Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Meeting In the Ladies Room

A few months ago, I was invited to join a women’s networking group.  There are periodic gatherings in person, but, for the most part, our contact with one another is via emails and “the boards,” a virtual bulletin board where we can access any and all info one could think of having to do with the entertainment industry.  I wasn’t expecting much.  I have, however, become completely enamored with this wellspring of intelligence, insight, and can-do-ism.  Members will often post a note that they are looking for a contact for a specific company or person, but it goes deeper than that. 


In these most difficult of economic times, there are many women in the industry who are having a really tough time keeping a roof over their heads.  One of our members, new to Los Angeles, was days away from being put out of her apartment, with no where to turn.  She posted that she was looking for a service-for-trade situation.  She is now, thanks to leads from our membership, living with an elderly lady with a home with room to spare, for whom she cooks dinner and does errands, in exchange for her room and board.  This has allowed her to keep her industry job in the early mornings.  All thanks to a continuum of women.


I responded to a call for members who might be interested in a “brainstorming group,” even though I wasn’t sure what that would mean.  Much to my surprise, and pleasure, I met with three other women the first night at a health-food restaurant in Hollywood.  We were, respectively:  a stand-up comedy sketch artist/graphics designer; a marketing person for an online greeting card company; a television/music producer; a writer/director/filmmaker.  The ground rules were that we would each bring a project or idea that we were working on, at any stage of development, to share with the group and receive feedback regarding how to expand and further it.  In the span of two hours, we traded stories, each allotted five minutes to introduce our project, five minutes to receive feedback, and five minutes to then discuss.  At the end of each our time allotments, we each came up with what we would pledge to accomplish by the following meeting.  We each also told the others exactly what we needed from the others in terms of encouragement and support.  One woman was so clear on what would feel best for her, she gave us a kind of script:  “When I post on our page that I have done X, it would really feel good for you guys to say Z.”  We laughed about the fact that all of our relationships in our lives could be served by such frankness and clarity.  Even though I walked in with the start of a nasty migraine, I left feeling buoyant.  The genuine care that we all showed for one another’s passions and journey was so refreshing.  As women, we are often pitted against each other, or choose to see ourselves as such.  In this town, and in this time, where so many view their little corner of the universe as a zero sum game, here I was in a place that was only to support and nurture me.  And that’s the way it was…

Five Dollar Footlong + Entourage=FUN

Was under the weather on Friday, so I missed the opening night at the International Black Women’s Film Festival.  After having to cancel all of my travel reservations, I re-booked, switched hotels, and was back on my way Saturday evening.  It’s a short plane trip from L.A. to San Francisco.  Just as we entered the Bay Area, I was treated to the most incredible sunset I have ever witnessed.  An orangey blaze across an aubergine sky.  Felt otherworldly.  Checked into the Clift Hotel…just in time for the party, apparently.  It made me wish I could travel with an entourage.  I so get why folks who find success in the entertainment business often bring with them their closest friends.  For one thing, it gets lonely.  And, then there is also the fact that inside jokes without an accomplice are a little pathetic, as they are only inside your head.  Plus, if you are only in a place for a night or two, the kind of connections that are there for the making are not normally of the kind that a happily married woman wants.  I have never had a problem taking myself to a movie or dinner.  I learned at the age of sixteen that solo movies can be quite a treat.  But, there are times when you just want another human who knows you to bear witness to what you are exploring and experiencing.  My oldest daughter was with me for a festival in Lake Arrowhead, CA a few months back.  The sheer white-knuckled terror we experienced heading up the mountainside to 6000 feet above the rocky valley below is now fodder for us to laugh about until we are doubled over.  We must have looked like a really bad Thelma and Louise meets Twin Peaks smash-upand speaking of Twin Peaks (and that is where it was filmed), we were convinced that the woods held the most treacherous of mass murderers, just waiting to make furniture and clothing from our body parts.  (We are avowed city people.  It’s official.)  And who else would have had a mutual attack of the juvenile sleep-deprived giggles over the suddenly funny “$5 footlong” Subway song.  Point is, you had to be there…with someone. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I have now been on the festival merry-go-round for three months.  The line that keeps coming to mind is, "Be careful what you wish for."  And, I don't mean for this to sound as though I am ungrateful.  I am anything but that.  I am simply experiencing what a lot of newbies discover.  You make this film that you are passionate about.  You hone the best writing you can muster.  You choose the most talented people to work with to make it shine.  You get on set, and the ups and downs are incredible. Passions flare, urging one another to do work that is better for it. When post-production time arrives, the excitement of dissecting and melding the initial vision with the reality of what was captured is at hand.  Editors call this part "polishing the turd."  Not very eloquent, but it must be what it feels like to be given hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tiny pieces to make one coherent whole.  It is said that a movie is written three times:  the screenplay by the writer, the shooting by the director (and cinematographer), and the final meld by the editor.  I always understood this.  The part I didn't really consider, albeit naive of me, is the running around the world to talk about it phase.  But it has to be done, especially in this age of YouTube.  Everybody and their brother, twice removed, feels that they are a filmmaker.  I have talked to folks who claim that they have done 8, 12, 20 movies.  Then I find out that they turned the digital cam upon themselves going to the loo, and called that "film." But, legit movies with rich stories and characters are still competing for the same viewers' attention.  And to do that, you have to run around the world talking about the film you put your heart and soul into.  All of the people who gave time and effort to the film deserve for me to give it that effort.  And, I owe that to myself so that I can continue to tell stories that otherwise wouldn't get told...kind of the mantra of Lotus Girl Films.

So, my days have shaken out like this:

•Joining a women's brainstorming group, as an offshoot to a networking group of women in the industry.  (More about this in the next post.)

•Research at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on my next project, a political thriller

•Watching old suspense/thriller/political films as inspiration and research (maybe the best perk of the job)

•Supporting other women directors...go see "The Hurt Locker" directed by Kathryn Bigelow!

•Polishing a script for a table reading next week with actors

•Trying to make the moments that I spend with my kids happy and connected ones

•Trying not to rely too heavily on caffeine, even the green tea kind

•Trying not to freakout when my four-year-old lands us in the ER with a "broken chin" on the 4th of July  (four stitches and a few days out of the pool, and he's fine; mommy is still re-living watching the numbing of the wound--oy!)

•Talking to other writers and story people about new projects

•Talking to folks about money for the next projects

•Getting ready for two festivals coming up in the next 10 days

All in all, it has been a good couple of weeks.  A good night's sleep, or two, and I should be ready to talk it up some more.  At the end of the day, the whole scene is just a heap of "high level problems."  Like I said, be careful what you wish for.  You will probably get it.  And then some.