Saturday, January 29, 2005

Shoving It Down

Last night I was talking to Janey for a very long time (Thank you, Verizon). I was laying out all my angst for her, and she was listening in the way she can, knowing that in the past she has laid out all her angst for me. When it was all laid out, labeled and categorized, we shared a pause and she said, "Well, I don't know what to tell you to do about all this except maybe you should just Shove It Down. You know, Shove It Way Deep Down. Wad It Up Tight and find a spot and just Shove It. Down. Deep."

This caused us both to laugh uncontrollably for several minutes.

Laughing really hard always feels good. So does the idea that Shoving It Down is always an option, however dysfunctional. While I'm not planning to Shove all of this, Shelving it may be a practical option. Especially when it boils down to Getting Something Done vs. Being A Spasming Pool of Inactivity.

In totally unrelated news, I've always felt out of sorts with conventional seventies nostalgia because I have no affinity with roller skates and pointy collars. For me, nostalgia of the late seventies and early eighties has to do with a certain kind of pastoral hippiness that is alway set in fall and involves cableknit and shearling and Gordon Lightfoot songs with a verse for each of the four seasons. (I remember singing this song in the elementary school choir, but they must have changed that line about "naked limbs"? I love the idea of getting an elementary school choir to sing popular folk music) In fact, I think that a lot of my nostalgia for this era comes from music my parents listened to and things in our house. My mom's cookbooks that were those spiral photo albums the covers of which were beautiful colour photos of autumn leaves or pristine alpine lakes or snowy mountains. They look a lot like those beautiful wall-sized photos that people had actually wallpapered onto their walls in the late seventies. God, those are beautiful. I'd like to have one of those in my house eventually. Maybe with Japanese Maples.

Certainly my mom had a lot of super-hot outfits for that era and season. The concept that brown is best-looking colour you can wear, especially if you wear it with bright red and cream is fixed in my mind, as is the supremacy of drapey sheer blouses and paisly neck scarves. And I do love Gordon Lightfoot. Also John Denver, especially in that hat, or squinting-smiling into the sun while holding his guitar (woven shoulder strap).

I think when I was a five-year-old one sunny afternoon in September 1983, I looked at my mom and loved and idolized her so much that all my ideas of what is beautiful were crystallized in that moment and it has never worn off.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Putting the "Shit" in "Oh Shit"

As of today, every teacher I'm taking a class with has sworn in class. I didn't think my directing teacher would actually do it, in fact, I thought he was going to be the one hold out. My other teachers have come out with great stuff: "Make sure the emulsion is facing towards the lens. No one has ever fucked this up in my class" "Judy Garland was a bitch" "Barbara Striesand with that huge nose and that fucking frizzy hair..." "You better have something to say in film or your work will be shit" And today when he thought he had started the DVD without setting the subtitles, my mild-mannered directing prof uttered a loud, "Shit!" That's five for five and it's only week three.

This is a reason for not just loving post-secondary education, but loving graduate education, and most especially, fine arts graduate education. I'm a big fan of swearing, especially in slightly inappropriate circumstances. In the last little while I've turned into a bit of a potty mouth myself (it's one of those things that go in phases) and I've been trying to reign myself in a little.

I think that I might give up on that for a while. We start principle photography this Sunday, shooting the first scenes of my movie. I hate, I hate, I hate going into shooting. It makes my guts feel like wadded-up wet sheets spun dry against the wall of the washing machine. Perhaps indulging myself in some expressive cussing would help things, or at least be one less thing to feel soggy and clenched-up about.

(I have a can of compressed air by my computer and sometimes I shoot some air into the air and that makes me feel better too, even if it does make the ozone layer feel worse)

In other news, start reading this because of who wrote it and finish reading it because of what he goes off about.

Monday, January 24, 2005

How to Hide Several Thousand Dollars Worth of Film Equipment in Your Room

For this course, we shoot on film. This means we need lots of crap. Gone are the good old days when all we needed was the digital camera, its tripod, and a lightbulb. (Seriously, although my kit was bigger than that, that's really all that I used most of the time. Maybe a couple gels.)

Over the past two Wednesdays, Jordan and I have acquired a sort of unbelievable amount of equipment that we not only had to fit into a car, but take home, haul up our respective staircases and somehow incorporate into our living spaces. As my landlady wants to renovate our non-bathroom into a bathroom, I'm trying to fit everything into my bedroom so that the chance of a c-stand growing legs and walking off is reduced.

Jordan took the two child-coffin-sized boxes of lights and stands and I took everything else.

