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

Monday:

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.

Tuesday:

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?

POSTER 4

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!

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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.

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?

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.

A Poem for the Dark Winter Days I Miss

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“Walking in the Breakdown Lane”

by Louise Erdrich

from Jacklight

 

Wind has stripped

the young plum trees

to a thin howl.

They are planted in squares

to keep the loose dirt from wandering.

Everything around me is crying to be gone.

The fields, the crops humming to be cut and done with.

 

Walking in the breakdown lane, margin of gravel,

between the cut swaths and the road to Fargo,

I want to stop, to lie down

in standing wheat or standing water.

 

Behind me thunder mounts as trucks of cattle

roar over, faces pressed to slats for air.

They go on, they go on without me.

They pound, pound and bawl,

until the road closes over them farther on.

 

———————-

I miss the darkness of the Midwest this time of year.  California and are a bad fit in many ways.  This is the worst.  There’s nothing to reflect the darkness of winter around me.  Only palm trees and blue skies.  I can’t really complain, but I’m missing that grit that has become such a part of me.  I feel lost without it.

Seeking: Comfort and Joy

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I don’t know what to write.  I feel a little dizzy from everything that’s happened and everything that’s happening.

I know it’s Christmas, but I feel a little like I’m floating.

There’s a lot of beauty and a lot of pain and a lot of time rushing by quickly, blurry.  I’ve been moving endlessly, and the few moments of peace I want to savor and clasp onto like trinkets.

A week ago I got back from a five day trip from Georgia to Tennessee to North Carolina and back to Georgia.  It was beautiful and sweet and fast and so Southern and foreign to me, Northern girl that I am.  But spending time with Chris’s family was a hoot.  When we went to Andy’s (Chris’s brother) MBA graduation at University of Tennessee, we also took a little sojourn to the classroom where Papa Joe and Mama Joan met.  Where he asked her all those years ago if he could read along with her because he forgot her book, and she said, “Only if you’ll dance at my wedding.”  To which he said, “Not only will I dance, I’ll be the groom.”  They’ve been married for 51 years.  We took a photo of them at the door of the classroom.

Other memories:  Mama Joan, giddy on red wine (picture it with a fabulous Tennessee accent: “Gotta have some wiiiine”) and forgetting the rules to poker again and again.  Papa Joe showing me his world map in the basement stairwell, with little flags for his sons, for me and my family, for Obama out in the Pacific Ocean (“out in left field”…Fox news, y’all), and for all the Ebola outbreaks.  And crazy great live music wherever we went in Knoxville on Saturday night, including a band in Santa hats singing The Band, Bob Dylan, Springsteen (did they know I was coming???  and who were you?  you were incredible).

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Then it was back to California for two long hard days of house cleaning work and then my birthday on Wednesday.  28.  I’ve hardly had a moment to reflect on it.  Another time.  But I know we had green juices and shepherd’s pie and a fruit tart and Birdman and it was wonderful and quiet.

Then Thursday I flew to Milwaukee and slept at my brother’s apartment where he and his roommate keep 90% of their clothes on their bedroom floors, and where, when you move a certain tupperware container on their kitchen counter, approximately 17 small flies swarm up.  Bongs and Cheetos galore.  Three flatscreen TVs with no explanation and two microwaves so they can nuke their food simultaneously. But, hey, it was walking distance to Beans and Barley, so how could I complain?

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And now here I am at home in Neenah, wondering what I should say, or shouldn’t, about what’s going on.  Everything is up in the air.

So here it is: My grandfather (my mom’s father) is in the last days of his life.  He’s dying.

I said it.  There.

We don’t know what’s going to happen any given day.  He’s been up and down, active at times, and at other moments curled up like he could pass at any moment.

It’s been happening for months.  Hospice has been there for a couple weeks.

We’re leaving tomorrow for Michigan to stay with him and my grandma indefinitely.  My mom has been coming and going for weeks.  When he passes, we’ll take my grandma home with us.

I don’t know.  How many details really matter?

He matters.  His life details matter.  But now is not the time.

I can’t say anything well or accurate about it now.  It feels too sensitive and too raw and unsolved.

It’s hard.  I’m afraid of seeing him, but I also want to bring him kindness and peace by being near him.  I want to play him Christmas songs on the piano.

It’s hard.  My dad passed away almost six years ago now.  I’ve been through this.  But it’s different.  My dad passed so quickly from cancer.  He was 53.  It was so different.  My grandpa rises and falls.  He is 86.  Hospice doesn’t really know what to think of it.  He might make it to Christmas or he may not make it through tonight.

Life is blurry.  My mom and I meandered through the mall today, exhausted, picking up last minute gifts and food to bring my grandparents, my mom endlessly rattling off To Dos, her mind scattered and frantic.

