riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Why Am I Not Writing?

I heard today on the radio an interview with someone who wrote a successful (NYT bestseller) memoir. After hearing a few excerpts read out loud, I exclaimed to myself and my dog, both of us in the kitchen, “I’m a better writer.”

It wasn’t jealousy or bitterness that motivated me. It was absolute clarity and self-awareness: I know what I’m capable of. I know that I’m good. I know, if I put my mind to it, I could write my way into the hearts and minds of millions of people.

And yet, I am not doing what needs to be done.

I can no longer blame grief. On the contrary, grief seems to be a muse of sorts. I wrote feverishly after Kaz died five years ago, and again after my father died this past February. But in the last few uninspired, exhaustive months, I’ve just been “living life.”

Oh, I’m writing… press releases, bios, web copy, articles, interviews. But that’s not me. That isn’t my voice. That’s the voice of the publication, or the person I’m interviewing, or just a blank impersonal corporate voice that we read online every day and sounds like no one in particular.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around why I haven’t been writing for me lately.

I could blame “writer’s block” but that’s not entirely true (and anyway there is no such thing). The truth is this writer’s brain is always writing – dialogue, scenarios, fantasies, entire plot lines – using real people as characters, actual events as inspiration. Maybe the difference between sanity and insanity is knowing when to take your inner dialogues seriously, and when not to.

Then again, my inner dialogues have become louder lately, which can happen when I don’t write for a long time. I start to feel less grounded… as if writing is the lighthouse and my center is the shore.

I could blame my PT job, which has been FT demanding lately.

I could blame my freelance career, which has also been demanding lately (not complaining)… and (even more dangerous) gives me the false illusion that I am actually writing.

I could blame the weather, which has been beautiful for most of the summer and therefore the antithesis to staying inside and writing. I have actually thought, “I write better in the winter.”

I could blame my dog, the ultimate joy… and distraction.

I could blame my new workout regimen, or my new obsession with re-watching HBO series like Deadwood, The Wire, Rome, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Boardwalk Empire (drama is my thing, clearly).

All true. All bullshit.

Something else is holding me back.

Rather than self-analyze or berate, I’m writing this post to remind myself how much I love to write, how I need to write like I need air to breathe, that writing is the power that lights up my soul, and when I’m not writing that light is literally diminished.

When I don’t write, I am no one. Rather, I am just like everyone else. Time passes without meaning, without contribution, without voice, even though I am living and talking and communicating on a daily basis.

When I don’t write, something – thoughts, emotions, ideas –  accumulates in my brain, like so many marbles, bouncing around frenetically.

Writing calms me down, makes me feel purposeful, fills me up like nothing else.

A man recently said to me, “You can never know who you are if you don’t know where you’re from.” When I hear that I think not of a place, or a people, or a religion… I think of my passion.

Writing is what I enjoy most in the world.

Writing is torture, the only kind worth enduring.

Writing is power… not over others, but of expression.

Writing is freedom.

Writing is ultimate vulnerability, also the most powerful shield.

Writing is courage, love, heart, soul, music, rhythm, sex, nourishment, LIFE itself.

The only thing more powerful is Nature… the most prolific writer of all. And Nature never stops.

So, here I am… middle of the night… pleading with my inner soul…

Love yourself enough to write something every day for you.

Be disciplined and/or selfish enough to write no matter what the fuck else is going on.

Don’t ignore or be afraid of your voice, let it say what it wants and be heard.

Know that you have a story inside you that only you can tell.

And, most importantly, never ever ever give up on your dreams.

 

 

 


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Don’t Call it a Shrine (Living with a Loved One’s Things)

“What do I do with their things?” is one of the biggest dilemmas faced by those who have lost loved ones. At first, it might feel sacrilege to give anything away, or change anything about their closet or room. After a while, there’s this growing pressure to do something. But do what? And when? How long is too long to keep things just the way they were? How soon is too soon to change them?

The answer is… there is no answer. It’s up to the individual, and what feels right.

After my late husband Kaz died, I made the unusual move of immediately giving away some his belongings to friends and family. If someone asked for something, I gave it to them without question, and without really thinking about it.

I saw his possessions as little pieces of him, and at the time, I saw giving his things away like spreading him around, seed-like. Later, I wished I had waited and thought about it a little more, but there was no going back. And there was still A LOT of stuff left.

