So excited to announce this!
2015 was a crazy year for me, both personally and professionally. Although I am a few weeks late, I thought I would take some time to write up a list of resolutions for 2016. Cliché? Maybe. Ridiculous? Probably. But hey, it’s worth a shot—even if I only accomplish one or two of them.
- Learn to let go.
A lot of people think that when you sell a script, or join a project, that means that it’s guaranteed to hit the theatres. So many times my family will ask “When is it coming out?!” after hearing about a sale or OWA (Open Writing Assignment), and I have to tell them “I don’t know. Maybe soon. Maybe never.” Explaining the realities of the industry can be quite painful, since there are so many moving pieces—and many of them have nothing to do with the script.
Truth is, people work in this town for years without seeing their work realized on screen. And each time a project ends for me, yes, it is a bummer. Wiping the project off my dry erase board hurts every time, but I have to take it in stride. 2015 even saw me leave a project I loved dearly, and walking away felt like I had broken up with a long-time girlfriend. It stung like hell, but it was the right call for me. So in 2016, I’m going to try to do a better job of letting it roll off my back. After all, there is more to be thankful for than regretful for. In 2015 I got to write about CIA spies, art thieves, robots in disguise, microscopic warriors from another planet, and unstable cops in South Florida. All in all it’s been a pretty damn good year, so it’s better to focus on what I got to do rather than what I had to let go.
- Get that “work/life balance” thing down – finally.
This is a tough one, and it’s probably been a resolution the last five years. I’m absolutely terrible at maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I spend too much time indoors. I prioritize work over everything, and though there is a very good (if not understandable) reason for this, that’s one thing I think I’ll keep to myself for now. But while this quirk has been great for me professionally, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on… well, everything else.
I don’t think I’ll ever lean off the gas at work—people depend on me to submit my pages on time, and I intend to do that. But I also want to make sure I enjoy some fresh air. Maybe pick up a hobby. This is trickier than it sounds, since writing used to be my hobby. But heck, I’ll find something. The harmonica, maybe?
- Write something unexpected.
Once you start writing professionally out here, it’s very easy for people to put you in a box. I actually don’t mind the one I’m in, since I love writing adventures and action-comedies. But I’d like to challenge myself with a personal project—maybe a novel, or a short story, or a comic book in a genre I haven’t done before. I’ve been noodling with a bunch of different ideas over the last few years, but I’ve shoved them in drawer because they don’t fit what’s expected of me. So maybe the solution is to do it for myself in 2016 and not worry about the paycheck.
- Cut down on Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey
Just kidding. That stuff is delicious.
- Stop watching the clock.
When you hit 30, you find yourself looking at the clock more. You compare yourself, and your life, to your friends. Are you where they are? Have you done everything you set out to do when you were a kid? Should you be worried if you haven’t?
I have to remember that I’m still a young guy with a long career ahead of him, and being 36 isn’t all that bad. Plus I’ve heard the music teenagers listen to these days, and it sucks. Seriously—One Direction? Bieber? Jesus. Kids, I know it’s cheesy to hear “new stuff sucks, listen to the classics,” but do yourself a favor and listen to anything by Guns ‘N Roses. Sam Cooke. Pearl Jam. Queen. Otis Redding. Ice Cube. The late, great David Bowie. Actually listen to the lyrics, and tell me with a straight face that the music of 2015 is better. My point is, I feel lucky enough to come from the last great era of music.
Except for Creed and Nickelback. We were clearly asleep at the wheel when they snuck through. Sorry.
- Remind myself that LA isn’t real.
This one may take some explaining. Of course it’s real in the sense that we don’t live in the Matrix (I don’t think) and this isn’t Inception (I’m fairly certain). But all those parodies you see about Hollywood on TV and in film are absolutely on point—and what’s scarier: after a while, you forget that you’re living in a gluten-free, organic, self-aggrandizing bubble of hot molten insanity. In LA people constantly ask you to subscribe to their YouTube channels, tune into their web series, RT their tweets, introduce them to your agents, read their scripts, and listen to their podcasts. Everything becomes about networking. Pitching. Auditioning. Selling.
