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Screenwriting

Movies and TV

Eyewitness This

Amanda Brugel as Sita Petronelli in EYEWITNESS episode 101 (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network)

EYEWITNESS Episode 101 “Buffalo ’07” Pictured: Amanda Brugel as Sita Petronelli (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network)

I’ve spent the last year of my life writing and producing this television series, which debuts tonight at 10 p.m. on USA Network. Because I know you care (and because I know you’ll downright love it), here is a sneak peek at the first 12 minutes of the show. So much sweat, blood, and tears have gone into these 12 minutes, and the story, cast, and crew you’ll get a taste of here are so damn fabulous that they even inspired me to relocate to Canada for five months. I apologize in advance for the way they’re going to get you hooked. If you want a little reading to tide you over before the episode airs tonight, I highly recommend sinking your teeth into The Advocate’s review of EYEWITNESS, which not only reminds me of everything we were aspiring to do with the show but has made me fall in love with what I thought was the lost art form of critical review essays. Enjoy…

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Inspiring Tidbits

Trouble for Women

Stack of Nora Ephron books photographed by Shelly Gross

It still boggles my mind that one of the most inspiring and influential female voices of our time, Nora Ephron, died last week. Not so long ago I would have quickly deleted that word “female,” thinking it was an insult to any artist to qualify her/his greatness by a gender, but now that I’ve spent a good deal of time pondering what Ephron’s work has meant to me, I realize celebrating the femaleness of all she leaves behind is actually a great compliment. After all, Ephron spent her career fighting her way to the top of some very male industries just so she could tell stories about women, for women, and by women. The femaleness of her blockbuster movies, such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “Julie & Julia” has in fact drawn women and their dates to theaters for decades, and these stories hold a very prominent place in the romantic ideals of me and almost every other gal I know. As an adolescent, teenager, and young woman, Nora Ephron’s flicks taught me to demand more for myself out of life and love, and I would dare to say her rom coms stirred something far greater in me than any art-house film ever has.

And yet, I’ve always felt a tinge of embarrassment whenever I tell people that Ephron’s classic films are among my favorites. Is this because of the abundance of peonies, diamond rings, and sculpture-filled fountains in nearly all of her films, or is it perhaps that I’m embarrassed of the very personal ways in which her movies have made me hope for that ever-elusive “something more?” I’m not sure, but judging from her 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College, I’d say the femaleness of her aesthetic and brand of hope is no accident…

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.” -Nora Ephron

Although I’m sure some would argue that the material femininity and emphasis on love in Ephron’s movies did little to advance the women’s movement, I think that’s immaterial when you consider how they advanced the hopes and dreams of each individual woman who actually viewed them. Ephron’s movies depicted women who were neither damsels in distress nor emotion-void action heroines – they were instead real, flawed, and above-par-witted ladies (just like our sisters, mothers and grandmothers), who refused to sacrifice their careers or to settle for anything less than “fireworks” when it came to love. The realness and humor of these women made them equal parts entertaining and inspiring, because they always gave me the empowered sense that I could one day be like them – that I could go toe-to-toe with any man in any argument, and that a great love story was out there somewhere for me and every other gal I held dear.

Her movies showed us there was goodness and hope in this world, and that there were even happy endings as long as you were willing to work for them. As such, Ephron’s films always made me leave the theater or turn off my TV determined to work toward my own happy ending. And, when I think about this effect of her flicks, I realize I should be the opposite of embarrassed to declare my cinematic infatuation with them. Because, after all, what is the point of a movie or any other piece of art if not to inspire people to live better and work harder to make the world a more magnificent place for themselves and the people they love? Ms. Ephron’s films did this one-thousandfold for viewers, and I only hope I can someday make enough trouble on behalf of women that over the course of my lifetime girls/women/grandmothers/mothers/sisters will no longer be embarrassed to to list Nora Ephron’s movies among their favorites…Have you been moved by Ephron’s films, novels, or essays? Has her work ever inspired you to make “trouble” on behalf of women? Leave a comment.

Photo from Shelly Gross’ Instagrid via Pinterest.

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Movies and TV

Hermit Goes To The Post Office

My stamps weren’t nearly this pretty, but we can pretend, right?

I finally finished submitting my short film CONSUMED to an extensive roster of festivals last week, which meant lots of time at the post office intermixed with countless hours praying for my computer not to crash while burning DVDs. And now, with all the mailing slips before me, I have the urge to both do a jig and bury my head in the sand…You see, I have no idea whether or not the film will be accepted to any festivals, but how can a gal avoid getting giddy about the prospect of no longer spending her nights offering up sacrifices to the gods of DVD-Rs?

