Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 in Review


Hello all,

With Christmas soon approaching and the end of the year not far off, I figured I let my last blog for 2008 be one of reflection. When I look back at 2008 I realize I've done a lot and in some cases things I didn't expect to be doing (acting in two plays and shooting a short film). These special events were on my radar, but with work and school I wasn't actually sure what I would be able to fit in and have the energy to complete the projects. I continue to surprise myself with the energy I seem to muster up for my artistic endeavors.

I'm grateful that I had two opportunities to get back on the stage this year. While I planned for No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs, Anton in Show Business was a complete surprise. Each play was different in its genre and scope. The plays required that I use different skill sets to get solid performances and that was a challenge for the actor in me. I definitely feel like comedy is much harder to do then drama, because timing is everything. I have to give it up to stand-up comedians. I think most people take for granted how hard it is to make people laugh and even if you do it well, the pay mostly sucks and you get no benefits like insurance or a 401k.


I'm also grateful that I have a full-time job that allows me to further my education and pursue my passion, even if it is being pursued part-time. With a recession showing no signs of ending anytime soon, it is essential that I have job. I look forward to the day when I can pursue writing, filmmaking, and acting full-time. While that day may never come, it doesn't mean I give up.


I think that is probably the greatest lesson that was reinforced to me this year. I can't give up, even when adversity has me knocked down. It is all about perseverance. Where there is a will, there is a way. Yes it is a cliche, but I believe it to be true. Things are definitely looking up for 2009, but I know there are no guarantees on anything. I feel like I'm stepping up by game as a writer (becoming a finalist for the first time ever in the Gem Literary Festival), but I've also received enough screenwriting rejection letters to know I still have a way to go.


On another positive note, things are looking a little better for After the Headlines (ATH). The missing coroner scene is found (YES!!!). I just need to digitize the footage and get it to the editor before he leaves for L.A. I'm not sure if that will happen, but if it doesn't, the edit will go on without the scene. At this point in time I can accept that post-production on ATH will be done slowly but surely. Sooner or later I will have a rough cut. I want the best film possible, so I'm willing to wait(like I have a choice, lol). The ups and downs of post-production thus far have taught me to be patience and to hope for the best, but expect the worst.


2009 is going to be another busy year. I have a thesis to write, a short film to edit, a film screening to plan, short film festivals to enter, to revise Finding Patience, as well as start some new writing projects. No rest for me! I keep going and going!


In closing, I would like to say a special thank you to all of you who read and comment on my blog. You all continue to encourage and support me in all my film and acting endeavors. It makes a world of difference to know others believe in me. So many people have helped me throughout the year! I consider myself extremely lucky to have the support network I do.


I wish each one of you all the best this holiday season and in 2009. See you all next year. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2008

After the Headlines: Scene 3 Missing in Action

I wanted to have a more upbeat and positive update about After the Headlines for my blog and while it's nice to want things that isn't the case. I think that's why it's taken me so long to write this entry. By now I thought I would be half-way to a rough cut of the film, but the disappointing reality is that I'm currently missing a pivotal scene for my film. Yes....I am missing a scene. It was shot, but it is currently missing in action? How did that happen I really can't say. The DP believes that there is a tape missing, but I disagree because I know every time he gave me a tape I gave it to my production coordinator and at the end of the shoot we counted six tapes not seven. I also think that if there was a missing seventh tape, it would have popped up long before I started logging and capturing footage for the third time. I must say I've gotten really good with organizing and capturing clips.

What's next? Well, I have to drop the external hard-drive with the logged clips to the editor (please let there be no problems this time). He'll look at what I have and work with me to come up with a creative solution to work around the missing scene. I personally think I will have to re-shoot the scene, but want to hold off to the editor looks at all the footage shot. I probably shouldn't be saying this, but I did catch some continuity issues and I have to find out if he can edit around them. If not that may mean additional scenes to re-shoot. I'm not looking forward to that option, but it might have to been done for the greater good of the film.

To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. I was devastated and a hot mess. While I know it isn't over, I just can't help but feel like I let people down, especially myself. I try to remind myself that this mishap is part of the learning process. Even A-list directors have flubbed at one time or another and they didn't let their mistakes stop them for achieving their goal. I still have a film, not the film I anticipated, but a film nonetheless. It's time for me to make lemonade out of lemons.

I've already sent an email to cast and crew to let them know the status of things. It was nice to get emails back from folks showing me their continued support. I felt better after reading those emails. Each day I feel a little bit more optimistic. There are possibilities and I'm going to have to think "outside the box" to get over this hump. The saying that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy is so true...unless you happen to of be Paris Hilton...lol. Whatever it takes I will make a short film of the footage I shot for After the Headlines. From this point forward I just need to be prepared for the worse and hope for the best.

Monday, November 24, 2008

After the Headlines: Trying to Keep Hope Alive


Today I thought my blog would read, After the Headlines: Logged and Captured. Unfortunately that is not the case, and I'm definitely freaking out about it. Last night I had my nervous breakdown, I'm doing slightly better this morning, but I'm still very somber, but Karim has told me to have faith and that things will work out. I hope he's right.


This Saturday I got my DP's camera so I could start logging and capturing the footage into Final Cut Pro (a linear editing software for film and video). During the week I wasn't looking forward to logging at first, I haven't had to log video footage since college and my early days as a production assistant (PA). After some thought I thought it would be good, because I would see the film scene by scene and that would give me a good sense of what I have to work with when I meet with the editor.


Since it's been a while since I logged I enlisted Karim's help. He helped me set up my external drive (which is what I'm saving the captured footage t0) and the camera. He even found me a link to view so I made sure I was logging the tapes in the fasted way possible. The instructor on the video recommended that I log my clips first (which is marking the in/out points of the footage I need, after that is done I do a batch capture (a batch capture pulls the clip with the exact time codes I logged with my in/out points). Sounds easy, it is, that is until the camera cannot find the time code which causes a break in the footage. This was happening to me throughout the logging, but I didn't a good handle on the problem until the third tape, which was around 3 p.m. yesterday. I noticed that new clips were being logged under the wrong titles. When I clicked on the clip it was cut off, which is because of the time breaks.


I called the DP and the editor to let them know about my issue. The editor helped me trouble shoot and walk through my system setup. He wanted to make sure it wasn't my Mac or Final Cut Pro. It looks like it's an issue with the camera or possibly even the tapes and if its the latter my film is not on solid ground. Continuous time breaks on the tape may mean there is a problem with the tape. I tried to capture the whole film and I couldn't even do that without time breaks. I also had to drop off the camera this morning, which isn't helpful if the the camera may be the source of the problem. However, I informed the DP of the problem I'm having and he told me he would take a look at it and get back to me.


In the meantime I made a call to a Media Arts Center and let them know my problem. I'm hoping they may be able to help me out. When I get out of work I will meet up with my editor and we will try to log and capture the footage with another mini DV camera. I thought that I would have my film logged and ready to go to the editor for work on a rough cut of the film, but now I may not even have a film if the tapes are messed up. It's hard to be optimistic at this tine, but I will try. I'm going to do all I can to save this film. I just hope it will be enough at the end of the day...hopefully this issue will be resolved in my next posting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

After the Headlines: It's a wrap

Thank you, thank you, and thank you. I would be remiss if I didn't start this blog by thanking all the people who helped me out on my film shoot this weekend. A BIG SHOUT OUT TO THE CAST AND CREW OF AFTER THE HEADLINES (and yes I know each of you deserve so much more). Although I'm really tired, I'm on my fourth, maybe fifth wind. If I actually shot on film, I would say After the Headlines is in the can, but since it is shot on digital video I'm saying its a wrap. The Martini shot (last shot on set) is done and I still can't believe it. I shot my first short film.

I know I've said it before, but I feel the need to say it again, film is a collaborative art form (thank God). There is no way I could have done this on my own. From the cast to the crew, we all came together to tell my vision of a story.

