How to make your dream film a reality without selling your kidney or giving someone a blow job

Assalam alaikum!

So you wrote a script. I already know it’s amazing. It came straight from your soul. It feels like lightning on the page. I do not doubt that it is.

 

This is the part that will hurt, so let me hold your hand – be prepared to make it yourself.

In fact, the more fiery and human it is, the more likely it is that you will need to be this baby’s midwife.

I know you already know that. That’s why you set it in one location.

But I also know that in your gut, you’re hoping someone is going to love it enough to make it their own. You’re setting the bar low enough so that your script has a wider pool of suitors.

It’s alright. You can say it.

No one is going to marry your script.

I mean, I can’t say for sure. But I can make an educated guess. You know how I know that? Because you don’t have any produced credits. Even if they are crap, they are worth their weight in gold.

But you can’t get produced credits without someone loving your writing. And then deciding to produce it. Then taking it through development and pre-production. Then production. And the last and most important hurdle – post-production.

That’s a lot of love. Who’s going to love that script that much except you?

(To be fair, there are a few people. But the person who has to start the love train rolling is you.)

I gave up on being only a screenwriter. I now call myself a filmmaker because I will do whatever it takes to get a film I’m passionate about made.

Why did I give up on writing, something I’ve done since I was six years old?

  1. I was spending too much money for not enough results.

I spent about 200 to 500 dollars a year on competitions, courses and writing-related stuff. The more desperate I got, the higher that number went.

I spent much more than that on films. The budget for my first short was 2350. The second was around the same.

However, the first led to the second being commissioned by Blacktown Arts. I got a grant of $2000. So that covered most of the budget. It is also a proof of concept for the project, I’ve been gnawing on for close to a decade now, Whose Wife Is It Anyway.

Do you know what it’s like to see characters that have been in your head for eight years come to life? To borrow Mastercard’s tagline – it’s priceless.

Just Food played at the Lonely Seal International Film, Screenplay and Music Festival. And it’s a semi-finalist at the Made in the West Film Festival this year.

Now those are results.

  1. I got precisely nowhere.

Well, not nowhere. But all of the movement that happened in my career happened at the same time. In the summer of 2014 just before Isa was born.

I got into the second round of the Sundance Screenwriting Labs. Plus, Geoff LaTulippe selected me to be one of his #sixweekspec ten.

And since that time….a good three years later, the needle has not even moved a single jot. No, not even quivered.

Now you might be thinking that perhaps my screenplays weren’t that good. I would have liked to have known that. Anyone who wants to master a craft needs feedback to do so. None of the contests I entered gave me feedback. Only one of the courses did.

Now you might also be thinking, that since I only write Muslim female protagonists, that the industry is racist, sexist and Islamophobic. I will not disabuse you of that notion.

  1. I got very poor feedback.

I am actually pretty grateful for this.

A few times, the feedback I received was demeaning, even pejorative. Some people were definitely on a power/privilege trip.

Other times, the feedback was tough, no doubt, but still loving and kind and encouraging. People said to me, “Yes, there is a problem. But you definitely can fix it. Here’s a few ideas, take ’em or leave ’em.”

Those few disappointing conversations taught me what good feedback looks like – lovingly honest, not brutally honest. We want to elevate both writer and script, not crush both.

  1. Writing was tough on my mental health.

I often had severe bouts of depression. Usually preceded by the constant rejection. It was less the rejection and more the feeling that I had no way to measure my success that got me down.

  1. Even if I were to become a professional screenwriter, it appears I’d still be doing oodles of free work for little or no actionable feedback. It’s just that unlike now, I’ll be getting a paycheck once in a while.
  1. The change I want to see starts with me.

With all of the above in mind, the question became like a clanging fire alarm in my brain. Why am I doing this? Why am I writing films? Because I love films. And there aren’t many with people that looked the people I love i.e. my family. Ordinary everyday confused complicated wonderful weird Muslims.

I waited and waited and watched and wrote. But it became apparent that, unless I made them, my children will grow up in a world much like the one I did.

The TV and the news will demonize us. We will seclude ourselves in cultural enclaves and nurse an ever-growing list of resentments. We will live and die not knowing what it is to be heard or to be seen.

