Tag Archives: filmmaking

Transgender Film Fest, rah rah rah! The 2011 Oscars, hellz nah nah nah!

Alright, I’ve got movies on the brains.

On Thursday night, I attended the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival at the Echo Park Film Center with my little sister who identifies as bisexual.  Twas’ a gaydies family night!   We had a blast.

I am madly passionately in love with cinema, more now than ever before. Probably because the passing years have exposed me to a multitude of films that reveal the medium’s innate power for educating and changing people. For educating and changing me.

Back in 2007, I was a femme lesbian who was attracted to other feminine women. Never lesbians — always bi-curious potentially bisexual women or straight women who questioned in secret.  I mainly hung out with gay men and straight girls, rarely any lesbians.  Maybe 1 or 2 lesbos from time to time.  My hair reached down past my shoulders, I wore stilettos and was obsessed with my weight — how fat and ugly I was, and how well I did or didn’t hide it.

I’d developed an aversion, a disdain really, for all things masculine — especially in women.  I had not yet begun to question why it was I proudly owned and cultivated this prejudice within me.  Until Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival accepted my lesbian short film A Two Woman One Act in June 2007.  That year at Outfest, I became aware of the fluid nature, and varying expression of human gender and sexuality.

On a gender front, the films at Outfest explored the lives of butch women, feminine women, androgynous women, boyish women with soft feminine edges, feminine women with strong masculine edges, women who identified as / were transitioning into men — transmen, and men that conversely fell under similar categories.  On a sexuality front, they depicted the experiences of bisexuals, gays, lesbians, closeted homosexuals, the bi-curious, and transmen and transwomen who identified as straight, bisexual, & homosexual.

I spent most of the festival watching documentaries on the Transgender community because my film fest partner-in-crime was gay filmmaker Dante Alencastre whose documentary works focused on Transgender issues and rights. Through these Trans-world expositions, I became aware of my own internalized homophobia and began the lengthy process of understanding the wondrous, brilliant, NATURAL NORMALCY of our “otherness,” our “queerness” and how negatively affected I’d been by a media-centric society where the media predominantly represents the white straight population’s take on normal.  In learning about the Transgender community through these movies, I began uncovering the layers of my identities — as woman, lesbian, and feminist — and learning to whole-heartedly accept their often unboxable nuances.  These films united me in understanding, solidarity, and passion with my GLBTQ cause and community.

The Movies have always been my great love — ever since I was a wee little girl watching The Neverending Story on repeat.  Long before I understood the terms “woman” and “lesbian,” I connected with, felt impassioned by the word “moobie.” The older I’ve gotten the deeper I’ve fallen in love with cinema arts.  The Transgender Film Fest provides a great example of why.  The Transgender (TG) community is an underrepresented group of people that are often trivialized, villainized, and dehumanized by mainstream culture — both in media and mass society.  Their lives and identities are often ignored, pigeonholed, and misunderstood.  Sadly, even by some of the GLB’s  (Gay, Lesbians, & Bisexuals) in our GLBTQ community.   I’m grateful to relay, however, that the TG community has taught me much about their experiences and causes through film.  A medium of expression that stirs the viewer’s individual mind by touching their universal heart. In other words, one person’s experience is another person’s experience no matter how different their outside circumstances may appear.  In my opinion, it’s through empathy that one little movie …  a string of little movies …  a narrative feature film …  a documentary … changes someone’s perspective.

Over the past 4 years I’ve seen about 15 films on the Transgender community at film festivals, Laemmle’s Movie Theaters, and streaming online.  Following the triumphs and tribulations of their oft overlooked tales, I’ve come to relate with a group of people I had little knowledge of or interest in before 2007.  Films like the 1987 narrative feature Vera (An Outfest Legacy Project restoration) and the 2008 long-form documentary STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen have transformed my relationship to my own gender-expression (female) and sexual orientation (lesbian) from a place of self-loathing and ignorance to one of self-knowledge and acceptance. They’ve broadened my consciousness and conscience …

Movies are a powerful tool for education and change.  I am honored, grateful, and proud to be a part of the Queer Film community.  I am constantly blown away by all I have left to learn on the human “being” itself — especially being its self in TRUE form.  I was thrilled to take my little 18-year old bisexual sister to a film fest by and about Transgender people where she learned more about the profound and complex GLBTQ community she embodies and represents.  Especially since, unlike myself, my sister tends to be romantically/sexually attracted to women with a more masculine bent, butch women, questioning trans.  I’m glad to say that in these years I’ve healed that senseless prejudiced self-hating side of myself, and grown to relate to, respect, and appreciate the varying expressions of human sexuality and gender-identity.  As a result, I’ve been blessed to form beautiful priceless friendships with butch lesbians and transmen in my community.