Although it was only two and half-days of shooting, it felt so much longer. I guess that's because I probably got a total of 15 hours of sleep this weekend. Friday night the crew loaded in at 6 p.m. in the evening and we wrapped our last shot at about three a.m. in the morning. By the time I dropped off Tim, my sound guy and Jaye (lead actress), it was about 4:30 a.m. when I got home. I had to make changes to the shot lists for the following day so I didn't go to bed until I finished, that was around 5:30 p.m. Call time on Sunday was initially 9 a.m, but I decided to push it to 10 a.m. I said it is the least I could do. I didn't want the crew and cast to be too drained and they weren't, everybody came with there A game.

Second day of shooting was a long one, we had bad weather and a late start. However, the fact that my two locations were a two minute drive from each other made things a lot easier for everybody. Black Rock Center, the second location was four locations in one which was a saving grace! We created, a coroner's room, therapist's office, hospital waiting room, and shot an exterior. I did my best to keep folks well feed so energy was up. Having a crew well feed is crucial. I hope I didn't disappoint. Initially, I booked Black Rock Center until 11p.m., but at the last minute decided to add two hours. We ended up wrapping up at 10:30 p.m. and loaded out by 11.pm. I was so happy. I actually was going to get at least six hours of sleep and hopefully refunded for the hours I didn't use (The producer in me watches the dollar and cents...lol).

Today, we kept our momentum and things moved at a good pace. There were times when we had to wait for lightening, but lighting is key, so hopefully when I get to the editing room I can say it was worth the wait. Everything came together nicely and it was a really enriching experience for me. I guess I knew I could do this, but part of me thought I was crazy for wanting to try. I'm glad I went against the grain and trusted my gut. I think non filmmakers would have a lot more respect for the craft of filmmaking if they worked a film or saw the sweat, energy, and sometimes tears that go into getting a shot. It is hard work and you do it because you love it.

Now that my first short film is done, I can smile from the inside out. I can't thank the cast, crew, my boyfriend and my mom enough. People believed I could do this, the trusted me, and that means the world to me. I've feel like I've hit a milestone. Although it's a wrap....it's not over, it's far from over. Footage has to be digitized and logged (which is a tedious process, I like to call it a necessary evil), then edited, then scored, then color corrected and let me not forget the artwork for the finished product, a DVD of After the Headlines. After I do all that then I will need to make copies for everyone and then submit it to film festivals and cross my fingers, hell I'm crossing my fingers now that I make it through all the steps I mentioned. It's going to cost me more money and more time, but I believe it will be worth it in the end.

This weekend was a real thrill and I know the ride isn't over. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Inside Entertainment


Hello all,


I'm getting down to the wire, three days until "sound rolling....lights, camera,and action." I feel fairly calm with the production around the corner. I thought I'd be more antsy, but I'm not, maybe it's the calm settling before the storm. There is no doubt in my mind that my previous production and current events planning experience has come in handy. I'm trying to be as organized as possible, because when you get on set and are in the midst of production you see real fast where the holes in pre-production were. I'm working hard to try to minimize the holes. I know I can't do it by myself either. Filmmaking is a collaborative process ( some people tend to forget that point), there are no room for egos if you want to have a successful production.


Things are rolling along, yesterday I hit some retail stores picking up odds and ends for the set. I'm trying not to think about what this is costing me, if I did, I'd probably would have second thoughts. But than I think it is even more reason for me to make sure that After the Headlines comes out good. I don't want to be wasting my money and people's time. I would like this to be a stepping stone for me and others in the cast and crew. That's one of the reasons I searched out people I've worked with in the past. It's important for me to have individuals who are vested in the process and have a passion for filmmaking.


I really think I've lucked out with both my cast and crew. I guess I will find out for sure Friday night. Between now and then there is still a lot to do. My production coordinator, first assistant director, and I are still looking for props, cheap hotels for crew, casting extras, making changes to my shot list, and doing whatever else that needs to get done. The good thing is I have faith in my ability to do this and the people who have joined me for this ride. I know I wouldn't be able to do it without their talent and support.


This Sunday I met with a gentleman named Bill Hopkins, he's a writer/director/producer in New York City that coaches directors and actors. Jaye, my lead actress, works with him and set-up the meeting, (she thought it would be good for me since After the Headlines will be my directorial debut). Thanks Jaye!!! The meeting went extremely well. I took a bunch of good notes. Bill will gave me some good insight into what I need to do to manage the set and help the actors along in their process, which is going to be important since this is an emotional driven script.


On Sunday I also taped a segment on a local cable access show, called Inside Entertainment, http://www.insideentertainment.biz/ (the website is currently under construction). I was interviewed by Rob and Nick at Skye T.V. in Waterbury, Connecticut. The show was a lot of fun, not only did I get to plug my film, but I also spoke about my work as an actress. I'm looking forward to a copy of the show which I will eventually post...so stay tuned.


I'll probably post another blog the night before or after my first day of taping. Maybe I'll do both. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My next thing

Hello all,

I had planned an Anton in Show Business wrap-up blog, but I didn't get to it. My apologies. The three week run of the show went extremely well but after the run I was spent. It took a lot out of me, but at the end of the day, I can say it was worth the sweat, colds, and tiredness I experienced. Being on stage is one of the best feelings in the world and when you know the audience is on the journey with you, that feeling goes from good to great.

The last few days I've spent recuperating in Vegas. I welcomed the warm weather but I think I came back just as tired as when I left....lol.

I'm going to miss the cast in Anton in Show Business. I had the pleasure of working with a talented group of women. It was an enriching experience for me. I really pushed myself with the roles in the play and think I'm a better actor having had this experience.

It's going to be a while before I'm back on stage. Right now my focus is on After the Headlines. I have a little under two weeks to prepare for the shoot. The remainder of days will be spent tying loose ends and working with Tanesha, my production coordinator and Brandy, my assistant director. I can't believe the moment is almost here. Yikes. I'm excited and nervous. I can definitely feel the support from the cast, crew, friends and family, which is a major relief. However, I still have those butterflies in my stomach. I think that nervous feeling is good because it keeps me from getting to "cocky."

This moment feels like a major milestone in my life. I'm a bit taken back by the whole thing, but then I remind myself that I have to demonstrate the courage to do the things I want to make a living at...even if I'm not making a living at it now. If I don't do it for myself no one else will do it for me. Holding down a 9 to 5 and pursuing my passion part-time has been a journey and although I'm not where I thought I'd be, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. My issue is once I get out of the tunnel, what's next?

In the short-term, post production for After the Headlines. I need to get a rough cut together to present at my residency in January. The residency in January will hopefully be my final semester. I say hopefully, because I still have to submit my thesis proposal, it has to get accepted by the thesis committee, and then I have to write the darn thing (a semi-autobiographical television pilot loosely based off of me and my friends. Think Sex and the City, but more blue-collar and multi-cultural). I don't even want to think about working on that until after I make it through next weekend and start putting After the Headlines together in post-production (I also need to make time for that). I will have to go into the NYC to meet up with the Jeff, the editor, a former colleague of mine at Blue Chip Films.

Once After the Headlines is edited, scored, and packaged nicely ($$$$), my next steps are to create a film festival media kit, then submit the film, cross my fingers and wait. The waiting game sucks but while I'm doing that I'll be writing. The cycle continues and so must I.

On a side note, make sure you get out and VOTE!!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Anton Opens....

