To describe 2015 using the term ‘challenging’ does not do it justice. But God is good and I am starting 2016 with the knowing that the Universe supports my goals and I am fearless.
As an aspiring writer and filmmaker coming out of a difficult online Creative Writing MFA program in the fall of 2014, with no looming job in the horizon and tucked away in the boondocks, I relied only on Providence to see me through my darkest hour. It was the first time in 20 years that I did not have a teaching job and dared to follow my dreams of becoming an author and filmmaker.
Self-publishing the novel Spiderwoman: an Amazon Legend, along with Sandcastles, a book of poems and Isabel, my thesis screenplay, did nothing else but satisfy the ideal of being an author; at least it filled the space on my new resumé. The 50-minute movie, Spyderwoman, The Kiss of Death, produced and premiered in 2014, was just a speck in the infinite digital universe of independent film trailers fed into Social Media sites. Who, why, where, when and how would these stories have their day in the sun? The success of any of these projects has nothing to do with whether they empower women in front and behind the camera, create awareness for a new world order based on the principles of Shambhala, or teach empathy and are multicultural. It depends on whether you have a fan base that merits the attention of the media to your stories, either because you sell a lot of books or get a lot of social media hits. If you create a buzz and your hip or you have a niche market Hollywood, whoever that is, Marvel Comics, SyFy, etc., will come to you.
Spyderwoman was my first movie, it started as a 5 minute film school project and developed into 50 minutes. And although it was a nightmare to produce, I learned a lot about filmmaking in general and I’m still learning. Thinking that the movie would have a better chance of attracting a deal if it was a TV pilot, I reconstructed the script and created an outline that includes 100 episodes. Because it is based on the novel I also revised the book. Now I am looking to add FX and produce two more scenes and then premiere it again as Hybrid the TV show. But who knows, I might change that title to Legends of the Future.
Alone, with no one to help me discern or make a clear plan, how would I go about pitching it to buyers without spending a fortune in travel expenses and conference tickets where the game is already played and won even before the conference starts? The answers are still up in the air. I have pitched it at a couple of film festivals and recently entered the script in a contest. My goal for the year is to submit it to at least one film festival per month and tap into the Sundance Institute’s Programs for writers and producers.
Early in the year, my hopes of landing an internship with the only Miami-based producer vanished when I learned that what his company was looking for was a video editor and I am ill equipped in the arena, only able to do rough edits but never at the level they expect. During my second meeting with the same producer in the fabulous office overlooking the bay at Aventura, I was asked to deliver interviews of jockeys from Gulfstream, produce them, cut them and provide them to his company so he could place them. Had I had the money to produce these I would have, and I am still looking for the opportunity to do so. But in this game of guerilla filmmaking friends are all you’ve got and the cinematographer/editor I worked with on Spyderwoman is not returning my calls after I collected the measly equipment I had been able to purchase with my teaching job by moving into my dad’s run down apartment in the boondocks in order to afford the weekly production costs of the movie which included paying the crew whatever I could.
Now I had equipment, but hardly knowing how to use it, since I relied on my crew to shoot and edit, and no gigs in sight, besides living 2 hours away, I set about teaching myself the rudiments of cinematography and editing. The Film MFA program I had started and didn’t finish had not provided me with tutors when I asked for them, in order to learn how to do the basics. It was a swim or sink program, and I sank. From there, I went to another MFA program just for writing and was able to finish it. At least I learned a little bit about producing and screenwriting at the first program and then learned to produce guerilla style on my own with my crew. Given the opportunity, I would like to finish that Film MFA one day. However, my student loan debt is so high, I think I will need two lifetimes to pay it off unless I land one of these ideas on a high note.
Starting out early in the year, Providence manifested in the person of a friend and I was able to draw enough funds from creating testimonial videos, teaching a two-week career skills course and translate several educational and marketing materials for the same company. This kept me working around the clock for weeks on end. Another friend offered me a place to stay for little or no money, and I had a whole room and bathroom to myself. I will always be grateful to these two friends who showed up to lighten up the day.
Then, while Volunteering at Zen Village I met another friend who introduced me to the author of the novel, The Nativity Conspiracy, which I adapted to screenplay, adding another copyright to my name. And although this was not a paid job, I feel like we have a chance to make this film a reality. Especially, I am not alone on this project like I am on Isabel and Hybrid. We will have a table read for the script at the beginning of the new year 2016. Our strategy is to sign on a major star or two and then visit a producer that finances films and see if we can get a green light on the project.
In the Fall, a national private college hired me to teach English Composition I and II, and although there was a learning curve here, too, and not a job I would like to continue doing, it made a big difference in my outlook to see myself as a college Professor, another fulfilled ideal.
Now, I’m writing the script which brings me to my knees in gratitude, not only is it a historical biography, never before brought to the screen, it also empowers women and enlightens. Sojourner Truth and I are a great match. But what a great responsibility it is.
To begin this year with my first paid screenwriting gig with such a high profile is more than what I ever dreamed.
I don’t know what else the year 2016 has in store for me. A month long Karma Yoga sojourn at an ashram in California in March promises to be enlightening. Already, the first three months are booked with Sojourner Truth. Today I feel confident that no matter how tough it gets the Universe supports my goals. Pitching my stories, continuing the pilot, marketing my books, publishing a children’s novel and pitching it as a TV show are part of the plan for 2016 and beyond. It never stops.
Synchronicity, being in the right place at the right time may seem like magic, but it is actually a well-orchestrated event, one in which the protagonists have been well prepared.
Once the dream is born and a clear vision formed, you begin the journey of discovery. First you are afraid of failure, of being wacko. But something inside just won’t let you stop. You are willing to go the extra hundred miles to learn, to get it done, to do it over, and keep on learning and doing. Then you start to relax and see little signs of encouragement and you hop on them as if it were Pegasus.
A shift from fear to faith takes place in your thoughts and you are no longer concerned with the who, where, when, and how because you know you’ve got the ‘what’ under control. The wind begins to sing your song and you smile instead of frown.
I am a woman in film, a writer and producer. My voice will not be silenced, even after my time on Earth expires, my work will be left for others to evaluate and build on. I’ve been on this road since 2009 when I sat down one summer long and wrote the first timid draft of a novel. Since then, the learning curve has not ceased to peak everywhere I turn; and although there is a huge machinery called Hollywood that seems impenetrable for someone like me, I know I can chisel away a space big enough for me to crawl in and that once I’m in, there will be yet another learning curve waiting for me. And I will ride the wave.