Thursday, May 31, 2018

Take Care of Yourself, Please

The 1st selfie
Four weeks ago this morning I drove to Glendale Adventist Hospital while the traffic was still relatively light (there is no such thing as no traffic in Los Angeles, I've been on the roads at all hours and there is always, always, always, traffic) and the sun was still burning the grey out of the sky. I parked in a nearly empty parking garage and made my way to the imaging suite in the hospital. There was one other woman in the waiting room and we both were there for our yearly mammograms. She was getting her fifteenth or something, I was getting my second. We were both done before seven-thirty and as we rode the elevator up from the basement she commented that it's good to get that done for another year. I agreed and we parted ways to start the remainder of our Thursdays.

I posted my cute curly-haired selfie from the dressing room just before I went in to get my mammogram and I reminded everyone to practice self-care and get tested when you're supposed to! Done for another year I thought. 

And then five days later I answered the phone on my drive into Hollywood on a Tuesday morning. I was sitting in traffic and was listening to a podcast and figured it would be a robo call when I clicked the speakerphone button. But it was a nurse from my gynecologist's office. 

I wasn't one hundred percent sure what transpired in the next eighty seconds. I heard that there was something wrong with my mammogram, something amiss. I heard that I needed more tests. I heard that she'd deal with insurance and get back to me. And then she hung up. My brain went into overdrive.

I know from my experience with blood clots and my autoimmune disease that I should never Google my own health symptoms. And I didn't. But I sure wanted to. 

What I ended up needing was a bilateral diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound of both breasts. It took a few days but the insurance paperwork went through and the tests were scheduled. The first available slot open was last Wednesday, the only appointment they had until later in June. And of course this was the one day I had promised to spend with Angela at school scooping ice cream for her 2000 students to celebrate the end of their standardized testing. 

Needless to say, neither of us scooped ice cream last Wednesday. Instead Angela took the day off and we spent the morning running errands, getting regular blood tests (it's a thing for me and her doctor wanted to check her out and this seemed like as good as a day as any to do it), going to the post office, and eating one of the best breakfasts I've ever had (no, seriously -- we went to Porto's in Glendale and had omelettes, which were fine, but the avocado salad and potatoes they serve with the omelettes? Pure bliss, every bite). Then we made our way back to Glendale Adventist Hospital. We searched the busy parking garage for a spot and then made our way back to the imaging suite. 

And within forty-five minutes the tests were complete. And I took another selfie. But this one I didn't post. I didn't have cute curly hair and I wasn't quite as confident with my smile this time. This one I took just for me. Because this one might have marked a completely different kind of day...

And then we waited. We waited and I told the small handful of people in my life I'd told about the tests that I still had no ideas. And we waited. And it's really the waiting that might kill us in the end, right? Because that's when we go to dark, scary places in our minds that Google could never really compete with...

And then this morning it was eight days and still no news. I felt completely powerless. Should I think about the scary things that might soon befall my life? Or should I pretend nothing has changed at all? I needed answers. I needed power. So I called the doctor's office and I was told a nurse would call me with the results. And so I waited some more. And I am so blessed to have amazing people in my corner. People who will talk to me for hours on end to distract me, people who send emails and Facebook messages to check in, people who text silly bitmojis and news stories that keep my mind occupied, even if they have no idea what's going on at that particular moment. And then I got a call shortly after noon today, four weeks from the day of that first mammogram -- everything is fine. 

The 2nd selfie
I am not sure what exactly the nurse said. I heard fine and okay and I think she quickly sensed I was on the verge of losing it because she said something like are you okay and I answered yes through a sob in my throat and we hung up. And I made my calls and sent my messages and sobbed with relief. Because not everyone gets this particular call. 

I know not everyone has the opportunity to have this level of care in the first place. I've had three mammograms in thirteen months. And I am fine. I am sobbing the happiest of tears. But I know women who can't get even one mammogram. Or can't get that second one. Or who don't want to go. Or who are too afraid of what it will mean or what it will feel like. Or what will come next. And trust me, I get that. All of it. And I know there are some people who wouldn't follow up with their doctor's office. They'd assume no news is good news. And sometimes it is. Again, the happiest of sobs! But sometimes it isn't. And KNOWLEDGE is POWER. 

