Thursday, June 28


Some people seem to get utterly caught up in having the right gear, equipment, training, whatever BEFORE they’ll make any art.

Oft-times it’s really just an excuse not to start.

If you can lay your mitts on an acoustic guitar and it’s got all—or even most—of its strings, then you can start making music. Right now. Today.

Then you can get pretty good at playing the guitar, and pretty good at making music, while you save up to buy all the amps and speakers and cables and digital jib-jabs available to contemporary musicians.

Think of the head start you’ll have on your Musical Dreams if go down this road less-traveled…rather than focusing on the gear and stuff first and waiting for Godot to show up before actually doing something with your talents?!

Shit, when I made my first independent feature—the comic mockumentary, THE PERFECT MAN CONTEST—I had a little money to buy some equipment. I decided to spend most of it on lights and, especially, the best microphone, boom and attendant audio gear I could afford. However, this didn’t leave me with enough money to afford one rather important piece of equipment: the digital video camera with which to shoot the picture.

Sooooooo, I let that stop me and never made THE PERFECT MAN CONTEST.

Just kidding, natch!

Actually, not having a Camera stopped me for about a day, then I found a fellow artist here in Austin, TX who had a (then) state-of-the-art Canon XL-1. I made a deal with him where he let me use his camera in exchange for borrowing my sweet lights and audio-recording gear whenever he was doing HIS productions. Everybody came out ahead.

Don’t let NOTHING stop you from making your art! Please!

Tuesday, June 26


One easy way to measure how big an impact your Creativity is having on the world is through Google Alerts.

Rather than going through the bother of Googling yourself and your projects all the damn time, you can simply go to Google, sign up for Google Alerts, and then any time your name or current artistic endeavor or whatnot is mentioned pretty much anywhere on the Internet, you'll get an e-mail with the link to it.

Which is pretty damn cool, when you think about it!

If some dude in New Zealand, say, blogs one evening about really wanting to see Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL, I'll get a notice about it in my Inbox within a few hours. Then I can write him, thanking him for his interest and even offering to sell him a DVD of the picture.

Currently I receive Google Alerts for:


(That would be me, of course! However, it turns out there have been--and still ARE--bunches and bunches of John McLeans in the world. Or is it Johns McLean?! Whichever, there's lots. These include well-known doctors, boxers, barristers and musicians named John McLean, along with the John McLean who was formerly the head of the WGA until he got deposed, and, especially, the John McLean who was a Cabinet Member and Supreme Court Justice in the mid-1800s. Damn them all for stealing my name!)


(My original movie musical. Learn more about it at the Official Site,


(The sexy Burlesque Company founded by the three principal actresses from Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL--viz., Hanna Hardin, Hallie Martin and Tiffany Janssen--along with our Choreographer and Lead Singer, Amy Jordan. I'm the MC for the Jigglewatts, which is why I have them particularly in my Google Alerts. Check 'em out at

As my next narrative feature--the literary comedy, EX LIBRIS--moves further into pre-production, I'll surely add that to my Google Alerts as well.

Because, again, it's a great barometer of how word is spreading on your creative projects.

Monday, June 25


Earlier this year we submitted my latest independent feature--the All-Singing, All-Dancing, All-Zombies musical called, simply enough, Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL--to a major film festival.

And...we didn't get in.

When I saw the kinds of pictures that DID get in, I realized that an independent, original movie musical like ours would probably never get into any of the major, corporate film festivals.

Being a filmmaker and all, I couched my response in the form of a short called HOW TO SUCCEED IN FILM FESTIVALS...WITHOUT REALLY TRYING! and posted it on YouTube.

Major film journalist Nikki Finke--whose film blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily should be on everybody in show business' daily Must-Read List--picked up the link and Posted it on her site, saying:

"Stop whatever you're doing now and watch this satirical short by filmmaker John McLean from Austin, TX that explains the "truth" behind the selection process at the major festivals -- and tips how to get indies selected at Sundance, South by Southwest, Toronto, et al. It's both funny and nasty. I loved it."

It always feels good when other people appreciate your creative efforts...'cause that ain't always the case, of course!

Sunday, June 24


My experience is that the more creative ideas you release into the world, the more new creative ideas come along to fill the void. Contrary to the popular belief that you only get so many ideas in your life, creativity simply leads to even more Creativity.

