A Thing About Death From October

My dear blog, how I’ve missed you. A few things took over my life, including my first feature film, and Coldplay. More on that soon.

This blog has always been the place for me to pour my mind onto the (digital) page, and for those of you who’ve been reading and following since the beginning – I sincerely thank you. I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet. I’m not trying to break up, I swear.

If you’re new, check out my interview with myself. I still get a kick out of this one. Har. Har.

Here’s something I wrote last autumn I think bears repeating. What do you think about death? Is it something you fear, or embrace?

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH DEATH?

Machete and I had the extraordinary honor last week to present at the Reimagine End of Life festival on behalf of our film Moon Manor – A Comedy About Death (Based On A True-ish Story). Our presentation was called Death Scenes: How Movies Reflect Our Final Act.

For many of us, our first experience of death is by way of film. We’ll have seen all kinds of death before seeing it in real life (if we ever do). How does this shape our expectations when the real thing happens, sans dramatic lighting, orchestral music and actors speaking lines?

We’ve felt the weight of this responsibility as we’ve shaped Moon Manor, as we’ve told the story of a life by telling the story of a death. To share space with the organizers and attendees of Reimagine was … I don’t even know the word … affirming? humbling? To be a grief walker is to shine a light into the well of our deepest fear. This current Halloween time of year is funny. The thing we least want to face is the very thing we shove into view. Skeletons and coffins decorate the grocery store, the dentist, the elementary school. Birth and death unite every human being, yet we spend our lives celebrating one end of the spectrum and mourning the other.

Not saying death doesn’t suck, I’ve witnessed it snatch away those I love so quickly I was left with nothing but whiplash and tears. But I do know the more I try to meditate on it, the more I memento mori, the more I accept my death, the more I appreciate my life.

What I Look Like Tired, Ross Butler, And Morocco!

My official Moon Manor writer/director portrait taken on set December 2018 by @thisheartofstone. Looks like a back-to-school picture, and that’s how it felt too. Excitement, exhaustion, glee. We’re deep in post production. Magick is brewing. http://www.moonmanormovie.com

New PRINT story!! There’s nothing quite like holding your words in physical form, especially when that form is pretty as @flauntmagazine. Other than #rossbutler being such a nice dude, the highlight here was getting a teensy bit of redemption for the car accident I got into driving to the interview. Full story on newsstands and online: http://www.flaunt.com/content/ross-butler.

Gig of a lifetime!!!! Thrilled and honored and stoked to say I’ll be joining the @sol.selectas journey to Morocco as the caravan storyteller!!! All those years writing about my travels on this blog are paying off, no one was reading it (except my sister, love you sister) but I was finding my voice and now that translates to work and pinch me how is this real life?!! There are a few tickets left if you want to comeeeeeee. 🐫 http://www.solsahara.com

 

What It’s Like Making An Indie Feature

We start working before dawn. First ones to set are 1st AD, 2nd AD, UPM, catering. Followed shortly by our make-up artist and camera crew. The actors drift in. We’re on our third, fourth cups of coffee by 10am. Collectively, we look out for Jimmy, our 80 year-old star, make sure he’s drinking enough water, not losing his cane or his dentures, keep his sides printed at the largest font possible so he can always be working on his lines. His memory plays hard to get, which is what this movie is all about. We flashback to moments in his life as a child, a teen, a young man. We throw his FUNeral. We film his death. We all break down in tears. We laugh when he nonsensically replaces lines like “Remember what happened on Fourth of July?” with “Remember what happened in San Diego?” Jimmy laughs hardest of all. He waits for a quiet moment in the chaos to loudly ask one of his co-stars “Have you ever worked on a farm? Cause you sure know how to milk it.” We all applaud his wit, his stamina, his courage. Our camera department heroically sets up lights in the rain. Day players cycle through, a breath of fresh air when we’re exhausted. We have three on set creatures for emotional support: a cat, a bird, and a chameleon. We’ve got one week to go telling this story of a life, by telling the story of a death. Harold and Maude, we hope we’re making you proud. We’ll let you know when we find out what happened in San Diego.

www.moonmanormovie.com 

@moon_manor_movie

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Bleed Your Project / Achieve Bliss

Is there a better feeling than being completely immersed in a creative project?

