The Road to Completing a Short Film

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I thought a lot about which platform I should share this information on. But this story feels relevant to anyone with a dream, so bear with me for a moment. Those who follow me because I am a soon-to-be-published Young Adult author (Hi! And thank you!), might not know that two and a half years ago I gathered a rag-tag group of aspiring filmmakers together to fund and shoot a short film I’d written years before.

Ideas are funny creatures. The metaphor that they begin as seeds and must be cultivated, watered and nurtured, harvested at the right time, while a little flowery for my taste is also somehow perfectly suitable. Ideas take time, and more often than not, it is the abandoning of the idea before the maturity of the idea that results in failure. Failure, here, means letting the idea die. Not success in the chosen market. Not money or glory. Sometimes, you fail there too, later after you’ve planted and nurtured. But I find failure comes from abandonment first, the failure that you can control anyway. And you can only kick yourself for what you give up on, not what is given up on by others.

I gathered the team to shoot this film, Cassie’s Cause. It was bumpy, a ride we all look back on now and remember with anxiety and fondness, laughter and annoyance. We lost people along the way, and we hit walls we didn’t foresee. We were forced to stop for huge gaps of time, staring at the unfinished idea, at the not abandoned but not matured thing, and wonder if it would ever become.

Today, we submitted the “little idea that could” to Austin Film Festival. The finished movie, all grown up.

Jonathan Dickson– my co-director and lifelong friend– and I hit the submit button. We watched the screen blink, confirmation brightening, and we looked at eachother with mile wide smiles. He raised his hand.

“It is finished.”

I hit his palm in a high five.

It is finished. Three words that mean so much. They represent an end, but also a beginning. To us, no matter what happens with the submission, we completed the task. The idea has taken root, been given sunlight, grown enough to exist on its own.

And finally a blurb, for anyone interested, about our little movie:

Cassie Duncan, a scrappy animal activist grieving the loss of her older brother, Gregory, wishes she could get him back. He returns, changed. Now she is the proud owner of a gnarly faced Zombie-boy, and together they embark on a trippy adventure.

 

Currently…

I’m participating in this blog hop thing my friend and fellow 2017 debut Katy Upperman has been doing for a while, which originated here. Check it out if you’re interested and join in whenever you like. And if you do, feel free to leave the link in my comments. I’ll pop over to your blog to see what you’re currently into!

Loving

I started working out again, and while I haven’t cut out wine completely, it feels really good to be back at it. I started using PiYo this week, thanks to an awesome friend who is a trainer, and my whole body is pissed off about it. Good times, you guys. Exercise is hard, but I feel like as a rule health is an important thing to invest in.

Reading

I’m reading the amazing YA debut The Island by Olivia Levez, about a young criminal girl marooned on a desert island. And it’s bold and stunning, but a bit of a nail biter. It’s a UK release, so right now we here in the States can only get it in ebook, but it releases in the US in September! Add it to your TBR, like, now! I’m also beta reading the YA WiP by my bestie Lindsay Cummings and holy moly you guyzzzz! I have all the heart eyes.

Watching

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If you ever wonder what benefits there are to having children— besides, you know, tax breaks and someone to look after you when you’re old— getting to introduce them to your favorite childhood films is high up there. We watched The Sandlot with my son this week. He giggled and howled, nervously asked questions, grabbed my hand with anticipation, and we shared a story that greatly influenced my childhood and has become legend in American pop culture. At least, to me. And now, to him.

Listening To

I’ve been listening to a lot of Pokemon theme music with my son. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I throughly enjoy it. I know, you’re totally thinking, why, Rebekah, why would you share this with us? If you ever take the time to listen to the lyrics of the seasons one and three (Pokemon: Indigo League and Pokemon: The Johto Journeys) theme songs, and you can set aside the fact that these songs are about the pokemon life and not real life then you might find you’re like me. You might find you occasionally tear up because you too want to be the very best

 

Thinking About

My time away at Djerassi with Nova Ren Suma and eight other brilliant YA writers. I love my home, and my family, and I had work to come back to and life to submerge in, but it was hard to let go of the world we created there with each other, the quiet I found in my own head, and the words that flowed from it. Djerassi is a place where your creative spirit can roam free, and mine did. That freedom brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings, and when I had to harness myself again in the real world, I struggled. Still am, almost a week later. Djerassi is not the real world, it is a cocoon and so it makes sense that it hurt me to leave it. I am grateful for that time, and I think it was just what I needed.

