Casting Notes

Didn’t come across a whole lot of note today, but did want to call out a few things. First up, my buddy Zach Oat‘s book about sculpting action figures and statues called Pop Sculpture is for sale on Amazon now. He worked on it with Ruben Procopio and Tim Bruckner, two solid guys I interviewed for ToyFare a few months back. For more info on the book and sculpting check out their blog.

Amazon also has 100 MP3 records on sale for $5. I picked up the new Jimmy Eat World and David Cross albums. Wired‘s post featuring Cedric Delsaux’s mash-up photos of Dubai and Star Wars are pretty intense. This one’s my fave.

Finally, I’ll take a moment to toot my own horn. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Kinney, the brain behind the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books for MTV Geek. There’s a new volume The Ugly Truth is out this week. Kinney was a lot of fun to talk to and I enjoyed the first and fourth books, which I picked up from Marshalls on the cheap, were fantastic. A review will be coming soon.

Advertisements

Adventures In Freelancing: Editor Chat with Tracey John

After going on about my own long-winded way of getting into the world of writing in the previous AIF, I figured it would be a good idea to get one of my editors to comment on other ways for new writers to break into the freelance game. I sent an email to Tracey John who runs things over at the Goods section of UGO.com, the section I work for on a daily basis (check the Writing Links section up there on the right for examples). I first met Tracey back when I was an editor for ToyFare and she was writing for us. A little while after I got laid off, she found herself in an editor spot and I was looking for freelance work and it worked out perfectly. Like she says in the next paragraph “networking ftw!” Hopefully this interview will help some of you get on your way to writing for fun and profit. I think this will be it for the “how to get into writing freelance pop culture” section of the course for a little while unless someone has some more questions for me, which means more of these will focus on the day to day of being a writer as well as some of the benefits and pitfalls of the gig. Hit me up with questions or comments in the section or email me at tjdietsch AT SYMBOL gmail PERIOD com.

Does UGO.com accept unsolicited emails/work from unknown freelancers?

JOHN: It depends. I can’t speak for the other editors, but I do accept unsolicited pitches (no completed works, though!) from unknown freelancers. However, I rarely receive good pitches from out of the blue. The best pitches I get come from friends or friends of friends, which helps in terms of weeding out any substandard writers. If someone can refer you to me, that’s your best way in; I am more likely to look at your pitch if you’re recommended by someone I know. I have a few writers who came to me this way. Networking, ftw!

What do you as an editor look for when looking for a new writer?
I look for great ideas, clean and concise copy, and last but not least, punctuality. In fact, it won’t matter how talented you are or what great ideas you have if you can’t turn in your work on time. If you need more time to work on a story, it’s usually not a problem — but always let me know first. Otherwise, I’m wasting time chasing you down for it.

Another thing I look for: attention to detail. This goes beyond spell-checking. That means writing solid headlines (or at least trying),  providing the correct image(s) and properly tagging your article; basically, making sure you’ve got dotted i’s and crossed t’s. A little extra effort goes a long way!

What advice would you give for a hopeful writer trying to contact editors?

Pitch, pitch, pitch. I get quite a few e-mails from potential writers, even ones who are referred to me. They present past work and say how they’d like to contribute to the site, but they don’t provide me with any actual pitches. I need ideas! I can’t think of them all by myself. I don’t have a ton of assignments waiting around to give to writers, especially if you aren’t a regular. So when you send me an e-mail with your resume and clips, you should send a few article ideas as well. This will not only show me how creative you are, but also if you’ve even looked at the publication or website.

If a writer doesn’t have clips from a known website, would you look at personal blog posts or possibly college newspaper clips?

It would obviously help if your work has been published at other magazines or websites; it means you’ve worked with a professional editor before. However, if blog posts and college clips are all you have, by all means send your best ones! Along with pitches, too!

Does UGO take on interns? If so, where should potential candidates look for those listings?

UGO accepts interns every semester for college credit. We do post an ad for interns occasionally, but you can also check this page — http://www.ugo.com/corporate/jobs — for more specific information. If the intern shows enough initiative and know-how, we even let them write for us.

You yourself were a freelancer for a while. How did you get started?

