No Subtweet

Expanding on tweets since I don’t want to saturate folks timelines.

I cannot begin to say how awkward it is to have to constantly be on the defensive about misinterpretation on Twitter. That’s because I used the platform to try and communicate this way.

Earlier today I made a few tweets about unrequited love and how only developping equal feelings for another person could heal heart break. It’s been hard being lonely since moving across country. When I posted that I had just seen someone (the other day, actually) I long had feelings for post they’re in a new relationship. While I have no reason to expect to be with them, especially now that I live across country, it still hurt immensely.

Then right afterwards, I realized my personal tweets could still be misinterpreted even though I wrote #NotaSubtweet.

I have made no secret of finding “ghost” attractive. In a recent post I even referred to him as a model for what I’d hope to find in a partner- insofar as his physical traits are concerned. I don’t know him well enough to have actual substantial feelings. Having things in common and admiring someone, finding them attractive, is not enough.

Even though I’ve said in the past “I adore him,” that too is really just my way of saying “I really care about him and want the best for him.” I say that I adore my friends too. I use this word in a non-sexual way. I greatly admire them, think they’re absolutely adorable – but I respect boundaries and don’t have enough of a relationship with them to have strong feelings.

This is all I wanted to say that I didn’t want to drown timelines with on Twitter.

 

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Not in a Million Years

Expanding on some thoughts I tweeted earlier…

I believe it requires a unique mindset to pursue writing as a craft. Specifically referring to screenwriting (but other forms as well) you have to be completely comfortable with rejection. Nobody likes rejection, but those who overcome it usually dealt with a lot of it. While so many advice peddlers shouting down at aspirants say you need to have amazing confidence to overcome rejection, they are wrong. The word they’re looking for is stubborn.

You have to a stubborn person to pursue this craft. For the most part experience has taught me -as a reader- that those who come in ultra confident actually are not very good. There are exceptions to the rule, but most people who are cocky about writing and believe they were put on this planet to be read by Spielberg SUCK.

The vast majority of writers I have met, and I include myself in this, think they suck. Most, myself included, actually have to battle crippling self doubt and the belief we are not good enough. I often refer to myself as socially worthless. I earlier compared myself to an old coin which is so worn it gets rejected by the laundromat vending machine. However, I’m still worth 25 cents and so I must take stock in not being completely worthless. It’s this weird battle of self loathing and stubbornness. No matter how many compliments I’m given, I still doubt myself. Each rejection makes me think I suck more.

I am an introvert with low self esteem who was bullied most of my life. I write because I love it, and it is my outlet and best form of creative expression. I do not know what else I’d do with my life. So I pursue this craft not because I think I’m some kind of genius but because I am stubborn enough to do so. No matter how many times I am rejected, ignored, ghosted, ridiculed, told no– I am like James Franco portraying Tommy Wiseau when he is told not in a million years- “righ’ but wha’ about after that?” What about next time, and keep plugging away.

Because if Tommy Wiseau can do it- maybe so can I. So here’s to being stubborn and writing until something or someone gives. Maybe then once marginally successful more people will meet me for coffee, and then I can be worth as much as the dollar bill rejected by the laundromat vending machine. If only we had the confidence of actors…

Second Chances

A film critic posed the question “Name a film you enjoyed that did not get a sequel, but you would still like one.”

I found this question difficult to answer because just about everything has a sequel today. Even films that don’t deserve it or need it. Eventually I settled on WANTED, an independent comic turned super hit… of 2008. A sequel has languished in development since 2009.

I’ve discussed risk before from an impact on types of films we see (mostly sequels, remakes, pre-established franchises). Instead of retreading that debate, I instead want to focus on the voices we’re losing as a result of this risk averse crop of executives.

Back to WANTED for a moment. After the film became a hit, the primary producing team behind the film went in an entirely different direction. All of Hollywood would probably say on instinct “go make a sequel.”

Instead in 2009, the team took a big risk and released an animated film, 9. While it was largely forgotten due to the more popular animated film from the same studio, CORALINE, the producing team was nominated for a PGA award. They saved this small animated feature from near failure and released it to positive critical review, and it made its money back.

But it didn’t make WANTED money. It was a small feature. After that they would fail to be as lucky with their next film which was a critical failure and didn’t make much domestically (it did recoup its losses abroad).

