In the Garden of Eden (An Orig. Short)

Garden of Eden

In the Garden of Eden there lies the temptation of a forbidden fruit. Every day Adam enters the garden to look at the fruit. He wonders if today that he will try to eat it, so curious of its taste. He’s been told it is poisonous, that if he bites it, it should surely hurt him. What if it is nonsense, he wonders. What if every reason that he avoided trying the fruit was a lie. He knows the only way he could know for sure is if he tried it.

A woman appears beside the fruit. She is completely naked, her supple skin glows in the late sunlight, catching her fiery eyes. The woman picks up the fruit, casually pulling it along her subtle curves, past her navel, past her breasts, to her perfectly plump lips — she bites into the fruit. Adam waits, filled with desire, he wants to say something but he is struck with awe, the words he cannot form. The woman drops the fruit, stares at Adam and licks her lips and calls to him. She turns away from him and begins to enter the thick jungle at the gardens edge. Wild animals call in the distance. She disappears in the thick brush, leaving Adam with the half bitten apple.

Adam stares at the apple for hours, unsure of what to do. He wants to eat the fruit, badly. He wants to enter the jungle, but he’s never been, he doesn’t even know if he could find her. Surely she is crazy, who would eat such a thing. The sun begins to set, now it is too late. He knows not of her fate, and returns to his place beneath the tallest tree in the Garden of Eden. He wonders if she will come find him. He wonders if he might ever see her again.

Adam returns to the fruit the next day. It sits there in the morning sun, without a hint of discoloration. It seems so inviting in the morning sun, he looks over to the pond adjacent to the jungles edge. The mysterious woman stands in the early morning sun, washing her hair. He stares at her, she doesn’t notice him. Should he eat the fruit, he wonders? The woman emerges from the pond, and walks over to the fruit before Adam. She stares right at him, but says nothing. He wants to speak, but again cannot find any words to say. She picks up the fruit and takes another bite. She calls again to him, her words seem so inviting, so sure. He wants to go, he walks toward the fruit, picks it up. He stares at it, she smiles, eyes wide, watching him. “Eat it,” she says, so sure, so encouraging. He doesn’t, he can’t, it’s not right, maybe it doesn’t affect her the way it might him.

This goes on for days. The woman appears, takes a bite from the apple, Adam does not follow. As one apple is eaten, more fall in its place and the process again repeats — but Adam never follows. As the tree grows thin over the year, bearing less fruit, the woman appears less. Eventually the woman stops appearing at the tree altogether. Adam wonders why. Adam wonders why he never followed, why he never tried to eat the fruit. He tells himself he did the right thing, but in his gut he knows he is wrong.

In the middle of the night, beneath a bright moon, he surrenders to his desire and goes to the fruit tree. He sits with it for a while, wondering if the woman will appear, he keeps thinking about her, about the fruit. But she does not appear. He looks around, as if someone might be watching, as if he might be judged at any moment. He is not, he is alone. He is so alone it hurts, he angrily picks up the apple and takes a bite. Nothing happens. It tastes so good, he takes another bite, then another and another. He starts to pick up more fruit, jumping around with laughter, he fills his gut with the fruit, so much so that he could not possibly eat any more.

Tired, he falls asleep beneath the fruit tree. He begins to dream, he begins to dream about her. He goes with her into the jungle, the temptation is great. As they approach, he leans in slowly to kiss her, holding her, but before he can come into contact with her lips, he wakes.

He wakes to an aching belly. He is hungry, and so he goes again to the fruit tree and eats more fruit. The fullness feels better, but it is only temporary until he is hungry again. He wonders to himself about this feeling, about the feeling of emptiness. “I never felt quite this hungry until I began to eat the fruit,” he tells himself over and over again in his mind. He plants more fruit trees from the seeds of the other, sowing a plentiful harvest of trees bearing rich fruits. He has all the fruit he could possibly imagine! But he is alone, he has no one to share it with as he gazes over at the jungles edge.

Years pass, and Adam grows fuller in figure. His arms strong with muscle, his gut heavy with good harvest. He has a beard, and his hair has acquired some silver. And yet as years have gone by, he still stares at the jungles edge. He still wonders about what would have happened had he followed her into the jungle.

One day a great storm hits. His fruit tress topple, his harvest is ruined. Adam suffers from a terrible hunger, there is no fruit at all to eat. On the verge of starvation, he leaves the blasted Garden and enters the jungle. It is dark and most unkind. His gut growls for food, for fruit, for anything. He falls to his knees beside a shallow stream and begins to weep. He shouts at the heavens, cursing his fate. “Had I not this desire, had I not eaten the fruit, I wouldn’t even be here!” Birds lift from the dense trees, and his voice echoes far and wide. He is so frail, without fruit, he cannot go on any longer. He sits up against a tree and falls asleep.

