An Update from the Movie Trenches

character card jerry med

Oh my, where do I begin?

Our days are a million things lately.  My thoughts are swarms of flies.  These last weeks have quite possibly been the hardest parts of the movie so far, I can’t lie.

I mean, of course pre-production and all the anxiety is tough and then filming and keeping your head and vision and dealing with nonstop obstacles is tough – but everything coming together at the exact same time with a very, very set deadline has been surprisingly brutal.  But it’s good!  We’re finishing the movie.

But man, is it a beast.

Just two days lately:  Monday (Labor Day) and Tuesday


6:30am – Wake up in a general flurry of thoughts – where will we get an HD projector and a screen?  How much is a keg of beer for the premiere/where we do get it?  We need to buy Compressor so we can crunch this movie down for Vimeo immediately for our folks who can’t make the premiere/film fest submissions (never in a million years did I think we’d be talking so much about file sizes…but of course we are…).  I need more RAM for my computer because it is dying!!!  I post questions on Facebook – how can we show this movie in Door County, and how in LA can we watch our movie on a nice big screen before our premiere?

10:30am – We run to the grocery store and grab crackers and hummus and Oreos because we’re recording the score today!  I’m all packed to spend a day in the studio with my laptop, two external hard drives, and a mouse because my trackpad is barely functional.

11:30am – I get a text from my mom that my childhood home has been sold.  I cry for a while really hard.  Then I tell myself I do not have time for this.  Fifteen minutes later we record a video on my phone while driving, letting everyone know that we’re recording the score today.  Hooray!

12-9pm?? – Chris records the score with our amazing engineer Scotty.  Chris and I have been working on this for weeks – him writing and me making adjustments so that it fits right with the mood of the scenes.  He plays guitar, mandolin, piano, Scotty adds a little light rhythm.  It sounds beautiful.  I’ve never done any of this kind of recording before, and now I see just how hard it is, how specific it is.  It’s a long day and by the end of it, my ears are tired but happy.

chris in the studio

All throughout the session I’ve been editing the blooper reel.  I’ve also been texting with a possible new tutoring student who’s contacted me via Craigslist.  She’s in a panic in her freshman year of college and keeps texting me photos of her book and asking if I need to read it in order to help her???!???  Sigh.  We agree to meet the next morning.

10:30pm – We get back home and make some Spongebob Squarepants mac and cheese that was on sale for 88 cents a box and I pass out almost immediately.


6am – Awake with a buzzing brain again.  Send photos to the newspaper asap!!!  You forgot to invite some people to the premiere!!  How on EARTH can I be more creative running this Indiegogo??  We definitely need to eat some vegetables for dinner at some point!!!   Finish the blooper reel a week ago already!!!!!

I make a character card for my dog and do some Facebook and twitter posts.  Emails.  Texting with Mom about where we’re going to spend Christmas.

I grab a can of tuna and some grapes and almonds and head out for work.

9am – Tutoring at Starbucks.  We talk about what makes a good thesis in a paper, comparing and contrasting, finding themes in pieces of writing.  She looks at me like I’m completely insane and she keeps calling her professor crazy.  Her other friends only have to learn about MLA format citations.  I avoid telling her that they’re not in a good English class then.  I spend a lot of time explaining to her that this is college.  By the end, I think she’ll be okay, though she still looks doubtful.

11am – 3pm – House cleaning.  My steady job five minutes away from where we live.  I listen to two amazing interviews with some directors I really admire on Marc Maron’s WTF – Lynn Shelton and Lake Bell.  (Seriously, check these out, they’re amazing)  I pet the cat.  It meows sweetly, urges me to pet it, then hisses and claws me, drawing blood.  I hate this animal/love this animal.

3-5pm – I come home completely exhausted.  It’s over 100 degrees out today in LA and our air conditioning is broken in the car and we’re told it costs almost $1,000 to fix it, so….we’re not.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have a spare $1,000.  I turn on the A/C in our window and search for the dumbest things possible to look at on the internet right now.  I mean, I literally googled “People.”  Ugh.  That’s me tired.  I also look at all five of my credit cards, pay some, organize due dates.  I’m trying not to buckle under this, but there’s no end in sight to how expensive this movie is.