That being said, I also acknowledge that movies — being a powerful medium that affects change on individual and mass scales — can also be used to oppress people. Sadly, many movies still often perpetuate negative stereotypes or ignore an entire section of the population by choosing to spotlight one group experience over another. This is especially evident in Hollywood.  The world according to Hollywood films tends to center around Anglo, straight, and Jewish populations.  Once in a while, when Hollywood films do stray from depicting formulaic characters in regurgitated plots and strive to convey the stories of “minorities” — a.k.a. all other members of society — we’re often victimized, marginalized, or turned into one-dimensional caricatures of ourselves.  The Token Black, Gay, Latina, etc. gets to star in their own token movie … yay!  Not yay.

One of the many reasons I won’t be watching The Oscars this year.

Another reason is because I’m tired of supporting the community-destroying system of Meritocracy.  Meritocracy: A competitive system in which human beings earn self-esteem through achieving merit i.e. outside validation. A system where professional colleagues are pinned against each other, compared, and then anointed “1. Better than the rest.”  Maybe that system works for boxing or sports, some physical game built around the accumulation of points, but I believe Meritocracy has no real constructive place in the arts — a subjective realm of individual expression.

At the Oscars, 5 supposedly “best” actresses, writers, costume designers, etc. of films — that were LOBBIED into nomination by usually affluent companies — go up against each other for the Homecoming Queen crown.  Nominees wear abhorrently expensive outfits, blow winks at each other, and weep at tha’ podium o’ “success” upon receiving a statue of naked golden dewd while shouting, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, YOU LIKE ME!”

I once bought into that?  Yuck & sad.  (P.s. I think Sally Field is an AMAZING actress.  Her acceptance speech just makes me sad.)

My dislike for Meritocracy isn’t just limited to The Oscars, however, but stretches outward to all award shows with set nominees.  You want to take a fair vote and choose “best” film or “best” artistic anything of the year?  Fine.  Let all the Academy members actually vote for THEIR favorite film of that year then.  Don’t choose their nominees.  Just ask them very simply, “What’s been your favorite film this year?,” “Who’s been your favorite actress this year and for what role?,” etc., tally the votes up, and then announce the results at the award ceremony like so, “We’d like to congratulate Sophie’s Choice for being chosen by The Academy members as their favorite film of the year.”  Let’s call a spade a spade.  The Oscars like most award shows are not an objective forum where “high quality” projects get the recognition they deserve.  It’s a circus tent where rich people who know other rich people entertain their egos by jacking each other off in front of a TV screen for millions to see.  The Oscars are, in essence, a televised 4-hour group masterbation session between professional exhibitionists.  At least when they have a comedian host — like Ricky Gervais — who calls out the event for exactly what it is, the audience derives some joy from the lewd acts of heavy petting taking place on stage.  The Oscars enjoy pretending they were created to award the most worthy piece of art (i.e. film) and artist (i.e. director) of the year the acknowledgment they deserve. When the truth is, and everyone knows it, The Oscars are as objective as art/film itself, which is NOT objective at all.

Maybe I’m just annoyed by the fact that The Oscars confuses its 100% subjectivity for 100% objectivity, takes itself too seriously, and then doesn’t hire Ricky Gervais to host.

If you’d like to read the brilliantly hilarious introduction Ricky Gervais drafted (in jest) for this year’s Oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, read below or directly from his blog!

—->

(Drum roll)V.O.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please welcome your hosts for this evening…
James Franco and Anne Hathaway 

(Music and applause)
(James and Anne walk out looking absolutely perfect)

JF
Hello and welcome to The 83rd Academy Awards,
Live from Los Angeles.

AH
That’s foreign for City of Angels.
And this room is certainly filled will those angels.

(Applause)

JF
Thank you. I’m James Franco.

AH
…and I’m Anne Hathaway.

JF
You probably know me from 127 Hours where I play a man trapped in an enclosed space who decides he would rather cut his own arm off than stay where he was. Now that sounds “way out” but wait till half way through this fucking ceremony and you’ll start to identify with him.

AH
And I’m the new Catwoman. The first white woman to play that role since Michelle Pfeiffer. I want it to be an inspiration to all white people everywhere. Your dreams can come true in Hollywood too.

JF
It’s a daunting task hosting The Oscars but we’re not alone. Presenting awards tonight will be a string of Hollywood legends and some other actors who have a film out in March or April.

