Goodbye, Comfort Zone! Hello, Hollywood! or: How I Totally Got to Chill with George Chakiris

First off, I can’t write this blog weekly, cause I don’t do anything well on a weekly basis, and writing words so that they make sense is REALLY HARD. I think maybe I can do it every two weeks, which is what I think I had been doing at some point. Unless that was a dream or something…  But I wanted to clear something up. I feel like I did something wrong last week in my post when I just kind of casually let it slip that I had recently been in Hollywood for the screening of one of my new motion picture shorts. Like it was no big deal.

You name-dropping squinty-eye FANCYPANTS!

You braggadocio spewing, name-dropping, single-squinty-eye FANCYPANTS!

But the truth of the matter is that it was no big deal.

I mean, the fact that my film was being screened in the LA area – That was kind of a big deal. To me, anyway. I don’t want to rely too much on metaphor here, so I’ll use a simile: LA is like the “Hollywood” of the world – the filmmaking world, anyway. So it’s definitely a huge deal for a backyard filmmaker like myself.(That’s not a metaphor; we literally shot The Legend of Grassman in our friend’s back yard. Like 70% of it.) It was a great, productive trip. And the most fun I’ve ever had screening a film. But it wasn’t a huge deal. I’ll tell you why.

2011: It was a huge deal when Lynn Lowry’s manager emailed me asking me to call him just minutes after I had emailed him.  I had never emailed an actor’s manager before and half-expected to never hear back. And now I was expected to actually TALK to him for REALZ. With very little notice, I was soon on the phone with a real Hollywood dude while pretending to be a real filmmaker who knew real things about real stuff. It was terrifying.

Working with Lynn herself wasn’t so terrifying. Somewhat intimidating to think about, perhaps, because of her incredible amount of talent and experience. But in practice, all her talent and experience were there at my disposal, in the service of the film. Which just means I don’t have to work as hard as usual and then I look like a better director for it. It’s a pretty righteous deal.

I am literally doing nothing in this behind-the-scenes photo.

So after that experience, something clicked on in the producer side of my brain. In my mind, there was Tyler before Lynn Lowry and Tyler after Lynn Lowry. And latter Tyler is a much better producer than former Tyler. I wanted to use my new producer powers for good, and I had some sky miles saved up – which happen to be the two main ingredients for adventure.

Unless you're flying Delta. Get it? Cause they're computers broke. It's funny cause it's topical. It was topical, I mean. A couple weeks ago.

Unless you’re flying Delta. Get it? Cause their computers broke… It’s funny cause it’s topical. It was topical, I mean…  A couple weeks ago… I flew Delta. It wasn’t that funny…

I work at a community television cable station in Norwood, Ohio, which happens to be the birthplace of Oscar-winning actor/singer/dancer George Chakiris (West Side Story). I had always thought about doing a program about him at work, but as we just learned, Pre-Lynn Lowry Tyler had no producing skills whatsoever, and no idea how to make that happen. As it turns out, Pre-Lynn Lowry Tyler was kind of a moron because all I really had to do was go to and click “Contact.”


And, perhaps, buy some beautiful, high-end jewelry…

I don’t remember the exact content of my email to him, but it was probably something like “Hey, maybe I could interview you or something.” And I don’t exactly remember how he responded, except that it was probably something like “Cool, bro.”

And that’s how I found myself on a plane to LA, (a.k.a. Hollywood of the world) panicked cause I suddenly realized that I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO INTERVIEW SOMEONE!!!!  WHAT AM I DOING!!!! WHO DOES THIS!!!! WHO JUST CALLS UP RANDOM OSCAR WINNERS AND FLIES TO LA TO SHOOT INTERVIEWS WITH THEM?!!!! I’M NOT A PROFESSIONAL!!!!  I WORK AT A CABLE ACCESS CENTER!!!!!

Yes. It was EXACTLY like this.

Yes. It was EXACTLY like this.

I must apologize. I don’t usually panic like that. But it was kind of a big deal for me. The only other time I remember having similar thoughts about my work is on the first day of principal photography on Grassman. Only then, it was more like “Who in their right mind shoots a movie?!!!  Why don’t I just WATCH a movie if I want to see a movie so bad?!!! WHAT AM I DOING!!!!

At the end of the day, I looked like this, my imitation pvc pipe Fig Rig and Director's Helmet discarded in the dirt beside me.