In the past three years one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to be my own advocate. And when I cannot be my own advocate to reach out for help. Because there are always people who will help. But mostly, I have to monitor my own health care. I have to keep track of my own tests and collect all my own paperwork and schedule my own appointments and follow up with busy receptionists and keep copies of everything and write in my health journal in a Word file I keep on my computer and on my phone because you will always need that piece of information you didn't think you would need. 

And that's what I hope to share with others -- Go for the test the doctor recommends. Go for that follow-up appointment. Get that prescription filled. Confide in a person or two or three. Share your fears. Share your joys. Embrace the reality that this is your one life. Your one body. No one else can take care of it for you. No one else will care as much as you do about your own health. And you are loved and we all need you in tip-top shape. I tell you, it's when I'm at my darkest, in those scary places Google will never even imagine, that I am constantly reminded how much I am loved. I'll get a smiley face emoji from a friend via text. I'll get an extra hard hug from someone. I'll hear a song sung on the sidewalk outside of Homeless Lunch from a woman who shouted, "I love you!" as she skipped away this week. I'll hear the relief in a dear friend's voice when she learns that my test results are okay, not her test results, but mine. To know that my life is so intertwined with others lives reminds me of how much I have to take care of. 

There will be more health scares in my life, this is something I rationally realize. I will get sick again. I will have more panic attacks. I will lose people close to me from health problems that could or could not have been prevented. I know this. Life is hard and scary and at the end we all die. I've had forty years on this earth to come to terms with this and on the other hand, I know I never will. 

Today I will know that I am okay. That for today I am healthy and I am smiling because I just can't stop even though I am crying too. I heard voices of loved ones today. I get to write something that I made up today. I watched the Tigers beat the Angels today. I am not just okay but I am great. And I hope and pray everyone else in my life is too. And if not, take care of yourself. Please. For you. For me. For all of us. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Co-creators at the symphony

The Walt Disney Concert Hall
I have driven by the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown Los Angeles countless times. I have friends who live on the same block. I've been to jury duty across the street and parked below the hall. I've been sightseeing and shopping and to concerts all within spitting distance of the hall. But I had never been inside until Friday morning.

Mary, one of our California grandmothers, had an extra ticket to her usual Friday morning symphony. She's offered me tickets in the past and the timing has never worked out. But this time, I thought, why not? Why not spend a few hours with her, listening to music, experiencing something new? The work would still be there the next day. The world wouldn't miss me too much if I took a little break. And so I did.

Mary arrived early Friday morning, eight-thirty-ish. I drove the rest of the way downtown and we found seats in the third row of the hall for the pre-concert event. I had no idea this was a thing. But it is! Before the symphony someone gives a forty-five minute lecture about what you're about to hear. How cool is that?

Gustavo Dudamel
Friday morning we were treated to a talk by Kristi Brown-Montesano, chair of the music history department at Colburn Conservatory of Music. She was smart and funny and full of so much information! She explained that we'd hear a Schumann Concerto, with a lot of cello, which is apparently a rare experience. She gave us some historical context and told some tales and then set us free to listen.

We climbed to the balcony and settled in. The concert lasted about two hours, with an intermission. We heard short concertos (10 minutes) and long symphonies (50 minutes). We got to experience an Argentine phenom named Sol Gabetta who played an entire concerto from memory and looked like an angel while doing it. Also, she was playing a cello built in 1730 which just blows my mind. We also got to witness the uber-famous conductor Gustavo Dudamel who I had previously only known from his picture on billboards all around town.

What stuck with me throughout the entire two hour concert was something Brown-Montesano said during her talk with us prior to the symphony's start:
We are co-creators of this experience.
I thought about that as I listened. As I processed. As I let my mind wander and then be drawn back in. I don't think I've ever sat still and listened to classical music for that long in my entire life. There was an intermission and a handful of breaks for applause but there was mostly quiet listening. I was a co-creator in that moment.

I sat there and I watched the women and the men. I counted how many people were on the stage (the sexes were pretty evenly represented). I watched as one musician cleaned his clarinet-type instrument countless times in between movements. I watched as musicians sat up straight, almost on the edge of their seats. I watched as musicians settled in more comfortably and awaited their turn to shine. I watched as the sounds blended and became indistinguishable from the piece as a whole. I listened as the songs swept me away.