I majored in Media & Communications and wrote for my college newspaper. Then I wrote for a few music magazines and websites (for free) while I held a full-time web production job. I kept writing articles and conducting interviews in my spare time. Eventually, an assistant editor position opened up at the same workplace where I was web producing. I showed them my clips and got the job. Ever since then, I’ve worked as both a full-time freelance writer and a full-time staff editor at various publications and websites. Oftentimes finding a writing/editing gig comes from networking and luck, but working hard, persistence and using your abilities to the fullest will always make you stand out above the rest.

Adventures In Freelancing: Recent Links

After announcing the new recurring feature Adventures In Freelancing, I figured it would be a good idea to throw up some links to my work with a few comments about my process and that kind of thing.

My weekly TV column for Maxim.com continues to roll on. You can check out this week’s here and then check out the Writing Links tab up there in the right hand corner for past entries. I write We Like To Watch the week before it goes up by going through TVGuide.com’s schedule and writing notes about what new shows might be interesting to watch. With something like this, it’s key to keep your audience in mind, so I’m not going to write about how much I actually like Real Housewives of New Jersey or something like that, but I can poke fun at it. I try to match the voice of the magazine and other pieces I’ve read on the website. Adapting like that is key when writing for many different outlets.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been continuing to do lots of work for UGO.com’s The Goods section. I write a WTF Star Wars?! every single day, it’s usually the first thing I do in the morning. When my editor first pitched me on the idea, I thought it would last maybe a month, but I’ve got a whole folder filled with future entries and see a few things every day to add. So much Star Wars! I’m also continuing to work on a weekly DVD/Blu-ray column for them called Blu-sday which I picked up from my buddy Adam Tracey. This week’s entry can be found here and you should check out last week’s which isn’t based on new movies, but existing football flicks. For this one, I go through Amazon’s listings, open a bunch of tabs and narrow it down to five entries and then have fun with it.

My gig with UGO also includes list elements every week or so, which we try to tie-in with something happening that week in pop culture or something coming up. I did a Fall Toy Preview list of upcoming products that look rad, a list of great American spies based on George Clooney’s The American, the greatest Star Wars toys of all time and a list of geeky movie and TV locales you should check out when you’re in NYC for NYCC. I generally don’t read the comments for these things because they make me sad, but I got a chuckle out of the guy who asked why I forgot to put James Bond on the list of great American spies. Sigh. With the lists, I find it’s best to use elements you’re familiar with maybe a few you don’t know about thrown in to mix it up. You’re always going to have people hollering why their pick isn’t on the list. That’s the internet, everyone has an opinion, but some people get paid for theirs while others give them away.

Speaking of lists, a few of the ones I’ve written for Topless Robot have gone up like 10 NES Games Based on R-Rated Movies and the 10 Most Screwed-Over Children of Superheroes in Comics. The first I came up with after seeing a ton of surprising games based on R-Rated flicks. I’ve got a whole second list that could be used for a follow up if there’s enough interest which is why some obvious ones were missing (another comment section I read a few entries from). The second list was spawned from all the internet clamor over the death of Roy Harper’s daughter Lian in Justice League: Cry For Justice. TR is great because you get to really exercise your snakry muscles. With these I pitch the editor with ideas and he either assigns them or doesn’t, then I work on them when I can, turn them in and keep an eye on the site for when they go live. More topical ones get posted sooner, so staying current is key. I just pitched a few Halloween/horror lists that I’m excited to work on soon.

I’ve also been writing for ToyFare lately, but that issue is being closed right now, so you won’t see those efforts for about a month. I do believe that #159 is out right now, which means you can check out my feature where I got to interview my former boss Zach Oat and sculptors Tim Bruckner and Ruben Procopio about their upcoming book Pop Sculpture and all the Incoming writing. #160 has a feature I was really excited to write and I think turned out well, but you’ll have to wait and see what that’s all about. I love all the web work I do but there’s something really cool about going to a grocery or book store and being able to pick something up with your name in it.

Finally, I’ve done a lot of work for Marvel’s website. These pieces are either recurring monthlies like Five Favorite Avengers (with Bill Rosemann and Tim Seeley) and Earth’s Mightiest Costumes (Quicksilver) or specific assignments on upcoming projects like Ant-Man & The Wasp, Chaos War: Dead Avengers and the Iron Man 2: Public Identity trade. I really like doing pieces for Marvel because it keeps me in touch with the world of comics, which is what I cut my teeth on as a writer. It’s also a lot of fun talking with creators about their process and seeing what’s coming up.

