May 28, 2014

Madeline and Mel Playlist

Here's every short featuring Madeline and Mel that I had a hand in producing, mostly shooting, directing, editing, and doing special effects. They aren't high resolution, but they're all here.

Dec 2, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER Season Two Blooper Reel

I'm rather surprised that Hell Froze Over's blooper reel wasn't longer than this. But I guess this it the price of working fast and never making a single mistake, ever.

Nov 25, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 209 - Amongst the Dead

I'm so glad to go out on a high note. Love this episode. The last one ever.

Wherein, Jody attends a gathering held in her honor, and reconnects with some important people.

Nov 18, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 208 - Hard Truth

It's the penultimate episode of the ultimate web series, HELL FROZE OVER. Shit hits the fan at a graveyard. Enjoy and share with your worst enemies!

Nov 11, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 207 - The Baby

One of my favorite episodes, about hysterical pregnancy and hysterical abortion. Only two more episodes left this season!

Nov 4, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 206 - Good Lord

Adam Fox and Diana Toshiko bring their comedy A-game in this week's episode of HELL FROZE OVER. It's a favorite, and the beginning of the final storyline for season 2: http://bit.ly/1aYyxo3

I'm proud of this one.

Oct 29, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 205 - Naked Pics

It's Halloween Time! And this week's episode of Hell Froze Over is perfect for the season. Dark, weird, and inappropriate -- it's got a lot of good stuff going for it.

It stars Tracy Clifton, Jo Newman, Brandon Sutton, and Matthew Kelly.

Check it out. Like it. Share it.

Oct 21, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 204 - Roadside Attractions

This week, in one of our favorite episodes, Jody asks an old friend for a small favor. Meanwhile, Brook is very upset when she sees Jesus with another woman.

Oct 15, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - 203 - The One That Got Away

Remember the '80s? Remember MTV? Check out this episode.

Oct 1, 2013


Here it is, the full second season of Hell Froze Over. This is one of the most intentionally weird projects I've had the pleasure of producing; its tone is closer to a live action Adult Swim cartoon than almost anything else. It starts out a little bumpy, but stick with it: it'll reward you in the end. 

Sep 26, 2013

This Season on HELL FROZE OVER...

Breaking Bad. Mad Men. Veep. Yes, it's the golden age of serialized TV, which means it's the golden age of "NEXT TIME" teasers. Not to be left out, here's a teaser for what may or may not happen on SEASON TWO of HELL FROZE OVER!

Sep 23, 2013

Previously on HELL FROZE OVER

You probably don't remember the first season of HELL FROZE OVER as well as you think you do. Refresh yourself with this comical recap, and you'll be prepared for the second season, premiering IN FULL on October 1st, 2013.

Sep 17, 2013

HELL FROZE OVER - Season Two Trailer

All nine episodes of the bat-shit bonkers second season are about to hit the web. October 1st, folks!

Aug 28, 2013

Madeline and Mel Are Trapped in a Box: Hungry

Madeline and Mel have their friendship put to the ultimate test. A taste test. They wrote and performed. I directed, shot, and edited. Please enjoy, vote FUNNY if you feel it, and share if you like it.

Aug 16, 2013

Madeline and Mel Are Trapped in a Box: Knife

Madeline Walter and Mel Cowan take a bold stance on pressing world events, while trapped inside a cardboard box. (I directed and edited). Please vote FUNNY, or die. Oh, and share.

Jul 3, 2013

Yay LA - Malibu

Madeline and Mel try to launch their new travel show, but it explodes on the tarmac.

May 30, 2012

Apr 7, 2011

In the Year 2000

The first MP3 that I remember downloading was Julian Lennon's "Too Late for Goodbyes." My gray NEC laptop could play it, sure, almost always without skipping, but it could do nothing else at the same time. The 1GB hard-drive eventually squeezed almost 25 other songs onto it, and that was about all it could hold.

Since I'm in the middle of moving from Van Nuys to Los Angeles, while simultaneously meeting with two different producers and writing two different screenplays, Keely stepped up and wrote a blog post about me for me. (She did not actually do that for me at all). And now I'm going to violate her copyright and use it as my own blog for this week.

click here

Mar 24, 2011

Contrivances and Rom-Coms

When you're writing a story, it's important to fulfill the promise of your premise. You need to fully explore your concept, you need to make every event spring from that central idea and enhance that concept. You can't get distracted or side-tracked. To maintain unity, you should always stick to your premise.

Except of course when you shouldn't.
The Ultralight
Some of the best comedies succeed by using a very light-weight, very natural premise. With very little plot to follow, it makes comic digressions and set-pieces easy to integrate. Nothing feels like a side-track if there's no main path. This freedom lets the characters lead the way, lets the comedy spring from common human thoughts and experiences.

