Today, I was reminded that art is alive and well. The Hollywood industrial process has been under tremendous pressure. The indie film world, also slowed, is still at work too, even though COVID remains with us. I say this because I’ve been judging the Quarantini Film Festival, a monthly fest founded by Dana Olita that supports and awards filmmakers making socially-distanced short films during this difficult time.
I have learned and been reminded of a few things while judging the Quarantini entries:
Art finds a way. I’ve seen some great films submitted to Quarantini Film Festival. Where there’s a will, there is a way, even under un-ideal circumstances.
Sometimes, constraints embolden our creativity. Doing a lot with a little is part-and-parcel of low budget film making, but the constraints indie filmmakers are creating under are unprecedented. I’ve seen amazing creative risks taken on screen in the last three rounds of the Quarantini Film Festival. Some hit and some missed the mark, but when business-as-usual goes out the window, we have to ask what’s possible. I’ve witnessed tremendous creativity under the pressure of the pandemic.
The pandemic has many people committed to speaking their truth, directly or indirectly. I’ve seen heart-wrenching drama shorts, contemplative docu-dramas and wicked comedies that all hit home. All of us have a story to tell that’s part of this larger pandemic narrative.
The truth is many film festivals and the whole culture of film festivals going forward is uncertain. Theatrical exhibition is still difficult and frankly, unobtainable in many areas. Your larger press outlets like Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood reporter, et al, are only really covering the larger festivals that have film markets. That gives sort of skewed picture of the filmmaking landscape in general. Indie filmmaking is alive. Indie films are being shown. It may not be on a large screen, but you can get your work out there on online fests like Quarantini. Seize the moment. You’ll never know what you’ll learn, how you’ll grow or who you’ll impact.
In a world where so much is disheartening, Fatburger in Sherman Oaks, managed to make me happier–and not just because of the delicious burger.
While waiting in a socially-distanced line to pick up my order, I saw this posted on the window:
I am not sure if the manager chose to do this or if this is company wide. What I do know is that the business cares. In a time of callous disregard by those refusing to distance and refusing to wear masks, it was refreshing to see that this Fatburger location cared enough to spread helpful information to our community.
Please patronize the Fatburger at 14402 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 . They also have delivery through GrubHub, Postmates, et al. We need to support businesses that truly act on their message of “We’re all in this together.” Thank you, Sherman Oaks Fatburger, for connecting your customers to this helpful information during this difficult time.
Most of you know me as an in-front-of-the-camera person. However, I also produce and line produce. Recently, I was tasked with working on two movie budgets. One was a completely new budget for a action-caper comedy. The other (which I am still working on) is a cost revision to reflect price increases for COVID-19 and adapt the movie to adhere to the guidelines.
Movie budgeting is part art and part science. In the Corona-scape, it’s also a bit of prognostication.
In the case of the action-caper comedy, as written, it’s nearly impossible to do it socially-distant according to the new guidelines with a crew of 80+, not including speaking roles, extras and stand-ins. I was specifically asked to project costs based on a post-Corona world, for filming some time in 2021 (or beyond, sadly).
If you’re considering a movie that fits into this category, consider inflation and scale-wage increases. I added an additional contingency for inflation, which is at 2.5% currently. Insurance rates now also have COVID riders as well. Insurance is up and I expect it to stay up for years after the pandemic. The memory of the pandemic is going to cost the media-making community for a long time.
I am also still working on converting a pre-Corona budget I prepped to reflect the changes necessitate by COVID. PPE cost and availability are concerns. Shoots are going to be longer and will need more space.. The need for more distance means more trailers and more support space in general. More space means more cost generally. If you have budgets prepared prior to the outbreak of the virus, you will probably need to adjust it by 25% or more to accommodate the new guidelines. Until we refine best-practices for the virus, get with your directors and AD-s about how many pages can be feasibly shot with the new guidelines as well. You may also incur re-write fees if scenes need to be re-written to reduce crowd scenes, extras, et al.
For me, budgeting is not coming in at the lowest price. It’s about coming in at the budget that best protects the investors’ risk and gets the project made. We’re in a period of high risk. Budget accordingly.
