I'm working on it, but I have a long way to go before I can get anything this raw and honest out of my voice/fingers:
After weeks of dialing and dialing, I got my first gig in November of 2009: Bar Patron on the NBC summer season sitcom "100 Questions" (note: this episode will air on Friday. I will try to update with a screencap if I can get one). Since this was going to be my first time on a big television set, I was really excited for the job. That is... until someone not only took the wind out of my sails, but shot a canon through the side of my enthusiasm ship by informing me that you haven't really arrived on the extras scene unless you're in a summer blockbuster and THEY call YOU. Dually noted. From my new perspective on the bottom of the "T'ain't-nothin'" Ocean, I prepared myself for my experience. I was told to come "hair-and-makeup-ready" (this industry is filled with terms spawned from bad English, more on that later), which required the purchase of makeup. I ended up spending about $50 to make my $8/hour. I took one stealthy picture of my costume in the bathroom because I was terrified of being sued or killed. I also respect the "No Spoilers" rule and the concept of "sensitive information," so it's not just a matter of self preservation. I've since learned that a picture of myself in a business suit does not count as "sensitive information." In fact, how do you know this is not just a picture of me from some office job in 2002?
As a girl who once made television sets in her desk at school, it was surreal to finally be on the set and stare at all of the toys. It was all I imagined it to be and more! Lights, camera, lots of inaction mixed with frenzied moments of action, baseball caps, gaffing tape! There were only three walls and bleachers (complete with "Applause" light). A particularly fun Hollywood moment came when we were told that in the event of an earthquake, we should run to the nearest wall. The nearest REAL wall. The director was loud and had a British accent. Only he and the first AD were either allowed to laugh at the jokes or thought they were funny (I'm leaning toward the latter- note the earlier description of "NBC summer season sitcom"). And I'm pretty sure James Cameron was the second AD. Why not? I don't think he had anything better to do at the time...
I met people who were happy to be there and revved up about the industry, and jaded, miserable folks who should probably seek out other careers. I found myself somewhere in between. "Content" would be the best way to put it. After all was said and done, though, I'd had enough fun that I decided to try to land another gig.
Ah, yes. It's about time I got around to writing about this! It's been, without a doubt, the activity my friends and family are most interested in hearing about. I had a bit of cash saved up before I moved out here, so I was able to play a little bit before "buckling down" and finding a "real job." I decided to skip on down to Central Casting and sign on to be an extra- sorry, "background actor." That's right; I just basically implied that being an extra is not a "real job." Also, I used a semicolon. Read on THAT!
Granted, some people have managed to make it such, and I applaud their success (and wonder how much Top Ramen they must eat), but it is NOT for the faint of heart. Often times referred to as "dots" or "blurs," extras are treated with absolutely zero respect. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect respect (soon to be a new hit song), but here I am referring to such an extreme lack of respect that you don't even feel like a human being. The props are quite literally treated better than you are. As a non-union extra, you make $8 an hour to stand on your feet all day, often in uncomfortable attire, and to be shushed like a five year old every time you yawn, sneeze, or say "hi" to your fellow extras. But if it's worth it to you to have a little bit of yourself attached to a project or to see that star you always wanted to meet, read on:
Here's how it works: you go down to "Central" at the most inconvenient time on a weekday morning. You listen to their spiel. You stand in a long-ass line with dozens of other Hollywood hopefuls. You register with them (SSN, DLN, W-2, height, measurements, dress size, special talents, car type, "how far will you go," the works). You stand in another long-ass line. You stand in front of a camera (about as sophisticated as the DMV) and get a picture taken. One. You do not get to see said picture. They hand you a packet of papers and give you a phone number to call. You call said phone number. Again. And again. MANY times per day. You listen to pre-recorded job postings and hope to hear one that sounds like something you match and that is something you might actually like to do. You listen to the WHOLE THING because often they only want your car, or your specific breed of dog, or they want you to jump into a swimming pool with all of your clothes on (repeatedly) or shave your head or be a professional soccer coach or a biker or stripper or something (yes, I've heard all of these) and they seem to want to put this critical information last. You call another number to talk to the agent that posted this call. This number will be busy. Always. (I guess a lot of people fit "non-union woman between the ages of 21 to 71.") You call again and again and again (because you have nothing better to do) or you pay $75 a month to have someone else do it for you (keeping in mind that you will still only make $8/hour when they find you work). IF you get the gig, they will