The Legacy of Tom Laughlin

Tom Laughlin died last week…at the age of 82. He was an actor, writer, director, political activist, and an indie film pioneer. He is best known for his “Billy Jack” series of vigilante movies.

He got the idea and wrote the screenplay for the original “Billy Jack” movie after seeing the way the Indians (Native Americans) were treated in his future wife’s hometown of Winner, South Dakota. At the time he was a student at the University of South Dakota.

Although he went to Hollywood and followed the traditional path of beginning actors, his rebellious streak remained and he had various run-ins with the powers that be. He was the ultimate rebel and free-thinker. He would have fit right in with The Snake Alley Festival of Film film-making crowd.

He made “Billy Jack” in 1971. Although several major studios agreed to distribute it, he didn’t like the way they were marketing it and sued to get it back. He then handled the marketing and distribution himself. It became a cult hit with the youth of America and is (as of 2007) the highest grossing independent film of all time when adjusted for inflation.

It was one of the earliest films to use martial arts, and also mixed in some made-up Indian religious ceremonies that resonated with the counter-culture movement of the day.

So…as an indie film maker this Christmas, give thanks for this indie pioneer who fought the good fight—and paved the way for all future indie film makers.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas—give thanks for people like him.

So…go with God, “Billy Jack” (AKA Robert “Tom” Laughlin…August 10, 1931—December 12, 2013)

And from The Snake Alley Festival of Film family to all of you…”Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

Why You WANT To Get Writer’s Block!

For most writers, having writer’s block is one of those things that keep you awake at night. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novelist, a journalist, a playwright or a short story writer…having writer’s block can turn the most macho writer into a quivering mass of self-doubt.
But if you write a short screenplay to enter into the Snake Alley Festival of Film’s screenwriter competition…you really want “Writer’s Block!” Because “Writers Block” is the name of the award given for the best short screenplay.
If you saw the awards given to film makers last year, you’ll have an idea of the caliber of this unique award. It’s a first for this year, and the winner will have bragging rights about being the very first writer to ever win this award.
Early submission deadline for all entries (including this one) is February 1st. Go to the website and click on the box marked (I’m not joking here) “withoutabox” for all the details.
Then just imagine that you’re amongst your peers and one of them mentions that he has writer’s block. You can respond, “So do I! I keep it on a shelf in my office!” Then smile enigmatically and casually walk away.