POST SCRIPT: After publishing this blog, I happened upon this NY Times article about travel restrictions between states. If you are planning a production, take these travel restrictions into account as you budget as our COVID-19 response evolves in each state. Many of the top filming destinations in the US are affected. The cost here would be to quarantine an actor or crew member you bring in from an affected state, which would be a hotel cost in all likelihood and per diems-s and possibly compensation as work days for the quarantine days. Trucking equipment across state lines seems okay, but check with your film commissions and contact film commissions regarding COVID quarantining.
I want off the corona-coaster. I know that it’s not over. I just want off.
Right now, it’s okay to feel good and bad at the same time. That’s been the story of my day, literally and it’s not even noon yet as I type. I just learned that my hometown of 3,000 is having a surge of infections. At the same time, I am reaching for a professional milestone, one that’s been years in the making. I am elated and scared to death at the same time. My family has lived in Poteet several generations. I will know people affected by this surge.
In the corona-scape, it’s hard to allow yourself to feel good about anything. Perhaps it’s “surviving” guilt. Perhaps its feeling under-deserving of the good one is receiving in the face of such vast suffering.
It’s okay to feel a lot of things, even conflicted, I’ve had to make peace with that today, not to disown my own good in the face of so much pain. What good things can we own, claim and feel gratitude for?
Today, I encourage you to feel good about what you are achieving and not feel guilt, even when faced with bad news. Then, do something to help fight COVID-19. Donate. Spread reliable information about the virus. Encourage social distancing.
I want to stress that in unusual times, our usual coping mechanisms may not be enough. I am feeling that now, today. The past two days, I’ve been trying to buoy myself up with my usuals: a heavy workload, music I like, stand-up comedy, yoga and gong baths. Nothing is taking. I awake today, a person who’s experiencing pain and anxiety.
When the coping mechanisms fail, it doesn’t mean that you failed. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means that you’re encouraged to grow and try something new. I did not fail because “what usually works” failed to bolster me up. I am challenged to grow, try and experiment today, and that’s what I will do.
I am sick (not literally) and tired (quite literally) of hearing people say that the deaths from COVID-19 are not large enough to justify the stay-at-home orders. I am fed up with people being so blase about the death toll in the US alone, much less the rest of the world.
As of today, April 30,2020, there have been 63,538 deaths in the USA, with roughly 2000 of those deaths occurring today. Globally, there have been 230,804 deaths, with 3,400 of those deaths happening today. Numbers of deaths remain abstractions until we put names to numbers, until we compare. Let me make some comparisons.
In my own life, I identify strongly with three places: my county of origin, Atascosa Co., Texas, the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater and San Antonio, Texas, the nearest large city that I visited as a child.
As of today, there have been 1,092,328 cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Globally, there have been 3.2 million cases. The city of San Antonio, Texas has a population of 1.5 million people. San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the U.S. This virus has infected the numerical equivalent of a large U.S. city. Is that not enough?
Now let’s take a look at the deaths. Deaths in the United states are at 63,000. My county of origin, Atascosa County, Texas, has a population of roughly 49,000. The University of Texas at Austin, enrolls 50,000 students. It’s the 7th largest public university in the country. Corona deaths have taken out the equivalent of a rural Texas county or a large public university. Is that not enough?
By the way, the cities in my county of origin range in population of 2,000-10,000 people. At the current rate of deaths in the U.S., it’s like one small town is dying off per day. Is that not enough?
I say enough is enough. We think of numbers as mere data, cold, hard and impersonal, but these figures get very personal when you compare them to what and who you know, where you came from and where you are. Let’s stay at home, stay well, stay alive and come out safer and stronger with as many members of our communities alive and kicking as possible.
The “future” is an abstraction we often associate with positivity, progress and something we can shape. The truth is we love the future and often fear it at the same time. I read tarot cards. I do astrology readings, which more often than not are ways of looking into the future or what’s possible. However, I know and need to point out that fear of the future often motivates us more often than we care to admit and acknowledge.
As we look towards a post-quarantine, post pandemic world, there is a lot to consider. Whether we fear future or not is our choice. Resisting the present undermines our ability to shape the future. We need to admit that we’re scared, we’ve been naive or neglectful about certain realities. We need to admit that the world has changed, will not “go back” to where it was and where we were wasn’t all that great either. We have to shape the future with clear eyes, open minds and open hearts.
How do we do that? We need to ask some questions.
Who am I now? Answer this honestly. Own the good and the bad and respect the neutral.
Who do I desire to be?
What changes, adjustments or work do I need to close the gap between who I am and want to be?
