As I was driving home yesterday from a little hike at Runyon Canyon, I thought, "I should just kill that blog. I don't think I've posted on it in a year and I pay each month for it." Sure, there are free blogs, but Typepad has held my stories for 11 years: casting, marathons, cancer, scripts, years of 12 of 12, moves, film festivals, everything. So the blog lives another day.
It's a new year. 2015 was pretty great for me. I worked on a half dozen films and television projects in casting. Some were great (MERCY STREET, IMPERIUM) and others were not. I realized I'm a really great teacher when I opened Base Camp: Savannah (a "school" that brings professionals into the growing market of Savannah) and I realized people will twist my words to the point of getting my attorney involved. Twice. (I won't even post the website, as to not give them clicks.)
I moved back to LA. Well, I moved my stuff back to LA. I spent 80% of 2015 living in hotels and rented homes on-location in Richmond and Savannah. But something told me to go back to Cali.
When I moved back in August, I was exhausted. I'd worked five months straight and had just worked on a film that was not the greatest of experiences. Some (me) might call it the WORST experience. And because of the experience, I failed to stop and enjoy my surroundings and friends in that city. I felt like I was never not pulling photos for someone else to choose - wrongly - and then rush to recast everyone morning of the shoot. Or replace. Or add people.
I felt like I didn't actually cast the movie. I didn't feel appreciated or part of the company. And when you're on location for two and half months with people you don't know - in a traveling circus of people you can't stand - it's awful. And I don't think I'm in any danger of every working with anyone involved in that project ever again.
When I arrived back in LA, I was beat up, bruised and angry. Very, very angry.
I hadn't been in LA four days (I was in Vegas for two days and Palm Springs for two days) and I was offered the job of casting IMPERIUM in Richmond. I didn't want to do it. I tried to talk my way out of it. But the money was good and again, something told me to go. And less than a week later, I was back in Richmond. My deal was originally two weeks and then I could cast the rest of the film in LA, but they kept me the entire time.
That experience is what I needed to heal and remind myself, I'm actually a really good casting director. I needed that experience to be around "good, kind, smart, talented people who know what they are doing, aren't crazy and respect me" (my mantra).
Again 2015 saw me with various scripts optioned and no movement on them. I got the rights to one script back from a sinking ship and it's now in the hands of new producers.
And again, another year of X-RATED sat on my desktop. There was a fleeting moment when an Oscar nominated director might have come on board and change the game entirely, but when that "pass" came through, it felt like another defeat. Just another, "I told you so."
2015 was the year I took my power back from previous relationships. While every day I tried to lovingly detach from friendships and previous business relationships that ended badly in years past, I would hear "so and so said this" and I was immediately back in the fiery pits of hot anger. But at some point... and I'm not sure where I was or what I was doing, but I just up and realized, "I don't care. This person no longer serves my life. This person NEVER served my life. I SERVED this person. Let go. Let it go. They don't matter and they are killing your happy. AND WHY ARE THEY STILL TALKING ABOUT ME!? Let it go."
That was it. When you're on the other side of anger and looking at it from a distance, you realize what wasted energy it is and in all honesty, you're only mad at yourself for letting them anger you. You just feel sorry for them.
IMPERIUM wrapped late October and I returned to LA and decided to travel for a few weeks. I visited my friend Zen in Chicago at her new gym, HITT.. I went to Vegas, Palm Springs and then took a trip to Paris and Florence with my friend Lisa Chang. I had never been to France and I studied French in school. It was a trip I needed to just decompress and not "do" anything.
In early December, I went back to Palm Springs and had a fight with a curb. I re-injured my ankle (which I twisted badly in Florence), smashed my face and did unknown damage to my wrist (I thought it was a sprain... I have to get an MRI next week).
As I was healing (and not much to do but move from bed to the couch) I started to get restless for what was coming next. I did take time every single day to appreciate rest. Every day I made a point to be grateful for the day off and not having to work. I saved some money and that allowed me to just be.
My grandmother passed away a few days before Christmas and I flew home to be with my family and "get her planted" (as my grandfather would refer to funerals... and people wonder where my dark sense of humor comes from). I flew back to LA the day after Christmas and for the most part, I've sat on my couch or in a movie theater. Waiting. Listening.
