How to make your Budget Car Rental Experience Feel Like a Michael Bay Movie

png_base6487a713b2546501a4For me, there are two sure signs of summer:  Loud, fun popcorn-filled blockbuster movies and inefficiently cumbersome rental car lines. Both can be equally long (thanks, Budget!), but the latter can be made much more enjoyable when you attempt to infuse a touch of Michael Bay’s signature style to the process. Here are five tips on how to punch up your car rental experience:



  1. Introduce the threat of an alien attack

Every good summer movie has a sense of urgency (or a “ticking clock” as I learned from all of those screenwriting books collecting dust on my lopsided Ikea malm shelf), but unfortunately the idea of “urgency” is about as foreign to Budget employees as an alien invasion. Like a tender rack of BBQ ribs, they prefer the “low and slow” method in which they talk as low as possible so that you can barely understand what they’re saying and they move as slow as humanly possible (sometimes even ceasing to move at all for several minutes). What’s a better motivator than an impending alien attack? Thus, the first sentence you should say to every employee you come in contact with is “We don’t have a lot of time before the alien invasion starts, so let’s make this quick.” Erratically look at your phone or watch during all conversations while mumbling “it’s going to be too late…”


  1. Steal a walkie talkie

Walkie-talkies play a very important role in Budget’s highly inefficient process for obtaining a rental car. This centralized form of communication between the counter and garage means that you’ll have a captive audience if you can get your hands on one. There’s a small chance this will get you kicked out with no rental car, but having to use a different (and more efficient) rental car company might actually work to your benefit. If you’re less bold, you can ask to use the walkie talkie. They won’t let you, which will give you the opportunity to look them in the eyes and earnestly say, “But we need to get everyone out of the city!” If for some reason you do get your hands on a walkie-talkie, use your platform to inform your audience of the imminent attack and the importance of getting out of the major cities. Be sure not to specify exactly how much time remains, rather just make it clear that “time is precious” and the vague importance of moving quickly.



  1. Make your own love story

You have some freedom here, as you can inform the employees of you desire to see your significant other “one last time,” or if the mood strikes you, turn your interaction at the rental car counter into a “meet cute.” Start subtly by expressing your physical attraction to their hands/eyes/hair/etc. Compliments for people in their position are likely rare, so you may have to sprinkle in a few more during the process of booking your car (this is in addition to #1 and #2 above, as these are meant to work together). This may seem like a lot to cram into your visit to the counter, but trust me, you’ll have plenty of time since what should take five minutes will undoubtedly take anywhere from 30 minutes to the rest of eternity. Now that you’ve buttered them up, introduced the threat of aliens, and are ready to leave the counter to get your car you can make your final move:  Look him or her in eyes, hold out your hand and make Schwarzenegger proud by saying:  “Come with me if you want to live.”


  1. Squeal your tires

Once you finally get your car, throw your bags in the back, jump into the driver’s seat as fast as you can and FLOOR IT. It won’t be hard to make the tire squeal, since you’ll be in a garage. Aside from getting the attention of everyone in earshot, there’s not really any point to doing this, since you’ll likely have to immediately stop and wait in yet another line with other cars trying to exit. But, it’ll feel cathartic since you’re one step closer to escaping the aliens.  



  1. Shed a tear while spewing a heart-felt monologue

There will be numerous interactions with Budget employees since each step involves adding an unnecessary human as often as possible. Save the monologue for the last person you interact with at the gate. Even though you’ve already confirmed the reservation and your information with at least three people prior to this final “gate check,” you will be required to provide proof of a driver’s license and receipt for your rental car. Once the attendant opens the gate for you, this provides an excellent opportunity to utilize those high school acting skills in one last final monologue. You can improvise if you like, or utilize the three-plus hours of waiting to write, rewrite, and polish an Oscar-worthy speech. Hell, you may have enough time to email a copy to William Goldman for a few punch-ups. Get out of the car and make sure you speak to any other cars in line behind you, as this is your last chance to rally mankind against those damn aliens. Be sure to incorporate your desire to see your significant other one last time, lots of references to the aliens (there can never be too many), and as many metaphors about American pride as possible. Preferably you will be renting a Ford to really help sell that last one. Start crying during the final act of your monologue (the wetter your cheeks, the better). Budget employees are barely trained to handle normal customers, let alone one that keeps referencing an alien attack while crying. At this point the gate will have closed again, thus revealing the real point of the monologue as a tactic to stall. You want that gate closed, so you can crash through as fast and as furiously as possible (you paid for the damage waiver, right?).