JF
Usually they hire comedians to host The Oscars, but tonight, instead, you get us!

AH
No comedians tonight. And do you know why? Because comics are ugly.

JF
Especially that rude obnoxious one who played the Steve Carell part in the English remake of The Office.

AH
But you can all relax because Ricky Gervais is in London…

(Nervous laughter)

He’s doing some charity work.
Yeah, he’s visiting orphans with cancer.
He’s telling them what bald little losers they are…

JF
Yeah, cos he’s rude right?

(Applause)

Thank you.
No rudeness tonight.
It’s going to be a night of the most privileged people in the world being told how brilliant they are and thanking God for loving them more than ugly poor foreigners.

(Applause)

That’s not to say that we don’t care. No, apart from all the great movies we made this year we continued our life-saving philanthropy. Mega stars like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Ben Stiller brought light to third world poverty and famine and shocked the world with visions of children so hungry they’d been living off dead beetles all their lives.

AH
Yeah and Yoko Ono said. “What’s wrong with that?”

(Laughter)

JF
Oh Anne you are naughty. In a respectful, wholesome way.

(Nodding and smiling)

That Ricky Gervais should do more for charity.

(Murmurs of agreement)

Ricky Gervais is now worth $80,000,000. The obnoxious Brit confirmed the figure, adding,”Yes and my dentist hasn’t seen a penny.”

AH
Yeah, why doesn’t he get his teeth straightened and bleached like everyone else in Hollywood?

JF
It’s a good question Anne. For the same reason he doesn’t have botox or suck up to important producers – there’s something wrong with him.

AH
There must be. Why isn’t the stocky, fangy, little slob more like us, right?

JF
That ugly dude needs to get a Hollywood makeover, big time.

AH
Quite. And even though most of the actresses here have eating disorders, that’s better than being fat right?

JF
You bet it is gorgeous.

AH
You are so handsome.

JF
Exactly.
You know Ricky Gervais used to be bulimic.

AH
Really?

JF
Yes. He’d often gorge himself for hours with cheese and cakes.

AH
And then vomit right?

JF
No he left that bit out…

(Mild laughter)

AH
That’s because he couldn’t get his fat fucking fingers in his stupid mouth.

(Big laugh)

JF
Anyway let’s get this show on the road.
There were some great kids’ movies this year.
I took a five year old to see Toy Story 3 last week.

AH
Did you enjoy it?

JF
No it was ruined for me because the little brat was screaming and crying all the way through the film saying, “Who are you?” “You’re not my daddy.” “Take me back to the park where you grabbed me…”

(Laughter)

AH
Oh James, you are a card. And your slightly risky jokes are not threatening because you’re one of us. And you are so handsome.

JF
Absolutely.
So let’s get this show on the road.
Our first presenter is a Hollywood legend whose boots Ricky Gervais would not be fit to kiss…
The wonderful…
Mel Gibson…

(Standing ovation)

And so on…



Stabbing “The Brass Ring” in tha’ HEART.

Well, I haven’t written a blog post in almost a week.  Strange feeling since I’ve been blogging almost every day since the year began.  Liberating feeling since I was blogging on a daily basis because I had something — YET AGAIN — to prove to myself.  Oh brotha!

I’m glad 2011 is the year of stabbing The Brass Ring — concept and way of life — in the heart and laying it gently on the ground to die.  Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m dedicating this year to cultivating the 5 primary characteristics that, in my experience, open up the depth and dimensionality of my perception and thus make me feel most wholly fulfilled:

1) Humility 2) Gratitude 3) Compassion 4) Fearlessness 5) Peace

Definition of The Brass Ring according to:

Webster’s Online Dictionary: The Brass Ring: US Informal: A very desirable prize, goal, or opportunity.

Wikipedia: The brass ring as a term also means striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest.

TheFreeDictionary.com: n.Slang An opportunity to achieve wealth or success; a prize or reward.

This is how I’ve come to identify and pinpoint The Brass Ring: It pulsates at the center of your Ego — as its primary desire.  Your Ego’s sole purpose in life is to achieve it.  Your drive to get The Brass Ring corrodes the pure joys of your spirit with “alterior motives.”  Let’s take, for example, 2 types of filmmakers:

1) The filmmaker who is one because they like being called “The Filmmaker.”

2) The filmmaker who is one because they really love making movies.

Often times, the filmmaker who likes being called “The Filmmaker” began as a person who loved making movies, but over the years their Ego grew more powerful than their spirit.  Consequently, their quest became being called “The Filmmaker” as opposed to making movies they love a.k.a. their quest became about The Brass Ring.

