I’m working on convincing myself there is one. When you’ve spent the past 3 months of almost every waking moment in someone else’s world thinking someone else’s thoughts and its weird to come back to your own.
So 10 things I plan doing to prove I have a life after rewrites.
1. Sleep in.
2. Hang out with friends.
3. Make stuff that’s not words.
5.Drink less coffee and more tea.
6. Hang out at the Art Museum.
7. Spend more time with my fam.
8. Read books that don’t have anything to do with the dirty south or broken families. So like, a lot of scifi that’s been piling up on my reading list thanks to a guy named Tim Swezy.
9. Watch cartoons. Adventure Time and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends to be specific. Thank you Netflix.
10. Write something I’ve never tried before, like a radio play or a comic book.
When I was 12 I wrote that phrase in one of my numerous notebooks rather offhandedly. The notebook was college lined cause I just thought I was so legit. Now I work in XLG unlined Moleskines. It was only when my best friend noted it in my scribbled scrawl that I sorta realized its significance. Little did I know how it would quickly become my mantra. I won’t begin to offer a commentary on the healthy and less healthy angles of the statement but I will say this, for me, its true.
I’ve been working without ceasing on the feature version of THOSE LIGHTER FLUID DAYS since mid February. When I’m not actually writing it, I’m thinking about it and kinda forcing other people think about it too. Spent so many nights without sleep, days without going outside, long cold walks in the rain barefoot. Sobbed in corners of neon lit hallways, and deserted clearings, forgotten to eat, ignored my laundry, went to work and only realized halfway through the day that I don’t actually remember driving there. Lived for people-watching and eavesdropping behind mirrored Lennon glasses, my creeper status in downtown Greenville/Simpsonville and Fountain Inn is pretty much carved in old coffee mugs and empty sidewalks. I mentally inhabit two worlds at once, shed an equal amount of tears for the characters on the page as those here in reality. They have quickly become dear old friends, with all their flaws and idiosyncrasies. I could get into the whole idea “what is reality anyhow?” but safe to say, that’s a whole different blog post.
I’ve been ridiculously blessed with the privilege to collaborate with those who have come to love these characters and the world created as much as I have. I’m very more privileged to have their full support, their hearts and minds invested in bringing those people to life. Its both terrifying, incredibly humbling, and exhilarating.
I honestly have no idea if everything I’ve put myself through and those around me has made the story better or if I’m simply being self-indulgent, playing into some unspoken and spoken lifestyle that people just expect of writers. Truth be told, most of the time I don’t even think about it. Probably because I’m thinking about that thing I’m supposed to be writing.
Torey Byrne and I hit off our friendship exactly one year ago. Its been a whirlwind experience to be sure, 3 film collaborations under our belt (so many more in the works) numerous trips from SC to OK and visa versa and much laughter, tears, and memories shared.
Thank you Twitter and Indie Film for creating the perfect storm to bring an absolutely amazing individual into my life. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t grow up together (even though it totally feels like we did) for all the glorious havoc we would have wreaked.
So here’s to you kid and another year, more fabulous collabs, more 7 hr G+ Hangouts, #OutofContextTweets, Existential rambling, globe trotting, and Firehouse subs.
I’ve fallen into creating these micro bursts of Spoken Word Somethings, between rough drafts of scripts they slowly fill up the thin margins in my Moleskine. They served the purpose of conveying emotions that normal sentence structure or even typical thought processes couldn’t do justice. And they’re fun so, there’s always that.
PASS THE SYRUP – She pops the shot back. Espresso. Not whiskey. Eyed with a tired smile from across the table by someone who seems to have known her longer then truth be told. Over-analytical, over-wrought, over the point where sleep should have occurred. Over it all, like water under a bridge. I guess this is what growing up feels like.
ICE PICK – It was overkill. She should have poured hot water over her bleeding heart instead of grabbing the blowtorch. The hammer lay on the cold hard concrete only to be used by strangers behind screens whose words burned more then she would even let on. Icy hot, its all sad pop culture references on a bitter winter day.
