I was recently asked to participate in an online interview for a website I frequent called Fix Your Writing Habits. It’s probably the most comprehensive interview I’ve done in a while, in that it touches on pretty much every aspect of my creative output over the last 30 years, while focusing on the big three: writing, marketing and filmmaking.
I’m honored to have been asked to participate and give humble thanks to Agent Colin Black for making it all seem painless.
- Can you give us an outline of what you do?
That’s a loaded question, but I will try to be as brief as possible. I’ve taken to calling myself a “storyteller,” because it more accurately encompasses all of my various interests under one convenient label. I’ve been a wordsmith for over 30 years, with experience in writing, editing and publishing. Along the way, I have also indulged a variety of passions that always seem to dovetail with my writing, including theater, marketing, photography, graphic design and filmmaking.
I take each of them very seriously and, as such, have made a nice living in the arts. For example, I am a former publicist for Paramount Pictures and freelance publicist for all of the major studios and several independents. I parlayed much of that experience into marketing and public relations for theater and dance troupes, musicians, fine artists and non-profit arts organizations, to name but a few.
I have also edited many regional and national periodicals over the years, written and illustrated a series of children’s books, published my own adult literary arts ‘zine, and had my work published in dozens of publications, literary journals, newspapers, websites and print anthologies, the most recent being The Big Book Of Orgasms, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. I currently have a collection of erotic fiction, titled Dimensions Of Desire, available from Renaissance E-Books and am putting together a non-erotic offering, which I will self-publish in the Fall.
Finally, I am owner/operator of Unbridled Media LLC, based in Las Cruces, New Mexico and co-owner of the film distribution company Borderlands Media LLC, also headquartered in Las Cruces, as well as the public relations firm Creative Talent Communications, Inc., based in Los Angeles. In my spare time, I write and direct short films with local filmmakers under the LC52 banner, through Muffin Mix Productions, a subsidiary of Unbridled Media.
- You have experience as a publicist. How did you get into that industry?
I’ve always enjoyed helping creative people realize their potential. As such, I’m usually the guy who is asked to become “manager” or “agent” for the gifted and visionary. Too much responsibility for me, but I do what I can.
Several years ago, in the late 80s, I was working for a company in Phoenix that created and published movie magazines. As such, it was my job to call the various studios in Hollywood for things like artwork, media kits and to set up interviews with talent. In so doing, I came into contact with several people with whom I forged long distance friendships. One of those contacts rose quickly through the ranks and within two or three years had been promoted to vice president of publicity for Paramount Pictures. She remembered working with me, and my enthusiasm for helping creative people, so she asked if I would be interested in working for her. I said yes.
I learned a lot working for her and she always appreciated my creative approach to marketing, so we got along very well. She also introduced me to her friend Jane Ayer, who handled marketing for most of the major studios, including Warner Bros., Columbia TriStar, Universal, Lions Gate and Dreamworks. I freelanced for Jane’s company for over ten years, augmenting my income by editing and publishing periodicals in Phoenix. After 9/11, most of the studios took their marketing in-house, which meant if I wanted to continue working for one of the studios, I would have to relocate to Los Angeles. Rather than do that, I decided to join forces with another out-of-work freelance publicist and start Creative Talent Communications.
As I said before, I have parlayed that initial knowledge gained working for Paramount into a lifelong career that very nicely parallels my continuing work as a writer. Also, I’ve always believed the moral of the story is to be nice to everybody you come into contact with, because even the people on the lowest rung of the ladder can one day climb to a level of authority. If you’re really lucky, they’ll take you with them.
- You’ve edited for several publications. How did you get your start in editing?
That would be the flipside to the story I just told. Except it starts a little earlier. In high school, I was one of those kids who worked for the school newspaper. I was both a journalist and a photographer, but I often found myself having to proofread and, at times, rework the stories with the writers so they made more sense. That, as any editor will tell you, is pretty much the job description.
In college, I naturally fell into working for the school newspaper, then the University’s literary journal. A few years after I graduated, I was married and living in Phoenix, where I saw an opening for a proofreader at one of the local publishing companies. I applied and got the job. From there I rose pretty quickly through the ranks and within a year I was editing. A year after that I was the managing editor for several publications.
Though I have to admit it isn’t one of my favorite jobs, it has served me well over the years. To date, I have edited 16 different magazines and published three of my own. Between the editing gigs and the marketing freelance work, I have been able to support my writing habit without veering too far from the focal point of my passions.