Giving every shred of yourself to the execution of an idea. Breathing life into a story, into a dream. I love how the day-to-day self doubt, over analysis, existential dread falls way. You simply don’t have time to indulge in it.

Currently completely married to the creation of my first feature film, Moon Manor, co-created with my best friend of forever Machete Bang Bang. We co-wrote, and are co-directing and co-producing. It’s a coming-of-death story. It’s about a FUN-eral and the moon. And one very special human named Jimmy.

www.moonmanormovie.com 

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And two years ago at the same exact same time of year I was leading a 23 person crew onto a friend’s secret mountain ganja farm to direct my first significant work of length, Forever Flowers. Watching the teaser now I can still smell the autumn chill, still feel the exhilaration of waking up at dawn to call the shots, to crystallize a story that had been calling to me for years.

What will the next two years bring?

Sacred Shit on Moonfaze Films!

 

So honored to announce SACRED SHIT, the new short film by me and @machetebangbang, is the May official selection of MOONFAZE FILMS. In the spirit of pure collaboration we created each scene in the moment, pulled by whatever she or I were inspired to express, free from the usual film grind of scheduling and logistics. Thrilled this experiment in art-for-art’s-sake is being recognized by such a prestigious journal. And this week is Beltane, the day to honor life and earth energies, so get thee to www.moonfazefilms.com to watch it and read our feature and check out the amazing things these women are doing. 

“SACRED SHIT” is a vulnerable raw look into attachment and the sometimes impossible art of letting go. A portrait of the mind and it’s many manipulations, Sacred Shit is a reminder to look inward and seek light in darkness. To ask ourselves what is it that we actually hold sacred? Celebrating the eternal bond between two women, this film also encapsulates our innate deep need for connection and friendship. Some sacred shit indeed. A must see.”  -MOONFAZE FEMINIST FILM JOURNAL

 

Our short film that pissed off the religious right, and unrelated realizations about skiing

I had my first experience with religious zealots! This was originally going to be a post celebrating that CONFETTI, the wonderful weird short film by @machetebangbang that I acted in and 1st AD’ed won the Vanguard Award for Best Experimental Short at the Lindsey Film Festival (hooray!), BUT THEN, friends who have since become very … passionate … about their religious beliefs started commenting on my Facebook that I clearly worship Lucifer and “serve evil at its core.” I appreciate social media being a platform for discussion, so I’m leaving the comments up. But spreading negativity and judgement does not interest me. You’ve been blocked.

On a lighter note, this is one of my favorite films I’ve ever been involved with. The irony is, it’s quite literally about spreading the light. WATCH it here. Congrats, team. This was one for the ages.

 

In totally unrelated news …

Uproxx Travel sent me to Sun Valley, Idaho last week to attend the Sun Valley Film Festival and to experience experiences, and it was my first time back on skis in 7 years and it didn’t suck. I told myself I quit skiing because it was too expensive, too repetitive, too obnoxious (rich white people sport). Growing up in the Tahoe area with ski bums as parents, I was skiing before I could walk. It’s the one athletic thing I’m pretty good at, and the one thing that was easy to quit when I wanted to move to Spain and needed spending money, so I sold all my gear. Getting back on the mountain last week was surprisingly emotional, and now I know the truth.

I quit skiing because it was too painful a reminder of my family being happy and together, before my mom got sick. She was an excellent skier, the best in our family, and skiing without her felt pointless and so, so cold.

But as I sat on the chairlift in Sun Valley, I remembered to remember the happy memories and not dwell on the sad stuff. And for a moment I was a kid again, my sister and I snuggled between my parents on the lift, life extending only so far as the next hot cocoa we’d get in the lodge, my mom glamorous in her ski onesie, all of us smelling like sunscreen, my dad rubbing my hands to keep them warm.

Another reason I quit is because when I was 7 years old I fell 80 feet off a chairlift (or was it 70 feet when I was 8? I have to check the newspaper article about it), and I’ve been plagued with extreme fear of heights ever since. But that’s a story for the article.