A simple premise keeps the comedy grounded.

Christmas Vacation
Some successful examples might include The Hangover, Grown Upsor Christmas Vacation. There's also When Harry Met Sally. It has almost no plot whatsoever, but rather, a question - can men and women ever be friends? Bridget Jones's Diary is essentially about a woman living her life and keeping a diary (which cleverly puts that diary at the center of the story's resolution). The Odd Couple is about two divorced men who move in together.

These movies aren't universally good, but they all allow the story to focus on the characters and their relationships, instead of complicated plot mechanics.
The Jumbo Jet
But Hollywood loves a hook. Hollywood loves contrivance. Perhaps it started with Pretty Woman. Perhaps it goes all the way back to It Happened One Night. Hell, perhaps it goes back to Taming of the Shrew.

Particularly in romantic comedies, the stories too often spring from unlikely situations that pile on arbitrary rules to build artificial barriers and provide external goals for the players, all so the story needn't focus on those darn characters, their difficult-to-express internal lives, and their confusing relationships.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is about a bet - an intersecting pair of bets! Leap Year is about an obscure Irish tradition and an unlucky plane landing. Never Been Kissed is about a woman going undercover in high-school.

The Apartment
Don't get me wrong. There are movies with great hooks, with great contrivances, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, about a procedure that removes a memory, like the painful memory of an ex-lover. Or The Apartment, which is about a low-level office-worker who loans his apartment keys to his bosses so they have a place to take their floozies without their wives finding out. You might be surprised that I also admire 50 First Dates.

What makes these movies work is that by focusing on those unusual or even outlandish premises, somehow, naturally, universal truths emerge. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is about how people take on a life of their own in our memories, about the way we play out the same roles in our relationships. The Apartment asks whether we are defined by our jobs or by the people we love, and what it means to be a mench, a human being. 50 First Dates is not only about the euphoria of falling in love for the first time, and what makes it happen, but about mental illness and chronic disease and the way that love and family can survive them.

But that's not always possible. It has to come when you cook the meat. Every offbeat premise doesn't necessarily have truth to offer, and you can't force it. That's the territory of blood and not getting it from stones.

Good Luck Chuck is about a repulsive guy who, if a woman sleeps with him, the next man she dates will ask her to marry him. The only "truth" exposed by focusing on that gimmick is the rotten chestnut that women will do anything to get married, and men will do anything to get laid. Does that feel like a surprising truth? Does that even feel true?

And not to pick on Dane Cook unfairly, but to pick on Dane Cook quite fairly - how about My Best Friend's Girl? It's about a repulsive guy who sells a service: he'll date your ex-girlfriend for you, and when she sees how awful Dane Cook is, she'll come running back to you. Is this how people work? If so, where? And why haven't we bombed that place?

Seriously, the best part.
How about Failure to Launch? It's about a woman who sells a service: she'll date your immature son who refuses to get his own place, and with her sexuality, she'll push him to leave the nest.

The more you focus on these premises, the further you get from relatable human behavior. They're good sketch premises, sure. But they're too elaborate to feel real when you crank them up to 90 minutes long.
The Bait and Switch
Hollywood recently offered us Just Go With It, a remake of a much better movie, Cactus Flower, which was based on a play, and featured a screenplay by I.A.L. Diamond, the writer of Some Like It Hot. Both Cactus Flower and Some Like It Hot have pretty elaborate, offbeat premises. In one, a dentist recruits his assistant to pretend to be his estranged wife, so he can divorce her and reassure his girlfriend of his honesty and moral-standing. In the other, two guys witness a mob murder and have to go into hiding as women in a band to avoid the mob.

Somehow, they work and Just Go With It does not. Why?

less sex, yet sexier
For one thing, I think Just GoWith It took a premise that was carefully contained in Cactus Flower, a premise that was kept low-key and modulated with care, and EXPLODED IT into HUGE HOLLYWOOD ZANNINESS. Cactus Flower works because it's small and fights hard to be plausible and human whenever possible - awkward dinners, difficult conversations. The characters are flawed but well-meaning. Meanwhile, Just Go With It is broad and big and silly. 

But that's not the only reason.

I think, more importantly, Just Go With It is too interested in the sham, and not interested enough in the people perpetrating the sham. Cactus Flower is about his assistant's sadness, and the dentist's blind fixation on this ditzy, well-meaning girlfriend of his. Just Go With It is interested in all the ways it can make this charade difficult and kooky. It's too much about its premise. And it didn't have to be.