Anton in Show Business had a stellar opening this past weekend at the OddFellows Playhouse in Middletown, Connecticut. Both nights was almost sold out, which is always a relief for actors, since we crave audience response. The New Haven Independent, http://www.newhavenindependent.org/ , an online New Haven-focused newspaper also published a favorable write-up, New Theatre Breaks Legs, http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/10/new_new_haven_t.php%20. I probably already sent it to you on Friday, but here it is again just in case.
While I was backstage I kept peeking through a crack in the curtain to check out the audience. I was lucky to have friends and family come both nights. I wanted to see where they were sitting so I didn't look directly in their direction when I was on stage. I had a bunch of nervous energy, I worried I would forget a line or maybe flub on the blocking. Earlier in the week I was still finding my bearings in the theatre space. Right up until the night before we opened we were still working on sound and light cues. But on opening night my monologue felt seamless and I really connected with the audience. When I heard the first set of chuckles I knew I was on solid ground. The cast and crew came together in a way that illustrates the magic of theatre.
Today, Anton in Show Business moves to the Little Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. I have my first rehearsal in the new space tonight. I think it's going to be interesting to see how the cast and myself work in the new space. I believe the Little Theater won't be as intimate as the Playhouse, which will alter the stage dynamics.
I'm still trying to get over this sinus head cold I've had since the end of October. It has moved from head to my chest. I'm cough up a storm which is good, but at the same time very gross. I don't need to get into the details. What our bodies put up with amazes me. While I've been riding high on nervous energy I haven't given my body the proper rest and relaxation needed in order to beat this cold. It's hard to stop and rest when I think about all the other things I need to get done outside of the play. I'm still in pre-production for After the Headlines. Things are coming together slowly, but I'm so focused on not dropping the ball on my directorial debut. Like Lisabette in Anton in Show Business, I think it can be really, really good. I want it to be really, really good. The pressure to not disappoint is real and I struggle with it everyday. It is comforting to know people are cheering me on and helping me out. Knowing that keeps me motivated despite all the obstacles I face.
Well, the show must go on and so do I...thanks for reading.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two weeks and Counting


I'm getting down to the wire. I can't believe Anton in Show Business opens next Friday. It seems like it was just yesterday when I blogged about joining the cast. I'm finally starting to find my characters and that has been a real boost to my confidence. For a while I didn't think I was cut out for it, however, I stuck with it, took in the directors comments, practiced, practiced, practiced, and now I'm starting to see the fruits of my labors.


This week I have full run-throughs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. It's going to be tough. My body finally decided to say check mate. Last week I came down with a sinus infection and my voice is just starting to come back. Now I have to pace myself and make sure I take my meds and get the rest I need, which means going to bed by 10 p.m., no exceptions. Otherwise I won't recover like I need to.


On Sunday rehearsals will move to the Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, Connecticut. I'm excited about that because I'll be on the stage. Rehearsing in the actual space will bring things together for me. It will really be full circle when I'm backstage waiting for my cue enter the stage. Yikes. I open the show, so I'm just a little nervous, but those nerves will eventually settle. I have to remind myself that acting can also be a great deal of fun if I'm having fun too. I still have some scenes that I need to tighten and that will be my focus for the next two weeks.


Things are slowly but surely coming together for After the Headlines. I had a crew meeting this weekend. I still have a hundred things to do, but I have people helping me out and boy do I need the help. All my key crew positions are filled....yeah. I even have a great editor (Jeff Um) for post. I am still looking for two or three production assistants. If you know of a college student in CT/NYC who will work for free and travel stipend, send me there resume at amiller_12@hotmail.com. I'm also looking for a make-up artist. If I don't find a make-up the film will go on.


I have a whole bunch of logistical stuff to work out. One thing at a time. I plan to do a good amount of work on it tonight then take a break to practice my T-Anne/Joby scene. After that I will submit to yet another screenwriting competition (this one I will get coverage for). In case you're wondering coverage is when a reader gives feedback on your script (it should offer specific details on what worked and what didn't i.e. structure, characters, story arc, etc.). I want to see coverage before I attempt another revision of Finding Patience.
That's all for now...almost forgot... I'm also looking forward to seeing Biden blow Ms. Sarah Palin out of the water on Thursday night for the vice presidential debates. Wouldn't it be great if McCain realizes his blunder and drops her from the ticket? LOL

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fasting and Getting Things Together

September 1 through 30 marks the holy month of Ramadan, for the non-Muslims of the world, Ramadan, is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation". It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation. During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning.

You're probably wondering why I began with an introduction to Ramadan, one of the reasons is I'm fasting with my boyfriend Karim. I believe this is my third or fourth year participating in the fast. Although I am a non-Muslim I still do the fast to support Karim in his practice of his religion and also because I think the principles behind it are sound. It's so easy to get lost in this crazy world, especially with Sarah Palin and John McCain bamboozling voters in key battle ground states. After eight years of Republican rule, a struggling economy, and major corporations getting bailed out, I can't understand how folks still believe that Republicans have all the answers to our nations problems. While this political season has my stomach turning, this blog isn't going to be about politics, there are more than enough people on the right and left jabbing each other.

Today marks my 16th day of fasting. Besides being hungry I've been focused on the activities I've been involved in. Somehow how I managed to keep my energy up enough for rehearsals of Anton in Show Business (opens 10/10/08 at the Oddfellows Playhouse and then moving to the Little Theater in New Haven for the following two weekends), continue with preproduction on After the Headlines, and other miscellaneous projects (staged reading of Return to Darfur). It's a lot and with only two meals a day I find myself focusing on these items that much more.

Last Wednesday, I had my first read-through with the cast of After the Headlines. We met at the Weist Studios (
www.weistbarron.com) in New York City. I had an opportunity to connect with the cast and get their feedback on the script. It was so cool to hear the words come alive by actors. It really moved me as well as reminded me why I decided to write this story and go out on a limb to produce the film myself. As the deadline gets closer my anticipation builds, I still can't believe I'm producing a film and in a little over a month will be directing it. Thank God, film is a collaborative process. I'm getting a lot of help from a lot of people. The actors are working for free, and most of the key crew positions reduced their rates or are doing it pro-bono! The fact that I have people willing to go the extra mile for me reinforces that they believe in the project and my ability to see it though. Come hell or high water (no pun attended) I will get through it.It's hard trying to pull things together, but like I said I have a team of folks who are supporting me.

Today, a couple of my colleagues asked about Anton in Show Business, they wanted to make sure they get fliers so they can come and support the show. While it adds to the stage fright, its good to know people want to support me.

As disgusting as the world can seem at times, it's in my fasting, my work, my family, and in my relationship, that I realize the potential I have. It's never easy taking on a project or in my case projects. However, getting things together is my calling and I'm crossing my fingers that the ends will justify the means.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

13 to the Finish Line

This last week I've been eagerly waiting the results of the American Gem Literary Festival (http://www.filmmakers.com/contests/short/) and the results are finally in. Out of the Box, a script I co-wrote with Lawrence King came in thirteenth place. It was not the stellar finish I hoped for, I really would have liked to finish in the top ten. Oh well, it just reinforces that I've still got a ways to go as a screenwriter. There were 25 finalists in total and this was my first time making it to the finals, so I'm still proud of my effort.

Now where to go from here. Right now I'm in the midst of rehearsals for Anton in Show Business, the play will open next month October 10, 2008. The work in this play is definitely challenging me and at times I've felt discouraged, the cast is a group of seasoned thespians, which I'm not and I feel like the little fish in a little pond. But then I tell myself bad rehearsals are part of the learning process and that I can do this. I guess I just need to believe in myself a little more and practice, practice, practice.

It's hard to find focus because I'm also in pre-production for After the Headlines, which will shoot a few weeks after I finish the play. Boy, do I know how to pack it in. I took this semester off to focus on my thesis, but I won't be able to realistically do that until the end of November, beginning of December, a month from when I'm supposed to finish my last semester in Western Connecticut's State University' (http://www.wcsu.edu/writing/mfa//). I will also be in post-production for the After the Headlines. It's going to be a hectic time, with so much to still do.

Looking forward, one good thing I see is that I will end 2008 with my focus back on screenwriting. I don't want to lose the headway I've been making. I feel like I'm getting better at telling visual stories and that is at the heart of what I need to continue to do, to succeed as a screenwriter. There is so much competition out there. I didn't realize how much until I started submitting to screenwriting competitions.

With all these competitions, seminars, workshops, and readings, I also need to find time to network and promote myself. I did a little of that this past Friday. I attended a preview screening for the feature independent film London Betty (http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=1956440184). My sis Dawn (a film lover and tough critic), who was down for the holiday weekend tagged along. Neal Thomassen the director of photography (DP) for London Betty will also DP my short film. I had an opportunity to connect with some people I've worked with on previous projects as well as meet some new contacts. That is always good, but time will tell if things are topan out for other projects.

