Zooey Deschanel, but also because when I read the script in preparation for the character I had an audition for, my take on the part, as with my read on most of the script, was intense but over the top. I actually got reprimanded by the casting director for my performance. Ironically the clip I saw of Kathleen Robertson playing the role was spot on to my audition- so go figure. And in just reviewing the show online, I believe that Sci Fi's creative team didn't know what story they really wanted to tell, thus, in a small way, 'Tin Man' parallels the evolution of Sci Fi into Syfy: it's a decent idea on paper- creating an edgy, new interpretation of a classic tale ('there's no place like home'), while appealing to broad non sci fi fan base. The result just didn't fully connect with either. Thus Syfy's name did catch up with its programming- it reflects an identity crisis.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Syfy has a strong online presence and web platform. The ancillary Syfy websites like Scifi Wire (sci fi news) and Dvice (tech) add authenticity to the sci fi portion of the brand and's new MMO game is ground breaking for a channel. The SVP, GM of Syfy's digital arm has a history rich in science fiction in the digital space. Craig Engler, someone I do follow on Twitter, founded Science Fiction Weekly, the first sci fi internet magazine (that was ultimately purchased by and worked extensively with NBC/Universal on Sci Fi's cross platform digital programming, including the BSG webisode series 'Face of the Enemy' (which *sigh* beat 'After Judgment' for the Streamy). Craig is doing a noble job of connecting with viewers through Twitter during the channel re-branding period, being accessible, answering questions and spreading news, even if it is along the party line. From his previous experience and recent achievements I think he has the goods to help shape the future of Syfy via the online community. But because the programming on Syfy is not going to change unless 'Caprica's' numbers beat 'Ghost Hunters' and Wrestling- consistently -no matter how vocal authentic sci fi fans are to bring 'Firefly' to the channel, it's an uphill battle.

What's the solution? I have an idea. Let's relaunch When you click on the site now it autodirects you to (this is expected of course). Why not re-establish it as a separate site that is rich with JUST sci fi content, thus providing a strong online community platform and destination site for sci fi fans. You can watch old episodes of 'Firefly' AND watch original sci fi content, that which is already being produced for the web. I just happen to know of a lot of really great made for web content in the sci fi genre. How great to have a destination where you can watch 'After Judgment', 'The Crew', 'Galacticast', 'Afterworld', and even the premiere of 'Artemis Eternal' on one portal solely geared towards the sci fi fan. For once, we can mobilize and show our strength as a viable, brand consuming community to the sponsors while supporting independent, sci fi content.

The Sci Fi Channel was never really ours to begin with people- we've been holding on to the name as much as we held on to BSG. We didn't want it to end, but it is time. Much like the 13 colonies survivors, we don't have a home, at least on TV...but we do have the Internet, a vast domain that we all have strong, creative influence over. We just have to mobilize... and maybe can lend a hand.

So say we all?

Be back soon.

All Things T

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Life Worth Living

It's my birthday tomorrow. This morning I found myself overwhelmed and moved to tears. No, not because I'm getting older. I actually couldn't give a rats ass about that, except for the whole biological clock thing, and that my frown lines may benefit from a touch of Botox. But regardless, I believe that if I don't care about getting older, nobody else should care. I guess that's a pretty novel idea considering I work in Hollywood. Plus I honestly feel like I'm 25, fresh out of college with the world awaiting my thumbprint. No, I didn't cry about my birthday. I watched the You Tube video of the young woman bleeding out, to her death, on the streets of Tehran. It was one of the most moving, ethereal, horrific things I have ever scene. Even though there were people screaming around her, shouting, "NO! Why?!" it was an oddly silent experience. She just lay there, looking at the camera with a sad, peaceful expression, her spirit leaving her body as rivers of blood streamed out her nose and ears. At first it didn't affect me. More like I was watching a war movie filmed indie style with no steadicam; we are so conditioned now to view graphic, horrible things with a sense of detachment. But a few minutes later, it seeped into my consciousness and I understood what I had witnessed. That's when the tears came. I couldn't figure out what to do or what to say. I just wanted to reach out and share what I had witnessed, but I didn't WANT to share it. I didn't want to link to the video as I just found it just too opportunistic to share. God forbid someone ReTweet me. And furthermore, how do I properly articulate in 140 characters how the video really made me feel, yet at the same time acknowledge that my experience from it in the grand scheme of things means absolutely nothing- as I sit in my swivel chair in front of my almost new MacBook Pro. Or does it.

