RE: The necessity of taking a day job and Anne Sweeney – Exec to TV Director – Leaning Out or Leaning In?

The new year’s resolutions, including blogging, suffered a bit over the past month as it became necessary to take a day job, officially qualifying myself as a cliché as this holder of an M.F.A. is also now a barista-in-training. Specialty coffee is a serious business, and I am being majorly tutored in it right now! Got my first compliment on a drink on Wednesday. That was exciting. More on that perhaps some other time.

While I have been leaning into coffee (and my sci fi script for the director I mentioned previously), the debate over Anne Sweeney leaving her post as the co-chair of ABC Disney has caused some to speculate as to whether or not she is “leaning out”.  I would like to propose that Ms. Sweeney is “leaning in” to television directing, which I see as a worthy endeavor. Perhaps, as the most highly placed woman executive in Hollywood, she can’t help but be aware of the discrepancy between the number of white men behind and in front of the camera when compared to the number of women of all races and non-white men (it should be noted that women of color are particularly not well represented, Shonda Rhimes notwithstanding). Maybe she has decided that after years of breaking barriers as a woman on the executive front, she now wants to break ground on the “creative” side. Some have posited that television directing isn’t that creative, why not feature directing? To that I say, my directing teachers generally seem to think that directing is directing, and I agree. If you are working with actors (or talent in the case of documentary) and with the DP on camera placement, you are directing. It doesn’t matter if you are doing features, television, documentary, webisodes, commercials or even, dare I say it, industrials (I personally plan to do all of the above). Maybe she will use television directing to crossover to features at a later point, where she may experience greater “artistic control” and the opportunity to see a project through from development through finishing and even marketing.  It is an interesting move on her part, and I choose to see it as inspiring. I have been assuming that my generation and younger are the ones who are going to revolutionize the industry in terms of diversity in front of and behind the camera, but it’s great if Ms. Sweeney and others can pave the way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Well, I am a little late this week with my blog post, and delaying my originally scheduled post since I decided it wasn’t Valentine’s appropriate, so wanted to take a few moments to wish my dear readers a Happy Valentine’s Day! To do that, I am sharing the work of my friend Melbella, a very talented artist, therapist, designer of delicious vegan recipes, occasional DJ, great listener and fun person to dance at a party with! Her work can be found online here, with more on the site coming soon.

It’s also a good time to remind myself and all my readers to treasure yourselves, each other and your local artists, be they the creators of beautiful mosaic hearts, the musicians who play Portuguese music downstairs, or your favorite coffee shop barista who times the pulling of their shots for maximum flavor. Each of us in some way is a creator, and let’s appreciate that in ourselves and one another.

Earlier this week, as I was having difficulties with my creative projects, my partner sent me a following quote from Julia Cameron. While I have never completed The Artist’s Way program, these words were incredibly encouraging to me, so I may have to check it out as a Valentine’s present to myself! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the quote:

“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” –Julia Cameron

Love to you and have faith in your projects this week!

 

 

 

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http://melbela.weebly.com

On having opinions, and finding my voice

Just as my favorite TV show Parks and Recreation retooled somewhat after the first season (apparently some people thought that the main character Leslie Knope was too ditzy, though given how we scrutinize women in the media and what roles we expect them to play, it wouldn’t have surprised me if they found her too smart and that was the issue), I find myself at a point where I am in the process of finding my voice, as a filmmaker, sure, but also as a blogger and on social media.

Finding my voice in real life took some time, but I’ll skip over that for now and focus on my process in finding my voice online. The first intimidating thing about blogging and posting on social media is that I can share my opinion. And, I have a lot of opinions! So (as mentioned last week), assuming anyone and everyone are reading, which opinions do I want to become known for? The second intimidating thing is that whatever I post will be there for the foreseeable eternity, barring advances in technology we can’t yet even imagine that will make the Internet, or this version of it, obsolete. What if I later change my mind? Will I have to issue a retraction of some opinion from ten years earlier? The third intimidating thing is that much in the way that people sometimes avoid others who are sick or mentally ill in real life, people do equivalent to those who post negative things online. Unless they are being hipster sarcastic. Just as my self-deprecating humor may not come through to Hollywood types, sometimes I am not sure if my sarcasm lands. I might just sound pathetic.