And I meditated on the music. I thought about my day. I took in the experience of the room. Of the colors. Of the context. I looked around at the people I was sharing space with. I imagined experiencing this more often. I thought about writing and my own creation. I actually rewrote in my head while listening, thinking of a scene I had been playing with and wondering how the music might influence my process.

And I enjoyed myself. I let my self be there. Be with the music. Be a co-creator. Nothing else was being asked of me. I didn't have to take notes or try to solve a mystery or laugh at the right places. I just had to listen. To soak. To be.

I don't know how often I'll get back to the symphony but I do know I am grateful for the experience. I am grateful for the quiet and for the noise. For the co-creation I had Friday morning. I will take that with me into my week, into my creative process. I will listen to some Schumann and think about what I learned about him. About how he tried to do something new, despite being in the shadow of some of the greatest composers of all time. I will think about how when he got sick in his older age, mental illness taking hold, he gathered himself and asked for help, thinking more of his family's well-being than his own comfort. I'll think about how Brown-Montesano urged us not to consider his mental illness when listening to his work because the work should stand on it's own. But I will. I will think about his illness. Because it struck me that he was human, he was a man. A man who created this lovely music that so many people came together to celebrate on Friday morning in Los Angeles, so far away from his German homeland. So long after his death in 1856.

I will think about the music. The music that we celebrate. The music that informs our lives. The music that brightens our world. I will think about that and I will remember that. I will continue to co-create this experience over and over and over for it is now a part of me. A new experience that informs me and I love that.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Our future is written by all of us

17 chairs set with flowers to
represent those killed in Parkland
One of my biggest concerns in middle school was whether or not my blue Music in Motion t-shirt was clean on the days we had performances. We didn't have school uniforms so making sure my choir shirt was ready to go was a new concept for me.

That was the extent of my worries back then. As it should be for eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds.

But today? Today I stood amidst 1800 middle school students who are concerned they are going to be shot and killed on their campus. They're concerned their friends might be shot and killed. They're concerned that they'll lose the people they love because all around them people are losing the people they love.

The middle school Angela works at is a representation of the best and the worst of Los Angeles, of California, of America, of our world. Of the 1800 kids who walk through those doors every day, some don't speak English well, some don't have two parents at home, some are taking college classes, some have celebrity parents and are being taught they should get special treatment because of that, some are Christians, some are Muslims, some sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance, some are transgender, some are citizens of foreign lands, some live in big sprawling estates, some share a bedroom with multiple siblings, some are sweet and kind, some have chips on their shoulders, some cry at the drop of a hat, some fight like they're in the ring every day.

But today? On this bright Friday morning in April? They all had one thing in common. They all wanted to be safe. They all expected to be safe. Because they were at school.

But that's not a given anymore. That's not a given anywhere in our country. And these kids, they know that. They know about gun violence and the horrors that surround that. All too intimately. I didn't know a thing about guns growing up. My grandfather hunted but that's all I knew. I knew I didn't like venison but I ate it. That was enough.

These kids today, they stood up and they spoke. They read speeches they'd written. They held signs they'd painted. They spoke from the heart about wanting the people in charge to be better, do better. They spoke of Congress and working for common sense gun control. They know so much more than I did at their age. And that breaks my heart.

I stood there, amidst the students, taking photos, and listening. And crying. A boy got up to speak and though his thoughts weren't coherently laid out, his emotion was raw. He didn't want people to keep dying. A girl got up and she expressed concern that it would happen next at their school, and she was terrified of that. Their concerns, and their emotions, were so powerful. So strong. So grown-up.

The world is so much different today than it was when I was in middle school. It's bigger and at the same time, smaller. We know so much more, for better and for worse. And we have so much more influence.

These kids. They have influence. They have voices. They reminded me today to have an opinion and to share it. To use my voice. To not fall into the trap of believing I can't change the world. We all can, whether we're twelve or forty or eighty. As President Obama wrote about the kids speaking up from Parkland, Florida, in this week's issue of Time Magazine:
Our kids now show us what we’ve told them America is all about, even if we haven’t always believed it ourselves: that our future isn’t written for us, but by us.
Our future is written by us. All of us. We have the agency to enact thought. To enact action. To enact change. We all do. Kids and adults alike. Thank you, JB Bears, for reminding me of that this morning.