And after a while, you accept it as normal. You actually catch yourself wondering about your follower count, or why that fan left a nasty comment about you in the comment section. It’s only when I go home to New Jersey that I realize how ridiculous my little bubble world is. I love Los Angeles, but I need to remember that the rest of the world is completely different. It’s grounded. It doesn’t give a shit how many followers you have or if pilot season has started. Everyone else is just trying to carve out their own lives. Maybe this means I need to go back east more, or spend more time away from LA. But since that won’t happen, I just need to remember that the rest of the world is out there, not caring about the same things people here care about.
- Tell people “thank you.”
Professionally and personally, I’ve been very lucky. I have an amazing group of friends, an awesome manager who has been with me since Jump Street, a fantastic agent who has locked in some sick projects for me, a damn good lawyer, and most importantly: an amazing family. And I rarely tell them. In 2016 I’ll do a better job of thanking them for supporting me and always being there when I need them.
- Travel more.
Maybe this is tied to #6, but still worth bringing up. I need to see more of the world, or at least the country. Luckily I’m already on my way to realizing this one. At the end of this month some pals and me are off to Austin to visit our friend Dave at The Chive. If we survive that trip, I plan to travel a bit more this year—even if that means packing up the laptop and taking my work on the road.
- Stay away from cigarettes.
I’m actually a non-smoker, but I wasn’t always. There was a time when I couldn’t stay away from them, so every year I renew my resolution to never touch a cigarette again. For you smokers out there, trust me when I say it’s worth quitting.
- See something of mine get green-lit.
This is tied to #1, and yes, it’s a bit of a selfish one. But even though I’ve been on several incredible projects since leaving Insomniac, I have yet to see one produced that carried my voice. This is relatively normal since development often drags on for years and lots of times projects go away, but hopefully one of the projects I’m working on will get the official green light in 2016. And man, I am on some exciting ones.
But if this resolution fails and none of them go into production, that’s okay—because I always have resolutions #1 and #4 as backups.
Some great news hit the trades today that I’m excited to finally share. Effective this month I’ll be joining Hasbro in a non-exclusive position. Acting as a Creative Consultant for all boys’ IPs is pretty much a dream position for an 80s kid like me. I grew up on Transformers and GI Joe, so to get to play in that sandbox and help grow those worlds (and others) feels like the kind of gig you can only land if you’ve made a deal with Zoltar.
For those of you who asked on Twitter and the Ratchet & Clank group what will happen to my feature work, the simple answer is “nothing” – that will continue. But when I’m not hammering away on the feature stuff, I’ll be with the talented folks at Hasbro helping to shape their already-amazing worlds. I can’t say much beyond that, but trust me when I say it’s an exciting time over there.
Hope to have more for you soon…
PS: To clarify on the press release, I was the Senior Writer on the R&C franchise for 7 years, but I did not create the franchise. That honor goes to Insomniac CEO Ted Price and Chief Creative Officer Brian Hastings.
Just wanted to show you the trailer for the new Ratchet & Clank game on PS4! No, I don’t think that’s the official title, but I love it anyway! I was thrilled to come back to Insomniac and work with Brian Allgeier, Chad Dezern, Shaun McCabe, and Jon Paquette (who graciously took time out of his insane writing schedule on Sunset Overdrive). I didn’t think it would be possible for Insomniac to make a Ratchet world that looks better than it did on PS3, but holy hell, the NC studio just crushed it. I’m very excited to play and then check out the movie!
As many of you know, last year I decided to use a scavenger hunt to motivate me to check out as much of Comic-Con as possible. You guys suggested some truly awesome ideas, and I had a lot of fun checking off as much of the list as I could (Special shout-out to the old dude in the kilt. You keep rocking it, sir.). I saw more of Comic-Con than I ever had before, and probably more than any sane man should see. So naturally, this year I thought it would be fun to do the same for E3.