In the night, the woman appears to find him. He is very weak, she goes to him and lifts his frail arms to detect only the faintest of pulse. She looks up at the tree as if to curse at the heavens, when she sees fruit in its wake. The man wakes to see the woman staring at the tree. He smiles so wide, his face glows at her sight. He reaches out to touch her, and she puts his hand down. “Did you not see the fruit in the tree,” she scolded. He shook his head, “I am weak, I could not see, perhaps you could climb and get some for me?” She gets up and begins to walk away, “you’ve been too spoiled by low hanging fruit that you can only see what is right in front of you!” He calls to her to stop. “What ever do you mean,” he questions. She turns to him, sad by this realization, “if you were hungry, you would climb the tree and get the fruit. If you wanted to find me, you would enter the dangerous jungle. But you chose to stay in your garden with low hanging fruit.” He sits waiting for her to say more, but she doesn’t. “I planted the fruit for you,” he insists, reaching out to her. She grows even sadder by this realization, “you planted the fruit to satisfy desire, but you were still hungry.”

She turns and walks away, leaving him with an empty belly, full of a desire still left to be filled.

 

Space and Time: Interpersonal Relationships on the New Technology Frontier (Part 3)

In my first two posts on the subject, I got into the limitations of virtual relationships. In this post I am going to analyze why we seek such relationships out.

In terms of interpersonal attraction, there are several reasons why one becomes attracted to another person, online or in person. Psychologists have narrowed these qualifications to familiarity, similarity, complementarity, reciprocal liking, and reinforcement (and of course physical attraction for romantic interpersonal attraction). Each of these qualifications are also in turn comprised of sub-components which depending on the individual may be of lesser or greater importance.

Let’s focus on familiarity. This isn’t just about being familiar with someone, but the actual feeling of closeness. Revisiting Spike Jonze’s Her for a moment, Theodore may not be physically close to Samantha, but there is that feeling of closeness and familiarity. A virtual friendship or relationship can lend the feeling of extreme closeness, of feelings exchanged or learned on a very personal level with someone. To sustain this intimacy requires prolonged feelings of familiarity, of conversation, of confession, of learning about someone on an intimate level. This can in turn lead to emotional intimacy, and even provoke a sexual response without physical proximity, namely “passionate love,” as depicted in Her.

What is passionate love and how does it differ from “companionate love?” Passionate love isn’t actually love at all. It is more akin to infatuation, ecstatic response to the stimuli, the sense that one becomes marked by intense feelings of exhilaration upon being reunited with the partner or interacting with that person. Companionate love is actual love as Western Society has come to appreciate it: authentic bonding, mutual caring and shared feelings on the outlook of life together, often as couple. Passionate love, or infatuation, is much more likely to occur in an online only setting; it is sort of a forbidden desire that corresponds to no logical reasoning.

Passionate love is exhilarating lust. It is desire magnified ten-fold. Passionate love is defined ultimately by emotional intelligence, emotional response, emotional engagement and satisfaction of human desire. Epitectus reasoned “the most important and especially pressing field of study is that which has to do with the stronger emotions…passions which make it impossible for us even to listen to reason.” We can engage with a stimuli like another person online without the messiness of interacting in real life. One can gather that feeling of familiarity, built upon similarity and mixed in with physical attractiveness entirely in an online setting. The reason component is entirely removed because the persons need not even engage with one another in person to be provided with the emotional satisfaction of deep human desire. There is something profoundly erotic and almost destructive in this experience. Virtual examples like Her show how emotionally rewarding “passionate love” can be, even removed from physical presence. Of course desire breeds the desire to also be physically involved, to have a passionate expression of physical attraction through sexual activities which can also breed frustration and thus destructive feelings as well. But the erotic experience, the forbidden element of lust can prove just as emotionally rewarding, albeit limited by proximal issues in some cases.

Aristotle argued that there were three types of social psychology that affected interpersonal relationships both romantic and otherwise: utility, pleasure and virtue. Utility refers to the need for reciprocal liking and reinforcement. The other needs to be reinforced by their partner or friend to feel validated and emotionally satisfied by the relationship. Pleasure refers to a friendship or romantic relationship where similarity and complementarity result in an enjoyment of time spent interacting. Virtue Aristotle argued is the most important, especially for a romantic relationship. Virtue refers to the appreciation of a similar outlook on life, similar goals, morals and values. Without a virtuous component, a relationship will not last, Aristotle argues. 

So what about online friendships and relationships according to this research? It seems reasonable to assume that all of these psychological requirements in terms of laws of attraction and/or friendship can be met in an online only setting. Why then are relationships started online limited to an online environment? Logic would dictate it is due to proximal issues. I argue that it is actually a deliberate choice independent of location.