Not many people can say that, but it didn’t just happen overnight. I’ve worked hard to create the career I wanted for myself. There have been a lot of naysayers over the years, including family, friends and ex-wives/lovers. It’s nice to look back and say, I did what few believed was possible.
- What made you decide to go into filmmaking?
Well… again, it started when I was young. I’ve always been a major movie geek. I love movies – old movies, new movies, foreign movies, independent movies, animated movies, documentaries, I love them all. At one point in my youth, I remember telling my parents that one day I was going to be one of those people whose names scrolled upwards on the screen after the movie was over.
I didn’t want to be in front of the camera, so much as I just wanted to be involved in the magic of movie making. My heroes at the time were people like Ray Harryhausen, John Chambers (who did makeup for the original Planet Of The Apes), L.B. Abbot (who did visual effects on Logan’s Run) and, of course, writers like Rod Serling, Gene Rodenberry, Alfred Hitchcock, Harlan Ellison, Dan O’Bannon, Mel Brooks, Terry Gilliam and Sergio Leone. The guys who created the magic. That’s what I wanted to do.
As luck would have it, the publishing company with which I began my career was the producer of movie magazines. From there I went to work for Paramount and the rest, as they say, is history. Except that I never lost my fascination for movies. I’m still a huge movie geek to this day. It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until recent years that I began actually making movies of my own. I credit that to the fact that I live in a town with two highly-acclaimed film schools and am literally surrounded by young, enthusiastic film folk.
Initially, I was approached to write scripts for short films. Then I was asked if I would be interested in directing some of those scripts. One thing led to another and now I’m an active member of the film community – writing, directing, marketing and helping with distribution of locally produced independent films. I guess I just still like helping creative people realize their potential.
- Can you describe the difference between working for a large film company versus running working with local and independent filmmakers?
There’s a huge difference, actually. It’s like the difference between riding on a bus and riding a bike. One requires a lot more effort and energy on the part of the traveler, while the other is something that just gets you from point A to point B.
Though I did enjoy my time working for the studios, I was often frustrated by how compartmentalized everything was. When a person was hired to do a job, that was the only job they were expected to do and crossing over wasn’t easy. It was frowned upon, actually. I’m convinced that many unions have been set up simply to ensure that there are no crossovers. I can’t tell you how many times I came under fire by union reps simply for asking too many questions.
Film sets are fascinating places, no matter the size, but when you are working for a multi-million dollar feature, like Braveheart or Star Trek Generations, entire worlds are created within the confines of a warehouse building. For a movie geek like me, it was like being Charlie Bucket with a golden ticket, or the sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia. Those sets are smoothly running machines and every cog knows its place. Every person on those sets knows what his or her job is and they HATE it when somebody who isn’t part of their team starts poking around.
Now, compare that to the exercise of simply trying to get permission to shoot a scene in a restaurant, or somebody’s home, working around the schedules of cast and crew – many of whom have regular jobs – or coming up with the money to create or purchase costumes, props or catering services. Every aspect of an independent film is usually handled by a small handful of people and anything that can go wrong, usually will. Even the most well-planned independent production resorts to guerilla filmmaking at some point.
The difference for me was, and still is, that when I was working for the studios, I was performing a function that had been established long before I had stepped into the position. There were rules and regulations and everything ran just the way it was supposed to. It would have done so whether I had been there or not. And every film produced by the company, no matter what the genre or who was starring in it, got the same amount of effort on the part of our promotion team.
Working with independent filmmakers, on the other hand, every day can be a challenge and every project is vastly different. There is rarely any name power attached to the film, which means everybody is equally responsible for doing the best job possible. The real difference is, I know that if I wasn’t there, doing my part, chances are very good the film either wouldn’t get made or would never find its audience. There’s something really exciting and gratifying about that knowledge.
I may be peddling like a madman, most days, but when I get to where I’m going, I feel far more accomplished than I would if I had taken the bus.
- What would you say the differences are between writing/editing for fiction and the work you do in filmmaking?
I’m going to assume your question revolves around scriptwriting, mainly because I think I’ve already touched on some of the other areas I occupy in the film realm. As I have said before, everything I’ve ever learned dovetails nicely when it comes to my various passions. I love writing scripts for short films. It is very much like writing short stories, while at the same time being worlds apart in approach. I’ve also written and had produced several stage plays, which occupies an entirely different level altogether. The real secret, is knowing your various audiences.
