Recent gigs I’ve had. Like, being paid to travel the world and write stories and take photos. Little girl me in little town Nevada who just wanted to see the world is seriously freaking out.
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
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.
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.
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?
Excited and humbled to be considered someone with something to say about creative time management and unlocking your creative genius. Lots of my little tricks I’ve learned over the years to do dumb things like write a novel or a screenplay or make a film. So fun recording this, check out the whole episode at:
Went to San Francisco last week to read a new story for @backpocketpresents “Five Senses.” There were five storytellers, each reading about one of the senses. Mine was “Touch.” Somehow, being on stage speaking is when I feel the least self-conscious (I’m available for weddings and bar mitzvahs!). I fucking love storytelling shows and this was a gooood one. Told a story about what I call my “Telemundo Time” … when my life was so dramatic it rivaled any telenovela on the air. I might try to publish the story somewhere, but I probably won’t. Too many secrets revealed. Which is the beauty of storytelling shows, it exists once verbally and it’s gone forever. More, please.
I removed the option to add “comments” or “likes” on this blog because www.eringranat.com is my digital heart. The forum for my self-expression. Free from the electric sting of a numerical scale that indicates relevance and worthiness.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE feedback on my blog. It makes me purr and want to hug you cat-on-cat like this photo. But if you feel called to leave me a comment or a like, I want to actually engage with you in a non-public facing way. An old-fashioned conversation, between two people (but via email (laughing emoji) which is why you’ll see my email is in the About section). This is the same reason why I’ve left up every embarrassing angsty post since I started this blog 8 years ago. And why I don’t have visible the number of followers this blog has (which is a respectable number I’m very proud of).
Really, this is about QUALITY not QUANTITY. And being vulnerable. Because vulnerability is the source of true strength. Note: I removed comments and likes for all posts moving forward, if someone knows how to mass remove on past posts hook it up!
I’m currently at the Key West Literary Seminar in Key West, Florida. My friend Ian Rowan is Technical Director of the Seminar and invited me down to soak up the presence and presentations of some of the most important writers working today. Jamaica Kincaid, Teju Cole, Joy Williams, Marlon James … to name a few.
I’m feeling intimidated … to put it lightly.
So I took a break to tour the manor Ernest Hemingway called home for 10 years here in Key West. There are 54 six toed cats that live on the property.
The house was lovely, situated right next to the Key West lighthouse. The tour guide told us ol’ Hem would use the lighthouse to find his way home from the bars.
The tour was a lot of anecdotes about Hemingway’s drunkenness and wife-hopping. Funny that’s what people are intrigued by. I wanted to hear about his writing rituals, his routines.
Maybe it’s karmic retribution for what a slog writing can be as an art form. Writers can behave badly, and it’s considered eccentric, charming even, and tourists will pay $14 half a century later to peep their bathrooms and closets.
In the bookstore I bought Martha Gellhorn’s memoir, she was a novelist and one of the most important war correspondents of the 20th century, and Hemingway’s third wife. I feel like I shouldn’t even mention their marriage, and she famously wouldn’t talk about it in interviews, because she didn’t want to “be a footnote in someone else’s life.”
“Everyone behaves badly–given the chance.” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.
What you can’t see in the following photo is butterflies are fluttering all around me like a goddamn Disney dreamland. Which is how it felt to be a surprise scholarship recipient for a @keywestliteraryseminar workshop. After visiting the butterfly sanctuary I read a few short stories over coffee, then went to hear luminaries such as Manuel Gonzales and Billy Collins discuss craft, poetry, and the writing life. Every now and then, life gives us a perfect day. This was one of them.
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?
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.
I just found an old hard drive from 2009. There’s a lot of writing on it, a lot of stories that were started but never finished. I’m going to post two of the starts here, because where can you let unfinished work exist but on a blog? Maybe they were deemed not good enough, by a workshop or more likely, myself. They say in writing you have to “kill your babies.” I’ve always dreamed of starting a website, mydeadbabies.com, where writers can post sections that didn’t make it into the final draft, but aren’t half bad. Maybe this could be my first entry.
