Tag Archives: making a movie

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 7 — The Penguin gone Cray Cray

Alright, I realize blogging on a daily basis about making a movie is not as exciting or fun as just ranting.

I’ll tell you why — Making a movie requires completion of a lot of technicalities, which take time to execute.  Such as creating main website for film, updating synopses, researching desired producers and production companies, etc.  Although that may be a Noah’s Ark Boat load of fun for me, it’s not that fun to write about and I imagine read SO until the process gets JUICY, I won’t bore you or myself with A) The emotional highs and lows of such a process and B) The practical highs and lows of such a process.

Blogging about cooking Julia Child meals on a nightly basis as Julie did in Julie & Julia is much more enjoyable for writer and reader than blogging about surfing IMDBpro and starting a tumblr account.

So, although I continue working on my first feature Dear Dios over the next year, I’ll only blog about the scandalous, enticing, and J-U-I-C-Y details.

MAN, doing this group therapy-mandated whole life inventory and consequential, resentment breakdown has me crazier than Danny DeVito as The Penguin in Batman Returns.

Wrapped up in the world of ME proves more than a tad unhinging and by that I mean absolutely maddening.  Sifting through the suckage and okayness of my life over a 26-year period has flared up ALL of my character defects/defenses: narcissism, control-freakishness, perfectionism, workaholism, self-flogging (which I almost called “self-flatulence”), and gorging on Entemann’s chocolate cake and countless bowls of “Honey Bunches of Oats.”

YUCK.

Spiritual & Psychological growth is one painful ugly sonumabitch.  A procedure I must undergo if I don’t want to rot inside until I my dying day 🙂

Yes, next Tuesday I read the inventory to my group therapy mentor.  Hopefully then, just maybe, I’ll be able to pull back from the transfixing pond that reflects back to me my visage a.k.a. NOT DROWN in mah’ B.S.

While attempting to finish this inventory for the past 2 weeks, I haven’t really spoken with or spent quality time with … well, hardly anyone …

It’s a self-imposed solitary confinement driven by the belief that when I FINALLY finish the task at hand I will deserve to reward myself — with connecting to other human beings in the world.

Gawd, I take myself SO seriously!  Gah!  It makes me want to eat ENTEMANNS!!

Last night, however, I experienced a nice deliverance from the well of echoing imperfection that is mah’ self-reflection when I hung out with two buds, Mama Geee & Sass, at House of Pies.

At one point during our discourse about cheating spouses and famous celebrity cheaters, Mama Geee commented, “”EW, Lance Armstrong cheated? But he’s ugly & has no balls!”  It connected me to my spiritual center and made my night.  Thanks Mama Geee!!!

Much has happened in the world today, per the usual.  Great things, miraculous things, awful things, terrifying things, spontaneous things, unforeseen things …

It’s great to know that when I want to stop my ego from swallowing me whole — during this intense period of personal healing — I can always look outside to the world’s ongoings and take peace from the fact that there is much yet to experience, much yet to learn, and much yet to re-watch like Batman Returns.


 


Making A Movie Day 5 — Killing & Burying the Ideal Self

Okay, after a couple of hours of wallow and nap, I’m up and active.

Today, as my previous post affirmed, did suck.  Not because anything awful happened to me (thank baby jesus in da manger), but because personal growth is hard.

I spent most of my waking hours this past weekend working on my whole life inventory’s (80 pgs, 9 point font, written over the last year and a half ) — resentment breakdown list, which is about 30 resentments so far and about 15 pages or so.

I was supposed to have it finished by this morning so I could read it in one sitting to my group therapy mentor and then we could begin work on my character defects. To keep healing and growing, you know, but the truth is I wasn’t able to finish the resentment breakdown so we rescheduled the read aloud for next Tuesday.

I wasn’t able to finish it because my obsessive attention to detail and enslavement to thoroughness, makes it quite impossible for me to skip or skim most things. Especially anything art and spirituality/emotional & psychological healing related.

Yet my obsession with the passage of time — my race to accomplish more, BE more constantly tricks me into setting unrealistic deadlines for myself.

Deadlines that bludgeon me with a clock hand — the size of the metal ones you find in train stations.

