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Archive for the ‘The Film’

This Is

March 29, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Filmmaking, Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation, The Film, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking, Video

Whenever I feel afraid–and for me fear is always about the lack of control over my responsibilities, like not having a job so I can pay my bills–I gather my “totems” (usually books) and place them all around me, like a child playing with blocks on the floor. I set my mind to “accomplishing.” “Today I’ll read from each of these books and by the end of the day or middle of the day I’ll know what to do.” At least there’s a chance I might feel better…

In the last several months I have applied to hundreds of jobs and gotten responses from less than ten. My resume, if you haven’t seen it, is fairly extraordinary. I’ve done some amazing things and worked at a lot of impressive places and done well there, so it’s shocking to me that I have been passed over so many times. It is certainly wearing me down. Maybe that’s why I’ve thrown myself headlong into this film about coal–to keep my mind and body occupied so I won’t dissolve into despair. Truly, despair isn’t very “me,” but this economic crisis time is strange and powerful enough that I wouldn’t be shocked about a lot of shocking things happening all around me.

Last night I finished Isabel Allende’s beautiful, funny memoir “The Sum of Days.” Its a reflection of the lives of her family members in the thirteen or so years since her daughter, Paula, died. Isabel is looking at her “tribe” and trying to make sense of her own life and choices in the face of everything that happens within the group. Not surprisingly the book is gorgeously written and very candid. I like books like that most of all. I don’t see a need for hiding, especially the raw and ugly stuff. My greatest emotional liberations have come when I admitted I did something and then apologized for it.

Today is rainy and so I can’t work out in the newly cleared garden. Nik was here over the weekend and helped me rake. By being gentle, she first motivated me to not be afraid of starting the garden project. She sees, even this early in our relationship, how much starting something new sometimes scares me. My mind works in an odd way with new projects–I have no trouble starting, I just sometimes have trouble feeling it’s okay to start. I worry that if I’m starting this new thing it means I’m taking time away from finishing something else, but, truly, I’ve never had a problem getting things done. When I was little Mom said that Michael would never start his projects and I would never finish mine. She was talking about homework, but it’s a good analogy. πŸ˜‰ My first therapist–the great Joan in NYC–thought for a while that I might be ADD, but I shrugged that notion off. I’m not ADD, I’m just organized. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, so I had a block about starting the garden project that I think was fear of being alone. I think I shy away from some tasks or projects because I’m afraid of doing them all alone, when that’s usually how things end up anyway. I always do my projects alone.I don’t want to all the time, but that’s what happens. People aren’t as motivated or passionate as I about getting something done and done well, so I end up working alone. TV I can handle in this way, more domestic-like projects I guess are tougher. This is something I’m trying very hard to work on in meditation: to be okay with the journey being largely or occasionally solitary. The motivating, mind-opening phrase is “the path is the goal.” Isn’t that marvelous?

Right out of college, after only one year, I gave up on acting as a career because I saw quickly that I wouldn’t be able to make a living from it, and that I’d have to do A LOT of bad work and work with bad people until I finally found something fun. But then that fun would only last three months at best. The thought that I’d have to look for work every three months was enough to make me understand that there was much more to life than that kind of suffering.Β  So I moved to television… πŸ˜‰ A much more satisfactory metier…

My meditation practice, and Isabel’s way of writing, focuses on staying right where you are and looking at THAT, just that and nothing else. Don’t let your mind wander. Isabel has this wonderful paragraph toward the end of the book where she describes the abusive inner monologue that greets her every morning: “Don’t eat the bread, do you think the weight will fall off by itself? You’ve been writing for over twenty years and still you haven’t learned anything…” etc. I don’t do that to myself, I’m much kinder about my accomplishments, but I do tend to think of my world too small. I forget where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’ll be going soon and allow myself, instead, to get caught up with “what if?” Dreaming. Dreaming when we’re asleep is fine, but “What if” doesn’t exist and has no value when we’re awake. Only “this is” has value, only the knowledge of love has value, and so today I will try to stay in the present, learn something, and reflect on all the love in my life. That’s enough for one day.

The Christmas Crazies

December 27, 2009 By: admin Category: Coal, Cooking, Filmmaking, Food, The Film, Video

Ever since arriving on the Vineyard for this year’s holiday I’ve been transcribing interviews for my coal film, The Dirty Truth About Coal. The only interruptions have been meals, walks, and occasional readings of “The Sum of Our Days” by Isabel Allende. It is Isabel, in fact, who will write this post. Or, well, who’s writing I will copy here for your enjoyment.

