San Francisco's first Motel. Imagine what kind of stories could come out of this place.

Finding Inspiration on the Road to (and from) the Wild and Scenic Film Fest

I TRY TO SPEND as much time on the road as possible, whether it’s going across the state to see family, or crossing state lines on an epic trek. There are a lot of reasons I’m attracted to long-distance travel. One of the best is that no matter what I might be worrying about, there’s nothing I can do about it while driving. This allows me to let go of a lot of stresses that I carry with me. It’s the letting go of the everyday that allows stories to come to me.

I’ve been toying with the idea of posting ideas that hit me on the road on my twitter feed with some kind of an #dailyidea hashtag. That didn’t happen when I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival last week, but I did want to share some of the places that served as inspiration while I was off gallivanting.

1. Nevada

On the road through Nevada. This is the first time I've been on this road. Who knew Nevada was so beautiful?

On the road through Nevada. This is the first time I’ve been on this road. Who knew Nevada was so beautiful?

I’d never been on this highway before. Long and wide-open, Nevada has a sense of the Old West that competes with Montana’s. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko a few days after I passed through. I’m already working on a screenplay set in the old west (kind of a departure for me), but I found myself thinking about famous cowboys and outlaws while driving through this wild landscape. As the dry landscape rolled by, my brain began constructing a bio-pic about Doc Holiday, the sickly dentist who fought along-side the Earp brothers at the OK Corral.

2. South Yuba River, Nevada City, California

I did get out to explore the South Yuba River on a trail that reminds me of an enchanted fantasy tale.

I did get out to explore the South Yuba River on a trail that reminds me of an enchanted fantasy tale.

I’m not sure who could walk this trail along the South Yuba River, and not be transported to another world. Soft ground beneath the feet muffle footfalls into silence. Trees seem to bend in overhead making a magical corridor. Then the trees part to reveal an almost other-worldly green river. This “enchanted” place inspired the film festival that I’m here to be a part of. Almost any magical story could be set here.

And, yes, the South Yuba River really does really look like this.

And, yes, the South Yuba River really does really look like this.

3. Ocean Park Motel, San Francisco, California

San Francisco's first Motel. Imagine what kind of stories could come out of this place.

San Francisco’s first Motel. Imagine what kind of stories could come out of this place.

I hadn’t intended on continuing all the way to the coast when I started out on this trip, but that’s the great thing about travel: Sometimes you just end up places. And this Motel (San Francisco’s 1st) is a destination all its own. Ocean Park opened in 1937, and has been no stranger to drama over the years. According to the newspaper article reprinted by the motel, “In its early years the Ocean Park attracted the ‘hot sheets’ trade…” aka “trysting lovers”. I’m sure that each room could tell true stories that would make any plot I came up with seem bland. But that didn’t stop me from imagining a noir detective uncovering an insidious plot hatched in room #7 (or, perhaps, being uncovered by a gorgeous femme fatale.)

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Welcome back, after all these years

Anyone following this blog will know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. About three years. A lot of changes have occurred in my creative life since then. By far, the biggest change, and the one that will be my focus here, has been my entry into the film industry.

It’s been a pretty natural transition throughout my different creative lives, from fiction, to travel writing, to travel video, and now back to fiction through screenplays.

Photo by: When I was a Bird via Flickr

Photo by: When I was a Bird via Flickr

Movies have always been important to me, and have served as inspiration for my writing. Back when I was writing fiction, I was constantly told that my stories read like movies, and that I should write screenplays. I always refused. What I loved about writing fiction (esp. science fiction at the time) was the world-building. I thought of screenplays as stripped-down shells for the directors to put their visions inside.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until I read my first screenplay, a quirky love story called One Night in Seattle, that I realized the error of my nay-saying. The world in a screenplay is just as full, it’s just far more concise. (If that’s not a skill, I don’t know what is.)

With that little slice of backstory out of the way, this post is just to say that I’m back. This site is where I’m going to talk about my adventures as a screenwriter and filmmaker. I’m still in Billings, Montana, which is a long way from LA in every way imaginable. My focus will be on building a filmmaking community wherever you are, rather than chasing your dream to Hollywood or NYC. Also, I want to show that stories can be found anywhere. Not only do you not need to be in LA to be a screenwriter, but your stories are going to be more authentic and engaging if the places and people you’re writing about are right outside your window.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I’m just getting started in this business. So, I’ll probably end up talking about my own attempts to “break in”. I’m sure that there will be successes and failures. Hopefully, those successes and failures will be entertaining and inspiring to people who hope, against all odds, to get their stories up on the big (or many small) screen(s).

Bar Blur 1 TL

Where have you been all my life?!

It’s always a little disquieting to stumble upon something that you should have been a part of all along. It’s like wandering into a room  and you find all of your friends having a party. It’s not that you were intentionally not-invited, it’s that you somehow missed all of the signs taped to every wall in your house.

Sure, it sucks that you weren’t at the party from the beginning, but now that you’re here, you might as well join in.

That’s how I felt when I fell into “The Dirtbag Diaries,” produced by Fitz Cahall. The worst part is that the signs for the party were basically taped to my forehead, and I still missed them! I’ve been following Fitz Cahall through his amazing collaboration with Bryan Smith on “The Season,” a web TV series following climbers, mountain bikers, snowboarders, etc through a season of trying to live the adventures they set out to complete.

