Monday, July 26, 2010

Film Festival Hangover

The St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase has been around for ten years now. This year was the tenth anniversary. I've been in it as an actor four times and as a crew person several times but this is my first time as a director and writer of a short and it is a different experience.
First, my name was in the program- and on the website.
I think my dream was always this big but it took until now to really begin the journey of bringing it to fruition. The vision of the story in my head one year ago- gosh was it just a year ago I wrote it? It was.
I began the festival as a volunteer- watching everyone else films, listening to the seminars, enjoying the ambiance. Tuesday night was my big night and the theater was packed. Friends from my childhood showed up, people I hadn't seen in years-
Of course, my film was not the only one in the program and that made it even better. I knew my film was going last (course I didn't tell anyone) and that was an extra treat for me. The other films were a nice warmup. It was great to see all the other films and the ranges of talent and... well, let's just focus on the positive and knowing I was going last made it easy to relax and enjoy the whole program.
The beauty of watching my film with an audience of people who have never seen it before is the reaction is so pure. OH- they laughed! They got the humor. I know it was a ghost story but I have light moments in there- they really got it. They gasped when the ghost appeared. I saw a few people jump- good. Noise from a reactive and an engaged audience is music to a writer's ears.
After, I was mobbed and it was terrific. My friends came up to me and congratulated me and I felt so wonderful. Then a strange thing happened, one perhaps that I should have anticipated but don't know how I could have. Strangers came up to me and recognized me as Marissa's mother- she is mini me, so the resemblance is obvious (Marissa, of course had the lead role) so, they told me how much they enjoyed my daughter's performance, which was wonderful but after a minute, I realized they thought I was just the mom- not the writer, not the director- in fact they were scanning the crowd and asking- "where's the director?"
Several people were shocked that I was the director, even more shocked that I was the writer. I was really amused by this little side effect!
We all went out later and had celebrations at Blueberry Hill and it was a very fun night but I was waiting in huge anticipation for the Closing Party on Thursday night. This is where they announce any awards and also when they announce which films move on to the St. Louis International Festival in November- that is a biggie.
The awards came first- and the very first one announced was Best Performance by a Juvenile and it went to Marissa Roman! Wow! That was fantastic! I was so thrilled for her and for us! Later after many other awards, we got our second award of the night: Best Horror Short! Woo hoo!
Surreal. Really, I don't make films for awards but it sure doesn't suck to get them- and all that hard work and pushing for the best and pushing for better than just okay- it pays off. Mostly it pays off in the eyes of an audience that is entertained- of course I want the critics to love it but it is about the joy of sharing the art. It's the creative force that won't be denied.
So, the end of the evening we have reached the point where we find out whether my film will be shown in the International festival. Chris Clark reached behind him and got "The List".
There were 65 films in the showcase and the first sentence he uttered was "We have chosen 25 films to go through to the International in November."
My heart stopped for a second. 25? Those odds sucked. That meant 40 films were not going through. Then, he said "in alphabetical order"- which meant I had to wait til he got to the P's!
But this is a story with a happy ending because my heart soared when he said "Play Dead"- we are going through-
The last thing I have to tell is that Chris gave out the special awards and one of them went to me. He called me on stage and said,
"Don't ever let anyone tell you because you're a woman that you can't do this. You have blazed your way into this film festival with a very impressive piece, and next time someone tells you that you can't do something, I want you to tell them that you have a dick." And he gave me a hand carved wooden penis charm. I love it.
On my next film shoot, I'm wearing it as a necklace.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The morning after...
Last night the premiere of Play Dead was everything that I had hoped for. It was meant for the big screen, I really think. My favorite comment of the night was "I felt like I was watching a real movie" which is great for a low budget film maker to hear.
There were several other shorts with it and it played last, which to me was a place of honor. I was so pleased the audience seemed to be enjoying the humor in it. I know I made a suspense thriller piece but to not have incorporated humor in it would have been too much.
And the ending really worked.
This makes me want to create more but I think I will stop and enjoy this moment for a minute. Beautiful.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I get you

