Saturday, June 28, 2014

View from the Middle of the Movie Set

Recently, I spent two days working on a film for a guy I know who is a pretty talented film maker. I like his work, want to see him succeed and therefore I volunteered my time to help his film get made. I also donated to his crowdfunding campaign. Supporting local talent is important to me. I chose to be a production assistant for him for a couple days I had to give him that would not cost me a babysitter or anything but my time. I like and admire this filmmaker, he cares about his craft and I wanted very much to see how he worked. I did get the opportunity to learn about him, too and the way he works. This is all very useful and interesting to me to watch others practice their craft. There is always something to be learned and absorbed. I've learned a few things about myself in that time as well. First, I'm too experienced in this business to be a production assistant (PA). It's frustrating to me, but there were definite pros in this situation. It really is barely one step above extra in the process and while both roles are completely and utterly necessary, and very important, it's hard for me to do for a number of reasons, which I will explain in a minute. But first, the positives, of which there are many. I'm glad I did it. I got to watch the behind the scenes in a way from a point of view that I haven't in a long time. I watched how people treated me. These are people I might hire later to work on my shoot. I want to know what they are like when they are not kissing the producer or director's butt. How will they treat an extra or a lowly PA? Not just to their face but behind doors when they think no one is listening. It's kinda like being undercover boss. Oh, how much you can hear when no one thinks you care or are listening. Or everyone just kind of believes you are nobody. It was nice to be anonymous or, mostly anonymous on this shoot. A few people I have worked with. It's enough to have some friendly faces and some good conversation. I got to talk with the actors, the crew and the extras, that is really nice. And it was a little humbling at the same time to see myself back in this position and view it in a different way. I haven't been a fresh faced PA in a long time and it was eye opening. The funny part was I do a lot of this stuff on my own sets. When I produced a feature film last summer, I did a lot of cleaning up, a lot of setting up and a lot of helping out. That is just who I am no matter what set I am on. So... setting up craft services is nothing new to me. Being told to do it is. I'm usually the one either doing it or telling people what to do. I'm used to being the producer or the director. I did a good deal of PA work and enough extra work in college to let me know I don't want to be an extra again. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Being an extra is great for people with no film experience or little acting experience that just want to meet people and see what a movie set is like. It's even fun for them. It's not fun for me. At all. I think it was the first time but I am just too ambitious to be happy in that place. If you want to be an actor, be an extra once or twice but don't make it a regular thing. Audition, take acting classes, study your craft. If you don't want to be an actor, but you love movies, please be an extra! It will be fun for you and you will get to see yourself in a movie. Show up and expect to wait but know that we filmmakers are very grateful that you are there. Thank you for your time and your energy. You are very important and we value you more than you know. Now, I said there were some less than positive things I figured out. I remember when I was ten years old and we were asked to run for class president for a month. I didn't want to. I didn't want to be a leader. It terrified me. I thought I would always be a follower, that I would always be the person who was doing what I was told to do and was grateful just to be there. I'm not ten any more. I'm a leader. I had no idea I was meant to be that way but at some point I grew into it. No one wanted my opinion of what the shot looked like or the camera position of what I thought of the actors. That is what I am meant to do in this world. I am meant to direct and when I am not doing it, well, it actually physically hurts! It actually bothered me deep down in ways that I am not sure I can adequately describe. It's kind of like watching through a window. There is great joy for me every time I am on a movie set. I love the action, everything going on, I love a working set and this set, I must say, it ran beautifully. Great people were hired, there were wonderful attitudes and smart people and the set was terrific. But I was consistently stifling who I am. I need to stop looking for other people's work to do and get my own done. I was not meant for that job. I have too much ambition, too many ideas, too much... other. If anything, it reinforces for me how far I have come over time. I am ready. Oh, the things I need to put out into the world. I'm not going to be truly happy until I am leading my own set. This was an exercise in frustration for me and I don't need any more frustration. I need to find funding and get my dreams on paper and then out into the world.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Comfort Level

