Thank you Ben Mikaelsen and Addie Lillard

Thank you Ben Mikaelsen and Addie Lillard

addieandben-1This past Friday, I accomplished more writing than I usually do.  I was inspired by two phenomenal people. One, an award-winning author who for 27 years gleaned valuable life lessons from a 750 lb. black bear and the other a 13-year-old who fell in love with said author’s words and courageously asked him for advice on how to follow her own literary dreams.

Having read Mr. Mikaelsen’s affecting “Touching Spirit Bear,” I was aware of the novel’s testament to the power of both pain and encouragement to propagate inner change, but unaware of the author’s tremendous passion for eradicating bullying and inspiring today’s youth with his own story of tumultuous beginnings, inspired life choices and monumental successes.

Mikaelsen travels the globe sharing his personal story with students. I attended his presentation at Polytechnic school in Pasadena, CA, where the audience of 9-14 year olds sat riveted by his fascinating account. The author’s narrative included his bullied life as a child, his confession of becoming an angry bully himself, fulfilling his dream of becoming a pilot, the lessons he learned from raising a BEAR who knew how to curb his own strength, (yes a bear!) the unlikely discovery of his writing gifts, (thanks to a caring college professor) and his current bold choices to make each day count. Chronicling his life thus far, Mikaelsen spoke with vivid detail, urging the audience to make their own lives count.

After thanking the author for his impassioned talk and exiting the auditorium, I ran into Addie Lillard, a smart 8th grader whom I’m privileged to know thanks to a night filling in for her family’s babysitter. Addie is passionate about stories. The evening I spent at her home, she carried a book with her most of the night. She seems to put every spare moment toward the development of her imagination, immersing herself in new literary worlds every chance she gets!  I want to be this kid when I grow up!

Addie asked if I thought it would be okay for her to go back in to solicit Mikaelsen’s advice for aspiring authors. I assured her that I believed Mikaelsen would be thrilled to speak with her and thankfully was right! What followed inspired me through the next week! After I introduced her to the author, Addie eloquently asked for advice.  In that moment I too fell in love with Mikaelsen’s words. He told her to focus on feelings, to write every day, thinking about the things that move her, and to try to capture those moments because the truth of those feelings will compel the reader, regardless of the story’s plot.  She thanked him and turned to leave, but stopped to add, “By the way, that presentation was AMAZING!” As we left, Addie and I excitedly chatted about how we agreed with Mikaelsen’s focus on emotion and she seemed eager to put his advice into practice ASAP!

Ben Mikaelsen possesses a rare talent not only for writing affecting children’s literature, but for enrapturing kids with vibrant storytelling and cautionary warnings for bullies headed nowhere. “Touching the Spirit Bear” has the unique ability to speak to both the bully and the bullied. Its protagonist Cole is an angry juvenile offender, who must decide whether to allow his near fatal mauling to lead the way to humility, or become even more hardened, risking the healing of not only his own soul but the soul of an entire community.  I am beyond thrilled to inform others interested in films aiming to positively influence young minds that producer Robert Burke and “Ten-One Entertainment” has optioned “Touching the Spirit Bear” for the screen and the poignant story is currently in development!

My first stop after the event was Starbucks. Not for my high-maintenance Venti,  3-pump, Mocha with coconut milk frothy beverage, although I did enjoy one, but to fervently pursue my own dream of writing screenplays that uplift, enlighten or elicit copious laughter.  On a high from witnessing the visceral effect Mikaelsen’s books and presentation had on the students and reminded once again of the power of story to effect change, I wrote more than I had in weeks. So thank you Ben Mikaelsen and thank you Addie Lillard.

For more information about Ben Mikaelsen or Ten One Entertainment, check out www.Benmikaelsen.com  or www.tenoneent.com respectively.

 

 

 

Thank You Lee Daniels

Thank You Lee Daniels

Lee-Daniels-The-Butler-poster__130723170234-275x308

The  powerful film, “The Butler” inspires on multiple levels. I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced a film that imparts so many impactful messages, intentional or not.