In the years that followed, I gave away more things – some that he had specifically bequeathed, others that I thought he would want certain people to have. For example, he had drawn several designs for a “Mom” tattoo that he never actually got. I framed the drawings and sent them to his mother on her birthday.

I tried to give his favorite clothes (especially his favorite shoes) to people I knew, but I still ended up with several shopping bags, some of which I gave to Goodwill.

Most people were supportive of my decisions, but a couple people expressed dismay. They didn’t deter me. In general, I tuned out the naysayers and drama-makers while I was grieving, and still do to this day.

Of course, I didn’t give everything away. I kept the things that meant the most to me, things that reminded me of Kaz and embodied his energy. I still have clothing, books, artwork, music, films and knick-knacks that belonged to Kaz… some of which I keep in my home office, behind my chair. I call it Kaz’s Corner.

When I Skype with people, this is what they see in the background.

Kaz's corner in morning light

Kaz’s corner in morning light

The opposite side of the office, my desk area, looks like this.

best home office pic

That framed motorcycle print is the one that Kaz had up in his office, and the Yohimbe Brothers album cover to the left was on the bathroom wall in our old apartment.

On the shelf below are more of his things, as well as my mother’s. She was an artist, so I’m lucky to have things that she made, including artwork and pottery. Below is a mug that I use to drink tea, and (in the background) a bowl that I use to hold pens. Her artwork is in every room.

While there are things that belonged to Kaz and my mom all over the house, my office holds the highest concentration. This is where I want their spirits around me the most – the place where I’m the most creative and do my best thinking.

It’s no surprise that the office is my favorite room. It’s where I feel the most like me. It’s  private and warm. In it, I feel protected, loved and safe… which gives me the wherewithall to write and live courageously.

This year I’m taking on a new job and a lot of new responsibilities, while at the same time exploring deeper issues in my writing. I’m grateful to have this safe space, where my muses and guardian angel spirits keep me company.

Please share how you have incorporated your loved one’s things into your daily life. I think it helps people to know how others deal with this.

 

 

 


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Melancholy Beauty

Traveling across the country is bringing up all kinds of emotions. The epic beauty and expanse is almost too much to process. I find myself grateful to arrive at the bland motel at the end of the day and rest my brain from the sensory overload.

Idaho

Idaho

The beautiful vistas make me think of the people I’ve loved and lost, my mother and Kaz, both of whom loved the outdoors and nature. Both of whom would have absolutely loved this trip I’m taking now.

Idaho

Idaho

It also makes me think of others who are alive and suffering from all the atrocities, hate, injustice and violence happening in the world right now. My heart aches for the innocent children, mothers and fathers, old people and animals caught in the middle of the madness, unable to enjoy the basics of life.

Montana

Montana

Nature’s beauty is humbling, evocative, poetic and touching. It makes me think not only of people, but also spiritual mysteries, music, art and history. I’ve often wondered how this land might have looked before people arrived, or the moment when people first saw it. What must they have thought? Did they fall to their knees in appreciation? Or did they shrug, like it was no big deal?

Sulfur sea

Yellowstone

Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone

Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone

I’ve both laughed and cried while stopped on the side of the road in the “big sky” state of Montana, while sitting at a lake in Yellowstone National Park, while driving through the gorgeous cowboy country of Wyoming. I’ve gasped and said “wow” a lot. I’ve also said “thank you” silently and whispered into the wind.

Lake at Yellowstone

Lake at Yellowstone

I miss my mother and Kaz so much. I’m thinking about them constantly. I wish they could share in this experience, not in spirit, but here, right now. I wish I could see them react to what I’m seeing. I wish we could be together.

western Wyoming

[All pics taken by me: Idaho, Montana, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming]


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A Life Worth Living (Daily Prompt)

Yesterday, I ran into a colleague and fellow writer in the hallway at work. “I gotta get outta here,” he said, shaking his head, “THIS year.” “Me too,” I responded and raised my right hand. We high-fived each other and parted in opposite directions back to our assistant desks. 

When I interviewed for this job, my late husband Kaz had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we had just become engaged. We had no idea how long he would live, let alone work. We needed another steady income, support network, all the benefits and stability that come from a regular 9-5 gig.  