Using the word ‘enamored’ to describe my feelings for both “The Season” and “The Dirtbag Diaries” would be drastic understatements. I’ve downloaded every podcast of “The Dirtbag Diaries” available and pretty much have it on an IV drip. You may think that it would be impossible to edit video footage of interviews while listening to Fitz telling amazing stories of adventurers, but somehow I manage.

Search itunes for “The Dirtbag Diaries” or check them out HERE.

Also, check out the beautifully narrated and filmed “The Love Letter.” You’ll be so glad you did.

A New Day on Rainier. Photo by Jeff Handlin

Stalking the Summit of Mt. Rainier

My good friend Jeff Handlin and his brother Scott just fulfilled a dream by attempting to summit Mount Rainier. “We found out there is no such thing as conquering a mountain; it can flick one off like a piece of lint anytime it feels like it,” Jeff said in an email to me. “But if one perseveres respectfully, it may deem worthiness and grant passage for a short time.”

Jeff and Scott battled steep slopes, crevasses and 50mph winds to earn their summit view at 7:30am Wednesday, June 15th.

“We agreed this was pretty much one of the hardest things we’ve ever done,” Jeff wrote, “but we were treated to one of the most grueling and rewarding experiences of our lives.”

Here are a few of Jeff’s photos from the climb.

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At Muir Camp. Photo by Jeff Handlin

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On Disappointment Cleaver Route. Photo by Jeff Handlin

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Worth the Effort. Photo by Jeff Handlin

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A New Day on Rainier. Photo by Jeff Handlin

Congratulations, guys!

A wave crashes against the rocks in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Lost Photos Project

Engineer on Mount Washington’s Historic Cog Railway waits for the signal to begin moving forward again.

Recently, I’ve been forced to switch hard drives, leading me to the unenviable task of cleaning up my files. I knew that some day this would happen. What I didn’t know was the treasure chest of unlooked-at photographs buried in there. I had folders of pictures from trips around Maine that I knew existed, but had left behind as new projects came up. In most cases, the images hadn’t even gone through the usual process of digitally organizing them. Embarrassingly, some entire folders hadn’t even been looked at—or hadn’t been looked at in so long that they appeared new to me!

Stream flowing under the autumn leaves in the Maine’s White Mountains National Forest.

I’ve decided to go through them, organize the images and post them in my flickr account. Some of the real stand-outs will also go to my stock agency for sale.

The fist two batches to make the transition are from a trip into New Hampshire’s White Mountains and a drive through Acadia National Park (both with my parents.) Both sets of photos yielded pictures that reminded me of the effect of a great image to transport the viewer to another part of the world. Some photos came up that surprised me. There have also been pictures that have sparked my love of photography again.

A wave crashes against the rocks in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sorting through many of those “lost” files. As those pictures go up, I’ll be posting them here.


JC’s Special Sauce (Arteries of America)

Real travel is when you put yourself in a position where the unexpected happens. Which is something I sometimes do accidentally.

While driving around Dallas with the cast of “Paulie & Me” and Donna, our awesome Keller-Williams real estate agent guiding us through potential sites for a brewery, we happen by a restaurant called Sol Irelandes. The restaurant’s host runs outside to say hello to our guide and ask if she’s coming in for a bite. We look at each-other and silently agree. What the hell, it’s lunch time and the scent of chipotle wafting from the little Irish-Mexican restaurant is making my stomach ache for something with a little kick.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.

Paulie and Me

“Join Paulie and Loren, long-time friends and hilarious duo, as they embark on a journey to build a microbrewery. Together, they hit the road to meet America’s top beer gurus, and learn what it takes to craft unique beers.” This is the tag line of a new TV show I’ve been working on for the last few months. The show is currently “in-development” (what TV-land calls a show before it has anything to show). Today I head to Dallas to film something to show the rest of the world and begin the process turning “in-development” into “in-production.”

This might be a great place to throw in some background on the show. “Paulie & Me” is what’s called a “Follow-doc” reality show, meaning the camera crew is going to follow these two friends as they work on building their brewery. This is something I happen to have a little knowledge of, having written articles on beer and breweries. In fact, that’s how I came to be part of the show. After Loren and Paul read my Matador Network article on breweries around the US, they contacted me to act as their on-camera brewery expert. Obviously, I’m not an expert on the building of the brewery, I more closely resemble an expert on breweries around the country. Why have a breweries expert? Two words: Road Trip.

That’s right, these guys, who don’t know anything about building a brewery, but love beer and want to craft it, are going to hit the road to see how breweries really do their magic.

This first shoot is to get some footage for the website, but when it’s done, it should show this friendship of opposites in its natural (and funny) habitat. These guys have been compared to “The Odd Couple” being polar opposites, Paulie being loud, unkempt and perpetually late, and Loren being routine-oriented and quiet. I don’t know how they’ve been friends for twenty years, but I guess it works for them. What it means for me is that, no matter how much Loren (or any of us) plan the day’s events, it will almost certainly derail without warning.