Introduction to Film Production

I have been teaching "Intro to Film Production" at LMU for a few years now, and I've mostly done it for undergrads. This semester, it's grads, which should be really fun. The goal of the class is to make three films while learning filmmaking basics such as editing, shooting, lighting, etc. We watch a lot of shorts and discuss story structure, etc. My emphasis in the class is really for students to push the envelope conceptually--come up with visuals and ideas that are fresh, which is no easy task, but of course, if you want to be a filmmaker, that's sort of the point. In lieu of this, I have a rule in my class--no "alarm clock" / "being late to class" films, only because the first two semesters I taught this class, there were too many of these types of films. Different iterations, of course, like, girl spends too much time putting on makeup, and is late for class, guy jumps out of bed and gets to class, and no one is there, girl runs and runs and can't find class... You get the idea. My students are always a little surprised by my rule, but what I tell them is that making films in the beginning isn't about technical things, etc, it's really about one thing and one thing only--imagination and ideas. You can shoot your film on the most jank camera, but if you've got an idea/concept that's interesting, you will somehow touch people. There is evidence of this everywhere, I love it when small movies that were shot for nothing do really well, beating out large scale Hollywood films. Or, even when some little Net video goes viral, and catches on. In order to avoid first-time filmmaker cliches, I have them read this great website: http://www.filmmaker.com/dumps


Seeing Light

It's been a really hectic and overwhelming summer, I've been working my ass off, and while at times I feel like it's not enough, it was good to take a few days off this weekend and get some much needed perspective on things. I've been hustling on Raspberry Magic, trying to get a few more investors on board, which is certainly never an easy process. We're almost there, but we really do need a few more people to make things work or basically just do them right. It's a lot of waiting, but we're pretty damn determined. Aside from that, I have a couple of other scripts I am working on, one of which was accepted through to the first round of the Sundance competition. It's a piece I'm super excited about, and would love to make after Raspberry. I also got hired to make a short film by a foundation, which is sort of an exciting gig while waiting on the feature.

But as of September 1, my producing partner and I have decided that it's time to make Raspberry Magic happen. We're basically going to plan the shoot to start on Dec 1, and finish casting, pull together location specifics, and just generally make everything happen. It all sounds slightly insane, but everyone we've talked to has said to just proceed, make it real and it will become real. And Megha and I have usually found that when we do this, things happen. For example, we went on a locations scouting trip up to the Bay, and just made shit happen. As a result, a newspaper did a story on us, and we really did figure out exactly where to shoot. This the mentality we're using to make the film and truly move ahead. So, stayed tuned this fall as I put away the writing for a few months and get into production mode and actually make something. It's a little daunting, but exciting, too!!


Seven Things About Me

In the spirit of Writer Dad, Screenwriting Manifesto and UNK, a few of my favorite writer blogs at present, I'm doing the whole, "Six/Seven Things About Me" Exercise, so here it goes:

1. I am a compulsive walker. After a long day of writing, I like nothing more than taking a long, long walk. Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, I’ll put on my tennis shoes and walk for three to four hours. I can walk anywhere—in the city, in the country, by the beach, by the desert. I love city hikes and just getting lost in a neighborhood I’ve never been to, or I love stumbling upon a beautiful beach cove I didn’t know about. I find walking to be more meditative than yoga, more relaxing than a massage and more adventurous than sky diving (okay, maybe not).

2. I look really young. I am in my early 30’s, but people often mistake me for being 20. I even got carded for buying a red bull once!! The lady at the check out stand was like, you’re way too young to be buying that, I need to see some ID! Geez. It used to bother me a lot, because people would ask me with such contempt, like, “how old are you, anyway?” I mean, this happens in professional settings at times, especially as a professor. Sometimes, students will look at me and ask, “you’re the professor?” But then, once I start talking, they know the answer to that one!

3. My friends call me 90 pounds of fury. When I have an opinion about something, I sort of let it out. I never realized this about myself, until a friend of mine was like, “you’re such an intense person.” I think it’s not only that I’m pretty expressive, it’s also that I tend to be pretty hard core about the things I take on. Like when I say I’m making Raspberry Magic, I really mean it!! It’s hard for me to in between, like do something and not care about it. I’ve also been known to get pretty rowdy and wild after a drink or two, and have gotten kicked out of my share of bars!

4. I hated Indian food when I was growing up. Seriously, my mother made Indian food everyday when I was growing up—roti, daal, a different vegetable. I don’t think I ever ate daal once when I was growing up, but now I could eat it everyday. I especially love any kind of beans like black lentils, etc. I’m not the best and most proficient cook on the planet, but this summer has been all about experimenting with the pressure cooker and learning how to make all those great beans I love so much. The whole Indian woman being able to cook well is such a cliché, and I feel totally insecure that I can’t rock it. But, I’ll get there...