If you sit on a single project and hold it too precious and take forever to realize it, then perhaps your ideas WILL dry up. I see that happen with artistic pals of mine now and again. Rather than conceiving an idea, bringing it into the world and then moving on, they sit on it for weeks, months, sometimes even years at a time.

Hell, you can make a groovy short film in a single weekend...if you bring enough energy, passion and enthusiasm to the dance! Which leaves you approximately 51 remaining weekends in the year to make still more stuff.

Or, if you're short on energy, passion and enthusiasm, you can spend an entire year nursing that same little short to life.

It's all up to you, of course.

Friday, January 5


Some artistic endeavors you just can't do by yourself. You need other people and/or their money to pursue them. If you're an architect or an actor, for example, you pretty much gotta waiit by the phone until someone offers you a gig, an opportunity to practice your art, a chance to do your thing.

Rather than just lapse into a creative torpor between gigs, some passionate people here in Austin are keeping their creative urges at least partially satisfied through what I think of as Secondary Arts...artistic endeavors outside their primary medium.

In that spirit, a passel of Austin actresses I know have just launched their own magazine. Called "Caught In The Act", the magazine covers a world they know well...arts and entertainment! Check 'em out at:

Another group of actresses I know well--indeed, they were the principal Zombie Girlz from Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL, along with our choreographer/lead singer--have formed a burlesque company called "The Jigglewatts". Not only are they getting valuable theatre experience through this endeavor, but they're getting paid to entertain people...and it don't get much better than that! Discover more about the Jigglewatts' electrifying brand of risque cabaret at:

Friday, November 17


Every artist ought to have a website...or two or three.

For most artists, this would be a "solo" website--preferably with your name as the title of the site, if available. If you work in a long-form, collaborative medium (e.g., feature films) then a separate site for each project is probably also a spanking good idea.

The foundation of all our marketing and publicity efforts on Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL is, naturally, the OFFICIAL SITE...which is necessarily the largest single repository of news, pics and info about Z.

All of our promotional efforts--MySpace pages, blogs, viral videos, reviews in the press, etc.--are designed to feed into the official site.

And this shit really works.

Look, we just recently finished the picture and haven't even gone to our first film festival yet. We're still at the very starting point of the long, uphill climb to raise awareness for Z. And yet currently averages over 1500 hits per DAY!

Day in and day out, more than 1500 hits!

No matter how you slice it, upwards of 50,000 hits per month is a LOT of views for a still mostly unknown, low-budget musical out of Austin, TX! A whole bunch of people are discovering our picture and, hopefully, developing a desire to see it.

In future posts, I'll break down each facet of our marketing push and how we're driving that kind of traffic to our site. Best of all, virtually every single one of our marketing efforts are FREE!

Sorry to be the bearer of good news, but if you were thinking about using lack of money as an excuse for not promoting yourself and your art, you're shit out of luck!

Just as everybody can make art, everybody can afford free. So go do it!
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Tuesday, November 14


I suspect the reason more people don't create art is because once you create something and send it out into the world, other people are gonna judge it...and, by extension, judge YOU.

And, Zeus knows, some of them aren't gonna like your art, or like you.

But others are gonna like you plenty fine and enjoy your creations, for the most part.

Apropos which, the very FIRST REVIEW of Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL has just been published online by Mr. Scott Johnson of Dread Central!

By the bye, if you wanna review Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL for your website, magazine or perhaps the monthly newsletter at the local Old Folk's Home, simply send a request and we'll try to send a DVD screener your way.

The only caveat is that you've gotta pretend you like it, even if you don't. (You wouldn't wanna hurt our feelings or something, would you?!)

Saturday, November 11


I have this buddy, a former film major, who wants to be a director.

About 10 years ago, my buddy gets this idea for a Vampire pictore--very hip, very contemporary Vampires. He's got some connections in LA, so he starts flying out from Austin. To take, you know, meetings. With his connections. In LA.

Dude wants to make this a Low Budget first feature--so sets his sights on a budget of "only" $15 million!

He's pals with some B & C list actors and they're up for it. But first my buddy has to raise the money. Oh, and finish the script.