So what do I need from you? Ideas! What games should I check out? Who should I visit? What should I ask them? Hit me up with some ideas by either DMing me, tweeting me, or leaving a comment here. I’ll post the lists before the event, and the results a day or two after once I have recovered and Purelled sufficiently.
Here’s a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time: books on writing. I want to be perfectly clear here: they’re invaluable. Over the years I’ve read dozens, from How to Make a Good Script Great to Story to Save the Cat and beyond. These books help the new generation of writers (or even the current one, for that matter) learn how to cope with the mountain of obstacles between you and a finished screenplay. Shoddy dialogue, thin characters, structural issues—these books can help fix what’s broken and elevate your writing to new heights. But often times writers rely too heavily on what they read, assuming they’ve been handed “Hollywood’s template” and reducing their story to a series of check boxes. The result is unoriginal, paint-by-numbers storytelling that becomes painfully boring to read.
Get enough aspiring writers in a group to talk about storytelling, and you’ll start to hear the same questions.
“Where’s your Save the Cat moment?”
“About when does your hero approach the innermost cave?”
“Why does your inciting incident happen on page 11 and not page 10?”
There’s a reason working writers don’t raise these questions with each other. It isn’t that there’s no value to them; it’s that we’ve learned what Robert McKee said in the very first chapter of STORY: Writing is form, not formula. The author of each book is offering tips to help fix a problem they can’t see or touch. These rules are meant to be reshaped. Reinterpreted. Changed or discounted completely. But for some reason new writers glob onto them and worry about cramming their story into someone else’s beat sheet.
Am I saying you should write a five-act, 300-page screenplay in 15-pt Marion font? Of course not. Some rules—mostly the structural ones—are helpful ways of keeping your script in a digestible, familiar state that can be consumed in 2 hours. But on the creative side, rules are meant to be broken. Hell, look at Aliens. It takes almost an hour before Ripley even comes into contact with an alien. Did the movie fail because the inciting incident occurred past the ten-minute mark?
Break the rules. Listen to your gut. Write the best damn story you can. Those tips and tricks will be there waiting for you if you need them. But don’t look at them as laws. Your one and only concern should be crafting an entertaining journey. If the inciting incident happens on page 13, don’t freak out. If your hero doesn’t “return with an elixir,” then give me an original ending that sticks with me. The sooner you stop worrying about how to save a cat (and why would you? cats are horrible), the sooner you’ll start developing your own voice and rules.
When I was a young kid back in 1989, I had it in my mind that I would be dead by 2015. Not for any morbid reason, mind you—it was more that I could not imagine an adult TJ running around a world full of flying cars and hoverboards. Like every kid my age, I fixated on Back to the Future II and viewed it as a prophecy. By 2015 we would have holographic movie trailers, our clothes would be inside out, and weather would be predictable down to the second. If only.
Well, 2015 finally arrived, and while we have certainly made tons of advancements since then (a little invention called the Internet comes to mind), things are not as different as Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale led me to believe. Computers have gotten better and smaller, cars have gotten greener, and we have more ways to overshare our lives then ever before. But the bionic implants and Mr. Fusion are nowhere to be found. I wanted hoverboards, and instead I got a million ways to show complete strangers that I am eating a taco—or tell complete strangers that I hate their pictures of them eating tacos.
But rather than lament the lack of gravity-resistant plastic or self-cleaning jackets, I thought it would be more constructive to take an honest look back at 2014 and set goals for 2015. Some are specific to my job, others may be a bit more personal. Either way, I’m committed to succeeding in at least one. 2014 brought me a lot of successes I’m quite proud of—but it was also the most challenging, frustrating, and yes, panic attack-inducing years I’ve ever faced. So let’s look at some of the things I hope to do in order to make 2015 a better year.
Resolution #1: Write outside my comfort zone.