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The scene in the book takes places in Isabel’s house in northern California. A camera crew and two chefs arrive with 14 boxes of material in order to film the preparation of a meal described in one of Isabel’s books, “Aphrodite.” Isabel’s designer daughter-in-law, Lori, oversees the event, while Isabel and her husband Willie, wait impatiently to eat the fruits of the chefs labor.

“The dishes were produced with mind-numbing slowness; they (the chefs) placed each lettuce leaf as if it were the feather on a hat, precisely in the angle between the tomato and the asparagus. Willie got so nervous he had to leave, but Lori seemed to comprehend the importance of the damned lettuce. In the meantime the artistic director replaced the flowers in the garden, which Willie had planted with his own hands, with others more colorful. None of this appeared in the magazine, the photos they used were all close shots: half a clam and a lemon slice. I asked why they had brought the Japanese napkins, the tortoise-shell serving spoons, the Venetian lanterns, but Lori shot me a look that said I should keep quiet. This lasted the entire day, and since we couldn’t attack the meal before it was photographed, we put away five bottles of white wine, and three red, on empty stomachs. By the end, even the artistic director was stumbling. Lori, who had drunk nothing but green tea, had to carry the fourteen boxes back to the van.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone. πŸ˜‰

Make Something

November 12, 2009 By: admin Category: India, The Film, Uncategorized

I never thought I could be a filmmaker. You all–who read this blog–know that when I hear that word I see Martin Scorcese and then shrink back into the dark obscurity from which I came, but tonight, all that changes. Tonight, at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival, where my film “Soma Girls” will premiere tomorrow night, I hear director/creator Mira Nair, and all of a sudden I knew what I’ve know my whole life: there are no rules. You fucking well go off and do what you need to do and the universe steps up with other stuff/support that reminds you that you’re not insane. :)

Tonight I was given the clear message that there’s no room for resting on any laurels. The deal is that you’ve got to go, go, go! As an artist, I have a responsibility to break my back making things–for the moment it’s films, but maybe later it’ll be something else. Maybe music. :)

Mira Nair said: “To be brave comes with pain.” I understand that completely. This is the legacy that’s been passed down to me from my mother and father. Each of them took risks given their contexts, and each of them succeeded. So, it behooves me to keep moving.

I don’t know if I’ll be alone forever, but there may not be anyone willing to stick by close enough as I move. it’s a lot to ask, isn’t it? I pray, in the quiet, that there’s someone for whom my jumping up and down is enough, but it may just not be in the fucking cards, y’know? If so, then that’s my lot and I have to accept it, because what I’m sure of is that, in Ms. Nair’s words: I have to keep making things. It’s the only thing I know, and the only thing–other than family–that’s remained consistent.

To all you artists out there, and I’m speaking to everyone who reads this blog as I feel everyone is an artist: KEEP MOVING. Keep making your stuff. Don’t worry about money, time, or love–those things will find you when you most need them. Maybe that’s a doomsday message, but FUCKIT; in the end, the art will be what remains. :)

Up, Up, And Away!

October 30, 2009 By: admin Category: Filmmaking, Soma Girls, The Film, Video

Everyone, meet Shahana. Shahana, this is everyone:

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The Image

October 19, 2009 By: admin Category: Lumix Pix, The Film, Video

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My Director of Photography friend Nikki has me obsessing, recently, over The Image, so when I saw this, I flipped:

Danfung Dennis

My pal & neighbor, Drew, is an amateur photog and sent me this link this morning. It’s a bit early in the day to be crying, but that’s what happened when I saw this. THIS is why I became a filmmaker. We, filmmakers & photojournalists, can make a situation of horror look beautiful and therefore keep viewers’ attention long enough for them to get the message. Holy shit. I just became a HUGE fan of this camera. I also flipped over all the technical answers Danfung gives. Rarely do shooters “divulge [their] secrets” so I’m grateful to read about what he did. Also, his detail regarding setting up his rig to work in a war zone really resonated. This is the line that got me:

“I cut up a Glidecam Body Pod to make it fit with my body armor.”