Anticipating

The North Texas Teen Book Festival April 23rd!! I get to moderate two (two!!!) panels featuring AMAZING authors and that is all I can say about it right now so don’t ask. Subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter or Facebook for updates! *nervous jitters commence*

Wishing 

You guys would pop over to Goodreads and add my swoony, murdery upcoming YA fantasy novel set in a magical world inspired by Hawaii, Of Blood and Promises, to your to-be read list. It would make me feel things if you did.

Making Me Happy

Remembering our trip to LA with my son for Spring Break. I went from LA to Djerassi. From one beautiful series of days to another. I made memories with these humans that will stay with me forever. I got to introduce my son to Chewie and Space Mountain, to Santa Monica Pier, and my brilliant friend Alex’s cats Gatsby and Daisy, and every moment was joy making.

 

 

This is the New Year Cry

dumbledore

Most years I write a farewell, a tipping of my hat to the year gone by, acknowledging all the brilliant, painful and perplexing things I experienced, speaking to the dreams that thrived, or died, and then finally turning my eyes outward.

This year, I struggled.

In 2015 I saw and did things I never expected to see or do. I struggled with questions I thought I’d already firmly answered. I was thirty. I was without my grandma for the first time ever. I was sojourning in the land of creative confusion, with a long layover in emotional malaise-ville. I watched terror rip through the world with no idea how it would ever quell, but only escalate, only accelerate. I watched my son find his way through kindergarten, to first grade, and me without a clue how he got that big, that fast.

I gave in on things and I refused to budge on others. I cried. I panicked. I did YouTube. I went to Comic-Con and was the recipient of the magical power of fandom. I became an aunt, again. I was paid my first real money for writing. I decided to say no, and yes, and go to hell, and I love you when it was true and not just when it was appropriate. I fought. I conceded. I won.

2015 can’t simply be summed up, and so much of it is still too hard for me to put into words and then give to the world. It can’t be reflected because it is alive in me, and even though the year is ending, so very much of what it started continues to beat on like my own heartbeat in my chest, my own blood pounding through my veins. A new year is nothing but a chance to say goodbye to a number, a version living, and hello to another, made new by experience. We begin again all the time. We stop and start. We throw fits and offer ultimatums, and always, hopefully, are living like it’s our last chance to try.

A New Year is nothing but a chance to do something different. To be changed for the better, the worse, to get a start on that forgotten dream, or to move on to the one you’d been putting off for tomorrow. A New Year is a moment in time that will pass without impact if you let it.

We resolve to make this one better, more peaceful, less ugly, but then we forget. We get busy. We get selfish and anxious and we lose our way when it’s no longer new, but just life, again, like always. And then we get soggy-eyed, we get grumpy, and that resolution is buried beneath the dirty laundry and broken promises.

I will not lie to you and promise you a better tomorrow. No one can do that, not really, so there is not point me trying. Tomorrow might not be better. Tonight might still be hit by terror and violence, by goodness and hope, by mediocrity and pettiness. But I will encourage you to believe in the present.

This moment where you have hope, hold onto it.

The kiss from your son, the cuddle from your daughter.

The gleam in your husband’s eyes when he thinks your hair looks pretty the way it falls like that over your shoulder, your neck, into your eyes which crinkle more right now than yesterday.

The laughter of friends talking stories and making plans, plans they can’t guarantee, but need to make all the same.

The dog on your lap. The book in your hand, in your fingertips, in your spirit.

This is all we are given, this brief moment in time. This is all that we need, to be here for each other, for the world. For today.

Faith-ish

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I have these amazing women in my life. Women that are bold and brash. Women that are gentle and maternal. Women with voices that can always break through the noise in my head.

I have a woman in my life that sends me Buzzfeed articles. She gets that I will always care about anything Harry Potter and not-so-secretly wish Hogwarts was a place I could live in outside my imagination.

I have a woman in my life that believes I am going to be a famous writer. She believes it sometimes when I do not. She believes in magic but not in a silly way. She is a unicorn.

I have a woman in my life that knows what it’s like to feel trapped by your own dreams. We chase those dreams, and also wonder what our lives would look like living easier dreams. She lets me bitch about. She joins in.

I have a woman in my life that has a new baby. We are in different stages of the same adventure. When I think of her as brave, I remind myself I am too, because we both decided to love a little person more than we love ourselves.

Tonight I was talking with a woman that came into my life through serendipity and became a conduit for miracles. I was telling her how I was scared and tired. How I was just looking for a moment to stop, to breathe because lately it felt like my lungs were full of water.