When I think of everything that's on my plate and what I need to do, I get overwhelmed. I'm probably have given myself more gray hairs in the process. Let me take a moment and breath.....hmmn, that feels better. While my nervous energy has not completely subsided, I have to accept that everything I go through is to help make me a stronger individual and hopefully a better artist. I have to keep on tryin until I'm flyin.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Published in NYWIC enewsletter


Hello all,


Outside of my blog, here's my latest writing assignment published online. Scroll about half-way down to find my write-up.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Winding Down but Busier than Ever

Is it just me, or are the nights in Connecticut, and for the Northeast in general, a little cooler than usual. On Monday Morning, I opted to go for a jog in my neighborhood rather than to the gym and boy did I feel the fall chill. The temperature was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes. I'm so not ready for winter. I know I still have to make it through fall, but something in my gut tells me that if we have an Indian summer, it will be short-lived.

Regardless of what the weather brings I will be a busy bee this fall. At work, I'm gearing up for one of the agency's signature events, the 2008 Foster Parent Conference. After that, I'll be working on media publicity for National Adoption Month, which also might mean plans for a local event on National Adoption Day (November 22, 2008).

Outside of work, I'm in rehearsals for Anton in Show Business (opens October 10 at the Oddfellows Playhouse, Middletown, Connecticut for the first weekend and then moves to the Little Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut for the last two weekends). I'm also in pre-production for After the Headlines, a short film I wrote and will direct. Producing a film, even a short film is really time consuming, luckily I have good people helping me me out, thanks, Brandy, Lawrence and others. It's hectic because I'm still trying to secure locations and a couple of key crew positions, but somehow it will get done, it just has to. But before the play and film shoot, I somehow managed to squeeze in a staged reading of If Not You, written by Vonda Kindall (an alumina of Western Connecticut's MFA Professional Writing program) and sponsored by the NY Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at a top-secret location in NYC (think premium cable) in September. And then there are the birthday celebrations for friends I have to attend. It's a whole lot. I just hope I can do it all and execute it well.

Sometimes I wonder why I take so much on, but then I realize this is the dream. So, I've got to give it my best, besides I really enjoy the process, stress aside. I guess I just worry that I'm stretching myself to thin. My boyfriend Karim seems to think I do that, there's a good chance he's right, but at the end of the day, I do what I do, because I think it's helping me get to the next level and I hope the end results will justify my means.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pursuing the Dream this weekend

On Saturday, I helped out the Dark Embrace Film team with the production of The Short Con, written and directed by Elvis Diaz, a resident of New London. This weekend marked the second week of production for the cast and crew. Initially, I was suppose to show-up Friday night, but Lawrence, founder and one of the producers of The Short Con, forgot to send me the location information. It worked out in the end, I was physically spent and needed to go home to recouperate. I haven't gotten much sleep this week, I've had rehearsals for a play, a staged reading (which I had to learn an African accent for, I was a refugee from Darfur), and had to set-up a pre-production meeting for the film I plan to shoot in November - all this plus my nine to five. It was a lot.

After the staged reading, I called Lawrence to remind him that he forgot to send me the information and that I couldn't make it to the shoot. I told him that I could be there most of the day on Saturday and he was cool with that. It was going to be a 8:30 a.m. crew call in New London, Connecticut. I was not looking forward to the drive, but since I'm also a producer on the film I wanted to be there to show my support to Elvis and help out.

When I spoke to Lawrence, he said things went pretty well the weekend before, there were a few issues, but those issues were dealt with. I still had my reservations about the day and didn't know what to expect. I just hoped I wasn't walking into a production train wreck. I did not, Elvis ran a tight ship. The cast and crew were great. Elvis hired a few student filmmakers, who came to the set with heart and professionalism. This is a blessing, especially when it's an ultra low-budget and you can't afford to pay most of the crew. Everyone did a stellar job including the actors. At the end of the night I didn't want to leave, but I had to tend to other plans I made.

There were moments when I can look back and know a few things could have been better organized, there was to much down time at times, we didn't have a needed prop (luckily they were able to use my purse), or no special effects make-up to create a scar and bruises when we needed it. But that can happen when you shoot on an ultra-low budget and don't cross all your T's or dot all your I's. These mistakes help everyone to learn and hopefully that won't happen a second time around. If the crew is good and takes notes it usually doesn't.

There was also some icing on the cake. I had planned on leaving at six due to dinner plans, but those plans were cancelled at the last minute and it was to my benefit. I'm glad I stuck around to meet Michael Naughton, a staff writer from The Day, a New London newspaper and Tim Martin, a staff photojournalist. Tim and Michael were great. Both men came to capture the story of a writer/director who is trying to live his dream. They spent a good deal of time talking to Elvis, Lawrence, and other crew members including myself. Earlier today, I made sure to thank them via email for their time (note: always thank people for their time, it's the curtious thing to do and people remember it.)

I'm really excited because this will be a great addition to the press kit when we begin submitting The Short Con to film festivals. This is just the beginning. I can't wait to see a rough cut of the film. We get better with each film we do and that gives me hope for when I direct After the Headlines. Right now I'm going crazy trying to secure some locations and crew, luckily I have my actors (all of whom I worked with before, YEAH).

The story should be out later this week. It will be interesting to see how Michael shapes the piece. I'm looking forward to it no matter how big or small, after all this is free publicity. I consider the whole cast and crew lucky to have received this opportunity.

In the meantime, I keep chasing my dreams.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hooray: I'm Finally a Finalist

I have some good news to share. The American Gem Literary Festival and Wright Brothers have announced their finalists and my short script Out of the Box (co-written with Lawrence King) has finally made the cut. The literary festival accepted submissions in the following categories: short screenplay, short story, story treatment, and logline. I'm a finalist in the short screenplay and logline categories.

Last week I was feeling down because I had two rejections from film festivals for my feature, Finding Patience. I realize and accept that rejection is an unfortunate part of the writing process. However, this announcement puts steam back into my engine.I wrote the first draft of this script four years ago and have submitted to this competition in the past, but I have only made it to either the quarter or semi-finalist round.

When I received coverage on the script I always reworked it and tried to address my script's flaws. To date, I have done at least 20 revisions. Practice does make perfect.

I also want to give credit and thanks the students in my online multi-genre workshop from the Spring 2007 semester. The feedback theygave me was extremely instrumental in my last couple of revisions of the script.

One of the lessons that Western Connecticut's Professional Writing MFA program constantly reinforces is that when you have a story to tell, write it. I also have to believe in, as well as be a champion of my work. After the script, manuscript, or article is finished, I have to show due diligence in getting my story out in the world. I'm constantly working on that and it takes a lot of energy, but at the end of the day it is up to me and no one else.Who knows if I'll win or place in this competition, but for me, being a finalist is proof that I just have to keep writing.

Aaliyah

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Wire: Up Close and Personal


Many blog entries back, I mentioned some of my favorite shows. There are shows that I really enjoy viewing like Weeds, Dexter, Prison Break, Law and Order, October Road (I hope it comes back in the fall), and Ugly Betty. These shows make my top ten. But then there are shows that really knock my socks off, because they go beyond only having entertainment value, these shows seek to look at the past, may offer a perspective on a key figure in history or challenge viewers by addressing social issues that plague society . I'm talking about shows like The Tudors, Mad Men, and my personal favorite The Wire.

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the creator, a couple of it's writers, and a select group of actors from the critically acclaimed HBO series. About two weeks ago I received an email from Film in the City, they send me a bi-weekly e-newsletter with film reviews, entertainment job listings, and film screening or networking events in New York City. Listed was the panel discussion with the creator of The Wire, to be held at The Times Center, on 241 West 41 Street. The cost of the event was $20. I knew I had to be in the audience and put it on my calendar.

I had two reasons to go. The first is I'm a fan, the second was that I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and pitch a short script I wrote to one of the writers after the panel. You never know, right. So I headed down to the city after work. I made good time until I hit Manhattan, as usually it was a mess, I almost got hit by a city bus, but thanks to fast reflexes and fear of another car accident I dodged that Goliath. Eventually, I found parking. I decided to park on 38th, because that's where I know I can park after seven without getting a ticket or towed.

