Sunday, February 1, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

There is nothing more powerful than what you have. It is ten trillion times more powerful than what you don't have and long for.

If that sounds like bullshit, then make a list of ten things you really regret. Ten things (people included) you hate that they are a part of your life, and after you have written them down, see how you feel.

Then, and only then, make a list of ten things (people included) you are really glad are in your life and see how you feel.

My money is on the fact that you feel lucky, empowered and loved. And fueled up to go do something !

It has become the butt of a gazillion jokes about "airheads" who, if they just think happy thoughts, can make themselves millionaires, but the concept of "the law of attraction" is really the quantum physics behind what is now being marketed as "The Secret".

Whatever your feeling about this secret, the idea behind it is incredibly powerful, so much that I am starting to wonder if we prove it every day without knowing it.

I wonder if I have unwittingly attracted both my darkest and my most joyous moments, in part with whatever I was dumping most of my energy and thoughts into: either my regrets or my joys.

There is a power that comes in digging past your gripes and fears, and getting back in touch with the things that bring you joy and peace. In simpler terms, these things, just the thought of them, give you back your power.

In the spirit of this idea, I thought I would share things in my own life I am grateful for. Some of them could be called things WARMLY REMEMBERED, but they are really from my gratitude list. Here are some in no special order:

The adventures of SUPERMAN

Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's George Reeves! He flew into my living room every weekday afternoon after a long day of reading, writing and Bible class. Superman has been a bright spot in my history from my earliest memory.

As a wee lad, I got a full Superman costume as a gift from my grandparents. The occasion was my first Holy Communion. I literally wore it out, except for the cape, handmade by grandma. It lasted an entire year and I loved to wear it around the house.

Until one day it went missing. My adolescent suspicions told me the thief of my prize possession was my stepfather, who though he never owned up to it, at that point in my life, with my disinterest in fishing and sports, seemed to despise anything that made me happy.

I am sure if he did take it and throw it away, it was another misguided attempt to help me become a man. His guilt in the great cape snatching caper is even more likely when I remember the way it became so important to him to be the first to give me the crushing news that, long before I was even born, George Reeves had committed suicide

The adventures of JONNY QUEST

Nothing like it before or since. This 1964 Prime time animated series did more to encourage and thrill me and ultimately push me toward storytelling than probably any single thing to come out of the TV next to The WIZARD of OZ.

Here was where I started a deep, call it adolescent appreciation for drama (the voice actors were brilliantly cast) monsters ( there were plenty) stories (some great plots and dialog) and music (Hoyt Curtin's slam bam action jazz score) cuz Quest had some of the best action music for TV there ever was or will be.

!!!JonnyQuestSuperMix2 -

Wrap it all up in the dynamite artwork of comic book greats Doug Wildey and Alex Toth, tie it off with a hi-tech James Bond kind of vibe, and you've got the ultimate in Boy's Life style male bonding, where Dr. Quest and bodyguard Race Bannon took Jonny and his adopted brother Hadji on every adventure no matter how dangerous!

This show was "the definitive cool" that put in every young soul who saw it, the yearning for a life like Jonny's.

Though it lasted only one season and 26 episodes, few kids who ever saw them, either in their prime time premiere in '64 or through its never ending life in syndication on Saturday mornings throughout the 60s and 70s, escaped becoming a die hard Jonny Quest fan!

PS: A great underground documentary is on You Tube about the making of this landmark series. All Quest fans, I encourage you to play a chapter or two (Bet you can't play just one) I was happy to lend my voice as narrator to this two and a half hour underground opus which was played in public only once at a private function.

The entire documentary has been posted on Rapidshare. Here are the links if you want a high quality quicktime movie of the entire two and a half hour documentary:

Or you can download the parts direct:

You will need a parts joiner to put the files together but they are free
and easy to use whether you are on a Mac or a PC.


Back in the good old black and white 60s, there was no better or funnier place for me to be than in New Rochelle or in the New York offices of the writers of the Alan Brady Show.

Another series in syndication I experienced coming home after a long day at school, (high school now) the remarkable talents and sensitivities of Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard, put an incredible ensemble of actors and a remarkable group of writers and directors in my heart forever.

Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, Richard Deacon, Ann Morgan Guilbert, and directors John Rich and Jerry Paris to name a few...

The show didn't shy away from mixing suspense and sci-fi with comedy either. And in the great tradition of ABBOTT and COSTELLO Meet FRANKENSTIEN, some of the great episodes of the Van Dyke show are not only creepy and funny but were about haunted cabins, flying saucers spotted over Manhattan and alien invaders taking over mankind using cosmic walnuts.

The first sitcom that took you to the office every day and gave you a backstage glimpse at movies and TV, the show was one of the major factors in making show biz, and even something as solitary as writing, seem like the only life for me.


This legendary Hollywood composer, with some of the greatest musical versatility in the history of film scoring, matched only by his unequaled musical sensibilities, fueled part of my great love affair with the movies and movie music.

I had as many Goldsmith albums in high school as I did John William's albums and became apopleptic when asked to choose between the two. To me they were the true geniuses of the movies and Jerry gave me one of the great miracles and moments of my life when he agreed to score my first studio film POWDER.