give you almost NO information about where it is or what you will be doing or how long it will take because again, you have nothing better to do and can put everything else on hold. If you don't get the gig (after all of that), you spend the next several hours worrying that you sneezed or a bug landed on your face in that headshot you never got to see. They give you yet another number to call the night before your job. You call that number (note: get a phone plan with unlimited minutes). They pre-scold you for being late and/or not having everything you need. They tell you to bring your own clothes and often something you would never own and will need to buy (i.e. pantyhose). You try to sleep the night before because your call time is often early in the morning (6:15AM) or late at night (10PM), running until early in the morning. You fight traffic to get to set on time. You fail. You park as far away as possible from the set. You arrive and check in with the 2nd AD or a PA who will either ignore you or call you sweetheart. You go sit in "holding" which is often a tent with a bunch of metal folding chairs in it. You talk to some cool people and a couple of crazy folks. They tell you to be quiet. They tell you to go to costume, hair and makeup, all three of which will tell you to go away because no one is really going to see you and they don't want to waste their time. You swallow sadness and immerse yourself in a good book. You get called to set. They tell you to be quiet. A lot. Even if the crew is making all of the noise, they will blame the "background talent" for the hammering. You do your thirty seconds of bad "casual conversation" pantomime. You feel good because you SWEAR the camera is, like, totally right on you the whole time! They feed you (usually). You finish your "day." You go home and tell all of your family and friends to tune into whatever show at whatever time. A week later, you get a paycheck for approximately $80 for ten+ hours of work. Your episode airs or your film is released. Two people report possibly seeing the back of your head for half a second. One of them is your mother. It turns out that it was not your head, but you don't tell anyone that. You swear you are never going to do it again. Two weeks later, you call the pre-recorded line and start the process all over again. This time you just know you're going to get that SAG voucher!*
However, like all experiences, crappy or otherwise, being an extra expands my library of fun stories to tell, and I shall share them here- with pictures (where possible)! You know, someone should make a television show based on their experiences as an extra. It might be really funny! They could get awesome actors to guest star. Ooh, ooh! I'd love to see Ian McKellan do something on a show like that...
(*You need to get three vouchers before you can join the Screen Actor's Guild, which is every non-union extra's dream. Once you have your vouchers, you pay SAG a large sum of money and then you can actually begin making a more livable wage from doing "background" work.)
That's my dog, Pixol. This picture was taken at LAX. She is sitting in her soft dog carrier (read: celebutante dog purse) after having made me chase her through the concourse, knowing neither "come" nor "stay." What's a Pixol, you ask? Why, a pixol is a three-dimensional pixel in Z-Brush. A Pixol is also my dog. Why Pixol and not Pixel? Because my dog has three legs. Ba-dum tish. And what a good way to kick off my FAQ! Whenever I take my little one out for a walk in our Santa Monica neighborhood, we are bombarded with questions and comments concerning her handicapability. I decided to create this FAQ and direct people here to make our lives a little easier. In descending order of frequency:
MY DOG, AN FAQ
Q. Oh my God! He only has three legs! A. This is not a question. It's a (rude) statement. I already knew that. And he is a she. But thanks for pointing that out. You're good at seeing stuff.
Q. What happened to its leg? A. Wait... what? Where's your... bad dog! Bad dog!! Let's go back to the dog park...
Q. No, seriously, what happened to her leg? A. Shark fight. You should see the other guy.
Q. Are you only going to give sarcastic answers to these questions? A. Mostly. Actually, she was hit by a car and it had to be amputated. There. Don't you think "shark fight" is way cooler?
Q. Was she "like that" when you got her? A. Yes, I adopted her with a missing leg. And yes, "good for me" for taking her in. I am awesome and the angels smile upon me.
Q. Aww... well she gets along just fine, doesn't she? A. No, she doesn't. It's a daily struggle, and I'll thank you not to bring it up again. Actually, yes. She doesn't even seem to notice. She slips on the hardwood floor, but then so do I after a glass of wine. Of course, I only have two legs, so you be the judge of who is more coordinated...
Q. Are you ever going to get her a prosthetic? A. If I ever feel that she needs one, absolutely. Or if I ever want her to be a pirate for Halloween. I will go as her parrot. It will be awesome.
Q. How long have you had her? A. It's funny how often people ask me this question. Is this a question asked of all dog owners or only the owners of dogs with missing legs?
Q. Does it ever bother her? A. Not really. I mean, when she gets tired of walking she just flies. Like everyone.
Q. What's her name mean? Why didn't you name her Tripod or Hoppy or Stumpy or some other stupid thing? Heh heh. A. I don't know. Why didn't your parents name you Rude or Baldy McAsks-a-lot-of-dumb-questions? Isn't "Pixol" bad enough?