Since then, WANTED never got its sequel. The director aspect of the producing team went on to direct another flop, while producing a few mid-budget hits. The other member of the team hasn’t worked since the critical failure was released years ago.

This is where I come full circle: So an industry praises a team for doing such a good job, appreciating the money they made and the will to stick with a languishing project; the hallmark of a good producer. Then the same industry turns around and pretends they never existed. All because of one flop. Who made this rule of “you’re only as good as your last film?” Why should it even be a rule?

This is just one example of many I could choose where the story is exactly the same. Where this one strike and you’re out policing is applied. As a result we are  losing more and more voices and talents, including those who’ve done an excellent job in the past. Why, because their most recent project failed? The more this industry punishes people for failure the more we just get the same voices making the same content over and over again. It’s not just bad for diversity, it’s bad for the industry overall.

When you punish people for taking a risk then nobody will want to take risks. And as others fail upwards it’s easy to have sour grapes when you’re side lined for setbacks that don’t seem to matter as much for others.

We should try to solve this problem with the same urgency as subconscious bias given its impact on diversity as well. However, both problems require cultural shifts which tend to be slower. That said, it can be done if people are aware of how their individual actions contribute to the problem. Have you personally held someone’s last effort against them? Why? Have you given others a pass for the same degree of failure? Also, why?

We need to be aware of how we contribute to problems – in every aspect in life – on an individual level.

So tl;dr- stop silencing voices. Give work to those who’ve proven in the past they’re capable. A filmmaker’s most recent project shouldn’t weigh so heavily against them because frankly the audience doesn’t care. All the audience wants are good stories told by adept filmmakers- so give those adept filmmakers a second chance. This isn’t the high school cafeteria table, so let’s stop treating it like one. We’re all sick of the same old voices. It’s time to make room for others and to bring back those who’ve done good work before.

Memories Melodies

The past falls like dust on old records,
but this song remains the same.
It grows older but the lyrics never change.

The melodies grow fainter and the print on the jacket may fade. But every time I play this tune yesterday still feels like today.

Time doesn’t stop and the music may change. But this song will always be that year, that moment, and that day.

This moment on repeat, a never ending loop. The soundtrack to our lives edges ever closer to a final tune.

I dust off these records, give it another play but for this painful reminder that yesterday can never ever be today.

The past falls like dust on old records,
but this song remains the same.
Ten years gone but the lyrics they never change.

Repeat Ghosting

Repeat Ghosting

Ghosting is the act whereby someone stops talking to you, ceasing all communication and interaction without notice or reason. It is commonly done in modern romantic relationships but extends to platonic and professional relationships as well.

The psychological impact can be quite damaging, the victim is not provided any sense of closure. Often times they wind up questioning themselves, and can even wind up in gaslighting territory.

Ghosting for the most part is an act of finality. However it’s important to note that the act of ghosting isn’t necessarily confined to a one time disappearing act.

Repeat ghosting functions more like a haunt. The person still drops off without any communication or reason. However, every so often they will either reach out or find a way of passively interacting.

Some might say that’s not ghosting because the person hasn’t disappeared. They’re still there! What makes it repeat ghosting is that it becomes like a pattern: person disappears; person reappears for a while; person disappears again.

Perhaps this is the behavior of someone who isn’t fully committed to the ghost. They’re not ready to enter into a committed professional or personal relationship again so they sort of keep you on the back burner. They observe- they haunt.

However the impact on the person at the receiving end of this pattern of behavior still reacts the same as someone who has been ghosted— “what have I done to make them go away again? Was it something I did or said? What must I do to convince them to stay (or return)?”

Ghosting may not be intended to hurt someone. In fact it’s often done because social media has made it easier to do. It’s often employed by someone who may not have the right words to say. Among others it’s done by those who aren’t sure of how to approach someone. Maybe it’s not the right time. I would venture to say few ghosters are deliberately acting with malice.

That does little to comfort those on the receiving end of ghosting. Nor does it attempt to excuse the act itself. It is however important not to personalize it. I know that’s hard but the best way to treat this phenomenon is to understand that it’s literally not you, it is them.

In order to get past this difficult and common 21st century interaction, we must learn to not get emotional about it. I get that this is hard because the feelings are still hurt, I’ve been there myself. But don’t go down the rabbit hole of wondering why because you will never find an answer- you will never convince the ghost to act in a way that makes them present again.

Unless they want to be.

Intentions

Intentions.