The leadership team who created the event

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Writing Every Second I'm Alive

The notebooks from Doris
"How do you write every second you're alive?" -- Lin Manuel Miranda in the Hamilton song Non-Stop. 

My answer?

How can I not.

Last week my parents headed out on the second leg of their road trip. They'd been with Angela and I on Abbey Place for just over two weeks. It was a wonderful vacation -- for all four of us. We had adventures every day. One day we went wine tasting in east Los Angeles. One day we watched a baby hippopotamus sunning herself by a cement pond. One day we watched a silly movie about gnomes while laying in leather recliners. One day we explored a pier and ate ice cream while shivering and trying not to be too upset at ourselves that we'd gotten us lost and driven an extra hour away from where we were meant to be (that last part might have just been me). But every day was wonderful. Every day was something new. Every day was putting together jigsaw puzzles and watching new television shows and discussing current events and eating new foods and fixing the toilet seat and doing seventy-two loads of laundry. It was life. All of it. It was our best life.

When my mother first arrived she asked if I had to work the next day. I quickly answered nope. The next day she inquired again, and I expanded my answer a bit. I didn't need to sit at my desk and write that day. I had known of their arrival and our stay-cation in Los Angeles. I had planned to turn in a draft of a screenplay the day before they arrived and I did. I had let people know I'd be away from email a bit and taking some time away from the keyboard. Just as I do whenever I go to Michigan or on any other trip.

I wanted to be in the moment with my family. I wanted to be downtown riding the funicular and at the Getty looking at the Monets. I wanted to be shopping at the mall with my mom and getting pedicures with dad and not worrying about work. Yes, a luxury. Yes, a privilege. Yes, a reality since I'm underemployed at the moment.

But I also knew that I would be writing every single day they were here. Just as I am writing every other day of my life. In the song the question is asked of Lin's Hamilton how do you write every second you're alive. Every second.

And my answer is how can I not. Because every single thing that happens to me, every choice I make, every emotion I experience, every piece of food I taste, every sip of wine I savor, every person I communicate with is all leading to the stories I tell. They are all a part of the stories. They are all the stories.

I grew up hearing the phrase "write what you know". And as a young writer, and an aspiring professional writer, this was not good advice. This was ridiculous advice. I knew nothing. I'd experienced nothing back then. Still today -- it's not enough. I need to know so much more in order to tell stories, to do my job. Because if I were to only write what I know, then I'd write about a woman who sits in front of her keyboard and daydreams and taps on keys.

But there's more to unpack in that phrase. If I don't take it so literally, that I should only write about teaching and volunteering and watching TV and cooking and doing laundry, I come to understand that writing what I know is writing about the experience of being me. It's writing about the people in my life, my connections with them, it's writing about the work that I do, and how it affects myself and others, it's writing about my emotional life, my life.

And so, every day that I got up and ran to the fancy donut store early to surprise my family or sat down in the living room while my parents did the dishes because I'd cooked, I was writing. I was having experiences in being me. I was having experiences to draw from. To use to color my worlds. To use to create my worlds.

Yesterday I started a big rewrite project on my SEAL team pilot. I'm creating new characters and fleshing others out. I'm exploring new worlds and delving into relationships I've never had. I don't know what it's like to be the President of the United States or a CIA agent or a father. But I'm going to write about all of those things. And I feel confident in doing that even though it's "not what I know". I feel confident because of all of the experiences I've had in my 40 years. In the last few years. In the last few weeks. Every day I pull from my life. From the life I live, from the life I watch others live, to write the best stories I can.

A year ago today Angela and I were on our spring break trip in San Francisco. It was the last night of our stay and we sat in floor seats in the Orpheum Theater and watched Hamilton. It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Here was Lin Manuel Miranda taking everything from every single day of his life and creating this musical. This movement. This masterpiece. Yes, Hamilton is about Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. But it's also about being an immigrant. Being a father. Being a son. Being a scholar. Being a husband. Being a friend. Being afraid. Being strong. Being weak. Being unafraid. All things I know Lin has experienced in his life.

Being a writer is a 24 hours, 7 days a week job. It's not something I turn on and off. I may go days without putting fingers to keyboard, weeks, months even. But I don't even go a few hours without writing. Other creative types know this. And the people in my life know this. And I love that. I love the encouragement I get, to keep writing. To keep going, Non-Stop.