Q. Have you seen the dog with only two legs? A. OMG Yes!! It's the worlds cutest YouTube video and it made me cry liek a lawt. ^_^
Q. What kind of dog is she? A. She's a Chispangledoodle mix. And also part cat. Somehow.
So there you go. Everything you ever wanted to know about my dog. If you can think of any other questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.
You know that you are living in the land of celebrities when the local Whole Foods has a sign that says that you are not allowed to photograph people in the store. I’ve tried to train myself to notice the stars, but I only seem to notice them when someone is beside me and says, “hey, isn’t that so-and-so from such-and-such?” I also notice them on the set, if I happen to be working on their show or movie. Sometimes… I have been mistaken for a celebrity on a few occasions and it has really piqued my curiosity. I’d like to know who people think I am so that I know how to sign the napkin and ask for my “famous person” discount. Regardless, it is kind of fun to play with it. One year at the Cannes film festival, I put on my celebrity disguise (black t-shirt and jeans with a black baseball cap and sunglasses… not that this departs greatly from my usual attire) and had my friend take pictures of me as I was walking down the street, acting indignant. That turned a few heads.
Still, even as a non-celebrity, it’s a bit strange to think that there are actually people watching you as you go about your business. Just to say they saw you, say, at the local Pinkberry after their yoga class… Ohai, Fran Kranz. You were awesome in Dollhouse, luvyakbai! It does make life in LA-LA land kind of fun, though. I hope I don't tarnish the reputations of Jennifer Connelly, Jenna Fischer, Michelle Williams, Christina Ricci and other random celebrities whom I have been told (and don't believe) I resemble by walking down Rodeo Drive with my fizzy hair while eating copious amounts of chocolate and enjoying the company of a guy none of those women is reportedly dating (I'm talking to you, shirt-wearing Matthew McConaughey lookalike).
And yes, I can confirm that so-and-so is hot, that such-and-such is probably going to be canceled and that celebrity-couple-portmanteau will probably be breaking into their own pronouns soon, especially with the arrival/adoption of the baby. No one really thought it would last, anyway.
Warning: this post contains
spoilers no spoilers, actually. At least not to Lost. At least... not that I know...
So, I'm about ready to sink into a deep, dark depression. In case you have been living in a hole for six years or just refuse to partake in all things wholesome and good, I'll get you up to speed.
There's this little show called Lost. It was created by some guy named J.J. Abrams and then handed over to these guys named Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. It's about some folks who crash on an island and then some stuff happens over six seasons. Compelling protagonists. Complex antagonists. Mystery, intrigue, romance, drama, sci-fi and general mythology ensue and then it ends today.
It ends today.
In some ways, this makes me incredibly happy. I like endings. I don't like shows that stretch out for years based only on ratings and then suddenly come to an abrupt end when the sponsor gives up on it.1,2 In other ways, it makes me incredibly sad. I've really become attached to these characters. Quite a few things have ended recently. No more Harry and Hermione. No more Starbuck and the cylons. 1No more Hiro and Claire Bennett. 2No more Flash Forward. And now, no more Jack and Kate. Sigh. Comic-Con had better deliver me something geeky to obsess over this year or I might have to leave my house more often (or at least when Fringe is not on).
Since it is all over the internets and has become something of a pop-culture meme, I offer here my own Top Ten Lost Series Finale Spoilers:
- It's all just a dream. Vincent's dream.
- John Locke is Keyser Soze.
- The Island sees dead people, and it's YOU who has been dead the whole time!
- Turns out the whole thing is about Shannon, Boone, Nikki and Paolo.
- The hatch was actually a worm hole that connected to the Large Hadron Collider. And they blew it up! Those maniacs! Damn them. God damn them all to hell.
- Claire is Jack's sister! His mother! His sister! His mother! She's his sister AND his mother!!!
- There is no Island, only Zuul!
- Kate is actually a man. But it works out because Sawyer is actually a woman. So...
- "Dharma" is the name of his sled. It's also made of people. No, seriously. They wear jumpsuits and stuff.
- It's an alternate universe run by aliens who live in a black hole at the center of hell, can travel through time, have x-ray vision, and also everyone is dead and it's all about the Bible or some junk, but it's okay because it's all just Hurley's schizophrenic delusion.
Thanks for the ride, guys. I will forever carry my Dharma Initiative card in my wallet and the stories in my heart.
