Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent Devotion #2

Isaiah 9:6-7

I am back in Michigan, celebrating the holidays with my family. Tomorrow, we will host about 100 people at our house, for our annual Christmas Open House. We’ll eat, drink and laugh all day and night long. It’s a highlight of the season for us and we look forward to it all year. And then by the end of the night, as we fill the sink with soapy water, as we gather empty cups, as we pick up crumbs and rearrange the furniture, we’ll wonder, exhaustedly, what we were thinking having this many people over!

But as we finish the chores, and sit in the living room around the big Christmas tree, we’ll recount the day and the people, we’ll relive “the joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings” as the author of Isaiah puts it so aptly. “For a child has been born – for us! The gift of a son – for us!”

Christmas is a time of sharing. Sharing love, sharing smiles, sharing time, sharing gifts. God shared His best gift with us during this season, His Son. And it’s a moment to be celebrated. With “festival joy” as it says in Isaiah! With others? Yes, I love those quiet mornings spent by the lit tree, sipping coffee, reading a book. But I really love those evenings spent sharing stories with family, laughing with friends, catching up with people I don’t see in person often enough. That festival joy is contagious and it carries us through the rest of the winter. It gets us through the dark nights and the cold mornings. It gets us to Easter, to the spring, and the redemption, we all so desperately crave.

Over the next few days, consider how you can participate in this “festival joy”. Maybe it’s sharing Christmas dinner at the church, eating or serving, just being a part of it all. Maybe it’s smiling at a stranger in Target as you rush to get that one last thing. Maybe it’s sitting with someone who doesn’t get to tell her stories that often. Or maybe it’s simply by worshipping in a crowd on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is a great celebration. God has given us that gift. Use it. Embrace it. For Christmas comes but once a year.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent Devotion #1

Every year Hollywood United Methodist Church asks us members to write advent devotions. Here's today's, the first of two I wrote this year: 

Isaiah 12:2-6

“Yes, indeed – God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid.”

Hmmm…I won’t be afraid. And yet? I’m terrified. Will there be enough money for rent? Will I sell my next project? Will my family member recover from this bout of illness? Will we stop global warming in time? Will we save health care for me and everyone I care about? Will I make a difference? Does it even matter?

I’m terrified. So much of the time. And yet?

“Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything!”

Anything? Really??

I take comfort in that. In the notion that as the scripture says, as I ask, I should “joyfully pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation”.

It’s hard not to be afraid. And yet? This time of year, this season, makes it a little easier not to be. Yes, the cookies and the carols and the festive colors and decorations help. But knowing that “the Lord God is my strength and might” is really what does it. Knowing the story of that little baby lying in a manager and how He will save us all. That helps. That gives me the ability to lay my head down at night, to close my eyes, to whisper my fears and my hopes into the darkness, and to believe that God will take care of it all.

Because He promised. Over and over. Day after day. He promises still. He is mighty. He has done wonderful things and He will continue to do wonderful things.

I won’t be afraid. Not this season. Not when I have the promise of that little baby in my heart.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I have a bit of an announcement...

July 2017
Nine years ago I was sitting in a classroom at UCLA listening to my classmates read my pages for the week. I was almost done with my first semester of film school. I had just finished the first draft of my screenplay Love and Embalming Fluid. I remember being excited. And so nervous I might throw up. And hanging on to each laugh my words elicited as if it was the breath I needed to make it through one more second on this earth.

Yes, Love and Embalming Fluid is full of comedy. Yes, it's about death. But more so? It's about life.

And then my life moved on. Fast forward nine years. Nine long years. Nine years is graduating from UCLA, taking classes at UCLA extension, taking workshops everywhere in Los Angeles. Nine years is so many Hollywood mixers and networking events. So many versions of business cards and Facebook pages and trying to force relationships that might be mutually beneficial. Nine years is seventeen screenplays and pilots. SEVENTEEN.

And then I met Ayelette Robinson (of The Couch fame). I met her on a Women in Film Facebook page and we connected on FaceTime at first. Fast forward a year and we've made a web series the world will watch soon. So let's make that eighteen scripts now.

And then this July she asked me if I had any screenplays laying around. As a writer, the one thing I learned early on is if this question was ever raised by anyone, was to say yes. And so, I said yes. I said yes, in fact, I have this one screenplay I think might be perfect for you. It's called Love and Embalming Fluid. 

