in the thick of it

Yeah, so it’s a cliché. It’s a good one!

It’s an apt one. A little over a month ago, I began work on my next short film project. As I said in a previous post, I pretty much had to go back to the drawing board with my team and my vision. It was a big deal. It still is a big deal, but it’s not as horrible as I thought it might be. Not at all. My new director doesn’t have a ton of experience, but she doesn’t let that get in the way. I’m really excited by what she’s brought to the table, and I can’t wait to see her grow. I even picked up a very driven cinematographer. I had no idea what a joy it could be to work with someone like him. In film school, we were all developing our eye, so… although I had worked with a few, it wasn’t at all like this. It’s the core of, maybe, a new team. I don’t want to get ahead of things, so I’ll leave it there. Maybe a new team. 🙂

As for the project itself. Wow. I have never felt more outside my comfort zone and in the deep. Being a producer sucks–and it’s awesome. I have so many people to talk to, elements to draw together, people to hire, fire, and placate. It’s a great experience, and it’s definitely stretching muscles I never thought to develop. On the flip side, I feel like I’ve lost a creative step in the process. I’m a little less involved in the actual production than I’m used to, because my head is overloaded with all these strange logistical concerns. (Not the least of which involves my ever-expanding, non-existent budget!) Forms upon forms to organize, get signed, keep together. Last minute brushfires to put out (they don’t have an 85mm macro lens anymore!). Outsiders to bring in only to learn shortly thereafter that they might’ve spoken in haste and really don’t have time to get involved.

That’s one of the hardest lessons. I already knew that people aren’t always reliable. You prepare for that. But sometimes it hurts when certain individuals you were really counting on just don’t come through because of… reasons. It reminds me a little of what happened over the summer, and some might say that I’m asking for it when I don’t take a firm stand on the issue. Just tell them they’re fired! Or write them off. Definitely don’t beg. It’s true. I could be tougher. I have been tougher, but it’s those lost relationships I miss most and wish I hadn’t lost.

Well. I’m learning.

Meanwhile… I suppose this would be a good time to plug? Sure. Let’s plug.

So my new short film is called “The Lazarus Bridge.” It’s about a young woman who’s dealing with a very unique, very difficult client at work on the day of her mother’s funeral. It stars Meghan Bordeaux (find her here, here, and here) and Matthew Hallstein. It also co-stars Isaiah Grass (catch him here, here, here, here, and here) and Journie Kalous (see her here and here). A truly gorgeous and gifted cast. And it’s directed by Crystal Contreras, a very passionate and talented filmmaker on the rise, I assure you. Our first shoot day is done and behind us (hopefully behind us), and it looks pretty damn good so far. Our final two days are this weekend, and I’m sick-excited (mostly sick) to see it come together. If anyone is interested–and, of course, you are ;)–you can check out some of my company’s work on this and previous projects.

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I’m still working on an official webpage. (Anyone know a good web designer?)

It’s been exhausting so far, and there’s a lot left to do (post-production, anybody?). And then, of course, NaNoWriMo is about to start too. 😦 Damn. Why aren’t there enough hours in the day? Well. Somebody wish me luck.

 

James

now what?

So I made it a point to refrain from editing anything I wrote in NaNo. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. When I’m actually in the moment, I don’t think it messes too much with my rhythm or output. Obviously it has some impact on my words-per-minute, but overall I don’t think it matters much. Regardless, I kept my finger off the Backspace and Delete buttons as much as I could.

Currently, my mother’s reading it. Which is a hell of a job, considering that I wrote things out of order. I skipped entire chapters. So yeah, she’s a bit confused in some parts. But she says it’s my best writing. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Duh, she’s your mom. She has to say that.” True. But she takes it one step further and says it’s better than my last book.

I disagree. I mean… my last book. Well, it’s leaner. I feel like I produced a lot of purple prose during NaNo in my quest for maximum wordage. Apparently, she thinks the purple prose is the best stuff. I’m not sure how to take that, except that I’m still convinced what I wrote is “fat”. It needs a lot of trimming. But I was aware of it as I wrote it, not just of my runaway loquacity but also the content. I knew what I was writing about, and I was okay with it. The internal stuff flowed better and faster than the external stuff.

Has my writing changed? I know it’s been influenced by my favorite author. Steven Erikson has produced a remarkable series, and he’s written characters and story arcs in a very particular way. I took it to heart as a reader and a writer. My last book (really my first and only book) came out very different from anything else I’ve written. This current effort seemed to go even farther down that path. Maybe my style has changed. Is that a bad thing? I guess not, as long as someone wants to read it.