UNFINISHED BEGINNING #1
New York was hot and stickier than a honey jar. I wasn’t used to the humidity, the way it made my clothes cling, my hair curl. I took to wearing short skirts, and I was wearing a skirt the shade of celery green the night I met the Irishman. I wore the same skirt in Vegas a few years later, when a retiree in a Hawaiian shirt at the blackjack table called me his lucky charm and gave me a hundred dollars in chips, just because I was sitting next to him. I will come to call this small item of clothing, no longer than twenty-two inches, my lucky skirt.
UNFINISHED BEGINNING #2
My mom never wanted me to compete in pageants. I remember being in the grocery store as a kid and seeing a flyer for a Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant. I begged my mom to enter me—the little girl on the flyer was so pretty in her grass skirt and lipstick and mascara! Mom refused. She thought pageants were creepy, weird, exploitative. In the case of Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic, predecessor to the G-strings and silicone of the sunscreen brand’s pageant for young women—she was right. I never had any family members or friends growing up who competed in pageants, nor did I ever really watch pageants on TV. I was into skiing, then horses, then dance, then soccer, then boys, then boys AND soccer, then boys, soccer, and a stint trying to save the world in which I started a chapter of Amnesty International (I guess I really did want world peace), then partying on the weekends and boys, and then finally a trio of interests that has more or less stuck: writing, partying, and boys. So I think I surprised both my mother and myself one evening my senior year of high school when I handed her the permission slip for the Miss Lake Tahoe pageant and declared, “I’m entering.”
Her reaction was simple: “You? You?” It was the first time someone was surprised by my pageant ambitions, but certainly not the last. I took the surprise as a compliment (Uhh, what else am I supposed to do, right?). I was glad I did’t fit into the fake smile, catty stereotype—and I’m also glad I got to learn first-hand that’s exactly what it is: a stereotype.
The end. Or as close to the end as these stories will ever be.
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.
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.
Really though, prose and screenwriters, help me finish the analogy?
Found these words I wrote in a red leather journal in the trunk beside my bed. The trunk is ancient and rusted, brought over from Norway by my great-great-grandmother Helen Marr (the ‘HM’ of my middle name). I wonder if she too grappled with existential angst.
Knock, knock, knocking on some kind of door. Wish I was a 90s angst singer, vague and flannel. Or a 60s guitar legend, wild and drunk. Instead I’m a happy person of life. Deeply sad. Artsy. Powerful creations on my path to the sun. Accept my star-gazing self. Shine bright up there in the dark air. Honor my river pace. My natural high. The artist need only create. Deep yearning to be in love, to be in light. Control the gaze into space. Manage my time, don’t have to run the race. Fiona Apple dreaming. Kisses on foreheads and fun for all. Life can get so heavy. Who pulled the trigger? Questions to ask before giving my heart away. The art or die. Make this before meeting HIM and starting THAT. The candle and the cat. The music, the bowler hat.
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.”
Excited to announce I’m now a contributing editor at You, Me & Charlie, a website that’s all about discovering new artists, musicians, and creatives. Check out my first article here (currently on the front page!): http://www.youmeandcharlie.com/listen/artist-to-watch-iamamiwhoami, on the crazycool Swedish multimedia project iamamiwhoami. I’m also going to paste in the article here, because I want to.
A beguiling mix of electronic music, performance art, and savvy viral marketing, iamamiwhoami is the multimedia project you’re about to fall in love with (if you can learn how to say it). The brainchild of Swedish artist Jonna Lee and her longtime producer Claes Björklund, iamamiwhoami has been very busy since their first YouTube upload in 2009: at least two albums, 20+ music videos released in “real time,” sneaky marketing tactics (like keeping Lee’s identity shrouded in secrecy and sending MTV a package with lock of blond hair, a piece of bark, and a pictogram of the six animals featured in their first six videos with the question “Says what?”) awards, tours, and even their own record label–To Whom It May Concern.