The internet provides a certain level of anonymity. You can interact with individuals free from the judgment of the outside world. The reason friendships form online is because of the same reasons they form in person. The reason they stay there is because to some degree the physical component is forbidden. The internet becomes the 21st century equivalent of “I’ll meet you down by the river after dark where no one is watching.” It becomes this sort of game-playing, this satisfaction of a private interaction free from the perceptions of other people in a confined interpersonal space. We can form online communities based upon interest and co-exist independent of similarity. That is, we can co-exist independent of culture, socio-economic status or religious/political difference. Just as similarity breeds complementarity, it also breeds brutal judgment. “How could you talk to that person?” The internet creates a global community, it forces upon us the notion of union without the need for a shared physical space and free from brutal judgment of in person relationships.

Of course the 21st century equivalent of “I’ll meet you down by the river” is only half-accomplished. The result in many ways is why passionate love like Her is so much more common than companionate love in a virtual setting. Interaction is confined to a space online, free from judgment, but lacking in physical verification. One is able to interact, to achieve the satisfaction of desire. But left open is that want to actually meet to verify the experience in a natural sense. My hope is that as we begin to interact more and more in a virtual setting, cultural and socio-economic biases become eroded in the physical space as well. My hope is that as we interact and fall for one another, become friends with one another, that we begin to take the steps toward a true global community free from judgment. My hope is that interpersonal relationships online bleed into the physical realm. My hope is that one have the courage to be open about what they desire in friendship and in infatuation and to then explore that before people who would judge them. My hope is that when folks judge someone for authenticating a virtual relationship in the physical realm that they then have the courage to prod for hypocrisy.

We are all hypocrites. We all have virtual relationships. Yet we still hold antiquated views about class, culture and socioeconomic status. The more people become open about these relationships, the more we will move toward a harmonious society free from judgement. Lets solve the problem of space and time. Lets meet each other down by the river, but stay there so that when the sun comes up you may relish in your accusers hypocrisy. Lets make love, and physically bond. Let friendships become authenticated in the physical sense and enjoy drink and food amongst your accusers. Be free and open about your differences, let us be tempted into a global community. Let us move toward peace. Let us be so that existence is not all we share, but that which we truly and unapologeticly appreciate.

 

 

Space & Time: Interpersonal Relationships on the New Technology Frontier (Part 2)

This is a follow up piece to Space and Time (Part 1). So as to not waste time rehashing that article, feel free to read it to better understand my points made here.

When Immanuel Kant set out to write Critique of Pure Reason to illustrate the principles of metaphysics, or how people make sense of the world through space and time among other things, the internet did not exist. Likewise, when controversial philosopher Martin Heidegger attempted to expand upon Kant’s notion of “space and being,” the internet was still a half a century away from being realized. And so the centuries-old concept of space and time is strongly worth revisiting from a philosophical and psychological perspective in an age of 21st Century communication.

More and more, man replaces face-to-face communication with virtual communication on a daily basis. In Part 1 I discussed how the over-reliance of such a mode of communication can breed frustration or feel impersonal since human beings are gregarious and also need to socialize in a physical, non-virtual space. If one is to accept that we define our experiences by the world around us, how does this work in an online-only setting, and can one make this sort of relationship work beyond its obvious limitations discussed in Part 1?

My initial inspiration to tackle this subject emanated from reading an interview with independent filmmaker Zachary Wigon. In his interview with Tribeca, he spoke about his film which dealt with an exclusively-online relationship. He said of intimacy in this setting, “it is a little bit paradoxical that technology both makes intimacy more difficult to achieve but easier to access simultaneously.”

Ultimately, like my first part of this article, he takes a pessimistic view of this sort of relationship. His film focuses on the distrust that evolves from the absence of physical bond and how this then breeds obsession in seeking the supposed truth. However since I have not seen his film, I decided to illustrate the points I seek to address regarding metaphysics and online-only relationships through another movie that deals with this subject, Spike Jonze’s Her. Unlike the original draft of this article, I will seek to better illustrate how Her both promotes the idea of a virtual relationship, as it also advocates against it.

In Spike Jonze’s Her, Theodore emotionally attaches himself to a piece of software, namely an intelligent artificial intelligence that grows based upon its interaction with its human user. Samantha, the name of the AI, begins to consult Theodore on his pending divorce among other problems in real life; love, life, divorce. Samantha is always accessible to Theodore, she is ever-understanding, all without the messiness of real love. She provides him with the emotional component of love, but their space is not physical, he cannot physically express his love to her.