A visiting friend last night talked about a conversation she had with her old boss, how she had been passionate about developing a serious film about the Middle East. Her boss apparently shook his head and said, to loosely paraphrase, that those stories were too depressing and that no one would want to see it. That memory made me think about our role here in Los Angeles, here in the entertainment capital of the world (though I think India has the money now). If Art is supposed to imitate Life, how do these momentous events affect our storytelling? The beauty of this country is that it is up to you. You can make a war movie based on a real life story, a metaphorical, scifi movie ripe with current themes, set in a dystopic future. You can make a heartfelt, quirky movie that celebrates the complexity of love, family and life ('Away We Go' sounds much like that and 'UP' was certainly effective in illuminating those themes as well). And you can just make pure entertainment, something that relieves the burden of real world trouble in a two hour time out. Regardless, you storytellers and non-storytellers alike, let it AFFECT you. Let it make you think and feel. Capture this moment where people are dying for their freedoms in moments of clarity. Do not turn your back or think that it is beyond your control. Your mere awareness will change the paradigm. And for you storytellers, take up the torch and let this changing, troubled world color your creations, augment the way your publish and share your art, as this conflict once again showcases the powerful tool that is the internet and Twitter.

For myself, I give myself the birthday present of free speech. Speech free of fear of what the other person will think, of what the ramifications will be if I believe that it should be said. Not that I won't think before I speak, the contrary would be indulgent and potentially hurtful, but I would like to embrace the gifts and freedoms that my North American upbringing has afforded me. Power and prayers to those, however, who protest in silence. May they find their way out of the dark and discover the peace and change they seek.

All Things T

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Trade-Off

I came up with a pretty nifty catch-phrase this morning: Hollywood is Hell's Greenroom...with really good snacks.  I don't know, do you like it?  Do you get it?  If you don't know what a greenroom is, google it please.  It's rarely green, but it always has snacks. 

The observation stemmed from reading Josh Friedman's blogpost about his nerve wracking and random spurts of yelling/nausea inducing experience of waiting to see if his TV show, 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' was cancelled (which it was).  I follow Josh on twitter (and saw him on a panel at Comic Con) so am cognizant of his special brand of self-depreciating humor, but the post really got to me.  Here's a talented writer (and creator of a terrific scifi show) being reduced to shreds by the process of his show getting cancelled.  It almost wasn't because his show GOT cancelled, but the de-humanizing way in which it was.  The Hollywood Way.  

Then there was part of an email exchange this morning that I had from a friend who is a multi-hyphenate creative (like me) who has a deal for his series at a major studio (unlike me).  He was responding to my question of how things were going and, in a very positive tone, said it was ridiculously challenging.  That now that he was beholden to the studio (and their money), all he and his partner were doing were re-writes, pass after pass.  This frustrates me as I read his scripts, saw the spec-pilot, all amazing!  The first 5 episodes should be shot already, not being re-written for the twelfth time. But what choice does he and his partner have?  I know them, they don't want to be couped up in an office, they want to be shooting...but they are now at the mercy of the force that is corporate Hollywood, and it's grip is deadlier than Spock's.

This is what we dream of though, no? For our work to be recognized by the power's that be, those able to pay us large sums of money to relay our creative vision to the masses?  We dream of bungalow offices and reserved parking spaces on the lot, of a tentative production start date in fall 2009.  What we don't dream of is the reality.  That reality is too dark and complex to relay in my post (especially as I'm trying to keep it short this time) so if you want the reality of Hollywood, watch 'Swimming with Sharks', read The Mailroom, Easy Riders Raging Bulls, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Bernie Brillstein's book, even (actually definitely) Valley of the Dolls...but I always think of Marilyn Monroe (or was it another actress as I can't find the source) who said it best: the dream of being famous was so much better than the reality.  And that's not even taking into account when your star is falling.  

Are you the master of your dreams only until the studio buys them?  