See? Not a bad way to spend six hours at an airport and by the time you leave, there will be twice as much story and character depth as whatever Transformers they’re up to now. Also, while you’re there, tell Satan I said ‘hello’.

Staying Out Instead of Breaking In


It’s not a secret. Everybody wants to break into Hollywood. Your retired uncle on your mom’s side took an acting class at a community college. Your father-in-law got a GoPro for Christmas and thinks he’s the next Spielberg. Hell, even your sixteen-year old dogwalker has a spec screenplay that’s “kind of a romantic sci-fi comedy scavenger hunt written for Ryan Gosling as the lead.”

Fame, fortune, following your passion, feeding your ego… There are plenty of motivators, but have you really sat down and thought about why exactly you want to be a part of Hollywood? Maybe the answer isn’t quite clear. Maybe it’s a gut feeling that you have but can’t explain.

With filmmaking technology becoming exponentially better and cheaper, screenwriting contests and fellowships becoming more prevalent, and social media turning nobodys into kind-of-somebodys, aspiring filmmakers are constantly being told that there are more ways to break in than ever. But, is “breaking in” even worth it? If filmmakers have everything they need to create content (especially content in which they have creative control over), then what exactly do they need Hollywood for?


png_base64b0a2c8f2e1ca9194Mitch Hurwitz created arguably the greatest sitcom of all time, Arrested Development. As such, many wannabe sitcom writers envy this comedic genius and would no doubt love to be him in certain capacities. However, as he explained at the Banff World Media Festival last week (and could be ascertained from previous interviews) it wasn’t all fun and games creating/running a show for Fox. And “running” was a loose term, since they tried so very hard to handicap him.


This isn’t significantly new information, nor is Mitch’s case all that unique. Some show runners have even been fired from the very show that they created (ahem…Dan Harmon…ahem). The difficulties aren’t specific to high-level show creators either, as the path to get there is rarely easy. There are tons of screenwriting horror stories which relate breaking in to having gone through war. Actors and actresses don’t have it any easier, as many are reduced to reality show roles to pay the bills until they land that Oscar-worthy part in a Martin Scorsese feature.

And once you’ve “broken in” it’s not like you automatically get a Bentley, estate in Beverly Hills, and a loyal-customer punch card for the best attorney in LA. You have to stay in. Professional screenwriters, John August and Craig Mazin, have talked frequently on their Scriptnotes podcast about how “staying in” is sometimes harder than breaking in.

So, you struggle to get in and once you’re in, you struggle to stay in. Sure, you might be rich, but money doesn’t buy happiness, especially not if you’re constantly stressed out about getting kicked out of Hollywood and losing everything.

Consider, instead of breaking in, using the available tools to create the content you want and staying out of Hollywood. The scope may be on a much smaller scale, but you’re level of happiness may actually be improved due to a lower level of stress and higher level of control over your content.


png_base645aab9a5e12d6edccThis independent attitude isn’t new, but with so many more young filmmakers entering the industry, I feel like there’s more promotion of the gold rush mentality, rather than the idea that you can carve out your own small segment of the industry and happily operate without constantly trying to get noticed by Hollywood.


Yes, I realize that the lack of monetary rewards probably impede the desires of many filmmakers to stay outside of the Hollywood bubble. But if more and more filmmakers actively stay out of Hollywood, eventually someone’s going to figure out how to make a decent living from it.