This past fall I got a package in the mail from one of my favorite people in the whole world, my cousin Doris. In it was an assortment of beautiful notebooks. Small, large, colorful, practical, perfect. She'd seen them in a store and knew immediately that Angela and I needed them. We needed them to write down the experiences of being us. Because we all should. I love that. So much.

We are all writing every second we're alive. We're writing our lives. We're writing our existences. We're writing our relationships. We're writing our stories. And I'm so thankful I get to write my stories into other stories for the world to hopefully one day read, and see. And I'm so thankful to open a brand new journal from Doris today and start taking notes.

Friday, March 09, 2018

A Shadow on the NCIS set

"I don't understand wanting to be at a party by yourself, I really don't." -- Ava DuVernay

I heard Ava say that on a podcast yesterday. She went on to talk about creating opportunities for others, speaking specifically of black people, women, and minorities. She talked about how this industry is social, it's all about who you know.

"Hollywood is wired like that. The real inclusion and diversity is going to be when we know each other. It's not checking off quotas of how many women and how many black people you let do the job. It's do you really know us and feel comfortable with us. And do we feel comfortable with you to be our true selves," said Ava.

Rocky Carroll & I on the set of NCIS
A few weeks ago I got an invitation to a party from one of my first Los Angeles friends, Pauley Perrette. The party? The filming of an episode of the show she stars on, NCIS. And I accepted that invitation so fast my head started to spin. I also accepted that invitation with gratitude and love and appreciation. It's not an invitation that many get. Especially not many women. And when Pauley first asked me, back in December, if I'd like to shadow a director on her show, I was blown away. Pauley is a sweetheart, this is not news. Pauley also has given me many gifts over our almost decade-long friendship. But this was a gift like nothing I'd ever been given before. And one I knew could change my life.

And so she arranged it: I would shadow Rocky Carroll, for the upcoming episode he was directing of the show's 15th season. Rocky also stars on the show as Director Vance. He's relatively new to directing (in his words), this marking only his seventh time behind the lens of the CBS drama. He would also act in this episode so I'd get to see some of both of his worlds.

It all came together quickly and I found myself on the NCIS sound stages on a bright Thursday afternoon in February, sitting in the back of a conference room, listening to the table read of the episode Rocky would be directing. Basically the actors and director and some producers and key crew members gather together and listen to the actors read the script aloud. It takes just under an hour. Afterwards I met Rocky and told him I'd see him on Friday. He said I could come in around 10 or 11am, whenever I wanted. I asked him what time he'd arrive. He said 7am. I told him I'd see him at seven.

And so began my nine days shadowing a working television director. (Each episode takes 8 days shoot, and then 1 day for the table read.) Every day was a long day. Shooting lasted for at least 12 hours each day, with our longest day being closer to 16 hours on set. Add in an hour's drive time each way for me and it made for a long few weeks. (Add in a head cold I got the first day on set and it became a little bit longer.) But in those long hours I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined.

I learned that communication is a director's best friend. In my shadowing I would literally just follow Rocky around all day long. And he was awesome about this. He'd get up from his chair and go talk to an actor and I'd follow him and stand a foot away, listening to their conversation. He'd sit behind video village (a large cart with several monitors where the director and other crew members can watch the take from the camera feeds) and talk to the director of photography and I'd sit next to them and listen. I watched as he'd take an idea from the writer of the episode or the script supervisor or the executive producer and go relay that to his team, to the camera operators or the sound guy or the actors. I was just always there, right next to him, right beside him, right across from him. I got really good about flattening myself against walls during rehearsals or being silent as I stood in the room watching a take live.

And yes, I really did just watch and listen, literally acting as Rocky's shadow. And Rocky was an amazing teacher. He said he's new to this directing thing but really, he's great at it and knows just how to go about it. His cast and crew all love him and that shows in the respect he commands in the room, a respect he wields well to tell the best version of the story possible. So often he'd turn to me and explain his thinking behind a specific choice or a shot or a decision. He'd include me when talking to other crew members, widening the circle enough so that I felt welcome to join and listen in. He'd ask me about my projects and share stories of his own independent projects.

