Monday, January 30, 2017

White Friends... Welcome to the World of Racial Gaslighting

Credit: Tony Puryear

gerund or present participle: gaslighting
  1. manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

    "in the first episode, Karen Valentine is being gaslighted by her husband"

As I watch many of my white friends and colleagues go ballistic about the clear and present fascist regime our country is dealing with, I have only one thing to say: welcome to the world of African-Americans.

Please do not consider this an "I told you so" piece, but this Trump and Steve Bannon embarrassment fully illustrates the reality of institutional racism and how the most vile and prejudiced White guy can ascend to the top of the world simply by having the right set of compatriots and using white skin privilege to the nth degree.

Allow me to share a short story from my time in Los Angeles: after I got my first break working in animation in 2011, I was surrounded by a small population of very angry and depressed White (male and several women) writers who toiled under the impression that the reason that it had been "harder" for them to get animation writing gigs was because of the "forced diversity" imposed upon the industry.

When I met these people (all of whom had been vetted as "cool" by White friends and trusted allies) they were spiteful, dismissive, petty and altogether boorish. At first, I assumed I had done something wrong but upon further inspection, I noticed an interesting pattern:

All the White people I knew believed these people were awesome but all the Black folks I knew considered these writers racist as hell - or at the very least - NOT fans of African-Americans and particularly fearful of African-American men.

This illuminates the phenomenon of what I call the "One in Ten Racist" Problem. There will often be a White writer (in this case) who is universally beloved amongst the ranks of other White writers but has a ridiculously negative appraisal amongst the ranks of Black writers. This situation occurs in pretty much every aspect of American life and vocation; I only use my experiences in this town as a clear example.

However, if you report your experiences of bigotry and bad vibes to your White friends and allies, they often react with shock, disbelief and the unspoken accusation that you must have "done" something to deserve that reaction. Why else, in their estimation, would this "awesome guy/lady" treat YOU that way, they don't treat anyone else like that - so it must have been YOU.

African-Americans have had to live with that kind of racial gaslighting since 1865. Before that, we were enslaved, and you pretty much knew where you stood for better or worse (mainly worse).
This flips around to a valuable currency that Black folks DO NOT GET in this society: THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. We have to prove what we're NOT before anyone grants us a modicum of humanity.

We have to prove that we're not:

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

A guy like Steve Bannon (an open racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, etc.) can utilize coded Neo-Nazi doublespeak and still be given the benefit of the doubt. A guy like Trump can openly insult the POTUS, make horrible sexist remarks, trash entire ethnicities and religious groups and still be given the benefit of the doubt to run the most POWERFUL NATION ON THE EARTH.

In spite of EVERYTHING that is occurring, there are still those who want to "give Trump a chance." Seriously. They are out there and in great numbers.

If you're naïve to the existence and scope of weaponized prejudice and bigotry: THIS IS WHAT INSTITUTIONAL RACISM LOOKS LIKE.

Meaning people in positions of power applying their sick ideals to impact hiring practices, budgets, educational opportunities, residential movement and voting rights.

There are Trumps and Bannons in high finance.
There are Trumps and Bannons in real estate.
There are Trumps and Bannons in law enforcement.
There are Trumps and Bannons in health care.
There are Trumps and Bannons in Hollywood.
There are Trumps and Bannons in academia.
There are Trumps and Bannons in the House and Senate.

There have been since 1778. This is what African-Americans been saying ALL. THIS. TIME.

You cannot go back to sleep. Our planet is on the line.


Monday, July 18, 2016


Sorry for the long gap in posts. 

Life. You know. 


SAN DIEGO COMIC CON 2016 panel appearance schedule:

This panel addresses what new writers need to do once they have material ready to go out to the masses. The shifting 21st-century digital frontier means the age-old methods of building a career have been rendered irrelevant, and this group of Hollywood screenwriters and graphic novel creators share insider information, publishing secrets, and the professional realities on how to develop your ideas into a viable property and market yourself accordingly.

Moderated by 2015 Disney/ABC Writing Program winner and 2014 Eisner Award nominee Brandon Easton (Marvel's Agent Carter, IDW's M.A.S.K.), the panel includes TV producer Geoffrey Thorne (Leverage, The Librarians, Marvel Comics' new MOSIAC), writer Ubah Mohammed (Gang Related, ABC's The Whispers) and writer Brandon Thomas (Skybound's Horizon, Miranda Mercury, Voltron).

I'll add updates as information becomes available! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

THE FORCE AWAKENS... for what it's worth...