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Catfishing life success.

When I got notice my script Forever Flowers had advanced at the Austin FF Screenplay Competition, I felt like I’d won the lottery. But being there in person a few weeks ago, meeting the writers who’d actually won, I felt dumb for how excited I’d been. But if you don’t celebrate the “no” that’s somewhat a “yes,” then aren’t you perpetually swimming in “blah”?

This picture is not of me. I don’t write topless, nor with a typewriter. I write in ugly sweats with a laptop that’s had a Pilates DVD stuck in it since 2013. But this is social media which is all about presenting the fantasy version of our life so yeah, doesn’t my ass look great in these jeans?

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A few months later …

So this is interesting. Fast forward a few months from my last post, and the script is not only written, but I shot the first 25 minutes and have a teaser, rough cut, a production company, fancy producers, and press. A thousand tales of challenges and overcoming obstacles to get here, but cool to know that in just a few months, you really can make your dreams a reality.

Here’s the article: http://theemeraldmagazine.com/2017/01/pot-fiction

And here’s our poster:

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Why I love rejection.

So much to process right now, words about to rip out of me. Been a big month, you could say. Have a lot to share. But not ready to. Instead, going to write about rejection.

I recently received what I consider “positive” rejections from Short of the Week and Tin House, and it got me thinking. I’m good friends with rejection. We’ve met each other many, many times. In fact, rejection might be the most helpful feedback one can get on the path of art and life, depending how you receive it.

Short of the Week wrote they mulled over my film quite a bit, were very close to accepting it but ultimately felt it wasn’t what they were looking for. Considering this was the darkest and most edgy film work I’ve ever written/acted in/produced, I was nervous as hell to put it out into the world. Terrified of being judged as a psycho pervert, aka terrified of being rejected. The pass from SOTW felt like a win, because apparently they rarely give more than a “thanks but no thanks.”

“This was a really tough call for us. Considering the film is about such an intensely unlikable and awful character, it’s undeniably compelling. The lead performance is fantastic and the unconventional, yet strong shot choices help convey a sense of unease, unsettling the viewer. You really do capture the “seedy underbelly” of LA.” 

Tin House, illustrious gatekeepers of literary merit, also rejected me. A much briefer “this doesn’t work for us, but please know we welcome reading your future work.” I’ve never been so excited to be rejected! Hooray! It means 1.) They actually read it, and 2.) As one of my mentors Colette pointed out This is a definitely a good rejection, especially from Tin House. Believe me, they get scads of submissions. They only send “send agains” to people whose work genuinely impresses them.”

So what it does mean, getting close to acceptance but swallowing rejection? How many other times has this happened? The novel I wrote that almost got published, then didn’t. The original pilot I wrote/acted in that almost got picked up, then didn’t. Am I good, but not good enough? The guys I’ve liked who didn’t like me back. The jobs I’ve wanted but they hired someone else. For all my work ethic, commitment, continual work on my spiritual/emotional/physical self, maybe I’m good enough, but not “right” enough. In that moment. For that opportunity/person/acknowledgement.

Maybe I suck. But that’s not for me to know. For now, I’m keeping a note card on my desk where I keep a hash mark for every rejection I get on my current project (a new pilot). I look at it like wanting to rack up rejections, because it’s a numbers game, and eventually I’ll get the YES. And it only takes one yes.

And because not trying is the same thing as being told “no.”

And here’s a brain dump from my mind:

I saw an owl at the Renaissance Faire. He had fire eyes like the red flowers on the pomegranate trees in my yard. Looking at my face and seeing it get older. The shooting star I saw Saturday night. That time we gathered to watch the blood moon eclipse and it was foggy so we drank cactus instead and laughed and I ended up in a suite at the W Hotel. The loves I’ve had. The friend I’m not going to see for a long time. Lady Fluff’s cat kisses. Realizing she’s a feline Kathy Bates. My own near misses. Hiding from the lust demon, not eating sugar or dairy or starch for a month like a real LA girl. My former Reno self is embarrassed. But it helps me think straight.