When writing fiction, the writer occupies an almost godlike realm, where plots, characters, scenes and dialog are fabricated for the express purpose of giving the reader a fully realized experience. Writing for stage or screen isn’t really like that, because real people will be using objects within the real world to realize your vision. They will also be imprinting their own unique personalities on your work, whether they are the director, the actor, the costumer, the set builder, etc.
I’ve been lucky when it comes to filmmaking, because I know I will be the one bringing my work to life. Thus, I write with certain actors in mind and tailor each scene to physical areas to which I have access. I know what my limitations are and I am able to work around them. Obviously I can’t use the broad strokes so common in my fiction writing, because I’m not relying on the imagination of the viewer to bring the images to life. What I’m doing, is giving them images on which they can overlay their imaginations and, hopefully, give them an experience they will enjoy.
- You’ve done a wide range of writing, and your recent work is in erotic fiction. How did you get your start with that?
Well, truth be told, the majority of my fiction writing has been in the erotic genre. Not necessarily because I like writing about sex, but because I believe sexual relations are a vitally important part of the human experience and I don’t go out of my way to avoid them.
I’d like to say I was introduced to the genre at some point in my career, but to be honest, some of my very first published stories were in literary journals like Yellow Silk, Nocturnal Emissions and The Journal of Sister Moon. They just happened to be the platforms that accepted my stories for what they were, whereas others would ask me to tone the sex down or, worse, to excise the sex scenes altogether.
At some point in my career, during the mid-to-late 90s, I found myself editing an adult entertainment magazine called Playtime. That brought me into direct contact with writers and artists of adult content. I also discovered just how hard it was for these creative people to get their work seen, which, naturally, triggered that innate need to help.
It really wasn’t that long ago, but a lot has changed in the past 20 years or so. It’s very easy to look at a cultural phenomenon like Fifty Shades of Grey and think erotic writing has always been in the mainstream. In point of fact, it wasn’t even on the periphery until recently. Erotica was that creased and crinkled reading material you kept in a bin under your bed, not on your bookshelves.
Even so, in 1999, I began working on my own publication called Blue Food, which served as a platform for many of the struggling erotica writers and artists with whom I had become acquainted. The magazine met with a lot more success than I expected, but publishing a magazine can be costly, especially if you, as the publisher and editor, also have to wear the hat of ad salesman. In 2001, I took the magazine online, thus cutting out the print costs, and updated it monthly until 2007 when life got in the way and I had to discontinue it.
I am very proud of the fact that I was instrumental in introducing several of the better known erotica authors out there to the world, having published their first stories within the pages of Blue Food.
That’s sort of a long-winded way of saying I’ve always been an erotica writer, though I also dabble in fiction of the non-sensuous variety from time to time. I also write everything – whether it be non-fiction or fiction – under my own name. At one point in my career I had over 20 pseudonyms in use. I’m serious. I used names like Richard Gouda, Ian Pillsbury, Amber Barleigh-Brugh, Circe Dane, Jack Wylde, Richard Valentine, the list goes on and on. It just got ponderous, so I decided to dispense with them entirely. I’ve never regretted the decision.
Occasionally an intrepid journalist or a resourceful editor will ask if I am THAT David Salcido and I am always very straightforward with them. I think they appreciate that, though I have found myself rolling my eyes at sniggering innuendo or lame attempts at humor. It’s really no different than telling a complete stranger that I’m a writer and having to endure the “friendly” ribbing that naturally goes along with that. I guess I just figured at some point that I’m “all in” as a writer. No sense in pussyfooting around the subject. It’s what I do and it is every bit as valid as anything the people around me do. It’s a little more exciting, truth be told, to say I write erotica for a living than, say, processing paperwork at the DMV.
- What advice would you give to people who want to get into filmmaking?
Do it! It’s a lot of fun and there’s just nothing like watching your stories come to life on the screen. Most people I talk to on the subject claim they don’t know the first thing about getting into the film industry. My answer is always the same: Then stop thinking of it as an “industry.” Unless you’re planning on moving to Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Albuquerque or any of the other acknowledged film centers in the country, where filmmaking actually IS an industry, you’re basically going to be hooking up with people who are struggling just like you are.
There are filmmakers everywhere. They usually hang out together in online chat rooms, or congregate at coffee houses, so they can commiserate about how hard it is to make movies. One of their biggest complaints is not being able to find good scripts. Are you beginning to see where I’m going here?
