So, What Do You Do?

A re-printing of “So, What Do You Do?” (FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2007)

It’s been rather hot in Los Angeles the last couple days. On Wednesday – or was is Tuesday? – I decided to join my friend, Steve, at the local coffee shop, although I had the air conditioner on in my apartment. We sat outside drinking iced coffees as he did his crossword puzzle and I sat staring at the Scientology Building. Regardless of the heat, it was a beautiful, sunny day.

To our right, a guy named Michael sat down next to us. First off, I have met this man before and do not like him. He rubs me the wrong way and, within a matter of minutes, he had turned to us and asked, “So what do you do?”

I’m getting tired of this question, because it’s usually means someone is trying to gauge your worth. They may preface the question with “What is your name?” or “I see you here a lot. Do you live in the neighborhood?” But usually by the third or fourth question they are asking, “What do you do?”

People love to know what you are about in this city. What car you drive. What part of town you live in. What your apartment looks like. How you make your living. What you’re doing in order to make that living. They like to know where you fit in the grand scheme of Hollywood and what you can possibly do for them.

Steve told him he was an actor, but that he was also in production. And then Michael looked to me, through his sunglasses, and asked me what I do. I wanted to slide through my seat and down to the ground, which would hopefully then swallow me up. I wanted to use my backup answer, “I’m getting my Masters at UCLA in the Geopolitical Strategies of the Former USSR in relation to the US and the UK,” but I didn’t. (That usually shuts them up.)

But I mustered up enough courage to say, “I’m a writer” and Steve quickly added “A very good one.” AH! Shhhh! Not in this town! Why didn’t you say you washed dogs for a living!? But it was too late! Michael asked me what type of films I wrote and when it came out that I wrote “Independent Films,” or one might say “European Art House Films,” he sat back in his chair and with a troubled deep breathe, as if the weight of the World had just sunk on his shoulders, exclaimed, “Yeah, I can’t do that.”

Wait a minute! What? Huh? Hold the phone! Did you actually think that over a cup of coffee that somehow we would create a working relationship? HA! Did he actually think I was sitting there with my fingers crossed hoping that he would make all my troubles go away, pick me up and help me carry my little film towards the light of success?

Another lamprey moment happened to me the night after this. I went into Birds to watch the Boston-Yankees game – such pain! I’m a Boston fan – and this guy sat down next to me and, after much prodding and annoying questions by him, I told him that I was a writer and that I was doing a short film. And by the end of the night, the Idiot had asked me to be his writing partner and gave me free reign to steal his ideas. Pardonnez-moi? Простите мне? Excuse me? What!?

You might have realized here that I’m very private about what I do… And perhaps I also have a wee problem with being secure in what it is I do… I know I’m a good writer, but it’s not something I want to shout from the tippy tops of buildings or on street corners or in restaurants so some producer will take note of me… I’m not like that. I want to do this on my own. I want to be left alone. I want to be independent of what Hollywood symbolizes. I want to sail out on my little ship, with my handpicked crew of fabulous, trustworthy “sailors” and do it my way…

Oh, God help me.

The Color of Life

A re-printing of “The Color of Life” (SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2007)

My memories of living in Malaysia and Russia are filled with dreamlike recollections. The colors of Malaysia stand out in my mind – the greens, the reds – and my scrapbooks are filled with photographs of me walking down the streets of Singapore, standing amongst statues in Bali, carefully exploring the jungles in Frazier’s Hill and watching monkeys climb trees in the backyard.

I remember my Mother taking these photographs. They are memories that are filled with little treasures, like what it was like to speak with a slight British accent or to always be wary of King Kobras sneaking around in the tall grass.

Everyone has memories that carry with them strong visceral reactions when you close your eyes and think back to specific hours, days, weeks, years… You can have love affairs with cities, with countries, with architecture, with the streets, with people, with moments, with passing conversations.

Lately, I have felt like a caged bird. Confined. Knowing that this trip with Heather is in the near future makes me feel like I am finally let out of my cage and allowed to soar and by no means am I going back in. It gives me a taste of what life could be like if I moved to London or Paris. It gives me hope that life will take on some of the aspects that I miss from my past. It also gives me the fuel to complete my film and to move forward.

What is important is that I must remember not to be tied down by old memories, but instead find things to make into new ones. My youth gave me a taste of what adventure and life is all about. It’s my responsibility now to make something of this life.

Regret & Fear

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves –
regret for the past and fear of the future.” [Fulton Oursler]

I have a map of my life in front of me and I am in the midst of plotting a direction in which to go; however, unlike most maps that show railroad lines, streets and water ways, my map has only the places you have been; territories of your past; marks that show the places from where you have come. And so, your future direction is left up to you. Mine is left up to me.