I made it to the theater about fifteen minutes late, the place was packed, and on the screen was a video with cast, crew, and critics talking about the making of The Wire. The video gave an indepth behind the scenes look that was funny, serious, and heartwarming. After the video, the event continued with a panel discussion that included David Simon, the creator; Clark Johnson, a contributing writer, director of various episodes, and actor in the series; Richard Pierce, a contributing writer; actor Wendell Pierce (Det. William 'Bunk' Moreland); actor Clark Peters (Det. Lester Freamon ); and actor Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver).

After the panel discussion was over I hung out in the lobby hoping I would have an opportunity to approach Clark Johnson. My first chance was a no-go, he got hit up by fans who wanted autographs, then he headedd over to a reporter and cameraman to be interviewed. I patiently waited. Once his interview finished I made my move, but was then cut off by a woman and her son. I wasn't giving up. I waited again and when they were finished and I made my pitch.

Needless to say, my dreams weren't answered. Mr. Johnson explained that he couldn't take my script. He was very cool about the whole thing. He took the time to ask me where I was from and told me that even though he can't look at my script, I shouldn't give it up. I won't. While I didn't think about it at the time, I have a feeling that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has a policy where screenwriters can only solicit scripts through agents or managers. If I'm right he would be jeopardizing his own bread and butter and I wouldn't want that. It wasn't a complete lost. I did get to give him my business card and he did give me his email and let me know that if I had any questions from one writer to another, he would do his best to answer them.

I did email him. After cornering Mr. Johnson like I did, I felt I needed to thank him for his time. I wasn't sure if I even wrote down his email correctly and didn't expect to get a response. I'm pleased to report that I did get a response. Today actually. It was short and sweet, but Mr. Johnson took the time to write me back and I think that means a lot. It didn't turn out like I envisioned, but I took a chance. I'm still surprised I had the balls to go up to him and I'm glad I did. I'm going to have to take chances and that was my first of many.

Now I have to get back to the work, the writing, because at the end of the day it's all about a good, well-written, and character-driven story. While I'm getting better, I've still got a ways to go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Final Curtain


A great big thanks goes out to all the people who came to see No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs. I really appreciate the support. It's the fuel that keeps my fire burning.

Last night was my last performance for the off-off-Broadway production of No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs. I took my final bow and yes I made it through the hectic and challenging 15-show run. Despite the stress from rushing from my job to the city, the road rage, tickets, towing and last week's accident, I can still say with all my heart that this was an enriching experience. Performing in front of an audience five nights a week brought out a different energy in me. It felt great to be back on stage. The support and the feedback I received from friends and family was also really positive, which caught me off-guard.

Before I began this endeavor I had moments when I doubted myself or felt like I was getting in over my head, but now I
can look back and see that when I really want something all I need to do is trust in myself and rely on the support of my inner circle.

Last week, I went online and Googled the play. I came across a couple of reviews. The first I read was from Backstage (a publication for actors in NYC and LA), which wasn't a spectacular review for the show. However, Irene Backalenick, the reviewer, did give credit to the strong performances.

"With a small makeshift stage and uneven casting, the show falters. Yet, the black family is so faithfully portrayed that one becomes deeply involved in their fates. Fine performances are offered not only by Mitchell but also by Patrick Mitchell as her husband and Aaliyah Miller and Skai Konya as their daughters."

I wasn't expecting that accolade but it felt good to receive the acknowledgment. It made me smile from the inside out, so much in fact that I had to send it to all my family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else on my email list. Positive recognition is a great reinforcement when an actor can get it, especially when you don't anticipate it.

I know some of my close friends and family thought I was crazy for commuting back and forth from Connecticut to New York City to do this play. They might have been right, but I felt this was an opportunity that I couldn't and shouldn't pass up. For me, it was worth it. I feel like I got back three-fold from the experience. Not only did I get to perform, but I got to know a great group of talented people that I will be able to network with in the future.
Now that the play is done, I have to move forward. I feel bitter-sweet about the whole thing.

Since beginning this play, another thing that has been reinforced to me is that I must continue to keep a few projects in motion and maintain my focus for the bigger picture. While things have taken off on an acting front, I feel a bit disappointed on the writing front. I received a couple of rejection emails last week from script competitions I entered. Although I have moments of self-doubt, I remind myself that it isn't always a matter of being talented (which I still question if I am). Sometimes I just think I'm a hard worker who refuses to give in. I believe I will figure it out the more I continue to write and act.

Whether I'm writing or acting, the reality is I will get a hell of lot more rejections than yeses. I read somewhere where it's like a thousand nos before than one life changing yes. Damn, I guess it's good that I have more time to focus on my next set of goals. It is time to exercise my writing muscle again. I have a couple of stories in my head that I need to get onto paper. While I wait for more rejection letters I need to keep busy, that way I don't think about the rejections.

On a positive note, I'm please to report that I'll be in another play, Anton in Show Business. It's a comedy and I'll be working with a new group of actors.
I'm looking forward to the project. This play will be a lot easier on my schedule, since rehearsals and performances will be in New Haven, CT. Performances are scheduled for three weekends in October.

In the meantime I must keep telling myself that success is possible. Dream big and start small.




Monday, July 21, 2008

Second Week Done with One More To Go


How time flies. The second week run of the No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs is done. It's still hard to believe that I'm heading into the final week of performances. The cast and crew had another great run. There was one back stage mishap, but like professionals we pulled it off, because as they say, "The show must go on, " and as a cast we made sure it did. My highlight last week had to be the Saturday night performance, although I also must say that Sunday's audience really embraced the show. Don't think I'm speaking bad about other audiences who have come to see the play- I'm not. I'm greatful for every person who attends, it's just that some audiences feel the performances more than others.


I had a lot of people come out to see the play on Saturday, and that made me nervous, more nervous than I usually get. For the most part I just focus on what I need to do as my character, run my lines, and wait for Julia, the stage manager to say, "Places." However, this past Saturday night, I couldn't help but wonder if my friends would like the play, get the message, and think I can act. I find that family and friends can be one's toughest critics, which is why I try to be low-key when I'm acting in something or writing a script. The fear of reaction is real for me, while I know it can't stop my ambitions, it can sometimes be a stumbling block, if I let it.


I couldn't wait to take a bow Saturday night. It's the best moment, because that is when my work is officialy recognized. After the performance, I made sure to thank Karim, his friends, and last but not least, my girlfriends for their attendance. Everyone congratulated me and told me how much they enjoyed the play. That was nice to hear.


This blog wouldn't be complete if I failed to mention on Friday evening and hour before the show I got hit by a New York City yellow cab. The cab driver was in a lane to go straight. I was in a turning lane. Of course without any signal he decides to turn right with me and pins me into the curb. Police officers where quick to the scene since they were giving parking tickets right on 38th Street, which is the reason I moved my car (I was already parked). I planned to circle the block until 7 PM when I could officially park. Oh well, now I have to deal with the insurance company and pray that it doesn't go on my record. I also need to call to get a copy of the police report. Isn't life grand? LOL.


Luckily, I have today and tomorrow off. If I didn't have a nine to five job to go to, a short article on film screenings in the NYC area to write, or the fact that I have to start thinking about pre-production of, After the Headlines, a short film I wrote, and will produce and direct this fall, I actually might be able to feel relaxed and catch up. No rest for the weary - something I will be saying to myself for a while. Rather than think about all the things I need to get done, I'll just focus on the things I can do - one at a time of course.