So there you have it, this is what I do all day, every day. If you have any questions leave a comment or drop me an email at tjdietsch AT SYMBOL gmail DOT com.

UPDATE: I just spent way too much time re-doing the Writing Links section, giving each website or magazine their own page. Check it out and let me know if any of the internal links don’t work. Thanks!

T ‘n’ T: Talking With Mr. T August 17th, 2006

While working in the research department I got to talk to a lot of cool people both comic and Hollywood celebs alike. But, for a long time, my absolute favorite interview was when when I got the chance to talk to Mr. T for his then-upcoming show I Pity The Fool on TV Land. I don’t think I ever watched an episode of the show and this seven page interview resulted in a small info piece in the Hollywood section, but the experience of talking and listening to one of my childhood heroes made the whole thing worthwhile. The interview takes a little while to get going, but the highlight is when he started doing his lines from Rockey 3. I guess that’s more entertaining when listening to the actual recording, but I recommend reading the interview in his voice. Frankly, I recommend reading EVERYTHING in his voice, but you get the idea. Hit the jump for the FULL interview. Continue reading T ‘n’ T: Talking With Mr. T August 17th, 2006

Harold Ramis Interview Transcript 5-20-09

Last year I had the absolute pleasure to talk to one of my all time favorite directors Harold Ramis about Ghostbusters and Year One for ToyFare #144. This full interview was up at one point on Wizard’s website, but it got lost with everything else when they redid it, so I’m republishing it here. For a little background on the interview, we had gotten word from Mattel that they were doing Ghostbusters toys well before the rest of the world. I can’t remember if we were world premiering the figures in the magazine, but I think that was the case. The issues was also very 1984-heavy because, after doing some research, we discovered that all kinds of cool stuff came out that year. So, to bring both of our big time sections together, we really wanted to talk to someone from Ghostbusters, focusing on Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd. As it was my idea, I jumped into the fray trying to track these guys down with some help from Mattel. But, I wasn’t hearing much back. We had exhausted all of our resources and had even heard back from Aykroyd’s people that he would be unavailable for interview (even though he popped up on some no name blog a day or so later). A few days before closing the issue, I got an email from Ramis’s people asking if we could do the interview in the next few days. I said of course and soon enough we were talking.

I always get nervous before an interview, no matter who it is, even if I’ve talked to them a dozen times, but this guy is a legend. He friggin’ wrote Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes and Ghostbusters! Those are movies that my dad literally raised me on and all had probably far too much influence on how I think and what I think is funny. Ramis was really nice and gracious with his time. I don’t have the sound file easily played right now, but we talked for a relatively long time, but I probably could have gone on forever talking to him. I’ve interviewed Mr. T and Stan Lee, but this was definitely one of my favorites, up there with Danny Trejo and John Landis. So, if you want to real the full 11 page interview from last May, hit the jump and read on. Continue reading Harold Ramis Interview Transcript 5-20-09

2007 Danny Trejo Interview

With all the buzz flying around the Machete movie, especially the news that Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson (Nash Bridges reunion!!!) and Steven Seagal will all be in it, I figured I would dig up an interview I did with Mr. Trejo right before the release of Rob Zombie’s Halloween hit on DVD along with a drawing I did a few weeks back when I was relatively bored of Machete. I’m not sure if anything ever happened with the interview (it was originally done for wizarduniverse.com, but I can’t find it on the net), but the interview went down on November 30, 2007 and it was absolutely one of the most fun I’ve ever conducted. Danny was a joy to talk to and really sounds like a dude you could just hang with. Maybe someday… Anyway, here’s the full interview.

Dietsch: How are you doing, man?
Trejo: I was just in TJ [Tijuana]. Who was it with? It was Andy Garcia and Ray Liotta and Eli Morales.

Dietsch: I looked at your IMDB page and you seem busy all the time.
Trejo: Yeah, yeah. Thank God. A busy man who’s trying to do everything.

Dietsch: So I want to start with a few Halloween questions.
Trejo: Sure. Great movie by the way.

Dietsch: Were you a fan of the series, the previous series, before you worked on this one?
Trejo: You know what, I hate to say it, but no I wasn’t. I knew the movie, but I didn’t really get into horror movies until I did From Dusk Til Dawn. I thought, “Wow, this is cool.” And horror fans are probably the most loyal fans that you can get. It’s either horror fans or John Wayne fans.