The small moments that make a life.

Lately I’ve been listening to Chet Faker, reading about detachment, and trying to buy a car. Five months in Los Angeles sans vehicle has been 90% bliss (no parking tickets! snoozing on the bus/train/Uber/Lyft!) but it’s getting impractical. My heart wants an ’84 Wagoneer or ’78 Mercedes but living in Koreatown has seeped into my blood so I’ll probably get a Hyundai.

Tuesday I had a very good call with the studio that’s developing one of my projects (more on that soon) so I celebrated by doing my laundry then smoking some Maui Kush then journeying to the Last Bookstore in downtown for an impromptu photo shoot with a muse in the labyrinth of books upstairs (literally a labyrinth/maze of books…go there). Then I ate steak.

Yesterday I took myself on a writing date in Los Feliz. I worked on the rewrite of Johnny and the Scams and sent producer-y emails about the new pilot I co-wrote with the director Kris Krainock, called Fantasy Inn. It’s a creepy role for me and will probably freak you out. I ate an ahi tuna wrap at Fred 66 and then an entire plate of sweet potato fries. I sat in the same booth as the first time I went there, for my first meeting with my first literary manager when I first got to LA. I remember I wore a black blazer from Ross and pointy red shoes.

I went to Skylight Books next and became instantly devastated at all I haven’t  written and all I haven’t read. I purchased Tom Robbins’ new memoir Tibetan Peach Pie then dreamed about writing a blog post about purchasing it, which you’re reading now. A quick look-a-roo in a vintage store uncovered a reversible sheepskin vest/purple jacket thing for $34 that’s so radical I just broke my oath to never blog about clothes.

As I took a Lyft over to Machete’s I thought about Paije’s dearly departed cat Zaazu, wondered if my grandma made it back to the gym this week, and fought an urge to travel somewhere internationally. Just clean your room, Erin. Then you won’t feel so restless. I got to Machete’s and hugged her for the first time since Lightning in a Bottle, which was an otherworldly swirl in the electro-hippie lake bed dreamland that crushed so hard it deserves it’s own post (my favorite sets were GoldRush, Pumpkin, Little Dragon, Quest Crew, Tokimonsta, Gaslamp Killer, sunrise Random Rab and our camp Bok Choy which for those lovely LIB nights was the most fun party on the planet). I’ll try to write that post. Yet I find, as always, trying to write about a festival experience is like (you know I want to say “catching lightning in a bottle”)…really hard.

Machete saw the vintage-purple-vest-jacket-thing and freaked because she’d almost got it herself for LIB! Now we can share it. We watched the rough cut of a short film she directed, then took her dogs on a walk. As Dexter (the puggle) did his bizness and Ninja (the min-pin) sniffed a flower, Machete commented that recently she’d stopped rushing around so much, and found she felt much more at peace. In my head I sang the lyric from the 2003 Nelly song “Pimp Juice” You ain’t from Russia, so bitch why you rushin’. But I didn’t say sing it out loud because it’s kinda weird I remember it. Instead I breathed the warm, perfectly breezy night air of Los Angeles in June, and said “You and me, we’re going places.”

Should I pick one creative medium?

Want to bottle it/want to burn it/want to love it but haven’t earned it.

I wrote that phrase a year ago to describe the feeling of my different creative ideas noodling through my brain, clamoring to be expressed. I keep returning to the phrase, because although I’ve gotten better at channelling my ideas into projects, they still threaten to consume me.

A big problem is that I’m equally passionate about writing, filmmaking, and being on-camera. Breaking it down even further, I love the depth and freedom of prose, but have the most fun screenwriting. I love producing, really pulling a project together, but know ultimately I’ll want to direct for full creative cohesion. I still want to be the heroine/ingenue on-screen, but know I’m more of a comedic character actor.

It’s a good problem to have, being lit up by multiple mediums. But I’m dividing my creative energies, and to get anywhere I need to laser focus. But there are lots of successful “slashies” these days, Lena Dunham, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, David Lynch, Sam Shepard. So do I really need to pick just one?