She told me to remember that we aren’t given more than we can handle, but sometimes the universe has more faith in us than we do.

Everything really comes down to that. Faith. Do you have faith to move mountains? Do you believe you are not alone in your fight?

Sometimes, despite all the women I have, and the husband I know I can lean on, despite my bravery and my stubbornness, despite knowing I’m not really alone at all, I find myself adrift. I worry. I sit on my computer and scroll through Facebook, looking for distraction. I wish I could bypass this traffic jam I’ve been stuck in for longer than I like to admit. I wish I could  just be different. Be settled. Feel easy.

I wonder if I missed something, somewhere on the life road map I keep flipping around hoping to make sense of. Because if I am in the thick of it — if I’m really doing life right — wouldn’t I stop feeling lost?

I’m going to venture out on a precarious limb here and guess that the answer is NO. Moments of clarity come only when you have already decided to believe. This is a problem people without a notion of Faith encounter. Faith is believing without seeing. It’s bang-a-rang. It’s closing your damn eyes and just stepping.

Faith can burn out. It can grow dim and hard to see. Fear can start to look like it, playing your emotions with logic and reason. Anger can mask your need for it. Longing can pull you away from it.

Here’s some honesty, guys: I’m terrified.

I am scared most of the time of everything I’m doing, but I can’t stop. The point of no return is a distant memory. I’m deep in the woods without a flashlight. I can’t get out without moving. I can’t move without faith.

And we know what this means. Raise your empty glass, prepare your handful of imaginary pudding. It’s bang-a-rang time.

Finding Why: in Life and in Fiction

There is nothing wrong with being an ambitious woman. No matter what sexism and misogyny tells you. No matter what other women might say to your face or behind your back. Your place is wherever you feel right — it may not be in the home, the kitchen, the office, the schools.

But I have to admit, even though I know this is true — I live and breathe this mindset – lately, I’m struggling to find the why of my ambition. And I need to explore that, because as a writer, knowing why is where you start. In story, WHY is better known as MOTIVE or GOAL. It is the driving force behind the protagonists struggle forward. It is what keeps the main character fighting when all the odds are stacked against them, when everything seems lost, when finally they have their big chance.

It’s no surprise to me that I am also struggling to find the why for my main character at the moment. That sounds about right, since life imitates art, art imitates life, and both myself and this shiny new character need to get to the true motive for our actions.

Earlier this year I started a YouTube channel(Books, Booze and Bitches, for anyone interested). At first it was very loose, free — just a thing my sister and I were doing to chronicle our adventure to Comic-Con. It was a release and escape from the pressing matter of what the hell am I doing in my life and career. And it was FUN. It was MINE. Anyone could watch and like or dislike, but they weren’t in control of it. And for someone trying to make it in both publishing and film, two highly-competitive, highly-controlled fields, having my own thing was like growing wings.

But then I got ambitious. I wanted it to grow wings, too. It was fine, I said, to want more from this thing than just an outlet. I could do well on YouTube. It could explode. But then it stopped being quite so fun. I started getting pissed if everyone didn’t watch, and then I started getting sick of it a little.

Ambition has tried to rob me of the fun of creative pursuit. YouTube is not the first near victim. Earlier this year I wrote about my anger toward the publishing industry, how it was killing my desire to write, ruining my stories, and giving me wrinkles. I wrote about how I was going to take a step back so I could rediscover the reason I loved writing books.

Hint: it’s not about a book deal. That is insignificant to the love of writing. The magic is in creation. If you ever think you do a thing for money or acclaim, that thing will end up souring before you can ever savor it.

Last night, after I posted my video to YouTube and Facebook, I didn’t feel happy to have it out in the world. I felt irritated. I felt like I was screaming in a room full of people and somehow no one could hear me. Because even though it always gets views, I can’t figure out how to WIN. I want to conquer the Internet. I want to crack the code to success.

But WHY? What am I hoping to achieve from YouTube? Or writing, really? What am I doing it for? I sat on my couch last night and I couldn’t even answer that question. What, existentially, the hell do I want?

On the surface, of course I want publication, or my screenplay made into a film, I want to entertain people through YouTube, and somewhere not too far below the surface, I want validation and acceptance of my creativity.

What do I have to prove? As competitive as I am (do not play me in a board game, I will crush you), I don’t care about being the best. I like to win, but my definition of winning has nothing to do with other people. I care about being the best version of me. I don’t compare myself to others often. I compare myself to the woman I think I should be by now. I look at how successful I believe myself capable, and I shoot for more. I’m not happy if I’m not winning against me.