The latter above is the reason why I am just now finding my voice. When I first started posting on Facebook, I would sit (procrastinating writing on one of my features) staring at the status update box, writing, erasing, and rewriting a status update that I would more than often not decide to post. Then I would occasionally post something that I later thought better of, and actually go back and delete it from my (at that time) wall. I would pretty much only post if I was sharing something positive, going on the idea that if I can’t say something nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all. While these words are great to live by for the most part, I felt like I was curtailing a part of myself. Having spent my teenage years in the closet, that didn’t sit well with me.

These blog posts take a certain amount of time to write. Some of them flow relatively easily, requiring a two to three hour time investment, if you count having my partner and my intern each proof them and the subsequent rewrite to address their feedback if I feel it’s warranted. Last week’s took like eight hours spread over multiple days. I did a “soft launch”: I published it, sent it to my family in the Midwest for feedback, then re-edited it and posted the link on social media. It is definitely one of my more polished posts, but the amount of time that it took from other writing was not insignificant. However, that is balanced by the hidden benefit to this New Year’s blogging resolution – I am producing a piece each week on a deadline. This is definitely not a bad thing. So what if the deadline is self-imposed? That might make it even more impressive. (Though as it turns out this week’s is at the outer edge of said self-imposed deadline…)

Just as I have recently been accused of favoring or at least harboring run on sentences, I occasionally start to ramble. Let me get back on track. I am hereby announcing that I am branching out from my safe, always positive content in the next several weeks. (If I’m going to invest two to eight hours a week, I might as well give you my own strong opinion.) I’ll be blogging on whatever the eff I feel like. Topics that I may cover include statistics on women behind the scenes in media and what I think about them, examining why “the industry” is the way it is (coming previously from a different career sector, I am still mystified by many things, for example, why is aol instant messaging still ever used?), and my fascination with the Eminem-Rihanna collaborations which have yielded some brilliant yet arguably misogynistic songs over the last few years.

All part of the process, dear reader, of having an opinion and gaining the confidence to share it, aka “finding my voice”.

On Being a Midwesterner in LA and “the industry”

IMG_1219smallThis week I’m taking a moment to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m going. One undeniable aspect of my background is that I am a Midwesterner. This will undoubtedly bring up stereotypes in your mind, such as that I was raised on a farm. (I was not raised on a farm, I grew up in a city of 3 million people.) And just how well has this midwestern city upbringing prepared me for “making it” in “the industry” (two phrases coupled together that you never hear in my hometown of Minneapolis)?  On the face of it, I would say that being from the Midwest is not an asset in Hollywood. I’m an unknown, without too many connections, certainly none through family or family friends. I was raised to give everyone the time of day, whether it’s the homeless person sleeping underneath the bush in front of my apartment complex or Geena Davis (who happens to be the biggest celebrity I have interacted with), not to keep track of “who’s who” and treat them better if their imdb ranking is higher. I was raised to be modest about my accomplishments, to avoid “tooting my own horn”. And my sense of humor is midwestern – entirely self-deprecating.  So what is a Midwestern girl in LA who is trying to make a living as a writer/director/occasional producer to do?

I do feel the need to digress a bit here to tell you that when people who have only lived on coasts start to talk about the middle of the country, I alternately want to politely educate them, firmly point out their stereotypical comments, or yell, “You just don’t get it and you never will!” But I would never do the latter, because I am a midwesterner. People from the coasts don’t seem to realize that there isn’t just one middle of the country, or even just one Midwest. I am from the upper Midwest, which is known within the region to be mostly blue state descended politically from the populist farmers and labor movement of the 1930’s. Beloved politicians Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone (RIP) are the more recent Minnesota examples coming partly out of that tradition.

Culturally, the person who has explained the midwest, or at least Minnesota best for outsiders is probably Garrison Keillor. He gets at the practical, kind and conflict avoidant mindset that predominates during his monologues on his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. His is also an example of a midwestern understated sense of humor. As a state, our legacy to the entertainment industry includes Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, Prince and The Coen Brothers. An interesting, talented, intelligent and eclectic mix, if you ask me. I admire all of them for the varied ways they have navigated the questions of art vs. commerce and commercial potential vs. independent spirit and artistic control.