 That might sound rather dramatic but it feels like this has been going on for generations.

If pop culture is our collective unconscious, why aren’t the 1.8 billion Muslims of the world featured in it? Except in terrorist or victim garb? Growing up, when I didn’t see myself or anyone like me onscreen, I didn’t feel like my contribution to society would be valued. Which means I was either depressed or mad. Never healthy places to be.

I have a few friends who are doing very well as screenwriters, so I’m not saying at all that my way is the highway.

However even they wouldn’t disagree with some of the liabilities I’ve mentioned above. What do you think? Is it worth it?

Look, I’m not going to lie. Film-making is a tough gig. But dude. There are many many many upsides to it too. Plus, my roundabout jack-of-all-trades history is actually an asset in film-making. More on that in another post.

P.S. Are you Muslim? Would you like to see a Muslim not be a terrorist or a battered woman onscreen? If so, please fill out this teeny tiny itsy bitsy survey. It’ll only take 4 minutes but give me heaps of valuable information.

 

 

To my artist friends: 8 reasons not to pay for that next course.

I’ve wasted a lot of money on gurus, books and courses. I was panning for gold, looking for someone to tell me the secret password to entering Hollywood.

Here’s the things I wish I’d done instead.

  1. I could have made a film instead.

You can make an amazing 7-minute film with $1500.

PARTNERS from Joey Ally on Vimeo.

  1. Recognize that the best work for me was descriptive, not prescriptive.

They didn’t tell me ‘do this or die!’. They gave me a zillion examples of films I love doing this thing that causes this quality I love. It was more analytical than prescriptive.

And the best works came up with theories about why these works were so great. From these theories sprang a set of tools that would get me closer to creating a piece of transcendent art. That’s all most advice is – a set of tools that may or may not work.

  1. I could have made a film instead.
I could have made a killer 4-minute film for $700.
  1. Each screenwriting guru has a set of tools that might be useful for one set of issues but not others.
The Coffee Break Screenwriter became vital after I became a mom. Tim Ferguson’s The Cheeky Monkey has been my go-to comedy resource lately. I’m trying to figure out what I find funny, why I find it funny and how I can replicate that quality in every thing I do.
    1. I could have made a film instead.
I could have made a knock-your-socks-off 2-minute short for $400.

This is a whole series of-2-minute shorts.)

  1. Listen to interviews instead of buying their courses

Interviews take a lot of prep to do. And the best interviews are the meatiest interviews.

But also interviews are a great way to figure out if you’re on the same wavelength as someone. Because some people’s tools will work for you and some will not.

  1. I could have made a film instead.
I could have $0 dollars on a 1-minute short and still been better off than I was, looking for geese that lay golden eggs.
    1. Read their books instead of buying their course.

Books are denser in knowledge and cheaper. And I like reading. You can borrow a book from a friend or your local library. If you like it, you can buy it#bringbackreading.

What I’m saying is: I should have been more like my mother. I should have been stingier.  My mother would have tried every which way to get stuff for free till she couldn’t anymore. Then she would have paid the smallest amount of money she could.  Because I should be using that money to make films.

Create. Don’t just gestate.

(I’m not saying the above films cost that much money. I’m saying that it’s very very VERY possible to make a film of that quality with that much money with the right script.)
What’s your take on gurus? Are they full of BS, just another way to screw hopefuls out of money? Or are they a necessary and fruitful part of the industry?

 

Do you like what you see in the mirror? Me neither. Until now.

I’m mildly embarrassed to tell you this, but here goes.

Last year I took a course on how to dress myself.  

Yeah. I did that. I spent money on it.

Why the **** would I do something so  ******* dumb when we could have been making ******** movies, I hear you say?

But you know what? It is, hands down, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. And I have spent a crap ton of money on ‘courses’.

And that’s because I learned so much.

I love clothes.

I love colour.

I love movement.

And I’ve realized that I’m 33 years old and nobody gives a hooping funt what I wear.

Nope, not a a flying flamingo

Not even a defenestrated fizzwaggle.