I’m also just back from a camping and music adventure, been sleeping under the stars with the electro hippies. I’m always grumpy when I have to return to the grid. Always questioning my life and the choices I make.

The adventure was called Symbiosis, and many magical events transpired. I witnessed the first ever iamamiwhoami performance in America, she’s a Swedish multimedia artist and absolute inspiration. Saw my first Butoh dance performance, it was bizarre, chilling, terrifying, mesmerizing. I got a massage for my danced-out muscles, at the end I opened my eyes and realized I’d met the bodyworker a year ago in Bali. Leaving the fest, I picked up four hitchhikers, the kind of professional travelers who move through the world without money or a plan. An hour down the road I got tired and we all took a nap in the grass in front of a church. Two kittens appeared, my spirit animals. Cats always appear to keep me company.

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Sunrise set at Symbiosis, found this card in my bra. No idea how it got there. Keeping it.

Out at the fest it doesn’t matter what medium I’m pursuing. No one’s pursuing anything other than that night’s good time. Good friends, good music, a good buzz, a good life. All that matters is sharing a flashlight with my neighbor a few tents over, if the line for breakfast burritos is too long, that we’ll meet stage left if we get separated.

I stayed in this past weekend, since getting home. Working on these different mediums, listening to James Blake, letting his creative output dance with mine, reading through old notebooks, because reading old stuff is important, it’s staying in the swirl, the place where ideas are born. Muse/use absorb/be born. Writing at night is my truth. I like to take breaks and go outside, observe the electric streetlight competing with the moon.

I’ve been thinking about this blog, that I don’t want it to be generic, bland, or afraid to offend. It grinds my gears to reread something and find my writing is general. I do this when I’m suffering from I-want-everyone-to-like-me-itis. I don’t dig deep, I go for the easy out. Oh shit. Blogging is a whole other medium, ain’t it? And so I return to my original question, because sometimes this blog is a forum to set forth ideas, and sometimes it’s a place to receive answers. What do you think? Should an artist pick one creative medium?

VIDEO: 2 girls + Viking Costumes = The first short film we ever made!

When I’m feeling down that my career (as a writer/actor/filmmaker) isn’t “there” yet, Beth (my bff and partner in all crimes) tells me that we’re still putting in our 10,000 hours. As a reminder of how far we’ve come, we recently watched the first short film/video thing we ever made: us impersonating vikings for a contest to win $1,000 and a week stay at a Nordic resort back home in Tahoe.

This was in 2009, when I still lived in a brick apartment in Reno and was a bartender and Beth lived in her parent’s guest cottage and was a go-go dancer. We were staying at Sorensen’s, Beth’s family’s magical resort in the mountains, we were tipsy, and we decided to film an entry. Our imaginations went wild with everything we could do with $1,000, and Granlibakken sounded exotic and mystical, even though it was only a half hour from home.

We wrote our video in 20 minutes and filmed it in 30. Halfway through, the camera died and we filmed the rest on a phone. Our “swords” were made of tin foil, our mustaches were made of paper and taped to our faces. I had been taking guitar lessons for three weeks so there’s a musical interlude. We don’t know our lines, we’re wearing the pajamas we woke up in, and I look like Willie Nelson. But it’s my favorite thing we’ve ever filmed, and perhaps the funniest. Our first venture as Just B.E. Productions (Just Beth and Erin), early starts, earnest hearts, I present, The Hodge Podge Vikings!

This post would not be complete without mentioning Mike Geraghty, who also entered the Granlibakken contest. Mike is a Reno friend and one of the funniest human beings alive, and the reason I didn’t post his video, Lognard of the Lake, first is because his is so fucking funny you’ll die before you can watch Hodge Podge. It should be mentioned he was actually a finalist in the contest (and is currently killing it in the Chicago comedy scene):

I think the fun we had making these videos is evident. We did it because we wanted to make people smile, and we wanted to perform, and in the end it only takes a camera and a little time. Which is the spirit in which all art should be made–straight from the heart in an inspired moment. May all our projects be Hodge Podge!