Intentions don’t mean a thing when perception is reality. This is a crucial thing to understand as we try and dissect what constitutes harassment. It is equally crucial in trying to ascertain whether we have come across inappropriately- falling short of harassment but still making someone feel uncomfortable.

What is harassment? I think this term has been interpreted to be rather subjective. It’s really not. Simply it is the repeated behavior of bothering someone whether intended or not. It need not be physical either. Inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, even something as innocuous as “that dress is very flattering on you,” can be perceived as harassment. The degree of harassment may vary but it is still a form of harassment.

What about when it’s consensual? Just because something was consensual doesn’t mean it will continue to be. That you may have gotten away with flirting or maybe even sleeping together in the past doesn’t mean you will tomorrow. Respecting boundaries is important. Not mixing business and pleasure is also good advice to live by.

How about female harassment? Most of the discussion surrounding sexual harassment is regarding male to female. Women can also make a man feel uncomfortable. This is tricky because it’s also the case that men are less likely to say something about it due to cultural perception of weakness. Some men may even feel flattered by compliment but intention is not what matters. Perception is. Some men may also feel uncomfortable given comments made.

Let’s really take a few more moments to examine how females can appear out of line while not realizing it. That’s the thing, culturally we have treated harassment as almost unique to men. But women often make comments because they’re trying to play the same game. They realize when they’re attractive and when they see a man who is also attractive, they’ll be a little more comfortable flirting because it’s not as common for a man to complain. So maybe you refer to that sexy guy as a ‘silver fox’ but never consider that maybe it makes them feel uncomfortable. Maybe they have a girlfriend. Perhaps it’s not consensual. They won’t always say it, they may even flirt back because of social customs around male-female dynamics but it doesn’t mean they’re ok with it.

Harassment is such a tricky thing because oftentimes the victim may not immediately say anything or note that it bothers them. So it’s really up to all of us-male or female- to carefully choose our words, especially when it involves a professional context or a person we’d aspire to work with.

Complements are not always complements and it’s easy to overlook that when we read about instances of touching, coercion and dick pics. Harassment is nuanced and must be treated as such. We’re all responsible for better filtering our comments and carefully managing our actions. If in a position of power, don’t tolerate it. It really boils down to those who can afford to speak out so that a workplace isn’t a breeding ground for predators who feel as if their actions won’t be reprimanded. Understand the dynamics between the powerful and the powerless and whether something is really consensual. Remember that just because you intended it otherwise, harassment isn’t about intention, it’s about perception.

 

Woop what?

“Woop woop,” the crowd cheered. A trio of hip hop performers in custom jerseys sporting a logo with a hatchet man took the stage. They sang lyrics about horror, society, sex and murder. They spit fast and hard to a downtuned guitar and the crowd pulsed with a sort of underground club energy. Slam dancing quickly turned to moshing, and at one point someone even threw up. Here I was in the midst of it all, a curious musical tourist witnessing her first (and only) Juggalo show. So allow me to share my unbiased opinion of this concert.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what this fandom is. One thing it most certainly isn’t is a gang. What I learned from standing in this crowd was that here was a group of people who started following this weird genre (dubbed horror core) because they themselves felt weird according to societies standards. Here is a group of people who embrace the principle of ‘no judgment.’ It is a group who cover themselves in face paint and oversized clothing stylized in custom fonts and horror images.

Why do they do this? Why does this group present themselves like this? To embrace the fact that they are strange and maybe even scary to some. They embrace being outsiders and outcasts, a joyful band of misfits. Simply, this fandom is an outlet for many to take their anger and frustrations with the world out. It is evident in the horror themes of their lyrics which often glorify violence or subject brutality and societal issues. But the violence is spoken word, not action. It is an outlet. It’s not so different from Eminem writing similar rants fueled by his own anger and feelings about being neglected and rejected by society. Much like the urban area of Detroit Enimem hailed from, ICP also began in Michigan.

So in essence, this group of people who label themselves Juggalos are quite often people who at one point felt marginalized by mainstream society and sought to band together with others like them. If a sociologist were to study them- I’d imagine many come from working class backgrounds, many had personal difficulties, many struggled from depression and many others from substance abuse or just general feelings of being misunderstood. This is not a one size fits all generalization but it seems many who follow the acts under the Juggalo banner have their own inner demons and the music and the community help them to overcome.