5-10pm – It’s a blur of work on the movie again.  I finish the blooper reel and I’m delighted by it.  These people are hilarious and I love them all.  It’s set to Pure Prairie League’s “Amy” which reminds me of Door County and of my mom’s college records that I used to play in my room as a teenager.  I go through endless footage of me driving around on Logerquist and EE Roads in Door County, looking for just the right shot to make our poster.  I make a big list.  I’ll deal with that tomorrow.  Chris gets back sometime in the middle of all this.  9 maybe?


10pm – There are a million things I didn’t get done today, but we still haven’t had dinner.  Just to get out of the apartment, I go with Chris to Papa Johns.  We get a deal on the pizza and we watch a little bit more of the movie The Drop.  It’s a good movie and takes our minds off things.  Excellent one to reference for bar scenes.  I want our next movie in Door County to be a darker small town thriller, so I’m collecting references these days.  It’s good to think about the future.

The end!

Something I Wrote Maybe 5 Years Ago

I’m tossing notebooks today.  I need to.  I have two huge stacks of spirals that have been accumulating for years.  I skim through each one and tear out what seems worthwhile.  Most of it’s morning pages, complaints, comments on how strong or weak the coffee is, the same hopes and frustrations that I have now.  On repeat.


I found this “poem,” if that’s what it is.  I don’t think I put much into it.  But it does remind me of my state…sometime in 2010.


The coffee was burnt

in a ring around

the bottom of the pot

this morning, left

on all night.


I didn’t sleep anyway.


There is wet rosemary to pick

this morning

for the evening’s chicken.


In the early light

incense curls toward me,

outstretching its hand

in gesture,

and I feel the

ache return.


A hawk stretches

his body

against the flat blue sky.

He understands

his action

in this place.

Fumbling, But Hopeful

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

-Sylvia Plath


Currently: sauerkraut and wheat bread loaves.

I’m beginning to see how I only write in this blog when I am longing in some way or another.  Ugh.

Days slip by.  Hoping, always hoping.  And avoiding.  And clenching – grinding my teeth, I feel the edges rounding down.  Bad, bad, bad.

I want everything.  It’s deeply troublesome most of the time.  But when I’m high on coffee it’s the best thing ever.  I can do it alllll!!!

Anyway.  I’m pushing myself in some ways lately, and in others I’ve been running in the complete opposite direction.

I’m pushing myself to branch out into LA.  It feels good.  Going to auditions, meeting up with friends – some of them so dear and lovely that I can’t believe I’ve waited so long – , seeking out new places and film events.  It’s gratifying to stretch.  It’s hard, but it gives me a high now and then.

The next thing to do is start looking like a professional (dammit).  Fix up the new headshots and have them at the ready.  Get business cards (wha?!).  Considering getting a trendy Squarespace site for SilverLeafFilms  (or would it make sense to just buy a nicer theme??  I’m a fool when it comes to the Internet…see I capitalized it).

I’m filling my head with good things – reading Great Expectations and watching movies with James Cagney and Greta Garbo.  I’m singing along to Whiskeytown and Slaid Cleaves (and wishing I connected to my own generation better).

And yet – I’ve been avoiding the biggest, most important things.  Editing and preparing for another Indiegogo.  It’s just….it’s fucking torturous.  There, I said it.  Or maybe it’s just getting into it that’s hard.  I’ve talked about it before, seeing all my mistakes on this movie is just godawful.  And that Indiegogo last year….it just about did me in.  I need to trust that we’ll be okay when we launch it  next month.  There are enough people who got excited about this movie last year – they’ll help, I hope?  We’ll find an even bigger audience now that we’ve actually made the thing.

So, this holiday weekend, I’m facing it.  It’s time to edit, time to get going on the film website, the newsletter, all of it.

And yet, if I could meander, just a little while, play some guitar, spend a morning painting, go to a lovely cafe with Charles Dickens….I think I’ll make it through.

God, what a rambling post.  But there you have it.  That’s how things are these days.  Fumbling, but hopeful.

May 2

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Life lately:

My sister’s engaged!  Happy for her, but not interested in that personally anymore.  A funny feeling.

Working on a new short film script…too new to talk about.  It involves dance.  That’s all I’ll say.

Looking at guitars and ukeleles at Guitar Center.