Let’s discuss stereotypes for a while. Because, just as you had them about me, I have them about myself, and my fellow midwesterners, and those of you not from the midwest. Of course, I am not just a Midwesterner, I am also my own person. I am not always a typical Midwesterner. This is probably in part because my grandmother was Jewish from outside of Boston (more stereotypes here, I am aware), but she converted to midwesternism and Catholicism in order to marry my grandfather in 1943. From her, I get a certain fieriness and willingness to go into verbal battle. Unlike many Midwesterners, I am willing to confront problems, situations and people directly. (I also drink kombucha and go to therapy.) This is good and bad. In the Midwest, I am seen as a bit aggressive, perhaps. While I have never lived in New York, I would probably be able to adapt. However, my fieriness is balanced by the deep-seated internal desire to also be a “Minnesota nice girl”. So, while I will passionately defend, for example, ObamaCare, I will concede a few of your points, such as that it’s too bad that there are some people who are now paying more their coverage. I will listen, and smile, and even if you are just plain wrong or you are boring me to tears I will not avoid you the next time I see you, because every single person deserves respect, no matter how infuriating they happen to be.

When I meet someone in Los Angeles who is also from the Midwest, for better or for worse, I make certain assumptions about them. For example, I assume that they are less flaky than the average Angeleno, more down to earth, nicer, more hardworking, and I trust that if we were to encounter rain or snow while driving in a motor vehicle they would be able to keep me alive. I also think that because they got out of the Midwest, they are more ambitious than the average midwesterner. They decided that they were going to follow their dream and were willing to be a so called small sunfish in the big LA pond instead of a large trout in the local Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Iowa City waters. (I also wonder if they, might not be quite as good a person as my friends who stayed closer to home and are now caring for their children and elderly parents — just as I wonder this about myself.) Since they’re from the Midwest, they are probably also less well connected. Like, unless it’s the child of Ethan or Joel Coen, their parents aren’t going to be major directors. If they are from the upper Midwest, they probably got a good public school education. Reading this all through, I think to myself, wow, maybe this is not cool. If I had this many unquestioned stereotypes about people of other ethnicities or women, it would be a definite problem. Just how unquestioned are these Midwest stereotypes I hold? I’ll tell you, if I met a Midwesterner on set here in LA who was a complete a-hole, I would be surprised, then pissed and then disown them from my Midwest cohort. They probably wouldn’t notice, because I’ve actually never gotten around to organizing bowling with said cohort, but I would have disowned them nonetheless.

When people from Los Angeles meet me, I can see in their eyes that they don’t quite get me. I’ve been in several meetings with Hollywood types that ended with them giving me a dismissive smile, and me taking that as a cue to thank them for their time. I think it all comes down to sense of humor. I’m not sure if I have figured out what the Angeleno sense of humor consists of, but I can tell you it isn’t nearly self-deprecating enough for my taste. My funniest jokes are always on myself. Like this joke, have you heard it? The one where I will write a blog weekly and anyone and everyone will read it? Hilarious! (See? That was a Midwestern sensibility. It doesn’t matter if you laugh. I know it’s funny and I am laughing to the bank. So what if I’m only depositing quarters?!)

This self-deprecating sense of humor comes from anxiety at being in the spotlight. It’s something that has to be unlearned, it seems, to (again) “make it” in “the industry”, if I can judge from recent conversations and even trainings on making your personal brand, social media, putting yourself out there. You have to be relentless. You have to put out the positive so you will attract the positive. You have to be willing to invite everyone you know and even people you don’t know to “like” your new Facebook page or share your latest YouTube video. In the Midwest, especially if you are a Midwestern daughter, you can’t brag about yourself and your accomplishments. It brings bad luck, or something. If nothing else, you are seen as full of yourself. And you can’t be seen as full of yourself! You will be shunned. Or something. So you make fun of yourself. You are constantly aware that any success could be short lived. This may be in part due to the weather, which is changeable and wildly ranging in temperature. If it’s beautiful out, you thank the higher power, and you know that you only have two more months before it drops below zero again.

So what is the moral of this story, anyway? It’s not that much of a story, more of a musing, but I think the moral is that despite the apparent lack of preparation for Los Angeles living I received in the Midwest, I actually had the perfect preparation to weather the storm of the Hollywood early years. I was raised to be persistent and work hard, not to take things for granted, to treat everyone with respect (you never know if the receptionist will turn out to be the one who lands the next big pilot deal), and to laugh at myself. That part about telling everyone how great I am for whatever position I’m up for, now that I’m in LA (and with enough of the aforementioned therapy) I’m sure I’ll get there eventually!

 

ON OUR “BURN BABYLON” MUSIC VIDEO YOUTUBE PREMIERE!

