The Raspberries are Growing!

As some of you may/may not know, I planted a couple of raspberry bushes in my backyard last summer, as sort of an experiment. As a writer, I often find it extremely helpful to put myself in the same scenarios as my characters, and as some of you might know, the protagonist in Raspberry Magic is attempting to grow raspberry bushes by nurturing them. Anyway, the dry, hot climate of Southern California isn't exactly ideal for raspberries, but I thought I would try it out, anyway. To be honest, I didn't do much to take care of them. I mean, I watered them here and there, and trimmed them a couple of times, but not much else. A couple of months ago, some of the leaves on the bushes were looking pretty sad and worn out, so I had basically given up on the bushes. But with spring I noticed one stem looking a bit better, more alive. Then lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out in my backyard, and I noticed--


Yes, they were ripe, red and shiny in the summer sunlight. I truly couldn't believe it. It's a sign... Time to make the movie!!

Casting Call for Young South Asian Girls

So... The wheels are certainly turning on our movie, which as always, is nerve racking and exciting. We are going up to NorCal to do a scout trip in a couple of weeks, and we've also been looking at some young South Asian girls to play the roles of Monica and Gina. Monica is 11, and somewhat of a shy, reserved young girl. She's wise beyond her years, and expresses herself through her actions and emotions most of the time, rather than her words. This is a tough role for a child actor, but there is plenty of talent out there, I know. The other main character, Gina, is 8. She's sort of spunky and funky, a little more wild and outgoing than Monica. We've been reading some young girls, but if you know of anyone we should look at, let me know or send me a head shot! Auditioning kids isn't easy, but we do a combo of some imaginary/improv. scenes, then a bit of actual scene reading. I'm not necc. looking for show biz kids (but parents who are okay with the show biz thing are a must), though we've read a couple. Most important are kids with a wild imagination and who make interesting choices in the given scenarios. That's really the crux of acting, isn't it?


Inspiring Evening

Through the process of making this movie, my producer Megha and I have had the opportunity to meet and see so many interesting, inspiring and sometimes even unusual people. Last night, we were invited to a dinner where heavy weight producer Ashok Amitraj spoke. He's quite an accomplished producer, made many films that have done well. It was really inspiring to hear him talk about his start in the film business, because he basically said that even though he was a well-known tennis player, he knocked on doors for five years until he had a few development deals with the studios. But even with the deals, he worked super hard to get scripts written and put ideas in front of the studios and still nothing after so many years. Finally, after doing this, he basically said fuck it, and raised $500K through private equity investors and made a freaking movie. That movie, even though it was small, opened doors for more movies. He talked so much about knocking down doors, getting them slammed in your face and keeping on. This is exactly what Megha and I have been doing over the past few years to get Raspberry Magic made. We've talked to so many people about investing, basically leaving no stone unturned on every, single level. It is hard, grueling work, not for those who give up easily or who are easily discouraged. I've def. had many moments of being down, wondering how in the world can we do this. But my belief in this movie, partnership with Megha and the support of so many people really keeps me going. It was nice to hear Mr. Amitraj say that he's been down the same road.


Locations, Planning the Shoot

So, we've been slowly but surely moving along with the movie. It's been nice, because we've had a few investors sign on this month, and a few more are coming. We're still not there yet, but getting closer and still on track to shoot this fall. Some advice another filmmaker friend of mine gave me is to set the date, then just proceed as if it's happening. I think there is a lot of truth to that, because when you just say you're doing it, things really do come together. So, Megha and I have been moving forward, and one of our very big tasks right now is to figure out where exactly we are shooting this film. We've been really big on Humboldt, and we are planning a scout trip up there in July. But, sometimes we also think the Bay area might work well. This is because we have a lot of help in the Bay, meaning lots of friends and family who can come on the set with whatever we need, plus I know a lot of crew people up there who would help out. In Humboldt, we have some great potential for locations, a hotel that we can use for very low cost, but the tricky part is bringing crew and gear up there without burning through our money. So, we're basically going to just head up there and figure this all out. I'm excited because now we're getting into really doing the nitty gritty stuff, but the uncertainty of raising all of the money is always looming. I feel like shooting the movie will be a great challenge, something I'm really looking forward to. It's a very different kind of challenge than raising money.


Summer Movies

I've seen a good number of films this summer (so far), and here are some thoughts about them:

The Visitor: Incredible follow up from Thomas McCarthy to his debut film, The Station Agent. The Visitor is truly a beautiful film, sort of the crux of what I consider to be a good story told in a visual medium. And it's just a great work of art, really makes you think. I won't give too much away, but brilliant performances from all of the actors, great overall themes about lost and lonely souls finding connection with one another. Also, really poignant and complex insights about the immigration debacle. Loved it, hope it opens up in theaters everywhere.

Son of Rambo: Written and directed by Garth Jenkins who did Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Really hilarious film, great special effects, and surprisingly, a real tear jerker, ending. Also, I love the sweet 80's sound track, def. reminds me of growing up. Great job in exploring the complex lives of kids in a universal way.