Listening to this Whiskeytown song over and over and pondering songwriting.

Learning how to twit better on le twitter.

Baking my first wheat bread from this recipe.

Crying from laughter over The Flop House.

Circling around returning to editing, knowing it’s a hole I must climb back down into.

Looking at my messy apartment and sighing.  Must I be an adult?


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As always, I’ve let too much time pass and what was once interesting is not so anymore.

Three weeks ago (? I think?) we went to the Wisconsin Film Festival.  It was great, it really was.  I would love to go back to that festival with June.  It was a whirlwind, we were just in Madison for a weekend and we loved the films we saw (Uncle John, Bloomin Mud Shuffle, and the Found Footage Festival were all wonderful).  Then we saw our film screened during the shorts presentation and…ouch.

I mean, Christ, I’m glad I can laugh it off a little now, but there’s nothing like seeing other more professional films screened alongside your $300 (max) budgeted film to get a little humility knocked into you.  I mean, the sound, the color issues – everything we thought would be “indie but okay” was definitely NOT okay to me.  Do I admit the truth here?  Ugh, sure.  It felt really shitty.  All our sound issues (we had a bad mic – we were actually testing it for June) and color problems (we did little with color correction and we need pro help) were fuckin magnified.  To be fair, the other films had budgets (as we learned during the Q&A) of generally $1,000 to $10,000.  And we had about $200 to $300.

Still.  Ay yi yi.  It was a good lesson – never show anything you’re less than proud of.  So – if we get in anywhere else, and we will, those problems will be minimized by some (cheap) pro help.  It’s frustrating because we just did not have the money to fix it.  It cost enough just to fly there.  So sad to admit, but true.  I’ve maxed out credit cards making June.  But, hey, I should be getting a little tax return so hopefully that can smooth out our issues some.

I do think Cam was well-received though, despite its issues.  And I think people were impressed with what we did on so little (which is the point, Rebecca!)  It’s funny how you work on something for so long and you lose perspective.  I think I lost perspective on just how weird it is.  It’s really unsettling and it’s hard to know if it’s funny or just uncomfortable.  I guess that’s what I liked about it when I wrote it.  That said, I’d be happy to never see it again.  But I tend to be that way about everything I make.

Ugh, I’ll write about it another time.

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I guess I can’t seem to mask my slight depression I’m going through at the moment.  I mean, I always have it, it’s always around.  Moods.  I’ve always had heavy moods.  But I guess I’m just grieving right now.

A week ago I left my family home forever.  That sounds so dramatic, but it’s the truth.  And it feels dramatic.  My family was in that home for 24 years, since I was four years old.  Everything happened there.  My dad died there.  We grew up.  We came home.  It was a touchstone, it was security.

I think I might be in a little bit of shock.  I walked through the house in my last days there after I packed up my bedroom and I watched the ghosts run past me, vignettes played out in lights and shadows.  My dad popping around every corner (“Hey, Beccaroo”), my brother and sister and me running around as little kids, chasing the dogs, the shadow of a cat around the legs of a chair, my mom in the garden with cuts up her arms from the roses, a warm and dark dining room with candles lit for Christmas dinner and all of us at that same table year after year.  All gone to the present anyway.  Swept up in time.  Good bye.  It’s all been gone for a long time anyway.

Still.  It’s heartache.

And being out here, in this apartment by the train, well, it hurts a little more than it used to.  There’s so safe room to return to anymore.  It feels like depending even more on my dreams, which honestly feel like a lot of bullshit that I made up sometimes, more than any real kind of possibility.

And yet.  Here I am.  There’s some kind of faith (and knowing) that propels me forward.  And boxing up my room did not kill me.  It felt like it could even be a fresh start.  Like I could let go of the bad years – and there were some bad years – in that bedroom.  Dark teenage angst I’d just as soon never see again.

And I believe I am supposed to be here.  Even if California is a sacrifice and could never be a real home.   Even if I dream of prairies and mountains.  Wisconsin.  Colorado.  Here I am.  Anyway.  Making movies.  Failing and continuing.

I feel dark and light.  I guess I’ll keep going.

