Dec 19 2016

Rogue One: The Beauty of a Big Brand


After seeing “Rogue One,” I am kind of numb and needed to process it for a couple days. Oh, it’s fun and badass and everything it promised: A real “Star Wars” WAR movie. But I don’t think I’ll be taking my youngest son to it. Too much. Too many deaths. And frankly, a plot that would bore him. My son is seven and I think that is too young for this one. Too many dads are going to want to share another Star Wars memory with their kids and just blindly take them to “Rogue One” because “hey, it’s Star Wars.” But after “Rogue One,” “Star Wars” can mean many things and parents need to be aware of that. Just be warned. Star Wars does NOT always equal “kids film,” and I’m getting tired of that assumption.

The darkness and intensity of this recent film gave me a bit of an epiphany: certain brands reach a status where they can diverge like the spokes of a wheel and become an “uber brand.” The brand is able to take on many versions of itself. Many creatives recoil from big IP that dominates today’s landscape, but here’s where a big brand is wonderful…

I really enjoyed “Rogue One” and I’m going to see it several times. But it’s not my favorite Star Wars film. And with a brand as big as Star Wars, that’s okay! I actually prefer the brightness and broad heroism of “The Force Awakens” to the bleakness of R1. And now I realize that once a brand grows to the expanse of something like Star Wars, Batman, Ninja Turtles or The Avengers, every single thing that comes from that brand does not have to please every single fan. Don’t like the live action Michael Bay-ish Ninja Turtles? There’s a super fun series on Nickelodeon for you. Don’t like the “Transformers” movies? Don’t watch them. You can still enjoy Transformers as they exist in their many animated forms. After “Rogue One,” I see that the Star Wars brand has reached a new status:  There may be some Star Wars things you don’t share with your kids. There can be MANY flavors of Star Wars at the “Star Wars Buffet” and you can choose. There are enough flavors to go around.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story L to R: (Felicity Jones) & (Diego Luna) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

A producer put it in perspective for me a couple years ago when I was meeting about a particular mega-brand. He pointed to BATMAN. A grown up can enjoy a much darker, deeper, politically allegorical Batman in “The Dark Knight” while their kids can enjoy the sillier, lighter Batman of “The Lego Batman Movie.” Neither project negates the other. They both can even have their own “universe” and set of rules. It’s kind of amazing. This makes the brand almost bullet proof. There is no single version or product that will “hurt” the brand. And fans need to get on board with this idea too. No one can “ruin” your childhood or any version of a thing you hold sacred. If the original “Ghostbusters” movie is the ONLY movie that counts, then you go watch that and be happy.

As storytelling happens in more and more divergent formats, our characters can survive in a multitude of forms. That’s the good news. I’m rooting for an Indiana Jones Animated series myself.

Dec 15 2016

Just Start

Blank paper with pen

A lot of people talk about Writer’s Block. They talk about being daunted by The Blank Page. And then there’s just good old-fashioned Procrastination. If you’re a writer, these things are normal. But the more you give them a TITLE and a place in your process, the more they own you. Stop it. Don’t give any of these things power. Today I wanted to talk about how to break out of that frozen state that many writers find themselves in. You’ve made an outline, you’ve got piles of research notes, you’ve been THINKING about writing this new thing for a long time. Hey, I’m the first person to say that wandering around aimlessly and staring into space IS writing. It is! But sooner or later you have to produce pages. It’s what separates the dabblers from the pros. There are ways to fight the blank page and the simplest one is to Just. Start. Writing.

I’m one of those sickos who enjoys the blank page. I like first drafts. The sky’s the limit! But I understand how for many, STARTING may be the hardest part. I have found that, just by going through the act of hitting the keys and writing ANYTHING, ideas will start to come. Something will take shape. I believe momentum can be created simply by “tricking” yourself into it.

Tell yourself, “I’m not really going to write the real thing for real, I’m just going to write the crappy version.” JUST START. Write something stupid and horrible. No one has to see it. We no longer live in the days of typewriters and correction tape and crumpled paper anymore (even though it makes a great image for this blog). Digital writing is little more than thoughts in the air, instantly deleted! So write anything. Write about how you hate writing. Write about the nothingness. But if you can, at least get your characters talking. I swear to you, this works.

This seems to work with many other activities too. If you want to establish a new habit, just force yourself to fake it for a while. If you don’t smile enough, force yourself to smile. Sooner or later, you kind of trick yourself into doing it for real. You can force your brain and your talent to kick in by giving it an active, aggressive PUSH. Can’t write anything today? Fake it. Just start hitting the keys.

Some of my writer friends love the REWRITE more than the blank page. Well if the blank page is scary, make it “UN-BLANK” as soon as possible. Once there is even a garbage version of a scene on the page, look at you, you have something to rewrite! And rewriting is easier.

dscf6680001I’ll go one step further and say that blindly starting with no plan can also generate brand new ideas. It’s a fun way to brainstorm. I used to do a podcast segment once a week with my own funny take on a subject. One day I thought, “I’ve got nothing to say… let’s see where that goes.” The result is a disjointed and bizarre essay I read on the podcast simply titled “Train Of Thought.” You can listen to it HERE.  It’s not anything that’s going to win a Pulitzer… but you know what? It was entertaining. It was funny. It had some new ideas in it that expanded into more ideas. The exercise is valid. Tap those keys into the hazy oblivion and see where your Train Of Thought ends up. Choo-Choo!

Just start. Don’t worry about the end result. Don’t worry about keeping it. Don’t think about “never working again.” Just hit dem keys! Just start!

Seriously, now. Just go do it. It will be okay and you’re going to rewrite it anyway.

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