Monday, June 27, 2011

Birds of a feather.

Isolated.  Disconnected from the film community.  That's how I've felt since I was no longer in school.  But Friday night I put an end to those feelings.  I attended a social gathering of filmmakers, sponsored by Utah Women in Film, a group I recently learned about.  The gathering was not just for women though, since the purpose of UWIF is for networking, they allowed another group (Utah Filmmakers) to join in the social for their "Meet and Greet". 

Imagine people mingling, eating fruit, and strange (but delicious) cucumber snacks, talking "shop" and schmoozing.  I met actors, producers for independent film, location scouts, and sat at a table with other screenwriters.  At first I felt strange since I didn't know anyone, but as we sat and shared stories, experiences, and laughter, I felt comfortable.  We were birds of a feather.  The "screenwriter's table" (not officially set aside for us, but soon developed into "our" table) became the happenin' place to hang out, so most people in the room eventually migrated near us.  

It felt so good to hear other screenwriter's share about their problems, writer's block, lack of writing time, reading about writing instead of writing, frustrations with actors or directors wanting changes to the script.  That's right.  Some of them have screenplays they've sold.  Some have found private funding to film their work. And some (me) have awe and envy and want to hang out with them to pick their brains!  

Ah! 'Tis good to feel connected.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Murphy's Law abated at last!

Most people deal with Murphy's Law in their lives -- the law that indicates if anything can go wrong, it will.  When trying to film, Murphy's Law seems to rule the day, and held no exceptions for me with my latest project.

In January, I approached a small business and asked if they would be interested in a little bartering...I would make a short documentary of their business to post on their website and they could pay me in delicious natural meats.  They run a local farm with chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows that graze on grass and are not given antibiotics or hormones.

They were excited about the idea, and agreed that the best time to film the livestock would be in the spring, so we waited for the snow to disappear and the grass to green up in hopes for nice shots with blossoms on the trees.  May approached and the elements lined up.  However, they were going on vacation the first week in May, so we set a date for the following week.  Setting a date always triggers Murphy's Law into action.

That's when the rains started.  The first appointment was canceled.  Then the second.  Then the third.  Then we stopped making appointments and agreed to watch the weather and play it by ear.  The rain lasted three weeks, only clearing on a few select days when I was unavailable.  After that, it was my turn to go on vacation.

Long story long.  Finally...today was the day!  It happened!  I went early this morning and filmed the animals.  I am now in the process of logging and transferring my clips into Final Cut Pro, and hoping that I have enough decent footage to use.  Take that, Murphy's Law!

(However, Murphy still got a last laugh since it rained heavily yesterday which forced me to walk through muddy muck to the animals.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

I actually purchased a DVD!

Okay, the title to this post probably sounds pretty lame to most people.  I rarely purchase DVDs, partially because technology changes and I don't want stuck with a bunch of outdated DVDs... like the sorry old VHS collection.  Another reason I rarely purchase DVDs is because I'm not one to watch the same movie over and over and over again.  If a movie tickles my funny bone, or seems like a classic, then I might buy it.

Well, last night I was in Target and walked by a display of DVDs on sale for $4.75.  I usually don't pay attention because often for that price the film is a real snoozer, but for some reason I stopped and looked at the titles.

And there, lo and behold, was a favorite movie:  WHAT ABOUT BOB.  I grabbed it and put it in the cart.

When I told my husband I purchased a DVD, he was shocked.  Then when he learned the title, he was thrilled.  It's a cult classic at our house, and we quote from it often.  Even during our vacation, we used one of the lines, "I'm saaiilling!" (Bob...as he's literally tied to the mast of a sail boat.)  And any good meal at our house brings lots of moaning pleasure just like Bob as he enjoys a meal with Dr. Marvin's family.

Yep...WHAT ABOUT BOB... a steal for $4.75!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Am I nuts?

During my first semester at school, I went to the career counseling library with one of my classes.  We were instructed to look up our particular chosen field and learn about the job description, requirements, and salary.  I found the book on filmmaking and flipped to the pages for Screenwriter.  The listed salary was both discouraging and exhilarating: Range... $0 to $1,000,000.  Okay, that's a pretty wide gap.

Lately I've been questioning my choices and taking a long look at my chosen profession.  Why do I feel driven towards a career so laden with difficulties, stress, uncertainty, rejection....  AAAACCKKK!!  (Picture me pulling my hair out here.)

I used to tell my husband that a dream job for me would be crunching numbers--adding columns upon columns of numbers while seated in a cubicle.  Seriously.  I've had a job like that and absolutely enjoyed it.  So why don't I feel driven to pursue that career? Why does the very thought of getting a degree in, say, accounting, make me want to upchuck?

Why screenwriting?  Why filmmaking?  Why writing?  Why any career in The Arts? Why can't I feel a passion for a job that actually pays, or even one that sounds like a real job?  I've been driving myself crazy, questioning.

I'm not alone in my craziness.  I started reading Staying Sane in the Arts  by  Eric Maisel, Ph.D., a psychotherapist who works exclusively with creative and performing artists.  I've had the book for several years, but finally drug it off the shelf.  Like the salary range for a screenwriter, the first chapter of this book was both discouraging and exhilarating.

First the discouragement.  Right away in the introduction he describes the "real artist in the real world" as "often uncertain about his own talent, wants to do art his own way, but must also do business, is hard-pressed to make a living, posses a personality that sometimes serves him well and sometimes does not, frequently has bouts of depression, and in general faces the toughest uphill battle one can imagine."

Gulp.

Oh.  It continues.

"I believe that the artist in contemporary Western society is guaranteed a life of grave difficulty because of his personality, because of the inevitable challenges he encounters..."  (italics added)

That's just the introduction.  If that's not a big enough dose of discouragement, then the first chapter brings another punch.  He writes of income--or the lack thereof.  He states, "A quarter of all working visual artists earn no money from their arts, and another quarter earn less than $1,000 a year.  Almost 90 percent earn less than $5,000 a year. ... Similarly disturbing figures can be quoted for...all groups of creative and performing artists."

Then he poses the same question I keep asking myself:  "Why would a smart, ambitious, talented person choose to live such a life?"

Because I feel alive when I create.  I feel joy when I create.  Author Maisel quotes the sculptor Louise Nevelson, "In my studio I'm as happy as a cow in her stall."

I'm not alone in my craziness, and there's hope that I can learn to work with the anxieties and discouragement.  That's the exhilarating part of the book so far. Tomorrow... chapter two.