A Decade of Following A Dream

Wow, so the beginning of a new year is upon us which usually calls for reflection anyway, but I'm coming up on another milestone also...
10 years of living in Los Angeles.

On January 9th of 2008 my dad and I flew to LA and in the days following I began a semester long film program called the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. 

Since then basically a third of my life has happened, right? I thought I'd make a list of some memorable moments, in sort of chronological order...

- Directing a short film featuring Justin Grant Wade aka Steve Holt! from Arrested Development
- Background acting (aka being an extra) on shows like House and Criminal Minds and (the newer versions of) 90210 and Melrose Place, rubbing elbows with Nick Kroll and Dave Franco and Jerry O'Connell. One time when I was an extra Jesse Tyler Ferguson strolled up and said I looked familiar then we had a nice chat!
- Writing a handful of direct-to-DVD movies with religious themes and African American casts (anyone see Nora's Hair Salon 3: Shear Disaster?!)
- Stumbling into a career in producing reality TV, starting at the (very, very) bottom
- Working on over 100 episodes of A&E's Intervention
- GETTING MARRIED!!
- Caring for my first dog
- Meeting and writing for Orlando Brown and Chingy and other people of note! One time Orlando took me to Chili's in Northridge to discuss a sitcom pilot we wrote together. Another time I was introduced to Jamie Foxx and he was not impressed...
- Pitching to Funny Or Die, taking sketch comedy class at UCB, guesting on podcasts and YouTube shows
- Having our first son!! Being a stay at home dad during the day and working at night
- Telling Shane West that I'm a big fan, running into Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller at The Grove right before seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Seeing awesome comedy at UCB with Ash: Judd Apatow, Jonah Hill, Aziz, Dragon Boy Suede, Brett Gelman, Reggie Watts, Charlyne Yi, The Birthday Boys, Paul Rust and Neil Campbell, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, John Ross Bowie, etc, etc
- Steadily working for 10 years in the field that I studied in high school and college without having to take a non-industry side job ever
- Producing sketch comedy videos that got featured on the front page of Funny Or Die
- Writing a feature length movie that was shot in Tokyo
- Writing two YA novels, the first of which getting optioned to be developed into a movie or tv show
- Having our second son!! 
- Making new friends and keeping the ones that mean the most

I don't know what the future holds. I'm still writing constantly. Book 3 is in the works. I have sitcom specs and feature scripts and all kinds of stuff I want to get made. 

So here's to 10 more years in LA?

Book Report

When I was writing my first book I didn't know if it would ever even be published.
Now, two years later and another book coming out in a couple weeks, writing books has lead to awesome things. BUT I never imagined that someone would do a BOOK REPORT on one of my books!!!! Below are some awesome pictures from a creative young lady with great taste.
(some *spoilers* for the first book in the text of the report)

So cool!!!!
And yes that is a Jell-o pool.

DREAMS & REALITY - Me!! Peter Harmon

Hello!! Today I'm debuting DREAMS & REALITY, my new blog series. As a prototype I interviewed someone I know pretty well... ME!

Name: Peter Harmon
A handful of credits: Transcriber/Logger/Production Assistant/Story Assistant on Intervention, Producer on Celebrity Wife Swap and Home Free

How did you get into Reality TV?
My directing teacher back at Towson University was simultaneously teaching the class while also producing episodes of A&E's Intervention. He would go on location to shoot or work in post in LA then fly to Maryland to teach a Saturday directing class. Once I moved out to LA he was one of my very few contacts. I met him for lunch, asked him about work, and he said he did have a job for me, transcribing, but it wasn't a great job.

I said "I'll take it!"

What is transcribing?
At the time when I was doing it a few years ago, I would watch a DVD of interview footage and type exactly what the interviewer and the interview subject were saying. I made $1 per transcribed minute, which sounds pretty cool, except when you're trying to figure out what drug addicts are saying through their slurred, hazy speech.

How did you get promoted from Transcriber to Logger to PA to Story Assistant all on one show?
I worked on Intervention for about 5 years, roughly 7 seasons. This is not typical in Reality TV. Usually a stint on a show lasts a couple months and then it's time to find a new job. So, since I always got my transcription minutes in on time with few errors and took "rush minutes" and was a pretty cool dude they promoted me to Night Logger. Logging footage (when I was doing it a few years ago...) was watching raw footage and making excel documents about what happened in the footage for the producers and editors to look through to find a topic or a shot or an OTF (On The Fly interview) that they may need.
I actually could have gotten promoted to Production Assistant sooner but my wife and I had our first son while I was night logging and I logged at night and watched the baby during the day. So I didn't take a day position a couple times when it was offered because we weren't making enough really for childcare and he was still so little we wanted me to watch him. 
During that period of time I didn't get a ton of sleep... 
Once our baby was bigger we transitioned to childcare and I switched to the day shift and right around then the current Story Assistant was promoted and I took his spot. 
I attribute the promotions to: being around, learning, making my intentions of going into the story department known, having a good attitude, and being a chill dude.