Okay, the Oscars were over a week ago. Yes, I knew Avatar wasn't going to win. Sci-Fi only really wins in VFX, makeup, sound mixing and the like* Yes, I'm ECSTATIC that a female won for best director for a very worthy film. It was weird to think they were taking place 20 minutes from my house (approximately 3.8 days with traffic) and that I had actually seen many of the winners in real life (most of them by grace of the awesome Jeff Goldsmith who hosts podcasts for Creative Screenwriting magazine, but also the crew of "The Cove" who actually debuted that film in Boulder, Colorado before I moved away). I wanted to post this before the awards, but here it is. A funny little anecdote:
So an experimental film friend of mine works at the Academy Archives. I’d heard him mention this before, but I always just thought of the job: archivist. I’d never once considered the place: The Academy. Probably some… like… military school or university or something? Didn’t matter to me. He works at an archive. I worked in preservation at a film lab. We spoke the same language and that was enough.
He invited me and my friend to explore some of cultural Los Angeles and catch a movie (which was followed by pie at Apple Pan- YUM, YUM and DOUBLE YUM).
We followed the directions. As we approached the building my companion said, “wait. Your friend works at the ACADEMY archives?”
Uh, yeah. Should I know what this means? I’m new to L.A., so probably not.
It wasn’t until after I entered the lobby, having gotten through a couple of security checkpoints and passing several displays housing Oscars, that I realized that the “Academy” was not referring to West Point. The Academy was referring to The Academy. The AMPAS. The one you would like to thank (along with your agent, significant other and hardworking crew). Oscars.
I tried to hide my embarrassment at my naïveté. What? The Academy Awards. So? I knew that. Like I care. Like… what? Like I host a party every year, glue myself to the E! channel and write my acceptance speech out in my head every time I finish a project? Pshaw! As if!
(*practices acceptance wave*)
It didn’t take long for me to completely geek out after that. We got a tour of the storage facilities and some of the screening rooms. It was pretty damn cool. Glamour aside, it was just cool from a technical standpoint. And it was cool from a temperature standpoint, it being a film storage facility and all that. (Ba-dum tish!) And *I* probably seemed pretty damn cool for appearing not to give a f&*% about it. Then again, I just blew that cool by divulging the truth here on this blog.
Me= clueless geek.
*interesting that Avatar won for best cinematography... I've already explained why that's cool to people who say "but it wasn't 'filmed.'" It was, actually- remember that there were also real actors and real sets on that film and that the lighting and camera on those sets needed to match exactly what was happening digitally. Not to mention that you still have to fuss over depth of field and all of that on the computer side AND make it match what you shot in reality... Discuss!
Why does this man make so much money? I can't answer this question for everyone, but I can answer it for me. I'm a girl who got her first SCUBA mask at 15 and got certified in a rock quarry in Pennsylvania in winter (which means I am both nitrox and dry suit certified, thank you very much). I cleaned animal poo at at veterinary clinic to fund my voyage to Sea Camp in San Diego at around that age. I can relate to his love of exploring the "alien" underwater world.
Further, as someone who lugged a 70 lb Cousteau-style underwater housing system for a 16mm Bolex through Brooklyn and Manhattan (via subways) and got scolded CONSTANTLY for making flip books out of science texts, drawing instead of taking notes, and recreating television sets in her desk (I'm not even exaggerating- ask my mom. It was the set of Moonlighting and I was about eight years old) I can relate to the love of art and movies. EVEN MORE, as someone who went back to school at the age of 25 for astrophysics because I fell in love with the images coming back from Mars and Titan, I can relate to the love of science fiction and space exploration. I offer here his presentation at TED. If I can have even 1/3 of the filmmaking adventures he has had, I will die a happy girl. I would love to bring my love of science together with my love of films. (I'm working on it. And I've all the confidence in the world that I can.)
I will gladly fork over the cash to see anything James Cameron does. I think that his scientific background is WHY he makes good SciFi movies. (Did you know that the glowing bioluminescent plants in Avatar are based on very simple creatures found right here off the coast of SoCal? It's not SciFi, it's just science re-appropriated.)
"Curiosity. It's the most powerful thing you own" "The respect of your team is more important than all the laurels in the world." "Failure is an option. But fear is not." Seriously... I love this guy.
OH... and by the way. I twittered this and posted it on my facebook page, but I was lucky enough to have seen Avatar WITH James Cameron and to hear him talk about it with his production designers at the end. It is not a requirement for a director to know everything about the technology (s)he is using, but he DOES. It is pretty clear that his production designers DO respect him. Since I also geek out about film technology, I should add that I FINALLY got to see the 3D system they were talking about when I was in Cannes, which made me a happy girl.
(I love how they are all squatting off the edge of my soda cup. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take photos so I James Bonded it...)