One more week to go. It's going to be bitter sweet.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Opening Week Done


Hello all,

I'm proud to say I made it through opening week. I just kept counting down to Friday, because I knew I had the day off and would be able to sleep in late. It made a difference, but I'm still tired and probably will be until the end of the show. I will take the next two days to try and recover before it starts all over again.
It didn't hit me until right before I went on that "Oh my God, this is for real. I'm in a play." I tried not to think about it most of the week and even when I was driving to the city for rehearsals, it still didn't seem like a big deal. That feeling changed when I stepped on stage. Theater is a big deal and the ability to hold an audience's attention and tell a story is exhilarating. I was nervous and kept going over my lines off stage, but once I stepped onto the stage I was Joyce Cheeks, in Halifax, North Carolina.
The cast has come together nicely and I am proud of all of us. Truth be told we still miss a line here and there, or a cue, but wereally pick up for one another when it counts. I look forward to the next two weeks of performances, because I believe we will get stronger with each show. Each time I perform I feel something different and I react different which helps keep the character fresh for me and hopefully the audience.
This has been a wonderful experience and I am so glad to have this opportunity. It's going to stay with me for a long time and I believe it will help me in my writing and hopefully maybe lead to other opportunities on the stage. As good as I feel today, I do have to report a few drawbacks of my experience (they have nothing to do with the great cast and crew).
On Saturday, after I left the theatre I went to my car and found it not there. It was towed. I couldn't believe it. Thank goodness for my girlfriend Catherine, who has agreed to let me stay with her during rehearsals and some nights during the run of the show. She picked me up at 96th Street and Broadway. The next day I had to pay a whopping $185 to get my car out of the impound, plus I have an additional $110 ticket for a parking violation. I'm so mad at myself because I always park on 38th, but this time I decided to park on 39th (just so I would be in the direction I wanted to head to the car wash on the West Side), thinking it had the same parking rules as 38th Street. Boy, was I wrong and it's going to cost me. I thought about protesting the ticket, but it's not worth my time or the gas going to traffic court in Brooklyn, NYC. I will chalk it up as a lesson learned and try not to think about the fact that my towing fees and fines could have been a mini-vacation somewhere or been spent in a more useful way for me.
With all that said, I still look forward to this week's run. I have some friends coming to support which makes me feel really good yet nervous. Friends can sometimes be the toughest critics. Oh well, I'll just focus on hitting my lines and doing the best job I can. Everything that went wrong for me this weekend is in the past. I just need those checks to clear so I can forget my parking problems ever happened.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two Days and Counting


I know it's been a while since my last blog. Forgive me, I've been preoccupied. Someone famous (who I can't remember) once said, "There are no good excuses," and normally I would agree with that, but this time I actually think I have one, at least in this case.

Rather then comment on news or my random thoughts on life, I've been busting my buns to memorize my lines for the upcoming production of No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs (opens July 9, 2008, 8 p.m. at Nicu Spoon's Theatre located on 38 W 38th Street between 5th and 6th). For the actors reading this, we all know the real work can't begin until you get your lines down. I've been drudging along in the process for the last two weeks. While I have my lines memorized, there are moments when I just blank on a line or miss a cue. I'm still trying to get past those mishaps with two days to the show opening.

I'm not nervous as of yet. I sure my nervous energy will hit me right before the curtain call, but as soon as things go in motion I usually settle and focus at the task at hand which will be making it through the scene, one scene at a time. I'm really excited about this performance. It's been almost four years since I last stepped foot on a stage. When I took my full-time job at Casey it was one of my creative endeavors that I put on the back burner. I made the decision to get a steady check and some benefits rather then live as a starving artist. Being a starving artist may be chic in your early twenties, but at 25 plus it is a dangerous proposition, especially with the state of the U.S economy. It was a hard to choice to make, but I'm glad I did it.

Yeah it's taken me four years to get back to a passion I've never truly let go of, but there is also something to be said for being able to pay my bills on time, treat myself to a vacation, and know I have money put away for retirement. I don't think I ever really gave it up on my creative interests, I just changed how I approached getting back to them. Deciding to do this play hasn't been easy, it's a sacrifice on my time, loved ones in my life, and financially (driving back and forth and parking in NYC is enough to make me gag) and say "Why am I doing this?" But here's my answer, "When I'm lucky enough to go see a play, I always think to myself, remember when you were last on stage. Yeah it was stressful but the thrill made it all worth it. Going to see plays reminds me of that thrill I'm missing. I envy the actors on stage. Do I want to be spending $$$ to fill up my tank or put wear and tear on my car (thank God I have a Honda Civic), of course not, but there is something about the thrill of being on stage that makes it all worth it. It's a beautiful thing to take someones words, bring them to life in a theatre and hopefully captivate an audience. It's magical and I love knowing that I'm a part of the magic.

In life we need to pay the bills, however we should also try to do what we love. True success comes from doing the things we love to do. I hope to professionally make a living as a screenwriter and performer, but in the meantime I'll continue to write as well as relish my participation in No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs, and other future creative opportunities that come my way.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another year older

On Sunday, June 22, 1978 I will be another year older. This year I'm celebrating the big 3-0. I remember being 16 and thinking it was light years away, but alas it's not, it's only 1.5 days away. The years have come and went and I look at myself and say, "Is this where I thought I was going to be."

With gas prices pushing $4.50, and a recession looming, I consider myself blessed. I have a job, health benefits, a car to drive, and a roof over my head (even if I still live at home). There are many Americans who don't have these things. When I think about the disasterous rains and tornedos that have hit the mid-west, I realize many individuals from that region of the country have lost some of the things I just mentioned. Life can be so fragile and if we're not careful it can be gone in an instant. I don't know about you, but Tim Russert's death competely caught me off guard. None of us really ever know, do we?

Am I where I thought I would be? No, but I'm definitely in a better place than I was five years ago. I feel like I can see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I have to thank my family (Dawn and Esther), my circle of friends, my boyfriend Karim, and some mentors who've come into my life. I'm really thankful for the mentors because they believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I'm finally starting to see the fruits of my labor, especially with the screenwriting and I'm even getting back into acting. Who knew?

Turning 30 is tough for many different reasons, but it is not as bad as people make it out to be. Years ago, it used to be the end of the road for a woman. Your life was over if you weren't married with kids. I know some cultures still subscribe to this belief, but I'm glad it's not how I was raised. I'll admit, I used to think turning 30 was the end of the world. It's not, the world around me has changed and will continue to change. I have to stand guard and be ready for some of those changes and do my best to embrace them.

I'm glad to say I made it another year and that turning 3o isn't that bad, life could be much worse. Just watch the news and you'll know what I mean.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Verdict in: R. Kelley Not Guilty

Although I am not surprised, I still have to say I'm disgusted by the not-guilty verdict for R. Kelley. I hope that I'm never arrested, but if I am, it better only be for political reasons. If I wind up having to deal with our judicial system like many folks of color, my only hopes of staying free while charged and avoiding years of hard labor in lock up is having a bank account with zeros that seem to never end. It's no secret that money buys justice in the United States.

R. Kelly was quoted as saying the following in Jennifer Vineyard's article, "Robert has said all along that he believes in the system, and he believes in God, and when the facts would be presented in court, he would be cleared," Kelly spokesman Allan Mayer said afterward. "He did not expect it to take six years. This has been a terrible ordeal for him and his family. He wants to move forward and put it behind him. He thanks his fans, and he thanks God. He'll have more to say very soon, but right now, he needs time to be with his family."

Now R. Kelly can focus on reclaiming his title as the "King of R&B," and his supporter can go back to buying his records and seeing his shows. I never went to an R. Kelly concert and never will. I won't see hear and say I'll never listen to his songs, but when I hear them I'll always think about this case and his trial. I saw the video and still believe him to be guilty, but like OJ he's a free man. Articles on the web also indicate that prosecution's witnesses were weak, which gave the jury reasonable doubt. In essence the case had a lot of flaws from the beginning and R. Kelly benefited from all of them.

There's a saying that a "leopard doesn't change its spots," if your like me and believe that saying, you know that perverts, pedophiles, and molesters offend until they get caught. Time will tell and in the meantime life goes on.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sold on Sex

Hello all,

I'm sure most of you are sold on the idea of sex, if not for the enjoyment, probably for the continuation of the human race. However, I'm not talking about the act, at least not directly, I'm talking about the movie, Sex and the City. The film had hype over a year ago when it was announced that the hit HBO series would tie up all the loose ends with a film. I've have to admit I was a disbeliever, yeah, I loved the show, hell I envisioned my life being like the show after college (boy was I naive), but with the gossip of squabbles on the film set and a very long hiatus I didn't think it would hit. And I sure wasn't going to see it.