Dietsch: Do you have any favorite horror movies?
Trejo: Well, I go back to Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, that era. I think that one of my favorite movies of all time is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But wait a minute, I don’t know if you saw this kind of comedy that was called Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I laugh thinking about that [laughs]. Me and my son watch that and just go hysterical for it.

Dietsch: You’ve worked with a lot of directors in the past. What did Rob Zombie bring to the table for this one? Was there anything that you hadn’t experienced before?
Trejo: You know what, I say it all the time. Rob Zombie brings the same thing that Robert Rodriguez does. They love what they’re doing and any time that you work with anybody that loves what they’re doing it’s just a joy. It’s a joy to show up for work. If you’re working with a plumber that loves what he’s doing it’s a joy to be around him because he not only likes what he’s doing, but he likes teaching you. If you’re ever around with Rob [Zombie] or with Robert Rodriguez or Quentin [Tarantino], if you’re standing by them – I hate to say this because I’m a lot older than them, but they’re actually holding class. “And the reason we’re shooting this is because if we get this angel we can edit it like this.” They’re holding class because they love doing what they’re doing.

Dietsch: That’s got to make it really fun to be on set, I’m sure.
Trejo: Oh, yeah. It just makes it really fun.

Dietsch: Now, when you’re working on a horror movie do you ever get creeped out by the atmosphere of the whole thing, especially with something like Halloween where your character gets killed? Is that strange to see?
Trejo: No. I think it’s a lot of fun and people who work on horror movies especially really have to love what they’re doing. Even the stunt guys. If you think that jumping off a building is tough try it in a guerilla suit or try it in a werewolf suit. It makes it a lot more difficult. So everybody that’s on the set loves the costumes and the makeup and everything like that. So I think it just brings a lot more fun to the table.

Dietsch: Would you say that there’s a different energy on set when making a horror movie, more excitement?
Trejo: Yeah, absolutely because people are comparing it to this horror movie and that horror movie. It’s tough to compare a drama or something like Gone With The Wind, but with horror you’ve got all these little different quirks.

Dietsch: Michael Myers is a character who’s been around for a long time. Do you have your own take on him? Do you see him as pure evil or that he was abused and this is kind of the result of his growing up?
Trejo: Well, I’ve taken the abuse so far [laughs]. I mean, come on. It’s funny because Michael Myers, at first he didn’t kill me. At first I lived and then after they saw the movie everybody noticed that, “Hey, he didn’t kill Trejo”’ So this kind of gave him a redeeming quality which they didn’t want him to have and so they brought me back for it. Rob called me back and said, “Hey, Danny. You know what? We have to kill you.” I said, “Get your other checkbook out.” [laughs] They killed me and re-shot it. I think it was better that they didn’t let me live because tthat took away his redeeming quality.

Dietsch: Do you have a preference for the kinds of movies that you work on?
Trejo: I love action movies. I love action movies. What’s the body count?! Even my agent knows that if the first five pages don’t have a body count of at least three to pass on it. I go to movies to be entertained. Don’t give me anything too heavy because I don’t want to walk out of there going, “Oh, I’m thinking.” [laughs] Not too much plot for me. Just shoot ‘em up.

Dietsch: Do you have a favorite action movie hero like maybe Dirty Harry or somebody?
Trejo: Like I said, I love John Wayne and Kirk Douglas and all the old action hero guys. [Clint] Eastwood was awesome. What can I say? I love movies. I love good movies. I love good action movies.

Dietsch: Do you think that Machete could take Michael Myers?
Trejo: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Machete can take out Superman. We’re going to do that. This is a Robert Rodriguez quote here. You can quote this from Robert Rodriguez. He promises all his fans that we are going to start Machete in January. So that’s a go. I call him every day and I tell him, “Robert, everybody is asking me when we’re doing Machete. He said, “Well, tell them we’re doing it in January.”

Dietsch: Is there a projected release time yet?
Trejo: Probably in the summer. He wants to get it done pretty quick.

Dietsch: We heard that it was going to originally be direct to video, but now it’s theatrical?
Trejo: Oh, yeah, definitely. That’s another quote by Rodriguez.

Dietsch: Can you talk about the plot at all?
Trejo: Well, you know that he’s a federal agent that comes out here from Mexico and he’s double crossed by the mob who’s trying to kill this senator. They double cross him and so he just comes back with a vengeance and I love it because it’s a Charles Bronson Death Wise-type, take no prisoners [movie]. I cut guys in half on that one.