I was lucky enough to be able to give John August, yes John friggin' August, notes on his recently published short story called 'The Variant'.  Eleven of us basically won a twitter reply contest to read and comment on the short.  After a few of us had already commented in detail within the hour, John posted that our notes were better and more quickly delivered than 90% of development execs.  You may be saying, 'oh, how cool, congrats!', but it didn't surprise me.  Why? Because I know development execs.  Contrary to some people's beliefs they generally aren't bad or untalented people (usually quite the opposite), but the passion they had for movies and storytelling has long since dried up because of the pressures of corporate Hollywood.  The easiest thing for them to say is 'No' (but after making sure no one else can say 'yes').  Why? Because they have bosses to answer to, who in turn have studio heads to answer to, who answer to Chairmans who answer to the Boards of Corporations...all who have (very) angry shareholders.  It's all about the almighty dollar, deciding what makes that dollar flow in tomorrow and not spending it today.  Nothing personal Josh, but if you're not making Fox's advertising partners excited about buying ad time on the network because your numbers are low, regardless of how rabid and passionate your existing fan base actually is (because there's no way to quantify the quality of viewership just the quantity, how wonderful), Fox is going to can you.  It's all about money.  That's why William Morris and Endeavor can send letters out to competing agencies to cease and desist from trying to hire their agents even though most of them are getting laid off anyway, it's all about money (actually not really a good example but I think it's disgusting that they did that and representative of how ignoble Hollywood can be).  

So if it's all about money and the Hollywood machine is cracked and broken (though even in it's best state it had faulty parts), leaking out all the creative and passionate fuel it once had, letting quality projects and creatives get their spirit squashed once the studio and or the network control their destiny, what about John's new short?  What happened with 'The Variant?'  It rose to the top tiers of paid downloads for Kindle on Amazon.  Not only did John derive creative help from the collective on twitter but promoted it through his followers.  Did they get paid- nope- just felt part of the process.  And that's what's beautiful about this growing creative community that is strengthening online- the collective spirit.  I have never felt more honest, sincere desire to help a fellow creator than in this space.  In Hollywood, never, ever did I ever feel that it was anything other than a competition, and if someone did help you, you knew you owed them. Read this article in Wired- seriously.  It articulated a lot of what I have been feeling.  

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not positing that an online magic potion exists that will get 'Sarah Connor' resurrected and reverse Josh's experience of being terminated (yes I had to say it), or one that halts the unnecessary re-writes that my friend is toiling through.  At this point, the studios still control the keys to producing and distributing large scale entertainment products.  I just am trying to show that good content can be cultivated, supported and ultimately be made to thrive through a collaborative and supportive community that happens to exist online.  "The Variant" should be the first marker for the road that we all need to go down.  Because the big Hollywood machine is ultimately going to come tumbling down, either when Fox falls because its new blockbuster has been illegally downloaded for the umpteenth time or the government has had to rescue General Electric from bankruptcy so NBC shuts down.  Let's all please think of a way to merge the current resources of Hollywood with the spirit of the online creative community.   Because when the masses are seeing a show that I created, I want the reality to be as good as the dream, even if I have to share a parking spot.

Be back soon...All Things T

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Renovating Geekville: Part 2

I'm assuming that you were around for last week's post? Of course you were and thus have been waiting patiently for the continuation of my epic voyage into the land of Geek. What does it means to be a geek, who can honestly call themselves one, and were celebrities wrongly included in a video that celebrated geek culture?

Lights are flickering, cash bar is closing

Part 2 begins:

Did you know that the original meaning of geek, according to, is a carnival performer who performs disgusting acts? Not only is a geek a carny but he/she does something utterly grotesque (apparently it was in reference to a performer biting off the head of a live chicken- in all seriousness). The Germanic root of the word geek is geke (foolish) and the Dutch root is gek (crazy). What an auspicious start. I connect with this next definition a tiny bit more: a person who is single minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits, but is felt to be socially inept. That definition is pretty inter-changeable with the one for nerd, except that nerd covers all different academic fields and has an even more pejorative tone to it. But the most significant definition that I keep finding is more of a reference point than a definition: See 'computer geek'. That instruction often manifests in my geek Google searches. And to compound this observation, if you type in computer geek in a Google search field, comes up. What is this site? It's an online computer store. And the cartoon logo of 'the geek' is highly stereotypical: glasses, messy red hair, big nose, beady eyes. Geeks and computer geeks are more often than not least on Google. I wonder why that is? (#sarcasm).