Some people draw vague, light pencil marks of a possible course to take. Others act, accepting that the dark lines of life will appears on your map, showing where you have been and what choices you have made in your past. Your future is a white sheet of paper; a blank slate; unknown.

I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish; however, part of me is exhausted from this climb to where I am right now. I have been using a metaphor of a ladder as a way of expressing where I am presently in my life. I can honestly say – in regards to my career – that I have successfully climbed a few rungs up towards a greater sense of success; however, I am still in an uncomfortable place. I liken it to limbo.

I recently received a phone call for work in Vietnam and, after being asked a series of questions, was told that I was too inexperienced to be considered for the job. Thank you very much for my time. Good-bye. A month or so later, I was offered a job as a director for an ultra low-budget feature in Texas. Long story short, the producing team turned out to be extremely inexperienced and we did not “work out.” I am in that place where I am either too inexperienced or over-qualified.

Because of my exhaustive state, part of me is somewhat windless. My sail is lifelessly hanging from my mast. There is no wind coming up from any direction, catching my sail with a gust of power and propelling me onwards…. I have no impetus to dive out of my sailboat; nor strength in my arms to push through the waters and lift myself into a different vessel.

But I have to. I have sat in this one particular boat for long enough. But, you might wonder, why have I stayed in this boat for the length of time I have? Am I not one to jump when I sense the wind has failed me or when the boat starts to leek or the boards given way to the pressure of the sea? All of these things have hit my tiny vessel.

I am sitting here in my rickety boat and the weather has died down and the wind has left me bobbing around in the water; however, the weather has not been peaceful and I am letting on water. I have tried to use my bucket to bail out the salt water, but my arms are tired, don’t you remember? I am tired of pouring water overboard, only to refill my pail with more water that rushes back in. And now my boards are loosening and I must either sink or swim and survive.

But why have I stayed on? I am the Captain of my boat, but there is only me and I am not required to go down with my ship or let women and children in lifeboats before me. What has kept me from tightening my life vest and making a swim for it? Simply put: REGRET & FEAR.

I have made decisions in my past that I regret, but if I sit here, in the cold of the unforgiving ocean water, I will freeze and perish. While I regret some of the decisions I have made, I mainly regret the things that I have not done. I regret not working harder. I regret moments of ignorance or mislaid trust that has brought me to this point in my life.

I have also been told that I am not “good enough” as an artist; that I am mediocre; that I am amateur, which has ushered in a sense of fear that has paralyzed me. I have sat in my sinking boat, scared that these words are true. That I am simply untalented; a hack.

Sitting alone, sinking, I realize that I cannot let those negative words cause me to be crippled by fear; or let the regrets that I have cut me down and handicap me towards succeeding. EVERYTHING IS PROJECTION. Everything people do and say to others has some form and level of projection – positive and negative.

We try to project the positive on our friends, loved ones, family, even strangers. Our fears also find their way into our conversations and our attempts to be critical or, in our mind, “helpful.” Insults are sometimes explained as an honest attempt at being motivational.

Sometimes these words are meant to be sabotaging, because the person who voices their opinions are insecure about what they stand for. How dare you get up the courage to stand up in your rickety, sinking boat and brave the cold water and dive off your boat! Because the water is cold, mind you. Freezing!

And there you go, into the water. Diving down a dozen feet, you are for a brief moment submerged by the waves. You momentarily pause under the surface of the water and you look above you at the bottom of your sinking boat and you see the hole that has caused you so much regret and fear. And you watch as water finds its way into your vessel. And you realize that this hole was made not only by your regrets and fears, but also by those around you who fear your success, because – to them – it means they must look at their own failures; their own regrets; their own fears. Misery also loves company.

Your arms suddenly have the strength to bring you back up to the surface and you take in the cold air, but suddenly you realize you have become accustomed to the temperature of the water and it is not so cold. You watch your boat sink and you are alone in the water, with nothing in sight. But you tread water, because you know you either sink or swim now. And you know that you have to believe that there is another vessel coming your way. And you thank your lucky stars that you tightened that life vest around you before jumping in.

You didn’t jump before, because of that fear that you now remember while you tread in the water. You feared the future. The unknown future where there are no answers to your questions and no positive reinforcement that everything will turn out all right. You didn’t jump before now, because you were afraid of just taking a leap of faith, but sometimes we need to do that. Take a leap of faith into the unknown, because if you take no chances, you get nowhere but the place you know you don’t want to be.

