Sense of Reality

What is reality and what how does one define existence? It's an abstract question, but the truth is that each of us have a different sense of reality and even meaning in our lives. For one person, reality might be about basic survival--finding food, shelter and water on a daily basis. For me, it's dealing with raising money for a movie, and living here in LA. For a good friend of mine who has a pretty bad case of paranoid schizophrenia, it's a about a "secret project" that no one knows about and that he can't tell us about. He's hiding out from people, and truly believes that there is conspiracy against him which involves someone logging into his email and monitoring his phone calls. I hesitated to blog about this whole thing because it's a highly personal matter, but on another level, it's preoccupied my thoughts more than I can even explain lately. Even more so, because some friends and I recently had an intervention where we tried to convince him to see a doctor. The conversation was like talking to a brick wall--he turned the story around on us, claiming that our argument that he is displaying all of the classic signs of the illness and that he should see a doctor was invalid. In fact, he kept telling us that we needed to come up with a new "story," a more creative reason for him to see a doctor. To him, nothing is wrong and he does not need to see a doctor. It's fascinating to me how the mind takes over and alters a person's idea of existence. Prior to schizophrenia, this person was an extremely high functioning member of society, someone who was the creme of the crop in terms of his ideas and abilities. Now, he is hiding out in his brother's apartment and sometimes wandering to friends' homes, walking around believing that he is being followed by people in this conspiracy. This whole situation makes me sad, particularly because there is no way to rationalize with a person in this state of mind. None. They have no doubts about their own sense of existence and reality and no one and really fuck with that. In fact, during the intervention, we brought up this whole point, that most of us question our own existence and sense of reality on a daily basis. He said he did not and that he did not want to. It's impossible to screw around with that.


Screenwriting Expo

I was always somewhat cynical about the Screenwriting Expo because I thought it would be another one of these weird events where people try to give you some magical formula to make millions on your next script. I went to one writing writing seminar like this where the speaker kept talking about how his Mercedes outside proved that he had a successful writing career. He kept giving long lists like, "30 ways to create conflict." It was weird--I actually left and got my money back. But, last year, I decided to go check out the expo and I have to say, I was really impressed. Most of the speakers were working writers or university teachers, which to me is way better than some of these "guru types" who often seem like they are basically trying to make a buck off poor souls with a dream. Anyway, I checked out several speakers who I thought were impressive like Steven Barnes and Linda Cowgill. Both were excellent in terms of their discussions on character and plot, and honestly, after listening to them, I felt like I stepped up my writing game in a huge way. I have a weird mindset with the expo, I go hardcore to classes and do my thing, but I'm not really in it to network. If I see people I know, then cool, but I'm really there to just go to the classes and take advice from the teachers. This year, I'm going focusing on plot and character, my two favorite areas, and going to a number of courses related to that. I'm looking forward to it, esp since I have so many ideas cooking in my head right now! Here are some of the seminars I plan to attend:

+ Inside Story: (Part 1) -- Developing the Transformational Arc of Character by Dara Marks
+ How to Create Characters With Emotional and Psychological Depth by Rachel Ballon
+ Sequences: The Hidden Structure of Successful Screenplays by Paul Joseph Gulino
+ Myth, Magic, Metaphysics: How to Use Them in Your Stories by Pamela Jaye Smith


Pushing Harder

This week has been long and exhausting. There is so much going on between the film and teaching, that I sometimes feel like I am struggling to keep my head above the water. In addition to teaching and making Raspberry Magic, I'm also writing a new spec script which I believe has a lot of potential, and even though I'm 80 pages in and know exactly where I want the ending to go, I wish I were further along. There is so much to do, I should be working like 25 hours a day. Sometimes I look at my creative resume and wish it was longer, a lot longer. Like instead of having made three short films, I wish I had made ten. Instead of writing three really solid features I'm proud of, I wish I had five. While sometimes this mindset is dangerous for me because I fall into a slump of never being satisfied, I also believe that this mindset keeps me going, motivates me. Even with the feature, there are moments when I want to be further along. But then, when I actually stop and look back, I'm actually amazed by how much we have done. If I think about where I was at a year ago versus now, I realize... Wow, I barely knew what a business plan was last year, but now I have one for the film! It's this amazing how life is? In the moment, when things are stressful, you wonder where everything is going. Then, when you actually stop and take a breath, you realize, wow, I have made progress...



Throughout my youth and even into my twenties, I used to read voraciously. I would constantly read novels, sometimes literature, other times the scandalous stuff like VC Andrews. I would stay up until 4am just reading and reading. Now days, I'm so tired from either teaching or writing that I just don't have the energy to read as much. Also, writing so much, my patience with novels that have wayward plots is very limited. But this week, I picked up a book, written by a former writing teacher of mine called The Year of the Fog and it is incredible. I took a writing workshop with the author, Michelle Richmond, one foggy summer in San Francisco. This was a summer when I was feeling very blue, because I felt that after having gotten my Master's degree in doc. filmmaking, that I didn't want to make docs anymore. I had always known deep down that fiction was my calling, but I wasn't sure if that meant writing short stories or writing film scripts. And, I wasn't really sure of how one pursues their dreams to write fiction. So, I was experimenting with workshops, and I came upon Michelle's. Anyway, in her class, we wrote a lot of flash fiction, or or short stories under a thousand words. I had never done this kind of writing, but I found that I had a knack for it, especially with the dialog. Some of my stories would have the group laughing so hard that they were crying. It was a strange revelation for me, as I had written many short stories in the past, but they were long (like 20 pages or more), and were basically just terrible. Anyway, Michelle was unlike most of the writing teachers I had had, she was young and beautiful and very encouraging. This class helped me build my confidence, and was great preparation for making my short, This Moment. I'm stoked for Michelle, because her novel really is excellent. Amazing language, great story, engaging characters. It's great to see her be successful!