I set deadlines that prove unrealistic and unhealthy for my detail-oriented nature. It’s not that I can’t make the set deadlines, but that I’m usually pulling all-nighters and sacrificing other areas of my life to do so.  Often times, I don’t make many of the severe “around the corner” deadlines I set for myself because I can’t bring myself to sacrifice the quality of the task at hand.  I know I’m cheating it if I do.

Of course, when I inevitably don’t meet said austere deadlines — I pummel myself with a large block of wood that has the word “F-A-I-L-U-R-E” spray-painted across it. So then I set another deadline (the one I should have originally set for myself) and meet it.

Instead of blindly following the pattern, as usual — today I heard my mentor’s voice when she said to me again what she’s told me for a long time, “Your life is not a race.”

My life is not a race.  What a brutal yet liberating concept to assimilate…

I’ve always felt that I’m falling one step behind if I don’t race to finish the book, finish the film, get the grant, get the awards, make high honor roll, etc.

I’ve lived in an incessant relentless competition with my ideal self since I was about 7-years old.

Focusing on my ideal self obviously means, however, that I’m never enough now.

I compare my body, my career, my romances and lack thereof constantly, relentlessly with those who seem to have all their chit’ TOGETHER.

As Carly Simon once sang about Warren Beatty:

Well, I hear you went up to Saratoga
And your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not, you’re with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend …

That’s the person I compare myself to — never those “worse off” always those “doing better.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said (By the By, Happy BDay Papa King!!!):

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.

This “oughtness” is my greatest and gravest obsession — to become the best me and all the while I’m not the best me, I feel that I’m just wasting my potential.

It’s clear to me today, that I fail at this feat because it’s an impossible one to achieve — Likened to trying to reach the Sun on foot.

Worries swim through my head all day and all night: If I don’t finish this resentment breakdown then I can’t work on the “To Do’s” for my film then I’m pushed back a week, and then and then and … Always falling deeper into the “isness” and further away from the “oughtness” …

The question is: Do I continue relating to my life this way?

If I am ever to be happy, to take enjoyment in the things I do — in the variations of the Self I become — I must humble myself to the moment that is, raise my white flag, and embrace that I’ve failed.

I will never win “The Race” I’ve imagined myself winning since I was a little girl because the race never ends … but the body, the mind, and the soul do tire …

I’m tired.

Thus, I surrender to the process of living — the one life has set out for me — and drive a stake through the heart of my beloved Brass Ring.

Making a movie — making this movie Dear Dios — isn’t about proving to myself that I can do it or that I can do it as quickly and as perfectly as my ideal self can — It isn’t about the Nicholls Fellowships or the Sundance Labs or the Cannes Film Festival –It isn’t about getting signed by CAA or backed by the Weinstein Company…

Dear Dios is about learning to make a movie with other creative people I’m inspired by in a manner I enjoy — learning to make a film that I artistically respect and love — learning to cut out the unnecessary middle men and make my work available to people all over the world through forums that are affordable for them and economically lucrative for me — learning as an artist/filmmaker and business woman to work from a place of principle not of fear so that humility, quality of craft, and accessibility of art are my aims not the Brass Rings.

On that note, this blog — which follows the making of a portion of my first feature Dear Dios over 365 days — will focus primarily on making the movie while achieving balance in my life as a whole person — spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, socially, romantically.

There is no race.  I have nothing to prove.  I have failed my ideal self and exchange its dead body for a chance to enjoy the great unknown — like a nomad, a wanderer, an explorer.

A groundless, frightened, passion-driven thing that admits she knows nothing and exists on earth for the sole purpose of learning.

That being said, I’ve made my tumblr account for Dear Dios, which will illustrate the film’s press kit a.k.a synopses, logline, tagline, artistic inspirations such as paintings and photographs, music links, articles, ETC.  I’ll also include a paypal button as fundraising, starting on the smallest scale, will begin shortly.

I plan on buying a domain name and forwarding it to the tumblr account and of course, linking that up to this blog and my main website.

I plan on updating my director’s reel, resume, main website, and official news/press blog.

Oh, yeah, and I haven’t seen Baby Dewds in almost 2 weeks, which means I have to get in some Baby Dewds University quality time ASAP.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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


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