A WINTER’S TALE – In the end everything returns to blood and dirt, to rust. The annual songs of crippled branches and limbs that bend to the will of the wind and the hearts of those who seek solace in words written on both stone faces and mortal bones. They are other, among the lost wisps of memory that sink deep into the hallowed ground of that dreamlike existence covered in a mere blanket of white.
CONFESSION: I’m an incredibly insecure person. Probably to a unhealthy extant. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and wouldn’t give up screenwriting and filmmaking for pretty much anything but I constantly deal with the fight for understanding and being content with where true affirmation comes from as a Creative. I’d like to believe I don’t take criticism of my work personally but that would be a baldfaced lie on one side of the spectrum. How cannot I not take it personally? My work is an innate part of who I am, and the creative process that forms those elements stems from life experiences and distinct thought patterns clearly labeled “MJ SLIDE”. Obviously one cannot depend solely on external criticism as a means to define their success but one cannot ignore it as well. Where is the balance?
You run into it all the time. Crappy films/art are funded and created and somehow the critics pen glowing reviews. Apply a certain level gloss or throw enough money at it and generally you can fool a whole slew of people. Its all shiny and pretty and alludes to something but what? The Critics: (for which everyone is) They’re the courtiers who swoon over The Emperor’s New Clothes but sometimes you find yourself being that little kid in the crowd thinking “Um he’s not wearing anything.” but you’re not actually brave enough to speak up. In essence, the movie/art is sh*t, lacks soul, doesn’t say anything or stand for anything. But critics eat it up. There’s the dilemma. Is a piece of art or the artist defined by the critics that surround them? In some senses, they are, the perception of an object or person is a huge factor into what the final idea of the film/art really is but should it be? We all bring our baggage to the table when weighing the merits of Art in general, that should be expected but as Creatives how do we find the balance between being content with something we’ve worked long and hard at creating while not letting the critics steal the soul but still taking their thoughts into consideration as well? Is Art worth anything without an Audience? I’m not really talking about the Creative Process, the act of Creating is something I see as entirely separate, I create because I have to, like breathing, its necessary for life and sanity. But the end result? Its all just opinion, is it not? Perhaps I’m looking for something more concrete but wouldn’t that defeat much of the purpose of Art anyhow? If all Art fit into neat boxes of good and bad everything would be rather dull.
You may be wondering where all this lovely rambling as stemmed from? My own insecurities for one thing but also long conversations with other artists who struggle in the same manner. I was talking with the Director of a film I just DP-ed and we were discussing another movie we’re both keenly aware is making its way through the fest circuit and garnering rave reviews. We both watch a lot of movies and have run into this more then once. The main issue is we’ve both seen the film and pretty much hated it. It in essence was a beautiful flawlessly-executed-on-the-technical-side souless piece of cinema. A classic case of “lots of things happened but nothing was really said”. Hopefully you understand what I mean. We found ourselves weighing the film up against our own, which, by the way, is never a good idea because its not fair to either side and the intent of those involved on either project. All that said, we kept running into the fact we see these films and they’re just so cookie cutter and heartless, yet people eat it up, trumpet it from rooftops. There isn’t a doubt in our minds that our film will once released will get torn apart for its less then perfect technical execution. Sooooo, whose film is better? Does it matter? Really, in the end does it matter? Must a film or Art in general say something, speak to someone to validate its existence in the first place?
I don’t have the ultimate answers, I’m merely throwing these questions out there. I won’t stop creating, or struggling to understand Art and its place and influence on Modern society but I suspect if more people were honest with themselves we’d realize we’re caught up in The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome more often then we originally thought. If anything I want someone to challenge my thought process, to get me to think beyond my own ideas and perceptions, I have no desire to walk just the straight and narrow or throw everything into comfortable little boxes. Go ahead, blow my mind. To me, that’s what Art is about, not the critics. Ramble fests, insecurities and all.
Final day of the year. Looking back, its been an awesome one, best year of my life, it was rough, it was crazy, it was stressful and I’m so happy everything went down the way it did.
So here goes nothing.