Having only been on a few film sets before I had just the barest idea of what it takes to pull together a frame of television or a movie. But seeing an entire episode filmed start to finish was something else all together. I saw how each department had to work together, how each department really was essential in telling the story. I also saw how much work some of the shortest scenes can take to film. An eighth of a page? Oh, we'll be done in no time. Cue us sitting behind video village, still waiting, four hours later, not having shot one single frame of film. And yet? Work had been happening the entire time.

I'm still processing so much about my time on set. With all of the waiting I was able to meet most of the people on the crew and who work on the show (around 200) and talk to a lot of them about their job responsibilities. (This happened a lot at craft services, i.e., where the food was.) I got to spend time talking shots with the cinematographer. I got to talk sound with the boom operator. I got to talk bullet wound placement with the makeup artists (who have the best coffee on set in their trailer). I got to hear about the life of a guest star while talking to the "bad guys" of the week who were there just to act in this particular episode. I learned a lot from the stand-ins who literally stand in for the actors, who go through the motions of the scene and read the lines, so that lighting and all other departments can get the scene ready for the actors to do their thing. (One of the stand-ins took me to the deli/ice cream trailer my second day on set. I will forever be grateful to her for this kind, kind, gesture.) I had several conversations, and listened in on several others, with Robert Wagner, an actor who has been in this business longer than most of us have been alive. (His first IMDB credit is 1950.) I got to be a fly on the wall as the show's stars chatted about every day things and the show's crew discussed weekend plans. I got to learn from some real professionals who have made 350 episodes of television together. (Yes, many of the cast and crew have been with the show since the start, over 15 years ago, and some were on JAG before that.)

And for a few days I got to get a giant hug first thing in the morning from my friend Pauley. Watching her work was great fun and chatting with her behind takes, having her introduce me to even more and more people on set, was wonderful. But reveling in the fact that she made the effort, made the gesture, to invite me, a woman who wants to direct, to shadow a director on her hit television show, was something I'm not sure I'll ever get over.

I spend a lot of time and energy reading and learning and talking about women in film (you've seen my posts about #awomanwrotethat #awomancreatedthat #femalefilmmakerfriday etc.). About representation, about opportunity, about story, about process, about getting a shot to tell stories we want to tell, we have to tell, and about getting an invitation to the party so eventually we can throw our own parties. And this particular invitation was the best beginning.

I made some contacts I'll keep up as I move along. I learned so much that I'll carry onto my own set in the future. In fact, I took some of that onto #thecouch set last week when I got to do some directing of my own. I tried to emulate Rocky in the way that he listened to everyone around him and fostered a collaborative working environment where people felt they could share ideas and be heard. And most of all, I learned that what I have to do, as a women in film, is share my experience. Share it through my stories but also share it with other women and minorities and people in general. That's exactly what Pauley did for me, she shared her experience with me. And I could not be more grateful.

And I can't wait for the episode to air the last week of March. I can't wait to watch the show and remember each and every shot because I was present at the filming of them all. I can't wait to bother my family (my parents will be in town that week!) with the 100s of pieces of trivia I have about the episode. (See that men's room in that shot? It's a working bathroom! I'm full of fascinating tidbits now!) Stories for days. Stories from the party that are my own to share now. Because I was invited. Because Pauley didn't want to be at the party by herself either. Because when we share our worlds with others, all of our worlds grow exponentially so much bigger.

Friday, March 02, 2018

My first day DIRECTING!

Additional Director Sarah Knapp!
Tuesday morning I sat in a straight-backed chair, my feet up on an Amazon box, the sweater on my right arm pushed up to my elbow and rewrote journal entries with the notebook at a particular angle and the pen just barely grasped by my fingers so that you might not notice they were my fingers. All of this happened as a camera recorded my handwriting, the words appearing on the page and the journal entries growing longer with each shot. We did this for several hours. First with me in the chair, then with Ayelette, the star of The Couch, in the chair.

This is movie magic.

This is how a few seconds of a scene are made. Rubber bands and scotch tape and Elmer's glue holding the magic together behind the scenes. Whatever it takes to get the shot. Counting to twenty in my head to make sure we got enough footage at the end of each shot so that people can read the journal entries. And then Linda tapping me on the shoulder after enough time passed because we decided I count way too fast and can't be entrusted to tell time!