Instead of constantly trying to break in, maybe the new goal should be to stay out, stand out, and and enjoy the view of Hollywood from the outside. Of course all that goes out the window if you’re offered a check for $1 million. You’ve got bills, so cash the check. Seriously, renting a Bentley for an hour is so much more fun than struggling from the outside…

High-Profile Kickstarter Campaigns Coming in 2014

Last week, we saw the Kickstarter campaign for Reading Rainbow dominate social media. The timing was perfect, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s was more than happy to throw money at the idea of having Reading Rainbow for their own kids. Sure, some people criticized the idea of a for-profit venture asking for millions of dollars in donations, but it isn’t really a Kickstarter campaign without some good ol’ fashioned negative media.


Despite the negative attention that many campaigns receive, most of it is moot if the goals are met and the donors make it rain (less Kickstarter’s 5% cut and Amazon’s 3%-5% processing fee). Which is why you can expect to see bigger, and “better” projects during the rest of 2014. Kickstarter isn’t just for small indie short films produced by your brother’s roommate in college. Nope. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these high-profile projects in the near future.


Avatar 2 – $250 million



If Zach Braff can raise over $3 million, why can’t James Cameron raise a quarter billion? Yes, Avatar 2 is already in production and has a budget/funding/major studio support/blah/blah/blah, BUT this is James Cameron we’re talking about. If anyone could find a way to spend an extra quarter-bill, he could (even if it’s making sure the a character’s retinas sparkle JUST RIGHT). Best Donor Perk:  For $10,000, you can have virtual 3D sex with the Na’vi of your choice. Better start growing out your hair now.


Jaden Smith’s “I am God” Project – $500 million



You don’t wear a custom made white Batman suit to someone else’s wedding without having a God complex. And once he sees James Cameron’s Kickstarter, he’ll be all over Kickstarter like white on…a Batman cowl worn by Jaden Smith. The point of his Kickstarter campaign will be a bit unclear, but it will be full of confounding hyperbole. Since it’s hard to connect the dots and figure out how donating to his campaign proves he’s God, he’ll throw in references to “making his own Avatar, but better” and “painting all trees blue.” Best Donor Perk:  When you donate $100,000 he’ll personally mention you in one of his punctuation-deficient, philosophically confusing tweets.


U.S. Government – $1 billion



Sooner or later Republicans and Democrats will be united with the a bi-partisan realization that Kickstarter can be used to syphon more money from the American people. Republicans will be happy, since tax breaks for the wealthy can continue, while the Democrats will be excited at the prospect of looking “hip” to the kids. The only downside is we’ll have to ignore the fact that the cost to produce and run the Kickstarter campaign is projected at $1.5 billion.

Best Donor Perk:  $500 gets you an American flag t-shirt. (What do you expect? It’s the U.S. government. Also the t-shirt is made in China.)


Boko Haram Ransom Campaign – $1 katrillionzillion


At its core, isn’t Kickstarter already set up for ransom negotiations? “You want to see a sequel to you favorite movie? Give me fifty bucks, or I’ll never release it!” It’s only natural that it would eventually be used for real kidnappings. Plus, Boko Haram has already had success with viral videos, so they’re already dominating social media. Might as well tap into that Vine fame and make some serious money with Kickstarter.  Best Donor Perk: $1 million gets you a “100% promise to never kidnap your village or take over your country.” Money well spent.


Satan’s “I’m not such a bad guy” Short Film – $10,000



After taking a Robert McKee’s Story seminar, the Lord of the Underworld is inspired to follow his dreams of being a filmmaker. The story centers upon a down on his luck writer, who is perceived by the outside world as a bad guy. From what I understand the script is okay with some quirky characters (especially his hispanic roommate Jesús), but suffers from a lack of stakes and clear plot points. Best Donor Perk:  You can be listed as an Executive Producer and hang out on set for just $2,500. You also get the perks from the previous levels, including a digital copy of the script, blu-ray DVD, and poster signed by the cast, crew, and Lucifer himself. If you’re low on cash and want to contribute, you can score a “thank you” in the final credits simply by pledging him your soul.