This parallel sheds some light on the celebrity Geek backlash. Is being an authentic geek contingent on an affiliation with computing? And I'm not talking about owning a MacBook Pro and having a Twitter account, I'm referring to serious programming skills. So how much is needed? If this quiz that I found really does establish who is and is not a geek, then I better travel back in time and yell at my Comp Sci teacher. No celebrity, save Bill Gates could call himself a real geek (he's known as the alpha geek actually), nor could, I'm assuming, 90% of the people showcased on the I Am A Geek video. But I know that this must be an outdated definition as the very purpose of this post is to address the evolution of the term geek, thus I rejoiced when I landed on this great passage from Julie Smith:

"He was the very personification of a 'geek', a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace -- somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house."

Sigh. Eyes almost welling with nostalgic tears. In my reality, I used books and my imagination to escape to non-Earth planets as a youngster, but the image above still hits home. Here is someone who would hard wire his brain to his computer's mainframe had he the chance and escape into world of limitless possibilities, built on 1's and 0's. I think this passage sums it up perfectly: geeks turn to technology for escape from the regular world.

This passage illuminates three important points about geeks: an affinity for technology, a need for escapism and an inception at youth. How does escapism go hand in hand with an obsession with computers, you ask? Why the escapism? Let me ask you a question first...if you do consider yourself a geek: Were you popular in school? Don't give me the, "yes I had lots of friends in band and one really close buddy that lent me his dad's Playboys and who I went to see 'Return of the Jedi' with". We're you popular? Were you part of 'that crowd' that ruled the school and was filled with stereotypes from a John Hughes movie? If you consider yourself a geek and were popular, I really want to know so I can put you in a room and study you.

Throughout school, I resided on the fringes of popularity. I was a cute girl and was friends with one of the popular girls, probably because I lived in a nice house, but did I feel liked and more importantly understood by my popular peers? No...Definitely not. When I was a younger, even as a teen, I felt horribly different and alone. Having panic attacks about the sun going supernova on the Earth and trying to understand the probability of random accidents befalling me and my family were common occurrences by age nine (not that my parents knew or to the shrink would I have gone!). 

Beyond the chaos of my tortured brain, however, I simply wished that I had a super duper group of best friends who liked me. Unfortunately, the world around me just didn't seem all that I got got lost in stories. I couldn't seem to digest enough of them- in fables, Greek Mythology, Nancy Drew and Chose Your Own Adventures and in Roland Dahl's worlds of peaches and witches. Then in Betty and Veronica comics and 'He-Man' cartoons. My favorite stories were actually ones that my father and my grandmother would make up on the spot, about Sinbad the Sailor and about a brave young girl lost in the woods trying to find her way home. Because they were told instead of read, I became enamored with the power to create a multi- dimensional image with just words. I didn't know it at the time (as all I would envision was the day when I was finally an adult and free of 'mean girls'), but those hours of storytelling coaxed my brain to become idea generator that it is today. I was reading an article on one of the co-founders of the internet, Leonard Kleinrock, who credited his obsession with Superman comics with inspiring him to build his first radio, at age six. No wonder children have an easier time crossing over into the parallel universe on 'Fringe', their minds have the opportunity and the willingness to go anywhere and do anything. 

So my thought is that if our childhood reality was fairly miserable, our instinct to survive compelled us to create a new one. For some of us, that was in our heads through an active imagination, for others it was vis a vi Dungeons and Dragons. How can it change our lives? Well for me, I dreamed of experiences far past the boundaries of my hometown and my creative essay secured me a spot at a top university (I know this for a fact). I have held on to the idea (albeit naively) that if I can envision it, and I work hard enough, it is possible. For others still, it was looking at a computer terminal and dreaming what the potential of such a device was, of actually teaching one to speak and think. Hello technology, good bye status quo and the popular crowd that embraces it.

What about geek culture and the fact that it is becoming more mainstream? All I have to say is Comic Con and even the least geeky person has heard of it, and might even be trying to get tickets. Geek is chic now...which aligns with the whole celebrity aspect of my post…but why? Because the geek culture represents a passionate, supportive community. The sense of community in society today is practically non-existent; do you know all your neighbors or go to Town Hall Meetings? Didn't think so. You probably don't go to church anymore either (I certainly don’t). 