I have a 16mm Arriflex film camera behind my closet door. The belt battery pack sits on top. Under my bed are two c-stands, two stingers, the tripod, and the box of lens filters. Under my side table is a pile of sandbags. Against the bookshelf lean two pouches of light filters and the flexfill. Behind my shoerack are two flags. In my closet is a 1K light that I have already stubbed my bare toe on, and its stand. Ah, and the plastic bag of clamps and mini light stands. That was in the kitchen for a while, but it's now next to the flexfill. Maybe I could fit it in with the sandbags?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Like Accidental Nudity

The thing about shooting on film, and only shooting one project for this term, and also this being the last time I get to make a short film (and not just complete an exercise) in the degree means my script keeps blossoming forth and then getting beaten down to the earth, like an accordian.

Today, because of the potentially disturbing politics of my current re-write (aka: The Pablo Problem) I sat at a table and threw out increasingly random ideas. "What if we start in 2001 and then at the end it's 1920?" "What she cooks the bread, but when she cuts into it, it's full of blood?" "What if the OgoPogo's head appears in the kitchen window just as she's taking the bread out of the oven?" Eventually I scaled it down and came up with an idea that I think will work.

Also, auditions.

I never did hold auditions for any of my other projects. I now know why and applaud my decision not to try and do this before. It's utterly exhausting, and that's just calling everyone to get them to come out. The audition itself is a bit like a marathon. There's so much tension in the room, so much nervous energy. I was trying to be low-key and casual and put people at ease, but sometimes I'd catch sight of someone's pit stain or slight tremor and feel bad for them all over again. I got the feeling so many of them really want the part because unlike the stripper/whore/cute girl/murdered girl/waitress roles that usually come up for struggling actresses, this is a feminist movie with a female director.

My audition consisted of getting the actors to think of a story of a turning point in their lives and then tell it to Jordan while they folded a pile of laundry that I had out for them. This is an old acting exercise, the story while doing laundry thing. I wanted to see them doing habitual domestic action and how they focussed on other things while they did it. I did tell them that the stories could be fictional because I didn't want them to feel like they had to reveal inner dark stuff to Jordan and me, but you know, they did anyway. Rapes, deaths of children, commiting to childless-ness, my marriage is bad, we got a smorgasboard of very personal, often very touching stories. I'm pretty sure only one was made up. A considerable percentage cried during the telling and seemed surprised at themselves for crying. And I got to watch my clothes (three t-shirts, one button-up shirt, one pair of pants, my Christmas sweater from Mom, and my favorite red socks) get folded many many times over in many many different ways.

Every audition was mesmerizing, if only for the anthropological aspect of the kind of stories that these women had to tell. I kind of just want to make a film about that. There was something distracting and familiar enough about the folding of laundry that seemed to make their stories less calculated and more vulnerable than they otherwise would have been. It was beautiful; I want to cast them all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I'm On My Way (I Don't Know Where I'm Goin')

I'm eating frozen blueberries out a cup right now. This means that in a few minutes, when I brush my teeth, everything will be purple. Also, my fingers might take on a slight blue-ish tinge, like I'm an ink-stained bluestocking who spends her evenings crouched in her garret, writing fascicles about leaves and carriages of death. I'm taking care to eat them with my right hand to underscore the effect.

Tonight I phoned 39 actresses to invite them to auditions for my film this term. Sorting out these few from the 161 who posted to my online call for submissions, it was shocking to see how actress-y lots of these actresses present themselves to be. I know what town I'm in here, but come on: how do you expect to get jobs with six photos of you in different poses that only seem to prove that you look good all painted up and shot with such high contrast that you appear to have no nose? I guess there is a fair amount of casting that goes on in which the quest is to find "a pretty lady", but really, isn't it smarter to show that you are a person with depth and ideas and identity and versatility and the ability to post a picture of yourself looking wrung out and crappy because maybe that's what the role calls for? This kind of straight-up shallow vanity is exactly what made me not want to be an actor, back when everything else about the profession seemed pretty darn right for me. I'm more about a vanity of a more complex, nuanced and (occasionally) well-hidden kind.

Maybe it all has something to do with how female characters are supposed to be "female" a lot of the time, whereas male characters often get to actually be characters. That's kind of what my movie is about (although I'm at the point in the process when it seems like everything is "what my movie is about").

Oh Vancouver, sorry 'bout that. Hope you feel better soon. Don't mean to rub it in, but there it is.