What's a weird thing about Reality TV that no one thinks about?
People have microphones strapped to their bodies while they're being filmed. They forget they have them on. They go to the bathroom. 
I've heard dozens, maybe hundreds, of people pee.

You must have moved to Hollywood with a dream, what is it and how are you still pursuing that dream? 
I have been shooting video, making movies, and writing since I was a kid. I started as a camera person and switchboard operator on my elementary school's morning show. I wrote poems and stories throughout grade school and took television productions classes in high school. My curfew was before all of my friends had to be home so after I hung out with them I'd hit Blockbuster and see what was new, what was in the Sundance section, what else had some writer done that I had just discovered.
I went to college for Electronic Media & Film and Creative Writing.
Simply, I came to Hollywood to write movies.  
And I have! I've written several produced direct to DVD movies (when that was still a thing...), for example, anyone a big fan of Nora's Hair Salon 3???? I wrote that. I also wrote a movie that was released last year, shot in Tokyo, called Love In Tokyo. And a handful of sketch videos, a web series, and other various projects. 
I'm still out here writing and hustling to do bigger movies. I wrote a young adult novel that I hope will be adapted into a movie at some point as well. SO I am still on my journey.

Thanks Pete!
Yep.
Check out The Happenstances at the Yellow County Community Swim and Racquet Club the Summer Before Last. The sequel is coming this summer.

Hey Reality TV friends! I'd like to interview YOU! Please email me at TheHappenstances at gmail.com or message me on Facebook or whatever. THANK YOU!!!

Two New Projects!!

Helloooo!

Today I'm announcing two new projects that I'm very excited about.

YOUNG AND IN LOVE is a new PODCAST that my wife Ashlea and I have started!

Here's the pitch: Pete and Ash are (relatively) young and certainly in love. Pete is an author, screenwriter, producer, and daddy. Ash is a teacher at an inclusive school and a mommy. Each episode they talk about parenting, productivity, and positivity and they also play fun games, discuss current events and pop culture. Welcome to Young And In Love!

The first episode is up RIGHT NOW. You can search Young And In Love on iTunes or find it here.

and

DREAMS & REALITY is a new BLOG SERIES that I'll be posting here on my blog.

Here's the pitch: I interview people that I know in the Reality TV realm. I'll ask them about the behind the scenes of working in "reality." Crazy stories, terrible craft services, run-ins with the talent... And also practical knowledge like how to get into television production, what is a "stringout", and what in the world could a "frankenbite" be? 

Another aspect of the blog posts will be focusing on the subject's Hollywood dreams. Why did they initially venture to Los Angeles? What side projects do they do? What are their aspirations for the reality space? I'll be able to pepper in my thoughts and experiences as well. It'll be fun!

So to my Reality TV friends and fam, email me if you would like to be interviewed for this series.

Thanks!!

Swim Lesson.

I've been swimming before work recently. I know, I know, hold your applause. I've swam? swum? swimmed? laps off and on since I was on the ole' Cheverly Dolphins Swim Team back in the day. They say it's great exercise.

I like it because it's one of the rare times I allow quiet in my brain. I'm usually listening to a podcast or spotify or I'm at work watching footage or I'm at home and my dang kids are jibber jabberin'. Even when I go to bed I'm "podding." But under the water it's eerily silent, in a good way, and I get my think on.

The pool I go to doesn't have many lap lanes. In fact, on some mornings there are only two lanes for swimmin', the rest of the pool devoted to water-obics, led by an older gentlewoman with a somehow-not-dangerous Britney Spears microphone attached to her face. Every time I walk up to the pool there is a calculation. How many lanes? How many people per lane? Who's swimming laps? Who's doing a weird psuedo-exercise move on the ladder at the far end of the pool? Why is he doing that? Why is he not being dragged out of here?

All that to say, I want to find a good lane where I won't either be holding up the next Michael Phelps with my non-Olympic stroke speed OR I'm not running into the back of anyone's legs because I'm, not to brag, better-than-average at swimming.

Yesterday (or maybe the day before the day before, who cares?) as I was walking into the facility there was a hefty older fella slowly making his way towards the locker room. I went around him because every morning I'm on a very tight timeline so that I can: drop my baby off at daycare, swim some laps, then get home to get ready for work so that I can sit on the 101 for an hour.

I walked into the natatorium (look it up, great word) and saw that there was (heavenly choir awww sound) an open lane! I slid into that sucker and began to swim. The joy of an open lane, must be like what the very eagle soaring upon yonder gale of wind betwixt the clouds and heav'n must feel. Freedom. America. Third thing.

But then (organ music) the hefty fella from earlier splooshed into my lane. I thought "Oh jeez louise" because it's tough to share a lane under the best circumstances, and this guy looked like he spilled over the lane line with his girth. I was relatively bummed. I mean, not devastated because I get to swim on a weekday morning, that's pretty sweet, but still it's not the ideal swim sitch'.

As soon as the guy started swimming my tune changed. This guy was quick! He may move like a turtle on land, but he moved like a SEA turtle in the water. He was even doing flip turns at the end of each lane. I don't do flip turns, I do the thing where you just get to the wall, turn around, and push off. But this guy was serious!

