Monday, April 20, 2009

Zach Spencer

I stumbled across Zach Spencer on MySpace and absolutely fell in love with his song, "Letting You In!" Well Zach has a new EP out and it is just as heartfelt and moving as his earlier efforts. Open for Discussion had a chance to chat with Zach and ask a few questions.

O.D. What have you been up to and what are you working on now?
Z.S. I recently released a five song EP.

O.D. How did you get started in music?
Z.S. I grew up in a small town with a population of about three -thousand people. We had two stop lights and a bunch of corn. Both of my parents played in a band. My dad sings and plays guitar and my mother played the tambourine. My father still plays in a band called "Geezer."

O.D. What was your first album purchase?
Z.S. Boyz II Men.

O.D. What is your favorite song on the new album?
Z.S. "Change is Coming."

O.D. What do you know now that you wished you knew when you first started?
Z.S. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Follow your instincts.

O.D. Any regrets?
Z.S. No regrets! It's all a journey. You should have fun as you're learning.

O.D. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Z.S. Hopefully I can convince someone to let me do this for a living. I'd love to still live in Nashville and tour.

O.D. Any hints you can pass along to aspiring musicians?
Z.S. Believe in yourself. Learn from others. Be humble.

O.D. Do you do any touring?
Z.S. Nashville mostly. I hope to go on tour this summer!

O.D. Any battle scars?
Z.S. I was playing a gig in St. Louis and the stage was wet. The cords weren't taped down. I fell on my ass. That was one of the first bands I played with back in high school.

O.D. Do you have a favorite venue?
Z.S. I love to play at Rutledge in Nashville. The sound guys are great! Busch Stadium would be the ultimate!

O.D. If they asked you to do the National Anthem would you do it?
Z.S. That would be awesome!

O.D. Is there anyone you'd like to meet?
Z.S. Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty! They seem to transcend through time. I'd love to write a song with them!O.D. Do you have a routine when coming up with new material?
Z.S. I started when I was fifteen. It's different everytime. It randomly pops in my head. If I'm driving down the road I try to record it on my phone.

O.D. Do you have any hobbies?
Z.S. I love sports. I'm a Cardinals and Titans fan.

O.D. Do you have a day job?
Z.S. I work in a hotel to pay the bills.

I'm sure we will be hearing more from this twenty-four year old from Nashville! If you'd like to check him out, he's on MySpace! You can also find his album, "When I Found You," on Itunes and his online store.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Cake Eaters

I saw "The Cake Eaters" at the Austin Film Festival in 2007. I absolutely loved this film. Open for Disucussion had a chance to catch up with Jayce Bartok (the writer and actor of the film). I asked him a few questions.

What transpired between the festival circuit and the theatrical release of "The Cake Eaters?"

We basically played every festival under the sun, and had a great time and watched the film play really well in front of audiences, but were frustrated about the opportunities for distribution for "The Cake Eaters" after a year and a half since it’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Mary Stuart and the producers recut the film, and it had started to win some great awards, but it was the massive success of Twilight starring Kristen Stewart (who plays Georgia so wonderfully in "The Cake Eaters") that began the resurrection of the film.

Jesse Scolaro (producer 7th floor) & Jayce Bartok

What's the meaning behind your title?

The Cake Eaters is a term I grew up with in Pennsylvania. My mom used to use it to describe those who had it made, had their lives mapped out for them, where the most likely to succeed…"The Cake Eaters." I thought it was an interesting metaphor for this group of misfits who begin the story searching and longing for love, trying to overcome grief, and through the course of the story…find their “cake”. They find some love, happiness, peace… The title gets a lot of questions, it’s pretty controversial…and unforgettable.

What have you been up to and what are you working on now?

My company with my wife, Tiffany – Vinyl Foote Productions - has three projects in development. The most recent is a project I wrote called "Red River," which I am directing. Check out It’s a true crime story about these strange drownings in the Mississippi River around Wisconsin. The film revolves around this super normal family – the Casey family. The dynamic and characters have a real Cake Eaters feel, but there’s this huge twist and darkness underneath the surface. The Casey family is connected to the murders.

Vinyl Foote is also working on "Tiny Dancer," a film about a ballerina struggling to get back into the company directed by Jackson Gay and Dream Country. It's based on the best selling novel by Luanne Rice, directed by Will Geiger and starring Bill Pullman.

What's it like to work with Mary Stuart?