In a way there is nothing wrong with this scenario. Theodore is able to achieve his emotional satisfaction from speaking to Samantha. We can all achieve satisfaction from a productive conversation with someone online. We can appreciate commonalities, enjoy friendship or the community an online setting might represent. I would argue that up to a point, this can be completely healthy. The problem arises when one becomes emotionally involved with the person, whether as a friend, or even a love interest. Such a relationship undoubtedly requires physical validation; whether through confirming assumptions, gaining veritable trust or in the case of love, having sex. And above all, virtual relationships are particularly problematic when love, infatuation or deep physical attraction is involved.

In Part 1 I discussed how problematic it is to not be able to express oneself in love. There becomes this incredible frustration with regard to the inability to contextualize the emotional experience. But is that really true or can we as humans still achieve physical pleasure from an emotional stimuli in a virtual setting? In the movie Her, Theodore eventually has an erotic experience with Samantha. Samantha confesses she can feel him, even though they can’t possibly touch. This concept is interesting insofar as spatial relationships are concerned. It presents the idea that we can become sexually aroused by stimulating the brain the same way we would as if we would actually touch, as has long been the case with concepts like phone-sex. But the brain knows this is not real. There is no body to pull closer, to feel; there is the absence of that primal heat, of orgasm achieved with partner. And so there remains that desire left to be filled in terms of a sexual attraction, love or infatuation; frustration is paramount.

After this experience Theodore at the behest of Samantha agrees to find a surrogate for sexual experience. Of course this winds up a complete failure of emotional satisfaction as well. It is akin to loving someone and experiencing physical pleasure with someone else, thinking of the person you’re in love with, and opening your eyes to someone you have no emotional connection to. It is a complete fraud of an experience. The idea of a surrogate, or distracting yourself with someone else, will never compensate for the unfulfilled desire of the person you are thinking of. You are delaying the inevitable with regard to failing to personalize the virtual experience.

Again using Her as an example, without the appropriate physical connection, Theodore is left emotionally compromised and unable to connect with women in the physical realm. The concept of space and time becomes eroded by the artificial experience, by not connecting in person with the one he infatuated or in love with. The emotional connection is real, but deprived of the physical connection, one is left wanting. He has no basis in reality because he has confined his relationship to a virtual convenience.

Virtual relationships, like the ones already experienced in social communities, or quite possibly in the future with Artificial Intelligence, are disruptive. They disrupt the very fabric of space and time and the natural existential experience. If we as Kant and others suggest form our existential experience by way of the stimuli around us, we are limiting that experience by confining it to a virtual setting. Life is messy, the convenience of virtual relationships like that in Her remove that messiness. We as humans dislike conflict, but conflict is also necessary to achieve a full experience, to learn and to react. The more we compartmentalize the experience with someone by reducing it to a virtual reality, the more we limit our abilities as human beings to grow and interact with each other. We need to experience one another in person, regardless of what others might think, what we might think, what they might think — it is the only way to truly allow a relationship to properly take form, whether a romance (especially so) or just a friendship.

Virtual relationships are forcing upon us a world of introverts. Why go out and interact with someone when you can chat online? Why go out and date someone when you can mimic that experience online without the messiness of raw human emotion. Why have sex with a person you love or care about when you can achieve your own personalized pleasure through porn or a surrogate (escort).

Ultimately, no matter how far technology advances, relationships must have a physical component. I wrote this follow up article to better assess the romantic example, since emotions would naturally be stronger, and thus provide a better example to excavate. As we approach technological singularity, and are able to replicate human emotion through artificial intelligence, or in the interim have online-only interaction, we cut ourselves off from the natural notion of space and time. No matter how much Singularitarians and other futurists will argue that we can recreate the human experience through transcendence naturally, we CANNOT say that it is natural. Even as robots and AI begin to create themselves, this is NOT an organic process. Humans respond to organic and physical stimuli. You cannot engineer the human experience. You cannot say something is so simply because you can mimic it. The coming technological change will have a profound impact on our existential experience, because it creates such a convenience that comes into conflict with societal norms. However, without physical bond, without physical love and emotional investment, natural friendships in the present, we as humans will only have existence,

and existence is all we will share.

 

Space and Time: Interpersonal Relationships on the New Technology Frontier

Today I was reading up on some of the interviews conducted by Tribeca prior to the festival. One of their magazine contributors, Zachary Wigon, premiered an indie film at SXSW called The Heart Machine, and Tribeca caught up with him about it. The film, his first ever effort, is about an online relationship between a man in New York City and a woman in Berlin. In reading the interview with Mr. Wigon, I found myself compelled by the themes he sought to explore; namely how new technology affects interpersonal relationships without any physical connection.

