An assignment 10 years in the making

Before my niece Parker was born, I proposed an idea to my brother Ron. I wanted to make Parker a CD of all the songs I felt (that fit on a CD) she should know by age 10. 

Well I never made the CD but I've been collecting songs that should go on this dream playlist for quite some time. 

I'm now thinking it'll turn into a CD to give to my first child. 

Today I've come up with two songs I feel should be on it:

- Born To Run - Emmylou Harris version

- Queen of Hearts - Juice Newton

Please check out the playlist as it evolves here

The Long Haul

I want to be really open about this whole process of making my new movie, SPEED OF LIFE. I remember wanting to making a movie and not knowing where and how to start. So... since I have some more time on my hands (we changed production dates from August to April), I want to use this time to share the process with whoever wants to listen. 

There are a few things I can’t share- cast names, details of my investors and their investments, but what I can share- I will.

Let’s start with what has happened so far.  

In March of last year I ran the Kickstarter for the film - here

After that I continued to work on the script, look for investors and then landed a job at Sundance.

The script has changed drastically. What started as a horror/suspense film about a senior character has now turned into a sci-fi dramedy about a woman in her early 60s who is confronted with a time traveling ex boyfriend. 

My love of Doctor Who was probably a big influence on that content change...  

At Sundance I created a writers group which lasted a few months  -  and also established a regular writing date with a few coworkers there until we all got distracted and stopped meeting up.  Lucky for me, that was around when I felt the script was in a decent place. 

Around this time I got approached by two filmmaking friends who expressed interested in producing. I approached a third and eventual fourth producer to round out our team. And then... 

... with our script in a decent state,  started to go out to cast.

When at Sundance Film Festival in January, I met with this fabulous filmmaker who is also involved in the nonprofit film world. I asked him for recommendations for my lead role of JUNE and he sent me a list that was incredibly valuable.

We approached several actors before JUNE was attached and they all wanted to wait until JUNE was on officially. Now that she is, we’re re-approaching all that talent.

What do we approach them with, you ask?

 - With either an offer letter or an informal reachout with information about the film that usually prompts a request of the script from the talent rep.

After we send the script out, we wait 10-14 days and see if we get a response. It’s a long process and sometimes the offer letter will expedite it as you can put a deadline on that.

That is a template I cannot unfortunately share.

So now we’re at the stage of re-approaching those actors, playing the waiting game, and polishing the script.

Counting down the days to April. There’s still a lot up in the air.

Here if you want to chat, hoping to be open and work with others to break down walls that prevent filmmakers from taking action and putting work out into the world.

 

Liz

The script's the thing.

it happens pretty much every day. 

The heaviness. 

The pressure.

The paralyzing anxiety. 

I wake up with a charge. I get in the shower, inspired and pumped. I commute to my job and then get so distracted by the quotidian. Or drained. Drained so much that I don't feel one creative spark in me. I have plenty of energy. I get fulfillment from my job. I'm content. But hanging over my right side of my brain is the idea that... I did not write today. And then the disappointment in myself sets in. 

The combination of pressure (self imposed) and expectation (self imposed) and a to do list a mile  long (imagined and never mapped out) is all bottlenecked on the perfect script. 

I will lash out. I'll snap or pace or jump up and down and then my partner, Sean, will turn to me and ask, what's really wrong, Liz? 

The answer will inevitably be that either I didn't work on my script that day, or a fear it's just not good enough and will never be. 

I remember these same anxieties while writing my first film Bread and Butter and though we didn't win an Oscar or get into SXSW, we still did incredibly well for a team and film of our resources. However, and this is a flaw of mine... in my eyes, nothing is ever good enough. 

So with this new film, I was supposed to turn in my last draft "over the holidays." I did have a few days of writing and just got back some new feedback ... but each time I go down into the script - I fix things and as things become more defined, I get more confident. I then send the script out for feedback and more questions, new questions arise. Questions that bring up points and aspects I never even thought to answer. Problems crop up with every edit that I never anticipated. 

