Tag Archives: grants

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.


At Home — Contemplating My Grant Binges

So, I’m sick and exhausted and smelly and as happy as a puppy snuggled in a pile of dirty clothes.

Why?  Because I spent all of yesterday — Monday January 3rd —  into the night through this morning  applying to the Outfest Screenwriting Lab.  After some technical difficulties were worked out, I hit the “submit” button and it was DONE.

In that moment, I felt satiated.

As I walked into the post office shortly thereafter, the fresh wind blew a bothersome strand of greasy hair from eyesight onto temple, and I knew — I had earned it.

Exhilaration awakens each cell in my body whenever I finish a grant, residency, or contest application of some sort.  Especially one I’d really love to get.

Probably because there’s this greater sense of purpose that incessantly tortures me when I ignore it — like a hungry baby whaling from a crib for breast milk — and when I finish a grant application, it’s as if I stuck a bottle in the baby’s mouth.

The more difficult the application — the greater the satiation.

Oh, the endless rewards of winning a grant!  I imagine myself like an old man playing the Horses — Is it going to win?!  Is it going to win?!  If my horse WINS and I get this residency or that grant … the countless ways my life can change!

The infant — the force of life that cries for you to feed so that it can survive — is my art.  My Films and Writings.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never desired a flesh and blood baby — because it would compete for breast milk and God knows I only have two boobs!  One for my Movies and the other for my Books. ;p

Still, I can’t help but acknowledge that applying to grants, residencies, and contests is exactly like “Playing the Horses.”  A gamble. A gamble that I invest a lot of time, energy, and heart in.  Time, energy, and heart I could be investing into more practical possibilities for project support.

The first grant I ever applied to was the HSF/McNamara Family Creative Arts Project Grant, which I received.  It gave my senior thesis film A Two Woman One Act some considerably helpful production mula.  I was grateful for it and put it to good use, but the sheltered bubble of college life didn’t allow me to fully comprehend the magnitude of such a gift.

I’ve been out of college for 6 years now, and have worked and worked and worked countless jobs — from cinematographer to assistant editor to executive assistant to packing tape salesperson extraordinaire to receptionist and runner to you name it, I’ve done it.  I worked these gigs in order to pay my creative projects’ bills (press kits and festival applications and hard drives, etc), most times at the sacrifice of paying basic bills such as dentist, health insurance, food, etc.

Consequently, I now realize how much a stamp of monetary and critical approval could help ease the process of bringing a project to fruition.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve applied to countless grants and contests and I’ve received 2 or 3 — mostly living stipends for weekend seminars (which I’m truly grateful for), but that’s pretty much it …

Hours and Weeks and Months and Years spent applying for grant support that never came.

All the success I’ve received has come about through old fashioned brow sweat, and priceless help from fellow broke yet talented friends and artists.  The books and films I’ve finished, The book fairs and film festivals I’ve been a part of, The publications and reviews I’ve received — have all come about from walking out onto the fields, rolling up my sleeves, and picking grapes.

Also Known As chucking fear/anxiety out the window by emailing, calling, and shaking hands on the ground floor.

Also Known As H-U-S-T-L-I-N-G because the baby’s famished and she won’t stop crying!

My art projects are my Baby — the reason I continue working many a dreaded b-job…

I’ll tell you the truth — I don’t mind the hustle, the hard work, in fact I love it.  I love knowing how to write and edit and shoot and sound design an entire film because I had to figure it out on my own since I couldn’t afford to hire others to do it for me.

Still, my heart has been a little broken lately — and I think it’s because I spend more time applying to grants than working the floor, which has obviously proven to be a more fruitful avenue.  Why then?!  Why do I continue to do it?

I spend HOURS applying to grants and residencies and contests.  I keep “Playing the Horses.”  Because maybe — one day — I’ll get a grant and everything will get easier. I’ll finally be able to walk into MacMall and say, “Give me a Mac Book Air with a 3-year warranty.  I’m editing all over town today! Oh, and throw in some Mentos, please. The tropical kind.”

At this point, I feel like the old man who bets on a horse instead of going to work …

Grant applications, I must admit to myself, are the quick-fix pacifiers I use to quiet the starving baby.

There’s no breezy easy way to make a movie.  It’s all grape-picking, my friends.  I accept this fact and continue onward.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions being: More grape picking and ground floor handshaking!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

Speaking of hunger, I have yet to eat anything aside from Entemann’s chocolate cake today … Chicken Soup, here comes La Banethita!


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