When I was a teenager, I remember the pressure to drink was kind of intense. Everyone was doing it. Personally, I hated alcohol, from the way it tasted to the way it made me feel. Sure I tried it, but I hated it. Still, I noticed people had a comfort level at parties and if they saw that YOU were not drinking, they avoided you, somehow felt you were judging them. I've never been willing to "acquire a taste" for something I don't like. Why? I don't care for coffee or scotch. I don't see that changing. I'm not sure where the line changes for people's need to have alcohol to have fun- no one suggests that a group of 8 year olds at a birthday party needs to "have a drink" so they can lighten up and have fun. I think 8 year olds have pretty much cornered the market on having fun. Yet, somewhere along the line, somewhere between say... 8 and 14, somehow it is no longer acceptable to just have fun without the addition of some sort of artificial fun stimulant. I see all kinds of facebook posts telling women to survive parenthood you need wine. I guess in the fifties wine was also valium. So, in some way we are supposed to start suppressing whatever emotion we have and then we get to a party and we need to stimulate it so we are fun. When did we lose the ability to just have fun? We need permission to "let loose"? In high school, it was easy... I noticed that if they "thought" I was drinking, that was all that mattered. So, I would casually take a beer, open it up, take a horrendous first sip and set it down next to me. I never touched it for the rest of the party. Someone would come by and ask me "hey, you need a beer?" and I would say "Thanks, I just got one." or "Whew, I need to sober up, you got any soda?" This did not get any better when I was a grown up. But I did stop faking it, because, it wasn't really MY problem if you thought I should drink. I have always known how to have a good time and I make my bad decisions sober, thank you very much. I like my wits, I've spent years with them and I like to take them out at parties and show them off, as for my sense of humor, it's just fine. I don't need to enhance it with dulling my senses or interrupt my hilarious story because I have to go puke now. I encourage teenagers to "fake it" because two things- first, you learn that it really is okay to be the sober person at the party, and second, you learn that people's perception really is a false sense of security. If they perceive you as drinking and you learn you don't need to do that to fit in, you really have an easier time figuring out who you are, absent some fake fun stimulant. Underneath that beer, that double vodka tonic... I hate to break it to you, you are still you. But all that being said, I never cared if other people drank or got drunk or made general fools of themselves. It was amusing to me. I have been drunk in my life. It takes far less for me to get drunk and it happens pretty fast. I have had the experience, and I have never much cared for it. Sometimes I will have one drink, sometimes even two. It's a rarity but a lot of times people love that I am always willing to be the designated driver. People got used to me being sober, my real friends did. Strangers and new friends still question me regularly. Why don't you drink? Is there some reason you can't drink? (That's code for 'are you an alcoholic?') What do you mean you don't like it? Well, I guess I shouldn't drink if you aren't going to. NO, please, by all means, go ahead! If I ask the waitress to hold the tomatoes on my sandwich, you do not need to hold the tomatoes on yours! It's not necessary! I tell you what, I have done more foolish things sober than I ever did while I was drinking. Maybe I just don't need my inhibitions lowered because I learned how to relax and have a good time without the additional fun stimulant. I guarantee that I was just as shy if not more shy when I started out, I was terrified to talk to people I did not know. When I was a teenager, it was really hard, sometimes it was cripplingly difficult. I know- hard to believe now but I was terrified. But I just got out there and did it to the point that eventually I was comfortable. I guess alcohol was not making it better and it might do that for some people, I have sympathy for that, I really do. It's darned hard to be terrified to talk to people at a party. I've been with alcoholics after they get sober. They are lost at a party, it's really hard for them to figure out how to socialize without the alcohol. I feel bad for them. Now they have to answer all those same questions and when or if they reveal the problem with alcohol, people get all squirrely and stupid and make them even more uncomfortable. It's ridiculous. I guess my whole point here is that-- we really should stop pressuring people about alcohol. It's your problem if you want someone else to drink to make you feel better. Get over it. I'm sorry if you perceive me as not fun because I am not drinking, that really is your problem. Yes, I like to go to bars, yes I like to go to parties, yes I like to go to concerts and yes I like to have a good time! I don't want to have to fake drink to make you more comfortable. We should be past that by now, don't you think?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Walking alone at night

When I was growing up, I was an only girl and all the time the boys in my family were allowed to walk at night alone and do things and go places I was not allowed. I was taught to fear the unknown and fear being raped and attacked and that somehow if I stayed in or was never alone this would not happen. Nevertheless, when I was a teen, I snuck out of the house at late hours and walked at night, by myself in the middle of the street, fearing the bogeyman on every block. I did it anyway. I was hyper aware of myself and everything around me. I wish I could tell you that bad things never happened to me. They did. A couple of times. But not because I was walking alone at night. But because bad things happen. In my own home, I was beaten up by my father, so being home did not protect me, either. Once when I was seventeen and walking at night. Once I was with my boyfriend at night in the garage behind my house and a stranger came in and held a gun to my head. Once I was in the parking lot at Taco Bell at 9 PM and I was mugged and punched in the face. That was the time I fought back and refused to give up my car keys. Another time some creepy dude was yelling obscenities at me and following my boyfriend and me through Paris and I chased him away. Yep, I used to cower but now I just have decided to be a bad ass bitch about it. So, since bad things have happened, you would think I would "know better" than to walk through parks at night and to go to dangerous places in Central London and Times Square or Toronto and walk around at 3 am. But I refuse to let the bastards who hurt me or fear of the unknown keep me inside when I feel like taking a walk or being out. And of all the times I have been alone at night in places, very rarely have I been attacked. I lived in London for three months and I walked home alone every night through alleys and side streets and along main roads. And all those times, I survived just fine. I am aware of two things. First, that anything can happen to me at any time. My dear friend was kidnapped and raped while she was walking her dog in a lovely "safe" neighborhood at 9 am. A perfectly acceptable time for a woman to be outside. Second, I refuse to let fear rule my life. Men do not live in the same way that women do- they have not grown up with the fear of rape being pounded into their heads to the point that they believed somehow that their actions will prevent that bad from happening. They are not street harassed and physically and sexually intimidated the same way we are. And I live my life aware, I listen wholly to my instincts. If something tells me to get the heck out of there, I do. I don't bother with pretense if someone is walking to close to me and I don't care if it seems like I might be hurting their feelings if I cross the street. But I will not allow all this to make me afraid to be out at night. Ever. Not everyone can live this way and I don't expect them to do so. I'm not advocating this for anyone else> I refuse to be kept inside. I refuse to modify my life to accommodate some terror that people want me to believe and honestly, if something bad happens, I'm not going to hold myself responsible. Fortunately, I have survived some pretty awful stuff. I refuse to let this stuff make me miss out on living my life in the manner in which I want. I refuse to apologize for being unafraid to go places I am not supposed to go. This is still my life, I still get to own it.