Mary Stuart and I had a really amazing time working together. We both pushed each other to find the best in the story. She is wonderful with actors, of course. And she cares. Which is SO rare.

How long did it take you to write the script and do you have a routine?

The Cake Eaters was started in the end of 2003. The first draft took a month or so. It was my first script so, boy did it change! I think we shot the 21st draft. I always feel the script starts to take shape around the 3-5th draft.
My routine is pretty simple – I try to dodge writing as long as possible. I will do anything not to start. But then when I do, it’s like a fever. Then it’s done, whether it’s a rewrite or first draft. And then I try everything I can to not write again.

Aaron Stanford & Kristen Stewart

Proudest moment (any not just on Cake Eaters)?

Well, we are expecting our first child any day now….so I think that will take the Cake (yes, a pun was intended).

Any regrets?

Of course, I wish I had started writing movies when I was in my early twenties, instead of mid-thirties. But alas, I probably wouldn’t have had anything to write about.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

Not to freak out during the rewriting process. It’s still hard not to when you get tons of notes from a director or producer or friend, even. Writing really is rewriting. It sucks, but it’s also just paper, y’know. Best to get it right before you shoot it.

What motivates you?

The love of cinema. I love movies. I love characters, and stories. I love hearing a great story, telling one. It’s that simple desire to be like, “I saw this guy on the subway today….

Jayce Bartok and Bruce Dern in "The Cake Eaters"

Craziest moment?

During the filming of The Cake Eaters, I was shooting a scene on a roof during a real storm. They rigged this tow line to me under my clothes, and then I had to pretend to fall off the roof. There was this little teamster on the other side of the house holding onto the tow line so I wouldn’t fall. I was like, “Is this guy gonna’ hold me?” Needless to say, I did the stunt. It was amazing. And it never made the film! Hilarious.

Any hints you can pass along to aspiring actors/writers?

Do everything and anything to get your movie made. You have to have 100% belief that your project will get made. It’s a long road, but one door leads to another. Write great parts for actors, and get some really talented ones involved.

Press line at the Tribecca Film Festival

What got you into the industry?

I started out doing plays and commercials in NYC when I was a teenager, and that led to films and tv, and that led to writing…and hopefully directing next.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, as a successful writer/director. I want to develop my company, Vinyl Foote, into a growing indie film company.

"The Cake Eaters" opens up on March 13, 2009. If you get a chance, go see it!

Spotlight on Photography

I had a chance to work with Erika Barrientes on a shoot back in January (I'll fill you in on that more later). I'm glad that I had the opportunity. She is very dedicated as well as talented. I asked her for a bio as well as her favorite pictures. It's hard to choose only five of your favorite photographs. These pictures only scratch the surface of the talent this young lady has.

I asked Erika a few questions:

What are you working on now?
I want to have my own studio with my loyal clientele.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
If I had enough of a name that clients would come to me instead of advertising. They would come to me because I had the shot they were looking for.

Any funny stories you'd like to share?
Dealing with a difficult child on a one and half hour shoot we finally got a great shot, but the funny thing is that I didn't get her face in the shot.

What inspires you?
What's the story behind the shot? Why is this important? What was the drive behind it? This is what inspires me!

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you first started?

How to take control of the client and take control of the shot. Know what you want before your shoot. Don't gun and run. Do my research.

Pet peeve?
When people ask what kind of camera do you use?

What's your mantra?
Camera doesn't make a great picture anymore than a typewriter makes a great novel

This is her bio from her myspace: "Hmm ... about me. This is usually a section of pages that I avoid like a plague! But, with each trip around the sun I take, I have finally begun to understand that it's ok for me to take a good long look in the mirror. I am a wife, mother, daughter and sister but mostly I am learning that I'm a person ... and darn it if that doesn't feel good! I stumbled into photography as an accident taking pictures of my first born child. As my babe continued to grow, so did my desire to learn more about this photography thing. What has surprised me the most about this new venture in my life is that I am actually pretty stinking good at it! (Yes, it's ok for me to float my own boat here ... it's my page after all!) And so, with each new year I have continued to push myself to learn more, do more and even be more. And I gotta tell ya, it's an incredible ride ... hopefully some of you will be lucky enough to find yourself in front of my camera, because if you do, there's no telling where I just might take ya! Hugs, E. "

Words people use to describe me...energetic, creative, outgoing, fun, and friendly.