5. I never dated in high school and I didn’t go to the prom. I was socially awkward in high school, for sure, and dating only seemed like something all the blond cheerleader girls did. My senior year, I made out a little, and I went to one dance, but that was it. But of course, I met my husband my freshman year of college, and we dated for almost ten years before we got married!

6. For all of my fury, I can be pretty introverted. Socializing feels overwhelming to me. My husband used to be a total social butterfly when we lived in SF, and I always found myself freaking out. He finds it really odd that I can work alone in our house for hours and hours, without talking to anyone, but I like it. It would be hard for me to work any other way.

7. I won a writing contest at the age of sixteen that changed my life. Growing up, I was compulsive reader, to the point where I often didn’t do my work or even listen to my teachers in school. Instead, I would read. Not War and Peace all the time either, but a lot of trashy romance novels and my share of VC Andrews novels. Anyway, I was a good student, but never a stellar one like my sister (now a doctor) and all of the other Indian kids I knew. Anyway, I believe all of that reading eventually helped me, because a high school teacher of mine asked to be on the newspaper staff my sophomore year. Until then, I was all about drama club, but writing, hell yeah! I had been writing all my life, like journals, poems, short stories and more, but being the on the newspaper staff helped me see my work in print. This same teacher encouraged me to enter an essay contest sponsored by Parade Magazine, which I ended up winning. The topic was something patriotic about the real America and JFK's dream. For the first time in my life, I realized that I could be good at something. Until this point, my sister was the super star of the family with her straight A's and gymnastics. It took me many years after this to dedicate and really decide that I wanted to go down the path of a pro writer, but this contest opened up the door for me to write for my college papers, then later freelance for news publications and much more. Writing was something I always did and will do, but I believe this contest helped push me forward in a new way. It was a defining moment!

I tag--anyone who reads this and hasn't done it already. It's kinda fun!!


Why Create?

Someone once asked me, what's the purpose of being a filmmaker, a writer or a creative person if it's so damn hard? Why not just get a normal job like everyone else? Or, this same person, when I mentioned how tough this process was, said something to the effect of, well, you chose this path. This may sound absurd to some people, but that's not really true. As a creative person, I truly believe that the desire for the need to create chose me. In other words, it came from something deeper within. Every single one of us has this instinct inside of us when we are young, but as we grow older, society tells us to put that desire, that need away. Some people listen, some people don't. For those of us who choose this creative path, it is more than simply a career choice, it is a deeper calling, one that beckons us to finds a means of expression. My theory in life that there people are driven two things: money or the need to be heard. Not that the two things are mutually exclusive, but some of us just want our ideas and thoughts to be heard more than anything else. It's what drives us, it's what makes us get up in the morning. For me, I have so many story ideas that I could sit here and write for fifty hours straight, and still I would not be able to get enough done. It's like, the stories, the ideas and the need to put them on paper are a compulsion, almost like need for food. Someone once asked me, how do you have the time to write? Well, to me that question is sort of like, how do you have time to breath? I don't know, it's just something I do. Even if I wasn't so worried these days about where everything is going and how it's all going to turn out, I am sure I would still keep writing no matter what. Sometimes, all of the rejection, stress and no's from people in the world put me in a total funk. But at the end of the day, when I sit down to create something, that's really the best feeling of all...


New Web Site

I've been pondering it for some time, but a mentor of mine put the fire under my ass to re-design my personal site. I've got some exciting meetings coming up, and she as well as several people suggested that I put together more of a portfolio site outlining my work. Not as design/graphics oriented as the old site, but lots of information. Check it out: http://www.leenapendharkar.com


Going In Circles

For the past eight months or so, I've been working on a new script. The piece started as one thing, and I literally went in big, huge circles writing and rewriting it. My thought process on what it was going to be/how it would read was totally jumbled, and a couple of people who read it were like, what the hell is this? After my last draft in May, I was truly ready to kill myself with this piece. For me, when I've been writing something for so long, I get attached, and I hate, hate, hate burying it and just saying this isn't working. It makes me feel like the world is ending. Literally. After all, I went in circles on Raspberry Magic for over four years. Anyway, my husband read the draft of my new work back in May and was like, you really need to put this thing away. But I refused. We had a Saturday afternoon where I was pretty depressed, and basically felt like I was the biggest idiot/worst writer on the planet. Anyway, out of all that misery came a huge light bulb moment in terms of the film's overall concept. My husband talked it out with me, and really helped me clarify my thought process. Suddenly, I realized why I was going in circles. I was writing the story from the wrong character's point of view. It was impossible to tale tell the tale this way. Over the past eight weeks or so, I've been re-writing this piece with the new (and clarified) concept. This eight week process has been kind of grueling because there are several plot points which have been very tough to hash out. One thing in particular, was driving me crazy. But finally, finally after a few really long and hard weeks, the ideas are all on the page, and it makes sense. The script is no where close to being done, but damn, the ideas are finally on the page... Now come the long, hard hours of revisions, polishes and more rewriting... Damn, I love this shit!