Dear America, Imagine Please

Today I lost my right not to be political; I see that as a right because it's a right that my grandparents fought for by escaping a country where politics hijacked the humanity of individuals. I promise that this has to do with metafiction.

But first, some letters; I want to invite America into an imaginative exercise, because imagination is beautiful. Scroll to any letters that feels relevant to you: there's a letter for everyone, I promise. It has nothing to do with who you supported through the tension of the last twenty four hours. I am not trying to upset anyone. I want us to be present in the truth of where we are as a country, and to be still in it. 

DEAR AMERICAN WOMEN, I must inform you that your country has, presumably by majority rule, elected a man for its leader who has openly expressed that you are less than human because you are feminine. He has acted on this sentiment. The humanity of his victims did not overwhelm the support that he had from other aggressors. Do you feel that I'm exaggerating? Do you feel that it's not a big deal? Do you feel that you are a special woman, and that most other women are inferior? Perhaps you feel the opposite. Perhaps you feel betrayed and in danger, not only from him, but from the those who have the ability to protect you. Feel it. This is what oppression feels like. Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. But this is what it feels like and it's called oppression. How does it feel in your stomach? Imagine the feeling. What color is it? What is it shaped like? How does it sound? There is no right answer. Feel and and give it a name. Know it. 

DEAR STRAIGHT AMERICAN MEN, I must inform you that your country has, presumably by majority rule, elected a man for its leader who has openly expressed the women you desire are less than human. He has acted on this sentiment. He does not feel that men can, and should, respect the people they love and love the people they respect. The humanity of his victims did not overwhelm the support that he had from other aggressors. This country elected a man who offends your social sensibilities and education, and who has put women on guard and made them afraid of your demographic. Do you think that I am wrong? Do you feel judged and frustrated? Imagine your thoughts. What do they smell like? What do they feel like? What they shaped like? There is no right answer, just imagine your truth. This is what is feels like to be robbed of your sexual empowerment. Feel it. Know it. Give it a name. 

DEAR LGBTQ AMERICANS, I must tell you that your country has elected someone who has tried to capitalize your voice for his own agenda. Your fellow citizens have elected a man who stifles the social freedom that validated your identities and desires. Do you feel tired? Do you feel exhausted? Do you feel absurdity? Imagine what the feeling is. What does it look like? What does it smell and sound like? Give it a name and know it. No wrong answers. And know, also, that your freedom is connected to everyone's freedom. 

DEAR AMERICAN MUSLIMS, you should know that your country has just elected, presumably by majority rule, a figurehead and leader who has expressed intent to systematically strip you of your rights and sense of safety. Do you think I am exaggerating? Maybe you are right. There are no right or wrong answers. This is what oppression feels like. Perhaps it doesn't feel that bad, but this is what it is. Do you feel it in your stomach? In your neck? What does it look like? Know what this feeling is and give it to God. 

DEAR NON-WHITE AMERICANS, I must tell you that your country has elected, presumably by majority rule, a figurehead who can represent their frustration at your prevalence in society. There are people who don't want you to forget that you are not white, because they feel that it matters. Take a moment to do nothing but experience what this oppression is like. Imagine it like you are discovering a new animal. It doesn't have to look like anything particular. Do you feel I am exaggerating? Do you feel that you are unsafe? No wrong answers. Feel it and name it, because it's here. 

POST SCRIPT FOR EVERYONE: While I'm on the subject, I want to mention the importance of unity: there has never been a good time to shut out another group of equally oppressed people because you disagree with their lifestyle, nature, or beliefs. Especially not now. I say this for my own peer group as much as for others. The division that still exists between the LGBTQ community and otherwise supportive religious communities is more than disheartening, it's a luxury that we can't afford right now. 

Why is this so important to metafiction? Let me show you: 

This is Phi. 

This is Phi. 

This is Poppy. 

This is Poppy. 

This is Alan Cope. 

This is Alan Cope. 

This is Delta. 

This is Delta. 

This is Harry Potter. 

This is Harry Potter. 

A death rattle is the last breath of a dying animal. This election is just the death rattle of racist and sexist culture in America. 

Don't lose your chill, people. Go out there and be your weird, gay, religious, whatever selves. Go be America. We're all in the story, now. 

Accuracy and Authenticity

During the last rehearsal for Delta Phi I told my actors that is is much more important for us to be authentic than accurate. (I’m reading Judith Weston’s The Film Director’s Intuition and it’s putting so many of my imaginative convictions to words that I’m finally feeling confident enough to teach in ways that I didn’t know I should be).

The point being here that the script is not the master of the film. The beats in the script, the pacing, the emotions making their tiny visits from parenthetical to parenthetical are there for one reason: to deliver a problem to the creative team.


This is the problem, the script says, here are the ingredients. And here are a set of emotional assumptions to help you understand the problem of the story.


Then the actors, the directors, the people involved; we get to solve the problem. It boggles my mind how much time director’s spend trying to find new ways of telling someone how to feel as opposed to helping them to feel. For an actor to be present in an imaginary circumstance, to watch him behave and react in the way that is most authentic to him, is all the magic of filmmaking.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain premises the actor must follow; you have to give him a box to think outside of, as Ben Toalson might say. The box is comprised of character motivations. It’s far better to tell an actor why a character is doing something than to tell them how the character has to feel about it. Even the why, to some degree, can be left up to the actor’s imagination, just so long as you prompt them to activate it.