Years pass. He's always working on the script, but he never gets far because he's got so much invested in the outcome of this one story. It's gotta dazzle folks. It's gotta be...egads, PERFECT!

Cut to the present day...

My buddy's a full decade older and he still hasn't finished the script, because even though it's "only" gonna cost $15 million, it's still 15 MILLION dollars--which is a lot of money. And a lot of pressure.

I sometimes wonder what my buddy might have accomplished, the stories he could've told if he'd used the resources at hand?

Over the past 10 years he coulda made 2 or even 3 independent features using low-cost digital technology. With each picture he would've gotten better at his craft, figured out his vision, matured as an artist. And, in all likelihood, with each new picture he could've found ways to bump up the budget a bit until one day he was playing with some real money.

And, best of all, we would've had 2 or 3 pictures to watch and enjoy from my seriously clever, hugely talented buddy.

If you have an idea for a story, find a way to tell it with whatever resources you currently have at hand! The world really wants to hear your story. I really want to hear your story. And it's a crime against nature NOT to tell it to us!
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Tuesday, November 7


One of my core beliefs is that if you're gonna make art, then you should also go through the additional trouble of finding a way to share it with the world.

Thanks to Al Gore and the Internet, artists have more opportunities today to get the word out than ever before in history. So, like, take advantge of 'em and stuff!

No matter what kind of thing you create, there's probably 5 kajillion websites about your art. Contact some of 'em and share samples of your work or ask them to view your website or review a show or offer to walk their dog in exchange for a favorable mention. Each new site that finds your work interesting will expose you to a larger potential audience for whatever you do.

Just last night I was Googling "Zombie Musical" and chanced upon a pair of sites that mentioned Z. Both of them were a little off-target--one seemed to think the picture was a stage musical and the other speculated it was based on PASSION OF THE CHRIST!

But exposure is exposure, right?! The loyal readers of these sites may take a moment to check out our Official Site and then hopefully they'll really wanna see the picture once we land a Distributor.
Arrow In The Head

The Backdoor of Reality

Monday, November 6


Two things I'm really passionate about are making art and helping others make their art.

When I'm not actively writing and directing movies or writing novels or, best of all, gluing together bits of colored string, I love helping others pursue their artistic dreams in any way I can.

This could mean giving feedback on a story or script...lending out my production gear...crewing on a shoot...writing a blog to share what little I've learned about creativty over the years. There's an almost infinite variety of ways to help others make art, if you're so inclined.

Now I'm not doing this for any altruistic reasons. Just the opposite. I'm a totally selfish bastard when left to my own devices.

I just believe that the more Art in the world, the better.

And so it's for entirely selfish reasons that I want to aid and abet those around me in creating a movie I can watch, a play I can attend, a picture I can look at.

So, please, CREATE something today!

And if you need a hand, just lemme know.
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Sunday, November 5


Yo, check out a few promo trailers we've made for Z: A ZOMBIE MUSICAL, along with a totally unrelated infomercial for the greatest product ever invented!

  • Just Z It!

  • Harvey Fierstein's Zombie PSA

  • Blood-Weiser

  • Order Now: THE WIFE

  • If you have any comments or suggestions, or just wanna send me naughty pictures of yourself, drop me a note anytime!


    I visit a fair number of advertising and marketing sites each week, studying the sometimes clever ways businesses promote themselves...and learning from the mistakes of those who aren't quite so clever in their promotions, which is most of 'em.

    Recently I stumbled upon a wonderfully eclectic and erudite site by Hugh Macleod--who apparently also attended my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, but who now seems to reside in Scotland...or maybe New York City...or possibly London.

    Hell, I can't figure out where the hell he lives, but what difference does it make, really?!

    (Okay, it DOES make a difference, if only to me. I like to know where people are located in the space-time continuum. When I call up Tech Support for whatever I'm needing help with and actually get a human on the line, the first thing I ask is where they're located, because it's interesting to find that out.)

    (By the way, I live in Austin, TX, in case you care. Or maybe I live in Chicago. I spend so much time on the Internet that I hardly ever go outside anymore, so it's hard to be sure one way or the other.)

    Anyway, where was I?!

    Oh, yeah, this dude--wherever the hell he lives--has a cool site called Gaping Void that's chock full of nuggets about marketing, creativity and his concept of the "MicroBrand".