Feel free to peruse her website for more pics. For all things Erika check out:

Friday, December 12, 2008

TJ Slaughter

You may know T.J. as the NFL player, but that just scratches the surface. He's an entrepreneur (he started a marketing company), a model, and an actor. Open for Discussion caught up with him on the short film set of "Interrogation."
On the set of "Interrogation."
O.D. What motivates you?
T.J. God and Family. I come from a poor family. I'm the first to graduate college. I'm always striving to succeed.

O.D. What do you know now that you wished you knew when you first started playing football?
T.J. The business aspect of it. In college, the best man plays. Lots of talented guys fall by the way side due to a team's investments.

O.D. What are you most proud of?
T.J. My relationship with God and the man I have become. It has been a long road.

O.D. Any regrets?

T.J. I don't live my life by regretting things. The events in my past are what shapes the man I am today.

Lisa Benton, T.J. Slaughter, & Nataly Pena

O.D. Where do you see yourself in five years?
T.J. I never put limits on myself. I want to continue to grow. I'd like to do some work to help children. I'm pursuing and acting and modeling career as well as football.

O.D. What are you working on now?
T.J. My marketing company, modeling, and acting. I want to perfect my craft. I'm always learning.

T.J. was a lot of fun to work with on set. He was very open to taking direction and was a tireless worker. He was in good spirits throughout the entire shoot, even at four a.m. He was always cracking me up, but when the cameras started rolling... he was back into character. It was fun watching him take it all in, as he's new to the whole thing. I think he has a promising future ahead of him. I'd work with him any day!

-Brandon Santiago, director of "Interrogation"

O.D. What hints can you give someone who wants to play football?
T.J. Believe in yourself and work hard. Never give up. Put your heart into it. I'm a firm believer in attitude. If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will. When you believe in yourself others will see the light in you.
TJ Slaughter is a perfect example of a winner in all areas of his life. He is not afraid of discipline, hard work, and a positive attitude drives him in everything he under takes.
Success for him is not a question. Watch and learn......

-Diana Sneckner, President of Avant Agency

For more things T.J., check out his website or contact his agent Diana at Avant Agency.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trevor Friedrich

Imperative Reaction came to San Antonio on November 1st. Their show was at Club Atomix on McCullough. If you are into Industrial / Alternative music, the show is a must see. Imperative Reaction put on a highly energized and talented performance that keeps you wanting more. Open for Discussion got a chance to catch up with their drummer, Trevor Friedrich.

Imperative Reaction

Open for Discussion asked Trevor a few questions.

O.D. What got you into music?
T.F. It's a funny story. My family was adding on to our house and needed the next door neighbors to sign off on the expansion. They didn't, so my dad went to the guitar center and purchased instruments. He said we were going to start a rock band. The neighbors moved shortly there after!

O.D. What was your first album purchase?
T.F. My first purchase was Beavis and Butthead. I was given Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Metallica, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Trevor with Nikki Sixx on the Accidents Can Happen Shoot

O.D. What do you know now that you wished you knew when you started out?
T.F. Not to trust a major record label.

O.D. What are you most proud of?
T.F. To be able to play in bands that I love and that I have fun on stage even though I feel that I'm not at the level of other drummers.
O.D. Any funny stories you want to share?
T.F. The tour bus is like a German Techno club. It's a lot of fun.

O.D. Any regrets?
T.F. None!
O.D. Where do you see yourself in five years?
T.F. Doing the same stuff but with a bigger house and more motorcycles.

O.D. What are you working on and what's up next for you?
T.F. Tour ends in a week and I plan on doing tattoos and hanging out.

Trevor and his Grandpa

O.D. So you are a fan of motorcyles?
T.F. I have a Harley. I went to Sturgis this year with my Dad and Grandpa. I gave my Grandpa a tat and he wore short sleeve shirts the whole time to show off his tattoo that I gave him!

O.D. I like Exile bikes!
T.F. I'd like to have one but they are out of my price range at the moment. I can't believe you've heard of them.
O.D. Family into music?
T.F. My dad just bought the instuments to drive away the neighbors. My family isn't musically inclined. I chose the drums because even if I sucked I'd have fun playing.

O.D. What were the names of the other bands you've been in?
T.F. Currently I'm in Imperative Reaction and Never Enough. I've been in Tire Iron, Loftus, and Eighteen Visions. When I played for Eighteen Visions we got a chance to throw out the first pitch at a Rangers game. They played our song "Victim." It was so surreal!