At the end of the day, I looked like this, my imitation pvc pipe Fig Rig and Director’s Utility Helmet discarded in the dirt beside me.

Oddly, I still don’t really have answers for any of those questions. But I can tell you my visit to Los Angeles to see George Chakiris is one of the best things I’ve ever done. We met at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the first Oscars were held, where Marilyn Monroe used to live and he told me about working with Marilyn Monroe. He told me about working with Charlton Heston, Ricardo Montalban, Rita Moreno, Natalie Wood, Gene KellyGENE KELLY!!!! – And told me stories about Elia Kazan, James Dean, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich. I was so thoroughly absorbed in the conversation, I forgot to ask him about working with Howard Hawks HOWARD HAWKS!!!!   The most interesting portions of the conversation, however, centered around another Hollywood notable – GEORGE CHAKIRIS!!!! CAUSE HE WAS SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!!!! We talked about the awesome stuff he’s done and the awesome stuff he’s doing, and much like Lynn – thankfully – was so nice, so generous, and so supportive to an inexperienced filmmaker.

Totally chillin with George Chakiris in the hallways of a Hollywood studio with totally awesome giant photos of Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford behind us. (Thanks, Jovana)

coyoteIn E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, there’s a scene where Peter Coyote as a peaceful alien-loving scientist, shortly before murdering  E.T., says to the boy who took the alien into his home, “I’m glad he met you first.” And then he and his fellow scientists murder E.T.

That’s how I feel – not the part about murdering E.T. – I’ve always been an extremely vocal critic of that. But I spent years making films in a bubble of my own making. I’m so glad that when I finally reached outside that bubble, to Lynn Lowry and George Chakiris, that I met them first. I can only hope that Peter Coyote doesn’t murder me now.

I have a feeling he won’t.


That meeting with George went extremely well. I hadn’t ever attempted anything like this. But I was prepared and determined, and I focused on the work instead of my anxieties. Except on the flight, where I flipped out in ways I’m not proud of. The interview I did with him became part of a larger documentary I’m still working on, profiling other successful artists and performers from the same hometown of Norwood, Ohio. I think it’s shaping up to be a great film, and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done on it – though it eventually lead to this unfortunate incident at Roger Neal’s Style Hollywood Oscar Suite in Beverly Hills several years later when I was ATTACKED BY LAMB CHOP!!!

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(Which, in retrospect, I think was inevitable.)

The whole endeavor was way outside my comfort zone, but I pushed through it. And this is why my LA (county) premiere was not too big a deal. I mean, it was very exciting to me. But because I had put in the work expanding my comfort zone, I was able to enjoy every minute of it and not worry about whether or not I was qualified to be there or not.

Always actively push your comfort zone. Sometimes push a little, sometimes push a lot – it doesn’t matter – each time you push it, it expands. I’d probably stop short of causing yourself a full-blown panic attack, but if you aren’t occasionally doing things that somewhat terrify you, I think you’re doing life wrong. Eventually, your comfort zone will expand enough to allow you to do the things you’ve always dreamed of, whatever those things may be.

If you’re Peter Coyote and your dream is to murder me, however, perhaps your comfort zone is just fine right where it is.


The Shelf Life of Film

I don’t think we need to address the fact that I suck at writing regular blog posts, so we won’t touch on that except to say that it’s kinda funny that the last thing I wrote was “The Importance of Being Sidetracked” two years ago.


HAHAHA!!!  What a failure of a blogger!!!

And, oddly enough, I haven’t been sidetracked. I’ve been slowly chipping away at The Legend of Grassman. Chipping and learning and chipping even more. I’m very excited to finally be able to show everyone soon.

But I don’t want to talk about that right now. I want to talk about being sidetracked.


Here’s a brand new still of multi-talented actor/director/producer Jessica Cameron and the FIRST EVER REVEAL of our Bigfoot. But enough of that. It bores me.

A Dark Night at the Wrong House was the side project I wrote about last. It was actually an older film that had been sitting on The Shelf for a while, because I’m the kind of guy who likes keeping things on shelves. Big shelf guy.


Dennis Meyer. We’re brothers. We’re making a “Bigfoot” movie. Ring a bell? If not , just bear with me. It’ll make sense as I go. I promise.