The sound is ambient, a dance-y blend of synth and trip hop. The true entertainment value is iamamiwhoami’s live performance. I saw their U.S. debut at September’s Symbiosis Festival. Lee wore a giant coat covered in fur and danced in front of a white screen, the lights playing at her silhouette, her white-blonde hair like flying around like a sorceress. Her dance moves were borderline dorky, her energy captivating.
At its core, iamamiwhoami is what can happen when creative minds embrace the publicity potential of the internet, like the live concert they streamed for three hours from a forest on their site towhomitmayconcern.cc. Check out these cross-genre Swedes and watch their video for “play” below. You’ll be glad you did.
Over the last few years, I wrote my first novel. It’s about a 24 year-old girl named Holly Fricklesnap who lives with her wacky family on a Christmas tree farm. We meet Holly just as she’s been promoted to head fortune writer at the Good Luck fortune cookie factory, the same week she’s realized her best guy friend AJ will never love her back, and her family will drive her crazy if she lives with them any longer. Should she stay, should she go, or is it all just a Delusion of Glamour?
It was hot the night Moonflower won $14,987 playing blackjack at the Shooting Gun—the Night Everything Changed. I was with AJ in his basement apartment, painting my nails while he tripped on acid. I remember we had the rectangular windows propped open to cool down the stuffy basement. On summer nights the city is dry and smells of sagebrush. This sharp tang floated into the basement, mixing with my Fire Red polish, creating an earth/chemical smell that AJ declared was the scent that perfectly described the 21st century, if only we could find a way to bottle it.
If I knew, sprawled on AJ’s musty orange couch, that across town Moonflower had just become thousands of dollars richer, I might have been there when she arrived home, excitement coloring her cheeks. Excitement that belied the usual stoicism of her gray eyes—that damned pietà expression of hers. I might have been there to persuade her that the money mattered to other people, mattered to me. That I could use it for all sorts of things. But this is a fantasy, an ideal fiction. Because after twenty-four years with Moonflower, I know nothing can sway the conviction of my mother.
So instead, I spent the evening on that orange couch, smoking a joint while waiting for coats of polish to dry. AJ sat facing me, in a striped beach chair with holes in it. Sometimes he’d get up and pace the basement. He’d look through his records, or at a stack of old photos in a corner. There was one photo of us as ten year-olds, we’re down by the river and he’s holding out a frog and I’m shrieking and giggling at the same time. He shows me the photo and says, “This was a moment of truth, Holly. Before the falsehoods of our adult life.” Then he begins laughing, and he can’t stop. He laughs and laughs, because the LSD has silenced the part of his brain that tells him public displays of joy are embarrassing. And I start laughing too, because I’m pretty stoned, and because seeing other people happy makes me happy.
I wanted to post the first page in honor of NaNoWriMo, that crazy November challenge to write a novel in 30 days. Delusions of Glamour was born during NaNo, and I absolutely recommend the experience to all writers. If for nothing more, than to know you can in fact write 1,667 words a day, equaling 50,000 words in a month, equaling one whole novel. It makes you move past your excuses. Your bullshit. My mess of words and ideas after the 30 days (and a few months cleaning it up), got me a manager and an agent. And then the real work began.
I also wanted to post the first page because I’m currently not working on Delusions, even though it’s finished, even though it was good enough to get representation, because I’ve changed so much as a writer and a person that I worry it’s a pile of crap, how do authors stand by their work over the course of years?, and this summer had a vision I should burn it, but I also worked so hard and so long and still really love Holly and her unconventional life that I just can’t give up on it, and last year I left a copy in Bali on a shrine with flower petals in hopes it would infuse it with spirits or something, and in my heart of hearts I want to be a traditionally published novelist, but hey self-publishing is pretty damn cool and I’m all about art-to-audience with little or no interference, but mostly I just wanted to share the first page here. And endorse NaNo. Because I do believe humans can do anything. Even write a novel in 30 days.