(Edit: A friend of mine wasn't familiar with the Team Jacob/Team Edward meme, so I summed it up in a few short sentences (contains mild Twilight spoilers):
Edward is a vampire. Bella fell in love with him. He didn't think things would work out. He dumped her. Bella was sad.
Jacob is a werewolf. He fell in love with Bella and hated Edward for hurting her. She just wanted to be friends. Jacob was sad
Edward came back and things got all mixed up. Some people thought Edward was a jerk, some thought he was just trying to protect Bella.
Jacob overstepped his bounds, and some people thought he was a jerk, some thought he was just a dumb boy.
Bella fell in love with both of them (I haven't read the last book yet).
Hence you are either Team Edward or Team Jacob (I was Team Bella, but that's not an option).)
Remember Mike Meyers in a bathtub? Of course you do, you cheeky monkey! I've been trying to document some of my sketches over the last few days. I'm slowly posting them in my "drawings" section. I thought I would post a few of them here on my blog, as well.
This is Neyteri. I am a nerd. I doodled this while on the set of The Office, earning me the nickname "Avatar." Being called "Avatar" by Craig Robinson was a delightful geek moment for me. More on that after the episode airs...
This is a quick sketch of Doctor Orpheus from The Venture Brothers. My reference material was my iPhone and I scanned him before I could finish his hands, but I plan to do more of him. He's really fun to draw:
More to come. I had been waiting to get a scanner, but I have found that my iPhone takes decent pictures of drawings as long as I have them in the sun. I think Neyteri might be a tiny bit warped, but the idea is there.
"One does not simply walk into Mordor. It’s black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."
Well, clearly, Boromir would NOT win an Independent Spirit Award.
(What's that? TWO Lord of the Rings references in a row? Yep.)
Let’s just say Burbank is not a place I would like to live. Ever. I knew this before I moved to California (in fact, when people trashtalk Los Angeles, they have usually only been to either the Burbank/Studio City area or Downtown Hollywood), but it was confirmed for me on the first day of 110 degree weather and asthma attacks from pollution that it is not a place I should call home.
Burbank is located in the armpit of the San Fernando Valley. While it is home to many television, film and animation studios, it also hosts some of the worst air in the country. The mountains surrounding the Valley make it impossible for the pollution to go anywhere. These same mountains keep hot, stagnant air hot and stagnant. It is also the home and workplace of many a wannabe producer or aspiring... something or other. The result is a nice warm blanket of asphyxiating poison in which many people are behaving badly because they are obsessed with obtaining or keeping power.
To give you an idea: every day there was a new, thin layer of an unidentifiable "dust" on my car (or as we called it in New York: "schmutz"). I had a constant sore throat. It got so hot the day after I arrived that the glue from my shoes in the trunk of my car melted. The soles curled back and peeled themselves off à la the The Wizard of Oz. And it was only 10AM. It also didn't help that there was a hill on fire a few miles away from where I was staying. According to my twitter feed, I wasn't the only one making Lord of the Rings connections...
Still, I was staying with the right people (who I thank ad vitam aeternam for their hospitality). And since then, I have worked several jobs in that area. Forty hours a week is doable. I've gotten to know the area fairly well and have seen that it has its good sides, too. For example, there are many highways that exit out of it.
Okay, it IS really cool that every street you turn down is film-related. And it IS really cool that you can see famous people all over the place. I never recognize them, but I hear they are there. And that’s cool. I geek out taking the studio tours and working on sets and visiting friends who work there. It’s also really cool that there is… like… an Ikea there… or something.
Anyway, my point is...
...I don't know. I didn't have a point, I guess. This is a blog.
I quickly tuned my apartment hunting radar system (which is www.westsiderentals.com for those with an interest in finding housing out this way) to “West Side” and tried to get out of there as quickly as I could. I may have to work there from time to time, but I like to be able to step outside and breathe some fresh air, too.
Nah, Burbank, you’re okay, doll. You know what? Have your people call my people and we’ll… have our people talk to each other. I’m not committing to lunch at Barad-dûr...
"'And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’ She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’"
I left Colorado with a heavy heart. Like many people, I felt that the world I knew was kind of flipping itself on its head. “Familiar” didn’t make sense anymore. So many people I loved had died, moved, distanced themselves… My state job wasn't enough to distract me from these small town blues. I needed to either flip my own life or be subjected to the whims of this gravity. The latter was not an option. So I put my head on the ground and my feet in the air…
I have reached a very key point in my filmmaking career and I believe that makes my trip to Lala Land a little less scary. I have dispensed with any notions that I am going to "make it big" or that such a thing is even possible. The conclusion I have come to is this: I have tried many things in my life, from astrophysics to teaching. It ALWAYS comes back to film. It has been my passion since I was a child. As long as I am doing what I love, I'm happy. On top of that, I’ve always liked California. I was a bad Coloradoan/New Yorker that way. Is the traffic bad? Sure. Are the people fake? Well, yes, but no more than they are anywhere else. Is Hollywood a hellhole of trash, noise, and tourism? Yes, actually. For the most part, it really is. But no one says I HAVE to spend all of my time there.
