Tag Archives: movie

Once We Were Warriors & Still Are.

Eating an amazing Pastrami Sandwich (on wheat ūüėČ ) from one of my fave Huntington Park Restaurant’s Tom’s while scenes from¬†Once We Were Warriors flash through my mind. ¬†It’s healthier than a cheeseburger, right? ¬†Meh, who knows.

I was 12-years old and kicking back in the living room of our old Downey house with my cousin Danny ¬†— who’s older than me by 9 months. ¬†We were bored on a school night flipping through 200 or so channels of cable entertainment and for whatever reason the remote sat still on HBO. ¬†I think that’s the moment we began fighting over the last slice of pizza. ¬†Anyway, by the time we turned our angsty pre-teen attention back to our most cherished¬†babysitter & life coach — The Big Screen TV — there it was unfolding,¬†Once We Were Warriors. ¬†A narrative film about a broken family from New Zealand’s “throwaway” population — the aborigines.

IMDB SUMMARY:

A family descended from Maori warriors is bedeviled by a violent father and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts.

We watched it, jaws dropped, eyes dry from the lack of blinking, and when it was over we both looked at each other — bonded by a deeper awareness or understanding or maturity or all of it — and said, “WOW. ¬†Dewd. ¬†That was Really REALLY great. Dewd …”

 

Since then I think about the movie off and on, some periods in my life more than others. ¬†I think about the Maori community, being representative of many indigenous spirits around the world, raped and broken by a brutal and demoralizing colonization. ¬†How the Europeans cracked their cultural, spiritual, and psychological foundations in half and ate them bit by bit with tea & scrumpets. ¬†I think about how centuries have passed since that happened, but their dismissed & unattended ACHE, their communal scream of defeat has manifested into self- & family- destruction through alcoholism, violence, and personal-intolerance. ¬†I think about the dejected state of their internal realities — how they carry the shame of warriors who lost the fight that forever cost them their “home.” ¬†While European descendants now “New Zealanders” scowl at their “uncivilized natures” on the same land, but far removed from their neighborhoods.

I was once at a luncheon with people from group therapy, and there was this girl from New Zealand there. ¬†She came from an upper middle class family and had problems with self-esteem, men, body image issues — you know, usual Western Society probz. ¬†Anywho, I asked her if she had seen Once We Were Warriors and what she thought about that communal state of self-destruction, and if she felt the New Zealand government (as a form of restitution, if not out of pure humanity) could do something to help its aborigine populations heal — psychotherapy, group therapy, personal empowerment workshops, etc. ¬†She replied to me, “They’re just living in victimhood. ¬†If they’d stop victimizing themselves, drinking & fighting so much, and actually cultivated a desire to educate themselves, they wouldn’t be such a mess. That’s not the government’s fault or responsibility.” ¬†Says the privileged girl who drinks bottles of vodka because a boy doesn’t like her. ¬†I think about how in that moment images of me performing my own version of Maori Warrior vengeance upon her filled my belly with fire, yet how I instead — passionately disagreed with her opinions and then let the conversation die because, after all, she’s also hurting and trying to heal herself. ¬†I think about how since then I’ve disliked her anyway.

I think about how she like her ancestors, and her government don’t give a flying dung and never will about the way they emotionally dismembered their aboriginal communities or help them heal through any consequential crippling anguish.

I then think about the Maori characters in Once We Were Warriors, and that if they only realized they were still were warriors, they could have healed themselves. ¬†They need nothing from their government or its privileged self-consumed. ¬†I think about the daughter in the movie — Grace Heke — bright & studious, unique, an indispensable young woman coming into her power in the midst of this communal self-destruction. ¬†I think about how she’s woken up one night by a drunken “uncle” / party guest raping her, and then hangs herself in her backyard. ¬†I think about her body dangling from the grey-bark tree and her mother whaling at the sight of it …

I think about her whenever I realize how blessed I truly am. ¬†Whenever I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunities I have had and continue experiencing that lead to massive amounts of internal healing and perception change. ¬†All the therapy, recovery, spiritual practices & philosophies, psychology-revealing literature & seminars, that have unveiled the depth, color, and health of an otherwise seemingly futile & imbalanced existence.

I think about how I wish I could I have told her all that I know now. ¬†I think about how they were all just characters in a movie, but it still makes me sad that they didn’t believe they were still warriors.


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 …

‚ÄúMay we be fearless…from known and unknown…May all the directions be our allies.‚ÄĚ – 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.

‚ÄúIt’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen … Stay the course. ¬†When thwarted try again; harder; smarter. ¬†Persevere relentlessly.‚ÄĚ ¬†– 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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