I watched STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS more than once because I needed to observe the film from multiple perspectives. First, from the angle of the 10-year-old emotional fanboy inside of me; and then from the perspective of a grown man with an extensive background in screenwriting and film making.

Here's how to understand THE FORCE AWAKENS, and that's by answering these two questions:

1) Does it function adequately as the product of a four-billion-dollar deal between billion dollar corporations who've presented the movie as a tool to keep a highly lucrative IP in the dead center of pop culture awareness?

Yes. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

2) Does it hit upon the emotional milestones that we've held dear for decades as old-school STAR WARS fans?

Yes... sort of.

If you were in the generation of the Original Trilogy (meaning you were born sometime between 1970 - 1980) and you were expecting to "feel like a kid again" then you've set yourself up to fail.

There's no way on earth you'll ever "feel like a kid again" because we've absorbed too much pop culture over the last thirty to forty years and the expectation to recapture certain levels of emotional connection (via nostalgia) will always fall flat. Our lives, mainstream media and the world itself is remarkably different than it was in late 1970s and early '80s. Even if the film had reached harder to elicit specific emotional reactions, it would have appeared to be far more manipulative and trite.

Of course, we're not totally to blame because Disney went out of their way to develop a marketing campaign that promised to deliver on the missing emotional core of the Prequel Trilogy. There's a great article from Kotaku about Disney's marketing push that clearly outlines the manner in which our emotional memories were toyed with in order to generate hype for The Force Awakens. I strongly suggest reading that essay when you get the chance, but here's the key idea from the piece:

"This is a Hollywood blockbuster that walks a perilous marketing tightrope between emotion and intellect. Disney have had to precisely target a finite reserve of emotion and nostalgia through marketing material that asks us to remember some Star Wars films, but not others. The way that this has been done has been nothing short of fascinating. It’s no coincidence, for example, that the major musical theme of the full length trailer is “Han Solo and the Princess” from The Empire Strikes Back, as it’s the only major musical theme from the whole original trilogy that didn’t return in the prequels. We haven’t heard that particular piece of music in Star Wars since Han, Leia, and Luke disappeared from the big screen in 1983.

But the key strategy for this targeted nostalgia, especially because so little dialogue has accompanied the trailers so far, has been visual. Every Force Awakens trailer has contained any number of carefully crafted callbacks to the original films, all designed to reassure us that it’s the spirit of 1977 (and not 1999) that’s being captured today."

Clearly, the goal of the marketing drive is to say: "Remember how you felt BEFORE the Prequel Trilogy? Well, prepare to feel that way again!" Some portion of the audience went in expecting a level of emotional fulfillment that would be impossible to achieve under any circumstance. Therefore many disgruntled STAR WARS fans are walking out feeling cheated and furious for wasting their time - yet AGAIN.

Does it hit upon the emotional milestones that we've held dear most of our lives as STAR WARS fans? Yes, I believe it does. For a specific generation of fandom.

One thing a lot of Original Trilogy fans refuse to consider is that there's a massive population of younger people who view the STAR WARS saga in chronological order as opposed to "Originals first, then Prequels."

My generation tends to view STAR WARS as IV, V, VI, then I, II, III, VII.

The younger generation tends to view STAR WARS as I, II, III, CLONE WARS, REBELS, IV, V, VI, VII.

That's a significant difference in viewpoint and expectation. Younger fans see this as a continuation of a fantastic saga.

Older fans went in expecting the experience of 1977's A NEW HOPE seemingly forgetting that the first STAR WARS movie came out of nowhere without any kind of direct pop culture predecessor. STAR WARS was a lightning bolt. There's no other way to describe it in 1977. The 21st century pop culture and cinema market landscape cannot mirror the market conditions or socio-historical background that allowed the first STAR WARS to flourish. The cinema and zeitgeist of the mid-1970s was dark, painful and packed with B-movie schlock or intense examinations of the human condition via crime, corruption and sacrifice in an increasingly grey moral spectrum . STAR WARS came along as a beacon of clearly-defined black and white morality with an otherworldly mis-en-scene that removed the audience from the doldrums of their lives.

That's the piece of the puzzle that can't be understated.

THE FORCE AWAKENS isn't constructed to placate the desire to recapture simpler times from the lives of the Original Trilogy generation. It's a massive entertainment machine with the bottom line of selling as many tickets, toys, video games and t-shirts as possible to justify the immense expenditures of the parent companies.

With all that out of the way, what about the product itself - the movie?