So then I add more things to my writing to do list. And that. That adds to the pressure. 

Everything is bottlenecked on this script. I need to finish it. I need it to be as close to perfect as it can be. I understand that it doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be as good as it can be in this one moment. It needs to be good enough. And nothing ever is. 

The most recent run of notes are to address logic problems in the script. Once I address these, and I feel like the heart of the script is there - then, then I let go. 

And once we have the perfect script, we then go out to cast. We set dates. We keep on fundraising. We breakdown the schedule. We polish the budget. We apply for grants. It all is dependent on that script. that script that will never be done. the script that can always get better. 

It's a balloon that gets filled with more air and it just bigger until it is about to burst and when i sit down to write, it deflates a tiny bit. 

Writing tomorrow. 

New Ideas

Every now and then, in the shower or after a cup of coffee, I come up with ideas and neurons fire, and excitement hits and all I can see are possibilities.

It's up to me, just like it's up to you when ideas hit, to take one idea (or several) and run, or let it fizzle. Sometimes, the interaction of new ideas plus coffee happens within the same five minute period, and, because of that, those thoughts take flight. 

The Gchat records are murky, but I started watching Doctor Who in late 2014 or early 2015. My gateway episode months prior was Blink, but we started anew with Nine and chugged along to last night, when Eleven said goodbye. 

Like the formation of an idea, propelled by excitement and mystery - Doctor Who and its fate and future is enigmatic. It's a show constructed through an amalgam of chaotic storylines, confusing science and an overwhelmingly positive tone (through Eleven) about the capability of mankind.

My idea is new. My idea is terrifying, confusing and seemingly impossible. I want to direct an episode of Doctor Who.

Here's where the neurons slow down (confusing science). The coffee's effects start to degrade all the adrenaline/hope and turn it all to anxiety, self-doubt. But, Liz, you're not British. But, Liz, this is not how things are done. Give. Up. Let it go. 

So very often are we not even aware of our qualifications. We let other people take the role of gatekeeper, and we hear 'no,' and turn back. Maybe this isn't how things are done, but looking at my resume at a distance, I am qualified. 

I have directed music videos, promotional videos, as well as for a broadcast television series. I wrote and directed a feature that was distributed across the world. I am in the process of making another. I went to the best film school in America (debatably). However, the idea never struck me that I should attempt for this ... long shot... because no one every went up to me and said, 'Liz, you should direct for Doctor Who!'

Who would do that? That's crazy. And why would I wait for them? Too often are we waiting for others to give us permission. Also crazy. 

You may foresee that the system may tell you 'no,' but the first way to get a yes, is to figure out what you want. I love Doctor Who so much, that I want to become a part of its legacy. 

The world of Doctor Who has taught me that ... unusual things happen. We should strive for grand goals, we should try to achieve the impossible. Right now, this seems like an impossible task. 

Let's try. 

So either way, I'm making it a public goal. Accountability is key and if I keep this to myself, it'll fester and die. By clicking 'publish,' I am pushing it out into the world. 

Sure, all of this may fall by the wayside, like my dreams of learning how to skateboard or losing 50 pounds. Life gets in the way. But something pushed me to write this, something is telling me it's scary and impossible and that's what makes it worthwhile. 

“The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.

Ex-Boyfriends and Death (Current Boyfriend)

Our new film has a lot to do with the residue from broken relationships and fears about death. In an unsupervised social experiment created by me, I reached out to my exes to ask them about their thoughts on death. 

Here's my interview with current boyfriend (of six years) and partner in crime, Sean! Real name! 

1) What are your greatest fears?

Being destitute and not being able to take care of myself.  Also, that Liz will remain as smelly as she is now.


2) Please pick one and share if you have any thoughts on its origin. 

I am unemployed, so...


3) Please elaborate on how you feel when in the midst of being confronted with this fear. 

