Monday, December 26, 2011

Fight On!

Guest Blog by Christopher Tillman

Shortly before Christmas, the University of Southern California’s starting quarterback Matt Barkley held a press conference to say he was not entering the NFL draft and would return to USC for his senior year. My friends all know - I love sports. I love the story lines and the analogies to life, plus I bleed cardinal and gold. But in case you don’t share my passion, let me tell you what this sports news means.

There are rules about when a collegiate athlete can go professional, and once they do, they cannot go back. It’s usually a big deal when one decides not to go back to school and rarely do the capable ones finish four years of school. And believe me, Barkley is capable. If he entered the draft now, he would go top ten and make millions of dollars. It’s a choice point similar to when an actor decides to join SAG, except if joining SAG meant you were automatically cast in the next Will Smith movie.

So why wouldn’t that be a no brainer decision?

While I was reveling in the fact that my Trojans are going to dominate college football next year, I heard something that made me think. A sportscaster said that Barkley’s decision showed that “he didn’t fear failure, but rather strived for success.”

You see, Barkley led USC to a 10-2 record this season when unnecessary sanctions led most people to think they’d be lucky to finish 6-6. And professional sports drafts are like the stock market - value is based on perception and you gotta sell when it’s high. Right now, Barkley’s perception is high because he was virtually perfect this year. In order to match or exceed that next year, he will have to be perfect. So why would he take on that challenge? Because he knows that while perception can bring you a pay day, only performance can bring you a career. He doesn’t fear failure, but rather strives for success.

As we enter the new year, ask yourself if you are prepared to do that same for your career. Are you willing to forgo fear in your decision-making process and reach for success instead. To put yourself on the line as opposed to playing it safe. Are you ready to switch gears? Put the day job on hold to pursue your dream? Add a hyphen to your title?

And if nothing else, are you ready for USC to win a National Title? I am.

You can follow Christopher Tillman on Twitter at @christophertill

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays from Teresapalooza!!

In 2011, I took the stage at The Moth for the first time, acted opposite Patton Oswalt, Michael Vartan, and McSteamy, left my day job when I sold my first TV pilot to CBS, and blogged (almost) every week. A wonderful year worth celebrating as I look forward to more breakthroughs and success in 2012!

Thank you for being in my life and sharing your wonderful gifts with the world. Wishing you a new year filled with love, health, wealth, and perfect self-expression!

Love, Teresa

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Guest Blog by Christopher Tillman

While I’m furiously writing my pilot for CBS, my friend and colleague Christopher has offered to write a few guest blog posts for me. In this installment, he tells one of my favorite stories about taking the reins of your own career. In the wise words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

After finishing Misusing Irony with Teresa, one of the directors we had considered asked me how the production went and was I able to show her the finished product. After watching my short film, she brought me in to audition for one of the supporting roles in an independent feature she was producing called The Kitchen. I auditioned and got the part.

One day while hanging out on set, Catherine Reitman walked in. (I’m normally not a name dropper, but I love Catherine so much.)

"Can I borrow someone's computer?" Catherine asked.

Someone handed over their laptop. "What do you need it for?"

"My web show is posting today and I gotta tweet about it.”

“Web show?”

“I do a movie review show called Breaking it Down." (Plug intended.)

Another actress, Jillian Clare, chimed in with her experience about doing a serialized web show called Miss Behave.

The film we were shooting took place at a party and they needed a crowd of background actors to play partygoers. While hanging out and talking with the background, I heard a lot of "I got an idea for something like this" and "we should do that."

And just like that, it became clear to me – the principal cast had projects they were actively putting out, while the background were just talking about doing it. It was just that simple.

I have a good friend who will always listen to any idea I have, but I realized over time he was giving me less and less of his attention. He would always end every idea pitch by saying, "Great. Go write it." And the more times I came back without doing that, the less excited he was to listen to my ideas. The lesson he was trying to teach me is simple. An idea without a script is nothing, a script without a production is nothing, a production without a portal is nothing.

The days of being just one anything are over. You need to dive head first into something else, even if it is just to support your primary focus. Don't want to be a producer, fine, but you are probably going to have to grit your teeth and bear it for at least one project if you want a showcase piece for you as an actor. Might as well be now.

You can follow Christopher Tillman on Twitter at @christophertill

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Like Finals All Over Again

I was approved to go to script on my pilot! Huzzah!

Of course, that means it's crunch time now. For realsies. It's Monday and my first draft is due to my Executive Producer on Thursday. That's right - outline to full script in four days.

Let's do this!

So alas, dear readers, this blog will be going dark until after the holidays. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with my writing, acting, and life adventures. In the meantime, you can catch up on my Fiction Friday pieces or Tools of the Trade series for actors. Or read my blog from the beginning.

See you in 2012!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Moody Sunday Listening

Kind of obsessed with this piece of music I discovered on dig.ccmixter -
"Black Rainbow" by Pitx (featuring ERH, acclivity)
Creative Commons License Sampling Plus 1.0
It stirs my imagination to create a short film story that uses this music as its soundtrack. Something sad and moody that ends without satisfaction, filled with quiet longing - like this picture -

For now, I need to concentrate on my pilot. Watch for the next step in this project in 2012...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marie Lu Writes Things Her Way

Photo / LA Weekly / Dianne Garcia
Marie Lu is kind of awesome. She just published a dystopian future novel for young adults which was influenced by Les Miserables and Orson Scott Card’s Ender's Game,plus she’s a fan of Firefly. Triple win in my book.