2. Discovered a side to my writing I never thought existed, the comedic side. And continued to deepen my willingness to be vulnerable and honest in my writing and that desire just keeps growing stronger.
3. I learned that my passion for creating doesn’t stop on the page. New passions/obsessions include: Graphic design, DIY sewing projects, letterpress and screenprinting + I happen to be falling back in love with the camera(both video and stills)
4. I may actually be more of a Director then I thought. The idea has been planted. Lets see where 2013 takes that revelation
5. Thankful for the continued support of non-filmmaking friends/fam in my life. Your understanding and willingness to take me as I am has been such an encouragement! Thank you!
7. I’m addicted to typography anything, and designing my own t-shirts.
8. I’ve never worked harder in my life pursuing the things that I love with everything that I have. And it paid off.
9. Choosing to live by this truth. People > Projects. Its way more important/valuable to invest in people then put tasks or projects at the forefront.
10. Burnt bridges can be mended but they require humility. Lots of it.
11. In the last 6 months of 2012 I wrote more successful content then I ever have before and I’m actually proud of most of it. Completed 4 shorts and two feature length screenplays, not to mention drafted at least 3 other features and outlined 2 more shorts.
12. I work with some of the most talented, caring, awesome, hilarious, and batsh*t crazy people on the planet. I love you guys all like it ain’t nobodies business. Follow cohorts in #IndieFilmWorldDomination, you rock mah socks.
There we have it. 2012, you’ve been good to me. 2013, we got some scheming to tackle. Full speed ahead.
“We’re Making A Movie Yo”
I’m a writer, among other things, I produce, direct, even “act” but when it comes down to it, I’m a writer. I’ve been giving that declaration a lot of thought these past few days. What does that even mean anyhow, to be a writer? You sit down and pen stuff, doesn’t matter the medium, Field Notes or keyboard, forming thoughts, worlds, emotions on the page. I’ve been writing daily for over a decade now.
I joke I probably bleed ink at this point, but what does it all really mean? I honestly believe its created a systematic rewiring of the way my brain filters through experiences and emotions. I find myself cataloging everything, conversations, facial expressions, the peculiar way someone may say something without actually speaking anything. I eavesdrop and try to take everything in, it probably leads to a lot of over-analyzing on my part and annoyance on the part of friends and family but I suppose that simply comes with the territory.
I won’t deny there’s this constant nagging sensation deep in my gut that all this cataloging is creating a sense of detachment within my person that is inhibiting me from legitimately connecting with others. But then I catch myself, if anything writing has made me more keenly aware of how ones’ actions can and will have a profound affect on those around oneself. Shakespeare declared that “All the World’s a Stage and all Men and Women merely players.” Everyone, in one way, shape, or form plays into the grand scheme of things. As someone whose job is, in essence, to create worlds for people to enter, places and individuals that feel tangible enough that one does not find oneself questioning the (for lack of a better word) “realness” of the environment and the emotions that drive the protagonist and antagonist to do what they do, I can’t help but feel a incredible sense of responsibility. That’s a scary amount of authority. I have absolutely no desire to make my occupation sound more important then it actually is, I don’t hold a candle as far as courage/power to say a Firefighter or member of the Armed Forces. With that said, one cannot deny the power that is given when we put words to use.
I wield a vastly different kind of weapon then the military, dangerous in its own right. Ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Tools of my trade. I’m entirely fascinated with how the Human Mind stores and processes information, how/why things gain a certain level of importance to me while they don’t mean anything at all to someone else. And vise-versa. In this day and age where everything is summarized by the amount of data it requires to function where does Humanity, our needs/desires, and the Soul factor into all that? Does what we know solely define who we are?
These are questions that don’t really have straight answers, hence the reason I wrote EXTRACT: The Ghost Complex. Questions I have found myself pondering over with a Torey Byrne, a 19 year old insanely talented actress (And Director) who I suspect had no earthly idea what she was signing up for when I simply asked, “You want drama or high-concept sci-fi?”