I like Los Angeles, actually, and I LOVE Santa Monica (my new home, which is actually its own city). It’s a bit tough to find the cultural gems through all of the strip malls, but they are here! There’s no better place for a film lover- even for one who loves alternative, independent, foreign and avant-garde films. There’s even a silent movie theater! It’s a great place for independent music, as well. The big industry giants make the most noise, so I can see how people might think that there is nothing else out here, but there are thriving pockets of independence in this town. I love it. I always knew I would end up here. Everything I love to do, everything I’m good at- it’s all out here. With beaches! What’s not to love?
Still, Colorado is home. I am a fourth generation native of the state. The goodbyes were extremely hard, but the date to leave was set: my birthday. I drove out to Las Vegas with a good friend and met up with a couple of new friends from L.A. It was a great drive and a great birthday weekend, Vegas-style. That is an experience I’d never really had. I’d never stayed there more than just “overnight” on my way to California, finding it unappealing on many many many levels. But hey, I freakin' hi-fived a Pegasus! Well… low fived. And for me it was five, but he only had one… but it was still AWESOME!
I didn’t have much of a plan once I got out here. I had some cash and a great friend in Burbank, but there was a lot that was still “unknown” and quite a bit of mental upheaval, as well as an insane amount of emotional pressure. I needed it, though. I loved the chaos. In fact, to quote the musician whose video I embedded two posts ago:
“I found the secret to life: I’m okay when everything is not okay.”
And I am.
"Greetings from California. I've been very busy. Am having a great time trying to make it as a writer in LA. It's just as easy as everyone thinks it is. I've been working the room at a lot of Hollywood parties." –Brian Griffin, Family Guy Yep, so here I am: Los Angeles. City of Dreams. City of Angels. “Lala Land.”
To be more precise, I am in Santa Monica, a much saner neighbor that is closer to the beach and smells a bit nicer, but for all intents and purposes, it is Los Angeles. The film industry spreads its sinuous tentacles all the way to the edge of the west coast and even dips them out into the Pacific (at least as far out as the surfers can go)…
If you read my blog, you might be somewhat confused by this. The last time I posted anything, I was in Colorado. Sure, I had expressed a desire to move, but I kind of just dropped everything and… went. Also, if you read my blog, I’m sorry. It was part of the everything I dropped. I plan to rectify this, however.
If you’ve been here before, you may have noticed that things have changed. I have a simplified site that has integrated my blog so that they don’t live in two places. Per people who know, it’s a major paradigm shift that has optimized my workflow and synergized my… um…
It was a big job and I think it looks prettier and does fancy things that you can’t see on your side.
So… welcome! Or welcome back. I won’t leave this hanging- won’t leave comment-leavers out on the periphery of “approval” while I try to remember my password for the 85th time. More importantly, I’ve got a lot of great stories to share and have a burning desire to do so. Hollywood is an interesting place for a lover of astronomy when most here can’t seem to see the universe for the Stars...
this is for gossamer conglomerate lotuslooptest2
Tori is my absolute favorite musician. For Robert.
It seems like almost everyone I know (myself included) is going through some major and challenging life changes right now: breakups, foreclosures, job losses, moving, legal battles, money trouble, restlessness, scandals, loss of loved ones, losing homes in fires... the list goes on and on. I am just beginning to clear my mind of a little of my own funk. I have found that two things help me get through a rough time more than anything else: A. Doing things that I love and B. Sharing those things with the people I love.
Luckily for me, there are many things that satisfy "A." (Truth be told, there are probably too many things that do, but that's a post for another day.) One thing that has been there for me 27 of my 31 years on this planet, however, is music. I've mostly played the piano, though I love to sing and have experimented with the violin and the flute (no, not in a "this one time at band camp" sort of way...)
I have always been reluctant to share my music. It is my sanctuary when things go wrong in my life. I had always feared that if I played and people didn't like it, it would somehow lose its healing power. That and the fact that I was teased about it pretty ruthlessly in school, which pretty much makes anyone reluctant to revisit anything...