But I will never begrudge another person’s success. I will never be jealous. I will always support someone I believe in. I’m a Gryffindor, Loyalty and Chivalry are kind of our thing.

When you’re writing a story, you always start on the surface. Getting to know a character is like getting to know another human being. You ask them questions, and they give you true but shallow answers. The reason your character MUST survive the Hunger Games cannot be just because she doesn’t want to die. That is primal, and truthful, but it is not deep. Now, winning so she can give her sister a better life, that sells. That is something we as feeling people empathize with.

You don’t reach your goal because of external wants. You reach your goal because inside you have something worth fighting for.

So…what is my WHY?

I am compelled to be more than I was yesterday. I am fighting for success, but I am also striving for excellence. I need to show my son he can WIN if he never gives up. I need to prove to my nieces that bravery is just as important as beauty. I need to prove to the little girl that had the dream to become something when she grew up that she is something already.

In the story of your life, you must be the hero. You must define for yourself what your goal is, and you must make a promise to fight through all the obstacles until you get there.

Find WHY and your character, yourself, can win it all.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 6

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

How I did on Last Week’s Goals:

Writing — I only got about 10 new pages, but I incorporated the feedback from my consultant, so I am pretty pleased.

Reading — Finished reading Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett. I stayed up way too late one night reading because I couldn’t put it down. This book is so good — sexy and scary and leaves you wanting more. Definitely recommend. Kim is doing a pre-order giveaway through McNally Jackson that everyone should check—out:

Pre-order Blood and Salt

Workout — I was a lot busier this week than I expected. I only got in three workouts this week, but I am glad I at least got that.

My Goals This Week:

Writing— I am feeling really ambitious this week. I would like to get 35 screenplay pages written, or get to the third act of my script by the end of the week. Basically, I am in game face mode to finish.

Reading — Reading screenplays. I just read Almost Famous, and plan to read a few more this week just to keep myself in screenplay world.

Workout — I plan to exercise every day. I may not get to the gym, but at least doing my own thing at home is usually feasible.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

MEMBER OF THE CON HIERARCHY (CONT.)

I’m afraid the best we can do is set you up with a volunteer to help you search the convention.

PHILLIP

Search? A convention of 150,000 people in costume?

MEMBER OF THE CON HIERARCHY

To be fair, not everyone is in costume.

PHILLIP

So you won’t help me at all.

MEMBER OF THE CON HIERARCHY

We said you could use our copy machine to make flyers with his picture on it.

She blinks at him.

MEMBER OF THE CON HIERARCHY (cont.)

Do you need thumbtacks?

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

My son was really needing extra mom time, and I decided that was the most important thing. It meant giving up some of my normal writing time. It effected how much I accomplished. And it was totally worth it.

Something I love about my WiP:

It’s the story I want to be working on. Sometimes our ideas don’t pan out, or they turn into something else along the way, and — good or bad — we have to adjust. Even with this stories evolution, I know I am working on the story I should be working on right now. And rightness trumps everything else.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 5

RSW4

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

*I missed last week because it was the day after San Diego Comic Con and I was on my way to LA.*

How I did on last week’s goals:

Well, last week I set no goals because I was still out of town. HOWEVER, I was meeting with my screenwriting consultant, so that was very Goal Oriented.

I wrote a blog about Comic-Con, which you can read here if you are interested.

I also began posting video recaps of the Comic-Con experience, and if you are interested, you can click here to watch my YouTube channel.

My Goals This Week:

Writing — Incorporate the feedback from my consultant into my outline and then crank out 20 screenplay pages. This script is REALLY coming together. And after everything I experienced at Comic-Con, I feel like I have a pretty strong grasp on that world.

Reading — Finish the ARC of Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett. You guys all need to put this book on your TBR.

Workout — Get back to my daily cardio, twice weekly strength building sessions.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Since I didn’t really write last week, and didn’t post an update from the previous week, here is something I wrote the week before I left for Comic-Con:

ABIGAIL (CONT.)

We keep our shit to ourselves. We stick to the list.

JACK

You know, Abbie —

ABIGAIL

Abigail.

JACK

Abigail. You know, you will have to trust me just a little if this is going to work.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

I didn’t write this week, but I didn’t plan to. The thing I struggled with this week was accepting the reality that Comic Con is over. 😉

Something I love about my WiP:

I feel like this is a story worth telling, and I think that is so vital when you are working on a passion project. Believing in your project’s merit, especially when it’s in the revision stage, keeps you pushing through the fear.