Jerry was the first time I ever worked with one of my icons. Someone I had admired since childhood. Jerry taught a young and green Victor Salva, a valuable lesson about the biz. You can be enormously talented and still treat others with respect and compassion.

Here's to a man of great talent and warmth. (More on my brief adventure with Jerry and POWDER in a future blog)

A Little Listen - Jerry Goldsmith


A great writer from the time I was just learning about what a writer is and can accomplish in the world of entertainment.

Here was a guy who continually found a way to make the human dilemma something interesting and saw a noble struggle in almost every man.

The struggle to pass through the darkness and into the light.

To put the politics of humanitarianism into words and performances and inspire a generation of writers, actors, producers and above all thinkers. The first teleplay I ever read was while I was in the eighth grade at St. Catherine's of Sienna.

It was the script for TWILIGHT ZONE's The Monsters are Due on Maple Street episode, Rod's famous story of a suburban neighborhood torn apart by suspicion and fear.

It was the first time I ever read phrases like "the camera does a trucking shot to the left..." and realized I was looking at the literal translation of how the things I love on the screen, first get communicated on paper.

For me, it was the tiny seed from which my greatest love would grow.

I didn't know how important Rod had become in my young life, until his death was announced on the radio one summer and I had to go run off and hide somewhere to cry, unclear what my tears were about.


Like every child of the 70s, Steven and his films became the epitome of why I decided to take the long hard road that would be making movies in Hollywood.

Steven by simply existing in the time he did, and the pure energy created when he put music and picture together, mesmerized audiences and lit a fire in me that has never gone out.

When pictures of Steven as a boy of twelve, shooting movies in Super 8 milimeter in his backyard were published in TIME Magazine the summer his hit JAWS came to theaters, I saw the blueprint of the path my life could follow.

Steven opened the gates of possibility and let me know that all things were possible.

In my great love affair with movies, Steven was part of that first, deeply felt crush when you fall so deeply in love with something, you cannot bear to think of your life without it.

With so many magnificent moments he has helmed, I would have to say that his early efforts DUEL and JAWS remain the films I most adore in his long, long career.


It wasn't until animation genius Chuck Jones got a hold of Daffy Duck that he translated his "daffyness" into the characteristics that truly defined him as one of the funniest animated conveyors of human shortcomings: greed and insecurity.

When Chuck redefined Daffy, I fell in love with who, unquestionably is my favorite Warner Bros. character. Chuck gave Daffy all his greed, insecurity and his downright nasty need for power and control.

Holding up a mirror to each of us in our helpless, hapless quest for the same.

Daffy, in Chuck's hands became so deliciously dastardly that he made me laugh until I cried. Great art has great lessons. And Daffy could never see that his own greed and inability to get out of his own way were the only obstacles to his happiness.

If you don't see the great lessons in the Chuck Jone's Warner cartoons of the 50s, under Chuck's gifted and unparalleled sense of comic timing and irony, then please refer to his non Daffy masterpieces. Start with "ONE FROGGY EVENING" and "FEED the KITTY" as the beginning of your Zen journey.


The man who has written more of my favorite scripts, movies and stories from the 50s, 60s and 70s than any other writer.

An early contributor to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Richard's vast talent encompasses TV and movies that left indelible impressions on me: NIGHTMARE at 20,000 FEET, DUEL, Darren McGavin's THE NIGHTSTALKER, I AM LEGEND, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE ... the incredible list goes on and on.

Richard Matheson is one of the great thinkers and visionaries since the inception of electronic storytelling (though he is the author of many books as well) -- will somebody please build a statue to this man?!


When my horror fans ask me what my favorite movies are, I now stop before blurting out the first few titles that are probably the nearest to my heart. Because they are invariably not horror films -- and might even denote an interior comment in a fan or two like, "Just how gay is this guy anyway?"

Because the title that first comes without me having to think about it, is this 1939 masterpiece THE WIZARD of OZ. If ever o' ever a wiz there was!

This dazzling mix of joy, terror, terrific casting and eye-popping, state of the art special effects, is capped by a musical score (not even counting the songs) that has to be one of the greatest ever composed (by several contributing composers) for any film ever.

The Wizard of Oz, in this filmmaker's mind is quite simply one of the greatest examples of studio movie making ever.

I'm not sure the generations of today realize, that OZ was the great grandfather of STAR WARS. Oz, exactly like Lucas' space adventure, gave us a story about a good hearted youngster who dreams of a better life in a bigger world.

Both Dorothy Gale and Luke Skywalker, by events beyond their control, enter an incredible world of danger and adventure and magic, and make friends and alliances on an incredible journey to confront a dark and unstoppable evil that threatens everything.

STAR WARS and OZ were both great mixes of eye-popping state of the art effects, some of the best music the movies have ever heard, and a great story (with you at its center) about the struggle of good versus evil.

Made legendary by it's annual TV broadcast (until the advent of home video which would change the magical properties of movies forever) The Wizard of Oz remains one of the smartest and richest blends of social satire and pure fantasy filmmaking that I think remains unchallenged to this day!