Because I’m not writing for me anymore. I’m not writing for… just my own edification. I’m writing to produce content that people want to read, while still staying true to my own vision and voice, of course.

I’ve been putting off some very important, essential steps in my goal to get that first (and only) book published. I told myself to take November off and work on something new. And I did. Mission accomplished. So obviously… obviously, I need to return to the first project. I need to finish it. Right? Right.

And yet. I really want to take a break. As I said, this past NaNo was brutal. I started to hate writing. I got sick of it. I’m still sorta sick of it. So what should I do? It’s been months now since I first tried to tackle the synopsis for my book. It’s still going nowhere. But I’m sooo tired.

So. What do I do now?

forcing it

If there’s anything I’ve learned this past NaNo, it’s that forcing it ain’t fun. Duh, you’re thinking. Well, duh back at you. Sometimes when the words don’t come, you gotta force it or face the blank page forever. Yeah, you can step away for a while. Read a book, go for a walk, watch TV, meditate, eat, etc. But eventually, you gotta get back in front of the screen and put some words down. Even if that means having to force it.

I’ve done a lot of forcing it this month in my mad effort to reach that 50k. So I made it, and that’s that, and wonderful I can move on. But the lesson sticks with me. Sometimes forcing it is necessary. Sometimes forcing it is not the right way to go.

Aside from the writing, part of the hair-pulling insanity has involved the evolution of whatever scene I’m working on. I have a pretty decent, detailed outline that I’ve been working from. But, as in war, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. My outline has been through several changes this NaNo, much to my frustration. Its current incarnation feels alright to me, but I won’t be surprised if it goes through major changes yet again. All that aside, I have been hard at work typing out a scene for it to suddenly try to veer off the rails. And I don’t mean my characters start speaking for themselves. I’m talking a full-on train wreck of the bad variety. When creativity goes wrong–which is totally possible. You’re not happy with the new trajectory of the scene, and you work and sweat and grunt to force it back on track. Well, good luck with that. It doesn’t always work out. But good luck.

This month, I’ve lost touch with some people I wish I hadn’t. And I know what you’re thinking–why not just pick up the phone and reach out? Yes, I could do that. But at this point… that would be totally forcing it. I’m not in a talky mood with most people. On the flip side, I’ve reconnected with a few others, and that’s been pretty awesome. But even that involved forcing it. Yeah. Sometimes with friendships, you need to force it. And sometimes you need to just let things go where they will. Even if that means they go nowhere.

There’s a young woman I’ve been doing the whole on again/off again thing with. Not intentionally, of course. (I’m not that much of a jackass.) But it is what it is, and things have been a little rough with her. We even tried forcing it (it being the relationship, don’t misinterpret me) because we’re obviously into each other. But it’s really not working out, and sometimes it’s okay if things don’t work out. There’s no need to force it just because you’re both into each other. Some people just don’t belong together, for whatever reason. Of course, neither of us seem that willing to call it quits, so… on we go with the efforts to force it!

Finally… and perhaps I mentioned this before, but I reconnected with my old, original writing partner. Well, it hasn’t been the blissful reunion I envisioned. She’s a busy woman, and I’m a depressed, antisocial sort of guy. So I don’t call. When I do call, she doesn’t answer or doesn’t return my call. Or when I do call, she really doesn’t have a lot of time. Sometimes we connect and spend some time working story out, but… it feels like (surprise) we’re just forcing it.

You sense a recurring pattern here? Am I being too subtle? Alas, she’s not so great with forcing it, so trying it in those moments involves some angry feelings about not having to write all the time, especially when we’re not feeling it. Fair enough. Hell, I agree with her. But for me, that leads to flabby writing muscles.

I just had a similar conversation with my mom a couple days ago. Sometimes, the temptation is to vegg out. Do nothing. With depression, this temptation quickly becomes the status quo, and–in my opinion–that is not a good thing. Relaxation is one thing. But lethargy is something else. With me, it’s usually just laziness. I have spent most of my life coasting through one endeavor or another, relying on my natural talent to carry me where I need to go. (Yeah, maybe that sounds a little dick-ish, but it’s true.) I never had to work hard at school to earn good grades. Writing papers was always easy–except for my last year in grad school.

I’ve wasted a lot of time not doing things I should’ve been doing. Why? Well, part of it is the depression. Those of you who are depressed or bi-polar know how hard it is to get started. It’s like running up a hill made of ice while wearing tap dance shoes.