The film depicts the life of an African American Butler serving 30 years in the white house under several administrations. While the story does educate the viewers about the life of Eugene Allen (aka Cecil Gaines here,) the deplorable treatment of African Americans through the years, and helps us all to further comprehend the profound meaning of the election of Barack Obama, it also serves to inspire across racial lines. That said, I wish to thank the film’s creator Lee Daniels…

  1. “The Butler” reminded me of the importance of family as I watched Cecil’s family and how deeply they affected each other. Thank You Lee Daniels.
  2. “The Butler” reminded me how important it is to serve our country and that serving our country can be done in a variety of ways as each member of Cecil’s family did so differently. Thank you Lee Daniels.
  3. “The Butler” made me grateful for the family that came before me, beginning with my grandfather(and I’m sure going back further than that) getting on a boat at 16 to come to America from Ireland and work hard for many years as a welder under sweltering conditions, to provide for greater opportunities for his family for generations to come.  Thank you Lee Daniels.
  4. “The Butler” inspired me to want to do my best to honor the work of my grandfather and parents; for them to know their work was not in vain; for them to know that their work inspires me to make the world a better place, and to use all that I have been blessed with to do so. Thank you Lee Daniels.
  5. “The Butler” delivered some powerhouse performances that inspired me to want to move people through enlightening story-telling like never before. If Forest Whitaker and Oprah don’t get Oscars, I will be shocked. Thank you Lee Daniels.
  6. “The Butler” further reinforced my gratitude for all that I have been given and more passion not to waste it. Thank you Lee Daniels..
  7. “The Butler” brought to mind the incredible power of the medium to educate, illuminate, inspire and encourage, confirming my desire to want to do all three. Thank you Lee Daniels.
  8. I am incredibly proud of Americans for making “The Butler” #1. Thank you Lee Daniels.

In Short, Lee Daniels…thank you for “The Butler,” a film that crosses racial boundaries to not only deliver a historical education but serves to awaken us all from our slumber and create some inspiration of our own.

Ode to Sam Raimi

Ode to Sam Raimi

I’ve always been a fan of superhero movies. The dichotomy between the hero and his alter-ego lends itself to fascinating character study, commentary on our own humanity, and even brilliant comedy! How awesome would it be to play Mary Jane Watson, or Gwen Stacy?! Or better yet, how about Spiderwoman! A young looking of course,  middle aged superwoman:) who is bitten by a spider at “mommy and me!” She can multi task now like never before! Woo hoo! Ooh Maybe I’ll write that!

Spiderman has always been a favorite of mine mainly because the differences between the nerdy Peter Parker and the powerful Arachnid hero with “spidey sense” produced some of the most interesting, funny cinematic moments to date!

Yesterday, my appreciation for Spiderman increased tenfold due to a spontaneous meeting over lunch with the Spiderman trilogy’s director, Sam Raimi!

Since moving to L.A. on my quest to contribute to the industry and  tell funny, uplifting stories, I’ve been doing what the kind people in entertainment call “background” work, otherwise known as being an “extra” in T.V. and film.  In six months time, on countless projects from big budget to small, no director has ever carried his lunch tray over to a table of “background talent” and humbly asked if he could sit with us.

For those of you not in Entertainment, perhaps I.T. people…imagine an ordinary day enjoying your lunch at work, when suddenly Bill Gates asks if he can join you… or I don’t really know your heros…um…ok. Bill Gates is all I got.

The gracious Mr.Raimi then started a  conversation as two extras and I stared at him in stunned silence. I  hope my mouth was not agape. Although I tried to be cool, it was quite thrilling to be honest.  I think I eventually recovered from my trance, but while talking to Mr. Raimi and learning of our shared love of the duality of superhero personalities my own inner nerd was screaming, “YOU ARE HAVING LUNCH WITH THE DIRECTOR OF SPIDERMAN!, YOU ARE HAVING LUNCH WITH THE DIRECTOR OF SPIDERMAN!”

So thank you, Mr. Raimi for breaking down the walls, or trailer doors on set, and engaging with us as colleagues! We love you even more now than before. You are a class act;  kind, generous and a shining example of humility for us all!

When I asked him what his favorite project has been, Sam, as I call my new best friend:) replied, in the most shocking example of his lack of pretention,  “I think a movie called Spiderman 2.”

Yes, Mr. Raimi we have heard of that movie. And we loved it. We were blown away by your work. We admired the director that you are. Now we admire the man that you are, and hope we can emulate your generosity of spirit.