THE FORCE AWAKENS is a defacto remake/reboot of EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. It thematically and structurally copies about 70% of the first STAR WARS movie from the desert planet opening with a droid carrying precious data in its memory banks to a giant laser cannon destroying planets to a fantastically-choreographed space battle/bombing run by X-Wing fighters to blow up the enemy base.

The story centers around three characters: Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Finn is a "reformed" First Order Stormtropper who saves Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) from the clutches of the enemy before they both crash land on the planet Jakku where Rey lives a very meager existence as a scrap scavenger.

Through a series of improbable events - likely the ways of the Force - Finn is thrown together with the fun new (toy) droid BB-8 and Rey as the First Order wreaks havoc on Jakku to track down BB-8. They want the droid because he has the location of the self-exiled Luke Skywalker. It is not clear why the First Order and Kylo Ren want to find Skywalker, but we do know that Kylo was a former student of Luke's who turned to evil, and this caused Luke to lose faith in himself and the Force.

Kylo is soon revealed to be the son of Han Solo and General (Princess) Leia who is obsessed with fulfilling the legacy of his grandfather Darth Vader. It's an interesting twist on Luke's story from the Original Trilogy as Kylo struggles to avoid the Light Side of the Force despite being naturally pulled to being a Jedi.

Ren and Kylo's stories form the emotional core of the movie. Ren is reluctant to leave Jakku because she believes her family who abandoned her as a child will someday return to take her home whereas Kylo deliberately rejects a loving home for the sake of chasing darkness. On paper, it's a great juxtaposition, but in application, the script only touches on the surface of their respective journeys.

Through Finn's journey, we learn that the First Order (aka the new Empire) doesn't use clone troopers; instead they kidnap babies and mentally program them into child soldiers. For reasons still unknown, Finn overcomes his programming during a violent razing of a village on Jakku. There's even a moment when Kylo turns to Finn as if he's caused a disturbance in the Force. We're constantly teased about who will become the next Jedi although the revelation in the third act is telegraphed horribly.

And that's the biggest problem with the movie: there's no real shock moment. (Note: there is one "shock" moment, but you know what's going to happen five minutes before it occurs - a la the death of Han Solo).

Too much of the screenplay is spent clearly telegraphing the next sequence to the point where anyone who's taken a screenwriting course can tell you exactly what's about to happen. Thus, because of the utter predictability of the story, you'd hope the filmmakers would have taken a chance in the narrative but we're left with an extremely competent but emotionally distant experience when it really counts.

Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful moments in the movie, especially during the space battles and escape sequences - not to mention the utter joy of seeing the STAR WARS world realized from the mind of JJ Abrams - but as a finished product the film feels incomplete. We know it's the first chapter of the new trilogy but as a movie, there needs to be a sense of completion as any film needs to stand on its own.

A good example of this would be THE LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING which is the first movie in a trilogy but has a full emotional experience within its considerable running time. If more screen time in THE FORCE AWAKENS were spent on completely developing Finn and Poe as characters, there would have been a more satisfying experience. Instead, we're given the impression that there's "much more to come" in regards to Finn, Poe. General Hux, Supreme Commander Snoke, Captain Phasma and the rest of the new trilogy universe.

Again, there's a lot to love here. Daisy Ridley as Rey is a wonderful find. She has the ability to tell a story with her face and I can't wait to see what else she can do as an actress. John Boyega actually does great work with somewhat flat material and I know the guy has strong acting chops so we're going to get much more of Finn's story in the future. Seeing Han, Chewie, Leia, C-3PO, R2 and (eventually) Luke interacting with the new characters is really cool and - in my opinion - the true draw of THE FORCE AWAKENS.

So what's the final word on this?

On a scale of 1 - 10, I give STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS a solid 7 out of 10. It skirts the fringes of Original Trilogy nostalgia while setting up a future Trilogy in a manner that will satisfy younger fans but may ruffle the feathers of older, hardcore fandom who unfairly expect emotional resonance in a product moving in a new direction from a corporate machine interested in developing the long game of franchise sustainability.

If you can reconcile that reality, you'll have a great time. If you cannot, then you will be very unhappy.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Writing Frustration

Been a while. 

My fault. :) 

Too many writers appear to be waiting for something or someone to come along and give them a prize and/or award them with a contract to produce work. These writers sit around, do nothing but complain and whine about their misfortunes while the next generation of smarter, hotter, faster - better - people break into the scene and innovate the way we interact with stories and with media. Sometimes, you only get a small window to get your name out there before your concepts become obsolete. 

In the 21st century, there are countless avenues for a writer to distribute their work and build an audience. However, a writer must take that first step to self-sufficiency. 