The following year, as life became a swirling storm of stress, unknowns, and emotional highs and lows, my boring assistant job became an oasis. A place where things were normal, where my responsibilities were easy and banal, even pleasantly (at the time) mind-numbing, and where the stakes weren’t life or death. I was so grateful, I started baking things and bringing them to work. Even Kaz was surprised by that. I worked full-time throughout his illness until he went on hospice. Then I took several weeks of personal leave. I returned to work three weeks after he passed away. May 2014 will be my four year anniversary, the longest I’ve been at any job.

I had wanted to quit immediately. After seeing his young, vibrant life end so short and so quickly, my soul screamed for a more purposeful existence. The banal, mind-numbing routine that I once appreciated now seemed like a dead-end, and I suddenly realized everyone I worked with was miserable. But I could no more leave my job than I could lift a car. Grief was like a choke-hold, making me physically weak and mentally delirious. Depression lead to a complete lack of motivation. Even after the depression lifted, I still felt utterly confused as to what do do with my life.

I can’t say any of those reasons are why I’m still here now. Now, I’m basically biding my time, building up my arsenal and stockpiling my supplies for the day I eventually leave. Ever since the Vermont residency, I’ve been slowly but consistently making progress towards my career goals. In the past six months alone, I have accomplished the following:

Made an exploratory trip to Georgia and new contacts, completed a new director’s reel (you can see it here), took a television pilot writing class and a seminar on how to write a film business plan, continued writing memoir and received valuable notes from a trusted/respected colleague, wrote a new bio, continued developing feature film screenplay and received notes on that too, joined several professional organizations and started networking again, applied to two fellowship programs, did my taxes (early!), started Tweeting (@nivaladiva), accrued almost 2,000 followers to this blog, and almost 1,000 followers on Instagram (@nivaandruby).

Life has been hectic lately, and it’s about to get more so. I recently blogged about dating, but honestly, that’s not a priority right now. What matters most to me, other than my health, family and friends, is my career. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to work merely to pay the bills (which this job barely does anyway). I want to enjoy and be mentally and creatively challenged by my work. I want to work with people who inspire and push me to be a better artist. I also want to make significantly more money than I do now.

My finger has been on the “quit” button for some time now and pretty soon, I’m gonna pull the trigger. It’s scary as hell to think about what will happen after that. I literally wake up nights thinking: “I know how I plan to make money, but will that plan actually work? Can I make enough money?” The optimist in me says “Yes! Just stick to the plan.” The doubter in me is tied up and gagged until further notice.

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: If You Leave


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Words To Remember: Lights, Camera, Action!

Ironic that today’s Daily Post is about filmmaking. If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!). I actually AM a director, or at least I was. I haven’t directed anything since 2010, which seems like a distant memory.  My last project – a music video – was completed the day before my late husband Kaz discovered he had a brain tumor. Since then, I’ve been writing, but not directing. What’s the difference?

For starters, writing is solitary. Most of us write alone, or rather with the voices in our head to keep us company. Directing is something you must do with others. Like the captain of a ship or a general at war, directing requires not only interacting with real people, but also leading them. It also means “acting” like a director. 

A well-known director once told me, “Directing is at least 75% performance.” Writers usually only have to perform before they write (when they’re pitching), or after they write (when they’re on a press junket for their work), but rarely while they’re actually writing. Directors, on the other hand, are almost always “on,” whether with investors, agents, actors, the crew, producers, studio executives, festival audiences, reporters, and so on. The same director who said directing was performance also once remarked, “How in the world does one do this job without alcohol or drugs?”

Secondly, writing costs nothing. All you need is time, a computer or typewriter, or pen and paper. If you can’t afford a pen and paper, you could write on a free computer at the library and use email to save your work. Or I suppose you could whittle a stick and use blackberry juice as ink like Solomon Northup‘s character in 12 Years a Slave. The point is you can write with absolutely no money.  

You cannot, however, direct a film with no money – even if everything is donated, you’re shooting in your own home and not paying anyone,  money will be spent. There have been cases of people making films with as little as $7,000 (Robert Rodriguez’s first film El Mariachi), but still… that’s $7,000 and a WHOLE LOT of energy to call in all the favors you need to complete the film, favors worth tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars.  As a former professor once said, “The cheapest way to make a movie is to write one.”