I don’t know.  The good moments are precious and sweet when they come, so you try to enjoy them.  South Park and New Girl with my brother.  Buying donut holes at Festival Foods with my mom and eating them in the car.   Beautiful snowy Finn.  Sitting in my family room right now with a fire going and a small Christmas tree glittering.  Going out to celebrate our birthdays tonight as a family of four that used to be five.  Always, those numbers in my head.  Five to four.

Here we go.  This entry was rambling.  It’s what I have.  A blurry mind, searching for joy in the corners.

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Simple Pleasures – Time Away from the Noise

“Dear God, teach me to be careless.”

-Hanif Kureishi, “Intimacy”

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So I just made great, quick decision – I’m traveling without my laptop for the next five days (!!!).  First – let’s acknowledge just how appalling it is that that’s an uncomfortable thing for me to do in our day and age, but it’s where my work gets done.  Where dreaming happens.  Everything.

It just didn’t make sense to bring it.  We’re heading down to Georgia to see Chris’ parents and we’ll be traveling the whole time – up to Knoxville (his original home) for his brother’s graduation, then over to Asheville (ohmygoshican’twait), then down to Georgia again for his mom’s Christmas concert (she’s a church organist).  So why on earth would I need a laptop?  I have work to do – I always do.  But I’ll have no time to do it.

So….that’s some breathing space.  I’m excited.

Clear mind.  Yes.

Granted, I’ll still be instagraming, but a lot of – really most – of the general noise will be cut out.

Which is really how I like it anyway.

Step away.  Smell some (stolen…) evergreen.  Have what my grandma calls a “toad in the hole.”  Ride along in the back seat and look out the window.

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Goals, Clarity: Here’s to not feeling shitty/Here’s to feeling amazing

[caption id="attachment_966" align="aligncenter" width="461"]Selfie with an angel sprouting from my head. Selfie with an angel sprouting from my head.[/caption]

So I’m thinking about goals for 2015.

First:  my god, can it really be 2015 so soon?  Doesn’t that sound like the future?  Didn’t 1998, like, just happen?  I think I heard something on the radio the other day, maybe a science fiction author, saying, “You notice that no one talks about the 22nd century with excitement about the future.”  We’re already there.

That’s another discussion.  Technology is hard on people.  I have a hard time with it.  It gives me headaches.  But it also gives me access to inspiration.  But sometimes I really wish we just lived in the 50s/60s of Bob Dylan or earlier like Salinger where we really we didn’t consume so much (the consumerism was all just beginning!) and there was only one telephone and people had those solid square classic suitcases and typewriters – you know, the fifties! Except for all that female oppression and racism that we’ve evolved out of.

Oh, wait.

Anyway.  Goals.

So I’ve been in a beautiful Desire Map group now for several weeks now (Desire Map – check it out, it’s wonderful, I’ll write about it sometime) and we’re now at the very end where we talk about our goals.  We’re supposed to narrow them down so we only have several big ones to work with during the year….which, for me, is kind of crazy.

Because I am the person who makes PAGES of goals.  I make goals all the time, every day, every week, after beginning of the month, every middle of the month…

I love planning things out.  Seeing it all inked out on paper, neatly in lists, gives me a buzz.

I wish I was kidding.

And, honestly, I’ve created some of the best things in my life using goals, but I’ve also really really warped myself and my confidence by over-planning, by gripping onto goals, and by feeling like a failure on a regular basis.

And that’s just a horrible way to go about life.

It’s inspiration-mania then panic and then burnout and deep disappointment, over and over again on repeat.

So this year, I’m getting much clearer on what I want.  I’ve narrowed it down and refined the essence of what would make this year fucking amazing.

[caption id="attachment_967" align="aligncenter" width="461"]photo (69) One of the best days of 2014 – shooting the wedding reception scene from June.[/caption]

 

And it’s taken a while.  A couple weeks.  Because I stopped and started a lot.  I have a lot of residue stuck to my brain about what I’m supposed to do and supposed to want.

Especially when it comes to my body.  And books I’ve read.  And plays or pieces I’ve written.

And the failing numbers in those areas have really screwed me up and hurt me for days on end.  But I still automatically want to set up a reading program for myself – classic literature, one book a month, go.  Or exercise rules – 4 workouts a week that make me sweat – but what about this week where I feel really run down and can only do light yoga and walk a little before my head starts to throb?  Or guitar – play every day, one hour.  Well, yeah, if I wasn’t editing a movie/auditioning/writing/trying to read/cook healthy meals/survive on 3 day jobs/work out every day too, then I could make that promise.

No.  There’s so much I want to do.  But I can’t do it all.

So then comes the subject of pain.  As in:

What caused me the most pain in these last several years?  What was I most envious of?  What did I resent?  What did I long for?

And with those thoughts, I got very very clear.

So, here are my Goals for 2015, as I see it now:

1) Self-Support – So that means clarity and organization in two areas – money and home.  Because I have felt like a complete mess in both those areas for…a while now.  And nothing has caused more overall pain (read: constantly broke/terrified/unable to do anything) or more general every day gnawing pain (read: I cannot think straight in this damn apartment).