(PS: I thoroughly enjoyed talking to strangers about the weather when I was home for the holidays. It's so wonderful that we all have this topic to discuss that everyone agrees is usually trivial, but we all still keep track, especially when we hope it gets hotter in the summer and when we thrill that it might get even colder in the winter. Like the weather is our team and we all follow it and cheer it on. Here in LA, no one really gives a shit about the weather because it's always more or less the same.)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Ill Pleu

Okay, so it's raining in LA. And it's not so much that it's raining, but that it just doesn't rain like this here. People don't even own rain jackets, they're walking around with umbrellas getting soaked in the sideways slant-stream of downpour.

Me, I've got my trusty MEC jacket (the "other" Canadian flag, for those in the know) so the water drips down it and I only get soaked from the mid-thigh down. This, however, still sucks.

As a result of the water, everything in my house keeps breaking. One: the heat was off when I got here. I left a long-winded polite phone call to my landlady and now it back on. Two: the mesh gate door sticks against the wooden railing beside it, as that wood gets swollen with the rain. Three: the actual door behind the mesh gate door is also swollen with the rain, so much so that it is nearly impossible to close and once closed, nearly impossible to open. Two and three are direct results of our new landlady having removed the little awning over our door. Why? Why? It was ugly, but useful, and its use made it beautiful. Four: the shower broke. I was blithely enjoying the cocooning warmth of the shower, and suddenly realised I couldn't turn it off because the plastic handle had split. Eventually, I turned it off with a screwdriver. Five: while I was driving up Vermont, trying to avoid the even more numerous potholes (because of the creekbeds that the streets have turned into? Perhaps) and thinking about the broken shower, my windshield wipers broke. To be accurate, I discovered today that the problem is a blown fuse, so not too hard to fix. Still, LA is welcoming me back in the way that only LA can.

Now I'm going over to Kat's house and she's going to make me some pasta with alcohol in it. Choice.

That is, I'm going if I can make across the very deep, very wide lake of water that waits at the bottom of my stairs.

Friday, January 07, 2005


I write this as I wait for the iron to heat up so I can iron my many suitcase-wrinkled shirts. Yes, folks, I'm back in the land of L.A.

It has been utterly shocking to me how happy I am to be back here. I'm almost bashful about it. Who would have thought that this city would have wormed its way into me like this so soon. Maybe this is still the honeymoon period and I'll hate it soon enough. Anyway, a lot of what I like about this town is liking who I am when I'm here: studious, movie-shooting, freeway-freewheeling, cute-little-non-rainproof-jacket-wearing, friend of many cool people. It's not that I don't like who I am when I'm in Vancouver, it's just that being in Vancouver forces me to contend with various earlier versions of myself, few of whom I like as much as I like myself right now.

In short, it was completely soul-satiating to go home and see everyone and remember where I come from, but back here, I feel better and stronger than ever.

Even though it's raining like stink.
Even though until a few hours ago there was no heat in my house (but now there is).
Even though my hope for finishing the term clings to finding some on-campus work.
Even though while finally watching Blade Runner for the first time in the library today the dialogue track was really low and I think I missed a number of major plot points.

Thank you, and goodnight.
(PS, The title refers to the final score of the Junior Hockey finals, don't you know.)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Oh- Five

You know you've had a good New Year's party when you wake up to find a skull and crossbones sharpie'd onto your shoulder and a large horseshoe sharpie'd onto your forearm. They say it's good luck to wake up on New Year's morning and have the first thing you see be a woman (please discuss what kind of "luck" this may be referring to below) but a horseshoe can't be half bad.

Janey's house was a bit of a wreck (black marks from the aforementioned Sharpie on the floor, beer cans on every available surface in the kitchen, beer cans with shotgunning holes filling the sink and a large dent in the living room wall from where Kimmy fell over and hit it with his head) but the day beckoned with sunshine and a few snowflakes and we ventured forth to Bino's Family Restaurant for some breakfast mess. I wasn't even all that hung over, nor tired, having gone to bed at the relatively early hour of four.

In other news, I finally got around to going for a run today. Wow, I miss running on the track up in West Van. As long as I avoid school hours (it's the high school track), the track is this completely deserted shelf of land amongst the trees, against the mountain and looking out to the sea and over the water to downtown. The only other people around are also running, but often it's completely empty and this allows me to do things like yell in triumph when I hit some sort of running target time. I love being able to run and not think about curbs and traffic and dodging pedestrians. Sometimes I run with my eyes closed. It makes running a meditative experience, good for thinking things over.

I can't wait until the USC track is open. March, so they say. I hate running around the campus because of the curbs and traffic and such mentioned above, as well as the alarming shade of purple my face sometimes turn when I run. And sometimes I'm running and I can't figure out where I should go-- up this street, or across the grass, or?

Maybe I'm just not coordinated enough to run in the real world.