Pandemic Painting

Here’s a few paintings that I’ve done in the renewed COVID lockdown. This is the first time I’ve done acrylic painting on canvas. I’ve worked with tempera paints in the past. I’ve done decoupage off on and on. I’ve always loved mixed media.

Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Reflections On Quarantine Film Making

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.

Quarantini Film Festival supports the indie film community during the pandemic with access to online screenings and awards.

I have learned and been reminded of a few things while judging the Quarantini entries:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Thank you, Sherman Oaks Fatburger

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.

FatBurger at 14402 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA.

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.

the cost of covid for features

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.

Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak on Pexels.com

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.

Bullet Journal reboot

Even though we’ve been under quarantine, I’ve been busy. Today, I started to re-build my bullet journal after a pause. For me, the bullet journal is a tool of self-discovery, self-management and self-discipline.

I started bullet journaling last September as a means of achieving more of what I desired, instead of reacting to my industry and its whims. New to bullet journaling, my journal is far from perfect…like me.

My focus today, in prepping my bullet-journal, was “Where am I now?” I’ve changed, the world has changed. My journal needs to reflect those changes.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Less is more. I used to have an 18 task to-do list. I trimmed it down to five today.
  2. I gave my permission to let go of what was not working. There’s a lot of should-s. There’s a lot of hype of around morning rituals, affirmations, etc. I am not trying to force myself to do something because it’s trendy. I am doing it because it works for me.
  3. No matter what I plan, the best things come when I yield and receive. I didn’t plan on attempting my first feature film this year. It wasn’t in the journal or the plan. Guess, what? 2020 has brought a few surprises. No matter what I plan, I trust that there’s a divine plan that’s working out for me too.
  4. Productivity is not a substitute for happiness. Yes, I can be productive, but I can be productively unhappy. That was the state of so many people prior to the pandemic. It’s time to be happy. I don’t have to pile on the projects, errands, and chores to prove that I deserve happiness.
  5. Habits and habituation are the building blocks of life. I am an unconventional person. I am a night owl. I am nerdilicious. There’s a lot of ways I don’t fit into the traditional “successful adult” paradigm. Yet, I am a successful adult and that’s because of my habits. One of the best things about bullet journaling is that it helps you encourage good habits. I’ve seen tremendous improvement in many areas.
  6. Just because you can carry the load doesn’t mean you should. A never-ending task list is a form of avoidance. The quarantine helped me face what all of those bullets were helping me avoid.

As we re-enter the new normal, I am keeping my journal more responsive. I am not demanding too much of myself. I am trying not to make my plans too elaborate too fast.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Pexels.com

The Moving Image

I’m in the midst of editing “The Central Authority“, which is my first feature collaboration with co-director Armin Nasseri and co-producers, Nasseri, Dana Olita and Matt Chassin. Shooting and editing during the pandemic has been challenging, even as we use existing technologies to make a fully-socially distanced feature film.

Yesterday, Armin and I were in the midst of editing a great scene starring horror queen Genoveva Rossi. Genoveva plays an artist of some renown in “The Central Authority”, sort of a female Bob Ross. We allowed the actors a great deal of freedom in this movie and much of the movie is improvised. Genoveva came up with a profound truth about her character and art itself. She said, as her character Gwen Ross, “Art is about getting a reaction out of people, good or bad.” That was just what I needed to hear yesterday.

I have come to the epiphany that a moving image, a movie, must move. It must move us through time and space, but more importantly, it must move us–emotionally, spiritually, philosophically. That, for me, is really what a moving image, a motion picture, is–something that moves us.

Armin and I continue to work on editing the movie, taking each challenge as it comes, editing virtually now. It cannot be glossed over that as we edit this movie, we are also witnessing the massive social movements against police brutality into account. We are moving as a society and as a consciousness.

I’ll continue to update you on The Central Authority as it moves forward. Thank you for your support of our work and we look forward to releasing “The Central Authority” soon.

Morning and Mourning

First, I want to say that I stand with the peaceful protesters.

Second, I condemn rioting, looting and vandalism.

Third, I value our police, first responders and law enforcement.

Finally, there is no place for racism in law enforcement. Equal justice under the law mandates equitable enforcement of the law.