Back when I was thoroughly obsessed with editing and re-editing our short The Projection Booth, everyone got sick of working on it and my brother, Dennis (who you’ll remember from our classic blog entries makes movies with me), insisted I do a new short. So, I picked A Dark Night at the Wrong House, which is actually a remake of a film I did at age 14. I’d been playing around with the idea of remaking it for a while and decided I’d do this real quick-like, distract Dennis with it and then get back to obsessing over The Projection Booth.

So, we did that. We shot it quickly, I mean. And then I couldn’t figure out the effects and this new-fangled 24p business I was trying out. Shortly after, we were doing Grassman, so there was no time for such frivolities. (So I neither finished the film real quick to distract Dennis, nor got back to obsessing over The Projection Booth. I underestimated my fox of a brother. He’s wily.)

So it sat. On The Shelf. With all my other Shelfstuff.

Around the time I wrote that last blog article, I happened to give The Shelf a once over. It’s important to give The Shelf a once over now and then, to make sure you haven’t left anything on the shelf – and I found a mostly-finished short that I really liked. A few years had passed, so I had become more proficient at effects, 24p, as well as giving up and sending things out unfinished.

Wrong House Cover Festivals 2.jpg

Couldn’t think of an interesting caption. It’s pretty much self-explanatory. 


“Grassman” is a regional name for “Bigfoot” – a mythical creature that many believe roams the forests of “North America.” 

So I worked hard on it for a couple weeks and then got right back to Grassman. Then something magical happened. Film Freeway was invented. It streamlined the submission process and made everything super easy. So I entered 278 film festivals without hardly noticing. And most of those were free.

I didn’t want to spend too much on festival entries on this film. I paid for a few, but I honestly did better with the free festivals. And, overall, had a great experience with those festivals.

In the end, we played at something like 25 festivals – not great, but not bad, and that’s more screenings than any other short we’ve done. Also, the film will be part of a horror/suspense/thriller anthology coming in November from SGL Entertainment called The Void. I am totally going to buy it because I‘ve never bought my own movie before. And I will take pictures of it. And post them on social media. And it will be AWESOME.

A Dark Night at the Wrong House isn’t any better than anything else we’ve done, but the difference is that I pushed it. And I was able to push it so much because Film Freeway streamlined the process so much. I’m the kind of guy who sends a film out to one festival, and when it gets rejected, I figure it sucks. Don’t be that guy. Whether it’s festivals, whether it’s trying to build a following on YouTube, you have to be relentless. 90% of the people won’t care about your film and that’s totally cool. You don’t care about them. You care about finding the 10% that will love it.


With actor Anthony Rizzuto at the ScareLa screening of A Dark Night at the Wrong House (1st time we were ever allowed to screen a movie anywhere near LA. The closest till now had been Seattle!)

Furthermore, as a creator of art, whatever the medium, you have a solemn duty to get it to the people who will love it. If that’s one creepy dude in the back of the auditorium with a really weird taste in films, that’s a worthy enough audience.

disastrous 2.jpg

Disastrous? You wouldn’t know it from this photo taken just before the screening. Poised and confident, “Dennis” and I radiate professionalism. (Dennis is my brother. We make “movies.”)

I remember there was a teenage boy who contacted me on “MySpace” after what I thought was a disastrous screening of The Projection Booth. He said he really liked it and wanted to know how he could get a copy. At the time, I fully intended to release it at some point, but wasn’t done tinkering with it. I told him about the new awesome cut that was on its way, and he said he loved the original and wanted that. And I figured he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.

The Projection Booth did not do extremely well on the festival circuit. One blogger described it as “just ok” which is about the worst insult I can think of for a film. I got the sense that this kid was a loner who didn’t fit in, and I had been a loner who didn’t fit in and the movie was about a loner who didn’t fit in. So even if I thought it was crap, it moved this young kid. It said something to him and out of everyone who saw it, it probably meant the most to him. It wasn’t about me. I had a duty to make that film available to him.

But, instead, I stuck it on The Shelf.

If I ever cross paths with that kid, I’m giving him my crappy film. It’s been a few years and it may not mean anything to him anymore. But he’s getting it anyway.

The Shelf

The Shelf. There’s a lot of weird stuff up there. Don’t be like me. Don’t stick it on The Shelf.