But what about the rest of you, who have brilliant ideas (iphone wallets ARE the future) but aren’t high-profile enough to convince strangers to send you buckets of digital money? You’re in luck, because my research partner, Crystal Hubbard, and I are working on a list of sure-fire steps you can take to ensure a successful Kickstarter campaign. Stay tuned! (aka just keep your RSS feed reader linked to Smash Cut Culture).


Five Seasons and a Podcast

This Week Community was Cancelled
This Week Community was Cancelled

Much like slowly watching your favorite uncle pass away, fans of Community finally saw the death of their beloved show last week. As one of those said fans, I wasn’t really as disappointed as I would have expected. After all, shouldn’t five seasons warrant the Five Stages of Loss?

The Five Stages of Loss
The Five Stages of Loss
Even though I’ve seen quite a few sitcoms either get cancelled or end their runs, I don’t think one really gets used to watching their favorite characters and settings walk off the screen.

When Arrested Development was cancelled, I hit that Denial Stage pretty hard, re-watching all three seasons obsessively as if each episode were new (to be fair, it was a show that rewarded such behavior).

Traffic Light - Also Cancelled
Traffic Light – Also Cancelled

Fortunately, I never had to move past that stage, as the show was eventually resurrected by Netflix.

A lesser known sitcom on Fox, Traffic Light was cancelled after a short first season. I was and still am in the Anger Stage on this one. It was just too short. I can’t even re-watch this show on Netflix, because…it’s…just…errrr. Too soon.
30 Rock’s end, although sad, was much more about the Bargaining Stage. I convinced myself that this would allow Tina Fey to be in more movies and eventually create 200 more brilliant sitcoms. Or at least two for now.
Although the post-Steve Carell seasons left something to be desired, the end of The Office left me in a state that was as close to the Depression Stage as any sitcom could ever create. It was just so good for so long that not having it left a hole in my sitcom viewing schedule that none have quite been able to fill since.
But for all the possible stages of grief, the loss of Community some how skipped the first four and landed smoothly into Acceptance. I share many sentiments with Time’s James Poniewozik, as the show’s run produced many more great moments and episodes than a show of its specificity and unique voice should have been allowed on a major network. If I were to relate it to food, it was a great three course meal, with two bonus courses. Sure the fourth course needed more salt and appeared to be created by a different chef, but at least the fifth course brought back some cohesiveness that reminded you of why you decided to eat at that restaurant to begin with.

However, for me, the reason I don’t feel any loss is primarily because the creator of Community, Dan

Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon

Harmon, has a weekly live show/podcast called Harmontown. Normally, we relate and attach ourselves to shows because we’re connecting with the creator/showrunner’s vision. However, this vision is generally filtered through a room of other writers, producers, network executives, and sometimes preferences of advertisers.

Not with Harmontown. The podcast gives fans an authentic taste of Dan Harmon, for better or worse. And at this point in my life, an unfiltered 90-minute podcast that I can listen to during my commute is more valuable to me than a 22-minute network sitcom.
There’s something freeing about the format and knowing that Dan is being Dan; knowing that there’s nobody looking over his shoulder, editing content, or suggesting material. Without actually doing the research to back it up, it’s also liberating to think that this type of entertainment was probably the only form hundreds (thousands?) of years ago. When there were no “shows” or “performances” other than conversations about one’s day fishing, hunting, or courting a sexy cavewoman (or man). It feels as if life is coming around, completing a Joseph Campbell-esque story circle
Granted, I realize without Community there would be no Harmontown, but people evolve, tastes change, and you learn to accept things that you wouldn’t have accepted three years ago. And given that the nature of podcasts allow a certain freedom, fortunately we’ll never have to worry about Harmontown being cancelled by anyone other than Dan Harmon.

“This script needs more ObamaCare!”

That’s what Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s Senior Advisor, has basically been saying during her recent visit to Hollywood.  The president and his staff are attempting to get some marketing help from Hollywood with some good ol’ fashioned product placement. Because as a consumer, there’s nothing that makes me want a product even more than when it’s shoehorned into my favorite television shows!