And survives the ultimate test of time: it is remarkably watchable almost sixty years after its creation...


In my sometimes tumultuous journey, nothing has been made more clear in times of personal crisis, regrets, guilt and shame, than the importance of my loving family and friends.

In the worst of times, when the world has thrown you on the refuse heap of human beings, let me tell you, you learn quite quickly who your true friends are.

My gratitude for them goes beyond words. And that includes the people from all over the country and all over the world, who sometime take the time to write me. To say that they have an appreciation for my work or resonate somehow with my journey.

I feel something very special when this happens. And I hope I never take it for granted.


Another music man in my trinity of composers. John's music for JAWS in 1975, sent me on a journey of musical discovery that continues to this day.

I have collected film scores ever since, and later in life, found that much of the music I chose to suck into my little reel to reel tape recorder, held up to the TV, (when I was just ten or so) was often music from LOST IN SPACE.

Meaning I was a great William's fan even long before I knew who John Williams was.

He like Jerry Goldsmith, has supplied my dreams, my travel (who doesn't like to drive to film music?) and my life (not to mention the writing of many of my stories and screenplays) with the many and varied moods and human emotions that only music can convey.

John's evocations were, and continue to be, especially remarkable.

Pa Kents Death - John Williams


Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

The Voice of REASON in the age of BULLSHIT. Thank God for these voices in what has been such a brainless, bloody and frightening time of tyranny and stupidity in the country that I love.

Hate mongers, faux patriots and their hate speak, couldn't hold a candle to these smart, educated and brave men who with a bunch of incredibly talented writers, spoke the truth and made us laugh while we were trying not to drown in an ocean of bullshit that threatened everything our country was based on and stands for.

To say I thank these guys from the bottom of my heart would be too little. These guys were literally my oxygen, and still are, when life gets so dark, I feel like I am running out of fresh air.


My composer. That's how I think of Bennett. He has scored more of my films than any other composer and he is one of the most rewarding and uplifting relationships in my life.

The musical voice of a film is just as important a piece of casting as the right actor. And with Bennett I got what every filmmaker dreams of: my own Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams combined.

From the scariest depths of the Creeper's lair in the Jeeper's films, to the magnificent heights of the triumphs in PEACEFUL WARRIOR, Bennett is the reigning musical heart of my work.

But it is not just talent that puts Bennett on my gratitude list. He is also one of the most decent, honest and caring people I have come across in this crazy biz.

A great dad to his kids and a wonderful friend to me. Like Goldsmith before him, he taught me that where there is great heart there is great talent.

Performing for Coach - Bennett Salvay

Just a few more from a long list, that in the interest of space I won't go into detail about:

JOHN CLEESE (actor, writer)
WOODY ALLEN (filmmaker)
NORMAL LEAR (producer)
PHIL DONAHUE (author, talk show host)
ROBERT FOLK (Composer)
SEAN PEAN (Actor, director)
RAY HARRYHAUSEN (effects wizard)
MONTY PYTHON (British Comedy Troupe)
MY UNCLE ROY (who gave me the truth)
MILOS FORMAN (filmmaker)

The list could go on for several blogs but I will finish up with one final mention that always leaps to mind:


One of the greatest filmmakers of all time, gave me something that without it, I would not be here writing this, nor would I be the proud author of seven feature films.

Without the gift Francis gave me, I would have never been brave enough to pursue the true direction of my life.

When Francis as a celebrity judge at an American Film Institute competition for home grown videos saw my thirty minute backyard video SOMETHING IN THE BASEMENT (my own Rod Serling style tale about the horrors of war) he not only gave it first place in the fiction category, but he gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone up till then had ever given me

The gift he gave me, was his vote of confidence. He said, through actions and not words: I like what you do.

He then produced my next and first 35 millimeter feature film CLOWNHOUSE, out of his own pocket and put me on the map as a first time filmmaker and the author of the first bona-fide horror film to ever play Sundance.

Even in the fallout of my sometimes immense personal stumblings, Francis remained my friend and mentor and promised me I would have a career in movies if I could only weather the storm.

Artists have only one responsibility in my mind, and they can become as rich and as powerful as they like, and I can resist most jealousies or judgments about them if they keep to their prime directive: explore and share.

Share your discoveries about life with the rest of the world. Keep making the world a smaller place, by sharing through art and letting us understand what you feel and who you are.

It's much harder and much scarier than you think. There are great dangers and risks with exploring and sharing yourself with the world at large. And it takes great courage and brave hearts.

Many of the great actors I have been able to work with have both.

The more we share, and the more honest we are, the more the world ceases to exist in black and white. In good or bad. And we start to see our common humanity.

This is our most precious commodity as a species. Because quite simply, if we lose it, we are truly lost.

And this is why I truly believe that artists can change the world.

That with films, paintings, poems, television, and writing, artists can change the world. By presenting a new perspective. Their perspective.

And whether they paint the Mona Lisa or give us THE CREATURE from the BLACK LAGOON, artists give back to the world by sharing their art. By telling their stories.

And if I could give you, whoever you are out there reading this, if I could give you only one thing in this life, it would be the courage to go and share yourself.

And move us that little bit closer to our shared humanity.