Today is a special day; it’s the release of our music video for “Burn Babylon”, a song by artist Taiwo Heard from his self-produced album. This is the first music video I have ever directed, and it was a good and, I think somewhat unique, experience. Taiwo and I have been friends for a few years, and I think he’s a talented and dedicated musician with his own sound. So naturally, as I’ve wanted to try directing a music video for a while, it seemed worth collaborating. I originally had an idea for a very dark music video where these kids burn down a fort and dance amongst the flames. Taiwo liked the idea, but as we talked about it more, and once we brought actual kids on board, it started to seem less feasible. For one, dealing with fire and kids would require things like permits and fire marshals, and since we were on a limited budget, that wasn’t necessarily going to work. Additionally, many of the kid actors are the kids of friends of mine, and they are what you might call “good kids” (by which I mean they are intelligent, fun, creative, thoughtful and care about one another and the planet), and in collaborating with them, the story and the message became much more positive. Basically, we went from kids burning down a fort to kids overcoming their differences and learning to get along! That was one of the most fun parts of the project, working with young people whose perspective wasn’t yet jaded, and who were eager to share their ideas and make an artistic project.

Another great aspect of the project was that we ended up with an entirely female crew. We didn’t set out with that goal, it just kind of happened. First the amazing Tera Greene signed on to produce, then Liz (Elizabeth) Yarwood, an awesome cinematographer, came on board, as did Bridie and Heather Roberts for some sweet production design, Kaiting Wu and Ebonie Hicklin kept us on track as 1st AD’s, my lovely partner Jordan Balagot operated 2nd camera, and Breanna Burnworth, Amanda Monroe and Kasey Roualdes made the trek all the way up from San Diego to lend their skills and enthusiasm as production assistants. For post, editor extraordinaire Marisa Thilman shepherded us through all of the footage to our excellent final cut and even did the color correction herself! Things went really smoothly and it was really fun to look around at all these kickin’ females heading up everything behind the camera!

The project also helped me keep my directing muscles on point. Since graduating from film school, I have to admit I’ve been more focused on writing and earning a living than directing, so this was a great way to keep remembering how to work with talent and set up shots without making an entire feature. It’s inspiring me to get back out there and create more content, faster. Jordan and I have ideas for many more music videos, my friend Randy aka Astronovazz (who is the skateboarder in the Burn Babylon video) wants to do a YouTube series, and I’m helping Liz with her upcoming web series LA PICKERS. So, from an indie music/film collaboration spawns more indie film and music collaborations! As far as the youth are concerned, they are each in school and some are busy pursuing new creative projects ranging from making their own videos to dancing. And of course, they also manage to fit in playing video games and skateboarding around the neighborhood!

WATCH THE BURN BABYLON OFFICIAL YOUTUBE PREMIERE HERE:

And please don’t hesitate to like it, post comments, and share with your friends! We’d love to hear what you think of it.

New Year’s resolution – blog regularly! Brought to you by Grammarly

Happy New Year, everyone! I am excited about 2014, lots is happening and lots more will happen, with the various writing projects, and we are about to release a music video I directed for artist Taiwo Heard, and I am getting married to my beautiful fiancée in July! So lots to be excited about. With a new year comes resolutions. I hadn’t settled on mine since I only finished sending out holiday cards yesterday. However, today, it became abundantly clear to me that one of my resolutions has to be to blog regularly. This happened in my second meeting with someone about a possible position, wherein it turned out that said person had actually read my blog and commented about how it was from October. Internally I asked myself, “Seriously? October? Oh s*%t I guess it was October!” To her, I said, “Yeah, I need to post more.” She said that it was understandable since I am an individual (thank you!), but their company blogs at least once a week (good plan). I do not cut myself as much slack. As an aspiring writer, I know that I should be blogging regularly. So here I am, in the new year, showing I mean (blogular) business.