Before Thanksgiving, I met with producers to cast a feature out of state that would potentially back me into another project in Richmond in March. The timing was (is) perfect. But there have been many delays, and now as I'm staring down the dates on a calendar, this project is either going to have to GO next week with me on board or it will have to go with someone else.
Life in production is NEVER planned. You get the call to start a project and 24 hours later, you're packed and on the road. And that's exciting. And it's terrifying.
When I started MERCY STREET last year, I didn't have a single day off for the next 5 months. Seven days a week. Sometimes three projects at once. As I said, I had 4 days off and I was on to IMPERIUM. And when you think, "but you only worked 7 months out of the year," you forget a short day is 12 hours. And that's 7 days a week. So if a "short" week is 84 hours a week, you appreciate rest. You have zero social life and you live in fear "this is the last film I'm ever going to be hired to cast."
I'm a great casting director. I can maneuver production, unions, wardrobe, actors, agents and find the best people for the job. I've been doing it for nearly 25 years. I'm a great teacher. The proof is in the students I teach and the roles they are booking and projects they are creating.
But I want to write. Act. Produce. Direct.
On my hike yesterday, I considered that while I'm not my work, I'm not who I want to be. Work is a means to an end, but somewhere along the way, I've lost my drive. I can place that firmly in the center of my moving back to Atlanta in 2013 with lots of stop and starts and ends, but I never stood up after the dust settled. I just sat there. Defeated. And I unknowingly placed myself in a protective cocoon.
Another year has gone by and X-RATED hasn't budged.
INSTALLATION has also stalled out. Actors I had attached have stopped returning phone calls.
The day after I landed back in LA, I did have the wherewithal to ask for help for an agent and my friend Mark obliged. He helped me find a lit agent. He's young and new to the game, but he's hungry.
He wanted to send X-RATED out to a few studios and see what they thought. I figured, "screw it. I'll just sell the script off." The feedback that came back was swift... and it was great. Everyone loved it, but it just wasn't what they were looking to do or they love it and if you can get this actor or if that director signs on... we're all in.
He threw out a horror script (that really needed a major rewrite) and it got the same response. He needs more material out of me, stat.
I knocked out a treatment for another horror film. And in doing so, I realized I'm over horror. I just don't care. It's supposed to be easy to sell, yet no one is buying it. And I'm tired of working on scripts that don't matter or have a message or better serve the world.
About a month ago, i read an article and immediately saw an entire pilot. It's a drama. I started writing it a few weeks ago and I think there's something there. I stare at it on my laptop and I think, "you're not terrible, but will anyone be interested?" So I continue to plug away, excited to finally print the first copy and do a table read with some actor friends.
But my whole life changed about a week ago. For the better.
I accidentally taped Oprah's Super Soul Session. She had a few guests on and one of them was Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert wrote "Eat, Pray, Love."
She started off her speech reading a letter from someone who was angry that Gilbert had spent an entire workshop telling people to chase their passion and this woman was angry that she didn't have any.
And that gave me a pause. I was like, "have I lost my passion?" The answer was obvious.
"Just for now, take passion off the table... Just follow your curiosity." Gilbert continued in her talk, encouraging people to just keep moving - be the "hummingbird" going from flower to flower - an eventually you'll find your passion.
Okay, that made sense to me and gave me a much needed pep talk. I'll be the hummingbird. I'll be patient with myself.
I downloaded her podcast and started with the first of 12 episodes and the first one was a shot in my heart. I've read a lot of self help books, memes, websites, Marianne Williamson podcasts... but what she said in the first episode was like message from the Universe.
I didn't even finish the podcast. I downloaded her audio book BIG MAGIC, which is about finding inspiration in creativity and again she began with "you're afraid."
It's true. All the reasons she listed were me. I was afraid of asking for help. I was afraid that it wouldn't work. I was afraid because I was too old. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid (and here's the big one) BECAUSE PAST PROJECTS HAD FAILED.