Marie and I also share two important features. We’re both Asian-American and we don’t want to write about being Asian-American. Go us!

I discovered Marie Lu from this Entertainment Weekly interview about publishing her first novel. “An Asian-American writer?” I thought. “Let’s see what she has to say.”

Turns out I loved everything out of her mouth, including the description of her book. Legendis about a future where the United States is torn by a civil war between the eastern and western states and a pair of teenagers who get caught in a cat and mouse game across the border. It’s the first in a trilogy of books. The rights have already been bought by CBS Films, so don’t be surprised if the film adaptation of Legend hits the theaters before the third Hunger Games film is even done.

I love dystopian fiction (Thank you, Mrs. Ridley) and I love that this book isn’t about race. Not that I object to that – kudos to Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston – but I’m excited to find an Asian-American author role model that did what I want to do – write a novel that’s not about being Asian-American.

Among the work I’ve done in Relax & Write, I’ve written a handful of essays about growing up with my strict Asian parents and my colleagues have often encouraged me to expand them into a memoir or use them as inspiration for fiction. But I’m so over thinking of myself as Asian-American that the subject doesn’t interest me at all. I’d much rather write about troll detectives or abused girls from the South or sisters at a crossroad.

So I draw inspiration from Marie Lu. She wrote four manuscripts before writing Legend. I’m still working on my first manuscript – a mother/daughter story set in Marblehead, Massachusetts. I’ve only written about 100 pages, so I have a long way to go. But if Marie can do it, so can I.

Check out another interview with Marie Lu on Mediabistro

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fiction Friday: Hearts Afire, Part 2

Click here to read Hearts Afire, Part 1

“Wait,” Steve called. Penelope turned, feeling embarrassed.

“It’s okay. You can tell them that I –”

“That you forgot to tell me your name.”

She took a breath. “Penelope.”

“Nice to meet you, Penelope.”

He held out his hand. She shook it, laughing at herself for once.

“So…be my date to the carnival tonight.”

What? “Date? Uh…”

“What’s wrong? Never gone out with a fireman before?”

Penelope was dumbfounded. “I’ve never had someone catch me in a lie and then ask me out.”

“And I bet you’ve never had deep fried hot chocolate. It will be a night of firsts. What do you say?”

He was ridiculously charming. Penelope had no idea what to say. Unexpected opportunities didn’t run down the sidewalk after her. She created all her opportunities herself, on her terms in her own way. How was she supposed to deal with this?

A loud, persistent wail filled the air as red siren lights outside the firehouse started flashing.

“Steve! We gotta roll!” the old man hollered from the firehouse doors.

Penelope could still see the twinkle in Steve’s eyes as he trotted backwards down the sidewalk. “Gotta run. See you at six o’clock tonight. At the bake sale!”

The fire was bad. A chemical spill had ignited and was threatening to overtake the neighboring row of buildings. It was after 8 pm and none of the fireman had returned yet. Tidbits of information floated through the carnival as Penelope wandered around, listening to fireman’s wives consoling each other and calling the firehouse for updates. No one knew anything.

Penelope walked over to the bake sale table. The community had rallied to show their support, so everything was almost gone. She spotted the last of her store bought cookies sitting on a paper plate and handed over a twenty.

“Keep the change,” she said, picking it up with a napkin. She stared at the cookie, hoping she’d get one more chance to see the twinkle in Steve’s eye. To say yes to their date. To take a chance for maybe the first time ever.

“Hope you’re saving that for me.”

Penelope whipped around to see Steve approaching, limping slightly from fatigue but with a smile in his eyes. “Sorry I’m late.”

She smacked his arm, hard. As he winced, she yelled, “You can’t ask a girl out then go off and almost get killed! Who does that?”

He just smiled back. “Didn’t I say this would be a night of firsts?”

She stared at him in disbelief. “You’re crazy.”

“Can I have my cookie now?”

She laughed helplessly, feeling the last remnants of her shell crack and fall away. She handed over the cookie.

“Here. I made it myself.”

“Really?” he said, taking a bite. “Tell me more.”

Steve held out his hand and Penelope took it. Not because he’d kept her secret, not because he’d lived, but because she wanted to.

~ The End ~

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interpreting Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is the Holy Grail for independent filmmakers. The prestige, the swag, the skiing – every person with a camera and dream wants to say their film got into Sundance.

The 2012 Sundance feature and documentary lineup was just announced. While reading descriptions of the US dramatic films to see if I recognized any names, I noticed something.

Out of the 16 American films in competition, 14 are from writer/directors. 14 out of 16! Some films credit multiple writers, but in almost every case, one of the writers also directed the film.

So many conclusions can be drawn from data like that. If you’re a writer, you should learn how to direct. If you’re a director, you should learn how to write. If you want to do either, you might as well learn how to do both.

(These conclusions don’t seem to apply to the big studio pictures. Out of the last ten Best Picture Oscar winners, only two were directed by the writer – No Country for Old Men by the Coen brothers and Crash by Paul Haggis. Arguably it’s harder to crossover at that level, but if you’ve been doing it all along – like the Coen brothers – I suppose it’s a more natural transition.)

Questions also arise – has show business become so saturated with talent that simply being a hyphenate isn’t enough anymore? Everyone has to be an auteur?

My focus is mostly on TV writing, but this does make me wonder if I should try directing some smaller projects in between. Experience is experience, right? I directed my first short film to enter YOMYOMF’s Interpretations film competition last year. It’s an amateur effort, but I learned a ton while making it.

Perhaps from these humble beginnings will rise the next Sundance feature competitor! Hmmm…we’ll see.