We as human beings need companionship, a community, we need a tribe (as Seth Godin explores in his TED speech). If we are ones who don't align with the status quo, we definitely need to find our tribe. How do we do that? If you weren't popular and didn't feel accepted by the popular kids in school and turned to comics, or 'Star Wars', or 'Buffy', how did you find like-minded devotees? Technology, as Seth Godin pointed out, solved that problem. The internet didn't create one large homogeneous community, it allowed countless smaller ones, tribes as he calls them, to form. These communities don't care about where you live, your dress size or your paycheck, just your passion for the topic. As these online communities strengthened, so did the technological platform that they were built on. You can now connect and play against million of people on 'World of Warcraft' and then watch a webseries about fictional WoW players! Soon, you will be able to become part of a Star Trek online gaming experience if you chose to put your Trekkie knowledge to the test and subscribe to the MMORPG.

These type of online communities have of course now spilled into the mainstream. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, these are all social networking platforms that could be seen as mass derivatives of online communities originally founded by ‘geeks’ looking to connect. Though created by geeks, technology has become a device of the popular. What do you do when the popular even want to call themselves geeks?

Let them. Let popular people be exposed to the subjects, gadgets and stories that have long dominated the lives of us here down in the sub-cultures. We all need a little escapism these days and as geeks we need to be welcoming, not cliquee. Because, can we honestly say that Shaq was part of the status quo as a kid? No, he was a 7 foot alien to his peers. Or Oprah? Talk about bashing down the status quo! And she didn’t have Twitter to help her during her early years. Or even Ashton...he was a model and a sitcom star who has made a respectable career for himself as a producer. Look at what he’s done- it’s pretty innovative. He’s definitely an idea guy and he challenges the mainstream’s idea of entertainment all the time. I have no idea what their childhoods were like but somewhere there was the impetuous for them to create change, so they might be the geekiest peeps amongst us.

Do you see why geeks can't just be computer geeks anymore, though there is a direct correlation between the original term and the more evolved one? I don't believe there is one set of parameters that defines who is a geek in today's times. I definitely agree that it shouldn't just be because someone uses Twitter, but then again, maybe that someone joined Twitter because they wanted to expand their perspective on life and be exposed to new minds, new ideas. If no one desired change, no one would challenge the status quo, thus no evolution would occur. In a nutshell, I believe a bunch of geeky, unpopular kids paved the way for life as we know it today. They dreamt big because they had to. So during these days economic and social strife, head to Star Trek for two hours of fantastic escapism, turn off your phones out of respect now matter how much you want to twitter, and let's just support all those who don't quite fit in and want to dream of something better.


Be back soon...All Things T

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Renovating Geekville

Grrr....Arrggg! I've been away from my blog for far too long! For those of you who are subscribers or regular readers, I'm sorry about that - my time just got eaten up by the career monster (grrr...arrggg) that's the sound he makes - yup, just like Joss Whedon's cute little Mutant Enemy guy- our monsters are friends, or at least my little guy follows the little mutant on Twitter and I hope they'll be friends one day...along with JJ's Bad Robot.

'Star Trek' rocks!!! (thanks @bonniegrrl for the fab Bones pic) 'Dollhouse' gets renewed!!! 'After Judgment' is now sponsored by Microsoft!! (well 2 out of 3 ain't too shabby)

So, what's new? Besides that you loved 'Star Trek' and want to see it again? (yup me too!) Have you been discovering your creative voice? Been mulling over the social ramifications of para-social relationships? Or have I just created a 'Twilight'/ Robert Pattinson fan out of you? 'New Moon' is almost done shooting...I won't be able to hold off blogging about that for long...though I really should (note to self: find new pale, lanky actor with accent, who stars in films that are indie art house hits, thus blog worthy, to fixate on). Wow, It's kinda freeing being able to write again like this. Ironically one of the numerous things that kept me away from this little creative outlet of mine for the past few months was a fashion writing gig that required me to be entertaining (while writing about tiered mini dresses), but still grammatically correct, plus I could only use one space between sentences (huh?). But that gig is already over (a little prematurely I might add), but I've also been up to a lot of other good things that hopefully won't have a premature ending, ie. lots of usage and reruns! I shot two national commercials - one directed by the Coen Bros. (you can see the behind the scenes footage here) and a Clairol campaign directed by Barry Levinson also starring Angela Kinsey from 'The Office'. I did a small spot on 'Lie to Me' and a few print jobs. I also shot a festival caliber short called 'Beaverton' that is a passion piece for a bunch of people and had amazing, top level crew and talent involved including Peter Jason and 'Gentleman' Jim Planette because of it. Valesca Cnossen directed it and Keri Smith wrote it and I am honored to have been able to bring such a beautiful role to life. I felt like all the 'trauma drama' scenes that I had done over the years in acting class prepped me for being an veritable open wound for three days (doesn't that sound pretty!?). 