O.D. What hints can you give someone who's thinking of becoming a musician?
T.F. Learn to be entertaining on stage over talent.
Imperative Reaction's Minus All Tour finishes up in California and Arizona. [:SITD:] and Aesthetic Perfection is touring with them.

November 5th @ Club Xile @ The Can Nightclub in Garden Grove, CA
November 6th @ Sky Room @ The Country Club in Sacramento, CA
November 7th @ Brick by Brick in San Diego, CA
November 8th @ Sadisco's @ Chaser's in Scottsdale, AZ
November 21st @ The Viper Room in West Hollywood, CA

Trevor is currently on a European tour with Combichrist.

Click on picture to make larger

If you get a chance, check them out! For more things
Imperative Reaction , Combichrist, and Never 3Nough, check out their websites and myspace accounts!

Monday, November 3, 2008

2008 AFF Comes to an End

The Austin Film Festival came to a close on October 23rd. The Screenplay Competition Winners were:
Drama- Mine by Anita Skibski
Comedy-eLove by Betsy Morris
Sci-fi- The Man Who Would be Sherlock Holmes by Walter Campbell
Latitude- Shimmer Lake by Oren Vziel
Drama Teleplay- Pushing Daises: Rumpology by Steve Daniels
Sitcom Teleplay- The Office: The Crossword Contest by Beau Henry

The Film Competition Winners were:
Narrative Feature: Lost and Found- Writer/Director Nobuyuki Miyake
Documentary Feature: Les Ninjas du Japon, Director Giommi Giovanni
Narrative Short: Sikumi, Writer/ Director: Andrew Okpeaha
Narrative Student Short: Danzak, Writer/Director: Gabriela Yepes
Animated Short: Chainsaw, Director Dennis Tupicoff
Documentary Short: Zietek, Director: Bartosz Blaschke
Congratulations to this years winners!!

From all the panels I attended most writers gave the same advice. I think Terry Rosio sums it up best. Below are some quotes from the writers panels.

The Langlais Brothers
, Me, Terry Rossio, & Vickie Hanan

Write from the point of view of the screenwriter facing the blank page. You have to find your own voice. Read the guru books to fix your structure after writing your first draft. Write something you think is cool but unattainable. Does your concept throw off ideas?
-Terry Rossio

Herschel Weingrod & Jimmy Miller

Read scripts, write, and keep writing! Catch films and pay attention to what you find interesting. Is your story coherent and compelling? It should be an act of seduction. Don't do other people's jobs for them (i.e. camera angels, etc.).
-Herschel Weingrod

Dom Hughes, Heather Hughes, Shauna Cross, & Grady Hughes

Try to get scripts before you see the films. Read scripts from every genre. You should always be learning!
-Shauna Cross

Eric Red, Mya, & Casey

Write what scares you! Write something out of place that shouldn't be there. Something beyond your control that shakes you to the core. Play with the audiences expectations. Handle everything realistically. Make your killers logical to be convincing and fresh. Fear can bring clarity to a situation. Flawed characters makes them more identifiable and you'll want to root for them.
-Eric Red on writing horror flicks

Me, Shane Black, & Vickie Hanan

Writing action has a lot to do with reversals. My favorite script was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it was fun! Never lose your naivety.
-Shane Black

For more you'll just have to save the dates for next year (October 22-29th, 2009), and attend yourself!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

2008 Austin Film Festival

I had a chance to read for this years screenplay competition. It has given me great insight to the inner workings of the festival as well as meeting the people behind the scenes. Alex McPhail the Screenplay / Teleplay Competition Director, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.
Austin Film Festival Staff

O.D. -What sets the AFF apart from the other festivals?
A.M. -The festival is focused more toward the screenwriter. Other festivals focus on the filmmaker.

O.D. - How many entries did you get for the script competition this year?
A.M. - Over 4,100 entries. Only the top ten percent made it to the second round.

O.D. - For someone coming to the festival for the first time, what tips would you give them?
A.M. - Drink a lot of coffee, because you won't get much sleep! Take advantage of all the networking opportunities. You can't come to the festival and be a wall flower.

Dan French and Scott Rice at the Conference Wrap Party.

O.D. - What is the biggest success story that has come from the AFF?
A.M. - A lot of television and ghost writing have come out of the festival. The first years winner Max Adams, went on to have her script produced (Excess Baggage, starring Alicia Silverstone and Benicio del Toro). Most recently Jimmy Miller (last years drama category winner) went on to have his script optioned and now has an agent.

Gerald Di Pego and Jimmy Miller at the screening of "The Cake Eaters."

