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. 

 

 

 

 

A Yes In a Sea of No’s

Any writer can tell you part of the process of being a writer is seeing and hearing the words “thanks but no thanks” over and over and over again.

And damn, it can be painful. Over time, I’ve become rather numb to it, instead focusing on and believing in the work that I do, though also assessing feedback – compliments and constructive critique – and acting accordingly. Notes from generous editors have at times made my work all the better. The hard part is figuring out which notes to take… but I digress.

While splashing around in this sea of no’s, when a YES comes your way and a piece of your writing – in this case, my flash fiction – gets published, it can be one of the most meaningful experiences, especially when the publisher gets what you’re trying to do.

My YES came from a fellow WordPress site – 100wordsofsolitude.

100 Words of Solitude is a project started by writers and professors in an effort to capture individual perspectives on what the world is currently experiencing. They’re selecting 100 pieces of 100 words each from writers all over the world and they have generously accepted one of mine and published it yesterday.

It’s a micro piece of fiction where I attempt to explore the disconnect in the age of Coronavirus. I would love to hear your thoughts!

And a big thank you to the curators at 100 Words of Solitude for finding meaning in my work and sharing it with others.

7 Days Till Christmas – Giving Back

Today was interesting. And an opportunity to spread some holiday cheer a la’ spur of the moment.

A little backstory first.

I volunteer and one of the events I signed up for was to deliver a holiday gift bag to someone either elderly or disabled.

I picked up my bag dutifully by the deadline and set out today to plan for delivery.

“Hello, may I speak with XX?”

“She’s not here, thank you…” (Tries to hang up #1)

“Excuse me… Sorry to bother. May I leave a message?”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m not near a pen. But I’m sure we’ll hear about you if we need to…” (Tries to hang up #2)

“I am very sorry. I am calling from XX and I am the volunteer for them. I’ve been assigned to deliver a holiday gift bag for XX and I would love make sure she has it before Christmas. At her convenience, of course.”

Silence.

“I’m not in town. But the neighbor to the west when facing the garage, is friendly and will accept it. Or you can leave it at the doorstep.” (Tries to hang up #3)

“Oh wonderful! I’ll see what looks safe and will do exactly that. Thank you. I’d just want to get the present to her before Christmas.”

Silence.

“Thank you so much. That is very kind. Happy holidays to you.”

“Happy holidays to you also!”

7 Days tills Christmas!

#givingbackblogseries #giving back

 

Road Tripping Days 8 & 9

Washington D.C.

Such a strange character.

It’s a state but not really. It’s a city, kinda. It’s the nation’s capitol. We, tay-paying citizens, give taxes for it’s existence and there are ample museums and monuments around to learn from for many days to come.

History is everywhere in D.C. and yet, it isn’t.

It’s like modernity meets the past and both sides are trying to cling on for dear life….

I see the change in administration affects the local government workers in the area more than anyone. It’s interesting to see partisan politics at work. As an idealist, I wished it was based on fact rather than what party was in power but Washington locals soon put me in my place, essentially telling me that’s the perfection that will never exist.

But I still toured D.C. as though I was an idealist in my twenties. I went to the Capital Building and visited Thomas Massie’s office (Kentucky Rep, and closest to Ron Paul in ideology as we can get.) I saw the White House, Capitol Hill, most of the Smithsonian museums, Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, not to mention their modern art garden and Veteran’s Memorial.

I loved every moment and soaked up as much history, along with reality, as possible.

That said, I couldn’t help but remember my days of being a reader for major Hollywood production companies.

Most of the books I read had a lot to do with espionage and the CIA/FBI and were murder thrillers. Seriously, I probably read upwards of 300+ in the ten years of doing that job. Needless to say, my dreams were epic at that time…. and scary as shit, but I digress.

As a reader, I got to learn a lot about terrorism and intelligence operations within the government branches. My knowledge on law enforcement of our Nation grew quite a bit during this time and it’s always stuck with me.

And what better time for it to surface than when visiting the Nation’s capitol for the first time?

So…..

When my husband and I first arrived in D.C. in the later hours of the morning, we decided to stop in a Starbuck’s to get caffeinated before heading on into the National Mall. (Look it up. Not a shopping mall like comes to mind….haha)

Once inside, I realized I had to go to pee for the tenth time that morning (road trips kill my bladder!) and after learning the code, I made my way into the one-person bathroom.

I squatted down, far from the seat as it’s a public bathroom, and proceeded to go while I glanced around.

My eyes stopped on the baby changing station. The main bed part had been pulled down rather than secured in its wall mount. As my first instinct was to fix it, I glanced at it first and noticed a nondescript suitcase under the bed part.

All the stories I’ve read over the past ten years flashed in my head and I stopped. Though I wanted to tell the attendant about it, I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed as though someone wanted to hide it.

So I kept my mouth shut. Those are the disposable characters in the books. The one who can identify the suitcase but have little meaning otherwise….