A book was recently published explaining how to raise Brass Ring-driven children. It’s titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and is summarized by NPR (click here to listen to the 11 min podcast) as:

“Strict, uncompromising values and discipline are what makes children raised by Chinese parents successful. That’s the message in a new parenting book by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” based on Chua’s personal experiences has raised questions about whether the book reinforces stereotypes of the unsparing Asian parent.”

Or read The Onion’s hilariously brilliant summation:

New Parenting Book Sparks Outrage

Last week, Penguin Press published Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, which criticizes “Western” parenting and advocates an “Asian” approach that includes forbidding playdates and being highly critical of children in order to make them more successful. Here are some other tips from the book:

  • Take your children to Chuck E. Cheese’s and let them play any game they choose, then make them watch as you burn their tickets
  • Ice cream is a great motivator for kids; promise them that if they do everything you ask, they can have some when they turn 18
  • Inform your child that televisions receive all of their power from flawless renditions of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D
  • Only let your children have a pet dog if they can tame the most rabid dog at the pound
  • Should your child express interest in spending more time with his or her friends, simply pack up and move several hundred miles away
  • To ensure academic excellence, inform your children that there is a mark higher than an A-plus and then shame them for failing to attain it
  • Replace their frail little limbs with less fragile prosthetics
  • Remember, you may have to put up with one or two suicides before you finally craft that perfect child you’ve always wanted

Mind you, I have yet to read the book.  I plan on it.  For now, however, I’m just enjoying reading other people’s outcries about it a.k.a. watching us react in horror toward/abhor a darwinistic way of thinking that we Americans — Chinese, Cuban, Jewish, Indian, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, etc  — have ironically been taught to regard as “ambitious” and “industrious.”   Of course, Americans live the varying degrees between the opposite extremes of The Brass Ring way of life.  Obviously, we’re not known the world over for our overachieving attitudes.  Still, The Brass Ring way of life exists at the core of our national spirit, raging with the ferocity of adolescent hormones: “Compete and win.  Prove you’re the TOP DAWG!”

Even our president Barack Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, declared he’d tenaciously go after The MOTHER of Brass Rings:

“…So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember — for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea — the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like ‘What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?’

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, ‘The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.’ Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.) We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. (Applause.) And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there…”

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with striving to realize one’s full potential on an microcosmic individual level and a macrocosmic national level.  I feel that, in fact, it’s the duty of every human being to do their personal best.  I’m questioning the motivations behind the drive.

Do you work hard on bettering your nation so that it’s considered better than all other nations or do you work to better it so that your citizens live a healthy and fulfilling quality of life?  Do you study for countless hours so you can Ace the math exam to prove to yourself and others that you’re an “A” student or do you study to learn the material and take pride in the “A” grade because it ultimately reflects how much — through hard work and dedicated focus — you learned on the subject matter? Do you make a caliber kick-ass film in order to walk down the red carpet, screen at Sundance, and win an Academy Award in a designer dress or do you make a caliber kick-ass film in order to connect with other human beings and hopefully add to their experience by sharing a story that exposes and explores a subculture dear and meaningful to your existence?

I’m truly coming to understand in my old age ( ;p ) that intention decides the consequence of an action because it points that action toward a direction.

For instance, I was researching and compiling a list of bloggists and blogs, which inspire and teach me, where I’d like to submit my book for review, and I came across this fantastic article in The Guardian about a Japanese woman who became a best-selling poet at age 99.  She sold 1.5 million copies of her first book — a self-published collection of poetry — “in a market where 10,000 is seen as a success…”

I immediately clicked on the piece and read it from head to toe.  I was profoundly inspired by it.  I had to ask myself, “Why am I so elated?”  What was it about her story that so inspired me?

Was I inspired because of My Ego’s obsession with The Brass Ring?  In other words, was I inspired by the story because the Tiger Mother inside, that part of me that says “WIN so you’ll KNOW you’re not a failure,” is thrilled at the prospect that I have until age 99 to prove I too can become an overnight-sensation best-selling poet?

Or was I inspired because, according to the article’s description of her, she’s a humble, grateful, compassionate, fearless, and peaceful old woman who brazenly took up the pen as a new way to express the pure passions of her spirit when her body became too old to continue realizing them through dance?

“She was encouraged to write poetry by her son, who is in his mid-60s, after recurring back pain forced her to give up her lifelong hobby of classical Japanese dance.”