I couldn’t be more excited or nervous about the fact that CONSUMED is now out there in the world. So many possibilities lie ahead for this film (several of which are undoubtedly anticlimactic), but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will find an audience at a few select festivals and that I will then be able to entice all the talented people who worked on the film to do a celebratory jig with me. One of these people I simply cannot wait to dance up a storm with is the film’s director, L.M. Harter (an insanely gifted lady from Austin by way of Appalachia, who runs her own production company, Galt Productions). As one of my dearest friends, L.M. has always been someone who encourages me to go outside my comfort zone, and the process of making CONSUMED has certainly exemplified this quality of our relationship; not only did she convince me to write and produce this film over an intoxicated night of wine and cheese, but she held me to this agreement (not a small task), prodded me to spend hours on a film set instead of isolated in my comfy writing chair, and encouraged me to promote our film via IndieGoGo (a social-networking endeavor that was so far out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t even begin to tell you). I’d like to think that this way we have of pushing one another’s boundaries is reflected as a strength in the end product of CONSUMED, and I’m hopeful that these festival submissions will do Ms. Harter and our film proud…Leave a comment for good luck.

Photo source: Oh So Beautiful Paper.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Be So Good

“Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” print

Do you ever find yourself searching for shortcuts along a journey you actually love, or looking for really simple answers to the most complex, important questions of your life? I know I’m guilty of this manic scouring/doubting/short-cutting far more often than I would like…As a writer, I am constantly trying to figure out how to “make it” and wondering, “Am I giving myself the best shot at success by doing this project, or should I work on that other one, or that other-other one that just might exponentially up my odds?” These daunting questions are all based on the idea that there is some secret to success – that if we get all our ducks in a row in exactly the right way, we will find an audience and a steady income for our lives’ works. And, this assumption is in some ways true – making solid connections in our fields and putting our work out there definitely positions us for success – but unless there’s substance, talent, and a whole lot of hard work to back up all our networking and scheming, it’s unlikely we’ll go very far. In fact, I think the following piece of advice expresses this better than I ever could…

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” -Steve Martin

I’m pretty sure this Steve Martin quote needs to become my new mantra. Being too good to be ignored is, after all, the only surefire secret to personal success and creative fulfillment. And, the only way to achieve this is to work with the talent we have and work insanely hard with it. This is to say: looking for a secret to creative success is like putting the cart before the horse, and whenever we find ourselves drowning in these “am I doing it right?” questions we must instead remind ourselves that doing undeniably good work should be on the forefront of our minds – all else is tertiary. This is a lot easier said than done because these questions and must-make-it compulsions plague me all the time, but I will try to live with this goal of being “so good” always in mind and hard work always wearing away at my fingertips. What say you? Leave a comment.

Image via Pinterest. You can watch Steve Martin give this bit of advice on Charlie Rose (the whole interview is great, but you’ll find this quote around minute 52).

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Movies and TV

Re-Enchanted

Sneak peek at the opening scene of CONSUMED, still photo by Catherine Jackson

Almost one year ago I was about to embark on the whirlwind process of shooting my short film CONSUMED over the course of just two days. Back then, on the fast-paced set of the film, I had no idea how many exacting hours of post-production work lay ahead, but today I’m so happy to announce that the final cut of the film is just weeks away from being ready. I am currently working with our amazingly talented sound editor on the last stages of sound design and audio mixing, and in the process of these final editing stages I’ve oddly enough found myself falling back in love with the movie. When in the trenches of any creative endeavor, it is pretty typical to lose the ability to look at it objectively after all, so it should come as no surprise that – as I sat with CONSUMED for months on end – there were stretches where I downright hated everything about the project and worried that all this work was for naught. However, when I saw the most-recent version of the film last night, something clicked for me and I felt like I was actually watching a movie – a real, bona fide movie. As I stared at the screen, it was as though I was seeing the film with new eyes, and I found myself getting lost in the story instead of getting hung up on the tiniest things that needed changing. In a sense, I guess you could say I went from feeling disenchanted to re-enchanted over night…

I am so proud of the way that what started out as a simple script has come to life in moving images, and I can’t wait to send the film out into the world. I hope to have updates on festival submissions in a few weeks, and I will shout it from the rooftops (and the postal office) as soon as DVDs of the film have been printed. Thank you so much to everyone who’s supported me with kind words on this blog as I’ve worked to finish up the film, and I send thanks a thousand times over to those who have spread the word about CONSUMED and helped to raise post-production funding. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart! Leave a comment.

CONSUMED still by Catherine Jackson Photography.