The most recent project to escape The Shelf is a feature-length film called les aventures d’archives. It was another side project, but it was taking too long and I shelved it to focus on Grassman. Weeks ago, while giving The Shelf the ol’ once over, I realized it had been, like A Dark Night at the Wrong House before it, abandoned while on the verge of completion and that there is someone, somewhere out there, that would love to see it. It stars filmmaker/cellist Gene Cornelius and a giant, flying robot shark. Who wouldn’t want to see that?  It will be hitting festivals in the coming months.



les aventures d’archives. Coming Soon. Yes, it’s as cool as it looks.



I’m “Tyler” btw. I’m a “filmmaker.” You just “read” my “blog.”

The Importance of Being Sidetracked

There are moments where it feels like I’ll never finish the film. I spend an entire weekend toiling away and on Sunday night, when I take stock of what I’ve accomplished, I see that I kind of got one effect shot looking sort of good. Or I feel overwhelmed by the any of the few short scenes I have left to shoot -It’s too complicated, or I don’t know how to shoot it, or I don’t have the resources to make it work and I’ve spent all my money on legal fees and a cool hat for my second cameo.

Look at this and tell me our film won't be any good. I DARE you.

Look at this and tell me our film won’t be any good. I DARE you.

Like a lot of creative people who never finish anything, I have a tendency to want to take on more than what I can accomplish, and for the past couple years I’ve been very strict about not taking on any new projects until I’m finished with Grassman – unless, of course, they pay, because I need a cool hat for my second cameo. Saying “no” has been more difficult than I anticipated, cause I like doing things. That’s why I do things in the first place.

"Working on it" included taking selfies in a dilapidated restroom.

“Working on it” included restroom selfies.

I have learned, however, right before I committed myself to not doing things, that switching projects can be a great way to recharge and replenish motivation and resolve. In 2012, I took on a particularly ambitious Halloween special for my day job – which was not supposed to conflict with my filmmaking activities any more than the act of having a day job does. However, it was too ambitious for the 3 weeks we had to produce it, and to get it done, I had to work on it during every available bit of free time I had.

When you work that quickly, you don’t have time to get too attached to the project, and you frequently have to choose to cut or rethink elements of the production that prove to be too time consuming or troublesome. The process bears no resemblance to the slow, quiet, sometimes painstaking work you’re used to while working on your epic masterpiece love letter to Bigfoot cinema.

But as you go, you can’t help but remember that’s sort of how working on your Bigfoot masterpiece used to be. I mean, that was the whole point of doing a movie about Bigfoot running around the woods killing people rather than your planned sci-fi adaptation of Pete’s Dragon, which would clearly be the real masterpiece, if it ever existed. We chose our subject matter so we could work quickly, learn the process, and not worry that Downton Abbey fans would be disappointed in the quality.

Petes Dragon

It would be awesome. He kills Jabba and then rules Tatooine with Chewbacca and Jimmy Pigman.

Most of the Bigfoot films our love letter is being written to were made under similar circumstances, and exist as shining examples of perfect imperfect art. These films weren’t made to be “perfect.” Most of them aren’t even “good.”

However, when you finish your 3 week marathon filmmaking session, you have no choice but to release the wretched, imperfect thing into the world. Cause there’s a deadline. And when you’re watching the premiere on cable on Halloween night, you are filled with a glowing feeling of being totally pissed. That music is totally mixed too loud, and what the hell was that shot doing there in the wrong scene, and that sound effect is in the wrong place! RUINED!!!!  I AM RUINED!!!!

After you recover from your crippling failure, you go back and fix some of the mistakes for the sake of posterity. And then you realize, this thing isn’t really half bad. It’s no Sci Fi Pete’s Dragon, but it’s pretty good work for a three week rush job. And some people actually have told you they liked it. (Plenty of others told you they didn’t, but that’s hardly the point.)

Ghost Girl

(I’m pretty sure this invalidates their arguments.)

It’s tempting to think of the three weeks of being unable to work on your Bigfoot masterpiece as a waste of time and a failure, but the fact is, the experience shook you up. You are suddenly used to working as fast as possible, and getting rid of scenes or elements that are too difficult and time consuming and aren’t 100% necessary to get the story across.

Two years ago, I received valuable lessons and inspiration from the simple act of being sidetracked. And then eventually, of course, I forgot all of it and promptly got back to the time consuming task of Photoshopping realistic Bigfoot nipples into wide shots, frame by frame.  People won’t ever see it, or care if they did, but boy, does it make the whole thing feel authentic.

Wrong House

A Dark Night at the Wrong House, our most recent sidetrack short film project. Playing at film festivals worldwide. Well…. mostly just two so far…