Iron Man: I enjoyed this film, it was a great look at how Iron Man becomes who he does, and I thought that Robert Downey's performance was excellent. It was also nice to see Gwyneth Paltrow back on the big screen. I felt like some of the action sequences dragged, but overall very good. One of my favorite super hero films of all time is Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. This one didn't quite live up to that, but still very enjoyable.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
: I couldn't resist seeing this one, after all, I grew up like any other American kid of 80's, watching all of these films. I found the plot in this movie to be lacking the complexity and intrigue from the past versions, and I also felt that much of the action dragged and wasn't motivated by larger/deeper goals and questions. I thought Cate B. (always a stunner) stole the show, but overall, felt a little bored by this movie. Come on David Koepp, for all the millions you got paid to write this thing, you couldn't have given us a couple more plot twists?

Sex in the City: Yes, I was on a girl's weekend far away in the woods of Russian River, and we couldn't resist checking this movie out. I loved the show back in the day, mostly because the humor was great! But this movie was pure cheese. Implausible plots, scant character development and way too much shameless promotion for designers that most women could care less about. They were even missing the witty, biting humor of the TV show. As my friend said afterwards, we all felt pretty gross from even watching it. But hey, at least it was with friends!!


Writer's/Programmer's Block

I'm sure that writer's block manifests itself in many different ways, sometimes even in the way of just not getting started. But for me, writer's block is usually what I call a logic problem, meaning that in a story, you're trying to get from point A to point B in a logical, creative and interesting way, but can't figure out what that way is. You think and think, make lists and brainstorm ideas, but nothing comes. To me, writing is a lot like those "logic games" you have to take on the GRE. The kind where you have four friends, four foods and four boyfriends and you're given a set of clues to piece everything together. Never really my forte, but all of this writing I do has certainly pushed my skills in thinking this way. The interesting thing is, my husband is a flash developer, meaning he programs and does design work, but we often have long talks about how writing and programming are so similar. There are differences of course, but there is a certain kind of thinking that pervades these realms, this kind of "symbolic logic" if you will. And just like writers, programmers get blocked, too. Sometimes, my husband is stuck on a problem for days, like how do you build a particular system and make everything work the way you want it to? I go through the same, exact thing, and honestly, when I'm blocked or having a logic flow issue, he is a really good person to discuss my train of thought with. But it's hard for me to help in the opposite way because I don't know the language of Flash. My husband has had bad insomnia over the past few days because he is stuck on a logic problem that is really tough. He even stayed home one day to sit in quiet and work through this issue. I'm sure it'll come as it usually does suddenly when you're cooking dinner or gardening, but the process of getting there can be kind of rough.


Writing is a Process

I've been working on a new screenplay, one which I think has serious commercial potential over the past few months. I started going down one road, then five months into it, I went down a completely different road. That frustrates me to no end, and there was a moment when I thought that maybe I should just forget about the whole thing. But the problem is, this new path was incredibly compelling and everyone I pitched it to was much more excited by it with the new twist rather than the old. Grrr. So, I took a break for a couple of weeks because I was feeling extremely burnt out with everything, then came back to it with a fresh eye. It is getting there, and I blazed through revisions of the middle sixty pages last week, but now goes the hard part which is the ironing out of the ideas and really polishing them. I drive myself a little crazy with my writing process, meaning, that I often find the story as I'm moving along, so the direction changes. This somewhat of a pain, but I found that this is the method that works for me. I used to try to outline and write histories, and blah blah, but now, instead, I sort of come up with a few plot points, and I typically know the beginning and end, then I start writing. Then I'll come up with histories as I go along. What a process, but I feel myself improving and growing with every new screenplay. Now I need to get back to this draft and really make it pop!


A New Wave of Films

It's definitely an interesting time to be an indie filmmaker as technology and other aspects of making movies become less expensive and more accessible to people. In recent years, we've seen a proliferation of indie films, which makes the market/field that much more competitive, but at the same time, it means that story is king. What's really interesting is that right now, there are a host of Indian American filmmakers like myself making movies in this low budget range. There are so many that have been made in the past years, it's becoming a whole new genre in some ways. I think we're seeing this because as first generation immigrant children like myself grow up, they want to share their perspective and point of view. I'm def. supportive of all these films, and I'm pretty good friends with some of my fellow filmmakers. It's fascinating how all of these new voices are getting out there, I often wonder how all of it will play out in the next ten years. In the mean time, here are some of the movies coming out or in the works:

Kissing Cousins, A romantic comedy by Amyn Kaderali
I know these guys, meaning the director and producers really well. Romantic comedies can sometimes be a tough sell on the indie scene, but this film is picking up steam as it travels the festival circuit.

Karma Calling, A comedy by Sarba Das
I haven't seen this one yet, but I know Sarba's been working really hard on it. It looks funny and poignant, can't wait to check it out.

Ocean of Pearls A drama by Sarab Singh Neelam
A drama about tradition, framed within the context of being Sikh. Looks like a really incredible drama, I missed it when it was here a few weeks ago, but hopefully it'll come around again soon.

Patang, A drama by Prashant Bhargava
Looks like a visual stunner with the gorgeous photography. Haven't seen it yet either, but can't wait to check it out.