Quite honestly, I’m sad to say, that my ego was inspired first.  It became inflated to exaggerated proportions with grandiose visions of receiving public acknowledgment, reverence, and acclaim.  The Brass Ring dangled before my Ego like a Cannabis Card before a stressed out pot-head.

The spirit beneath my ego, however, squirmed … writhed with disapproval.  I can no longer react blindly toward the whims of my ego — I can no longer give into its lazy and polluted cravings.

If I’m ever going to be substantially fulfilled, I must remain aware of my tricky Ego and its Brass-Ring drive.   Consequently, I must think, feel, and act opposite to its inclination.

THUS:

I may never be a best-selling poet or give a presidential speech or have a film premiere at Sundance.  These “nevers” are very real possibilities.  I may, however, create fearless works of art and honest thought, which one day lead me to proudly proclaim, like our 99-year old poet, “Thank you, I am really happy.”  Those, I believe, are very real possibilities too.

Thanks for being an example of humility, gratitude, compassion, fearlessness, and peace, Toyo Shibata.  I can’t wait to order your book.  Big hug your way! 🙂

I really do believe that choosing to be a citizen rather than a simple consumer is an essential, deliberate, and potentially-radical act. – Darren Hughes


Making A Movie Day 4 — Francis Ford Coppola & My Whole Life Inventory

Alright, I’m taking a breath from breaking down my whole life’s written inventory (80 pages, 9 point font, for ages 0 – 26 written over the last year and a half) into specific resentments built up over those periods of time.  I am to read this to my group therapy mentor tomorrow from 2pm until we finish.

I probably won’t finish this assignment until right before we meet tomorrow at 2pm. Gah!!!  So, I’ll just discuss briefly with you some discourses swimming through mi brains.

Yesterday, I read an interview with Francis Ford Coppola that Baby Dewds e-mailed my way a week ago.

Francis Ford Copolla is, in my opinion and every award ceremony’s on earth, a creative mastermind.  His films make up an important part of why my favorite Cinematic Period takes place during the 60’s & 70’s — The New Hollywood Era. The New Hollywood Era — When the studio system fell to its knees and turned all its creative power over to inventive daring outsiders, like Coppola, for them to craft artistic quality films, which reflected society back to itself — in order to close the growing divide between audience and box office.

Yes, Francis Ford Coppola’s direction of the first 2 Godfathers, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married, Dracula, Jack and all the AMAZING films he produced and executive produced plus the exposing documentary Hearts of Darkness — makes him THA’ Jam.

When I read this article, I realized, yet again, how much I loved and respected Coppola as a filmmaker/artist and family man.  Who wouldn’t with quotes like these:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema.

…the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old…The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, “Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.” An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.

I was always a good adventurer. I was never afraid of risks. I always had a good philosophy about risks. The only risk is to waste your life, so that when you die, you say, “Oh, I wish I had done this.” I did everything I wanted to do, and I continue to.

When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

Always make your work be personal. And, you never have to lie. If you lie, you will only trip yourself up. You will always get caught in a lie. It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself. There are some questions that are inappropriate to ask, and rather than lie, I will not answer them because it’s not a question I accept. So many times we are asked things in our work or in life that you want to lie, and all you have to do is say, “No, that is an improper question.”

So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

Ahhh, yes!  Yet again, he couples his refreshing ideas into truly invigorating statements.

Still …

When you read his quote below — you realize how far removed financially successful people become, no matter how much they want to stop the distancing, from the realities of every day people. Upon reading it, I quickly remembered why I’ve never considered anyone “my hero” and I could never worship a person as a god — because their human flaws would break my spirit long before their attributes helped it grow. Read on:

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?
We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

It’s easy to say art should be free and an artist shouldn’t get paid for their work when you’re making royalties off of 2 Godfathers and countless box office hits, and you, your daughter, and your father all have Academy Awards.  Oh, and your nephew is $40 million per movie Nick Cage.

Sure, wine money is good, but wine money was started with films-are doing-AWESOME money.  All I mean to say is that when rich — and I mean RICH — and famous — and I mean FAMOUS — artists tell the poor artist in South Gate borderline Huntington park to spend the rest of their lives in the financial trenches in order to maintain artistic integrity that poor artist exhales a deep, sad, long sigh and accepts that Francis Ford Coppola is just a regular human being like me and you … No one has ALL the answers.

That being said, I completely agree with him on creative ethics — stay true to the truth of your vision, especially the risky bits big corporate investors often want to smother, and only take into consideration the opinions of collaborators who have the betterment of the project in mind such as actors, writers, etc.