She listed three dozen reasons and they were all me. How had I not realized THIS was my problem? Nothing was happening because I WAS AFRAID AND DIDN'T KNOW IT.
The entire audio book is nearly six hours long and I listened to half of it in one sitting. I only turned it off, because I needed to pace myself. EVERYTHING she said was directed at me. I had never felt like something so specific was meant for me.
And that was the truth. I was afraid of truly pushing X-RATED out there.
Why? Mainly past projects. BIRTHDAY CAKE tanked. Our distributor has failed to promote the film at all and to date, we've only made $2,400 on the film. The little film only cost $17,000 to make (and I also put about $6,000 of my own into it, which I never expect to see). Every distributor told me, "we can't sell a gay film without sex or nudity." I told them I would prove them wrong. And they were right. It tanked hard. And that hurts. And it sucks.
PROJECT: PHOENIX never caught on the way I wanted. It's a great little web series, but I learned web series really need to be under 10 minutes an episode if they are going to find an audience, because of short attention spans.
And the "web series" formula literally changed while we were editing. It went from longer form to Vine - where it's 7 seconds! Kids are famous for make-up tutorials. We can't compete with that. Especially when you try to make a $10,000 series and now there's no way to monetize it because NO ONE CARES. EVERYONE is making a web series and no one cares about zombies.
The successful web series? Sex and nudity.
BIRTHDAY CAKE and PROJECT: PHOENIX both came out in 2014. During their releases, I started working on SELMA and then just a few weeks after that wrapped, I was on to MAGIC MIKE XXL. So I never really had time to mourn their slow deaths. Just watch from the sidelines and continue to push with social media that never clicked. It was not for lack of trying.
I pushed both projects out on all forms of social media. But the fact is, LGBT audiences were just not interested in a film about the fight for gay marriage, when literally, every time you turn around, a new state was welcoming marriage equality. And I had a cast (with the exception of a small few) that did not promote the film and push it out on their social media.
INSTALLATION was a colossal disaster and it didn't even get made! We had an actor who didn't promote the indiegogo until the last day and it was way too late. When campaigns tank, you lose credibility on the next round. But the fact is, 90% of the donors were my personal friends and we raised less than a thousand dollars. That money is still tucked away, because at some point I hope to get it done.
Lots of lessons learned. On all fronts. Lessons that I share when I'm teaching workshops about creating your own content. Because there is honestly no greater way to learn, than through the failure of others.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how an idea will seek out an artist and ask you to engage it. If you don't accept the idea, it will find its way to someone else.
As I listened to her audio book yesterday, I feared someone else would find a way to tell the tale of X-RATED before me and also secretly hoped someone else would tell the tale so I wouldn't have to.
But as meditated later, I realized that I AM that person. There is a reason that six years ago I traveled all over the country interviewing people. There is a reason five years ago I finished the first draft. There is a reason for five years, I have failed with two other projects, BECAUSE those lessons are what I needed.
I'm afraid I won't find the money. Great, now that we know what the problem is, we can move on. Identifying you HAVE a problem is the first step!
How does one go about asking for money about a film about a bunch of porn stars in the early 90s?
And as I've always said, "it's a movie about addiction."
Again this year, I lost several friends to drugs. Shocking deaths. We lost a cast member in PROJECT: PHOENIX to addiction. And I believe that's why the whispering big magic found me to start. That's why a book fell off the shelf in front of me in 2001 and I first "met" Joey Stefano.
So here it is.
As I meditated last night, I asked that I be blessed to leave LA to go teach and cast, in order to financially grow a small nest egg for the rest of the year that will allow me concentrate on my own projects. In that time, I will continue to work on screenplays and ship them back to my agent.
I even realized a way to get INSTALLATION done and make good on my donors in a way that gets the project out there without losing anything.
I asked RIP find its way into production by summer.
And I asked for the guidance to make X-RATED happen. I asked that the people I need in my life to make this happen show up and make themselves known. And I asked for the courage to push through my fear.
It's another new year and new years post where I say, "today is Joey Stefano's birthday. I hope this is the year I get to make X-RATED."
Today is Joey Stefano's birthday. He would have been 48 years old.
I hope this is the year I get to make X-RATED.