Back To The Theater

I returned to a movie theater today after what I think was a year and a half away.

First reaction: I MISS THE HELL OUT OF THIS!

I think there will always be moviegoers who want to see films on the big screen. Sure, we have a ton of home and mobile options but nothing is the same as seeing a movie unfold in a movie theater, complete with Dolby surround sound, stadium seating, and a screen the size of a two-story wall.

And the trailers!!!!!

I love this part, HOWEVER, studios, let’s rethink the whole 20 minute-long stretch of them. Too much of a good thing, and literally you’re begging the viewer to be bored BEFORE the film even starts. Hard no, imo.


Anywho…

I arrive at the theater on a Tuesday at 3:40. I have five minutes before showtime and still need to grab a Diet Coke and use the facilities. My job allows for me to do this, yet I feel like a kid playing hooky. That is until I actually see a kid driving by with their head sticking out a car window, and my heart thumps in danger as I realize, no. You are definitely an adult.

I choose to see “A Quiet Place – Part II” and right out of the gate, with filmmaker John Krasinski’s thoughtful intro, I’m thrust into being a fan of his again (after not being impressed when he sold the community-assisted “Some Good News”, but I digress…)


No spoilers but I loved how the gender roles that are often stereotypically assigned were thrown to the wayside and I adored this tale of perseverance, hope, family, and love.

And Los Angeles is so fun. I’m never the only one who stays for the credits. Today, it was half of the dozen of us who had seen the flick.

So, in sum of the experience, seeing a film in a post-pandemic world wasn’t terribly odd, except for having to activate the fountain soda machine WITH YOUR PHONE! When you try it, you’ll see what I mean.


It was a most enjoyable experience, one that I’ve missed tremendously.

And I walked out of theater #15, eyes adjusting from dark to daylight, feeling a natural high.


Oh, yeah. There will always be a reason to go to a movie theater. I don’t care how many streaming options come out.

“The Morning Show” A+

So, this past weekend, I started Apple TV’s “The Morning Show.”

And by the end of Monday, I’d binged the ENTIRE SEASON. And these episodes are not your average 41 minute ad-filled telecast. No, these are straight 60-75 minutes of, imo, brilliant television writing and beyond.

After I cheered for it getting itself on air – yes, if anyone could it’s Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, but it’s the fact THEY DID IT – I began to really think about its message.

While the obvious message is the lack of truth in “journalistic news” (and trust me, they’re preaching to the choir on this one,) but what REALLY stood out was the way they embraced the destructive culture of celebrity.

The importance some of the main characters placed on their position in “journalism” was like one who was fighting a war as leader of a third world country. These “news anchors” forgot who and what they were and instead believed themselves to be “above” things or at the very least, so incredibly important they could treat people like shit and be abusive.

And the way Witherspoon and Aniston had the balls to tell their OWN INDUSTRY to take a look within…

Exceptional women, no?

As someone who has had several jobs in the entertainment industry – assistant to Scott Rudin (seriously, look him up…), assistant editor on American Idol, script analyst at Imagine Entertainment for over a decade…. I’ve learned a thing or two about this business.

The entertainment business is a beast.

But to me, this was one show willing to unmask the absurdity and abuse that exists behind celebrity culture.

My take away – Be true to yourself and you will prevail, though you must be patient. Be true to the facade, and you will learn little truth, except that pretense comes with a steep price.

#themorningshow

The Sensitivity of Children

Life has been a whirlwind for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so maybe you can commiserate? I mean, damn, if things aren’t getting a little crazy up in the world. Most of it, for good reason… (the brilliance of the protests (yes!) but that is for another post…)

After a first-in-your-lifetime shutdown, are you coming out a bit different?

I know I am, that’s for sure.

I’m about to return to work as a server, but in a way that I haven’t done before now that COVID caused new rules, so I am struggling with if I can still do it. I have long wanted to stay in the restaurant business as I make my films and write my stories both for my love of food and wine and also for the tangible aspect of seeing people enjoying themselves and knowing I am part of the reason why.

For those who don’t know, in the past, I’ve worked entertainment jobs, such as assistant to Scott Rudin on the Paramount lot and assistant editor on season four of American Idol, both of which I chose to leave, because when I was working those jobs and similar ones, I felt empty. Like I was a cog in the entertainment machine, but not really making any difference, though it’s definitely worth noting Scott Rudin is a genius in producing original storytellers and I wish I could have learned more from him when I was his LA assistant, but, that’s for another story and sadly, I can’t go there. I signed an NDA.

Anywho, back to now. I’ve been going through a lot and I’m starting to feel empty again in my employment. Returning to a restaurant job where the industry has done a 180*, while also ending homeschooling my nephew two days a week, (BTW teachers everywhere, YOU ARE AMAZING AND SHOULD BE PAID WAY MORE,) coping with the death of my husband’s sister, polishing my first novel for agent submission, enjoying the visit of my sister and niece, all the while trying to make sense of the insanity we’ve allowed our government to become, has left me spent.