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Glad That’s Over

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Well.  The rough cut is done.  It’s a mess.  It’s rough.  But I got through.  I spent this last month killing myself on this damn movie.  Was it worth it?  I don’t know.  I got sick regularly from staring at the screen for so long and often found myself lying on the floor of my apartment, hopeless with a piercing headache and a stomach in knots.  I routinely went from euphoria to complete and utter hatred for this film.  (Confession: I still do)

The movie right now is at two hours and six minutes.  Yikes.  I need it at about an hour and 45, tops really.  Less though, please let it be less.  We’ve loaded sound for about one third.  There are two fantastic music sequences right now, well, really three if you count the wedding.  The color is all over the fucking place and needs major work.  But – we made a rough cut.  And now I’m taking a couple weeks off (heading to the WI Film Fest in Madison on Wednesday).

And that goal of submitting to IFP?  Sad news is we didn’t do it.  Happy news is – that deadline got us to the end of a rough cut.  I never would have pushed us so far had I not been aiming at that submission.  In the end, as in yesterday, the due date, we had a million problems (we’d been working on it for days) trying to get the film down to around 1 GB to put onto Vimeo.  We just don’t know what we’re doing with something so big.  We got it down to a little over 5, but then we started losing major quality and it looked awful.  It’s a learning curve.

And truth be told, all day yesterday (and throughout this month), I’ve had a sneaking feeling that we need to stay in LA.  I understand that IFP would have been life changing, but we would need serious help getting to NYC for three separate trips – and when we run our next Indiegogo we’re gonna need all that money just to help us with Post.

And, honestly, I don’t want to keep leaving LA.  Already I’m going to leave for a couple weeks this summer so I can say goodbye to my family’s cottage (where we filmed June).  But I want to be here.  (I mean, I don’t really – all afternoon yesterday Chris and I were fantasizing about moving to Colorado, but anyhoo.)  I want to immerse myself in the acting business and the filmmakers all around us.  God damn, I want to do a play so badly.  And I want to find mentors HERE.  (I don’t have a community here yet and it’s so so painful, I can hardly take it.  That’s what you get when you leave all the time.  I made tons of awesome friends in Door County while filming, but…guess what?  I live here, so I don’t see any of them anymore, and LA is as lonesome as ever.  No more of that.)

Whew.  Anyway.  Cut to the chase – the rough cut is done and now I’m moving forward with my life.  Which means – acting and writing are back in focus.  I have a new script I’m working on.  I’m on a mission to read a play a week and a script a week.  I’m studying the business of acting.  I’ve created deadlines for myself to get new headshots and to audit some classes (hoping to save up for a class this fall) and to start getting involved in Film Independent and getting to more film festivals and events, etc.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep editing for about 2-3 hours a day.  I’m much better with this kind of work mixed into a full day of other activities.  I’m not a “lock yourself up until you finish” kind of person.  I used to think that writer’s retreats sounded amazing – but no way.  I could never ever do that, just hang out in a cabin and write.  I would write for two hours TOPS and the rest of the day I’d go hiking and read and watch movies on my laptop.  I’m a moderation all the way kind of person.

The truth is, this last month was more than draining because of the work involved – it drained my soul.  I sound like a high maintenance artist, but I need beauty.  I need it or I die.  I need time to read poetry, to paint, to meander with literature, to play guitar, to write, to cook elaborate meals, everything.  I am not an editor.  I know what I want in this movie, but this nitpicking technical work is not me.

And now that I can relegate it to a few hours a day, I can’t tell you how free I feel.  Space.  Yes.

And I promise to write here more now that my life has been returned to me.  Later.

The private battle – in a room with a laptop

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” – Goethe

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A quiet and (now) not so private decision has been made: I will get a rough cut of this movie done by April and submit it to the IFP Mentorship Labs.  I have no business trying to do this, let alone announcing it. I might cry and breakdown and fall apart (I know I will) in the process of pushing this thing through, but I must must must.  We’re too indie, I know it.  We look homemade.  I’m not a real editor.  Not even that great a screenwriter.  Howling in my ear, these thoughts.  Well, I’m pressing on anyway.  Even if I’m not good enough, I’m gonna try to play with the big dogs.  Terrifying? Stupid?  Yes, both.  Do it anyway.  Until it’s true.