Fast forward just six months. Only six months. But six months of meetings and contract negotiations and writing. Oh so much writing. See, a screenplay that was written nine years ago might need a little polish. A little updating.

Just a little.

Just a lot.

Long hours at the desk. Longer hours with a pen. Long conversations with my writing peeps who read draft after draft (and who know their work is still far from done, there are still more drafts coming).

But I discovered something so cool when I opened up the file for this particular screenplay. This screenplay that's story had begged to be told in these last nine years. I've written this story into a pilot. Then into a short film. And now? Now we're back to a feature film. And that cool thing? Well, I'm a much different writer than I was nine years ago. Frankly, a much better writer. And thank god, right? If that wasn't true, we've all been wasting our time. So...I set about rewriting.

And I'm still rewriting. But why?

Well, because Ayelette and her production company are MAKING MY MOVIE.

Yep. I really have a hard time grasping the reality at times too.

And that's not all. It's not enough that my words are going to come to life on the big screen. It's not enough that someone connected with the story in such a way that she wants to spend her energy, her time and her money telling it. It's not enough that I get to rewrite it and tell exactly the story I want to tell (because, let's be honest, that doesn't always happen to screenwriters).

I'm also directing the film.



I just...I can't...honestly, it's hard to figure out the best words in this situation. See, I've always, since day one, known this story inside and out. I've known the world of Love and Embalming Fluid because it's my world. I created the characters. I created everything about the world they inhabit. I know what the rooms look like they walk into. I know what kind of clothing they have on when they get in that fight they'll never forget. I know when exactly the tears start to fall and the smile sets in. I know these things.

No one else does.

But they will. Soon.

Because I'm going to show them. Ayelette and I are going to show them.

And I'm so freaking excited about this. And to share it with everyone who's been my cheerleader and support system and friend and confidant and held me up and kept me going these past nine years. Because it has been a marathon, not a sprint. And we've only just begun.

So that's the announcement. By this time next year we're hoping to have finished filming. (Don't take that to the bank, we're making an indie film -- this is going to be a LONG road. But we've started down it and we can already see the end! And it's amazing! And we're talking to amazing people and it's just all so...amazing!)

I'm now a writer-director. I've taken my first workshop at Film Independent. This past Monday night I spent three hours learning about cinematography, just enough to get me started learning what I need to know for my job. And it was fascinating, and fun. And I'm so excited by that. By how fun this all has been. Even the long days at my desk. Even now, when I'm still working on some huge character arcs and tweaking dialogue for a potential actor, it's all fun. Because I know how truly lucky I am to get to do something like this. (Did you think I was gonna let this slide...)

Because today, in 2017, only 7% of directors are women. SEVEN PERCENT. And only 13% of writers are women. THIRTEEN PERCENT. And only 20% of producers are women. TWENTY PERCENT.

So here's the thing. We're gonna change that, Ayelette and I. We're going to add to those numbers. And all the other numbers that are way too low in this industry, in this town, in this world. We're gonna be the change we want to see. Which I love. So much.

But most of all? I get to tell this story. And I'm so excited about how I get to do it. And I'm excited for you all to come on this journey with me.

So here's to EVERYTHING that 2018 is going to bring!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


A few weeks ago I was introduced to someone I've been introduced to several times before. We laughed and he made the comment that I'm always smiling. Like ALWAYS. I smiled, tried not to, and then gave up and said, "Yep, that's me."

It's not the first time someone has commented on my smile. On the fact that I smile a lot. I remember in grad school a professor I worked with said my smile brightened up the office. It wasn't creepy. I believe he genuinely meant it. And it was something he commented, on September 12, 2001, that made the day brighter. I took pride in that. I still do.

I smile because the world needs to be brighter. Everyone can benefit from a little extra happiness, right? And it's just who I am. Am I always cheerful and happy go lucky? God no. But I can plaster on a smile with the best of them. And most of the time it's genuine. Most of the time I'm happy.

Doris, me & Elaine
But in October there was a day where no smile crossed my lips. No smile brightened my eyes. It was the day my mom called early to tell us that our dear Elaine was in the hospital. And that she wasn't doing well. That day there were only tears. Tears for hours.