Helpless, sad, not happy


4) If death isn't in the top, what are your thoughts on the possibility of dying? (if death was top, skip to 5) 

Not really thinking about death.  I hope it's not too soon!


5) What does death mean to you?

The end of life, but the possibility of something beyond.


6) Please list the first few movies that come to you mind that feature older characters. 

Cocoon, Driving Miss Daisy, The Bucket List, A View to a Kill


7) Who are your favorite older actors (65+)?

John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, William Hurt, Dustin Hoffman


8) What would you do if Death came to visit you? 

Ask if he/she wants milk or sugar with their arsenic


9) If Death came to you as an ex, who would it be (no names necessary, just characters!), and how would you react?

That ex-girlfriend that was a total nightmare and never left you alone.  I would kill myself before she got the chance.

Ex-Boyfriends and Death (Ex #1)

Our new film has a lot to do with the residue from broken relationships and fears about death. In an unsupervised social experiment created by me, I reached out to my exes to ask them about their thoughts on death. 

Here's my first interview with Ex #1, who from now on will be be called MAX POWERS!

 

1) What are your greatest fears?

GREATEST FEARS INCLUDE BEES, COMMITMENT, AND LIVING A LIFE OF MEDIOCRITY.

 

2) Please pick one and share if you have any thoughts on its origin.

WHEN I WAS 6 OR 7 YEARS OLD, I LIVED IN THE ATTIC OF A SMALL HOUSE LOCATED IN A FORGETTABLE LOCATION OF THE FLYOVER STATES. OUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR OWNED A HUGE PLOT OF LAND SURROUNDING OURS AND, JUDGING BY THE SMELL, IT WAS COMPOSED ENTIRELY OF NOTHING BUT COW SHIT. ONE PARTICULAR FEATURE OF SAID COW SHIT PASTURE WAS AN OLD, DECREPIT BARN. SERIOUSLY, LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A MADE-FOR-TELEVISION KIDS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. THE WOOD LEFT ROTTING FOR YEARS. INTERIORS SPIDER-WEBBED AND LITTERED WITH RUSTY FARM TOOLS THAT WERE PROBABLY MURDER WEAPONS AT ONE POINT. I ALWAYS FOUND MYSELF DRAWN TO IT, INTRIGUED BY THE GHOSTS OF YESTERYEAR'S COW-SHIT-SHOVELERS. YET, THE SCARIEST ASPECT OF THE WHOLE PLACE WAS AN ENORMOUS BEE'S NEST IN THE CORNER OF THE MAIN STABLE. IT WAS HUGE. LIKE, SERIOUSLY LARGE. A PULSING, BUZZING RUSTIC TUMOR. I WAS NEVER STUNG OR ANYTHING, BUT SOMETHING ABOUT THE WAY THOSE BEE'S MOVED IN AND TOOK UP A SHOP, DESPITE THE GHOSTS AND THE SMELL AND THE INEVITABLE COLLAPSE OF THE BUILDING... WELL, THAT WAS ENOUGH FOR 7-YEAR-OLD ME TO NEVER QUITE TRUST BEES AGAIN.

 

3) Please elaborate on how you feel when in the midst of being confronted with this fear.

USUALLY, IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SQUEALING AND RUNNING THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. SPASTIC ARM WAIVING. HIDING BEHIND LOVED ONES AND SMALL CHILDREN. BASICALLY, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE THE MOST COWARDLY THING IMAGINABLE, THAT'S PROBABLY A FAIRLY ACCURATE REPRESENTATION.

 

4) If death isn't in the top, what are your thoughts on the possibility of dying? (if death was top, skip to 5) 

IT WOULDN'T BE IDEAL. IT'S NOT SO MUCH THE IDEA OF DEATH THAT'S SCARY, BUT MORESO THE IDEA THAT IT WOULD HAPPEN PREMATURELY. IT'S LIKE... I GOT SHIT TO DO, YOU KNOW? I'VE GOTTA GO GROCERY SHOPPING AND PICK UP MY DRY CLEANING AND GET MY TAXES DONE. I DON'T HAVE TIME TO BE DYING JUST YET. GIVE ME ANOTHER 70 YEARS OR SO AND THEN WE'LL CALL IT A DAY, COOL?