Yeah… No thank you. Not gonna be that person.

Till tomorrow….

#roadtripping

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we talk about when we talk about love

The other day, a friend asked me if I had been to Sicily, the place where my parents were born and the root of my culture. I said “no, not yet” and it made me think of something…

First, a little background.

My husband is not from the state we live in. While I have my immediate family here and have had a life in Los Angeles for the past thirty years, my husband has not. His family and friends are on the east coast but his passion for music and the Pacific Ocean led him out west. (Thankfully!)

A little over a year into our relationship, we decided to step things up a notch. We moved in together. And we wanted me to meet his parents. At that time, roundtrip flights to Orlando were going to cost us nearly a thousand dollars. Having just moved in together and needing to pay for a few surprise expenses like car work and dental bills, we did not have an extra thousand to spend.

A little more background.

I am Sicilian, as most my readers know, and going to Sicily has been on my goal list for as long as I can remember. I have a ton of family there and when I was single, I was planning to go visit there for a month. I had been saving up my frequent flier miles for a round trip ticket for almost a decade.

Then, I met my husband and though I was able to take the trip for the first time in my life, I had postponed it because I wanted to get to know him and felt like something magical was happening.

It was indeed and flash forward back to where we were… moved in and wanting to go to Florida so I could meet his parents but lacking in the funds department.

I went online and looked up how many miles I would need for two round trip tickets to Orlando. It was the exact amount for my Sicilian trip.

Though this even surprised myself, I immediately offered them to be used to fly to Florida. My husband insisted I not give up my trip but I was steadfast on the idea and ultimately, he accepted the gift.

We went to Florida and had the most wonderful of trips. His parents were an absolute pleasure and welcomed me in with open arms, thrilled to see their son and I in love.

I had zero regrets on using those miles. And that’s when I realized I was deeply in love with him and my priorities had shifted. Though Sicily is extremely high on my list, he’s higher.

Six months later, my husband’s father fell ill and passed away.

And that was when I realized those miles were never meant for Sicily.

11 Books That Rocked My World

Starting on clay tablets and rock walls, stories in “book form” have evolved through the years into the e-books we have before us in the 21st century. How far we’ve come and yet, at its basic core, storytelling has been a part of humanity for a very, very long time.

I’m a book junkie. I go through them like water and will pretty much read anything in front of me. And I love recommendations because if a book affected someone, I’m down to give it a try.

The written word is intoxicating to me. I know it’s not for everyone but for me, books open the limitations of my mind, introduce me to other people, places and thoughts, and allow me an opportunity to explore someone else’s experiences. It’s a thrill.

And perhaps because of my enthusiasm toward books, or the fact that I’ve been a paid reader for the past ten years, I’m often asked for recommendations. I’ll pretty much always tell people the top three books that not only stayed with me from the moment I read them, but have gone on to deeply affect me, but I rarely delve deeper because I don’t want to overload.

The other day though, when a very smart young man asked me for some book recommendations, I quickly told him my favorite Tolstoy (one of the above-mentioned top three) and then found myself wanting to rattle off many more based on our conversation. So…

11 Books That Rocked My World
(listed in order of impact on me.)

1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
After I read this immensely dense book, I had to ground myself. It is a fictitious novel that exemplifies Ayn Rand’s Objectivism philosophy. The prophetic nature blew my mind but more importantly, Rand put into words what I had been feeling about government and my life and she set me on a journey of philosophical exploration ever since I read this over fifteen years ago. I credit this book to the beginning of my philosophical studies.

2. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
A grad student recommended this to me when I was an undergrad at San Diego State and minoring in Literature. I wonder if he knows that he changed my life by recommending this book to me. Not only has Russian lit become my all time favorite reading, but this story in particular made me understand the importance of living honestly and how the truth will always be revealed. Here, Ivan doesn’t find it until his deathbed and the amount of sadness I felt that he couldn’t appreciate in life what he learned as he died made me resolve to live life as honestly as I could and I have ever since.

3. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I was assisting a producer on the Paramount lot when I was introduced to this book. It was being developed into a feature and copies were all over the office. I took one home to read and probably read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. Franzen managed to capture the realities of family life in suburbia with such precise awareness and thoughtfulness that I nearly cried when I was finished because I didn’t want the story to end. His observations on life are as keen as they come and I often think of his writing when I am dealing with the realities of my life.

4. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This book is considered to be one of the first Existentialist novels and it was my study of Existentialism that led me to it. Having already been a big fan of Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment nearly made this list…), it was only a matter of time till I came to this but little did I know the Underground Man would rock my world. His story, his angst, reached into my core.

5. The Trial (Der Process) by Franz Kafka
This book fascinated me from the moment I opened it, even though I was a bit confused at first. But thats’s how Kafka works and I love it. You aren’t entirely sure what you are reading until you are and then, it’s like an eye-opening experience, one I have not had with many other books. I couldn’t put this down.

6. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoffman
While I was working as an assistant editor for television, one of the editors I worked closely with saw that I loved to read philosophy. He asked me if I had ever read this book and when I said no, he brought me a copy the next day. I read it and lo and behold, my interest in Taoism emerged. Living in harmony with nature has stuck with me to this day and I often buy this book for others who are interested in Eastern Philosophy.

7. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I can’t remember how I was introduced to this hysterical writer (I think I read something of his in The New Yorker) but after I read this too-short book, I knew I was going to be a fan of Sedaris for life.  (When I went to one of his readings, he made the audience laugh almost as much as a stand-up comedian.) The way he blends keen observations with wit and humor is superior and an absolute pleasure to read. He holds nothing back and I love it!

8. The Plague by Albert Camus
I know, it’s becoming obvious that I am very drawn to existentialism as Albert Camus is widely known as being an existentialist writer/philosopher. I have read practically everything this man has written but this book in particular really got to me because of the way he writes chaos in a realistic setting that explores the human condition. Powerful writing here folks.

9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
When I read this book by Malcolm X, who collaborated with journalist Alex Haley, I was floored. It is powerful and impactful and thoughtful and telling. It helped me understand racism more. This book made me aware of many sides to a story and it set my search for truth in journalism in motion.

10. How To Be Alone (a collection of essays) by Jonathan Franzen
Yes, Mr. Franzen is on this list twice. The first was for fiction and this is for his non-fiction collection of essays that made my mind think and my heart feel. His observations are what reach into the core of my being and his witty comments on them help me understand that we are not alone.

11. A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song by Steve Turner
I am a huge Beatle’s fan, having grown up with my father playing old school songs like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Rock and Roll Music” and my brother and I dancing around his home office. And though I’ve read many books on this legendary band, this book is special because it details the stories behind each song on every album. I still consult this to this day and keep it right beside me in my office.

What are some of your favorite books? Please share!

And happy reading!

Countdown till Christmas – 6 days to go!

As I was thinking about my countdown today, I wanted to come up with something that I could personally offer to another person. I found many sites asking for cash donations but I didn’t want to just throw money at a problem. Not to say donating money is bad, it’s absolutely not, (though I do find it best to vet a charity organization before you give any money…)

So, I thought – what do I have to offer that could help another person…. Hm…..

Then today at work, someone asked me if I’m still reading scripts. For those new to my blog, I’ve worked as a professional script analyst for the past decade and though I’m trying to maneuver my way into writing rather than reading, this is something I get asked about quite often.

And this led me to deciding to offer my reading skills to someone who has a script they want read.

My offer is this – I will do FREE coverage for one script from someone who either comments on my Facebook post about this or for readers of my blog, comments below. I will be selecting one tomorrow at noon….

#countdowntochristmas

 

Perserverance

This past weekend I attended the Independent Film Forum, a yearly forum held about all things indie filmmaking. It’s filled with keynotes, case studies, market reports, networking opportunities and much more. It’s a great place to go to get an understanding of where things are currently in the indie film marketplace and also to meet others in the field.

Overall, the theme of this past weekend, as I saw it, was this:

Things are difficult for making independent films.

Even the keynote speaker opened his discussion with acknowledging how very poor his film did at the box office the previous night.

But things are also very exciting.

The entire marketplace is shifting right now and rediscovering itself, with new distribution platforms sprouting up constantly, making it easier than ever before to reach an audience.

But with that, comes the difficulty of being heard among the noise.

Is it just me or does it seem like there’s a constant stream of mindless content available everywhere you turn, all designed for the attention span of a three year-old? And does anyone else wonder why television is having a golden age but cinema remains mostly saturated with comic-book tales and 3D epics? Television is embracing complex, character-driven stories that audiences very clearly want to see. In my opinion, it’s time independent filmmaking caught up.

So, will there ever be a time that is “good” for independent filmmaking?

Chances are, probably not. The very nature of being independent implies a certain level of difficulty in that something is created outside the influence or control of others and in the film world, those “others” have a lot of control over theatrical distribution and exhibition. But with digital platforms, they do not. At least, not yet.

And yes, films are incredibly expensive to produce and money is hard to find. But was it ever being handed out or grown on trees? (It pains me sometimes to think about how many stories could be told, meaning films could be made, with $100 million dollars, which these days is just a third of a blockbuster’s budget but I shouldn’t get started…)

As an independent filmmaker, I believe we need to continue to try to make our character-driven films, despite the difficulties. There is an audience. One that perhaps don’t go to the theaters anymore because they want stories beyond the narrow offerings of box office blockbusters and consumer marketing opportunities. An audience who likely binge on cerebral episodic television but will come out to the theaters once again if we give them a good reason to.

As noted during a panel discussion at the forum, “It’s the wild wild west out there” in terms of independent film distribution.

And If that’s the case, then anything goes, so what better time for independent filmmaking to thrive?