But giving your work away for free/letting people steal it off the internet while accepting that as artists we’re just bad with money so there’s no point in fighting it?! … Hmmm. Not on board with that advice, Papa Coppola.

I may do that now, but not forever!  I am joining a money-management/business betterment group next week.  Dear Baby Jesus in Da Manger, please teach me how to value my artistic efforts and turn them into lucrative sums that I can invest into more artistic endeavors!  No more CASH 4 GOLD Sundays! ;p

Bankers, Politicians, and Wine Connoisseurs should NOT be the only members of society with mula to spare a.k.a invest.  In fact, I think that scenario extremely dangerous to the cultures they form part of.  Artists — those that reflect society back to itself with truth, heart, risk, and love — should be able to sustain themselves and invest in future projects a.k.a roll in the doe too.  The greater the artistic integrity, the higher the paycheck, I say!

Although in theory Coppola doesn’t agree with this mindset, in reality he sure does. The Coppolas — Francis, Sofia, Cage, Talia, & Jason Schwartzman (to name a few) are rolling in the royalty $$$$.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it!  I’m just saying — Artists should be paid for their work and art should be reasonably priced:  Free sometimes, affordable mostly always, and high cost only in business dealings.

You’re making royalties off my hard work?  I deserve some too.  Let’s negotiate.

While digesting what Papa Coppola has said, I realize that with everyone’s advice in life, you take what works for you and leave aside what your gut reaction/spirit doesn’t jive with …

Yes, even Francis Ford Coppola’s words of wisdom.

The perk of being raised by a social worker mama is that you’ve been brainwashed for years to truly fundamentally believe that — regardless of financial and social status — every human being is inherently equal.  Thus: Rich or no rich, famous or no famous, creative genius or no creative genius, if I agree with you I agree with you and if I don’t I don’t.

And just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t think you still rock my socks off because you do.  For example, I’m barefoot right now because Francis Ford Coppola’s interview, including the comments I disagreed with, rocked my socks off. It made me “grapple.”  Grappling is good.  Grappling is growth.

Alright, back to the inner-work a.k.a finishing the resentment inventory for mentor sesh tomorrow!  Gah!!! ;p


Making A Movie Day 2 — Knowledge is Power, but Experience…

Alright, after hours of research, I found various potentially magnificent/helpful indie filmmaking books, but since I’m a filmmaker on a budget — I weeded through them — to the most presently pertinent and bought the on amazon.com (shipping within 5 – 8 business days) for $46.70.  Bargain hunted and got 1 used and 3 new — which turned out cheaper than “used” because of amazon’s super-savings shipping deal.

Throughout these years of research, I’ve come across countless helpful websites — an OVERWHELMING amount — but during this specific search I delved into the advice of these two:

1) List of Indie Filmmaking Book Recommendations

2) List of Indie Filmmaking Websites

What they said, coupled with a bunch of other stuff I read, brought me to buy these 4 books:

OF MOTIVATIONAL/INSPIRATIONAL/ETHICAL/CREATIVE VALUE

1) My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film

2) Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player

OF PRACTICAL/TECHNICAL VALUE

3)From Reel to Deal: Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film

4) The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution

The biggest stress for me proves to be NOT reading EVERY book and article I come across, which could potentially assist me in KNOWING how to more perfectly execute this process.  I think at times — if I know more, school myself more, prepare myself more — I’ll pull off the film more perfectly.  Sort of like a toddler obsessed with walking — she can study other kids’ walks, ask them how they do it, ask her mother (the doctor) how physiologically legs are able to move in such a balanced effortless way, ask her father how he gets them to run so quickly because she’d love to run that fast too …

Yes, all of this information will help ease her into walking and later on running, but only attempting it will actually get her DOING it.  Practice — only in experience — makes progress …

Therefore, I have to let my little perfectionist toddler school herself in theory, but only while she takes action in reality.

Experience is where feeling makes sense to body and consequently, movement acquires meaning.  It’s a fine balance — preparing oneself to take action and taking it.

A balance that seems entirely personal and subjective … Balance, I believe, is gauged by individual intuition.

Intuition: Listening to the wisdom between my ears where thoughts and words go quiet.  Where knowledge rests, effortlessly understood, and instincts bow, awe-struck, to Nature’s orders …

Making a movie is, in fact, exactly like walking.  First you observe/absorb the act in order to prepare for it and then you do it when intuition says so — applying to the best of your ability what you learned — in order to grasp, better, and master it. Intrinsic to this process, of course, is a lot of risk and stumbling.