Having the skills to capture an image and being able to recognize when something is “news,” and will benefit society, will cause you to do crazy things with your body. Sometimes it’s work to remember that you have to plan to protect yourself, and that there may be shots you just shouldn’t try. To be fair, I haven’t been in a war zone, but have done some pretty “crazy” things to get the shot. Probably the craziest isn’t the one that sounds crazy: I was the only videographer during a magazine photo shoot of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team as they prepared for the Olympics. I filmed them on the ice for over two hours… in a tee-shirt. When I came off the ice, dragged by the sensitive and kind captain of the team, I was blue. Maybe that doesn’t sound like risking your life, but the importance then was that the network I was working for at the time, Oxygen Media, was trying to put women’s sports on the map so women and girls could have role models other than men. I think that’s “an idea worth spreading.” πŸ˜‰

This footage reminds me that telling vital stories is why I do this work. There just came a time–at 2:00am in that hotel room in San Francisco in Sept. 2007–when I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any more. If i want to be able to face people every day I have to be profoundly proud of something I’m doing, and this is it: telling stories few others will or will be able to tell, and risking what I have to to get it right. That feeling of “risking” has been growing since my mother died. It’s not a death wish, just a “I don’t have anyone worrying like crazy so I can try a few more things” attitude. So, recently, I’ve been attracted to the idea of going into a conflict area, or at least a “you really don’t want to do that” area–maybe where there’s disease. I don’t know… I get these “goals” ideas every few years. I’ll think of something that I’ll feel I should do before I die and then work hard to get myself there. This “conflict area” thing might be one of them, and may be because Nikki’s got me thinking about The Image and because my favorite photographers are both journalists:

Sebastaio Salgado

James Nachtway

There’s also:

Mary Ellen Mark

So, since the obsession with The Image began my partial great sadness is that so much of my coal film is already shot. If I was just starting it I’d do things differently. For example, I’d take… ahem… a lot more time to actually set up a shot. :( Okay, so I’m a little late to the “pretty image” game but at least now I’m on the field… :)

Holy cow… *buzzing*

Spanglish

July 15, 2009 By: admin Category: Faith, Family, Happiness, India, Living, Love, Michael, Mom, The Film, Video

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Machu Picchu

There’s a somewhat silly, but un-missably beautiful movie out there, the memory of which just popped into my head this morning… I’ve been transcribing the last of an interview that Nandini and I are using in our film “Soma Girls,” and the interviewee is talking about her mother. “Whatever my life is today, whatever I am–my life goals, my orientation–everything has been a gift from my parents.”

When describing myself, I often talk about my mother. She was the one who taught me about painting and ballet and of the simple, still beauty of nature. That image got me thinking of this movie, “Spanglish,” that stars Adam Sandler (I know…), and a beautiful young Latina who plays his house-keeper. There’s a voiceover throughout the film, narrating the events from the future. It is the voice of the house-keeper’s daughter, a girl who grew up in the United States, like I did. In the movie her voiceover is from an essay she is writing to colleges. She is seventeen, and it’s obvious from her tone that the question asked for the essay is: “Tell us about your life, how it makes you unique, and how that uniqueness will contribute to the community of our university…”

At the end of the film, the girl’s voiceover says, basically, what the quote from my interviewee says above, and goes on to say to the college: “So, really, I don’t care what you think of me. I know who I am, and I will always know… I am my mother’s daughter.

Watching the film for the first time, I remember hearing myself say the last line before the voiceover said it. I don’t know if it’s all daughters who are close with their mothers who feel this way, or if it’s a Hispanic thing. For my own pride of heritage, though, I secretly hope it’s the latter, but I’ll be okay of it’s not. πŸ˜‰

Finishing this transcription makes me think about possibly spending a year in India. I’d get a big grant and live in a small flat in Kolkata, splitting my time between various NGOs during the day, and then taking in all the culture and wonder of Kolkata at night. In a recent email Urmi, the interviewee from above who runs Soma Home and New Light, said: “You have to come back to Kolkata for an extended visit. There’s so much you haven’t seen…”

Urmi, like my mother, can see in me a desire to see, know, and experience more. This is a tremendous compliment. I always thought Michael was the one to spend efforts on because he remembers so much of what he sees, but there’s something extra in me that Irene–my former journalist aunt–and I share, and were just talking about. It’s a need to see, a burning desire to go around the corner, and to keep going until we find the answer. It’s the seeking. We’re seekers. On a quest to find just a few answers that we’re sure will make at least one person’s life a little bit better.