Third, the writing process affords flexibility, in the sense that you can change things. Your changes will have ripple effects, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them. Directing, on the other hand, requires commitment to the blueprint (i.e. the script) and laser focus to keep all the moving parts together in your head (especially when shooting out-of-order). You can change things here and there, but you can’t veer too far, especially once you’ve started filming. For example, you can’t change the sex of a character, or the tone of a movie, mid-way through production (unless that’s part of the story). You have to be flexible in other ways, but not in the same ways as the writer.

So, directing requires communication, performance, money, focus, and massive amounts of creative, mental and physical energy, none of which I’ve had much of in the past few years. I’ve gone from being a caregiver to a grieving widow, and now find myself in the process of redefining myself, both personally and professionally. I’m not the same person I was before Kaz. I’m not the same person I was when he was alive, or shortly after he died. I’m a combination of all of the above and something more, something new.

I’ve been re-editing my director’s reel over the last few months, and it’s been a great exercise in reflection, like a mirror to my past. Reviewing the films I wrote, directed and obsessed over for long periods. Remembering those moments and projects about which I felt such passion. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been challenging to feel that kind of white-hot passion again. Though I do feel myself slowly being drawn to it, like to a distant fire on the horizon of a very long night.

To answer the original question, if I were involved – when I am involved in a movie again – I will definitely be the director. Even though I haven’t done it in years, I know I still have it. I love telling stories with images and sounds. I love working with actors and other professionals, each department providing its own unique, delicious ingredient to the overall piece. I adore the editing process, which feels most like the writing progress, solitary (save for your editor), flexible, and terribly creative. There’s a reason why so many of us say, “I’ll fix it in post.”

When I get nervous about my hiatus I remember that Stanley Kubrick took 7 years between The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), and even longer between the latter and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Terrence Malick took 20 years between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998)his second and third films respectively. They certainly didn’t stop being directors just because they weren’t actively directing.  No doubt when they returned to the director’s chair, their life experiences made them better directors.

I look forward to testing that theory. The chair awaits.

skd283023sdc


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Love Life (Photo)

image

Just found this photo from two years ago when I did the Brain Tumor Walk in Orange County, CA, in honor of Kaz and others. We walked 5K and raised thousands of dollars for brain tumor research. It was an inspiring day with lots of shared stories, embraces and tears. There were also lots of signs. This one was my favorite.


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Daily Prompt: An Unlikely Friendship

A while back I blogged about my mother-in-law. Today’s post is about my father-in-law, Ray. He is my late husband’s father, and like Kaz and my own father, is African American. Unlike Kaz, my father and me, he is also deeply religious. I mention this only to underscore that, despite our different views on many topics, Ray and I have become good friends. We’ve never met in person, but we’ve talked on the phone every 2-3 weeks since Kaz passed away two years ago.

Ray lives in Florida, about 1.5 hours away from Sanford. The other night, while discussing recent events in that city and how we wish people could relate to each other in a more humane way, Ray said: “Did I ever tell you about my friend in the KKK?”

Me: “Uh, no.”

Ray: “It started in the late 70’s. I was living in Tuson, Arizona at the time and had just joined this club for racing radio controlled power boats on the lake there. After a while, I noticed this one White guy wasn’t talking to me. In fact, he just ignored me altogether. I asked some of the other members, ‘What’s with that guy?’ They said, ‘Oh, don’t bother with him, he’s KKK.’

Well, I wasn’t gonna let something like that stop me from talking to him. One day I noticed that his boat wasn’t doing too well. So I went over to him and asked if he’d considered using a different propeller. He just looked at me strange. I told him, ‘If you use the __ propeller, you might get a better result.’ Then I walked away.

The next time I saw him, he said, ‘Hey, I changed my propeller. You were right.’ And we started talking. His name was Pat and his wife had recently left him for the preacher who lived next door.

After a few weeks of friendly banter, I said, ‘Pat, can I ask you something?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ I said, ‘Are you in the KKK?’ He said he was. I said, ‘Can you tell me why you don’t like Black people?’ He said that it says in the Bible that G-d cursed man by making him Black. I asked him to show me where in the Bible it says that.