We’ve gone and built the most legitimate world we can with the resources that we have on hand. Extract’s ‘Verse, if you will (Firefly fans will get it.) Employed the power of the Imagination and lots of crazy talented people. Created brands, companies, social structure, drugs, lingo, culture, subculture, and counterculture. Formed from the unsettling context of familiarity.
ExtractTGC is in the can and the footage is in the hands of our brilliant Editor Bryan Capri, we should have a rough cut within the week. While the producing side of my brain is occupied by smoothing out our Post Production workflow and prepping for Fest submissions my Writer’s brain and heart win out most of the time. They’ve latched onto the project in a way that only Science Fiction can for me. Allowing me to ask the big “WHAT IFs?” Filtering all these aching questions through the lens of a camera and witnessing Torey put flesh and blood to my words.
I don’t really know how or why I started writing. I know why I do now, its a integral part of who I am. Part of me has letmy words define who I am. Who knows if that’s healthy or not. But, lets just say, it always makes for an interesting story.
I was going to vlog this update but apparently my office eats SD cards….anyhow, good old words don’t fail me now.
The past couple weeks have been critical to the planning stages of the film, a lot of absolutely AMAZING opportunities have arisen but also some relatively complicated well, complications. Without getting into mass amount of details (because they’re boring, tedious, and lack waffles) TLFD’s production has been bumped up to Spring 2013 so we can put the absolutely best film up on screen. The Avengers are still assembled and we’re adding pieces to the puzzle every day. No one has quit, no one has died, and we all still like each other (what are the chances ) Having the opportunity to mold and shape the visual elements over the next couple months will simply up the ante. The goal all along as been to blow minds. Just wait until you see what we have planned. Its a slow burn, akin to Winter’s Bone + an honest depiction of grief and growth. TFLD’s in itself is a film about growing up and learning to understand people in all their messiness. TFLD is growing up and I couldn’t be more proud!
So what does this mean for all you awesome people who backed TLFD on Indiegogo? Your funds will be secured in a bank account exclusive to the production, and will only be used for the film, you have my word on that. As for the perks, all perks not dependent on a completed film will be sent out no later then Nov. 2012, so keep your eyes peeled for emails concerning t-shirts sizes and the occasional inquiry about mailing addys. This is still gonna be an absolutely FANTASTIC film. This movie is a work of heart and its not going away. We will continue to update the FB and official website with all the exciting news that’s flowing in concerning new people coming on board and all the grand scheming we’ve pulled together for TLFD’s release and distro. Mucho AWESOME all the way around.
Now…you may be wondering, “Well MJ what are you gonna do for the next 7 months with all that spare time?” HA! Spare time? Nonsense.
That brings me to EXTRACT, the ultra collab between Torey and I. High concept sci-fi at its grittiest.
Torey caught the Directing bug and ran an indiegogo campaign back in April to snag gear so she could shoot her own films, she had gear, I had a story and apparently know how to write. BOOM. EXTRACT was born. We’ve been scheming hardcore for the past 3 weeks, rewrites galore, basically building a ‘Verse where High Tech meets Low Life. The punchline MJ? Yeah we’re shooting in August, releasing no later then Jan. 2013 and the TLFD backers have first dibs on its release.
I happen to be INSANELY STOKED about this project. Sci-fi has always been *MY* Genre, gets my brain and heart pumping. Its the genre of What Ifs? Exploring impossibilities that are still somehow based in a grain of truth that rings home to the world that’s already established today. EXTRACT is going to be thought-provokingly BADA**. We’ve got an incredibly talented group of people together to rock this thing, some of the MJ Slide Old Guard + plenty of new faces. Its gonna be an intense two days of shooting with all manner of action and intrigue.
We’re still making movies Yo.
PS: EXTRACT FB page and official website coming soon!
You reflect. Make smart decisions, tough ones, ones that want to break you. But you move forward. Always move forward. We are moving forward. With your help. I make movies. We make films together. Its a team effort, a collaboration between the storyteller and the audience. One is nothing without the other. THOSE LIGHTER FLUID DAYS will get made. I promise you all that.