This past year has been pretty eye-opening to me, however. I have learned to be a lot more open to new people, new ideas and to trying new things. So, in an attempt to share the love, I offer two of my very favorite Satie songs to play on the piano when I am feeling blue:
I recorded myself playing these using my digital piano (Yamaha S90ES- best digital piano ever), some fancy gadgets that hook up to my computer, and Cubase recording software. I'm hoping to continue recording more music, perhaps a bit with some vocals if I can figure out how to use my microphone properly and either work around its presence in front of my keyboard or work on my ability to record the vocals and instruments separately (not an easy task when you are used to doing both simultaneously). And maybe, just maybe, I will include some of my own compositions in time.
Anyway, that's my little virtual hug. Go do something you love and share a little with someone else. Passion and compassion are great healers.
Most of what I write has no place in the public sphere, but I do enjoy writing and I do enjoy telling stories. I've always thought I have a knack for both, but beyond this blog and a few online videos, I've never really sought to publish any of the things I've written. That is about to change.
I've been reading my journal a lot lately, trying to figure out who I am and what I want. Wedged between the pages of "mean people suck" and Zoolander-esque "who am I's," I have found several fictional story lines that I have been juggling over the years. The one that currently has my full (or as close to "full" as my mind allows) attention is one I have been pondering for about six years. I think it would actually work best as a television show or miniseries. I have begun the difficult task of translating my journal jotting to screenplay format in the hopes that I can film the pilot this summer. As an important first step, I purchased a copy of Final Draft 8 (a screenwriting word processor). So far, I'm loving it. I'm still in the process of learning the ins and outs, but below I have posted my first "screenplay" written with the program. I'm hoping that more... interesting... things result from this software purchase, but reading through this, I giggled enough to think that maybe it was worth sharing. Enjoy:
"larningfinaldraft" by Courtney Hoskins
Script created with Final Draft by Final Draft, Inc.
INT. CAFE IN BOULDER - DAY A WOMAN sits in a cafe, learning how to use Final Draft. Four WAITERS from a nearby high-end restaurant enter. The woman attempts to focus on her tutorial, despite the fact that the waiters are relatively cute and talking loudly. The waiters order their breakfast from the hipster BARISTA. WAITER 1 Do you have bacon? BARISTA No. WAITER 1 Oh! Are you kidding? WAITER 2 Dude, you should totally get a Bhakti chai. WAITER 3 Yeah, man, that stuff is awesome. It's like total Taj Mahal. The barista smiles, but rolls her eyes. The woman attempts to decipher the intricacies of why the hell isn't this putting in proper line breaks? WOMAN (V.O.) Writers often draw their inspiration from observing people and their interactions in real life. Sometimes, they realize that doing so is a bit of a waste of time and is actually just keeping them from writing the pilot episode to their television show that they know will be awesome if they can just get the damn thing filmed. The woman considers this for a moment and stares at the screen, still unable to comprehend the line break situation. She wonders if it has to do with the "Hour TV Drama" template that she is using. WOMAN (CONT'D) I wonder if this looks weird because it is a funky template. Do people not use line breaks in TV land? You know who is cool? Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon is insanely cool. So is Damon Lindelof. They are awesome writers. I bet they never waste time like this. She takes a swig of her cappuccino. WOMAN (CONT'D) I really need to stop drinking dairy. She looks up and realizes that the cute waiters are gone, as is fifteen minutes of her life. The result of both missing elements in her life is this one page of inane script. END
Script created with Final Draft by Final Draft, Inc.
My friends and I have been watching the miniseries "Taken" that was on the SciFi channel a while ago. I had already seen it, but watching it again has really made me appreciate the writing, especially for a show about aliens! I have gathered some of my favorite quotes, spoken by the character Allie Keys (played by Dakota Fanning).
My mom told me once that when you're afraid of something, what you want more than anything else is to make it go away. You want your life back to the way it was before you found out that there was something to be afraid of. You want to build a high wall and live your old life behind it. But nothing ever stays the same. That's not your old life at all. That's your new life with a wall around it. Your choice is not about going back to the way things were. Your choice is about hiding, or about going right to the heart of the thing that scares you.
You know in cartoons, the way someone can run off a cliff and they're fine, they don't fall until they look down? My mom always said that was the secret of life. Never look down. But it's more than that. It's not just about not looking. It's about not ever realizing that you're in the middle of the air and you don't know how to fly.
Some people have given up all hope of anything in their lives ever changing. They just go on with it day by day, and if something were to come along and make things different they probably wouldn't even notice it right off, except for that kind of nervous feeling you get in your stomach. My mom and I used to call that "the car trip feeling," because it was how I'd feel whenever I knew we were going to go somewhere far away or somewhere new.