In reflecting on why I hadn’t posted sooner, I realized that I was hampered by two things. The first is that if you don’t save a draft in WordPress, it doesn’t automatically save. Or, perhaps it does now that I just upgraded to 3.8, I’m not sure. I’ve had computer and Internet problems in the past few months (since resolved!), and lost a draft post or two that way. However, that is not the real issue. The real issue is that I have been dealing with the moral and artistic quandary of whether or not to “sell out”. And what constitutes selling out? In this case, I was initially quite flattered to be approached by Nick from Grammarly.com, an online membership based site that aspires to be everyone’s first “set of [robot] eyes” on their writing drafts. Nick said that they were looking for writers with whom to collaborate, and that they were interested in sponsoring my next blog post to the tune of a $10 Amazon gift card. “Cool, $10 on Amazon!” I initially thought. Then I tested the site and it scored me at 66% on a post that I had already published. This was depressing. How is it that I even managed to score a 5.5 on the essay section of the GRE five years ago with these dismal results? Have I regressed grammatically speaking? And, the site is $10/month. Could they afford more than a $10 Amazon gift card at that rate? It did catch a repeated phrase, which I went back and fixed.

I then pondered how when I started film school, on the first day I met a classmate who asked what I wanted to do. “Fiction films dealing with social issues that reach a broad audience,” I replied confidently, as if setting that intention then would easily make it come true. “What about you?” I asked. He replied that he wanted to do ads. I said I could never do ads, unless, say it was for Patagonia (eco/humane) clothing, or a political ad for an Al Gore type, or a breast cancer nonprofit PSA. He pointed out that Spike Lee and many other big directors did ads for major national brands and that’s how they funded their films. I was so naive that I hadn’t thought about that before. I suppose that was actually the beginning of my undoing. Otherwise, how was it that I, who started film school so idealistic and determined to make “media that matters”, now found herself, five odd years later, writing a sponsored blog post? And how little did I value myself that I was willing to “sell out” for a ten-dollar Amazon gift card?

That said, Grammarly is pretty cool, and if I had an extra $10/month, I would get a subscription. Right now I need that money to buy coffee so I can sit and write amongst other people instead of going crazy in my apartment on writing days (rent on these cafés must be steep because they all seem to charge $3.25 for a cup of tea and $5.00 for a mocha. I could almost afford to rent an office for the amount I pay in drinks and tips, but not really because rent is that steep). I do like the idea of Grammarly proofing because even though I am good at proofing both others and myself, it is possible to miss things, especially in this autocorrect era. So, I would rate Grammarly four out of five stars. I’m sure Grammarly is the best at what they are doing, if anyone else is even attempting it. Their site has a nice interface and is easy to use.  Examining the errors they highlighted, I found that I wouldn’t change all of them, but most of the suggestions were valuable. If it were $7/month, I would probably rank them five stars and join, because that’s less than Hulu, and my first drafts would be less painful for my partner and my writing group to read. But $10/month is psychologically much more of a commitment.

Not sure what Nick will think of my honest assessment here. I may not get that $10 Amazon gift card, but I think I have succeeded in clearing a blockage of writing blog posts that has troubled me for the last 2.75 months. I now commit to you, dear reader, to write once a week in this new year. Wish me luck and cheap lattés!

Grammarly can be found online at Grammarly.

 

The future is following me – Green Hawks, 2025, and Robots

It seems I keep running into the future. I guess it’s on everyone’s minds these days. My latest brush with sci fi worlds is in meeting with Kona and Eco Hawk, two siblings aged 14 and 8, who are embarking on a sci fi web series and e-comic book that aims to get kids interested in protecting the earth’s air, water and food supply. In the pilot webisode, Eco Hawk wants to find a real tomato. He has the genome, and now just needs to find the match. This leads Kona and Eco to Earth, which they have never experienced, though they have always heard their parents’ stories about it. The Green Hawks project is a labor of love with family and friends supporting Kona and Eco’s vision to connect with other young people through their interest in sci fi and fantasy and inspire them to live ecologically.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the feature film set in 2025. Did I mention that it is challenging, though very fun, to write about twelve years into the future? Think about it. It’s almost easier to write fifty, 150 or 200 years into the future. Twelve years ago it was 2001, which is the year I got a cell phone, but smart phones and tablets weren’t even on my horizon. The Prius debuted in the U.S. one year prior. People began Bit Torrenting. Airports stopped letting friends and family to wait at the gate. What changes, large and small, will have happened or be happening in 2025? It’s a world we will recognize, but shifted slightly.

One thing looks certain about that future world: there will be robots. And in honor of that, our next “Geeks and Beats” night will be Robot night! Participants are invited to show off their robots or dress like one.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153298853065317&set=gm.221613057962411&type=1&theater

I’m posting a snippet from our collaborative September show which features video of Robot Heart originally filmed by VJ ADub:

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VJ Cupcake makes her debut, along with VJ Audrey

Last week Audrey and I made our VJ debut at Class, the event curated by DJ’s Jordan B and Mister Nathaniel at Karma Lounge (thanks to Melba for introducing us to the venue). It was Jordan’s birthday celebration, so friends Claire and Kalil helped me bake three batches of cupcakes the night before (chocolate, strawberry and funfetti, with mixed frosting options)!