Then there's 'After Judgment' - that difficult, demanding and draining child of mine that I love with all of my heart, like any good parent. We were nominated for 5 Streamy Awards as well as being named a finalist for the Audience Choice Award! I was even nominated in the Best Actress category whoo hoo!! We didn't win anything! Whoo hoo! Great experience though, especially being able to experience my first red carpet with the cast and presenting an award (to Neil Patrick Harris no less). I thought things would settle down after the awards but how wrong was I. No heaps of money or network deals fell on our lap, just a few more doors that were left slightly ajar. Needless to say we (my partners Mike and Stephanie and I) have been working tirelessly to keep 'After Judgment' going, raise money for Season 2 and get our other brilliant ideas into script form so that we can continue down the road to web TV domination with new projects as well. We have some really great ideas too so I better get to the point of this blog post fast as I have to get back to work on one of the treatments!

Becoming truly immersed and even having my work recognized in the Web TV/ digital landscape has presented an interesting opportunity. I can validate my inner geek. Now, if you've read my musings before you already know that I've talked about my geekdom a lot (I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon): from holiday thoughts in A Holiday in Geekville to wondering if I can still have geek street cred if I'm not a gamer (unless karaoke on Playstation counts). As many of you readers know, there's been a bit of a kerfuffle over the I Am A Geek video in the past week. Because of the Twitter revolution, some mainstream celebs have embraced the microblogging tool that were initially, solely used by early adopter folks already invested in the online space. Jeff MacPherson, aka Dr. Tiki used Twitter long before I had ever heard of it, and when he tried to explain it to me a full year before I started using it, my response was 'but I don't have a Blackberry.' ? Needless to say, he's a pioneer in Web TV and embraced the digital space as a new platform for video content, before YouTube even existed, and is an active Twitter user...but he wasn't on the I Am A Geek video. Shaq, MC Hammer and Ashton were. They are all on Twitter and they all have hundreds of thousands of followers, even a million in Ashton's case. They are seen as mainstream media successes. So why were they in a Geek video? Because they like and use Twitter? Does utilizing a social media application that connects you to adoring fans make you a geek? Probably not. It makes you a narcissist with an iPhone. Maybe. And that's what I sensed a lot of people on Twitter were thinking; that it was a joke that those celebs were included in a Geek video, that the makers behind the video were just looking for added publicity. So GeekDad quickly followed up with a list of top 100 geeks to follow on Twitter, because we have to get a hold of Geekville and make sure that the borders are patrolled! But, whoa....hold on there you geeky minuteman! Just because someone happens to be a celebrity, who might be a narcissist with a good PR rep, doesn't mean that they aren't still a geek. They just might be a well paid and an often photographed one. Does the fact that someone really not know the ins and outs of Linux and wordpress mean that they can't be classified as a geek? Does geek really have to mean computer geek? So don't go getting your panties in a bunch over a few B-List celebs involved in a random video celebrating geek culture which ultimately benefited a literacy charity. Why don't we, instead, step back and realize in a time when a re-booted 'Star Trek' can kick butt at the box office, a low-rated 'Dollhouse' can get renewed, and a strange little 140 microblogging tool can suddenly connect millions of people and their inner monologues, that the term geek actually needs to be addressed and redefined in this day and age?

Hi, it's future Taryn (I feel like I've gone through a worm hole and done a Star Trek/Lost time travel thing). I've been writing for many hours now and I've decided to end this part of the post here as I am diving into some pretty crazy waters below (of which you obviously can't see yet but you will), and it deserves its own separate post. So think about what geek means to you and I will be back with Part 2 before you know it!

Rom-halan! Be back soon...

All Things T