It ended up being one of my best sessions at the pool because I never had to wait for him or slow my stride. A couple times I hastened my own booty because I felt like I might be in his way. Basically, me and this guy has great swim chemistry, or "swim-istry" as I will forever call it from now on now matter how many groans it induces. And I relearned a tale as old as time, never judge a book by its cover. Unless of course it's my book The Happenstances... and in that case judge the cover because it's awesome and so is the book. In summation: buy my book. Oh, and I won't be a jerk to people based on my preconceived notions. I will now happily share a lane with anyone as long as it's not the guy doing the weird ladder exercises who makes me nervous.

How did you find the time?

My book, The Happenstances at the Yellow County Community Swim and Racquet Club the Summer Before Last, has been out for just over a month now.  It's been so cool to see pictures on social media of people with my book at the pool or at the beach, or tagging me saying "I just got your book!"  I've sold my book to a couple people in person and they've asked me to sign it, which is crazy.  I've had a couple conversations about the book with coworkers and family and podcasters and an interviewer for a web show.  It's awesome!  And it's especially cool because I really believe in the book.  I've created a lot of content and Happenstances is what I'm most proud of so far in my content creating career.

I work in television production and a question that invariably comes up is "How did you find the time to write a book?!"  Coworkers say they would like to write or make a film or this hobby or that and they're amazed that I completed a thing.  My answer to their question is always that I didn't "find the time to write a book"...

I made the time.

I got it into my head that I was going to adapt my screenplay into a young adult novel and then for the next couple of years I chipped away at it, an hour here, 30 minutes there.  Believe me, if I had looked at as a full task I would have been overwhelmed, but I looked at it as a process.

That's what I'm doing with the next book.  I'd love to set a deadline and write X amount of pages per day and all the sorts of things you read in the "how to write" books.  

But currently, with a 4 year old son, another son on the way, a 50+ hour a week job, promoting the first book, and everything else that pops up in life just being an adult human, I can't think about the next book in a traditional way.

So for me, right now, I'm happy to get a few moments a week, probably after my son is asleep, and probably while my pregnant wife is binge watching "Friends" and my pug is probably snoring somewhere on the carpet that she blends in with, to chip away at that next book.

Am I normal?

Today I heard two opposing views on approaching life.  One, a coworker, who I know is passionate in another area besides the thing he gets paid to do for 10+ hours a day, 5 days a week, the other from a celebrity who is a top performer in her sport.

The coworker was bemoaning that possibly next week we'll probably have to stay late to finish a project.  He said that he has other priorities, he hopes he gets paid overtime, and at his age (not very old at all) he has lost the edge that he once had for going the extra mile, building his reputation, etc.

The celebrity, she's an athlete, said that literally she wants to be the best at her sport ever, and pays a team of people to take her out of her comfort zone daily in order to reach that goal.

I'm not sure if either of these viewpoints would necessarily have made a huge impact on me separately, but they came in such rapid succession that they really hit me.

Hearing my coworker I thought: I get it, it sucks to not get to see your kid at night, it sucks to work overtime and lose sleep, it sucks to have a passion in something and not get to make your living in that field.  

But that's natural.  That's normal.

Hearing the celebrity-athlete I thought wow (besides every single rapper) I've never heard someone say "I want to be the best ever" and be serious and not actually be that far off arguably. 

It made me want to work harder at my day job, my writing, being a daddy/husband, being healthy.  Because like I said, the former viewpoint is normal, but being willing to sacrifice is abnormal.  

I think I want to be abnormal.

The Summer Before Last... This Summer!

This summer I will have my first novel published.  I mean, it's actually a novella (I like to euphemistically call it a "quick read") but still, the fact that I just wrote that first sentence of this blog and it's true is currently blowing my mind.

You know what's not short though?  The title, The Happenstances at the Yellow County Community Swim and Racquet Club the Summer Before Last.  It's a mouthful, I know, but ever since I first started writing the story in college, that has always been the title.

A quick synopsis: The Happenstances at the Yellow County Community Swim and Racquet Club the Summer Before Last is a bittersweet, nostalgic, but comic novella about a team of misfits, including a loser who secretly lives in the guard house of the club, a struggling artist with webbed toes, a timid teen with a concave chest, and the beautiful heiress of the Comfort Inn fortune.  They have to win the impending Tri-County Relay Race and save the club from being run by a management company that only cares about money.  The management company hires an opposing relay team of ringers including a girl with a prosthetic dorsal fin and a man named Carmichael Schmelps who looks suspiciously like a certain Olympic gold medalist.

So basically it's the 'let's get the team together and win the big (fill in the blank, in this case it's a swim meet) so we can keep this place we love' story, but it's a new take on that type of story and it's also so much more than that.  

I've been writing this story in different iterations since college.  It started as a feature length screenplay, once I moved to LA I got several rounds of notes on it from my writer's group and others that I asked to read it.  The screenplay was even a finalist in the Beverly Hills Film Festival Screenplay Competition one year.  And I still ultimately see it as a movie too, and I'm hoping this book will be a step in that direction.