For the next few weeks, he tried to find the passage, but of course, he couldn’t. Finally he came back to me and said, ‘I couldn’t find it.’ I said, ‘Cause it’s not in there, Pat.’ He said ever since he was a boy he was taught that Blacks were inferior. I said, ‘Do you think I’m inferior?’ ‘No,’ he said. I said, ‘Do you dislike me?’ ‘No, not now,’ he said.

After that, we became better friends. He left the KKK. The night he invited me over his house for dinner, my wife still stayed up all night worrying about me. We didn’t have cell phones back then. I told her I’d be fine, but you know, she couldn’t help it. When I finally came home, she was so relieved. I told her, ‘All we did was play pool.’

A few years later, we decided to leave Tuscon and move to Florida. When I told Pat, he started crying. ‘You’re my best friend,’ he said. We were both crying. It was sad. But you know what? To this day, Pat and I speak on the phone once a month. He’s still my best friend. I would do anything for him, and him for me.”

I thanked Ray for sharing this story, and all night kept thinking about it. The next day I called him again to ask if I could blog about it. “Sure,” he said with a laugh.

Ray, this one’s for you.

[In response to today’s Daily Prompt: A friend in need]


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Danny Boyle’s 15 Golden Rules of Filmmaking

This week I am reblogging this incredibly generous and informative article written by director Danny Boyle for Moviemaker.com. For those unfamiliar, Mr. Boyle is the director of such films as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. People are sharing this article via Twitter and Facebook (how I learned of it). I’m sharing it here so we can talk amongst ourselves. Please note, everything from hereon comes from Danny Boyle, not me. Enjoy!!

1. A DIRECTOR MUST BE A PEOPLE PERSON • Ninety-five percent of your job is handling personnel. People who’ve never done it imagine that it’s some act, like painting a Picasso from a blank canvas, but it’s not like that. Directing is mostly about handling people’s egos, vulnerabilities and moods. It’s all about trying to bring everybody to a boil at the right moment. You’ve got to make sure everyone is in the same film. It sounds stupidly simple, like ‘Of course they’re in the same film!’ But you see films all the time where people are clearly not in the same film together.

2. HIRE TALENTED PEOPLE • Your main job as a director is to hire talented people and get the space right for them to work in. I have a lot of respect for actors when they’re performing, and I expect people to behave. I don’t want to see people reading newspapers behind the camera or whispering or anything like that.

3. LEARN TO TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS • Ideally, you make a film up as you go along. I don’t mean that you’re irresponsible and you’ve literally got no idea, but the ideal is that you’ve covered everything—every angle—so that you’re free to do it any of those ways. Even on low-budget films, you have financial responsibilities. Should you fuck it up, you can still fall back on one of those ways of doing it. You’ve got Plan A to go back to, even though you should always make it with Plan B if you can. That way keeps it fresh for the actors, and for you.

4. FILM HAPPENS IN THE MOMENT • What’s extraordinary about film is that you make it on the day, and then it’s like that forever more. On that day, the actor may have broken up with his wife the night before, so he’s inevitably going to read a scene differently. He’s going to be a different person. I come from theater, which is live and changes every night. I thought film was going to be the opposite of that, but it’s not. It changes every time you watch it: Different audiences, different places, different moods that you’re in. The thing is logically fixed, but it still changes all the time. You have to get your head around that.

5. IF YOUR LAST FILM WAS A SMASH HIT, DON’T PANIC • I had an obsession with the story of 127 Hours, which pre-dated Slumdog Millionaire. But I know—because I’m not an idiot—that the only reason [the studio] allowed us to make it was because Slumdog made buckets of money for them and they felt an obligation of sorts. Not an obligation to let me do whatever I want, but you kind of get a free go on the merry-go-round.

6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL STORIES ABOUT OTHER CULTURES • You can’t just hijack a culture for your story, but you can benefit from it. If you go into it with the right attitude, you can learn a lot about yourself, as well as about the potential of film in other cultures, which is something we tried to do with Slumdog Millionaire… Most films are still made in America, about Americans, and that’s fine. But things are changing and I think Slumdog was evidence of that. There will be more evidence as we go on.