I was wrong on both accounts. Yes, I did see Sex and the City this past opening weekend (with my mom and sister) and boy did it hit big. It hit 55 million dollars big, knocking Indian Jones to second place with a strong finish of 46 million dollars for it's second weekend. But like the industry analysts I under estimated "girl power" at the box office. Not only did I under estimate the power of the female dollar, I forgot how much I loved the show, a show that changed the way women of all ages talked about sex, relationships, money, and fashion.

Don't worry I'm not going to spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it yet. There will be no talk of plot and story in this blog. Instead I'm going to talk about the impact the show has had in my life. But before I go on, I will say that Sex in the City is a chick flick that hits on all the emotions woman look for in a good film. I laughed, I cried, and of course I admired the fashion. Everyone looked New York chic. Men be wary, that is unless you are a gay man or a fan of the show.

Seeing the film, reminded me why I fell in love with the show in the first place. I wanted what the characters Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha wanted- love and success - and in their case I also envied their great jobs and fabulous wardrobes. Like many women, I saw bits of myself and my girlfriends in these characters.

The movie has helped me to gage where I'm at with obtaining some of my goals. I still don't have a pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahnik's in my closet and probably won't unless I find them on a clearance rack at DSW, but now my success is not defined in such material terms. Reality has forced me to down grade on some of my more narcissistic and idealist expectations in life. I haven't gotten rid of them all, but now that I'm almost 30 I feel like I much more reasonable.

I was inspired by the film. I love it when television and film has that effect on me, but when I think about it, the newly found inspiration I've found comes from a lot of things taking place in my life. Family, friends, a significant other, mentors, and co-workers (present and past) have helped me to get where I am today. I think viewing the film reminded me to look at those around me. I know real life doesn't have Hollywood happy endings, but that doesn't mean life isn't worth living.

At this moment, I feel like life is something to look forward to (which may change). I feel potential both within me and around me. What I get out of life is up to me. Do I have the commitment to never give up on myself or my goals? I think I do. I mean, yes, I do, of course. And although up until yesterday I was a disbeliever when it came the impact and influence of Sex and the City on the lives of women, now I'm sold and maybe you will be too.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

RESPECT Hip Hop

Hey people of the world,

I know, I've been on a mad long hiatus. I have to say it's been for a good reason. The last few weeks I've been swamped with meeting deadlines for assignments in my MFA program. I'm proud to report that I've finished the semester, hopefully with good grades. I will know in a couple of weeks. I kept telling myself I need to jump back in and write another blog but I wasn't ready. I needed a break from writing in general. I needed to free my mind, which a week vacation in Germany and Paris, France helped me to do. Yet, I still wasn't inspired to write on a subject. I'm feed up with the Democratic primary, oil companies using supply and demand to legitimize their profits, attacks on Rev. Wright, and Lord knows there are many others I can list.

That changed for me tonight. I was inspired again. For the last day and half I've been in Baltimore, Maryland. I came down here for a diversity council meeting with the organization I work for. I was looking forward to the trip because I hadn't visited my agency's Baltimore division. A couple days before I left for my trip I received an email about "The mis-Education About Hip Hop: Youth of Color's Post Civil Right's Movement," an event that RESPECT, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's internal affinity group planned for the community. RESPECT focuses on the role of issues, race, ethnicity, class, power, and all forms of oppression play in the communities the Foundation serves.

Attending the event meant I would have to stay an additional night, but I looked at it as an opportunity to learn more about the efforts of the Foundation and have some more time in the beautiful city of Baltimore.

The program had some heavy hitters as panelists. Speakers included Shaheem Reid, a young writer who is an integral part of the MTV news team, standing out as one of the most respected and informative voices in hip-hop journalism; Raymond Codrington, Ph.D., he manages the domestic and international racial equity seminars at the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community change and who is currently developing a youth focused curriculum around structural racism; Dr. Patricia Harper, president of the Youth Popular Cultural institute, Inc., her concentration is on innovative youth development and engagement and the transformation of basic research into applied technologies and culturally appropriate communications for children, youth, families, educators, businesses, and public health professionals; and Kevin Liles, an executive vice president at Warner Music group, following in the foot steps of his mentor Russell Simmons, Liles is a native of Baltimore who is dedicated to the education and training of under privileged youth as well as a board member of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, an organization that educates the hip-hop generation on social and political issues.

Rather than address some of the negative speak that accompanies Hip Hop, this panel choose to focus on the positive aspects of Hip Hop and its benefits in our (Black/African American/West Indian America) communities, especially in engaging young people and it's global impact. Conversations with the panelists were facilitated with moderator Siman Noor and then there was a period of questions and answers from the audience to the panel. I didn't know what to expect, but I was looking forward to the event. Although labeled a "white girl" or "Oreo" by many of my black peers growing up, I still consider myself a part of the Hip Hop generation. Today, you will still find me shaking a "tale feather" to Hip Hop/Rap/R&B music, but I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that some of the music is lackluster to me. I've lost respect for some of our current artists and feel that the evolution of Hip Hop's cultural movement is at a stand still. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to hear the conversation.

I'm glad I was part of this conversation. I consider myself to be lucky to have the opportunity to sit in on some intense dialogue centered around the benefits of Hip Hop music. Points by panelists were made that as a community we need to embrace and support the cultural phenomenon, that did not happen when the music hit the scenes in the early 1970's. It was dismissed as a fad and negated by the Black community's elders, our churches, and outsiders. Many failed to see that Hip Hop is a movement for social change in communities where, racism, injustice, and poverty are the norm. It's a vehicle to address these issues.

I'll be the first to admit that a lot of songs we hear on the radio have no social relevance, misogynous views of women, and propagate American materialism at its worse, but that was not the attention of Hip Hop, nor is it its future. I was reminded that even the "bad" songs can have a positive affect on Black communities if we gather as a community to talk about the implications of the music. We can't always see the negative, in order to make systematic changes in vulnerable communities of color we need to look at Hip Hop as a tool to help tackle the social issues that plague our communities.

Rappers are storytellers and Hip Hop is a continuation of the oral tradition that has benefited our communities since slave days. Young, old, rich, poor, Black, White, and all the colors in the rainbow are impacted by Hip Hop music. It's a cultural movement that should not be ignored. I was reminded that as an individual that I need to hold up its strengths and work to address it's weaknesses. We all need to be held accountable. It's easy to just blame the rappers, but America's and the world's problems were here long before folks started rapping about them. Lets look at ourselves. I'm not letting Jay-Z, Puffy, 50 Cent, Nelly, Ludacris, and other rappers off the hook because I believe they do have responsibilities to own up to, but then again so do I - we all do. I have to remind myself that not one of is perfect. The personal journey's we take to get to where we are in life affect us but they should not have to define us.

I hope you all are able to take something away from this very long blog. I know I feel a lot lighter haven written it. For those of you who are like me, striving to succeed at personal goals that some folks believe you should have given up a long time - don't concede to them or their ideas. Kevin Liles left me with some encouraging words, "Greatness meets greatness in time."

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Stroke of Luck

Hello All,

Today, I found the following story posted on Yahoo. I try to read as much as I can when it comes to screenwriting. This makes me think, finish the damn feature you're writing and get to your next script idea, because opportunities are out there. Enjoy.

New York subway worker in Hollywood's fast laneThursday March 27 8:45 AM ET
A New York City tollbooth worker in desperate need of a car wrote a crime thriller script titled "Brooklyn's Finest" last year. Now he finds himself rubbing shoulders with some of Hollywood's finest, including Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and director Antoine Fuqua.

Living in Brooklyn, Michael Martin had just totaled his car in an accident. While in physical therapy, he entered a screenwriting competition, hoping to win the prize money for his new set of wheels.

"I had never written a screenplay before," said Martin, who had studied film in college. "I thought, 'How hard can it be?' I was more like, 'If I win this, I can get a new car."'