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Love

Winners and Winners

Framed picture of Marilyn Monroe at Mel's Drive-In on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA

Last night I did not win the distinction of “best horror screenplay” at the United Film Fest, but I did win the experience of sharing a midnight Reuben and a heaping pile of onion rings with my husband at Mel’s Drive-In. As I sat there repeatedly assuring myself and my sweetheart that I was cool with the mere distinction of being a top-three script out of 500, our waiter came over and gave me an unprovoked high five, saying, “You two are perfect for each other!” This was so out of the blue, but – wow – if I hadn’t already been serious about the words of humble concession coming out of my mouth, this guy’s assessment of my marriage certainly would have transformed them to truths right then and there. I mean, not only am I honestly happy that I’ve had the good luck of getting my work recognized by strangers, but what our waiter’s exclamation really drove home for me is this: all the victories and failures of my life will always seem insignificant in comparison to the fact that I’ve somehow swindled my best friend into letting me eat his extra onion rings for all eternity.

It can be so easy to overlook these kinds of spectacular prizes that we already have in our lives, especially when we’re perfectionists (no, moi?) who keep driving ourselves to do more, and do all of this “more” better, bigger, and sooner. But, when we take a step back – no matter who we are or what our preexisting prizes are – we all have these moments of clarity when we’re able to see our forests for the blessings instead of the curses. My moment of clarity last night was filled with onion breath, jukebox music, and the most random of high fives, yet somehow these details collided to bring on a feeling of deeper-than-deep gratitude within me. I’m positive these kinds of clarifying collisions will be caused by an assortment of other random factors throughout my life, and I’m pretty sure the things I’m most grateful for will vary as well – many times it will be my love, other times my health, and still others my work. The one constant that will never change is the trite-and-true fact that we really are all winners – it’s just that our prizes come in many forms and sometimes they require a little extra magnification in order to see…I send you wishes for a splendid weekend filled with victories and spoils that are unique to you and you alone! Leave a comment.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Even If Nobody Cares

"I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares" print by EeeBee & Jack

Lately I’ve felt as though my creative life could use a mild infusion of irreverence…As though I could benefit from hiring a voice-over artist to whisper in my ear every now and then with reminders like, “It’s okay to spend a year writing that Gothic novel you’ve always dreamed of,” or, “Gosh darn it, stop working on the projects you think will get you noticed and start working on the ones you just plain love.” Although hiring a smooth talker for this purpose would be a gross mismanagement of funds if ever I saw one, following these words of advice, throwing caution to the wind, and approaching my passion projects with more – uhh – passion and less practicality would be anything but a mismanagement of time. And, since I’ve wandered through the past few weeks feeling this ache for some kind of catalyst to kick me in my play-it-safe pants, I could have sworn I heard a Barry White impersonator hop onto my shoulder and start cooing the other day when I stumbled across this Saul Bass quote on the glorious beast that is the Internet…

“I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”

-Saul Bass

This idea of working and doing every other thing we do for the sole purpose of creating beauty is something I’m really going to try to live by in the coming months, and I can only hope it will make me feel centered and more happy with my artistic endeavors. In the process of shrugging off (or at the very least postponing) scavenger hunts for the approval of others, I will likely produce some scripts, paintings, and short stories that will never find an audience, but – the way I see it – I’m bound to do that anyway. So, I figure we all may as well just dive into the depths of our passion projects – if we’re lucky we’ll come up for air with a piece of work that catches someone’s eye, and if we’re even luckier we’ll never feel the need to come up for air to begin with.. Are you with me? Leave a comment.

You can find the above print (in a variety of colors, no less) in EeeBee & Jack’s Etsy Shop.

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Sweet Nothings

Overfloweth

Last week felt as crazy as this zigzag-painted crosswalk in the Houston Museum District

I spent Thanksgiving week in the Houston Museum District, where my days were stuffed with sculpture gardens, family gatherings, wedding celebrations, and lots of food. I’ll be honest and admit that I was overwhelmed by all the new people and platters surrounding me at first, and I devoted a lot more time to feeling gluttonous and dizzy than to feeling grateful. However, I eventually snapped out of my introverted delirium when I learned that The Laine List had just honored this site with the Kathryn Ingrid Creativity Award. There’s nothing like a little love and recognition from out of the blue to make a gal overflow with gratitude, after all, and I continued feeling thankful all week for the many amazing people out there who choose to make my words a part of their busy days. It is such an privilege to share my stories and musings with you, dear readers, whether you drop by this site anonymously, leave comments, or give me awards. While this connection with you is one of my favorite things about blogging, I’ll be completely honest once again and tell you that connecting with people couldn’t have been farther from my mind when starting this site…

You see, I began blogging more than a year ago for very selfish, career-centered reasons: I was (and still am) a struggling writer who spends all working (and most non-working) hours writing screenplays that take several years to truly finish. The looming weight of these long-term projects was really starting to get me down last September, and it dawned on me that blogging might be a good way to ensure I wrote and completed something new each day. And so, this little blog was born. I didn’t share the site with anyone in the early months, because blogging was just about me and my infatuation with those shining, finished products staring back at me from my computer screen at the end of every day. When I started getting the word out about my blog, though, and folks began reading and responding to my stories, I realized this site was about far more than just me and my daily writing quotas. It was actually about making genuine human connections by sharing experiences and life lessons with people from all around the world.