7. USE YOUR POWER FOR GOOD • You have so much power as director that if you’re any good at all, you should be able to use that to the benefit of everyone. You have so much power to shape the movie the way you want it that, if you’re on form and you’ve done your prep right and you’re ready, you should be able to make a decent job of it with the other people.

8. DON’T HAVE AN EGO • Your working process—the way you treat people, your belief in people—will ultimately be reflected in the product itself. The means of production are just as important as what you produce. Not everyone believes that, but I do. I won’t stand for anyone being treated badly by anyone. I don’t like anyone shouting or abusing people or anything like that. You see people sometimes who are waiting for you to be like that, because they’ve had an experience like that in the past, but I’m not a believer in that. The texture of a film is affected very much by the honor with which you make it.

9. MAKE THE TEST SCREENING PROCESS WORK FOR YOU • Test screenings are tough. It makes you nervous, exposing the film, but they’re very important and I’ve learned a great deal from using them. Not so much from the whole process of cards and the discussions afterwards, but the live experience of sitting in an auditorium with an audience that doesn’t know much about the story you’re going to tell them—I find that so valuable. I’ve learned not so much to like it, but to value how important it is. I think you have to, really.

10. COME TO THE SET WITH A LOOK BOOK • I always have a bible of photographs, images by which I illustrate a film. I don’t mean strict storyboards, I just mean for inspiration for scenes, for images, for ideas, for characters, for costumes, even for props. These images can come from anywhere. They can come from obvious places like great photographers, or they can come from magazine advertisements—anywhere, really. I compile them into a book and I always have it with me and I show it to the actors, the crew, everybody!

11. EVEN PERFECT FORMULAS DON’T ALWAYS WORK • As a director your job is to find the pulse of the film through the actors, which is partly linked to their talent and partly to their charisma. Charisma is a bit indefinable, thank God, or else it would be prescribed in the way that you chemically make a new painkiller. In the movies—and this leads to a lot of tragedy and heartache—you can sometimes have the most perfect formula and it still doesn’t work. That’s a reality that we are all victims of sometimes and benefit from at other times. But if you follow your own instincts and make a leap of faith, then you can at least be proud of the way you did it.

12. TAKE INSPIRATION WHERE YOU FIND IT • When we were promoting Slumdog Millionaire, we were kind of side-by-side with Darren Aronofsky, who was also with Fox Searchlight and was promoting The Wrestler. I watched it and it was really interesting; Darren just decided that he was going to follow this actor around, and it was wonderful. I thought, ‘I want to make a film like that. I want to see if I can make a film like that.’ It’s a film about one actor. It’s about the monolithic nature of film sometimes, you know? It’s about a dominant performance.

13. PUSH THE PRAM • I think you should always try to push things as far as you can, really. I call it “pushing the pram.” You know, like a stroller that you push a baby around in? I think you should always push the pram to the edge of the cliff—that’s what people go to the cinema for. This could apply to a romantic comedy; you push anything as far as it will stretch. I think that’s one of your duties as a director… You’ll only ever regret not doing that, not having pushed it. If you do your job well, you’ll be amazed at how far the audience will go with you. They’ll go a long, long way—they’ve already come a long way just to see your movie!

14. ALWAYS GIVE 100 PERCENT • You should be working at your absolute maximum, all the time. Whether you’re credited with stuff in the end doesn’t really matter. Focus on pushing yourself as much as you can. I tend not to write, but I love bouncing off of writing; I love having the writers write and then me bouncing off of it. I bounce off writers the same way I bounce off actors.

15. FIND YOUR OWN “ESQUE” • A lesson I learned from A Life Less Ordinary was about changing a tone—I’m not sure you can do that. We changed the tone to a kind of Capra-esque tone, and whenever you do anything more “esque,” you’re in trouble. That would be one of my rules: No “esques.” Don’t try to Coen-esque anything or Capra-esque anything or Tarkovsky-esque anything, because you’ll just get yourself in a lot of trouble. You have to find your own “esque” and then stick to it.

Full article (with pictures) here:
http://www.moviemaker.com/articles-directing/danny-boyle-15-golden-rules-filmmaking/

Happy creating!


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The Ghost of LA Woman

Yesterday's sunset, corner of Olympic and Arlington Ave

Yesterday’s sunset, corner of Olympic and Wilton Ave

What’s lurking in the drafts section of your dashboard?