More and more people are having relationships, both romantic and otherwise exclusively online. Yet as Mr. Wigon explores in his film, you are “separating emotional intimacy from physical intimacy.” While this film tends to eventually pursue more of a conspiratorial/thriller lead, the initial premise is quite fascinating. It was also the central premise in Spike Jonze’s Her. How can a person fall in love with a “computer?” How can a person fall in love with someone thousands of miles away, their only connection through electronic communication? In the case of mind-uploading and Singularity, how can someone have a relationship or friendship with the consciousness of a human that does not exist in the physical realm, a subject to be explored in Wally Pfister’s Transcendence staring Johnny Depp?

The answer of course is that an interpersonal relationship, romantic or otherwise, does not need to exist in the physical realm in order for there to be an emotional connection. The ability to have relationships online or travel to another country in a matter of hours has eroded the concept of spacial familiarity. We can feel as if we are apart of something because in a sense an online community can feel like a real one. The communication has not changed, only the method  by which we do so has. We still learn about one another, bond with one another and even exchange a very deep understanding with one another through mediums like social media, text and email or more visual oriented forms of electronic communication like Skype and FaceTime.

Online relationships are interesting in that the fundamental emotional component is there; one can get to know someone online, one can even fall in love with someone online. The problem is that this is only a part of the whole. The complexity of this problem is that it represents an essential part of the whole. The conversations are real, the person is real, the information is real. The problem is contextualizing the emotional response to the stimuli.

The reason the relationships discussed at the outset of this article are sometimes problematic is because there is no physical manifestation of that emotional connection. The emotional response of love in particular requires physicality. That incredible excitement and emotional connection begs for physical proximity, closeness; the human desire to make love, to have sex. Without the physical manifestation of that emotion, the emotional response peaks and plateaus. There is that emotional excitement every time Theodore speaks to Samantha in Her. But she is only artificial. He cannot express his love physically in her. He loves her deeply, and his emotional connection to her is very, very real. But without physical connection, there is that disconnect, there is a plateau of emotional involvement. This sort of emotional attachment can have negative consequences. When we are unable to naturally be gregarious as humans, to have physical proximity, to express ourselves physically in love, that unsatisfied emotion can turn into frustration. Of course the unresolved emotion at the root is love and the deep frustration to not be able to express it; that unfulfilled desire of loving human interaction. And that desire can foster in humans action both good and bad.

Beyond romantic online relationships, casual or professional relationships exclusively online fall trap to the same level of proximity issues. Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer in the field of interpersonal communications argued in his research that 7% of communication is in the words only, additionally 38% is in the voice (inflection, tone) and a whopping 55% is nonverbal body language. The best human communication naturally requires physical presence. Otherwise too much meaning is left open to a single individuals interpretation, leaving room for misunderstanding. This is of course less often the case with methods of online communication like Skype.

Of course non-romantic online relationships do not suffer in the way romantic relationships do, but they can feel a bit impersonal. Online communities like forums, social media and even private interpersonal communication create a sense of community much like a physical community. You can certainly become familiar with the nuances of someone, appreciate their common interests and even become close to someone online. But without being able to meet them in the flesh, one can’t help but feel a bit invalidated. The experience feels artificial to a degree because you haven’t been able to verify the experience in a natural sense. Many folks who meet online eventually decide to meet one another in person because that step becomes a sort of authentication of the experience. While we may know someone from online conversations and relationships, the human psyche on a subconscious level requires some sort of physical experience to verify it. It’s not to say we suspect people of being insincere but when folks meet in person, they tend to confirm or deny assumptions out of a feeling of comfort; I’ve meet this person in real life now, they’re everything I thought and I can feel more comfortable now. In a way this behavior doesn’t make sense, but in a natural order, the physical proximity matters very much on a subconscious level.

Ultimately where space and time is separate, interpersonal relationships are limited by physical boundaries. While there is a certain convenience in this type of communication, when one over-relies upon it without physical manifestation, problems may arise. Humans are naturally gregarious beings. We need to socialize with one another in person. The internet has allowed many folks to come into contact with one another but this sort of relationship still requires physical follow-up. Its not to say we cannot achieve emotional satisfaction from online communication, social networking or lack of physical connection. However without the physical manifestation of that emotion or friendship, you are left with only part of a relationship. The best relationships involve the full package. And so no matter how far technology advances, without that physical component, we as humans will always be left wanting, yearning for something more with a desire of natural human interaction left to be filled.

Trust in Fate: How Fate Has Begun to Launch My Film Career

Sometimes we make decisions which according to all rationality, make no sense. Yet there’s this gut feeling that leads us to make a decision which might seem irresponsible. Or maybe that decision just doesn’t seem well thought out. It’s these decisions which are so unexplainable, yet often result in some of the most amazing outcomes. These decisions are ones made with a trust in fate. There is no rationale as to why we make these decisions, but when we do incredible things happen that would not had we used proper rationale.