2) Finish June and send it out into the world – Ha!  It will be just that easy.  No – I know that  this is going to be my passion project of 2015.  We made it in 2014 (hell, I finished writing it, pre-production, and production in 2014) and in this next year I have to edit it, find music, raise more money, get sound and picture post work done, market it (as in, find a better title, make a better poster, fix up the website), and send it out.  It’s gonna be HUGE.

3) Go Pro in Acting and Writing – I mean, just look in my last post for the acting business.  I have so much to learn and do, where I do even begin?  And then writing – I’m actually simplifying.  Write a blog a week and write a solid screenplay to send out to competitions this year.  That’s all that’s required.  If further inspiration occurs (and I know it will), then I’ll follow it.  But I’m not setting myself up for disappointment.

And then I have two I guess what I’d call “intentions”:

Adventure – As in, I need to explore LA.  I need to have fun here, go to new cafes, live music, more theatre and film events, galleries.  And I also desperately need time away from here – day trips, big hikes, weekends away.  Maybe even finally try rock climbing or surfing.  This past year I spent a hell of a lot of time with my nose to the grindstone and this year I want to have fun.  Granted, this winter and spring will be computer heavy with the movie, but I will be ready to break out come May – and before that in little pockets.  It’s gotta be a priority or I might go insane.

Music and Expression – As in, I gotta play guitar and sing or I’m going to regret it forever.  Every year that goes by that I don’t work on this is increasingly more painful.  I desperately want to make music and understand it and I have an amazing bluegrass/rock musician boyfriend, so get on it already.  That said, I’m not making a schedule, I’m just checking in every week and seeing if I feel good about it or not.

Whew.  Okay there.  Goals, boys and girls.

With that, I’m pretty tired.

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What is this thing anyway?

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Well, hello.  I haven’t written here since this summer.  But I’ve been thinking about this…place, this blog.  I’ve been dreaming up posts and essays to share.  But I haven’t done it.  Haven’t taken the time, haven’t wanted to be “public” after directing a film (which felt so, so public – read about it at my filmmaking blog over here).

But I think I’m really ready now.  I mean, goodness, it doesn’t make sense to have a blog and only write once every three to four months.  That’s just silly.  And, oddly, a light form of taxing.  Because it’s there on your mind as a thing to do – that you’re failing at, every day, for months on end.

So, the question is now: am I in or out?

Well, I’m deciding right now – for as long as I want to – I’m in.  I’m going to aim to get a blog up once a week.  Every Thursday.  I’m going to just let it evolve as it wants to, but – yeah.  Stay tuned.

Why?

I’m asking myself another question.  Welllllll, because I personally would want to read the blog of someone trying to do what I’m trying to do.  I’m hoping it will be entertaining/informative to share what it’s really like trying to become a filmmaker/creative person/sane young woman these days.  I mean, good Lord, I’m personally desperate to find a decent blog by a decent young (especially female) writer/director/actor.  (Actually – do you know any?  Please pass them along if you do.  I’ve never really been able to find one that I admire.)

And also, just generally, because I want to be writing and sharing.  I want to be active in the film/art community.   I read blogs daily.  For encouragement and inspiration and advice.   Can I be part of that?? (she asks meekly, sheepishly)

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So here’s what I want out of this thing:

– First, I know I do not want a boring blog.  Right now it looks boring.  Sorry.  It will improve.  But I don’t want one of those dull writer blogs with, like, a typewriter image at the top and no beauty.  Or like a slate and stars and the Hollywood sign.  I don’t feel like that.  I don’t feel like fucking Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive.  I’m from Wisconsin and I listen to classic rock and bluegrass and I want to bake my own bread.  I know that will seep in.  I want to learn how to make a blog that feels, even a little like my Tumblr.  I want a little bit of elegance.  (just a little, please)

– That said, I don’t want to create a blog that’s all about creating a sense of wonder around beautiful, stylish, magical me.  I’ve seen a lot of blogs that only showcase a gorgeous, curated lifestyle.  I admire the beauty of those sites, but I don’t relate to them.  And I can’t live with being unrelatable and lofty.  I also can’t live up to it.  I’m too goofy and I have a lot of disdain for people who don’t have a sense of humor about themselves.

– I want to share the details of what this pursuit is really like, in real time.  Because that’s what I want to learn about other people (and in sharing, mayyyyyybe I’ll meet others?  but really I just want to express this for myself).  So that means writing about…what’s it like making an acting reel (which I’m working on presently), editing a feature film, balancing paid day job work and the real creative work that actually matters, learning to care for my looks/body like a real movie star actress (because if you wanna be one, you gotta convince ’em you are one first), what auditions are actually like,  what I’m reading and watching and admiring and how that’s affecting the creative process of writing and directing, etc, etc, etc.

So here we go.  I’ll have more to say soon.  I’m giving this thing a shot.