We're almost done with our web series The Couch. Tuesday was our last day of filming, a day of reshoots scheduled after a good chunk of the series has been edited and is in the throws of post-production. Takes are being assembled on screen, music is being written (we have our very own composer!), and one last scene had to be written and filmed to pull it together. That's what Tuesday was for, along with reshooting some of the written words on the page so that they are clear and readable.

And because our awesome director Katy had to be on another set that day, I was asked to step in as an additional director on the series.

Yep! That's right! Not only was I sitting (kind of) in front of the camera on Monday, I was also behind it for most of the day. I was helping to figure out the scenes, the shots, and -- just like you've seen in the movies -- calling Action! and Cut! to start and end filming.

And let me tell you, it was pretty freakin' cool.

I loved the idea of being a part of it. Of being one of the four women in the room making something. We all had very specific jobs. Actress, producer, script supervisor, writer, additional director of photography, director. Many jobs, just four women.

And we had a wonderful, productive day.

We did the reshoots. We worked together to get them just right. With someone in front of the camera, someone behind it, someone next to it, someone running the stopwatch, someone watching for the sound boom, someone holding the boom, so much to do and focus on and yet, with all of us stepping in to help, it went so smoothly.

And at the end, I was so excited to tell them all that it was my first day directing -- directing anything! How cool is that. To get to direct on my first ever produced project. To get to play another role on this very cool thing we're making. It was really so cool.

As I spend more and more time learning about and from directors I have found the same advice popping up over and over -- surround yourself with smarter, more talented people than yourself. And I was so happy to be surrounded by these women on Tuesday who brought us that much closer to our finished product. Women who might have a specific role, say script supervisor, but might have the best idea for how to start the scene (thanks, Linda!). Women who share a vision to make something, to share stories, to share our talents and make things.

The Couch will premiere soon. I promise. And in the meantime, know that I'm having an amazing time making it for all of you, and the world, to enjoy!


The director's view, my view, of the new scene we shot Tuesday. #thecouch

Friday, February 02, 2018

Beyond Words...

The panelists: Jordan Peele, Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, Virgil Williams, Steven Rogers,
Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor, Greta Gerwig, James Mangold, Michael Green,
Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Graham Moore, and Aaron Sorkin
"I can't write until I outline every part of the story."
"I can't write with an outline at all."
"I love 3x5 cards."
"I spend a lot of time laying on the couch."
"I have to write to understand how I feel about something."

These are all things that were said last night by Writers Guild Award- and Academy Award-nominated screenwriters at the 2018 Beyond Words panel at the Writers Guild Theater. And they're all things that I've said to myself over the past seven months that I've been rewriting my feature film script. And over the past ten years as I've been writing script after script.

Last night reminded me that I am not alone in this profession. That I am not weird. That how I write, how I create, is not an anomaly but just how I write. We all write the exact same way. We all write completely differently. We all write. And that's what Aaron Sorkin pointed out when he said it doesn't matter how we do it as long as the words get down on the page.

These past few months have been exhilarating. To know that my story, the one I've been writing for so long, will be heard sooner rather than later, and seen, is amazing. But it's also not a reality yet. For now I am still behind the same desk, fingers on the same keyboard, fighting the urge not to check social media just one more time, or open up Words with Friends to see if any of my friends want to help me procrastinate just a few more minutes.

Yes, we've had meetings. Pre-production meetings during which we talk about story and budget and casting and it's so exciting. It really, truly is. I've started to really work on learning as much as I can about directing. I visited an acting class where I got to see a little snippet of the work actors go through to make my words sing and dance. Next week I'll go to the first directors' workshop event of the year through Film Independent and hear from Greta Gerwig, who's been Oscar-nominated for writing and directing her first feature film. And in just over a week we'll have a our first table read for the film. Twenty people will come together in a room and read my script aloud so I can hear what works, and what needs to be worked on. It really is terribly exciting.

But most days, I'm still sitting here, at the computer, typing away. If I'm lucky. Right now my fingers aren't doing too much typing. I'm doing a lot of reading, a lot of research. I've gone back to the television world and I'm working on a pilot. I'm writing about the military and Filipino sisters and nuclear weapons again. And I love it all.

And I loved sitting in the theater last night, listening to these amazing writers and directors share stories that made me feel like I was one of them. That we were all in this crazy writer life together.