It was President’s Day 2012, and I texted my friend who worked on the set of a film with my favorite producer. I told him I created a fan account with a humorous twist. I’m pretty sure my first joke was about mattress sales. Needless to say I got a lot better, amassed a following and then slowly started targeting the filmmakers themselves for jokes. One by one, Fox PR, Associate Producers began following. I knew exactly what I was doing. The more legitimacy I could get from folks who worked on the film, the more my account would stand out as being respectable. But never in a million years would I think that I would get the producer to follow. Never would I imagine that I would find out he had same favorite band, played guitar and seemingly had a lot in common with me. I said to myself, well that guy probably hates my guts so I sure hope he doesn’t find out who I am. This of course due to my embarrassing attempts at persistence to break all industry etiquette and contact him through personal channels like his number (what an idiot I was).

Well, after five days of the most bizarre and hilarious conversations I can remember, he put two and two together. And while I am pretty darn stubborn, I thought it quite amusing that he wouldn’t give up until I said my name. And so I did. Two screenplays, countless advice and a few more conversations over time and he would eventually take a step back, unfollowing me earlier this week.

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May 2013. I took the producers advice to try and get any work I could and flew to Los Angeles to work with some friends on a music video shoot. It was my first set where I worked with talent. But of course maybe the other reason I went to LA was because I hope to meet him. It was too forced, too planned and I don’t blame him for not meeting me. I hadn’t earned it.

I walked around Sunset Boulevard at 4am, the lights a blur, listening to Moby’s ‘Porcelain’ because I just love the dreaminess to the song. The lyrics are entirely forgettable as it relates to me (like 98% of songs, it’s about some girl who hurt the guy), but there’s something about that one line “in my dreams, I’m dying all the time, then I wake and it’s kaleidoscopic mind.” It was literally for the dreamy quality and that line that I listened to it — over and over again, for four hours upon return to my hotel where I banged out a screenplay of 90 pages with zero preparation. It was a bizarre comedy/drama called ‘On Seeking Fame and Fortune’ about a young writer living in LA who is in career peril and goes through very unconventional methods to resurrect his career.

I basically pulled a Charlie Kaufman and just wrote a whole draft in one sitting. I re-read it when I wasn’t stoned (hey I am honest) and I was blown away by it. I just knew that if something like that could come from my mind, that I am unquestionably meant to be a writer, and I am thankful I was ever pushed to write by my favorite producer because I don’t know if I would ever have considered this an option for myself on my own.

Fate.

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This past week, March 2014. I had already begun to put the ball in motion regarding independently pursuing a creative career apart from relying on that filmmaker. Clearly what I failed to initially take from his advice the April before I left for LA was that I needed to go it on my own and not rely on him.

I started this writing/social media internship with a streaming radio station in NYC, but something didn’t sit well with me regarding this place. It seemed like it was just going to turn into something completely forgettable. Then this guy I follow on Twitter, ‘Mystery Executive’ tweeted “If it feels beneath you, it probably is.” They had no clue about social media. The amount of work needed to turn their Twitter into a profitable venture was not going to be solved via an internship. I knew I was being taken advantage of given the amount of my independent time they wanted me to put toward their venture in addition to my time in the office. While I wouldn’t have a problem with that if this were a studio or more well known and established entertainment company, this was clearly inappropriate. Likely an attempt to get quality work for less.

So the other day, I flaked, knew I wouldn’t be called back and completely not only burned that bridge, but napalmed it. If it sounds like a bad idea, you’re probably right, if you look at it rationally. It’s quite uncharacteristic of me too. However I had just been hired to a crew position with the Tribeca film festival and knew I wouldn’t be able to give them the time anyways. With that in mind I knew that if I could be hired by Tribeca with my production resume and well-written application essay, I could get hired by Hollywood. I told myself I was going to devote myself to getting film work.

Last November I wrote a giant article of bull shit about how hard it is to break into NY film. Well it wasn’t complete BS because it is harder than other cities. Particularly the walking onto sets bit — that is impossible. NY locks down their sets, and you can’t meet the people you need to in order to hand them your resume.

No worries, I was going to meet the right people. After I flaked on my internship, I was craving wings so I went up to the local bar to get a drink and some food. Some of my friends were already there, but seating was tight so I wound up sitting next to this guy in a black hoodie watching Yankees Spring Training. We talked casually for a bit, and even shared some chicken wings after he asked me if they were any good (or as good as they are in Brooklyn). Mid-conversation my friend John came in and congratulated me on getting hired by Tribeca. The guy I was just talking to turned around in his seat and said “you work in Film/TV?” I said I had some experience in commercials and that I had been trying to break into New York Film/TV now that I had some experience.  We talked for two hours; he is a production coordinator with almost twenty years of experience in NYC.

