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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Reflections: The Cracked Veneer of Hard Work

So I've recently seen another birthday come and go, and as usually happens for me on birthdays, there is a lot of introspection and reflection on the past, and ultimately the future. I don't go out and get "hammered" as many of my colleagues do. I've never been a party girl, as the first few times I got wasted in my early twenties, the ensuing misery that resulted for a few days reminded me that putting large quantities of spirits into my body in one sitting is a really stupid idea. Now, so much the older and wiser, I just spread my red wine consumption over many evenings, usually with something delicious like cheese or samosas.

Anyhow, as I'm nearing the closing of another decade of life, I'd say these past 10 years have certainly shifted my view on what I feel to be deeply-ingrained American notions of success.  I think we all believe, to a degree, that hard work WILL bring success, and that we all deserve it.  And if we are NOT successful, (meaning, we aren't making a good living on what we do), then it's our fault for not working hard enough.  But I think this idea of hard work as the cure all is a very controlling one, with its roots in the Industrial Revolution, its ulterior motive to "rally up the labor force" so they can make the 1% even more wealthy by being more productive than your average world citizen. After all, your laborer will find little cause to work hard if you tell them the truth (it's to line your pockets), but if you somehow manage to convince them it's for their ultimate good and they will get ahead (all of it mostly bull poop), then, they'll probably buy into it.

Success, as we define it here in the US, is much more than hard work.  Talent? Yeah, kinda, but there are plenty of talented people I know that seem to never have their talents recognized, or turn a penny for them. I turned on the radio today to hear a short blurb about a poet (turned on the radio too late to have gotten his name) who worked for an insurance company for 35 years, but every morning would wake up at 4 a.m., make a pot of coffee, and write poetry, good poetry, for three hours before having to leave for work. Thirty five years!

More and more, having been making films now for nearly a decade, if you include my education, I feel that luck is everything. Being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, the economy is in good shape, being born a certain gender in the right country, etc. etc.. Every person who we would consider "successful" is where they are because of decisions that not only they made, but other people made as well, in addition to so many other factors of luck they had no control over.

But to bring it back down to size, luck means nothing if one cannot work hard to sustain it. Doors may open, but if one rests on ones laurels, that greenery is sure to rot. Talent sure helps the mix, but honestly, it's overrated. We can't control our luck, and we can only somewhat control who we know. Sucking up to those whom you think will open doors for you...well, I tend to think they can see right through that shit. It takes a rare bird to truly know how to make others work for them for their benefit (see above on "hard work.)

So, I guess for now, I'll stick with what I know I have going for me. Hard work. Luckily, it's work that I love doing. I look forward to few things in life more than editing my films, working with actors, writers, and creative minds, learning about the new tools I have to capture the stories I adore writing late at night with a few glasses of wine in me.  Although I admit sometimes I wish my boyfriend and I could take a vacation instead of spending our savings on films, and our vacation time shooting them. (Cue sad tiny violin.)

But then...what is "success" really?  Most equate it with money. It's sad, but I guess I do too. I see money from what I do as: Oh, cool, I can chase paychecks less often and spend more time on what I love doing. And having time for what matters is truly truly a gift. As I sit to write this, I'm flabbergasted that 4 hours have just gone while I was running errands and doing chores.  I don't see "success money" as a license for irresponsible spending, posh mansions or luxury cars. I quite like our tiny one bedroom apartment and do not mind using public transportation. 

Anyhow, we are close to finishing editing pre-viz edit of our third film we are calling "Curse of the Bambino" for now. I've also started developing a story based on a comet coming straight towards earth, or so some think. I'm looking at three different love stories around this scenario, with actual little focus on the chaotic aspect of this catastrophic event, and more about the relationships. I'm also revisiting an idea I started when I was 19 and living in NYC, a never-finished short story about a young girl living in remote New Mexico, trying to keep her life together after her mother dies and her rather evil brother comes to take what is his of the land. It's a very visual and dark story, and the more I get into it, the more I feel it should be in a novel format. I've stopped writing scripts that I can't afford to shoot. But this story needs the imaginative world of blizzards, miles of holes dug in the earth, a pet goat, cattle, old cars, and a decrepit trailer in the absolute backwoods of the deserts of New Mexico.