So while an outsider to this world, I left the show with a greater understanding of the fandom. While I don’t particularly care for the music nor would I probably attend another show- I respect that this community has found an outlet for themselves. It is a community which also seems to be very supportive of other members going through hard times. They go above and beyond, and it is why many refer to the fandom community as “family.” Perhaps that’s also because this group feels a lot more like family than their own families.

So no it’s not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge others for what they like? It’s not fair to simply label a group a gang because they gather in large numbers, have code slang and unite under certain logos and colors. It’s simply a bizarre but benign fandom. That’s what I learned by going beyond the talk in the media following the group’s protest March in DC. I went to see for myself and established my own opinion- even if part of that opinion is that the music is sort of secondary to the act itself and of low quality. But hey, let people like what they like- whether that be the much maligned pumpkin spice latte or a group calling themselves by a weird name.

A New Chapter

Going forward I will be forced to be a lot more selective about what I write. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to have strong opinions as a writer, but it’s also important to balance that with diplomacy.

Sometimes I lack a filter, being on the spectrum. I say things that make ordinary folks face palm. I also tend to overshare at times in an effort to be understood. I am becoming a lot more self aware of when I do this, and that’s an essentially important development.

I am so grateful to be where I am now not solely for professional reasons but also for personal development reasons. Working on a studio show has forced me to become a lot more self aware. I cannot simply speak without consequence any more as a writer or as an employee. I am apart of something much larger than just myself and words always have consequence but especially so in this industry.

Beyond my social media presence this self awareness also extends to social interaction at work. I must be careful about how I come across in emails and respect the power balance emphasized in those emails and interpersonal communications. Hollywood is hierarchical not because they want to be Marie Antoinette about things but because this hierarchy is what enables the business to work and have order. It’s important because without it there is no way we’d function as an industry given the time constraints we work under.

So I am very excited about how much I have grown this past month and how much I will continue to grow. Being apart of a really great crew also makes this Hollywood adjustment easier as well. While I’ve worked within the industry, never have I had such access to executives and above line professionals before. Such responsibility is most appreciated because it is molding me into not only a more capable professional but also a more self aware and mature person.

So while I may be on the spectrum, I will never use that as an excuse for my behavior. It is a challenge, yes- but if people from Dan Ackroyd to Tim Burton could do it then so can I. We all have our challenges in life, so long as we always look to personal improvement we will not be impeded by our own difficulties.

Scab Work & Snake Oil

Let’s talk about free spec work, unreputable and predatory contests! Thinking about paying a premium to submit to that screenplay contest? Or maybe a studio has offered you an incredible opportunity to enter your short film into a contest. Perhaps someone just offered you a chance to pitch to them or write for them — for free. Regardless what situation you find yourself in it’s important to consider whether it’s really just too good to be true. That maybe, just maybe you’re actually harming versus helping yourself.

This August Warner Bros. released the latest in the popular conjuring universe, ANNABELLE CREATION. Directed by the helmer of horror feature LIGHTS OUT (originally a two minute short on YouTube), the studio wanted to capture the sentiment of the YouTube to Hollywood fantasy. So WB created a contest to encourage aspiring filmmakers a chance to enter their own two minute short for a chance to get optioned and fly to LA to meet the director and WB execs.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Upon further inspection a few glaring sentences are evident in the fine print. First of all- the winner isn’t even guaranteed to meet with the director or execs. More disturbingly, the option is only $50. Most disturbingly, the cost to exercise that option in the three year period is only an additional $50 all the while you obtain no ancillary rights and the studio can do whatever they want with your creation without additional compensation or credit. Additionally, you’re not guaranteed screen credit or story by credit which could get you into the WGA. So basically you’re a free spec hire to a multinational corporation that just used your hope to further its bottom line. Oh and if you want to sue- even if you win the studio also has in this contract that you’re only entitled to $10 in damages. Woohoo $110 and fifteen minutes of fame!

So why time after time do young aspiring filmmakers enter into these contests? Simple- they’re desperate and think it’s their ticket to success. The winner has already been approached by managers- and brings this up when criticized for participating in a scheme which undervalues the creative process. However if he is still contacted by those same reps in six months I’d be shocked. It’s normal to be contacted by reps after winning a contest. To maintain that interest requires exceptionalism.