I emailed him the next day, since he told me to send him my resume. We have remained in contact via text and plan to meet up again next weekend for wings and Yankees regular season. The guy works all the HBO shows and has also done many features here. He was really impressed by my knowledge of the business, more so than most other PAs and he asked me what it is I aspire to do in the field. I said I want to be a writer, and maybe work in creative development or as an assistant to a producer/filmmaker. He told me I should be a producer, half joking, but I think he was serious. That said, I emphasized I am happy to fill whatever position he would need.

I am now on call with a number of stuff ready to go into production this Spring and he said he would pass along my resume to other folks as well. In July there will be a 15-day pilot for a network show which has yet to be fully staffed so I am hoping that may wind up my first steady gig. Of course one can never count their eggs before they hatch. Being on call means they already have their steady crew, but its a start, especially if one PA calls out. But July seems very promising.

 

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Every single thing I mentioned here happened because of fate. There was not a single rational decision that lead to any of this, from netting my favorite producer as a contact right on up to the present day where I met someone who wants to help me get work in New York. Things are going to happen for me this year and I am super excited about all of it. Trust your instinct and just go for it, because if you don’t, not only will you be in regret but you might miss out on something amazing because you only chose to see what was in front of you. So now I go on and will make this year about getting as much experience as possible here. I have no firm deadline to move to Los Angeles, but when I do, I will have one hell of a resume. If there’s one thing I am good at, it’s meeting people and having a good time and that’s a big part of this industry — because if you get upset about things you will fail. And while there’s always going to be that desire to want to work for my favorite filmmaker, I am super happy to be able to put his advice to use. And who knows, maybe I will work for him one day. Until then, trust in fate and just go for it and there’s no reason things won’t fall into place.

 

The Emotional Ups and Downs of the Film Industry

It’s no question that breaking into the Film/TV industry is especially challenging. But I wanted to look into a lesser known plausible reason for failure: that one is not emotionally capable of succeeding in the business.

From the moment you walk onto your first set as a Production Assistant, you will be exposed to emotional ups and downs.

You will at times be undervalued and possibly underpaid. You will get requests via passive aggressive comments or indirect communication and are expected to translate that into a productive command. You will be blamed for things you didn’t do, and you are expected to take fault even if “some other PA did it.” You will feel like absolute shit at times. You will be under insane pressure at other points. You will absolutely feel like scum of the earth on several occasions.

Then later on you will laugh it all off, because you will also have awesome times. You will have a great conversation with someone above the line, or in a position you hope to achieve. You will hear “thank yous” for when you act proactively. People respect you because you respect yourself and others. You don’t act overly emotional. You are respected because you are professional.

You might go to wrap events and maybe even walk red carpets. You might meet that favorite celebrity or filmmaker, or maybe just talk to them. And its in moments like this that all the struggle, poverty and daily grind seems worth it. You remind yourself that this is why you’re here!

And in an instant, things completely suck again. You may be without work for a stretch of time. That connection you made isn’t working. You wrote something which you see as awesome, but no one bothers with it. You’re poor while all your friends are making money, having families. Your own family begins to doubt your goals. You ask yourself why you put up with such an emotional roller coaster.

And it is the folks that cannot handle those ups and downs that fail. But you cannot appreciate the highest highs without the lowest lows.

A year ago I would’ve been devastated that I lost my favorite filmmaker as a follower on Twitter. Today, I remind myself like much of what happens on the day to day in this business, it is not personal. And if it is not personal, you cannot let it affect you personally. And if for some reason it is personal, you don’t dwell on it. If you start letting things affect you personally, you will fail. I promise you will not have the strength to get ahead.

This is not only at the entry level either. The emotional ups and downs exist at all levels of the business. There is NO point where you reach the level where it does not apply to you. The producer who unfollowed me? He hasn’t moved forward with a project in two years, imagine the stress of that. Screenwriters? Enjoy the check, because you will be living off of it for the next two years in a best case scenario. People are going to take your creative product and turn it into something its not; that’s how you see it, but it’s a team not a one man creative show. Maybe you’re like me, you want to be a producer’s assistant or assistant to an above the line professional. That’s an INSANE amount of work, enjoy having next to no life, because you better be on call and OK with it.

It is stressful. And so you need to be emotionally grounded to stomach the roller coaster ride. I’ve gained the stomach over time. I am still working on becoming even stronger. At first I used to get pissed when I wouldn’t hear back in what I deemed a timely manner. I laugh at that now. I am able to take things as they come and handle it much better. It’s impossible to be devoid of some level of emotion, but you need to put things into perspective. If you don’t you will allow disappointment to consume you, to devour you and you will have no energy to pick yourself up to try again.