What I spewed was just a lot of babble blah blah for what I really meant to say:

I’m excited to learn from books and real-life experience how to make mah’ beloved moooobie! But I have to stay aware of my tricky perfectionism or I’ll waste away in the safety of study and always theoretically “know how to make a feature” … but not in actuality :/  STAY ALERT to your sly self-sabotaging ways, Banethita!

The icing on mah’ cake is that tonight after work, my friend Dustin was kind enough to offer me his free extra ticket to as he calls it, “A Tricked Out Technicolor lecture on historical & philosophical influence of color vocabulary” a.k.a. WHAT IF ESQUIMAUX HAD NO WORDS FOR BLUE? The History & Philosophical Significance of 19th Century Color Vocabulary Studies – An Illustrated Lecture by – PROFESSOR ZED ADAMS.  Yes!

Strategy for Tomorrow:

1) Spiritual Maintenance: Finish breaking down my whole life inventory (80 pgs 9 point font) to read to my mentor on Monday/let go.

2) Watch a film that I’d like Dear Dios to take visual inspiration from on Fandor: A curated service for independent and international films on demand. The Fandor team scours the globe for award-winning narrative features, docs and shorts screened at film festivals around the world … Aims to be a destination for film-lovers and filmmakers who look past the multiplex to a world of inspired, beautiful and surprising film.

Thanks for the link, Arianne Sved!


Making A Movie Day 1 — Perfectionism

I’ve been inspired by the NC-17 horror film Julie & Julia to blog for 365 days about the making of my first feature film Dear Dios.

It’ll be like watching Atreyu’s quest to save The Land of Fantasia in The Neverending Story.  Lock yourself in a middle-school attic, throw moth-eaten blankets over your head, and start swiggin’ some popcorn …

For The Journey Begins

Today is Day 1.


I want “making a movie” to be perfect — all of it.  I want this blog post to be perfect, to outline perfectly exactly the plan that is to take place.  To specify — like I would in a grant application — each detailed step of the process.

I’ve come to accept, however, what I refused to admit to myself even 2 weeks ago:

Yes, I’m experienced in making short fiction films and documentaries on shoe string budgets, but I don’t know how BEST to go about pulling off a narrative feature film since I’ve never made one before.

Ego-smashing and 100% true.  So let’s see what the next 364 days teaches me about such an operation.

I am open …

“May we be fearless…from known and unknown…May all the directions be our allies.” – Atharva Veda

I wrote the Dear Dios (originally titled Deity) screenplay in 2007 and have been revising it/polishing it/refining it ever since.  I believe it’s one draft away from Dynamite a.k.a A Shootable Script.

As I explained in previous blogs, I’ve applied to grants and other forms of “Academia”-style support and validation for 3 years to no avail.  No Sundance Fellowship, No Slamdance Screenplay Competition Award, No Gotham Awards, No American Screenwriting Competition Award, No Nicholls Fellowship, Etc. My gut knows I gave those applications all I had so now the time has come to change direction.  Grants, Mentorships, Residencies, Contests — Competitions — have proven a barren fruit tree for Dear Dios, therefore I am done putting energy into them.

I embrace that the machinations of Making A Movie won’t bend to my perfectionistic (controlling fear-based) designs.  Rather, I have to learn to dance with the rhythms of its organic yet unpredictable nature.

1st New Year’s Resolution: Vanessa, don’t apply to grants or residencies or fellowships or contests NO matter HOW badly you want to.  You’re just investing a lot of hard work into excuses.

“Perfectionism leads to Procrastination leads to Paralysis.”

A New Year calls for New Strategies.

Today’s Strategies:

1) Accept that I need to try new avenues, and remain completely open to their lessons — whatever they turn out to be.

2) Research Inspirational and Practically Applicable Books by independent filmmakers whose creative work and professional careers I admire. How did Pedro Almodovar, John Waters, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Guillermo Del Torro, Christine Vachon, etc. make their movies early in their careers?

3) Order 2 of those books.  One inspirational.  One practically applicable.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen … Stay the course.  When thwarted try again; harder; smarter.  Persevere relentlessly.”  – Coach John Wooden


At Mamushka’s — Contemplating Luck and Meryl Streep

I’m afraid.  Afraid that I don’t know how to “make it.”

Not that I’m not talented enough or intelligent enough or brazen enough or enough of a troubleshooter because, quite frankly, the passage of time has made me into these things … Humbled by life’s various expressions of the concept “No” — into these things. Rejection has broken me in half, dipped the sliced parts in acid, bulldozed the remains into slithers of thin rice paper, gathered the bits back together, and poured it all into a hot iron cast — where I slowly, but surely melded into one again.