When I am to be described I hope it will be as a loyal friend, and devoted sister, daughter, niece and cousin, a loving mate, and a great storyteller… because it is through these aspects and my passion to maintain them that I thank and honor my mother.

1st Snow That’s Sticking

December 17, 2008 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, House, India, The Film

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The storm windows are all down, and the house is dotted with Christmas decorations from my childhood. Mostly Swedish stuff. I’m Peruvian, I know, but my mother was obsessed with Swedish design and so all of our Christmas decorations are Swedish Christmas decorations… :)

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I woke up this morning to a healthy 2-inch layer of snow covering everything. I haven’t experienced this since before I moved to California 5 years ago. And now, waking up to it again–that cozy feeling of being warm and protected–in my own house, is incredible. :)

Also, speaking of waking up, I had a good night’s sleep last night! For those who have been following along, I’ve been exhausted since November. Working on the Shuktara film just about killed, but now the schedule’s back to normal, and so these days I’m concentrating on health. :)

Anyway, today will be a busy day, despite the coziness. I’ll fire-up the woodstove and will toil in the workroom until it’s time to go and learn how to feed my neighbor’s cats. He’s going away for a few days and his cats are a handful, apparently. I’m looking forward to a vacay myself this weekend. I’ll be going to the Vineyard for a full week. :) No swimming, but lots of relaxing, good friends, and movies!!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about India, lately. Every day something will come into my mind, and it’s not about the film at all, it’s about Kolkata. I find it so strange that I have this huge feleing of love for a place that’s so hard to live in day to day. I can’t understand sometimes how Alison and BryanΒ  and David do it until I get flooded with this sense of love and warmth and… happiness. Maybe the dirty and crazy and unimaginable aspects are what make it wonderful, I don’t know… I just know that when someone is affected by India, you can tell. Working with DJ & Christy was such a relief because I had people who could relatewhen I just burst out crying. We weren’t working on any scenes that were particularly sad, but, every once in a while, one of us would just break down.

There’s so much you want to do–for everyone–in Kolkata, and when you realize that you really can’t do very much, it breaks you. The first evolution (and Alison & Bryan will correct me on this..) comes when you wake up from your self-involved melodrama and realize that anything you can do is frequently enough. You just have to have the balls to figure out what that is, and then go do it.

There’s not a lot I can do for all the people I love in India, namely, the Soma Girls, Uddami, and the Shuktara kids. But what I can do, I am doing: I can make films and tell their stories. And I can keep doing that until it’s clear the message is getting out there, i.e., donations to each organization are coming in regularly. :)

The first snow always brings about these feelings of romantic altruism, but the feeling is, none the less, an honest one. :) For all of you out there who have never visited India, I encourage you to make some plans. There’s magic there…:)

At Long Last

December 08, 2008 By: admin Category: Beer, House, India, Music, The Film, Video

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The film is DONE. It’s amazing. DJ & Christy saw the latest version this morning and cried. They love it. They’re coming this week to finalize stuff and then we’re dropping in the mail to the Rochester Film Fest! I think that’s the one… Anyway, I look forward to sleeping again. It’s been a month. :)

Next steps are to get Molly unpacked and sift through all our combined stuff to see what I can use for the house. I’m excited as Molly has a keen eye for decoration and knows how important efficiency is for me.

So, things are happening. It’s the next phase “in all this.” I’ll be able to write more once I’ve gotten a few days of sleep. :)

In other news Molly and Mali’s pictionary party was last night at Cloud Club – tons of fun! It’s great to have Molly out here and bonding with kick-ass musicians in this cool, new scene. One guy makes his own beer and had some at the party – it was amazing!!! Anyway, more later. :)

Low Energy

February 07, 2008 By: admin Category: Health, India, The Film

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Both Molly and I are still suffering the after effects of Influenza B, it seems. Neither of us can eat enough to satisfy our hunger pangs, and we’re both still zapped of energy. Just standing up is a process. Feels almost like what people describe as “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Perpetual headache, eye ache, and — for me — a constant stuffiness of the ears and sinuses.