You might judge me for posting this. What follows is an email I wrote to Beth while applying for food stamps. It was a very low point for me, inside my mind, my heart, my wallet. I legitimately needed assistance, but my decisions alone had led me there. When I decided to leave my nice steady job doing social media for a non-profit so I could lead the “artist’s life,” (write a book, write a movie, film that movie), I wasn’t truly prepared for what I’d done to myself. Financial instability is normal in your early 20s, forgivable in your mid-20s, and bordering on pathetic in your late-20s. At any point I could cash in my college degree and get a big-kid job, but I’m stubborn. I dream big. They say “You can’t do that” I hear “Prove to us you can.” The three or four less-than-part-time jobs I juggle that cobble together a less-than-livable income means I have freedom and time. Sweet time, the essential ingredient in any creative output. For my writing, I’ve forsaken security, “success,” and at times, sanity. I doubt myself daily. “I might be in the gutter but I’m looking at the stars” is on repeat in my mind. Maybe I’m just an entitled child of the Nineties. I don’t propose an answer, I’m just offering a glimpse at my reality. Maybe I should amend the question: How far is TOO far for your art?
Hello Beth….I am writing you this from the food stamps office of Los Angeles social services, Glendale branch, where all signs are written in English, Armenian, Spanish and Cantonese. I love the diversity of L.A., that never wears off. Im sitting here eating my humble pie and feeling more amongst my peers–the down and out surviving day to day real folk of this city–than I did at the indie music fest i worked over the weekend with the faux dirty hipsters with their complicated haircuts, practiced air of indifference, overdosing on urban outfitters and drunk on smart phones.
I am so relieved something like social services exists…I came straight from a credit counseling appointment in which i was informed i can’t afford credit counseling. Ha! Irony! I am in an income drought and the bar job i killed myself over bounced both their paychecks to me. I have $40 for the next 5 days, which makes it a good week. So i do legitimately need these food stamps. But i was given every advantage a person could want in this life, a happy home, college education, my health. Does it make me an asshole to now be needing this help, or strong for facing my truth and reaching out? i can’t/won’t ask my dad for help. I can’t/won’t go on dates for dinner, because that’s just casual prostitution, trading my sparkle for filet mignon.
The most positive outcome of these last few months in the hard scrabble is I’ve come to view the entertainment industry in a new way. Those nights i would come home from the bar, depressed and exhausted, i found the only relief from my thoughts to be in watching movies. And i didn’t want complicated, artsy fartsy high-minded narratives, but to laugh and be entertained.
I look around this social services lobby and see my audience. I don’t want to make movies for privileged white kids living in fashionable disrepair, for art school graduates and their 10 friends, for snarky internet critics and their need to produce content (negativity sells).
I want to uplift and engage these souls here at social services, not because being poor is noble, but because they deserve relief from the misery that is modern life. You know me, id love to have them over to my place, make them a snack and roll them a joint, but i can’t do that (not enough parking at my apartment/too broke for weed)…but i can plot stories for them, let them live inside magical kingdoms and see the shores of foreign lands. We need to remember THAT’S the power of making films: moving images delivered to those who would otherwise never see/feel/experience what we caught on camera.
When Hollywood makes schlock, slasher flicks, super heroes, video games come to life, they’re making it for these souls. But “entertaining” doesn’t need to mean “dumbed down.” High-concept doesn’t need to be low-soul. Lets strike the balance, make stuff for the film school students AND the immigrant mom of 5 sitting next to me, wrangling her kids in 2 languages.
And lets get ourselves some vegetables at the store, because hopefully Im going to have food stamps when i walk outta here, and I’ll be dammed if i use them on processed meat, refined sugar and the other fake foods I’ve been eating for years, which has kept me contained as an American robot, another cog in the happy meal wheel.
And need to go be in nature, where nothing is rushed, and the moon waxes and wanes, because perfection is the harmony of both darkness and light.
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.
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?
This is my writing:
This is a photo I took:
“Death by Disco”
Los Angeles 2013, feat. Bianca