Brandon gives hard advice about being a self-starter so please listen to the latest episode of Writing for Rookies



Saturday, June 27, 2015


San Diego Comic-Con International just put up their Wednesday through Saturday (so far) programming schedule and I now have info for all three of my panels for the con. If you want to say hello, get something signed (free of charge) or want to do business, you can easily track me down at the panels or sitting at the Lion Forge Comics booth or in the professional's lounge. 

Full info is below.

On Friday, July 10th:
If you are an unpublished writer with dreams of making it in the transmedia marketplace and you don't know how or where to begin, this is the panel for you. Hollywood screenwriters and graphic novel producers share insider information, publishing secrets, and the professional realities on how to develop your ideas into a viable comics proposal.
Moderated by 2015 Disney/ABC Writing Program winner and 2014 Eisner Award nominee Brandon Easton (Marvel's Agent Carter,ThunderCats, Watson & Holmes), the panel includes Geoffrey Thorne (Leverage, The Librarians), Marc Zicree (Star Trek: the Next Generation, Space Command), Erika Alexander (Concrete Park, Living Single), and Tony Puryear (Concrete Park, the Schwarzenegger film Eraser). Topics will include how to hire artists and build a strong contract, how to seek out a publisher, and how to navigate the tough new world of intellectual property management in the digital frontier.
Friday July 10, 2015 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Room 32AB

On Saturday, July 11th:
The beloved pro wrestler's daughter Robin Christensen joins the creative team of Lion Forge's authorized graphic novel biography including Brandon Easton (Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven) and Shannon Eric Denton (senior editor, Lion Forge Comics) to discuss the real man known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Join this panel to reminisce about one of sports entertainment's most legendary figures. Surprise guests will be featured.
Saturday July 11, 2015 11:00am - 12:00pm
Room 29AB

For years people have reinvented themselves. Actors turned politicians; Luke Skywalker turned Jedi; Captain America turned first Avenger. Disney-ABC's Creative Talent Development and Inclusion team has successfully assisted many achieve their dreams by helping them reinvent their careers. Whether you're an actor who wants to direct, a director who wants to write, a feature writer who wants to write television, or a comedy writer who wants to write drama, you'll get helpful tips and insight on how to successfully make a career transition from Disney-ABC writers, directors, and executives.
Saturday July 11, 2015 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Room 24ABC

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore: The Land of My Birth

People have never understood why I've always been incredibly proud to be from Baltimore. It made me very strong. 
It gave me the strength to put myself through college three times with no familial assistance, the strength to move to Boston and deal with the racial foolishness up there, the strength to move to NYC with little money and no connections and build a great life there, the strength to take the biggest chance of my life and go for my dreams of being of Hollywood screenwriter during the worst economic climate in recent history.

I watch the horrible images from my city and I also see a lot of honest, hard-working people confronting the looters and telling them that they're wrong for breaking the law. We know that there needs to be law enforcement reform, but destroying our hometown isn't the way to do it.

Baltimoreans are notoriously tough. We don't back down. We never give up. Our reputation can be muddy, but beneath the grit there's a heart of gold. There are millions of good people in the Baltimore region. They'll step up, and order will be restored.
Everything I am is because of being from Baltimore - both good and bad. It still is a great city with a unique culture with an amazing history. There's a lot of pain and suffering that's been compounded by years of systemic abuse and some of that frustration is bursting forth.

I sit in Los Angeles 3000 miles removed from the place of my birth. I wish I could be there for my brothers and sisters. One day, I shall return and do what I can to make it a better place. Until then, I will pray for Freddie Gray, the innocent men and women destroyed by the Drug War and the police officers hurt by the errant youth on the streets.
Be good Baltimore. Be better. My heart goes to you.
P.S. On a happier note: 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BRAVE NEW SOULS Free Online Screening for Black History Month!


From Sunday, February 1st at 12:00AM (EST) through Tuesday, February 3rd at 11:59PM (EST) you'll be able to watch the documentary free of charge! 

As the writer, director and producer of the film, I learned much about the process of documentary production as well as how many talented Black speculative fiction creators were out there who didn't get the attention they deserved. 

Brave New Souls premiered at Eagle Con LA on May 9th, 2014 to a packed house and has been screened at Stan Lee's Comikaze, Black Comic Book Day at the Schomburg and the Black Comix Arts Festival

Check out a few clips as well as the trailer for the film: 

Former DC Editor Joe Illidge talks his influences and gives advice to new writers.

Creators Joe Illidge, Nora Jemisin and John Jennings speak about the industry. 


Return here on February 1st for the movie link!