I couldn’t resist today’s Daily Post because I only had one draft post, which was just a title: LA Woman. The idea came to me a couple of months ago while driving around, or rather stuck in traffic going nowhere fast, in Los Angeles. I heard the song LA Woman by The Doors in my head and knew I had to write a post about this place.

I first arrived in LA in August 1995, a somewhat innocent 24-year-old, eager to start her first year at graduate film school. I drove here from Philadelphia in a two-door Acura hatchback, my first car, which I had purchased one week before I left, ten days after getting my license.

First impressions of LA: it was beautiful, hot, HUGE, a labyrinth of highways and streets I was sure I would never be able to figure out. On days off I would hop in my car, which had a sunroof, and drive around listening to music, not minding if I got lost (this was before Navigation and GPS so I got lost A LOT), from Hollywood to the Valley to Beverly Hills to Route 1 by the beach. Everything seemed to sparkle and shine. I felt both as if I knew this city, which I had seen umpteen times in movies, and as if I didn’t know it at all and would never truly penetrate its mystery.

Since I didn’t know anyone, I would often go out by myself to explore the bars and clubs. It didn’t take long to figure out the best places to spot celebrities were at the fancy hotels like The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Four Seasons, The Peninsula. At the former, in the same night, I once saw Dustin Hoffman eating dinner and Barbara Streisand walked by me at the bar. I couldn’t believe it!

Over the years, I would meet many actors, musicians, directors, producers and other film folks at school lectures, various jobs and industry events. The novelty factor gradually wore off, as did the fascination with the nightlife, Beverly Hills, fancy hotels, and so on. The intense loneliness I used to feel in the first few years was replaced by a fluid sense of community, film school friends, colleagues and the few regular non-industry people I know.

When I met Kaz, who was from a D.C., the city came alive in a different way. We used to joke about our mutual love/hate relationship with LA, and love sharing those “I can’t believe I live here” moments. One time he passed Snoop Dogg in the hallway at work, and went to a party where Kobe Bryant showed up in a helicopter. Another time we went to a Passover seder at a famous director’s house with the granddaughter of an American film legend seated beside us. And many more such moments.

Since his passing, I’ve tried to redefine my relationship to the city. How long do I want to live here? Should I go back East and be closer to family? Should I hold out a little longer and see if I can get the career going? LA feels like a combination of high school and metropolis, playground and work center, a series of urban facades and breathtaking natural landscapes. It rarely feels as comfortable to me as the East Coast, but it’s home nonetheless.

These days, my favorite place to hang out is the dog park, usually with natty hair, dressed in my most tattered clothing. For some reason, Ruby loves rubbing her muddy tennis ball on my leg instead of just dropping it at my feet. I’ve even started meeting people there, and the other day I invited a friend to join me even though she’s dog-less. We sat on chairs in the shade and caught up, every now and then pausing to throw the muddy ball to Ruby.

Ah, how things change.

Thanks for encouraging me to finish this post, WordPress!


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The Ties That Bind

Well, that was exciting. In the past 24 hours the blog has had over 1400 views, almost 100 new comments, close to 80 new followers, all from 20 different countries. I am humbled, grateful and slightly overwhelmed to say the least. Besides being a boost of confidence, these numbers feel like a cosmic reminder, of sorts, that Grief and its sister Love strike a universal chord. I am stating the obvious, of course, but for a reason.

All my life I have been drawn to work which encourages a feeling of universality, of oneness. This is why I fell in love with cinema, because of its ability to bring people together. Movies, music, literature, paintings, the arts in general, all have this ability to make us feel and experience something deeper than our differences. In the past few years, I’ve struggled to regain that inspiration and motivation, but the past 24 hours helped.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, especially those who left comments. While I’m sorry that we have to deal with loss, it is a part of life as they say. We may come to experience it in different ways and from different perspectives, but the underlying theme is that people everywhere, regardless of race, religion, nationality, politics, sexual orientation, etc., have experienced love and loss on some level. We might not speak the same language or have anything in common, but on these very deep and personal matters we can relate to one another.

My last thought on the Freshly Pressed experience is actually a sentence I once used at the end of a movie trailer: Sometiemes the ties of humanity can bind even the worst of enemies.

Tomorrow it’s back to Industry Friday and thoughts on television writing.