Surely someone who won a contest of this magnitude is exceptional, you may say. Regardless that’s irrelevant because simple business suggests that this person valued their talent at $50. Like so many young filmmakers, they figured entering into this contest would pull them right out of bartending and into Hollywood royalty. It doesn’t work that way, and it never will. Even if he does get in the room with others, that he valued himself at $50 makes negotiations for future pay very hard. If he was willing to lowball himself once, why not again? If you’re this person’s manager or agent, you’re not going to eat very well on the commission earned. Therefore if he is still contacted by reps in six months, I’d be surprised. Which is ultimately why undervaluing yourself for a foot in the door is a very bad initial career move.

There’s more to why this is not only bad for the creator but also for everyone else making movies and writing. It allows studios to continue marketing these predatory contests because aspiring filmmakers desperate for a shot will keep submitting material. Even if 98% is garbage, that 2% could yield fruit. Even this winner of the ANNABELLE contest was quite derivative. It was a clone of almost every James Wan film before it. So if studios can acquire content for $50, and they can keep going to that well- it’s that same studio which in turn will be less likely to shell out money for a traditional option. So essentially, by selling your self out for $50, you’re working as a scab. You lower the going rate for everyone else because studios know they can get away with it.

Without over-focusing on this contest, I also wanted to say the same of many script contests that equally prey on writers and creatives hopes. Screenwriter John Gary calls it the “hope machine.” That’s exactly what that WB contest was doing- preying on the hopes and dreams of desperate young creators. So too do many snake oil salesmen that charge for notes or “access.” Same of minor screenwriting contests that few reps monitor. Unless it’s the Nichol or on the Blacklist – it’s up to the individual rep whether they even care. Most don’t. And they also only care about winners, not second place.

This may all seem disheartening but the reason I write this is to underline that there is no short cut to success. All sorts of money-interested folks will try and take advantage of you by suggesting some secret path or access if you just sign away all your rights or pay up “right here.” The sooner you accept that and stick up for yourself the less likely you are to be conned. The moment you stop undervaluing yourself means that down the road you’ll have a better shot at sustainable financial compensation. The moment you stop doing free spec work is the moment other writers and creators like yourself will be paid properly. While not all contests are bad, it’s important you understand the fine print. Stop shilling for a predatory system thinking that despite ALL THE EVIDENCE you will be the exception and learn to do things properly. Get in line and work hard like everyone else.

Milieu

The bar smelled like ammonia and stale beer mixed with patrons perfumes and various vices. It’s a place where most have given up. It’s a local watering hole where seats are practically assigned. It’s where you go to purchase conversation when you have no one to talk to.

Yet here they were in the corner, too good for this place. I ordered one of three beers on tap and clapped as they finished their set. They appreciated that, we exchanged a look: what are you doing here? I looked back, what are you doing here? Stuck in this suburban hellhole devoid of culture or any discernable path to a better life. The greatest city in the world is only miles away but from this hole in the wall it felt continents apart. Here we were, this band too good for this bar and me sat before it. A handful of battle scarred Millennials itching for a better life.

That was six months ago. Weeks after I would be laid off. Weeks after that I’d move to LA. Six months later I sat in a theater watching a story of suburban dreams next to agents, an actor and various industry players as a member of the studio system myself (a step above janitor anyhow).

Patti Cake$ spoke to me the way a lot of stories about dreams hadn’t before. Sure my family may not be as dysfunctional nor are we pursuing the same path. But it captured suburban milieu in a way that I hadn’t seen depicted on screen before. It showed what it’s like to be some Long Island or north Jersey kid growing up around big fish in a small pond; the guy who inherited his dads pizza shop and drives a custom car or the girl who’s famous at one bars sad karaoke night. Hey maybe it’s the jerk from high school who still calls you names at 27. The wise cracking deli guy. Or the school teacher you see drowning their sorrows one zip code over from where you attended science class. If it was anything, it was a zip code filled with broken dreams and those who settled. Patti wanted more. That band in the corner bar wanted more. I wanted more.

Leaving that milieu behind was the best decision I ever made. While there’s certainly many lovely aspects to the NY metro area, it wasn’t where I needed to be. Never have I been so clearly reminded of what I left behind. Patti Cake$ shows the strip malls, metros and boring bar life 2,800 miles in the rear view mirror. I don’t regret the decision one bit, even if I do miss the diners.

See Patti Cake$ in its limited release. Support original films. Don’t forget to dream even when it seems impossible. I certainly never thought I’d be here living off the Sunset Strip at the beginning of the year…