The Pile Grows…

Lots going on.  I’m suddenly really feeling all that time I took off this month… I mean, I needed it, and yet I’m suddenly in full swing here.  It feels startling and good at the same time.  I’m glad to do the work.  It’s the antidote to depression every time.  The only thing is, you have to get yourself up to take the first step.  And the avoidance and fear of that first step is generally always my primary source of depression.  Catch-22, man.

So what’s new?  We shot the student film on Friday night.  Here we are:

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Aren’t we cute?  I don’t think I’m too believable as someone working in a police station, unless if I was some kind of intern (?), but, meh. It was a good experience to just pop in for about three hours, do some lines, and go through all the nervousness being on someone else’s set.  It was a safe place for me to be out of shape as an actress.  And for me to have such bad hair.  God damn, I need a haircut and highlights.

Otherwise?  Oh, where do I begin?  Editing, posting stills, listening to podcasts at my cleaning job, tutoring a verrrry ADD boy, finally finishing up my reel, getting footage out to actors for their reels, submitting to auditions, getting better at managing money, and more editing.

Here’s what it looks like when I do some of these things at once, all from the office of My Bed:

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All good stuff, but it’s a lot.  A lot of considerations to be made lately based on income and time.  For example – I need more money coming in.  I put up a tutoring ad and that generally gets a response.  I want jobs that are essentially on my time or that are one time gigs that I can move around (as in, I’ve done art modeling before – I’d love to do that again and get quick cash for sitting around but not necessarily be scheduled into that every week).  I also don’t want to be working too much because editing this movie is more than a part-time job – and I have so far to go.  I’m hoping to be very far along come April so I can take a breath and start really working on my latest screenplay and so that I can full-on pursue acting.  And, you know, make more money.

Aaaannd, when it comes to money – where does the very little spare money go?  I found three film festivals I want to submit to, so that’s a good chunk in submission fees.  At some point I gotta join IMDB Pro, but now doesn’t feel like the time as I slug away at the edits.  And I’m gonna need new headshots…that’s gotta wait too.  And putting my reel up on Actors Access is gonna cost some cash, but I can’t wait on that anymore as it says my old name, not my stage name

Ay-yi-yi.  It’s a beast.  So many tangled threads.  You need to find your moments of clarity and enjoyment.  And one I cannot wait for – I have been on a cleanse since January 9 (my idea of a cleanse is no sugar, dairy, wheat, alcohol, caffeine) and I am going to have a gorgeous beer on Friday after my 21 days are up.  Holy good God almighty.  I’m just dreaming about that beer.  And a cup of coffee.  Just one.  But a cup will do.  Oh, yes.

Good News and Blahs

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The days have been a bit quiet.  I haven’t wanted to do a lot since I got back to LA several weeks ago – oh my god, almost a month.  I’ve been tired and uninterested.  It’s been a very very slow wake up process after the holidays and after my grandpa passed.

I’ve been disoriented.

And while I am feeling better (I’ve been on a cleanse – no sugar, wheat, dairy, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine – mayyyybe that’s part of feeling down and now feeling better…), it’s still a roller coaster.  Facing facts about my life in the new year has hit me pretty hard – facts about money, about being 28 and living essentially at poverty level (though I need to not tell myself that), about only just now starting to try acting in LA, and so forth.

But in the midst of two great pieces of news and some venting to my mom and Chris (thank god for them), I feel myself starting to perk up.

Good news 1 – our short film Cam Companion was accepted into the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.   A wonderful shot in the arm for us in the midst of the winter blahs.  We’ll be there in April, can’t wait to get back out to the Midwest.

Good news 2 – I’m in a student film tonight.  Honestly, I’m hardly doing anything, playing a receptionist for a couple seconds, but it feels good to get the call sheet, to plan outfits, to do the work of an actress.  But it’s also a little shaky feeling – I spent the summer playing the lead in my own movie.  So that means I only had to please myself – and I wrote it, so I understood all the layers in the character.   I’m realizing that I’ve gotten a little spoiled by that experience…and a wee bit lazy.  So I’m grateful to ease back in with low pressure.  Should be fun.

And it’s editing time.  Whether I like it or not.  June cannot wait any longer.  Currently in the process of carving out focused work time on the movie…it’s so much harder than I’ve led myself to believe.

Well, here we go.  An awkward, fumbling start to 2015, but I feel better every day.