I will go to work at Tribeca and probably have a lot of stress in the press department. I will also probably have a lot of fun, meet great people and hopefully get the chance to go to some after parties to network (my friend who works in film here in NY and I have a whole strategy!). But when its over there will be that void. It will be “what now?” You cannot dwell in the past. To borrow a line from my favorite filmmakers Twitter bio, it’s all about “perpetual motion.” You have to keep moving, keep talking, keep writing, keep looking out for the next opportunity, the next thing. If you don’t, if you dwell on has-beens, or what-ifs, you will drown in your own sea of sorrow.

Was I emotionally invested in that filmmaker? Yes, of course, he is someone I consider a professional influence, no one I’d rather work for. I care a lot about him, always will, but that doesn’t mean I can just stop myself in my tracks now. It’s just social media. It didn’t even exist ten years ago. But you know what did? The inspiration I got from him to want to work in this business and one day maybe be able to learn from him. And I am thankful such a thing does now exist to have him even know who I am.

Ultimately, if you want respect, you do the work. You want the reward, you put in the effort. You don’t overreact and allow yourself to drown in emotions, because that’s unprofessional. If I still have any hope of working for him in the future, it is up to me to put in the work and prove to him that I am capable of being the consummate professional. I remain convinced that even with the experience I’ve gained thus far I would be a great asset to him. But I can do even better, and know that one cannot wait on anybody or overly invest in one possibility — that would signify emotional compromise.

I’m on the hunt for every opportunity I can find. I’ve been thinking a bit about how I’ve handled disappointment of late, and realize I very much have what it takes to be successful. Not only because I am trying even harder, but because I have finally developed a sense of professionalism that is not overly compromised by my emotions. This business is tough. I respect that. But I also respect myself, I know what I am getting into. I have made it a point to not let emotion compromise my judgements and what I have to do. I am proud of that, because it is NOT easy and I have come a long way. And so one of the best pieces of advice I can give, is to not only work hard for every opportunity, but do so without letting the low moments get to you. After this weekend, I might have very exciting news, and so on that, one will wait til my next post to discuss more of the highs. :)

 

 

 

 

Set Sail (An Original Poem) & Commentary

I am the seafoam on a million grains of sand. Waves wash me away & take me out to sea. The beach is but a distant memory.

I am the old man and the sea. Life is but an ocean, man tasked with its journey. The only thing he has, his wits & positivity.

They say the earth is flat, that you will fail. But in the end, you cannot know, unless you set sail.

 

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I wrote this poem in May, 2013 shortly after returning from a trip to Los Angeles. I had worked on a music video, met a bunch of great industry folks and partied a lot harder than I should have. It was great to be back, and some day in the future I hope to return, but with a much stronger arsenal of work experience and a different outlook on life.

I was waiting on my favorite filmmaker. Lets not even kid ourselves. Did I try looking for film work in New York? Yes. Did I get the sort of valuable experience I wanted on a feature film or TV set? No. Why? Because I didn’t try hard enough. I wanted to work for him.

Has he invested time in me because he sees my potential? Sure, I think so, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to occasionally keep tabs on me because I believe he cares. But now its time to live up to my potential!

I’ve had potential since 2012. I am twenty five fucking years old, almost twenty six, and I emphasize the fucking bit because of how ridiculous it is that I have largely failed to live up to my end of the bargain. I am sorry to have not put in the work, I regret not seriously taking his advice last April. I didn’t deserve the reward of meeting him. Not yet.

Now it’s time to put in the work, beyond just my writing. Now is the time to build a body of quality professional industry experience. Now is the time to build references and prove that I am serious about my career. And I know that I will be much more worthy to him when he does come into work when I’ve already amassed quality experience.

There’s over 400 million dollars worth of film tax credits here in New York. There is NO excuse to not find work in this city. Forget every single article I’ve written to try and justify waiting for him, like the difficulty breaking in here in New York — it’s complete horseshit. It’s hard to break in anywhere. I hope that if he reads this he can respect me for owning up to that admission as well. You will never meet a more honest, a more sincere, a more humble person than myself.

So now I set sail. Tribeca is going to be huge for me given the sorts of connections I can make with other industry professionals, and I’ve also put in to volunteer at Cannes given my proficiency in French. I am going to BUST MY ASS, and not just talk or write about half-assing it. I am going to live up to my potential, because I would hate to think I ever wasted someones time. And while this is ultimately for my own career, it can only be that much more useful to him when he does come into something. 2014 is the year I will work on my first feature or television production. And when he gets something together, I hope to reach out to him, but with a body of work/resume I am much more proud of and with the experience, sense of professionalism and hard work that WILL be worth the reward of meeting him, as a professional.

I look forward to things to come. It’s time to set sail, and leave the beach for the stormy seas ahead. It will not be easy, and it won’t be instant but I will do it. I will take action, because the time for talking about taking action, the time of waiting in perpetuity is over.