We have our first big shoot this weekend and are tackling some ambitious shots. My DP is new to the field and remarkably competent. I can only hope to make my team half as excited as I am about Delta Phi, and that would be more than enough. I suppose the best way to inspire others to care about something is to be obsessed with it yourself. Obsession is not such a bad thing, so long as your preoccupation doesn’t take you away from God. Obsession can be productive. Such domination of the mind for a singular concept or goal can make incite focus.





What you don't hear about filmmaking

If you’re on the fence about whether to try filmmaking, this is for you: 

When I entered film school I found myself on the receiving end of a lecture indicating to me that this kind of work was an end-all be-all. Hard work. Inaccessible. It’s for people who simply can’t do anything else because passion etc. 

I’m sure it was meant to be inspiring, but there’s hardly a lack of the harshly linear, masculine-minded approach to motivation in most fields, even the creative ones. Of course, I still love that approach. It’s hard not to if you’re a hard working person living in the US. But I just wasn’t feeling the lecture. 

It’s not that it scared me away from film, but I was irritating by the sense that it was trying to. It wasn’t for me. It was for people who don’t know that they have to work hard, but I don’t see how hearing they they’ll have to is going to help them. Hard work is its own filter. Delivering a speech like that is usually more for the benefit of the speaker than the listener. 

I say this because it’s that kind of attitude that kept me away from film for so long. It didn’t matter how many resources landed in my lap as long as I heard all this stuff about filmmaking:

>You have to know the right people

>You have no control over your own ideas

>It’s a male dominated meat market

>You can only break in through porn

>You have to meet an agent in LA 

>You have to avoid a lot of sabotage

>It’s too expensive (note that I’m not saying it isn’t expensive, I’m just parroting the judgement that it’s too expensive)

>It’s not worth the time and energy

>Aw, you wanna be a director? That’s so cute! 

>Are you like a writer? Is that a notebook? That’s so cute.


Here are some of the cool things that you don’t hear as often from filmmakers: 

>I get to share a story as I’m making it

>I get to experience leadership from within a group that is united by that story story

>I get to play pretend and/or help others get to play pretend

>I get to buy stuff for my imaginary friends in the story

>I get to meet sensitive, creative people 

>I get to help those sensitive, creative people find their part in the story

>I get to keep a record of me and friends playing pretend to deliver a story

I don’t know what else I can say, here. What could be more fun and healing than telling a story? 




Props and Boilerplate

Doing stuff you love sure makes you do a lot of stuff you don't love. I hate buying clothes for myself on a good day. But when I need costumes, out comes my wallet and yelp app. 

Getting up early to watch Netflix? Nope. But I'll roll out of bed at 6 AM to write contracts in time for my next shoot. 

I can say I hate these things, but the truth is that I wouldn't and couldn't do them if I didn't care passionately about it. And I care passionately because I have a story to tell and will do whatever I have to to tell it right. 

Most successful people will tell you that hard work is the secret. And that's true. I also have a fair warning: when you love something, people take notice. They know you'll do anything for what you're passionate about it. So don't become a slave to your passion, and don't let anyone take advantage of your energy for their own purposes. Be willing to do stuff you don't like as long as you have a good reason. Who knows, maybe you'll come to love the things you hate. 





Rehearsals for Delta Phi

Holding rehearsals is one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking. I often can't contain my glee at playing pretend with my colleagues. This isn't usually a problem but as I will be playing one the of leads in Delta Phi, I'm starting to wonder what I can do about it. It doesn't help that the script is funny by my standards (because I wrote it). 

I sort of hit the ground running after Real Boy since I knew I'd have more time and resources for my next project, so I started writing for Delta Phi sometime back in May of this year. Since I'm deeply connected to the subejct matter (it's about people who know they're not real and the woman who writes about them), the concept kept getting really heavy really quick, and humor was my best way to mitigate that. The script even has a sock puppet. 

We're shooting in two weeks and I have to solve this laughter problem, so I do a little research.

Laughter is a release in somatic tension. Our threshold for holding in laughter lowers based on the amount of tension we carry. Writers use this a lot in thrillers and action movies. Pretty much anything that breaks the pace will likely com across as hilarious. 

So I tried yoga. I'm practicing balance. Fixing my gaze on a single point. Breathing into my stomach. All the things that I tell my actors to do anytime we're on set, only now I finally get to hold myself to the same standard. I can manage not to laugh while I'm directing, but being engaged with the action, knowing that you're being observed, it's a different game. 

This past week we just practiced lines and a little blocking. I have yet to annotate the script so we haven't really dug in yet, although I do have concept maps and character sheets done. I'm hoping next week we can do some color coding and notate the tonal shifts with stickers. Time to go back to Office Max. 

It's fun though, I love it. Everytime we're acting it's like something invisible and special fills up the room, something so different from the seeming irrelevance of daily ilfe that it makes me wonder how anyone could want to do anything else besides make stories.