People like to examine the things that frighten them, to look at them and give them names, so saints look for God, and scientists look for evidence. They're both just trying to take away the mystery, to take away the fear.
We all like to think that we have some control over the events in our lives, and a lot of the time we can fool ourselves into thinking that we really are in charge. But then something happens to remind us that the world runs by its own rules and not ours and that we're just along for the ride.
The world is made up of the big things that happen and the small ones. And the part that's so unfair is that we call them "big" and "small", because when something happens to you, when you lose something or someone that you really care about, that's all there is. The world may be blowing up around you, but you don't care about that. You don't care about that at all.
I have this idea about why people do the terrible things they do. Same reason little kids push each other on the schoolyard. If you're the one doing the pushing, then you're not going to be the one who gets pushed. If you're the monster, then nothing will be waiting in the shadows to jump out at you. It's pretty simple, really. People do the terrible things they do because they're scared.
We're all standing on the edge of a cliff, all the time, every day, a cliff we're all going over. Our choice isn't about that. Our choice is about whether we want to go kicking and screaming or whether we might want to open our eyes and our hearts to what happens once we start to fall.
Some people put a lot of work into their lawn, as if a patch of green grass was the most important thing in the world. As if they thought that as long as the lawn out front was green and mowed and beautiful, it wouldn't matter at all what was going on inside of the house.
People move through their lives sometimes without really thinking about where they're going. Days pile up, and they get sadder and lonelier without really knowing why they're so sad or how they got so lonely. Then something happens. They meet someone who looks a certain way or has something in their smile. Maybe that's all that falling in love is; finding someone who makes you feel a little less alone.
People talk a lot as if the most important thing in life is to always see things for what they really are. But everything we do, every plan we make, is kind of a lie. We're closing our eyes and pretending that the day won't ever come when we won't need to make any more plans. Hope is the biggest lie there is, and it is the best. We have to keep going as if it all mattered, or else we wouldn't keep going at all.
People say that when we grow up, we kick at everything we've been told, we rebel against the world our parents worked so hard to bring us into, that part of growing of is kicking at the ties that bind. But I don't think that's why we kick at all. I think we kick when we find out that our parents don't know much more about the world than we do. They don't have all the answers. We rebel when we find out that they've been lying to us all along, that there isn't any Santa Claus at all.
Is every moment of our lives built into us before we're born? If it is, does that make us less responsible for the things we do? Or is the responsibility built in too? After you hit the ball, do you stand and wait to see if it goes out, or do you start running and let nature take its course?
What makes a man who he is? Is it the worst things he's ever done, or the best things he wants to be? When you find yourself in the middle of your life and you're nowhere near of where you were going, how do you find the way from the person you've become to the one you know you could have been?
My mother always talked to me a lot about the sky. She liked to watch the clouds in the day, and the stars at night... especially the stars. We would play a game sometimes, a game called, what's beyond the sky. We would imagine darkness, or a blinding light, or something else that we didn't know how to name. But of course, that was just a game. There's nothing beyond the sky. The sky just is, and it goes on and on, and we'll play all of our games beneath it.
People are lonely in this world for lots of different reasons. Some people have something in their disposition. Maybe they were just born too mean, or maybe they were born too tender. But most people are brought to where they are by circumstance, by calamity or a broken heart or something else happening in their lives that wasn't anything they planned on. People are lonely in this world for lots of different reasons. The one thing that I do know is, it doesn't matter what any one of them might tell you--nobody wants to be alone.
The hardest thing you'll ever learn is how to say goodbye.
Every few years, I discover a musician whose music goes to the core of my heart... or the heart of my core.... hmm... Being something of a musician myself (one who has always been afraid to write her own music), I always think that this is because our musical and lyrical cadences are in step with one another. "If I wrote songs," I imagine, "they would be just like this."
My latest musical BFF is Sia. Her child-like sense of humor and adventure mixed with wisdom and "serious" emotion is something that I've felt is hard to find in other people. So many of her songs are really encapsulating what I feel right now- on both the silly and the serious sides of life. Below are music videos from my favorite songs of hers (where I am allowed):
My absolute favorite Sia song is Breathe Me. The music video also feels like something I would make (too bad the Universal Media Group felt it was uncool to allow me to embed it in my blog or offer it in higher quality- you have to click the link to watch it on youtube).
Second favorite (bonus for the great lyrics) is Academia:
Soon We'll be Found (again- just the kind of music video I would want to make and I can't embed it here).
Enjoy! I certainly do...