That's what James Cameron meant in his clumsy over sentimental Avatar way- "I see you" What he meant was "I get you, I understand you, I'm looking into you and I see who you are."
That's really quite a priceless thing.
Recently I had someone tell me "I like you." Very simply- and the fact that I had spent so much time and energy trying to explain myself to someone else who just didn't understand me- it made that moment even sweeter.
That is why I married my husband. He got me. I get him. A lot of people know who I am, kind of know me but there are very few people who get me. I think I hate being disliked but it happens, more often because it is their definition of me that gets me lost. I think I spent so much time with my ex boyfriends in the definition of who he wanted me to be. And when he realized I was never who he pretended I was, it became easier to hate me.
The most important lesson there for me was not to try to make myself fit their definition and to see them for who they are and not my wish list. If only he would stop drinking, he'd be perfect, if only he would do this one thing, he would fit me. I saw him, I just didn't want to accept that to accept a person, to get a person, you have to take all of that person.
You don't have to like everything. Certainly we never will like everything about our friends or partners- but we should look in there and get them. Get that essence of what makes that person uniquely him or her.
I have this fatal flaw of concentrating on trying to get people to get me and not being grateful to those that already do. But when I had that simple moment of "I like you."- it clarified a lot for me.
So- here I am being very open and very grateful. And not getting lost in someone else's definition.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A loaded question...

When I was in kindergarten, I was terribly shy. I never spoke in class to anyone- and I desperately wanted to have a friend and yet, I had no idea how to make one. So, I did the thing that shy kids do, the thing that would ultimately make me a writer. I observed- a lot. It's still been my best tool. I watched the other kids talk to one another, interact with one another and I watched to see who was nice and who was mean. I stood on the edges of the groups and examined social interaction. I wanted so much to participate. My heart pounded so eagerly, it was all I could hear in my ears. My palms sweated and my nerves choked my words.
I stayed in my shell for a few weeks, watching and waiting. One little girl was so sweet and friendly, I determined to try to make friends with her. I stood in line behind her every day when we queued up to go to the bathroom. Normally, she would be chatting happily with the person in front of her. I determined that I would have to find something to say. I thought about it very deeply- what would I talk with her about?
Well, if I was going to make a friend, first I had to know whether or not she liked me. One day, I finally gathered up the courage to ask her a question.
I took a deep breath and tapped her on the shoulder with a sweaty fingertip.
"Do you like me?" I asked.
She turned around with a beaming smile and looked at me with such sweetness and genuine interest.
"Yes, of course I like you!" she said.
It was wonderful to have such validation and hope! I was floating with possibility. Then, she turned around and resumed her conversation with the girl in front of her.
When I went home that night, I was elated, She liked me, she really liked me. I would talk with her tomorrow! I would say something, I would tell her about my cat. No, I would let her choose what to talk about and I would listen and respond.
The next day, I eagerly awaited the bathroom lineup, so I would have to opportunity to talk with her. I watched her play with her friends and sit in a circle next to the girl she giggled with and finally it was time to get in line. I stood behind her, ready to say something, and the line kept advancing and my courage kept retreating. Finally, I reached out and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Do you like me?" I said, nervously.
"Yes, I like you!" she said, turning around quickly and flashing me a brief smile and then, my throat closed up. I couldn't say anything else. I beamed. Oh, good, she still liked me. I shut my mouth for the rest of the day. I had things bursting inside of me, dying to come out but now I was afraid if I spoke, it might ruin this perfect like. It was enough if she liked me. I retreated to my corner of the room where none of the kids played and pretended that someone was friends with me and wanted to play with me. Maybe someone would come over and talk with me, eventually and would see that I was nice and kind and fun to play with.
I waited and no one came. I blushed deeply red when anyone came too near me but no one spoke to me except to say 'excuse me' or to push me out of the way to get to the stack of blocks I was standing near.
I remember the teacher being very pretty and having a lovely smile but she managed all the kids in a circle and I never remember her saying anything to me directly. At story time, I would spend time daydreaming of adventures and friends and wonder why the brother and sister always got along in the book when my brothers were such jerks.
In my mind, a sister would have been perfect- a girl to play with- one that understood me- a sister to share clothes and toys with. My mother laughed heartily when I brought this up.
The third day I stood behind the little girl in line, I was confident about that day's interaction. I stood up a little taller and was braver than the other two days and when we first lined up, I reached out quickly with a smile and tapped her on the shoulder,
"Do you like me?" I asked, waiting eagerly to hear the confidence boosting yes.
She turned around and eyed me with some weariness now, considering my question more seriously and pausing to take me in.
"Yes..." she said and I began to beam. "But if you ask me one more time, I won't like you any more."
My face fell completely, I was devastated. What on earth was I to do now? I took a deep breath and determined to never speak to her again. I could not risk her UN-liking me. Better to live with the suspended like than to ever risk losing it completely. I did not make a single friend that year even though they all came to my birthday party. Most unusual that people showed up that had no idea who I was- even the boys were there.
You will be relieved to know that eventually someone walked up and decided to speak with me. It took a couple years but eventually I made a friend.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Update from the brink of...