I’ve been sculpted into a woman who works really really really hard for what she loves, trusting that serendipity will conspire at some point with that hard work to produce finished projects, which she is proud to call Her Art Work.

Poetry, Essays, Short Stories, Reviews, Books, Screenplays, Documentaries, Short Fiction Films …

and … quite possibly, one day soon, the reigning Goddess of them all:

— A Full Narrative Feature.

Even so, I am afraid — scared shitless really — that my talent, intelligence, skill, and tenacity aren’t enough to “make it.”

To make it — my feature film Dear Dios — in a manageable and enjoyable manner.

I’ve run the Guerilla-filmmaking track several times, and learned along the way that making a finished film is not the great hurdle — Distributing a finished film is.

One of the best films I’ve ever seen is The Last Summer of La Boyita. Have you ever heard of it?  Exactly.

Hollywood isn’t made famous so much for the quality/artistry of its films, but for the quality/artistry of its Distribution of films. Hollywood gets movies marketed and exhibited all over the world through numerous avenues — film festival circuits, theatrical runs, dvd rentals, pay per view, cable distribution, netflix instant streaming, etc.  Hollywood gives Movies — quality or not — a shot in the global psyche by seemlessly shoving them into the faces of countless millions.

It’s not the art of filmmaking that weighs down on my neck — that I fret about in the dark hours of sleepless weeks — but the art of distribution: 1) Marketing 2) Exhibition

I know a lot of filmmakers, specifically independent filmmakers, who get their films funded through grants and/or fiscal sponsorship of sorts.  Most of these films are documentaries or narratives about minority issues.

I also know a lot of independent filmmakers that get their films funded through corporate backing and advertising profits.

The creative quality of the projects vary from breathtakingly outstanding to abusively horrid.

The one commonality most of these films share, which staples them into my brain:  They can’t secure proper distribution.  This means the film doesn’t get what it really needs to be SEEN: 1) Killer Marketing 2) Audience Accessibility through numerous Exhibition channels.

I could go on and on about the many countless mainstream and guerilla ways a filmmaker employs to make/distribute their films. Additionally, I could go on and on about my first hand experience, the endless hours of the research I’ve conducted, the seminars I’ve attended, the books I’ve read, and the advice I’ve been given on those topics …

But I’m trying to get to the root of my anguish … What burdens me, fills my chest with tacks, and bludgeons my passionate fearlessness into a whimpering pup.

What I know to be “the horror stories of the moviemaking business” or “the slim chances of getting a feature film off the ground” or…blah blah blah — are not what scare me.  I’ve heard it all and seen a lot of it and I don’t care.

Dear Dios is getting made and shown …

I’m terrified by the fact that I just don’t know the best full-proof  way to go about it.

My main concerns being: 1) Maintaining creative control 2) Securing Proper Distribution, which includes hefty marketing and smart exhibition strategies/audience accessibility.

Like I said in the blog post before this one: Grants were Plan A.   The dream plan.   Academia’s stamp of support and approval.  I know many a blessed filmmaker who fund their projects and livelihoods this way.

3 years later — Plan A is Plan Over.  The 40-hour applications proved great writing practice: Sped up the quality and delivery of treatments, vision summaries, synopses, screenplay, and honed my essay writing skills like no formal writing course ever did.

Aside from that, however, nothing — only neon mailing confirmations and post office receipts scattered about my computer desk. Reminders that, not so long ago, I naively thought and hoped with every inch of me that “making a movie” could be a safe and predictable affair.

Years of Academia train you to believe in such false havens.  The Academic Way is characterized by a comforting lovely structure: When you do your best — you apply and get accepted, turn in test and get an A,  graduate from Grade X and move onto Grade Y.  It creates an unrealistic picture of Life — as being a controllable and comprehensible thing.

When in actuality, Life is Mother Nature — a transient and unpredictable force — The Wild West.

So yes, I’m scared.  Scared that I can’t, as I had once hoped when applying to grants, make my movie with a formulaic certainty.  Approach it — strategically and emotionally — the way I use to do school exams.   Scared of the open ended dance with Serendipity I now face …

Yes, I’m riddled with anxiety, fear, and worry.  Anxious that a small being must pull off such a grandiose task.  Afraid that neither timing or opportunity knows of  my existence.  Worried that preparation and hard work won’t make up for Serendipity’s unruly and inconsistent presence in my life.

Scared shitless that Luck picks favorites and is so taken with the charming Meryl Streep, it may have forgotten about me.


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