 

5) What does death mean to you?

PERMANENCY. IT'S LIKE A ONE WAY ROAD WITH NO U-TURNS.

 

6) Please list the first few movies that come to you mind that feature older characters.

COCOON, AMOUR, AND THE GREATEST CINEMATIC UNIVERSE OF ALL TIME... THE EXPENDABLES.

 

7) Who are your favorite older actors (65+)?

DAME JUDI DENCH, HELEN MIRREN, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, WILFORD BRIMLEY (die-yah-beetus)

 

8) What would you do if Death came to visit you? 

I'D OFFER HIM A MOUNTAIN DEW AND ASK HIM TO JUST CHILL FOR AWHILE. MAYBE SET HIM UP WITH AN IPAD TO KEEP HIM BUSY WHILE I COOKED DINNER. JUST HANG, YOU KNOW? THAT WAY, YOU ESTABLISH A RAPPORT AND MAYBE HE FEELS BAD ABOUT STOPPING BY UNANNOUNCED. WHATEVER YOU CAN DO TO PROLONG WHAT TIME YOU'VE GOT LEFT, I FULLY SUPPORT.

 

9) If Death came to you as an ex, who would it be (no names necessary, just characters!), and how would you react?

THERE WAS AN EX WHO MADE A HABIT OF SHOWING UP OUTSIDE MY DOOR IN A FACE FULL OF TEARS. MAKE-UP SMEARED, TALKING A MILE A MINUTE. MOST OF THE TIME, THERE WAS NO REASON BEYOND JUST GENERAL EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY -- AND I DON'T MEAN THE USUAL GUY CODE OF "BITCH BE CRAZY." WE'RE TALKING MULTIPLE DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENTS A WEEK. NUMEROUS PRESCRIPTIONS. FREQUENT SELF-HARM THREATS. OUR UNTIMELY DEMISE ENDED WITH A BLOW-OUT ARGUMENT IN THE MIDDLE OF A CROWDED PARKING LOT, WHEREBY SHE SQUEALED THE TIRES OF HER PARENTS' EXPENSIVE SUV AND LOUDLY PROCLAIMED, IN FRONT OF HALF A DOZEN FAMILIES AND ONE ELDERLY WOMAN IN A LOVELY PINK COAT, THAT SHE "WISHED SHE HAD NEVER SLEPT WITH ME." THIS RATIONAL BEHAVIOR WAS FOLLOWED UP NEARLY A WEEK LATER BY THE PLASTERING OF AN ANGRY, TEAR-STAINED LETTER AND STEM OF DRIED, DEAD ROSES ON MY DOOR.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, IF SHE WAS DEATH AND SUDDENLY SHOWED UP TO ESCORT ME TO THE OTHER SIDE, I THINK I WOULD KNOW IMMEDIATELY. I WOULD KNOW US MEETING FACE TO FACE AGAIN COULD ONLY MEAN BAD NEWS BEARS AND I SHOULD JUST COOPERATE. 

THERE ARE SOME THINGS -- AND SOME PEOPLE -- YOU JUST CAN'T ESCAPE, SO THERE'S ALMOST NO POINT IN TRYING TO FIGHT IT. DEATH MAY BE AN INEVITABILITY, BUT YOU CAN OFTEN AVOID IT IF YOU MAKE SMART DECISIONS AND AVOID CARCINOGENS. FATE, THOUGH -- BE IT IN THE FORM OF A PERSON OR SITUATION -- IS ALMOST MORE TERRIFYING THAN ANYTHING BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO. IT'S THE LACK OF CONTROL THAT REALLY SCARES US MOST, I THINK.