The Next Cycle

We change. Day-to-day. Month-to-month. Year-to-year. We change. We ebb and flow, as I stated in “An Ideal Day,” as a human being; however, instead of simply focusing on the up-and-downs, I also think of the various cycles we experience.

Beyond the life cycle – birth, life and death – there are times in our lives that we experience something in its entirety. Not just its highs and lows or ups and downs. With everything – art, relationships, careers – we experience the beginning, middle and end. It’s like a script or a literary piece of fiction or non-fiction. We come and then we go.

With my short film, I wrote it, made it and then screened it around the World. And now this period in my life has run its cycle. Birth. Life. End. I moved on and am now working on my next film, which will go through a similar cycle. Of course, aspects of the last film still linger; however, the period in which it held most of my attention has passed.

We go through cycles with people, too. We merge with others, like cars, on the Autobahn. We may pace each other temporarily, headed in the same direction, with the same destination in mind, before going our separate ways. Taking that off-ramp to another place. Perhaps we changed our mind. Perhaps we were never going in the same direction to begin with.

Cycles can be calm like a lazy Sunday or a moment in your life when you loose control, as if you’ve been caught up in a whirlpool or tornado. You fight to break free, even though you may be in love with this time and this place. Some people are momentary connections, while others last a few years, others a lifetime. The difference is in the longevity of that union.

Looking at my past journal and blog entries, I see my ever changing views on life: my desire to live in London changing to another city, Paris; being a filmmaker, who added photography to my palette; a displeasure with Los Angeles evolving to acceptance and then a type of love.

The written word is a great places to see the proof that you are growing. Or not growing. You see what you have moved forward from; learned from; and evolved so far to be. I see how I have evolved over time. This awareness is like watching the progression of a person other than you; however, it is me that grows stronger and stronger each day as a person and as “a filmmaker, a businesswoman, a lover, an environmentalist, a daughter, an individual and a woman. A complete human being” (from “Intrigued and Illuminated,” June 24, 2008.)

Each aspect of me in its own cycle. Perhaps we have numerous cycles going at the same time. I sometimes liken these periods of time to chapters or novels in a series. Sometimes we end chapters. Sometimes we end entire books. What I have to do is accept finality and fall in love with the next cycle; to fall in love with change.

An Ideal Day

A re-printing of “An Ideal Day” (FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2007)

I have been skimming the pages of several of my old journals and they’ve been rather inspiring and eye-opening. It’s amazing how you ebb and flow as a human being; how sometimes you’re on top of it and other times you are not; how you can be extremely healthy at some point in your life and anorexic at another; completely nuts at one point and level-headed now.

In my journals, I put down my thoughts, organize my day’s work and research or look over notes. It’s an amazing way to get my thoughts out onto the page in order to use them. I love to write in a journal when I am reading a book or in the midst of writing. Many of my character notes on my last film are found throughout the pages. Discussions on religion/spirituality, art, death, suicide, alcoholism, friendship… all themes in the film.

In my 2006 journal, I wrote a lot when I was reading, researching and writing the script. I had a rather wonderful lifestyle, which I am trying to get back into… It’s definitely a writer’s life. When in the morning, after waking, I’d get up, make myself some tea or coffee and spend some time on the porch writing and reading as the sun just situated itself in the sky. Sometimes I would wake just as the sun was rising and everything is so quiet outside as the World comes alive and it is an amazing moment to work.

I think what is so important is the balance between introspective/introvert work days and extroverted/outgoing days off. A perfect day would be one that has that balance. That if it’s work, it feel genuine and that I’ve given myself space to be free, so I can be serious when necessary.

I am now on a mission for centeredness – in my mind, body and soul – and there are things I have to start doing or going back to – yoga, pilates, meditation, journal writing, hiking up into Bronson Park… But how does one find peace within one self? Do they move to a place they feel they’d be happier? I asked this same question at nineteen and I asked myself if it was through “Taoism? Meditation? Simplicity?” All these things I know have helped me and I have not kept up with for a long time.

Today I went to my Pilates session, where my friend Karina is my instructor, and I feel like practicing Pilates is going to not only work me out and not only help how I carry myself physically, but I think it will support me as I move forward with my life psychologically and emotionally. Everything in life – that you have control over – should support you, motivate you, push you forward and inspire you in some way… It takes a lot to keep the negative out.

There are a string of things that I would like to start doing again, like:

– making yoga an every day part of my life again
– re-learn Russian and French
– take photography classes
– continue going to the gym and start swimming.
– start meditating again.
– hiking up that damn Bronson Park HILL again.

And to start on another foot, I’m gonna get out of the neighborhood for a little while tonight and watch a rather beautiful man perform at the Hotel Café…