Like any good citizen, I’ve come up with some of my own potential episode storylines. However, where Jarrett wants ObamaCare to be simply be mentioned positively, I think it’s a strong enough presence to be the primary focus of an A story on most shows.

Grey’s Anatomy

Due to the Affordable Care Act, Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital receives a surge in patients who would normally just “wait out” their illnesses.  Because the surgeons are all overbooked, none of them have time to sleep with each other and/or talk about personal problems all day.  This unrealized sexual and mental release takes a toll on the doctors, who all become hospitalized due to stress-induced illnesses.  Doesn’t sound like the end of the story, does it?  Yeah, because it’s the season finale cliffhanger. And there’s also like a nuclear bomb or something that’s going to explode inside the heart of a five-year old kid with Asperger’s.

The Big Bang Theory

“We got bazinga’ed by ObamaCare!”

When Sheldon is diagnosed with a rare pre-existing condition known as “Sheldon Cooper Disease” his mother convinces him to register for ObamaCare.  Problem is the darn website just won’t work.  Sheldon takes it upon himself to redesign the whole website.  Unfortunately, the site is such a mess that it takes even a genius with 187 IQ too long to fix, and before he can figure out how to get it to work, he becomes the first to die from Sheldon Cooper Disease. (more…)

Hidden Movie Stars on Food Network – Part Deux

If you missed Part 1, it’s no big deal.  Click the link to catch up. To sum it up, Will Smith is out and celebrity chefs are in.

So, what celebrity-chefs are ready to be turned into mega movie stars, so that studios can begin printing money again through cross-branding and achieving an Infinite Brand Fuck ©?

Alton Brown

 Alton’s got the look and devious personality to seamlessly enter the any Marvel franchise as a supervillain.  Hell, he already kinda plays a bad guy on Cutthroat Kitchen, so he has the experience.  But let’s not forget his roots.  Alton’s humble beginnings on Food Network make up the perfect recipe for a villain’s origin story:   Cooped up in his house, tinkering with food, using SCIENCE to explain cooking techniques. If anyone on Food Network is going to threaten the world with a giant laser, it’s Alton Brown.

Robert Irvine

 With a clear villain we need a clear hero and that man is Robert Irvine.  He’s got the size to fill Schwarzenegger-esque roles AND he’s British.  He also served in the Royal Navy, so Robert is actually more qualified to play James Bond than all of these guys combined.  And to really lock him in as a movie star there was that whole controversy in 2008 about him fabricating his resume. Lying to get a job?  Welcome to Hollywood, Mr. Irvine. (more…)

Hidden Movie Stars on the Food Network – Part I

Every few years movie stars are purported to have died – Not literally actors passing, as that’s just a fact of life. Rather the idea of a true blockbuster movie star. Many times it’s a just a quick overreaction to flops with big actors. Sometimes, it feels true. There was a point in time where you went to see movies because of the marquee names. Their participation was an instant vetting of the project and that the movie was worth the price of admission.

But at some point in time after Independence Day and before After Earth, we stopped caring about the actors and more about the stories. The audience starting craving stories. And because of that, the studios began to spend more time and energy developing original screenplays. comic books. And toys. And sequels. Especially trilogies with awesome packaging and glitter and shit. Yes, eventually big movie stars were replaced by BRANDS.

Brands are essentially marketing vehicles for printing large amounts of money. See the movie, buy the toys, eat the cereal and by the time you’ve grown tired of whatever the original idea was based on, the sequel comes out and starts the cycle over again. Children and Midwest residents are apparently the most susceptible to this cycle, which research analysts have redundantly described as the Cyclical Consumer Brand Cycle.

Could this man be the next Bond villain?
Could this man be the next Bond villain?

Okay, my tone makes it sound like I’m looking down on brands and money and the Midwest, but I’m not (I have friends from the Midwest, so calm down and I’m using a capital letter to describe it, which indicates a form of respect). I want everybody to make as much money possible.  Which is why I have a plan that enables the industry to create movie stars who with pre-existing conditions brands.

Enter the Food Network.