In this spirit of connections and in honor of this blog award, I figured I would share a few personal details that I don’t think I’ve ever let you in on before. Here goes…

My Secret Factoids Overfloweth

  1. I love bicycles but am scared to death of riding a bike.
  2. I listen to pop radio in the car – yup, the really commercial stations geared toward teenagers.
  3. I have a freakish memory for everything other than driving directions, which means I can recall the names, faces, and mundane jobs of people I met for a few minutes in a bar seven years ago, as well as the lyrics to songs I hear once.
  4. As a result of factoids 2 and 3, I frequently come off as a stalker and involuntarily sing along with very embarrassing music in elevators and grocery stores.
  5. I adore visiting art museums, but get far more excited about graffiti or piñatas for sale on the side of the road, which you may have guessed from all my kitsch fixes.
  6. I kill my own spiders.
  7. I never look through peepholes before opening doors, because I’m convinced the serial killer on the other side will shoot a bullet through my eyeball the moment I do so. What can I say? I’d rather be shot in the heart so I can look the fucker in the eyes.
  8. My least favorite sound in the world is the clanging of metal chains, and my favorite sound is a tie between a dog’s snore and Sarah Vaughn’s jazz riffs.
  9. If I weren’t a writer I would be a starving painter or starving opera singer. In other words, it is written in the stars that I will live on Instant Ramen for vast stretches of time.
  10. Before meeting my husband, I was pretty darn sure I’d be single forever and would simply have lots of wild love affairs with dogs, fancy shoes, Ramen Noodle salesmen, and – eventually – Woody Allen.
  11. No, I don’t think Woody Allen is attractive.

Psst: Check back tomorrow for a rundown of five blogs that inspire me. Yes, that’s right, I’ll be bestowing this blogging award on some of my favorites tomorrow…I’m also going to try to add a few more personal (and rather silly) pages like this to my blog over the coming months, so be sure to let me know what you want me to write more about. I hope you’re having a fabulous start to the week! Leave a comment.

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Sweet Nothings

Remains of the Day

Glittery, pink rose I spotted in the middle of the road the other day - I can only imagine it is the remains of something glorious

I am in the midst of one of the strangest, longest, and most time-consuming job interviews I will probably ever be a part of, which means now is one of those odd times in life when my hours are so jam-packed that I feel as though I need to remind myself to breathe. The whole process of interviewing for what may likely prove to be my dream job (more details to come when I find out whether or not I land it) is stressful, dizzying, and invigorating all at once. And, the combination of all these emotions plus the time constraints of a never-ending interview have left me scrambling for what feels like leftover hours, minutes, and seconds at the end of every day. Shifting our routines in this way and working around others’ schedules in order to follow our passions is one of the tricks of life, and that is definitely the task I’m facing right now. Do you have any secrets for dealing with massive shifts in your routine, or tricks for making the time to do something for yourself even when you’re working 12-hour days? I would love to hear from you, darling readers, and hope the remains of your day are nothing but the sweetest right now. Leave a comment.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Wild and Precious

Excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem, print by Sarah London

This evening marks a whole week into my one screenplay/one month challenge, and I’m feeling invigorated yet daunted by the three weeks of work still looming ahead. Some ridiculous movie-making and home-related emergencies came up over the past few days that needled at me to call it quits on my challenge before I’d barely begun, but I stuck to my guns and cranked out 27 new script pages between last Thursday and this morning, and right now I find myself simply wondering what I can do to ensure I repeat this process several more weeks in a row. I suppose this means the real question I’m asking myself is this: what is it that prevents us from giving up and ensures we keep creating even when we aren’t feeling in the zone? I don’t think there’s any one right fix for everybody, but I do know that over the last week whenever I found myself wanting to quit, I slowed down and tried to remember why I was doing this in the first place.

My reasons for partaking in this self-imposed challenge were plentiful, ranging from my love affair with the story I’m writing to the grand visions I cling to of what I long to accomplish with my life over the long haul. Basically, I kept coming to the conclusion that if I wanted to share this story with the world I had to first get it out onto the page. And, there’s no better time to get a story onto the page than right here and now. Although the Mary Oliver poem excerpted above (which you can read in full via The Library of Congress) is about soaking up the simple and fleeting beauty of nature, I figured I would share it with you because the question it begs pretty much sums up the spirit that is keeping me going/writing up a storm at the moment…So, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Or, perhaps the less daunting query would be: what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious day? Do tell! Leave a comment.

Print by Sarah London via Pinterest.

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