I’ve also been reading again… “It only took you two weeks to start reading about India,” said Molly when I picked up my new copy of Mark Tully’s “India’s Unending Journey.” I felt so, so sad two days ago that I actually took to bed and cried myself to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. When I woke up I was famished and desperate to write. I picked up the book and automatically began writing in my head. Tully’s voice rings so true in me, about India, that I could no longer deny that there is a flooding torrent in me waiting to come out about my experiences there. I’ll add it all to this blog as it comes out… Here’s installment #1:

FEBRUARY 5, 2008 – Lake Sherwood, CA
I am being ravaged from the inside by India’s desire to see the world through me. She has burst her Asian banks and used me as a carrier in order to broaden her horizons. She is desperate to know more and see more and feel more — like a hungry, rabid animal — and won’t stop exploring and consuming until she falls over.

I came home with something inside me. A small heart, emotions, memories, pain, regret, feeling, longing, anguish, hope, pride, relief, agenda — desperation. India hitched a ride in me and is now making her painful way out. It feels as if I’m being burned from the inside — my organs melting. It feels like I’m being cleansed, but all I sense in my heart and all I remember is sadness. And how can that be cleansing???

The triggers are these beautiful Kantha blankets we brought back with us. So beautiful, delicate and strong — contrasting, just like India.

Kolkata feels so close – as close as reality feels in dreams. Every time I close my eyes I’m back there, and the vision is dizzying. I’m seeing the girls, seeing Megumi, seeing Bryan & Alison, the apartment, seeing David and Cafe Coffee Day. I hear Nandini’s frustrated voice and nod my head — India pushed all of our buttons this time. Maybe she always does. From here, she’s still pushing.

What will be interesting is to see how long India stays with me. Will she stay because I have to make this film and will enveloped in all her India-ness for this whole year? Or will she stay because she’s here to stay, eternally a part of me? have I been changed forever?

India will not be silent. She has been here longer than all of us and will continue long after we’re gone. If Africa is the birthplace of mankind, then surely India is the birthplace of the heart – and of sorrow.

The tears pour forth — what are they from??? Is it Suchitra, or Puja Roy, or little Ruxana? Part of this, I think, is true lonliness. Mom and I shared a bond that cannot be replicated unless I give birth to a daughter — and so part of my mourning and sorrow is still for the loss of that bond. India has forced me to not ignore my emotions, and for that I owe her. She is helping me to grieve.

Back In The Saddle

February 04, 2008 By: admin Category: Health, India, NewsQuake!, sustainability, The Film

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Molly and I have been convalescing. Relaxing. Trying to let our bodies heal from the twin assaults of Influenza B. Somehow, adding the “B” after “Influenza” makes it seem more like I got out of a war zone with all my limbs intact. It wasn’t a war zone we were in, but I still feel good about having all my limbs….

Anyway, the flight home SUCKED FOR ME. My sinuses were clogged in a way that they’ve clearly never been before because as we were descending after our first 10 hour leg the pain was so excruciating I started to cry like I was being killed. A stewardess even came over and asked Molly if there was anything wrong. She gave me earplugs — too late — and a kind smile. Seriously if I never feel that pain again it’ll be too soon…

At that point I hadn’t slept for about 5 days. The coughing had woken me up every 20 minutes and caused me to sweat dramatically, which, coupled with the unseasonable cold of Kolkata at that time, served as the perfect jumping off place to me getting a bad chill. By the time we got home I was sick as hell.

Molly’s Dad, a doctor, took one look at my raw, inflamed throat and proclaimed: “It’s antibiotic time.” My own father, the next day, insisted that I go see my doctor immediately and so that’s what I did. She gave me antibiotics, steroids to build up my crushed lungs, an inhaler, and an expectorant which has done a remarkable job at dislodging all the phlegm in my chest that’s been keeping me from, you know, breathing.

Being back home has been surreal so far. Today is better as it’s really the first day when both of us can actually get up and do stuff. I spent the other days reading emails and doing research for my job–just trying to get back into the swing of life in the USA. I had some amazing experiences in India, but there are priorities now that need to be addressed. I always knew I’d spend a few days decompressing, but also knew that it wouldn’t be forever. I don’t want to dwell. I don’t want to forget either, and I won’t–that’s what the film will be for–but I do want to move forward. This year can be one of the best of my life in so many aspects and I’m ready to go out and make that all happen. :)

Tonight, I’ll be filming someone for my sustainability series!