Yet somehow, today, when I hung out with my three year old niece, life felt special. It felt good. 

And that was all her.

It was like she picked up on my feeling down a bit and for the first time, came to me without me having to ask. She comforted me and all around enjoyed my company, when before she was a bit hesitant. And when I put her to sleep, having a three year old, caress your hand while she falls peacefully asleep in your arms, I felt true serenity.

And I thought:

Children know way more than most give them credit for. And they truly are the future. 

 

 

 

 

Music as Memory

Sunday funday… wait, what day is it? Oh yeah, it’s Sunday… phew

Here in Los Angeles, we’re on this permanent lockdown of sorts, so pardon me…

But yes, let’s return to Sunday Funday even though days of the week don’t matter that much to me right now…

Anywho, my husband and I are preparing to BBQ so randomly, I decided to listen to some music I used to listen to ALL THE TIME, and when I say all the time, I mean it. My iPod was permanently attached to my ears from ages 25-28, which would explain my hearing loss but I digress.

Music was everything to me then. I was single, living alone and working my ass off in post production and filmmaking. I had little time for anything else but music was my constant. And listening now to some of those songs that comforted me then, ones I listened to on repeat like Death Cab For Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” or “Fool on the Hill” by the Beatles or “Goodbye to Romance” by Ozzy or any LCD Soundsystem album, is like a blast to the past.

Music is a time capsule unlike any other.

I flashed to the walks I would take to the bank and having an answering/fax machine or printing directions when I was going far… it all came crashing back and it was a wave of love… love of another time, another way of living, a younger me who I think would be proud of the 42 year-old-me, though if I told her about this pandemic and Donald Trump was president, she would have laughed like I was crazy…

And speaking of crazy, music is a God send, no? Pardon me as I go listen to Flaming Lips “Do you realize??” and remember Silver Lake days of indie rock music, Barefoot wine and MNRC – Monday Night Record Club.

 

Family Is Love

Hi All!

I made a little one minute short film with my niece and nephews this weekend to submit for a filmmaking grant by Moet Champagne.

If you have a moment, please visit it’s site here to watch and vote if you like it!

Children are everything. Let’s celebrate them.

http://www.moetfilmfest.com/entry/family-is-love

Thank you!!

40 Years of Wisdom

In five days, I will be forty years old.

The twenty-one year old Christina would probably be in awe of a few things, like the fact I’m not a size 0 anymore and I quit smoking cigarettes and my husband is in the other room…

As I was driving home from work last tonight, I was thinking of the coming of this new era for me and some things I’ve learned along the way, like when I was six and I backed my little legs (both of them) up against the exhaust of a newly parked 1970s motorcycle muffler.

You can see #6 below for the lesson learned on that one because I decided to list my “words of wisdom” in order of age, taking some creative license with the first couple seeing as I’m not quite sure I remember being two.

Each of these lessons have remained important to me to this day so I thought I’d pass them on in honor of turning forty. I hope you enjoy them… and the little stories I included along the way.

40 Years Of Wisdom

1. Breathing is a most important thing.

2. My mother makes me more at ease than anyone in the world.

3. I love my family but my brother and I are very different.

4. Playing outdoors is a really fun way to spend your time.

5. School is interesting. But I question if all rules need to be followed…

6. Engines are very hot and second degree burns are no joke. The scars have lasted to this day so point being – Be Aware Of Your Surroundings.

7. We all make bad judgements. Such as being in second grade and pooping your pants and not doing anything about it until you get home… (TMI?)

8. Teachers can be very effective. Thank you Mrs. Riordan. We all hoped to get your class!

9. I love my family, with props to my father who works very hard for his family and my Aunt J. who speaks her mind bluntly but has a heart of gold.

10. Life can suck and be beyond your control.

11. I am different from many other people I come across.

12. Fight for what you want. A big thank you goes to my parents for allowing me to make the choice to go to public school rather than private Catholic school for seventh and eighth grade.

13. This monthly interruption of your body is a thing all women must go through. Men do not. (Which begs the question, would men want to if it meant they could experience childbirth? Talk amongst yourselves…)

14. Boys are fascinating and the dark-haired, tall ones seem extra appealing to me… I am one of those with a type, considering all three of my long-term boyfriends (with one becoming my husband,) were dark-skinned with dark hair and had a height of 6’0 or above.

15. My parents and I will not always agree on things.

16. Driving = freedom with responsibility

17. I am much better writing essays than I am solving math problems.

18. College = freedom with responsibility

19. Friends can be your family too.

20. Whenever I try to fit in, I end up sticking out even more. Faking things just isn’t in my blood. (Sorority life was not for me, though I did meet some amazing girls when I lived in for the year, and one of whom has become a best friend for life.)