The internet makes it ridiculously easy to find likeminded people within your community. If you, as a writer, really want to get into filmmaking, then all you have to do is find a filmmaker to work with. Most of them need your help, so in fact you’d be doing them a favor. In the meantime, try your hand at writing scripts. You may find it isn’t for you, in which case you would be wasting your time looking for filmmakers.
Like anything else worth doing, it’s all in how you approach it.
- What advice would you give to people who want to work in the erotic fiction genre?
First you need to figure out if it’s really something you want to do. Puritanism runs deep in this country and shame is as ingrained in most people as chasing cars is in dogs. To be a good erotica writer, you must be shameless. It isn’t enough simply to write a graphic sex scene, especially if you feel “dirty” while you’re doing it. Writing about sex must be as integral to your story as the setting, or the gender of your protagonist.
Also, be prepared to be judged. People who write erotica are seen by many to be perverts and if you include a sexual act within your story, it will automatically be assumed that you are revealing a deep dark secret about yourself. I myself take great pleasure in confusing people who make such assumptions, by keeping my descriptions varied and unquantifiable.
I have written about straight sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, kinky sex, inter-species sex, robot sex, shy sex, bold sex, vanilla sex and straight up terrible sex, but I always make sure it is integral to my story. Because I know, and I hope my readers eventually figure out, that I’m not talking about myself – I’m talking about the characters I am creating. Just as the blonde women with the ugly birthmark isn’t the person looking back at me from the mirror, the sex she has with the blue alien from the third star to the right isn’t a description of my Friday night pleasures in the bedroom.
And finally, if you really want to get to the heart of what it means to be an erotica writer, get in touch with other erotica writers. The best place to do that is the Erotica Readers and Writers Association website at www.erotica-readers.blogspot.com. There is not only a lot of really good information there – including regularly updated calls for submissions to magazines, websites and anthologies – but also an e-mail discussion list that will put you in direct contact with other writers, some experienced and some new to the genre, so you can ask questions and share your work.
- Is there anything you would advise people avoid doing?
Sure, that one is easy. Avoid listening to people who say you “can’t” make a living as a writer and that you are wasting your time. Just because they can’t wrap their heads around the concept, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible and it certainly doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams.
As storytellers, we are the sum of our dreams. We are the dream weavers. We are, as one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, says, “the media in which stories reproduce. We are their petri dishes.” And when we do it right, the work we produce – our stories – have the ability to inform, entertain, provide escape and even bring about change.
Never trivialize your work, because in so doing, you are trivializing yourself and your dreams. Own your place in the grand scheme of things. It is every bit as important as that of a scientist, a teacher, an architect, a rock star or a landscaper. Strive to be the best writer you can possibly be and remember, if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
- Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I know it all sounds very glib, but honestly nothing I have accomplished in my life came without some amount of hard work. I had to work my way through college. I had to work my way up the ladder in publishing. I had to take a lot of editing jobs I really didn’t like. And I suffered a lot of setbacks. Hell, I’m still struggling and I’m in my early 50s.
The one thing I always had going for me was the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. I never took no for an answer and I held firm to the belief that the word “can’t” was just another way of saying “won’t,” which is a choice more than it is an obstacle.
And, finally, learn the difference between prestige and passion, fame and fulfillment, delusion and ambition. Do what makes you happy. As a writer, write what you care about, not what you think others want to read. Most importantly, never stop writing. It is NOT a waste of time and it is NOT a selfish indulgence, especially if you are sharing what you write with others. Stay true to the course and you will realize your dreams. Or, as in my case, surpass them.
- Have you got a website where people can go to find out more about you?
I do and I’m very proud of it! It’s an ever evolving entity, which is how any good website should be. For one thing, it allowed me to gather together all of my various project threads scattered throughout the internet into one convenient spot. I have links to my film work, my photography, the various anthologies I’ve written for, magazine and newspaper articles, my blog, my Tumblr, some of my graphic design work and even a place to purchase my book, Dimensions of Desire. I’m still working on ideas to make it more entertaining, putting my experiences with the online version of Blue Food to good use.
Shameless self-promotion is another thing we as writers need to embrace, because quite honestly, unless we’re very lucky, nobody else is going to do it for us. If our ultimate goal is to get our work out there in front of an audience, what better way to do it than to set up shop in the most heavily trafficked marketplace of the 21st century? My little corner of the webiverse can be found at www.DavidSalcido.com. Come visit me. I’ll endeavor to make it worth your time.