An example? The Proposal is an imperfect but enjoyable movie. It works. Sure, it's full of contrivance. It has a hook that makes it easy to sell, a concept with a clear structure. The surface conflict is easy to explain. But how many people have agreed to marry their boss for a promotion, so she can stay in the country? How does The Proposal succeed where Just Go With It failed? It does it by bait and switch.

It starts off being about the deal the characters make, about the charade... but it becomes about the characters who are perpetrating the charade. It becomes about the boss's visit to her fake-fiance's family home.

I wish this were the real plot.
Stories that work despite their absurd premises do so by not focusing on the premise. The ones that work use the premise to hook the audience in, to give the audience a beginning and a sense of an ending that they're heading toward - but then those stories become about something relatable. The Proposal is about someone who feels proud and independent and strong who goes home to meet her boyfriend's parents and feels inferior and vulnerable and small. That's something most people feel at some time in their lives. That's something everyone can relate to on some level.

So, if your premise is contrived, if your hook is implausible - maybe it's best if you don't fulfill the promise of your premise...

Mar 14, 2011


Here's my story. I moved to Los Angeles in 2005.

On January 6th, 2005, I was in Las Vegas, taking down Christmas decorations from Caesar's Palace hallways and cypress trees (business, not pleasure). I took the Santa hat off of the mini statue of David's head.

Just as we were finishing up, I was offered a three-month internship at a small LA management company. (Let's give them the codename Dryad Management.) All I knew about the company was the address, and that's more than I knew about LA.

Dog in Rag TopDump was in Rhode Island. She and I had been waiting for this news. I got back to New Jersey on the night of the 10th and packed. Dump arrived in New Jersey on the 12th. And we started cross-country bright and early on the 13th, a caravan composed of my car and one U-Haul, with my parents, my brother, Dump, and my dog Baker.

After a few hundred miles, Baker crawled inside the lining of my convertible's top and only stuck his head out. This is how he opted to travel the bulk of the three day journey. (pictured) He has no regrets.

My roommate Dump had collected from online several potential apartments. We had a list to visit upon our Saturday arrival, but as it turns out, it wasn't much of a day.  We walked into our first appointment, and that was the last. That was the the same apartment where I'm presently writing these words. We never bothered to look at another. It was 5 miles from my internship, and like something out of  a dream.

It has a washer and dryer in the unit. It has a balcony, a big one. It has a fireplace. It has central heat and air-conditioning. It has two-car subterranean parking. Compared to my previous pre-War building in Harlem, which barely maintained electricity and which cost exactly the same per month, this was paradise. I had never lived so high on the hog. I was pretty much on the tippy-top of the hog.  THE WHOLE HOG. ME ON TOP.

Six years later, I'm still reluctant to leave it. But I have this dang job on the other side of the hill...

The thing about LA

Here's the thing about Los Angeles. If you want to live in Van Nuys or North Hollywood, on average, you'll need to get a job in Burbank or Sherman Oaks to afford it. If you want to live in Burbank or Sherman Oaks, you'll probably need to get a job in Santa Monica, Century City, or Culver City. Of course, if you want to live in Santa Monica, Century City, or Culver City, you'll need to get a job in Beverly Hills or Malibu. And if you want to live in Beverly Hills or Malibu, you'll need to be one of those people who don't need  a job.

This is why traffic sucks in Los Angeles. Almost no one can live anywhere near where they work.

Embarrassment of American Luxuries

mystreetAll the same, I'm trying to make this happen. I'm trying to move to Culver City, or Palms, or Century City, or even Santa Monica or West LA. They make a big U around my place of employment, which would  cut my commute time down from an hour or more each way to twenty minutes or less.

But here's what I know: there's absolutely no way I can afford a washer and dryer in the unit, with a balcony, and a fireplace, and central heat and air, and two-car subterranean parking, in a building that costs anywhere near what I paid in Harlem, which is what I've been paying in Van Nuys.

I mean, I recently got a raise. Not a huge one, but by shifting my budget around, and by reducing the amount I put in savings, and by adding the entirety of that raise to the pot, I'm increasing my housing budget by 80% per month. Yet, somehow, it's still a struggle to find anything anywhere near the business that pays me anywhere near as nice as my current pad.

Seems like a bad system, doesn't it? As a society, I mean?

But, it's time for a new start. It's time for fresh surroundings. It's time to break the routine and reinvigorate my brain. It's time to live with Beezie and her kitties. It's time to have an office. It's time to have friends over to a place that's ours, as a couple. That may mean vastly curtailing my savings for a few years. That may me sacrificing central air, or easy parking, or living space, or who knows what else.

But it's time. And when it's time, you better act.