Elaine is the cousin of my mom's father. They were closer than he and his siblings were. We grew up spending every Christmas, every Easter, so many summer days, so many other days, with Elaine. With Elaine and her husband Arnold and their daughter Doris. Our family. Our family who lived in exotic Canada! It was a big deal when we got to cross the border and drive north and stay with Elaine, or later with Doris. It was an even bigger deal when they would come for family events, for visits, to spend time with us. It felt like we were whole, we were us.

Angela & Elaine
And it's from Elaine that I learned to smile. I honestly cannot tell you that I ever saw her unhappy. Now, I'm sure Doris can attest to the fact that much like myself, Elaine wasn't always so jovial. However, her demeanor, most of the time, was that of joy. That of hope. That of love and brightness.

Elaine wasn't my grandmother but she was. She was one of my grandmother's best friends, and they traveled the globe together after my grandfather died and then Elaine's husband Arnold died. They were our very own Thelma and Louise. They traveled, went to plays, sat up late chatting, spent long mornings with coffee at my grandmother's kitchen table. They saw each other through life's ups and downs, through heartache and death, through joy and love.

The day I didn't smile was hard for so many reasons. Angela and I are so far away from the family on the east coast. We make treks home every six months but Elaine had been ill this summer and we'd missed seeing her. But there had been phone calls since then, cards and photographs exchanged. Smiles shared in so many ways. But we still weren't ready. We were planning on celebrating her 90th birthday in 2018. We were planning a special Christmas Dice Game that would celebrate what Elaine was a part of beginning 50 years ago. But she had other plans. She was ready to go be with Arnold and Grandma and Grandpa and so many others.

As I sat in the pew at her funeral, I couldn't help but smile through my sobs. Friend after friend got up and told us stories of Elaine. Stories from when she worked in radio before she was married. Stories from when she met Arnold. Stories from when Doris was a girl, and then beyond. Stories that revolved around her passions, her family, her spirit. Stories that were all sprinkled with a little bit of Crown Royal and a whole lot of love.

Elaine taught me to smile. Elaine taught me to go after what I want most in this life. She never stopped asking about my stories, my plays, my shows. She never stopped wanting to learn, to discover, to hear "what's new". She ruled the roost at the care home for the last decade much as she ruled the roost everywhere she ever went. She was our family's glue, especially in the past few years after my grandmother passed away. Wherever she was, we gathered. We ate cookies together, we chatted together, we loved together.

Elaine & her mother,
Aunt Ethel
If you know me, you know family is important to me. (That may be an understatement.) You also know family is hard, being in community is hard. Our family has had it's ups and downs. (We were once disowned (and still are) by family who lived two blocks away -- and as children this can be very hard to understand. It can be even harder to understand as adults.) But Elaine kept us together. She and her family (another branch of the family down the block) made the trek across the border and hundreds of miles to keep us together. She brought her smile to us. To me.

Elaine, Angela, Dad & me
I will miss her hugs. I will miss her laugh. I will miss her cozy little room with the photos of our family all throughout it. I will miss seeing our family quilts laid out. Our life remembered by her. But most of all I will miss her smile. Because for me, that's what I will always remember. How her smile meant love. It meant she loved me. It meant she was happy. And so was I.

Elaine -- I miss you terribly. Selfishly. Loudly. But I know that it was time for you to take that smile home and share it with the rest of our family. This Christmas we'll raise a glass to you and we'll smile. Just like you did for us.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Angela's Advent Devotion

Every year Hollywood United Methodist Church curates advent devotions on their website. Today Angela's devotion was featured.

Isaiah 40: 1-11

Comfort. Just the word brings a little bit of calmness to me when I hear it. There are many ways that we look for, find, and give comfort. Comfort food – a hot meal on a rainy day, cookies made just like grandma’s, soup when we are feeling under the weather. Comforting others – giving a hug to someone in pain, a smile to someone we see on the street, a warm hello to a co-worker, all brings comfort. Comforting things – a favorite pillow to fall asleep against, a favorite shirt on the day of the big presentation, a talisman to hold and look at while we think things through.

We are all looking for comfort on the bad days and the good, through our friends and family and we seek to be a comfort to those around us. Isaiah 40:1-11 is a reminder that the comfort is there for us to take. We don’t need to go out looking for it. God is our comfort, he is making our path straight, telling us not to fear, and gathering us in his arms to carry us close to his heart.

Let us all remember through this holiday season and into the new year that the comfort is all around us, we just have to feel God wrapping his arms around us.