Dietsch: Everyone here is super excited to see it when it comes out.
Trejo: Put that in your article and send it to Robert [laughs].

Dietsch: So the trailer that was in front of Grindhouse, is that still the trailer for the movie or was that a goof?
Trejo: That was just kind of a preview. There’s a whole lot more stuff that they’re doing. There’s stuff when I land that motorcycle. There’s stuff where I cut one guy in half and his legs keep running – some funny shit. It’s really, really heavy stuff.

Dietsch: So the scenes in the trailer will be in the movie?
Trejo: Oh, yeah, absolutely, but the continuation of those scenes because those were just short little scenes.

Dietsch: You’re slated right now to be in Sin City II. Do you know anything about your character or when that will start?
Trejo: Not a thing. I was supposed to be in Sin City and what happened was that I was shooting another film and Robert said, “I have to do this, Danny.” I said, “Go ahead. Go ahead.” So they re-started Mickey Rourke’s character and I’m glad that he did that. He was great in that.

Dietsch: Have you read any of the comics and have a favorite character?
Trejo: Yeah. I met what’s his name [Frank Miller?], but it’s like I said, I have no idea what they’re going to do with me. You never know with Robert. I mean, Robert, that line of his, “Are you a MexiCan or a MexiCan’t?” Robert made that up on the set, right before me and Johnny Depp shot that scene [from Once Upon A Time In Mexico]. It was like, “Here Danny, say this.”

Dietsch: Do you have a favorite Robert Rodriguez movie, one you’ve been in or one that you just love even though you’re not in it?
Trejo: A favorite Rodriguez movie? God, when Salma Hayek was pouring that wine down her leg [in Desperado?], I could’ve watched that for the whole movie [laughs]. That’s what I love. I love those action movies. I loved Spy Kids and that movie gave me this whole new audience.

Dietsch: Do you get recognized a lot when you’re out? I would imagine that you do because you’ve doing films for a long time.
Trejo: Oh, yeah. It’s funny. It’s like people complain about the paparazzi and all that stuff, but I kind of make a decision before I leave the house that I’m going to deal with this. If not, I’ll send someone out and I won’t go out. I tell all actors that if you don’t want to be bothered, don’t go outside. You can avoid it. I see all these people yelling at these camera guys and stuff and I just laugh. It’s like, “Shut up. You did it.”

Dietsch: I wouldn’t think that they get in your face too much.
Trejo: No, no. They’re polite and they ask real nice. “Hey, can we take a picture with you” [And I say,] “Yeah, sure.”

Dietsch: My wife wanted me to ask you what it was like when you did Desperate Housewives.
Trejo: [laughs] You know what, let me tell you something. At first I said no to that. My agent said, “They want you to do Desperate Housewives. They called you.” I said, “No way. Come on, Danny Trejo on Desperate Housewives? That doesn’t fit.” My wife happened to walk by and heard that. She goes, “Are you crazy?! That’s the most popular show on TV.” So I ended up doing it and it’s funny because I hang out at this place called Chubby’s Automotive. It’s over in Sylmar on Polk and San Fernando Road. All of my old ex-convict friends and all my old drug addict friends, ex-drug addict friends, they all hangout there. So they’re always ragging on me when I walk up, like, “Ooh, here comes the movie star,” and all of that stuff. I walked up there and they said, “Ooh, here comes the movie star. What are you working on now?” So I told them Desperate Housewives and if you can imagine all these guys with tattoos and all buffed up and wife beaters on going, “Oh, that’s my favorite show!” They love Desperate Housewives. “Say hello to Eva [Longoria],” [they said].

Dietsch: What was that shoot like? How long were you on the set?
Trejo: About three days and it was blast. They’re so fun and Eva Longoria is like – I love basketball and so I got an autograph picture [of her husband, Tony Parker]. She kind of cracked up because I went over to her and asked her, “Can I have an autographed picture of your old man?” She was a doll.

Dietsch: You’ve done quite a few videogame voices and animated voice work. How is that different than going to the set and working on an actual live action movie?
Trejo: Just showing up. You can show up in pajamas if you want to [laughs]. No makeup or nothing. You just show up in pajamas and say, “Hey, what’s up?” You do it and I hate to say it, but it’s EM: “easy money.”

Dietsch: Do you ever play the games that you’re in?
Trejo: God, no. It takes a genius to play them games.