21. Drinking Alcohol = freedom with responsibility. (Bonus lesson learned – no matter how much you win, you will lose to the house overall when playing video poker in casinos in Vegas BUT you will likely have a lot of fun doing it while drinking free watered down cocktails at one in the afternoon so it’s important to question first if you’re okay with that.)

22. Difficult choices bring lots of pain. Make them anyways.

23. The road of post-college life is not straight. Not. At. All. And you are the driver so don’t let anyone else take the wheel.

24.  Servers make a lot of money in Los Angeles. But you earn every penny by directly dealing with people who are hungry and been sitting in traffic for two hours to go ten miles.

25. Age creeps up on you. But question, what’s really in the number?

26. Making films is the main thing I want to do in life, though I adore the hell out of writing and should do something about that.

27. Fulfilling a life goal is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can go through. I made my first short film after working odd film jobs for years and just talking about it without doing it. (I have now made seven, played at festivals around the world, write about filmmaking and have a feature script getting some nice attention, which hopefully will lead to making it as my feature film directorial debut… stay tuned!)

28. The years of life go by fast. (Oddly, 28 was a hard year for me. I was tested plenty by the universe and did not pass them all…)

29. My father is my biggest fan. And I am so very lucky to have him as a father. (This is around the time I finally realized it.)

30. I am not always as in control as I think. It’s important to see things as they are, not as I wish them or want them to be.

31. I am not perfect. And neither are all my choices. And I do not have all the answers like I thought I did at 21.

32. My parents are my true best friends.

33. Love comes in all forms. (My nephews taught me how to break down the wall I built, not wanting others to get too close… that is until they entered my life.)

34. I can be the change I want.

35. I must try. I must earn what I want. I must be honest with myself. The rewards will come. (They honestly do!)

36. True love does indeed exist. And holding out for it was one of the best choices I ever made.

37. Relationships take work and are not one-sided. Being in one means thinking beyond oneself. (Ask my husband, as this is not always easy for me but he shows me how through his own actions Every Single Day.)

38. Positive energy begets positive energy. Period. Just try it. You get what you put in. Yin and Yang. Cause and effect.

39. Marriage is a journey, not a destination. And when two people support each other, the sky is the limit.

40. Breathing is a most important thing. (And aging is inevitable.)

Keep the faith

The past year has been rough for me, in terms of navigating my career. I’ve been struggling with finding avenues to get film financing for my feature and my latest short documentary has not been getting love from the 2017 film festival circuit.

Now, I know people have it a lot worse. I’m not comparing. I’m only saying it’s been tough for me within this context.

Many times when I meet other indie filmmakers/writers, we ask each other, “what do you do for money?”

See, it’s incredibly difficult to make a living as an independent filmmaker, especially for those of us who have opted to live in Los Angeles, which in my opinion is the epicenter of filmmaking. Rents are high and competition is stiff.

But this is not my first time at the rodeo. I’ve been making short films since 2006 and have toured the festival circuit for many years with various films. Some of my films have earned distribution. Some, not so much. Regardless, I’ve put my heart and soul into each and am proud of them.

But this year has been tough. Competition is fiercer than ever, especially with iPhones being capable of producing quality work. The barriers of entry are opening and that is great but there is a glut of content and it is growing increasingly difficult to have one’s voice and work heard among all the noise.

So, where does that leave us? The artists of the world who have something to say and are trying to figure out ways of getting it heard….

Pretty much left to our own devices.

But in my opinion, now is a time of innovation, fast moving technological growth and change. A shift in power is emerging and the monarchs are falling from grace, as blunt talk and transparency prove them to be the false leaders that they are.

I’ve learned it’s best to plant one’s own seeds and tend to them until they grow instead of putting your seeds in another’s basket.

Personally, I have been planting seeds all over. The dry spells have been insanely difficult and I have a long way to go but I plant, nonetheless.

And suddenly, some of the seeds are starting to sprout. Some are ones I planted years ago.

I’ve found if one heeds nature, and listens, answers will arise.

Just as I was starting to think about if it was time to switch gears and go after a more stable gig like copywriting or something, I received an acceptance for my feature film script to a popular film festival screenplay competition (I can’t say which one yet!) and one of my article pitches was accepted from a website I currently write for.

I won’t go on but my point of all this is to say that it is always worth it to keep trying for what you want because you never know when your seeds will become plants of their own. So….

Plant those seeds.

Tend to them.

And believe.

Because they will grow….

#neverletanyonetellyouotherwise

 

 

Structure

As a freelance writer/filmmaker who waits tables three nights a week, my schedule is all over the place. I find myself working at random hours, any day of the week, and the line between work and play is often blurred because of this.

This morning, while on a walk at the beach thinking about the changes I want to make in my life and myself, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I need more structure.