Lucy contributing her two cents (or paws?) to a story outline.

Birthdays. The best gift would be more time. I just want more time. But until I can get a time machine wrapped up in a bow, I'm quite happy with my boyfriend's gifts of my first Moebius and Jodorowsky collaboration, and a Criterion Collection of Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kids Books, Veggies, and Dumb Joggers

1. Children's Illustrations
2. Joggers; Why do I only see dumb ones?
3. Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

Victory! On Sunday, after five months of work, we wrap pre-viz shoot for the third feature, currently titled "Curse of the Bambino." Don't ask me what this film is about. I'm still figuring it out. But this is why we are shooting rehearsals, to develop the story. Let's just say I will never do another film without doing pre-viz this way.

But I have other things on my mind! Childrens' books. I adore them. Not so much for the stories, but for the illustrations. Not that the stories are bad, but of course, what grabs one's eye quicker than an amazing illustration? There was a brief time in my life when I would collect children's books, because I loved looking at the illustrations. I think they are a very under appreciated form of art, primarily because they are associated with kids and education and the "cool factor" doesn't extend into these worlds. Graphic novels for adults do some amazing things, but there is just something about what illustrators for children's books do that adult graphic novels only sometimes achieve. I think text can bog down the graphic novel, in ways that don't happen in children's books.

That being said, let me introduce a new illustrator I've recently learned about.

Meet Pim and Pom.

This is from Dutch artist, Fiep Westendorp, a very famous artist in her time, who died in 2004. There are plenty of animated videos of these cats online, but they first started to appear in Dutch newspapers in the 50s and 60s. They aren't well known in the states, unfortunately. I'll include another image to her other work because I think its fabulous.

I've found other amazing illustrators on places like, but I'll get to that another time.

Joggers. Umff. I don't understand why some of them run on sidewalks and asphalt. When I see them, (and most of them are college aged females in their early 20s, probably trying to lose weight and stop hating their bodies so much), I can hear their joints grinding themselves down into dust. When I lived in NYC when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I too used to wake up at the crack of dawn to jog in Washington Square Park (also just as image obsessed), and now, my knees hate me, my lower back hates me even more. And I attribute part of this early onslaught of joint problems to jogging on hard surfaces so often.  So,...JOGGERS!  You can get your cardio without killing your skeleton! Soft grass, sandy beaches, bicycles, rowing, not to mention the nice little machines at the gym. Save yourselves!

Any by the way, may I kindly request that you also quit being idiots and stop jogging in the bike lane against traffic!? It really sucks for us cyclists to have to move over into traffic we can't see to accommodate your sorry asses that feel you have the right of way in a BIKE LANE. Get on the damn sidewalks. That's what they are there for. 

I can't tell you how many joggers I've bitched at for this crap. And it really ruins my day. Dumb joggers.

On a more serious note, I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a wonderful gift from Mom.  This work is about Kingsolver's family moving from their desert state, taking a year to alter their diets and lifestyles in a more earth-friendly way. This actually does not sum up the book very well, and sounds rather bland. But "earth-friendly" involves more than just buying organic, but also has a lot to do with "thinking seasonally" and locally.  We rarely think about the amount of gas involved to ship out-of-season produce and goods to us. My boyfriend today drank a "Thumbs-Up!" soda from India, and as I reluctantly placed the beautiful bottle of this soda into the recycle bin (I will not be a pack rat), I thought about how far that soda had come to get to us, how much gas had been used to deliver it to Austin. It made me feel pretty bad actually, especially as there are plenty of locally made delicious sodas here in Austin.  I'm only 70 pages into the book, and as a reader, Kingsolver is preaching to the choir as I firmly believe in organic and local produce. But her research and facts, the focus on the agendas of Big Agriculture, and the general American ignorance of seasons, nature, and what corporations want us to put in our bodies is both shocking and sad. This generation of children have a shorter life span than their parents, and this, according to her book, is the first time in history where life spans have retrograded. Why more people are not concerned about this, and worried about the future of our food, is perhaps even more shocking.