What’s the best step I can take, NOW, TODAY, to make those adjustments?
We must also take up these questions as communities, states, and nations. Who we are today shapes who we become. We only ever have the present, no matter how much we speculate about what the future could or should be. It’s time to get deeply present about what our pain points are and what we can do to change them, for the better, in a changed world.
The future is ours, once we fully invest ourselves in the present.
It’s the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. With the corona virus still keeping us indoors, it seems the earth itself is healing too. Here are some great food-for-thought quotes about our relationship to Earth.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi
“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” Khalil Gibran
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” Henry David Thoreau
“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” Gary Snyder
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Neil Armstrong
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” David Brower
We knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard.” Chief Luther Standing Bear
“We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.” LeeAnn Taylor
“Someday, I hope that we will all be patriots of our planet and not just of our respective nations.” Zoe Weil
“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down” Jim Morrison
“If you really want to remedy the earth, we have to mend mankind. And to unite mankind, we heal the Earth. That is the only way. Mother Earth will exist with or without us.” Suzy Kassem
“Life is a dance between heaven and earth, the ebb and flow of life.” Maurice Spees
“The planet was being destroyed by manufacturing processes, and what was being manufactured was lousy, by and large.” Kurt Vonnegut
“Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe.” Ron Garan
“Deep under our feet the Earth holds its molten breath, while the bones of countless generations watch us and wait.” Isaac Marion
“When you look more generally at life on Earth, you find that it is all the same kind of life. There are not many different kinds; there’s only one kind. It uses about fifty fundamental biological building blocks, organic molecules.” Carl Sagan
“We’re reaching the point where the Earth will have to end the burden we’ve placed on her, if we don’t lift the burden ourselves.” Steven M. Greer
To define perpetual growth on a finite planet as the sole measure of economic well-being is to engage in a form of slow collective suicide. To deny or exclude from the calculus of governance and economy the costs of violating the biological support systems of life is the logic of delusion.” Wade Davis
“From the Moon’s surface, the Earth is but a tiny, blue teardrop in the inky blackness of space.” Stewart Stafford
I’d be lying right now if I didn’t admit I was scared.
I am scared everyday. I am scared by the lack of leadership and coherence. I am scared by the lack of unity. I am scared that there’s no vaccine and not enough tests for this virus. I am scared of the halt to most filming. I am scared for loved ones who live in states where social distancing isn’t respected. I am scared when I sneeze or cough, or feel just plain icky.
Once again, it’s time to inventory what I can and cannot control.
I can lead by example by social distancing and wearing masks and gloves. I can post about what I am doing to stop the spread of this virus. I can set a standard for my family to follow and take proper precautions.
I can choose not to add to the din of social media right now. I can choose not to attack my neighbors, friends and strangers online or offline. I can choose to add helpful, factual information from credible sources and actionable tips and advice. An ignorant person has to choose not to remain ignorant. I can instruct the ignorant, but its not my place to scold or punish those who are willfully and dangerously ignorant.
I am not a scientist. I choose to trust the science and the scientists, doctors and nurses. When I need expert advice, I take it.
Many of our industries will bounce back after a time. It may not be on my preferred timeline, and there will be changes, but the film industry is resilient. I am resilient and I will adapt as best I can to the changes that will inevitably take place.
I cannot choose the actions or inaction of the federal, states or local governments. I can share what I know to be true with my family. They can make their choices in accordance with their local laws. I may not like what other states are or aren’t doing, but I believe in democracy and I believe people DO get the government they DESERVE. If you believe you deserve better, vote and act differently.
I can keep my risk of contracting COVID-19 down by maintaining social distance, washing my hands, disinfecting surfaces and keeping myself minimally stressed. A sneeze is not a death sentence.
When we keep facing our fears, we can be more honest with ourselves. There is no “okay” right now. It’s okay to be “not okay”. However, we can’t just let our fears spin around in our monkey minds. We need to get curious about them, like we would a new, intriguing species or a first date.
I’ve found Therapeer to be a free, valuable resource to discuss your COVID-19 fears with supportive peers.
Sometimes, after years of being in the arts professions, we have to get reacquainted with ourselves. We are not the actor, the dancer, the comic, et al, we were a year ago, much less five or ten years ago. Hopefully, we’ve grown. Sometimes, we have growing pains. With arts imperiled by corona virus, artists of all disciplines can lean into this cultural and social pause and do some self-care.
