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

when things don’t quite work out

So where did we leave off? Ahh yes. On a high note!

Well. Summer came and it’s slowly on the way out. Shot, edited, and promoted the company’s first short film, That’s my D*ck! And in retrospect, I feel as though I should’ve included a disclaimer. It’s not a porno, it doesn’t have nudity, it doesn’t even have swearing (I think). It’s not offensive in the slightest. It’s just a play on words. But I didn’t say any of that, so more than a few times I got the troll lash for pushing what people thought was a porno. Lesson learned!

Not so long ago, I had a particular vision for my film company. That vision, alas, has become muddled in the last several days. I’m looking at starting from scratch (with the exception that I now have a short film under my belt and some hard-earned experience). I’m no stranger to failure, few of us are. Trying and failing is easy. It’s the getting back up to try again that’s hard.

It’s coming up on ten years soon, since I decided to steer myself toward a future in filmmaking. I’ve made a few strides, I’ve second-guessed myself a million times, I’ve screwed up even more than that. But I can only do what I think is best. I’ll miss some of the relationships that have been lost, definitely the friendships. But I can’t let the setbacks get in my way anymore. I’ve spent too much of my life nursing old wounds and sulking over past failures. Not this time.

Ever since I started writing seriously, I’ve been hyper-critical of my own work. If I don’t think it’s the best I could do, then I don’t feel especially accomplished even though I finished it. This was a problem in film school. I never owned the work that I wasn’t proud of. Maybe the hardest lesson I can learn from all of this is that I need to stand by my work. Even if it’s bad. And as I read in another blog, especially if it’s bad. I have permission to make… not-good stuff. But I can’t step away from it or pretend that it doesn’t exist.

I produced That’s my D*ck! It was a hell of a ride planning for it and shooting it. It was a slog editing it. And I don’t know what to say about the end product except that I’m proud of it. I didn’t show that before. I didn’t know how to. But I am proud of it. And I’m very proud of all the people who helped make it possible, and there were many.

Own your work, good or bad.

Get back up.

And move forward with confidence.

Are you listening, self?

a little this, a little that

It’s been a week of some setbacks. Maybe the last couple weeks. The war against my synopsis has not gone well, and I felt that until I produced a finished version of it, I will not say much about how to write one. 🙂 Though a chat with a friend re-energized me somewhat. I’m a little more hopeful there.

But it’s been an unpleasant couple of weeks aside from that. The depression has hit hard, and I’ve been floundering without really trying to grab onto anything solid. Not smart, I know.

Stupid synopsis.

On the plus side, I have sent out a handful of new query letters. I feel good about that–when I actually remember I did that. Each query letter is a big deal, like an application to college but even more stressful.

In other news… I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m… I didn’t enjoy the movie. It had its funny moments. It had its pretty awesome moments. But I didn’t like the movie. I just haven’t been a fan of Marvel’s Phase 2 in general, with the exception of Captain America 2.

I also watched the first episode of Outlander. Now, I haven’t read the books, in fact, hadn’t heard of them until a few weeks ago. So I came into the show cold. God. The first 30-something minutes was so unbelievably boring. I didn’t get the hype at all. Afterward, I wiki’d the series. Wasn’t impressed. The first book itself seemed alright. I read some reviews of the show. Most seemed to love it. That’s fine, but I didn’t even though I realize and appreciate why it played out the way it did. Yeah, I’ll tune in for the next episode.

That’s it, really. Oh, and my teeth hurt from my most recent trip to the dentist. I wish I had something… encouraging to write about. I wish I had some wisdom to share, a lesson I learned, a piece of great and empowering news. I guess it can’t always be that way. My buddy and co-worker would tell me that “perception determines reality,” and I can agree with that to some extent. And I can also say that sometimes things happen outside your control, and it’s perfectly natural to feel crappy about some of it. I suppose the point, though, is what to do next. Get back up? Or quit?

Of course, I’m not quitting anything. How could I? I have a book to get published. 🙂

over the hump

Part of me wonders if this should’ve gone along with my thoughts about fear, because I suspect it has a lot to do with fear. And perfection. And the fear of not creating something perfect.

Btw, I ended up sort of taking a break from writing. Instead, I’ve been stressing about writing.

We all want to write our best, and we want people to read our best. We want it to be perfect. (At least I do.) Maybe for pride, maybe for self-respect, I think maybe to convince us that all the hell we went through taking our story from beginning to end was worth it. Why else spend weeks/months/years toiling over something?

I’m having some trouble pulling the trigger on my book. The reasons appear to be valid, and yet… I wonder if there are always going to be reasons. I mentioned my problem to a friend. She took some time and helped me work through it. I feel a lot better.

Now I just need to do my research for an agent/publisher. It’s deceptively complicated. In some ways, it’s as simple as visiting writersmarket.com (if you have a subscription), querytracker.net, or agentquery.com and finding someone that’s looking for what you’ve written. But I think it’s more involved than just spamming your search results with a query letter. Over the last couple months, I attended a few seminars on the various stages of writing and publishing. Some of the success stories were too unlikely to model my own pursuit after, but I did gleam some wisdom from them. Finding an agent is like finding a significant other. It’s a committed relationship you’re looking for, built on the trust that the other person wants what’s best for you and will strive to help you achieve your dreams. So you could try to speed-date your way to a successful match. Or you could be more deliberate and reach out to those you feel might really understand what it is you’ve written and what you hope to do with it. Last year I sent out two query letters. They both met with standard rejections. Before I tried, I was worried how I’d react to a rejection. Well. I was fine, and I got the proof I needed to realize I will be okay if/when I get rejected again. That fear is over.

There are a lot of websites describing the incredible perseverance of many popular, critically-acclaimed writers to make their first sell. Go look them up. It’s crazy, but I find it encouraging. Don’t give up, right? That’s the moral of the story there. The writer that gives up never gets published, produced, or representation. For those of us who’ve gotten as far as finishing a book/script, we soon realize that that was the easy part. Selling it is the hard part. The research, the query, the waiting, the rejection. Sometimes even hearing that someone else we know achieved success. (I’m not bitter, honest.) You know, the whole “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” thing.

It’s really tempting for me to set all that aside and just start working on the next book. My brain definitely wants to go to that creative well again, dive in, swim around… you get the metaphor. And if I hadn’t decided to get really serious about making this my career, that would be fine. But doing that won’t help me keep moving forward. My screenwriting partner likes to give me a lot of grief for, what he believes to be, wasting time on trying to get published. He much prefers I focus on scripts, and I can understand where he’s coming from. But as long as I’m actually pushing myself forward, as long as I’m querying agents, I’m never going to see this as a waste of time. When I stop trying, when I go back to doing manuscripts just “for fun,” that’s when I’ll realize it’s time to let go and get back to scriptwriting. And since I’m not there yet, I really need to put my money where my mouth is. I need to get cracking on agent research. I need to send out those query letters, pronto.

So wish me luck. The goal? Have an update on this by next time. 🙂