Meanwhile, Audrey and I had spent the last three weeks trying to figure out Resolume, watching the same tutorials over and over and over and trying out effects. I had gone the night before to Karma to make sure I had the right connector to their projector, which I did. We had already done a trial run.

That afternoon I decided to learn After Effects in order to animate a “Happy Birthday Jordan B!” greeting, so spent a couple of hours watching After Effects tutorials and cursing, but finally got it. Morgan Green gave us some animations, and I uploaded the videos of highway driving I shot on the way to camping a couple of weeks prior. We were light on content but only planned to do a 20-30 minute set each. At 6:30, Jordan arrived to make changes to her light up dress, and I continued cursing at Firefox and Resolume, who weren’t working together and so I kept getting the spinning wheel. I shut down Firefox, took a shower and got dressed. Audrey arrived in time to rescue me from my own anger vortex, and we watched the effects tutorial one more time. We set up a few effects. We figured out how to put in and out points on one of my films and make it loop. “Should I close out?” Audrey asked. “No, leave it open, this is the project we are using.” We loaded up three large tupperwares of cupcakes, Jordan’s light up dress, my laptop, and went out the door.

The cupcakes that inspired the name!

The cupcakes that inspired the name!

At Karma, it only took me a few minutes to figure out how to hook up the laptop and get the output signal to appear on the screen. We are newbies so a basic setup of one laptop and one projector was all we really wanted to manage. I got a drink and Jordan started DJ-ing.  After she was into her flow, I went into the booth and put up the visuals. It worked perfectly! There was Morgan’s Maze Animation on top of trucks and fields passing on the highway overlaid with a white star like effect that moved in and out. I clicked over to Morgan’s Northern Lights Animation and I was off and running. It was so fun! And I found that I love being in the booth with Jordan, each doing our own thing, but working together.  It’s a great metaphor for our relationship. Also one of the effects Audrey had set up turned out to be these spinning snowflake cubes, it was a great surprise! After about an hour, Jordan was switching off with Nathaniel, and I called Audrey over. She switched in and immediately started doing new effects that I had no idea existed. Go VJ Audrey! I went to check on her and she was having a problem with a black screen. We fixed it. She carried on, and I took note that I could be more adventurous with effects and color like she was doing. So we built on each other’s work!

 

VJ Cupcake lit by DJ Jordan B's light up dress

VJ Cupcake lit by DJ Jordan B’s light up dress

We did the whole birthday thing, candles, cupcakes, the “Happy Birthday Jordan B” animation and singing, and I passed cupcakes around the bar to everyone we knew and everyone we didn’t. DJ Michael Carrera stepped in the booth and I took another turn.  It was cool working with him, he was doing some interesting stuff and I tried some really weird moving mass effects that sort of went with it. Meanwhile at about 11:30 pm people we didn’t know started coming through the door and dancing. The night was taking off!  Audrey took another turn because she was going to have to leave. After she left, I stepped back in the booth. I was getting tired, but kept at it till the end, when I left a clip playing and went to dance with Jordan. The lights went up, the music stopped, Raffi and his staff herded all the twenty and thirtysomethings out of the bar, I muted the projector and packed up. I was ecstatic. I had completed my first live VJ set! Everyone said the visuals added a bunch and they want us to keep doing it. So take note, Los Angeles! VJ Cupcake and VJ Audrey will be back and present for Class next month, Thursday, September 26th, with more fresh content and more fun effects! We might try getting a live feed camera in there, and definitely look for visuals from other LA artists and animators coming soon!

 

VJ Audrey and her amazing effects!

VJ Audrey and her amazing effects!

 

Cupcake in the booth.

Cupcake in the booth.

 

DJ Michael Carrera and VJ Audrey in their groove.

DJ Michael Carrera and VJ Audrey in their groove.

Back from Frameline!