This minimal-schedule of mine that changes weekly is no longer working for me. And it’s time to change that.

So on Monday, I’ll be starting a new job.

In my home office.

My hours will be 10 – whenever I have to go the restaurant M/T/W and 10 – 8 TH/F. (yes, 10am because come on, there are perks to working from home.) Weekends will vary but I will try to use that time for errands, a second yoga class, seeing family and friends and well, anything else I want while balancing work occasionally.

My loving husband is fully onboard, which is great because he also works from home…. (perhaps that will be a future blog…hehe)

Isn’t it interesting how we change over time?

I once thought the lack of structure in my schedule kept my creative juices flowing and allowed me to work whenever and wherever I wanted but I don’t think that any longer. In fact, if I’m being honest with myself, it has likely hurt my focus and attention.

Stay tuned for more info about my new job. Will I love the schedule or hate it? Will it help my focus and work productivity level? Will it help me break bad habits by no longer blurring work and play? Will it overall make me a better person?

Will it make me happy?

I don’t expect to find answers right away but please, join me as I share my discoveries in future blog posts. And feel free to come along for the ride with your own changes and keep me posted in the comments!

 

Start Small, Grow Big

I’ve been thinking lately about the difficult things. We as humans all face challenges, some much larger than others, quite a few of our doing and many in the face of adversity, but that’s where we define ourselves really, if you think about it…

I’ve made short films for the past ten years. Most have played the festival circuit, a couple have distribution, but I have yet to hit my stride and earn a living from filmmaking. I’m far from giving up though. That simply won’t happen but my philosophy is to see things as they are and take it from there.

At the beginning of this year, frustrated with the lack of securing the budget to get my first feature film produced, I decided to take the script I wrote (along with a wonderful contributor) and turn it into a book. I haven’t written about it in this blog yet because then it becomes real. Out there. So please, hold me accountable for it.

Allow me to add some facts. I adore books. I’ve read them professionally as a paid book analyst for film production companies and writers for a decade now and read about one book a month for pleasure. I’ll pretty much read anything, though I must admit I’m not too into comics and graphic novels but I have given them a try to be fair.

Once I started writing this book, I started to wonder what took me so long to get here.

But then, who cares? I’m here now.

As I prepare Part I of my book to give to my father, who always provides me with an honest, critical analysis of my work, I can’t help but think about my path here.

I began telling stories when I was seven, filling my neighbor friend’s ears with my thoughts. I then wrote my first script at 12, a tv show titled “Roommates” (true story, I called The Roseanne production office, posed as a teenager “doing a homework assignment and would love a real script to see” and asked for a script, which they sent and I studied for days but I digress…) and then went on to college, unfortunately not as a straight-A student by any means. In fact, I was on academic probation. Twice.

The one class I excelled in happened to be Screenwriting 101. A bunch of my friends hated the teacher and thought he was difficult and I kid you not, some were even getting Ds and failing, unlike any of their other classes. They bitched about him constantly. I, however, found the class to be the easiest one on my schedule. I would often do the assignments the night before and get A’s on them. At the end of the semester, I gave the professor a postcard so he could send me my grade and when I got it in the mail, I smiled. It read, “Are you kidding me? Tops in the class. A++++!!! Have a great summer.”

I channel that when I start to doubt myself.

It’s time for me to write the book I’ve been thinking about for perhaps all my life.

So here I go…

Please wish me luck!!

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
-Benjamin Franklin

La vita non è giusta (Life is not fair)

My father told me a story many years ago about his father and I channel it every time I feel dejected.

Only my father can tell this story appropriately, but I will try to do it justice in honor of my grandfather, may he rest in peace.

One afternoon, my eighteen-year old father found himself spilling out all the ways the world had wronged him to his own father, a Sicilian hard-working immigrant. He told his tales of woe as my grandfather smoked his cigarette and listened. After my father was done expressing his suffering, my grandfather looked at him, inhaled a long drag from his cigarette and said to his son,

“La vita non è giusta.”

Life is not fair.

Those seemingly simple words have stayed with me from the moment my father told me this story.

Life is not fair.

My latest film has been rejected from fourteen film festivals so far. I’m 0-14. It’s out to dozens of others but no filmmaker likes to read the oh-so-generic “rejection” letters. They start to get me down. I start to question things – Do I think this film should be screened? Did I do the best job I could? Is it as honest as possible? Should people see it? Does it have something to say that is worth hearing? ………

But then, amid that noise, I hear my grandfather’s voice…

La vita non è giusta.

He’s right. It isn’t.

But so be it. What am I gonna do – cry about it or try to fight for what I want?

Today, as I was thinking about how hard it is to get screening time at festivals, I saw a little slice of nature that reminded me growth was possible despite the odds.

And so, to my friend in the picture above, my father and my grandfather, I thank you. You keep me going…