Posts tagged “indie filmmaking

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.

Secrets from my high school diary.

I just got home from my writer’s group holiday party. Normally we bring pages from whatever we’re working on, but since this was a party and we intended to get drunk, we brought in pages from our old diaries to read. This was an excellent idea, if you ask me. Which you are, because you’re reading my blog. Half the fun was looking through my old journals, which was no small feat. I was a prolific diarist, especially the last few years of high school. One pink diary in particular chronicles many milestones, and things got real juicy around the time I started partying. A few excerpts for your entertainment:

“I hope I’m not in trouble, I came home last night with three Zima’s in my jacket pocket. I had so much freedom for once, me and Renee went to Reno to Kick’s and went dancing! It’s this new awesome 18 and older dance club, we passed back a fake ID to make us 18. We didn’t even have to be home until 12:30! Also I did well on my finals! I won the Key Club vice-presidency and I got new skis! Yet I’m getting in trouble a lot. Mom got a call from the same cop my sister got a call from when she was a junior, telling her I’ve been seen smoking pot! It’s just so weird. I’ve never heard of that happening, getting a call like that!”

It’s difficult to believe I fell for this, but my mom did in fact tell me a cop saw me smoking pot and called her as a warning. Pretty clever on my mom’s behalf, as it scared the daylights out of me. Could’ve been true I suppose, we lived in a really small town. But considering my sister had gotten the same “call” I think it was a set-up.

“I think I’ve lost myself a little. I don’t really have passions stirring inside. Friday night my dad took me and Beth to a Matchbox Twenty concert! Rob Thomas was so sexy in black leather pants! Then Beth stayed the night, we had an awesome talk. She informed me people think I’m a ditz. I figured out I’m selling myself short. It’s stopping. I might be forgetful, but I’m not exaggerating it anymore. We stayed up until 1:45am, which was stupid because we had PSAT’s at 8:00am! They were hard and intimidating! Oh and I went to haunted house with Charlie*. He has a fake ID so he bought us beer. We held hands! He was such a badass, smoking cigarettes. We were waiting for our friends and had the best talk. We talked about how I’m a virgin and he’s not, it was cool. He’s so deep. One thing led to another and we made out! He has his tongue pierced! It was so cool. He told me to come over today to watch Braveheart. But I got there and all his skater friends were there. Whatever. Maybe it was just a one time thing?”

Gawd. I could go on forever. Instead I’ll leave you with two poems from zee pink diary. My teenage self is mortified, but I’m going to share them anyway.

“Enemy” // I am my own worse enemy. I think too much, drink too much, wear my heart on my sleeve for all the world to see. // I’m a walking contradiction, or so I’ve been told. I don’t agree but if you persist I’m sold, sold, sold. // Shut up and be happy, you have no right to complain. But I do because I know who I want to be, but instead I quest for fame. // I’ll just keep on smiling instead, you would say this isn’t important, these are just the contents of my head. // You think you know me, pass me off as fake and dumb. Well, you don’t know me. I would think you’d understand we’re all just people, with different ideas of fun. // Just give me a break, and I’ll give you one too. Maybe things will work out. Maybe I’ll have the courage to be new.

“Summertime” // Whispers floating on the breeze, thoughts lost with such ease, a giggle, a smirk, the summertime dirt. // Take me there, to the months of carefree, take me there, where I can be me. // Not a show, or unending fights, just freedom, and those warm lazy nights. // Just the hot sun and days at the river, asking a boy you like to come hither. // When you fight over ice cream and whose lips are number, you go quiet a moment and realize it’s summer.

I love my writer’s group. I love the holidays. I love WriteGirl, which has been so inspirational lately. The girls write the most descriptive, powerful poems and stories. I feel connected to my younger self through them.

*Charlie is a fake name, used to protect the guilty.

Just some mundane thoughts.