    And if there's anything that fits the bill as a MicroBrand, it's definitely an individual artist.

    Of special interest is his wonderful treatise, How To Be Creative, which I heartily encourage you sit down with over a cup of coffee and a six-pack of donuts and read in its entirety.

    There's gold in them there hills!

    Saturday, November 4


    Wanna talk about taking a Dangerous approach to your Art?! Then go check out BORAT--motherfucker is daring, outrageous, offensive and dangerous at every turn!

    I wonder if part of the reason for the spectacular success of BORAT is that many audience members watch in slack-jawed awe, wishing they had the guts, the temerity, the confidence to say or do even 1/16 of the things Borat says and does in the picture?

    Borat isn't afraid to fail. He's not afraid to look ridiculous. He's not afraid to say what many people are already thinking, but would never dare say out loud.

    You can embrace Danger--whatever that means for you--in your Art, and create something like BORAT. Or you can play it safe, and create uninspired and uninspiring work like SANTA CLAUSE 3.

    Which one would you rather have your name on?

    If it's SANTA CLAUSE 3, that's fine. Just know that about yourself, that this kind of work is "good enough". And realize that the competition's gonna be a little tougher, because lots more people are willing to play it safe in their life and, especially, in their art.

    If it's BORAT, then maybe you might wanna create opportunities for yourself to take more chances and be more daring in your creative work.

    Just a thought.

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    Friday, November 3


    Figure out who you are, what makes you unique as an actor, painter, whatever. That’s the first step, natch. And that can take a while…or you may grok it right away.

    But after that, the next step, the important step, is to put your brand—that would be, ohhh, YOU!—out there for all the world to discover.

    This is no different than starting up a business, except you're the product.

    Imagine you knew someone who’d created an incredible widget—something never before seen in the world—and then they tucked this new invention away in a briefcase and just went on with their life, hardly ever showing it to anybody…apparently hoping the world would magically guess what was in the briefcase and suddenly start paying them great money for it.

    Believe it or not, here in Austin, TX I meet so many uniquely talented actors and actresses who do this all the time. They don’t realize they’re a unique Brand. They don’t promote themselves. They don’t take advantage of all the myriad—usually free!—marketing opportunities available in this delightful Digital World in which we live.

    In upcoming posts, I’ll examine in some detail a few of the ways artists can promote their creative endeavors.

    Until then, I would encourage anyone who’s remotely in touch with their Inner Zombie to at least start thinking about the business side of their creativity. Because, in the immortal words of GODSPELL, “If your light’s under a bushel/ It’s lost something kinda crucial!”
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    Thursday, November 2


    It sometimes seems to me that one of the first things we're taught in school--viz., "Write your name at the top of the page"--is also one of the first things we forget when we "Grow Up".

    For me, Writing Your Name At the Top of the Page means making your art distinctly your own...being true to who you really are in your artistic endeavors...making whatever you create true to your vision of the world.

    Of course, this can be a frightening prospect. Because if you reveal Too Much of yourself, maybe people will judge you and, Zeus forbid, actually dislike you for being Who You Are.

    Well, the hell with 'em! Here's a little secret: the people who don't like you aren't gonna like you no matter WHAT you do!

    If you're holding back in your art, if you're toning it down and trying to make it look-sound-smell-feel like something safe or like what you think they want, not only are They still not gonna like you, but chances are pretty good you're also not gonna win many new converts over to your cause...whatever that cause may be.

    So why not write your damn name at the top of the page and be proud of who you are, with all the flaws, foibles and idiosyncracies that make you such a unique individual in the history of the world?!

    Now I've written and directed two independent feature films--a comic mockumentary, THE PERFECT MAN CONTEST, and an original musical, Z. In both cases, I've had people take me aside afterwards and chide me for making fun of the Catholic Church or for including gratuitous nudity or for any number of perceived transgressions. My thinking is, "Hey, this is who I am".

    I'd rather write my own name at the top of the page than pretend to be Mr. Perfect. An audience should be able to experience your art without the benefit of credits and know YOU created it because you've written your name at the top of every single page.

    Besides, the way I look at it...if you're not pissing SOMEBODY off with your Art, then you're probably doing something wrong.