"I think every aspiring writer who is serious about breaking into the industry should come to the Austin Film Festival. It is a unique opportunity to learn from and interact with professional working writers who have been through every phase of the art and business of screenwriting.

It is a rare opportunity to ask questions directly to them and get unfiltered answers about the realities of trying to make a living as a screenwriter. They are very open about the highs and lows and the work and determination required to compete against the best writers in the world.

You also get to hear from production company and studio executives, show runners, producers, directors, actors, agents and managers who are there not only to share their experience and wisdom, but to make connections with the next generation of writers.

I was lucky enough to win the Adult/Family category last year. That exposure helped land me a wonderful agent and manager. It lead to my script being optioned by a dedicated and talented director (Mary Stuart Masterson), and has opened many other doors during the past year that makes me very excited for the future. I couldn't be happier to come back to Austin this year and enjoy it even more."

-Jimmy Miller, 2007 Adult/ Family Winner

O.D. - How many finalist are there this year?
A.M.- There are twenty-two finalist.

Patrick Gough (2007 Runner-up Pitch competition)& Paul Clingan (2007 Pitch Competition Winner)

Austin with it's laid back vibe and "Keep Austin Weird" motto makes this the most accessible, comfortable environment for the beginner and seasoned professional alike. The conference portion starts on Thursday October 16th and runs until Sunday October 19th. During the day panels are held where you can learn from the professionals.
"Great festival with a true community feel. Always worth the time."
-Db Sweeney
Db Sweeney, Joe Metcalfe, Ray McKinnon

The films normally run in the evenings before the late night festival parties. There are quite a few stars from the films that are in attendance. The opening night film is Oliver Stone's "W". The centerpiece film is David Wain's "Role Models". The closing night film is James Gray's "Two Lovers".

There is so much to take advantage of at this film festival. To get the most out of it, I suggest getting a producers badge. That gives you and all access pass to everything the festival has to offer. For more visit

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Will Be Back Soon

I will be back soon with more posts. I'm going to be reading for a film festival and it will take up the majority of my time . Check back in periodically.
Until then,

Monday, March 17, 2008


I attended a Triggerstreet get together in Hollywood this weekend. For those of you that are interested in film making at any level, this website is for you. Not only does it have a screenplay section, but it has a book, short films, short stories, and a play section.
Dana Brunetti & I

Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey are the founders of Triggerstreet. I took this quote off his bio on the site.

"Using the internet for which it was created: a mode of communication - No longer do you need to "know somebody" to get a foot in Hollywood's door. We offer the chance of exposure and access for filmmakers and writers alike, to showcase their talent from anywhere, while at the same time giving everyone the ability to view and judge the work submitted. It's an opportunity for talent and great ideas to be discovered by all."

Part of the Triggerstreet community on Hollywood Blvd.

Not only have I made some great connections on the site, but I've made some great friends. It is a place to get feedback, exposure, and plenty of opportunities. The message board is a great meeting place for all filmmakers. Triggerstreet also puts out a podcast on Itunes to keep you updated on all things Hollywood. I asked Dana a couple of questions at the get together.

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you first started?

To not be too ambitious.

What kind of advice could you pass along to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?


Not only is Dana the founder of but he's a producer of such movies as 21, Columbus Day, Fanboys, and Bernard and Doris to name a few. 21 opens nationwide on March 28th.

To find out more about Triggerstreet, go to

Saturday, March 8, 2008

21 @ SXSW

21 was the opening film for South by Southwest Film Festival. The Paramount was filled to capacity. It was a great kickoff to the festival.

The film definitely delivered. Solid cast and script. With the producing team of Dana Brunetti and Mike Deluca, what else would you expect. It made me laugh and sit at the edge of my seat to see what was going to happen next. Judging by the audibles in the audience, I wasn't the only one.

Ben Mezrich, author of "Bringing Down the House."

Ben Mezrich was asked if he was a writer on the script. Ben said, "Books and scripts are two different genres. I consulted on the script." Dana Brunetti found an article in "Wired Magazine", and contacted him about his book. Ben thought it was MIT students playing a joke on him when he received the phone call from Kevin Spacey.

Robert Luketic introduced the film. The director said, "I wanted to show that I could do more than just movies that had dresses in it. It was kind of like starting all over again."
Dana Brunetti, producer of 21.

No spoilers here. If you have a chance to go see it, it's worth it! 21 opens in theaters on March 28th.