Starting last year, I went through a period where I felt I needed to take stock. One of the things my self inventory yielded up was the need to forgive and release past experiences on stage and screen. #MeToo and #TimesUp have us sharing our stories, and I also came to the conclusion I needed to re-write, by releasing and forgiving, my narrative of myself, particularly in my profession. I also needed release negative, defeating beliefs about “how things are”. This is what I came up with for myself:
“I release myself from all past and present pain in acting. I release myself and surrender times of overwork, over-stress, humiliation, body image issues, hurtful and invalidating comments and all other pain and trauma I’ve experienced during my life as an actor.
I embrace a vibrant, creative life that I love, where I do the acting work I’ve always wanted, needed and been called to do. I am a happy and healthy artist who’s thriving. I love communicating verbally and non-verbally to the best and peak of my abilities.
I release all negative, harmful, self-defeating patterns and thoughts around acting. I am a sane, healthy, happy, holy person who makes art. I am loving, kind and compassionate and that radiates throughout all my performances. I honor my unique needs and challenges and honor the needs, challenges and contributions of others. I am here, now, today, firmly rooted in the reality of my chosen profession.”
Artists, if you’re not already, utilize this valuable time. Practice, create, innovate and experiment! So often we’re too rushed and rely on technique and well-honed skills and don’t have the precious silence that cocoons inspiration. There are gifts in this experience. It’s also a great time, to challenge your beliefs and get present to yourself, the artist today.
Questions to ask yourself:
What assumptions do I make about myself based on my age, gender, etc., in my field?
Do I have a teacher, coach,mentor in the arts, that I have hurtful memories with? What did they say or do? What toxic lesson did I learn from that? How do I re-frame this to empower me, now, today?
What are my culture’s harmful beliefs about my arts profession? Stereotypes?
What are my family’s harmful beliefs or invalidating comments about my arts profession?
What do I feel I lack as an artist? Discipline? Depth? Re-frame that belief.
What do I truly desire for myself in my arts career?
Identify patterns. Re-frame your beliefs to empower you. Claim the power in the present–whatever the present may bring.
The great news is, that if you are reading this, you are ALIVE. Congratulations.
I feel like “cautious optimism” needs a big comeback moment. Can we be cautious and optimistic at the same time? I hope so.
Today, keeping “safe at home”, I made some simple clay from flour, water, salt and vegetable oil. I’ve never made clay before. I am used to it looking grayish, in perfectly formed blocks, wrapped in glossy plastic, straight from a box. Mine was more like a cookie dough, sans the eggs and sugar.
As I worked with the clay, I remembered that I get to shape some things. I may not be used to what I am working with, but I can still shape it towards what I intend. I can create hearts and smiley faces, or I can create something less pleasant. We are all creators, even if what we’re working with is, at times, less than ideal.
What can we create, optimistically, at this time? Maybe it’s only a new perspective, but that is something. Maybe it’s a smile?
Let’s face it, we’re still fighting the corona virus. It’s not spring-as-usual. It’s easy to escape into thoughts of Easter eggs, bunnies and chickadees. All these things are nice and help us to feel good, but right now, I feel the world is called to restore balance.
So many us are chronically over-stressed, busy in lieu of being present, and not balancing rest, repose and activity. Our environment is over-burdened by the pollution caused by our commutes. Our psyches are now overburdened by fear, anxiety and panic. We need to embrace this pause, this balance point, offered by the vernal equinox.
Looking ahead, this spring equinox we have a void-of-course moon on March 20th for most of the day, if you are in the US. Check your local times. Void-of-course moons are ideal times for reflection, study and meditation. Take this opportunity to re-calibrate your body, mind and spirit.
I did a tarot and Lenormand pull by sign pairs, regarding what needs to be brought back into harmony and balance. Every Aries has a deep part of them that’s Libran, acknowledged or not, and vice-versa, as so with all the sign pairs. When restoring balance, it’s helpful to think of the signs as a story with a theme that’s playing out between the “opposing” or complementary energies. Look at your sun, moon and ascendant to see what areas to re-balance.
The Sun, reversed
The Queen of Wands, reversed
It’s time to stop and smell the flowers for Aries and Libras. Too much doing is scattering your energy and robbing you of joy. Don’t keep knocking on metaphorical doors, looking for approval from everyone. You have the keys. Use them. Your mission is to set yourself free of the approval trap this equinox.