His screenplay came in second but eventually ended up in a far better place: the doorstep of Warner Bros.-based producer who had been looking for a writer with an authentic and gritty voice to write a sequel to the 1991 gangbanger saga "New Jack City," which was in development at Warner Premiere, the studio's direct-to-DVD division. Impressed by "Finest," Mary Viola set out find the writer, who then had no agent.

Martin had moved out to L.A., staying at a downtown hotel, and hooked up with management representatives. He enjoyed a brief stint writing for Showtime's "Sleeper Cell," but homesickness overwhelmed him. He returned to New York and wound up back at the Transit Authority.
Meanwhile, in the hands of Viola, "Finest" became red hot, quickly attracting top talent. Gere and Cheadle are now polishing their badges to star in the ensemble police thriller, which Fuqua will direct for indie financier Millennium Films. Hawke is also coming on board to star, a move that will reteam him with Fuqua, who directed him to an Oscar nomination in "Training Day." Ellen Barkin is also booking a part.

The script almost brought Mel Gibson out of acting seclusion. He took a string of meetings, but things ultimately didn't work out.

The story, a sort of "Crash" meets "Training Day," is a dramatic ensemble with three intertwining story lines involving Brooklyn cops. "I worked for a bus company that got indicted by the Feds because of Mob connections," Martin said. "I could not have written 'Brooklyn's Finest' without that experience."

The movie is prepping for a May shoot in Brooklyn, in the very locations that inspired Martin to write the script. "Things are moving very fast right now. It's something I've been waiting a long time for," Martin said.

Fuqua's last movie was 2007's "Shooter," while Gere was last seen in Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There." Cheadle was in theaters last year with "Ocean's Thirteen" and "Talk To Me."
Martin, a new dad, was recently promoted to construction flagger within the Transit Authority, working inside the subway system. He is writing "New Jack City 2," often during his breaks in the subway tunnels.

He drives a new car.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oh Yeah My Weekend in Pennslyvannia



I bet you thought I was going to forget to write about my weekend in Pennsylvania. Well, I didn't. I guess I've been waiting for the right time to reflect. Since Pennsylvania is the next key state in the Democratic primary I thought I tie in some of my observations of the Keystone state.


Karim and I visited the Bischwind Bed and Breakfast in Bear Creek, Pennsylvania during Presidents weekend. Many visitors have credited Bischwind as being a jewel in the crown of the Pocono Mountains. It was built by Albert Lewis in 1886 and has been refurbished by the Von Dron/English families for almost four decades. The Bischwind rooms are filled with antiques and collectibles. We stayed in the Autumn room, which came with queen size bed, a private bathroom, bathrobes, T.V., and VCR.
There was still ice on the ground from a storm earlier in the week and although it rained most of the weekend, I treasured the silence and sereneness of the environment. Waking up to a breakfast with cut up honey melon and orange, cheese omelette's (didn't eat), croissants, sausage (didn't eat), orange juice and coffee, plus a selections of desserts was a treat for me. It was also nice not to have to make the bed, that wasn't a big deal for Karim, since he doesn't make his bed. The whole weekend was a treat. We had nice meals, visited an antique shop, and checked out some of the surrounding towns.
Driving through the Pennsylvania countryside was both beautiful and somber. There were moments when the scenery off the roadway took my breathe away, but I also was taken back by blue collar towns that hadn't recovered from the loss of manufacturing industries. Many of the plants in this area closed down in the 1970s and 1980s and respectively 30 years later there are no new jobs opportunities or economic growth. Signs of neglect were seen in the up keep of land and homes. Were these folks lazy and didn't care or did they not have the money to keep up their properties? Various areas reminded me parts of the Naugatuck Valley.
This weekend trip was a getaway for me. A chance for Karim and I to spend quality time together and block out the rest of the world. It's a luxury I can't take for granted. I used to think this was a perk to be expected by middle class families, however I'm not so sure. Rising gas prices, volatility in the market, and the strong possibility of a recession have been eating away at the middle class dollar. So many families struggle to pay rising energy costs to heat their homes, increases in health care costs, or necessities like food and clothing. There are no getaways for these folks.
This country just marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S invasion and occupation of Iraq. The end of that war is still not known and depending on who gets in office, our nation just may be in Iraq for another 100 years. How bad do things have to get here before middle-class Americans like myself take notice? Do we need another Hurricane Katrina? Does gas need to be five dollars a gallon? Does the U.S need to strike Iran, before we say enough is enough? While there are more government controls, our nations must vulnerable populations continue to fall through the cracks.
Although I'm glad I indulged in a weekend getaway, I realize that this is not a likely option for many Americans. We're working to hard and that work maybe taking our attention from the many problems that face this nation and affect our lives. Action on the crucial issues are long overdue and it's clear we can't expect government to lead the charge for much needed change. It's up to us, however, how many of us are ready for the charge?

Inside the Outsider: A Film Review of The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press

Below is a recent film review I wrote on the documentary The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press. The review can can also be viewed at www.mirandamagazine.com, an online literary website.

What were your thoughts on the review. I welcome any feedback.

Meet Louise “Gypsy Lou” Webb, now in her nineties and on a street somewhere in the French Quarter, she’s wearing her signature black beret, a dazzling red turtleneck, with an eccentrically trimmed black over shirt and holding a cane. She sees a building where she and her late husband Jon Edgar Webb used to live, and stops to point out a tid bit fact about how they ended up in New Orleans. As her story unfolds you come to learn what it meant to be an outsider and how it affected artists like the Webbs.

New Orleans is the backdrop in Wayne Ewing’s, documentary, The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press. A city rich in history and architecture that is also known, as a southern mecca for food, music, and art was a haven for Louise and Jon as well as other artists. Ewing gives a brief historical perspective that touches on the reasons why New Orleans became a stomping ground for so many writers through the 1940s to the 1960s.


The story is easy to follow, the tone is bland, but don’t let that deceive you into thinking there’s nothing to draw you in. There are many interesting characters in this documentary and you’ll be introduced to them through Gypsy Lou. Ninety something and with a sharp, steadfast memory she strongly carries this film and is its heart and soul.

According to Louise, artists in New Orleans could live how they wanted to live; they made their own rules and did what they wanted to do. Through interviews, photos, and old film footage you’ll see that the Webbs were full-time artists who sacrificed for their art and lived “free.”

During the day she peddled watercolor painting on the sidewalks in the French Quarter. A local newspaper reporter nicknamed her “Gypsy Lou” because of her unconventional style or clothing. She welcomed the title. It suited her. At home, she and John worked long tiresome hours to publish Loujon Press in their cramped apartment. They produced books by Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller as well as edited and published the literary review the Outsider, an alternative to mainstream literature. She and Jon kept this routine for 19 years; taking their work with them when they relocated to other cities.

Gypsy Lou’s poignant memories of her late husband illustrate the depth and passion they both had for their craft. The two were inseparable and dedicated to one another. Jon, a short story writer, learned how to use a printing press during a three-year prison sentence, where he edited and published The New Day, a prison newspaper. After his release, Dial Press published his novel, Four Steps to the Wall and he made money on the side writing for detective magazines, but in 1961 his vision for the Beats and other literary outsiders became a reality with 3,000 copies of the Outsider, the first edition totaling 125 pages.

An examination of the craftsmanship of Louise and Jon’s work on the Outsider and other publications is also incorporated into the film. Professor Steve Miller, who teaches hand press publishing production at the University of Alabama, shows a printing press that was the same type Jon and Louise used. Today, students at the university learn the basics of printing on the same machine. Commentary from students and printing experts drive the point home that Louise and Jon exhibited an acute attention to detail and worked long hours to create their literary masterpieces.

There are many areas this documentary can delve into, but Ewing directorial instincts keep the film on track. The film maintains its focus on its narrator, Louise Webb and the history of publishing literary works like the Outsiders.

For those viewers who may be familiar with this subject, this documentary pays homage to Louise and Jon Webb, two dynamic, prolific, self-publishing artists, who set the bar high, for which they will be remembered. For those of you who come to the documentary with little or no knowledge of this subject, you’ll gain insight to Loujon Press, its founders, their history, and what it meant to be an outsider.