2014 was a great year for my career. I got to write some really fun projects with producers and actors I admire. From the Berlanti folks to the Donners’ Company, I worked with some insanely sharp people last year (special shout-out to the amazing Sarah Schechter). I’ve learned a great deal from all of them.
What I feel like I’m missing is a genre detour. Around town, I’m often brought in for action-comedy or adventure. You’ll hear no complaints from me on this one, as it’s every writer’s dream to be able to write crazy car chases and stories about stone creatures that protect humanity. But when I look towards the future (where flying cars and hoverboards do exist, goddamn it), I don’t want to be the writer who falls into a specific bucket and stays there. I love suspense thrillers, horror, and gritty crime stories. I recently watched Locke and found myself wishing I was a part of that movie, despite knowing full well that I would not be the right guy for it.
Now, loving a genre doesn’t mean you should write it for a living. I’m probably far better at action-comedy than horror. But even if it’s just for a fun personal project, I’d like to force myself out of my comfort zone and try a story that is different than my usual fare.
Resolution #2: Get back to graphic novels.
I’ve collaborated with editor Ben Abernathy on two comic books during my career: Ratchet & Clank and Legends of the Dark Knight: A Game to Die For. Since then I’ve wished I could return to comics for a project or two. It’s just a fun medium. So far it’s only been my schedule that has kept me from doing so, but if time permits in 2015, I’d love to get back to it.
Resolution #3: Be a better brother.
My siblings and I have a strange relationship. I have not spoken with my older sister in over two years, and my younger, autistic sister lives in an assisted-living community on the east coast. My relationship with my older sister is sadly nonexistent. More than likely we will never speak to each other again, and I have made my peace with that. But my younger sister deserves a big brother who will Skype her more often, and too many times I’ve put it off because “I have too much to do.” In 2015, I’ll make more of an effort to see how she’s doing and let her know that I love her.
Resolution #4: Trust my gut more.
In 2014 I learned a valuable lesson: always trust your gut. Your brain and heart will often lie to you when it comes to friends, work, significant others, and what movie to watch on Netflix. Your gut never lies. If your gut tells you to do something, trust it. It’s impartial and fair, and will save you a lot of stress.
Resolution #5: Fix my damn work/life balance.
Those of you who read my blog know that my family ran into financial difficulties when I was a kid, and it took us years to crawl out from under the wreckage. Because of this, I am—and will always be—afraid of going broke. When I left Insomniac, I did it for the right reasons (though it was not because of the Ratchet movie, as one article suggested). But going from a full-time employee to a contract writer became the single most stressful thing I’ve ever done.
I started having anxiety attacks, piling more work onto my plate “just in case,” and sealing myself inside the Condo of Solitude so I could get my writing done. I spent every day, night, and weekend writing. I canceled plans. I backed out of dinners. I started new scripts. Meanwhile, outside, the world spun on. As writers, we draw on our lives and experiences in order to fuel our stories. For whatever reason, I forgot that and decided I should dwell in my condo like the Hunchback of Sherman Oaks.
In 2015 I’ll try to get out a bit more. I’m already looking for a dog so I have a reason to go outside everyday. It’s time to rediscover life outside my house.
Resolution #6: Get in shape, eat better, etc.
Self-explanatory here. We could all use this one, but it’s double-true for those of us who sit behind laptops all day.
Resolution #7: Blog/engage more.
I’ve been a slacker about blogging and interacting with my followers. So, I’m sorry! It’s my fault! It’s not you, it’s me! Etc. I promise that in 2015 I’ll do a better job of managing this blog. For Twitter, I’ll do a better job not just tweeting (which I probably do too much of), but engaging. Answering questions. Talking to followers. Maybe snapping a selfie or two. Just kidding…
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And there you go! Those are my resolutions for 2015. Have resolutions of your own? Think anything here is insane and begging for a snide response? Well that’s what comment sections are for! Just please remember I am somebody’s son, so keep the vitriol to a minimum.