Saturn moves out of Capricorn around the equinox. It’s now time to put the old criticisms of a boss or your own father to bed. This is especially true for Libra and Aries women. You don’t have to earn daddy’s love now or ever. Build a new life around an empowering POV, instead of answering for “mistakes” you made deep in the past.
The Chariot, Reversed
Taurus and Scorpio, how you feel about a matter is not moving you forward. Now is not the time to choose freeze or hide. How can you move forward valiantly and purposefully? Old, unprocessed emotions are keeping you stuck. Get grounded to get in a safer emotional space.
Both Scorpio and Taurus need to keep expecting the unexpected, with Uranus in Taurus. Some surprises are good, some not what we’d hope for, but from now til the next equinox, you are asked to make the best of everything. You’re being a called to alchemize the inconvenient and adopt the attitude that all things are ultimately moving in your favor. What’s needed most is a deep surrender. Pull the anchor up and trust the tides.
The Ace of Swords
The truth sets Gemini and Sagittarius free for the next six months. Commit to the truth, speak it, write it, teach it and preach it. You’re keenly aware of other’s masks, pretensions and follies. People who put on a nice persona around you may be eager to take from you. Be careful of flattery and ask yourself what’s truly behind it. Your gut will know what’s a sincere compliment versus one that’s intended to get something out of you. The strength of your will and character are being tested. Choose integrity over shortcuts.
Venus enters Gemini in early April. Venus, being the lover, the coquette and seductress of the zodiac, brings pleasant distractions to you this spring. That in mind, keep it real in dating and romance. Opt for deeper conversations and don’t just hear what you want to hear in the game of love. Deep listening in matters of the heart is called for. Does the beautiful lover you desire have beautiful thoughts? A beautiful spirit? Look at the whole package.
The Four of Pentacles, Reversed
The Nine of Wands, Reversed
Capricorns and Cancers, are your defense mechanisms working? Your strong self-protective streak may be backfiring. Your equinox goal is to dismantle the deep tiredness and apathy you’ve been feeling. Give a little, especially to yourself. It’s safe to splurge on something that will revivify you at this time. Likewise, look at what you tend to hoard–things, bad memories, resentments. It’s time to purge all the past junk that’s not serving you. Stop chasing. The truth that you seek is seeking you too. It’s time for stillness. I am talking to you, Capricorn and Cancer men, especially. Sit down, chill, meditate. You have a deep, unacknowledged need for space. Give it to yourself.
Saturn moves out of Capricorn at the equinox, so the long-held burdens weighing down the Capricorns and Cancerians are lifting. Pluto, Mars and Jupiter are all in Capricorn at this time. This is a powerful, transformative, activating energy at work. It’s time to drop the past and build the future. Don’t build your new future with stones of anger, resentment and regret.
For Leo and Aquarius, it’s time to identify the small things that are taking up too much time and energy. It’s time to gently and deeply investigate your work processes, habits and impulse buys. You are called to make the best use of your resources and rid yourself of the tiny thieves of your life. What’s robbing you of joy, calm and peace of mind especially? Leo will be deeply in their element with this inquiry, as the Strength card resonates with their sign. Aquarius, keep this purging gentle, like you would a fast or detox.
Saturn enters Aquarius near the equinox and for Aquarius, it’s time to take stock. Ask yourself, “am I making the best use of my time?” For Leo, Saturn in Aquarius rewards them for being and staying on mission and purpose, using their natural leadership skills to lead others towards a better life. Both signs need to examine how they want to grow as leaders and what they want their legacy to be.
The Magician, Reversed
The 8 of Wands
Pisces and Virgo need to be more intentional with their actions at this time. Both signs are in the trap of feeling like they have to work themselves to death to accomplish something, anything. They may also be trying to prop up a situation that’s far outlived its usefulness to them. It’s time to say “enough” and acknowledge there’s no more you can or should do. Meditate on right effort, right mindedness and right actions. There’s no magic words you’ll be able to conjure to bring something back to life. Let it be.
Mercury is in Pisces til about mid April with Neptune in Pisces. Both Virgo and Pisces need to trust their intuition, but not indulge in too many fantasies, what-ifs and such. The situation or burden they are facing will undo or unravel itself. Let it settle. No more effort is needed.
Wishing you a beautiful, restorative spring journey, full of health, wealth and love.