PLUS, SHE DIDN'T LIKE MOUNTAIN DEW, SO I DON'T THINK MY PREVIOUS SCHEME TO DISTRACT HER WOULD PROVE ALL THAT FRUITFUL.

Ex-Boyfriends and Death (Questions)

The plot of our film, PLAN B, revolves around an older woman who wakes up to her ex-boyfriend (from 50 years ago!) in bed with her. 

During this Kickstarter campaign, as I polish the script, I started to think about what it would be like to get back in touch with my own exes. What are the feelings that arise? What would they have to say? Are they also afraid of death? What do they think of the film? 

I'm using the term "ex" liberally, and have reached out (at the risk of my own complete and wholehearted embarrassment) to three men I haven't talked to for a while. Only one responded, which, considering, is probably great odds. To round things out, I asked Sean (my partner in crime) to answer the same questions I asked my ex. 

At his request, I changed the ex's name to something "super bitchin'" (his words, not mine). 

What follows are a list of the questions I asked both people. Two separate blog entries will cover their responses:

1) What are your greatest fears?

2) Please pick one and share if you have any thoughts on its origin. 

3) Please elaborate on how you feel when in the midst of being confronted with this fear. 

4) If death isn't in the top, what are your thoughts on the possibility of dying? (if death was top, skip to 5) 

5) What does death mean to you?

6) Please list the first few movies that come to you mind that feature older characters. 

7) Who are your favorite older actors (65+)?

8) What would you do if Death came to visit you? 

9) If Death came to you as an ex, who would it be (no names necessary, just characters!), and how would you react?

All Good Things Stem from Nick Luecking

I ran a Kickstarter back in 2012 but REALLY my good friend Nick Luecking ran the campaign. We met Nick when we were looking for pre-production interns. I had posted on Craigslist or Mandy. I was looking for a 10hr/week commitment from someone and in exchange, they'd get a crew position on the film. I interviewed about a dozen people and Nick was laid back and decent when we first met him. I say laid back because I'm very anxious and he seemed to be stable. We had a meeting or two and people started to disappear and Nick stayed. He came up with ideas, he started getting involved and Sean and I were always struck by how positive and encouraging he was about everything. 

As the campaign continued he tweeted, gathered followers, started connections. He created the B&B family out of nothing. I will forever be grateful. 

We had a few other people stay involved (what up, Laura Petersen! Flora! Yaro! Aram!), but a lot of people disappeared. I mean, no-budget filmmaking doesn't offer a lot, and I don't blame anyone for disappearing! 

Fast forward to four years later. In the space between, Nick did some DIT, 2nd AC, and 1st AC work on our film Bread and Butter. He became the DP for the show Sean and I were on  ("Just Seen It") and now he's back with us helping out on our second feature, PLAN B. 

There's no real point to this blog post other than to celebrate Nick. One day I'd like to buy Nick a really fancy vegetarian dinner (because in addition to donating bone marrow, and being a generally great person, he's also a vegetarian). In entertainment, everyone is sweet and kind but we're all on our own very self consumed journey. Nick finds a way to make his journey, other people's journey as well. I want to be like him when I grown up. He's one of the best. Here's to Nick!

Mid Campaign Anxieties

I registered lizmanashil.com a few weeks ago because I wanted to document the pre-production process of making our new movie (currently titled PLAN B). Since then, I've been swept up into Kickstarter land. However, the intensity of running a Kickstarter campaign is starting to get the better of me and I thought maybe this would be the day to write our second blog entry. 

There are so many things that run through my head each time I open up the Kickstarter page (which I open in conjunction with Facebook and email every morning). I think about my morning Facebook post, and, as crazy as it sounds, I deeply question the content. With every post. What is the least annoying way to ask for money? There's no answer to that. All ways are annoying. Once you accept that (I still haven't), you can probably let go a little bit. This anxiety snowballs as the day goes on. When should I post? Are people blocking me? Should I take a day off? What does it look like from the outside? From the inside it's one big old anxious mess and I worry they are one and the same. 