BeccaFrameline2Frameline 37 http://www.frameline.org/ was fantastic!  It was a bit hectic getting there for opening weekend, Jordan and I left LA Friday night, stayed over somewhere on the I-5 near Fresno, then got up, ate the crappy hotel breakfast and hit the road.  We didn’t realize how much traffic there would be on a Saturday, so we changed into our dresses in a gas station near Dublin, and I bit my nails as we crossed the Bay Bridge in terrible traffic and the clock inched closer and closer to 1:30 pm.  As it turned out, we got there at 1:27 pm and Jordan dropped me at the theatre, where I promptly ran into my old friend Sonia who was working the door while wearing a superqueero costume!  I went inside and up to the balcony, then heard someone I later realized was Director of Programming Des Buford calling all filmmakers up to the front.  I was wearing the wrong shoes, but didn’t have time to change, just ran down the stairs and up to the stage, gave a shoutout to Jordan who was parking the car (she later lamented that she missed my declaration of love from the stage of the Castro Theatre), then the screening started.  I stood outside the theater waiting for Jordan and chatting with Sonia, Jordan made it and we went in and only missed a few minutes of the first film.

Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like having your film play on the big screen in the Castro Theatre before an audience of queers and supporters!  The audience laughed in the right places and even booed (appropriately) when Rachel calls Sammy “Genderfreak”. GF screened with the Fun in Girls Shorts Programs, which were a great group of films.  The festival is well run and being back in the Bay Area to celebrate with family and friends was great, too.  We also met some cool new friends, like Isis Asare of Sistah Sinema and Jeremy Hersh, director of the short film NATIVES and saw our friend from Albuquerque Robert Appicciafoco!

One of my favorite films from Frameline was The New Black directed by Yoruba Richen (thanks to Isis for letting me tag along to see it!).  It’s a documentary that chronicles a group of Black mostly LGBT activists as they work to pass marriage equality in Maryland post the Prop 8 debacle in California.  Luckily, they learned from the mistakes made in CA and were able to pass marriage equality.  The film delves into the history of the Civil Rights and LGBT rights movements and how they have been at odds in the past, but in some ways are coming together now, through the work of these Black LGBT activists.  It’s very timely and well done.

Interior.Leather bar was a bit of a disappointment, although one of my friends turned out to be in it which was fun!  It was a little too talking head and self-reflexive for my taste.  Also, the cutting style did not at all match up with the period it was meant to recreate.  However, it was inspiring to see James Franco discourse on how we should open up the representation of sex in this country – we are willing to show all kinds of violence, maiming and killing, but when it comes to variations on love and physical pleasure other than heterosexual missionary position, oh no, we can’t show that!  James is onto something here.

Probably the greatest moment of the entire festival for me other than the experience of screening in the Castro Theatre (twice!) and getting to share that with Jordan, was a few moments of chatting with Programming Director Des Buford.  Des told me that they had wanted to program Genderfreak last year, but hadn’t had room in the program due to some other long shorts that it didn’t quite fit in with.  So she saved it on her shelf for an entire year!  I nearly cried on the spot.  It just goes to show you that you never know what is going on behind the scenes.  When I received the rejection notice last year, I was really bummed, it seemed like the whole Bay Area was saying, “Yeah, all your hard work, we just don’t really care.”  But it was quite the opposite.  In fact, Des is programming GF again at the upcoming Butch Voices conference, more details soon.  Des was really approachable, warm and enthusiastic, and helped re-boost my faith in my work.  It is these moments that help the independent filmmaker carry on.  Thank you, Des, and Frameline, for a wonderful experience.  Hope to be back soon!

 

 

It’s been a whirlwind…

April and May have been busy!  The spring season brought with it a new round of festivals, starting with USC’s First Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival at the end of April, then the Seattle Transgender Film Festival May 9-12th, where we won the audience award for best narrative short film!

Meanwhile, I was hired for my first legitimate writing gig!  I actually signed a contract!  I can’t say much about the project right now, but it’s in the sci fi genre, which I’m very excited about as I grew up reading and loving Ray Bradbury, Madeline L’Engle and Margaret Atwood to name a few and have more recently been delving into the likes of China Miéville and Colson Whitehead.  I get to play around with a world that could be read as utopic or dystopic depending on your perspective.

Two of the interns decided to switch their majors, but Breanna carries on.  She just got a camera and is thinking about her portfolio project to apply to her major.  I’m excited to hear what she comes up with.

Finally, if you are a legitimate person and not a robot, please consider commenting on my blog!  I would love to have some dialogues with real people out there.

Till next time, thanks for reading!

Translations Awards 2013 Genderfreak