For those that are curious about the unfriending situation. It's a sad state of events but I am trying to remember- this is the real world and the facebook world is not real, thank you, Jennifer for reminding me of that.
So, it goes like this. My husband actually grew a spine for a minute and asked his sister a point blank question about the rude unfriending and she admitted it was more or less my politics that offended her and she also said she cycles through people. Which I don't exactly believe but I kind of believe at that same time.
I really wanted to be friends with her- but in the real world, I'm not ever going to be. I'm someone thrust into her family that she has no real obligation to. She loves her brother and maybe has a moderate like for me but that is realistically all it will ever be.
Yep, I tried- but an even more rabid liberal than I is on her friend list- sigh- it is what it is.
But I am realizing little by little as I navigate this online world- this new territory that it really is not the real world.
A few months ago, I ran into a guy I knew fairly socially from Media Communications group and sometime several months ago, he had requested my friendship on facebook. I knew who he was and I accepted. Then I saw him at an event and I said "Hi, how are you?" and he behaved as if he didn't know me. Forgot my name.
I reminded him I'd been his facebook friend for months- he said "Oh, when did you request me?"
Dude, really???
I realize some people in the pursuit of upping the friend number will just friend anyone, I don't always have substance or rhyme or reason why I friend someone but I don't actually forget who they are. I friend on instinct, I reject those I don't know unless something really cool is revealed about that person, usually a friend of a friend or some connection. Yes, I even have a feeling about people online as if things seep through those typed words. But in light of many difficulties lately, and the same old nastinesses rearing their ugly heads- I have to give some thought to WHO is my real friend, who I want to stay my acquaintance and who is poisonous.
So- this revelation, and in light of the fact that I have had to go through massive misunderstandings and vicious un-friendings and the accusations of drama have flown- I'm giving serious consideration to the pruning everyone else does so casually.
I take it seriously. I'm not even sure why I do when clearly NO ONE else does. Many people have admitted to regularly pruning their friend list as if they were snipping pesky branches out of their front yard that were obstructing their view.
These are people- there are feelings involved. I have an obligation to be decent and true to myself and a kind person who is honest. Sometimes the two don't go together. After all, it is my friends I rely on to tell me the truth- yes you look fat in that-
I rely on my friends to help me with life lessons and help me think about things more deeply- and be a better person. And these people that think I'm not, well- they truly don't know me. I have sometimes been misunderstood when I call out injustice or champion the underdog.
I think these misunderstandings come from not knowing who I am- and not being willing to listen to reason. If your world view only exists with those who agree with you, it's a tiny world indeed.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

May 9, 2009: A Prayer to the Universe

A prayer
Current mood: determined
Category: Goals, Plans, Hopes

Dear Universe,

I know it sounds selfish sometimes to want things when so many have so little, but I hold the audacity of this little dream in my heart. I have cherished it and protected it like a sweet secret that I have nurtured close to me.

I write the dream in all my diaries. I close my eyes and give my silent speeches to my bathroom mirror and envision myself there, where I dream of being. I send out positive thoughts and energy and beg for the good to come back to me. I cleanse my thoughts as best I can.

When harsh words rise to my lips, I tell myself, NO, must keep your mind pure so you will be deserving of good things. When I slip up and cruel words seep from the corners of my mouth, I cower hours later, convinced I am not worthy now, that I must work twice as hard to make up for it. That I must make the amends for my terrible behavior so that once again the Universe will deem me worthy of reward.

My heart beats in terror all the time of how close I get to the dream. I can almost touch it... can feel it hover near me if I close my eyes... may stand next to it in my imagination. How will I screw this up for? No, that is a negative thought. And it wouldn't be the first time I have rescued it from near death, breathed life back in and started again.

The next step is choosing well. Making the right choices to go along with the dream. If I pick the wrong people, they leach it away from me bit by bit, piece by piece until I am left with the carcass of my dream. A gasping, near dead body of compromises and sacrifices.

One would think from my description that my dream was a weak thing, an old thing past its time, merely hanging on because of life support.

But that would be erroneous. My dream is a dragon, a fierce fighter, a worthy warrior, one who has met the challenge and lost blood with honor, a fearless and seductive lover-- a woman of great honor and integrity. And everyone wants to steal it away in the middle of the night while I look away-- they underestimate my fight, my drive, my grit and climb. The dream has many lives and many soft hopes. It bathes in the optimistic light that serpents cast on it. It swims in the snake oil evils tries to sell it. It does not choke. It will not die. It rises again and is sprouts new leaves within me after the storm. It survives.