I feel far from myself. And I know why. I’m not in my creative work routine. I often wonder if the secret to success is as easy as having a routine. A few factors are contributing to this distraction. Year-end duties like figuring out new car insurance, health insurance, possibly moving to a new place. But I know I can always write and post something, even if it’s a few lines. I get caught up in thinking it needs to be something really awesome to be worth posting. But maybe the mundane is the most interesting stuff we can offer each other in the blogosphere. So, my mundane:

–I’m considering moving out of my apartment. I’ve been here 5 years and it’s time for a change. But I keep running up against memories. Just now making chicken on my George Foreman grill, I remembered agonizing if I should get the grill with removable plates or not. It was $20 more, but would be so much easier to clean. Which got me thinking about how much I’ve changed in the five years I’ve lived here. I moved in poor as a pauper, $20 might have been $2000. I’ve gone through a lot here–breakups, hookups, surgery, dance parties, Koreatown Cabarets, tears and fighting, first kisses and last goodbyes. I have done a LOT of writing here. I wrote a novel here for fuck’s sake. I’m an eyelash away from leaving, but that also means leaving that all behind. Which I don’t feel totally ready to do.

–This year has been a rollercoaster for the creative projects. Had my series Johnny and the Scams picked up by a big studio, then dropped when the executive left the company. I started a new vlog and finished writing a thriller feature and co-writing an hour long pilot. Yet I feel totally unsatisfied. Soooooooooooooo many stories in my mind, battling to be told. Yeah, that many “o’s” on the “so.”

–I’ve started volunteering with WriteGirl, a rad non-profit that does creative writing programs for teen girls. I’ve been working with the in-schools part of the program, and every Tuesday we go to a girl’s academy in south LA and do poetry, journaling, goal-setting, this sort of thing with the girls. I’m endlessly humbled, especially with how smart and talented the girls are. Some of them write prolifically. I remember being that age, feeling like I had more emotions than I could possibly express.

–I feel like I don’t want to party anymore. I turn to wine and other mind alterers when I’m not writing. Because I wish I was writing so much I need to blast all thoughts out of me. So why don’t I just write? Bukowski, Hemingway, any ideas?

–I might get a kitten!

Those are a few mundanes things of my current life. Hope it slightly intrigued you, if just in a mundane way. Good bye.

Prose vs. Screenwriting; photos with @b4flight

Last night was the final night of my short story writing class. It was through UCLA Extension and thus on the UCLA campus, and all summer I greatly enjoyed traipsing about the brick buildings pretending I was still in college. There were some excellent writers in my class and the instructor Colette Sartor was phenomenal, she gave excellent feedback and is a lit star herself. Writing fiction prose again after the last few years of screenwriting was like taking a long bath after…hmm…shit I need help finishing the analogy. A post about writing and I can’t even write. Irony. An attempt to redeem myself with the first paragraph of a story I wrote for class:

My uncle Jack lived in a tiny stone house in the beach town of Trancoso, Brazil. The house sat between two extra tall palm trees, and on the afternoon the medics delivered me to his house, Jack was waiting outside, leaning against one of the trees, smoking a cigar, shirtless and as broad-shouldered as my father had been. He’d set up a corner of his house for me, with a reclining chair to accommodate my injuries. Jack helped me get comfortable, offered to make me an avocado milkshake then realized he was out of avocadoes, then sat down across from me and blew a few smoke rings into the air as he said: “I’m glad you’re here, Silver. It’s been too quiet since Matilda died. Look at you, Silver, a grown woman. Guess I wasn’t expecting that. She was my bird. Matilda, I mean.” My uncle Jack smiled at me then, tears shining in his honey brown eyes. It was the first time we’d ever met.

In the last week I also did a photo shoot with the radical b4flight in downtown LA. I love downtown. All the street art and little cafes, skid row and cool architecture. I greatly enjoyed traipsing about those brick buildings, pretending I was an urban hustler, or at least a famous Instagram model.

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Really though, prose and screenwriters, help me finish the analogy?


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.”

This was Sundance…

Front page yo!

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!