Ironically, I took tap dance as a child. Now if I could just find those shoes…

nano… achieved

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

So today I validated my word count, and woo hoo I have indeed reached the 50k milestone and then some!

But I’m not done yet. As tempted as I am to kick back and call it a year (and believe me, I am very tempted), I’m gonna keep going this month. Just… at a much more relaxed pace. After all, I’m planning to attend a buddy’s end-of-nano event, and I’m told there will once again be bacon chocolate chip cookies! So, it was a good nano. I’ve gotten a lot done on a new book. Is it the book I want to be working on right this moment? Of course not. I’m still eyeing to finish with my previous one. But this is a book that I’d have to write, anyway, no matter how things go with the other one.

Which, by the way, I feel a lot less worried about. I’ve revised some mid-term goals, and I’m sorta liking them at first glance. After finishing my synopsis and sending out my queries to the agents I’m looking at, I plan to return to a very old story I first worked on as a child. The goal with that one? Self-publishing! I’ve long been opposed to the idea of self-publishing my own work, and I do still fully intend to take this book (this nano one, too, when I finish it) down the traditional route. But I really do enjoy the possibility of promoting this new, self-pubbed story idea. Like I said, it’s a concept I first developed in my tweens, and I’d like to try giving this the adult-me treatment and see what happens.

It can’t hurt, right?

On another, completely unrelated topic, I’ve decided to dip my toe back into an area of life I left behind a couple years ago. WoW. (For the noobs out there, that’s short for World of Warcraft. I know what you’re thinking. What a time sink, right? It can be, sure. But I remember getting a lot of happiness out of that. The people I met online I still keep in contact with (as much I keep in contact with anyone), and I think I’m in a much better place now as a writer than I’ve ever been. Obviously, I’ll have to keep an eye on my WoW investment to make sure it doesn’t overshadow anything else (like my writing).

I’m also excited to possibly, potentially, probably be working with my friend Stephanie on her latest literary project. I’d share the details, but it’s her property, so I’ll let her decide whether to disclose that info on her blog. Suffice to say, it’s an idea I really love and something I think has a ton of potential both in terms of novels and cinema, so I’m gonna do my best to help her get that going.

Obviously, Thanksgiving is approaching. We don’t know yet what we’re going to do as a family, my mother and I. There’s talk of volunteering at a soup kitchen, an experience I haven’t done since I was a teenager. It was a great time, though, serving the needy and hearing their stories. Now if we could just figure out where one is here in the suburbs, that would be great. 🙂

To those of you who celebrate the holiday, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. To those who simply enjoy Black Friday, good luck! I am planning on participating myself–for the very first time. I think, judging by the stories we hear and see in the news, it’s an experience a writer ought to have. 🙂

winter is… well, here

I see snow outside my window. In theory, I love snow. Soft. White. Umm… that’s about it. But in truth, I really hate it. Shoveling it, snowblowing it, driving through it, salting it, slipping on it, falling face-first into it.

I dislike it even more when it interferes with my plans. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’m actually doing really well, but the last few days it’s become like pulling teeth without any anesthetic. (Let’s be honest, any dental work with anesthetic is a cake walk.) 1667 words a month is the daily minimum, barring any days with extreme spurts of creativity. I always aim for a bit more. Last year I had a problem with creativity, and I barely made it. Pretty much reached about 51k with ten or so minutes left. That was exhilarating and stressful and a little shameful. How did I have so little to write about?

I don’t think that was the problem, but it feels like it sometimes when we find ourselves unable to write anything. This past week, I’ve started to question my love for writing. It’s become like a chore, and I guess that’s part of the nature of NaNo. It asks us to obligate ourselves to write a certain amount everyday. Like exercise, maybe, and when you’re not feeling it, to continue is to put yourself through hell for the sake of… I don’t know, principle.

It would be an extreme tragedy, imho, if NaNo converted my love for writing into hate. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s been a really long time since I found the process this distasteful. Maybe it’s the residual irritation over not finishing work with my previous novel while starting this new one. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to worry again about my chances for success. (Yes, I know I still should try. That’s not the point.) Or maybe it’s because of winter.