With our first film, we managed to gather so much support from strangers in addition to loved ones. Those strangers have become friends and, thankfully, are now Kickstarter backers yet again. However, we haven't really had any strangers contribute this time. It could be the fact that our video is not a puppet musical. It could be my weakness with outreach. It could be the state of crowdfunding at the moment. A friend of mine commented on our Kickstarter video lately and noted that our disclosure about not getting married is such a non-sequitor that it may be distracting people. His comment got in my head. Are we alienating people? Have we offended people with this weird claim that Sean and I are not getting married? Truth is, we may get married some day. It could even be tomorrow. I wrote that line in the video because I never want to have a wedding and I thought other people may understand that making this movie is what we see as the formal event of our 30s. That probably is't clear at all, and, to be honest, I kinda regret that it's in the video at all (if it's that big of an issue for viewers). 

As you can see, especially now, I take everything so personally. Every time someone donates, I burst into tears; If it's a dollar, if it's 100 dollars. If they don't donate, I genuinely wonder if they hate me. That's what Kickstarter has reduced me to, a paranoid pile of tears who misreads the world as one dimension. It's unhealthy and I cannot wait to be out from under the Kickstarter gun. I guess it's just that it feels that the stakes are tremendously high at the moment and because I care so much about making this movie, I feel very powerless sometimes. And that powerlessness turns into panic. So I kick and I scream and I try to yell out 'Look at me! Kickstarter' and then immediately feel guilty for the pleas for attention. It's a weird little vicious cycle that will probably continue for the next 24 days. 

Even in the midst of all this over-honestly described panic, I'm so incredibly grateful. I've run out of words to express my gratefulness. I've said it a few times, but it's a manic state. I run between joy and depression daily. I'm working on breathing exercises. I'm working on listening to showtunes and drinking juice. I cannot shake the conviction that we need to make this movie and that notion battles with all the anxieties that are prompted during a crowdfunding campaign. However, I just gotta keep swimming, right? 24 days, 24 days... 

The farther I go, the more I have to do.

There’s some maxim somewhere (I’m trying not to google too much) where someone said ‘the more you know, the less you understand.’ Forgive me for paraphrasing. In terms of pre-production, it’s very true.

Before you decide to make a movie, as most of you probably know, it feels calm. You feel excited and inspired. The impetus pushing you to start a project is pure and beautiful and calm and lovely and then you decide to make something and all hell breaks loose. It’s all because of post-project amnesia.

Somehow I had blocked out all that I went through with Bread and Butter. I had forgotten every lucky break. I’ve always been grateful, but sometimes I forget why I’m full of that indebtedness.

Now, the farther I get into pre-production on this new film - even though we have not one cent of money - the more I remember of all the travails of our first film.

At least I’ve been through it all before, but I’m constantly shocked - on every project I’m a part of - how many lucky breaks come to you last minute. What if that muse doesn’t come through? What if crew bails? What if location falls through? The show must go on, but at some point the luck must run out as well.

What is pretty fresh in my mind is that the sigh of relief when the film is finished was almost depressing to me. You mean I don’t have this best friend of a film to hang out with every day anymore?

So basically I’m looking forward to a really hard, really terrifying experience for the next few years that will only leave me with pride and sorrow. And why do we do it?

We ask each other this all the time. Over drinks, during meetings. Why do we do what we do? It’s really fucking hard. At a glimpse, it all looks so silly.

I have no idea. I have this drive to make another movie and I can’t ignore it. I have this story in my mind and I have to get it out and I have this character that I’m obsessed with having the world see. Sure the world can be just the audience of my parents and maybe a few close friends - but that’s enough for me. I just have to have it out of my head.

I guess we do it because we have to.

 

Here we go.