Dear Universe-- help me to choose wisely the best path for me. Giving up is not an option. Going back is not an option. I fight for me. Make me worthy, make me good, make this prayer reach out and be fulfilled-- cover me with hope and let it shine through my dark hours when fear and doubt surround me. Show me light. Show me the way. Teach me to trust myself and give me strength to climb the walls they put in front of me. Let me fly over the mountains in my way and smile at the lovely view. Let me be one with something larger than me and feel the divine breath of truth inside me. Let me not compromise myself and give me armor to protect myself and battle with those who would take what is mine. Give me serenity when I need it. Let me feel worthy of this dream that you have given me so that I can give back.
I promise to remember gratitude when this comes to pass. I promise to learn from these lessons I have been given. I promise to be humble when I should put aside pride and I promise to share what I have learned and to inspire the next one who has a dream shining in her eyes.

I wrote this last year on this exact day

Last year, when I still had my blog on My Space, I wrote this blog- and this year I am checking the flights daily and getting ready to make reservations for my trip to LA in August! I have a film, too! Here are my thoughts last year:

The Hidden Hollywood at Starbucks
Current mood: curious

I was in Los Angeles for nine days. I thought I had given myself ample time to do what I needed to do, I was wrong. That's a good thing, though. I feel close to something happening, though I have again had my share of disappointments. But progress is progress and in many ways, people were a lot nicer to me out there, and knew what I was talking about, than some people have been to me here.

As I was setting up meetings--I noticed a theme. Okay, we all know that Starbucks are everywhere, they have littered the world with them, but I suppose I never thought about the important deals going on right there all the time. Seems like everyone meets there. I was meeting with people who looked like everyone else but had the potential to change my life-- and may still.

That kid writing her screenplay is sitting next to a major producer. She has no idea. We brush up against one another in line for lattes. It's creepy, really. Thet guy that looks like an aging hippie, he's your man. I had so many meetings and they ALL took place at Starbucks. The great divide still exists between you and them. I wish I could put on night vision goggles and spot the glowing people walking amongst the crowd. The scammers and the sharks would be a horrid shade of orange and the real deal could be a lovely shade of green. If only we had such signs because at any time I was only one degree of separation from where I needed to be.

I relied on the kindness of so many people that week, and they were kind. I was offered advice and granted meetings, I was spoken to like a human being with a real brain. In return, I was eager and thoughtful and kind and considerate. I still believe I don't have to be a bitch to get where I need to be. I just have to make tough decisions. I showed up on time and wrote thank you notes.

I discovered the personality of the Starbucks.
First I visited the strip mall Starbucks. It was quiet and clean, and people were well groomed and generally considerate. Then I went to the drive thru Starbucks. Crowded, busy and impatient. I was met with glares while looking for a seat. Territory had been staked out already. Should've been there earlier!
Then the really interesting ghetto/homeless Starbucks. The outdoor patio boasted people with no place to go. Do you have a cigarette? There was a man in the bathroom for twenty minutes, wonder what was going on in there? Some things are better not asked.
I had my dirtiest conversation at that place, met a friend from St. Louis and he gave me the low down sleaze that had been crawling around talking about me. I brought him up to date on the latest lies and gossip he needed to know. It was a necessary conversation. Lucky in this world, there are friends like him-- someone has to tell you about the snake trying to squeeze you out, even if it confirms what you already know.

Then there was the Farmer's Market Starbucks. I loved the buzz of the market. There was a Barnes and Noble in the outdoor mall and on the third floor, there is a Starbucks with an adjoining outdoor patio.
We sat outside and I had my most important meeting of the week, in a nice corner we discussed all the things I should be discussing.
I discovered that week I need a lap top. The world out there moves too fast without it. People are supposed to call you. They text. They email.

I believe in the old testament verse that says be kind because you never know when an angel will come to your door. Course I was not as kind as I could have been to the kid who came to my door and woke me up yesterday morning-- but she was a little rude and presumptuous as well.
In movies, the guy you got into an argument with at the coffee shop turns out to be your new boss. While that has yet to happen to me, I still think it is best to be kind until you cannot be kind-- and there are situations where you should no longer be nice. It is with great irony, I report how nice people were to me in LA, just as I previously reported her how nice people were in NY.

But I don't have a deal-- yet. More brick walls to climb and miles to go before I sleep. I inch ever closer to my dream.