Some of you may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a pleasant (sarcasm) little life event that swings around in the colder season. The sun comes out less, and the body takes a hit. Gloom is doom and all that, after all. When you’re already suffering from depression or bi-polar disorder, S.A.D. is a lovely (sarcasm, again) complementary effect that makes things ten times worse. (My insurance company isn’t making things any easier. They just told me they’ve decided not to cover my trips to the therapist! Yay.) So currently prescription medication is out of the question, but I have been exploring OTC options. Good old St. John’s Wort and something called SAMe. And Vitamin D-3 and some other crap just for balance. 🙂 It’s alright, though I suspect the real benefit is in the placebo effect.

Well, as my eternally-optimistic work buddy likes to say, it could be worse. Yes, friends, it could always be worse. Which really makes none of it better. It does, in fact, aspire to make you feel guilty about feeling terrible in the first place. I don’t like that, I don’t really agree, so I don’t listen to her about much anymore. (This is the same friend who doesn’t believe in depression.)

The good news is I’m still writing. I may loathe it but I’m getting it done, day by day. I’m even going to take full advantage of all the perks winning NaNo comes with. A few free prints, discount on software… some other things, I can’t remember right now. And another month of extreme productivity.

To those of you in the same boat as me (the SAD boat or the NaNo boat), good luck. Keep the faith. Stay strong, and a hundred other platitudes about not giving up.

nano, nano

Yes, I said it. And yes, I’m doing it.

National Novel… something. Writing? Writer? I’m way too lazy to verify which one it is. Month.

I had a different topic on my mind earlier, but I felt I should at least toss out that I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, my third year in a row. Last year was a difficult one, I barely made it thanks to lots of homemade confections and bacon chocolate chip cookies.

I’m working on the next book in my fantasy series, and yeah I know I haven’t finished working on the first one, but this is NaNo, so I’m making an exception as to be as productive as I possibly can be.

I’m excited. My region appears to be quite re-energized with dozens of new participants. I attended the sort-of kick-off event. It’s all looking quite good, except that I haven’t attempted this before while working a full-time job. So it’s definitely going to be a bit of a challenge this time.

Well. At least I know I’ll get something done. Not sure if it’ll be great, but that’s not the point! Maybe I’ll even learn how to be okay with that.

bad boy

Sorry for the suggestive title. 🙂

I meant to post something last week. I had something I really wanted to share, but… life. Which, I guess, leads to what I’d like to share today.

We make bad decisions sometimes. I make bad decisions a lot. And when it comes to relationships, I seem to make nothing but bad decisions. I’m just coming out of one of those bad-decision-relationships. It’s weighed heavily on me for almost two months, and every day just added to the burden. It didn’t help that I put off rectifying that bad decision. And it really didn’t help when–after finally fixing things–I went ahead and made the same bad decision that started the whole affair. Twice.

I admit, it’s a little odd for someone who keeps a blog to identify as a private person. But I am pretty private. I don’t share much, I definitely don’t talk much. I don’t engage in gossip, and I do my best to avoid becoming the center of attention. All that to say I chose to share my unfortunate relationship experience with friends and co-workers, though the transparency was more to cover my ass if things exploded like, say, at my workplace. (Yeah, things got pretty icky.)

Obviously, telling that many people your personal laundry opens the door to a cornucopia of opinions. My favorite (really my least favorite) came from a friend: “It’s okay to be alone. You don’t need to be with someone.” To her, I say thanks and thanks to everyone else who would like to dish out that little tried-and-true nugget of wisdom. (Do you sense some sarcasm? My apologies, but that one really gets me.) Also, I’ve been “alone” since 2006, and I’ve been okay for seven out of those eight years. This year, I felt like I was ready–more than ready–to spend some time with someone. And that’s okay, too.

But I didn’t quite think things through. Not only am I the quiet, private guy, I’m also the mildly anti-social one. If I’m going to spend time with someone, it better be someone I can get along and someone who understands the unique challenge that is me. 🙂 Alas, this was not that someone. I wanted her to be, though, which is what led to repetitive bad decision-making.

Piece of advice, folks, though none of you asked for it. 🙂 Don’t settle, not for the first person that comes along, not for the pretty face, not even for the great personality. The odds are against you if you settle, and you should expect no pity when/if it goes awry.

The stress of things pretty much disabled me from pursuing my other goals. Writing, catching up with friends, clearing my DVR (though I did manage to keep up with a select few shows), all of it fell by the wayside because I was so consumed by this relationship–first in a good way (the excitement of something new!), then in a bad way (the struggle to end it). Does she read this blog? A good question. I don’t know. She is aware of it, though I seriously doubt she ever really looked at it. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I wanted to get this off my chest the best way I know how. By writing about it.

And not a moment too soon! NaNo is coming, and I plan to be part of it once again.