I awoke at 5:57 AM today, a little less than 30 minutes after last night’s curfew in Los Angeles lifted. I had grown used to helicopters circling at the nearby park like clockwork at 11:30 PM each night. I admit that hearing the helicopters made me nervous. The noise pollution was my nightly reminder that COVID-19 was still out there, lurking, being transmitted by those not practicing social distancing. Last night, it was the helicopters hovering at 10 PM that got to me. Those were not patrolling the park. They were patrolling against the rioting and looting taking place. I have a friend who’s a citizen of another country and doing business in California. She’s currently living in Beverly Hills. I made it a point to check on her.

Photo by Edgar Colomba on Pexels.com

Before bed last night, I promised my mother I’d be in touch as soon as I woke up. It’s a quiet morning as I sip my coffee. However, the news is disquieting. Hundreds were arrested yesterday. Businesses in neighborhoods I love were destroyed, already crippled by the pandemic. Those yearning for justice who were peacefully and lawfully protesting, were overshadowed by opportunistic anarchists.

“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan. Last night, all many people heard and saw was the rioting and the looting, not the well-justified despair behind the protests. Protest is a legally protected form of communication. Looting and rioting are not. So many will write this off as “an urban problem”, a “race issue”–and put the news into convenient thought-oubliettes of their own making. They’ll write this off as one “incident” among many, not questioning or thinking about the systems and systemic injustices that cause and foment this type of behavior.

It’s hard in the face of such devastation to maintain nuanced thinking patterns. Right now, many Americans are tuned in or tuned out. Many are stuck in the familiar us-versus-them mentalities or “not my problem”. This morning, I read another unsettling article. Rural America has not reached the apex of it’s COVID-19 fight. Being a “small town girl” living in a city devastated by riots and looting, my heart hurts today.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We love to think in terms of conflict. We are taught that narrative is conflict–man versus man, man versus society, man versus self, man versus nature. One of the biggest issues we have is that we don’t agree what the “conflicts” are. It’s more than right-and-wrong and black-and-white. The type of problems we face are not solved by caped, masked heroes and feel-good soundbites.

We are habituated to think in terms of conflict. What if we started from a place of consensus? Instead of focusing on what we don’t agree on, can we clarify what we do?

Let’s start here:

Can we agree that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” regardless of skin color?

Can we agree that public health threats affect all of us, directly or indirectly, rural or urban, young or old, well or not?

What can we agree on? In times of disagreement, we tear down. In times of agreement, we can build. We’re at the point where we need to re-build. A society divided against itself cannot stand. We need to stand up for each other now. If you haven’t done anything lately to heal race relations, take some time and do so today. I donated to the NAACP.

A little extra effort goes a long way. Yes, we’re social distancing. Yes, we’re wearing masks. Thank you. Please take a moment and do something for our health heroes and public health today. I choose to report my symptoms and social distancing to How We Feel app. Find something that’s do-able for you.

Please do something, even if it’s just listening, without judgement or prejudice, to someone’s pain, whether that person has been affected by racism or COVID-19 or both. We must take the time and make the effort to heal each other. The cures are better than the social and medical ills that affect us.

Today’s Happy Thought

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.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

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.

when grocery shopping is anxiety-inducing

I need to tell you that I had a breakdown yesterday mid-I afternoon. I still managed to have a good day. That’s my new normal.

I have had to have medical intervention for my anxiety. It’s not just being a “worry wart”. It’s not being a pessimist. For me, anxiety is this fear of being unprepared–that the other shoe is going to drop, that the good won’t last long enough, that I could be blind-sided at any moment.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

In a COVID-19-infected world, my anxiety has gone up, and I self-manage it the best I can.

Here’s what I know:

I never have been germ-phobic. I don’t think my worries about COVID are going to morph into a generalized germ phobia. So that’s win!

I have not always done well in crowds. People not maintaining a social distance is really irking me. That’s one of the things that triggered my breakdown yesterday while getting groceries.

As soon as I feel I’ve taken reasonable measures to protect myself, I feel better. For me, that’s keeping my mask on in public, disinfecting my grocery cart, wiping down my shoes and keys after going out, washing my hands a reasonable amount of times, and drinking hot herbal tea after outings. A feeling of safety and being able to protect myself helps ease the anxiety.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

No amount of ruminating makes things better. There’s very little I could say or do this moment that would change anything. I can only change how I respond, if I respond at all. Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing or to do less. It’s hard when you’ve built your identity around being a do-er or achiever. I’ve needed to pivot to how can I be helper, and more particularly, how can I best help myself–first?

If you’re going through this pandemic with anxiety, I feel ya. It’s not easy. It’s hard to have a siege mentality at the grocery store. It’s hard to watch people flout rules and guidelines. Help yourself by taking care of yourself as best you can, first.