So I dress for me. If I like what I see in the mirror, dayuummm. Mashallah. I give myself a grin. I’m keen to slay my day.

I need not get a single compliment about my outfit. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking after me.

But make-up?

I’ve spent a lot of years poring over my face. Poring over my pimples. Poring over my pores. I wish I could grab my 20-year-old self by the shoulders and shake her, “Don’t buy that make-up. It will do precisely jack all. All it will do is make you look like a reject from Twilight. Or a mime that managed to escape their box.”

Seriously tho. Make-up is expensive. It goes bad (what? Are there bananas in foundation? Why does it go bad?) And and and….have you noticed how the number of freaking things we need to put on our face to look groomed keeps growing?

Ten years ago, had you heard of highlighters? No, right?

Yeah. That’s something that appeared in the last five years.

I don’t know about you but I sweat. I don’t need to catch the light. The light catches me.

Let’s wear clothes that make us feel good. Really really good. Like I-could-swing-from-a-chandelier good.

View this post on Instagram

 

Assalam alaikum and Eid Mubarak, family! Marvel at the orange I finally have the courage to wear.

A post shared by Sabina Giado (@sabina.giado) on

 

I never would have the courage to wear this Fanta shade of orange if I hadn’t internalized this belief:

No one cares what we are wearing except us.

What if we attract too much attention on the train? What if someone attacks us?

That person would have attacked us if we were wearing only black o the fliest pair of Chuck Taylors in the country. Violent Islamophobes don’t see clothes. They see targets.

We’ve got only a limited amount of years on this earth. Let’s choose joy. We’re privileged enough to have a choice.

P.S If you love make-up, more power to you. I can’t be bothered anymore. It’s no fun.

P.P.S. I just spent a whopping $10 on a BB cream. And I started using it yesterday. I look exactly the freaking same. My problem is, if I spend money on my face, I expect to look like Miranda Kerr. It’s make-up, not plastic surgery.

What I wish I could have said to my parents about filmmaking

Assalam alaikum dear parents,

I know you were terrified.

If it makes you feel any better, I was too. I had the nervous runs every day.

I mean, there I was, the daughter of Sri Lankans. From Sri Lanka! A tear-drop in the Indian Ocean! Most people don’t even know where the heck we are!

And here I was, telling you I want to make movies for the rest of my life.

Why shouldn’t you be scared? And angry at me for making such mad decisions?

You’d leave home at 7 am and get home past 11 pm every night. Just to send me to uni. And I was going into an industry where living wages aren’t guaranteed, even for mid-career professionals.

You’d raised me to walk with my head held high. And I was going into an industry known for its abuse of women.

Worse still – I wear a hijab. I may as well have been wearing a target.

I’ve been writing screenplays now for about 9 years. I’ve been a filmmaker for two. I’d like to tell you something – you were right. You were right about every. Single. Thing.<

You were right to be mad at me.

You were right to be scared.

All of your reasons weren’t judgments; they are facts. This industry doesn’t pay. And well, the #metoo and #timesup movement are testament to its treatment of women.

But please hear me when I say: If there was anything else I could have done, I would have done it. My other jobs gave me severe anxiety disorder.

I went to work every day with dread like a suffocating blanket. Every Sunday night, the chest pains would be so bad I couldn’t do much more than cower under my blanket.

Apart from the physical pain – those grandchildren you want? They weren’t going to happen. Not with my body like that.

But crap, who the hell do I think I am?

You ran from cages I cannot imagine so I didn’t have to live my life in them. I’m safe. I’m fed. I’m clothed. I’m sheltered. And now I want to make films.

Who does that? People who are free.

Safe minds dream. From those dreams spring art.

Why do you think there are so many white people in the creative industries?

Doesn’t that make you mad? It makes me furious.

But I want you to know how blessed my life is now. I still have anxiety but it’s much reduced. My chest feels expansive, not contracted. Yes, my work is hard. It’s thankless. It doesn’t pay very well. Or at all. There are times where I have felt such deep shame at my perceived inadequacies that I haven’t known what to do with myself.

But I know deep down that this is where I’m supposed to be. This is what God put me on Earth to do. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have given me joy. He wouldn’t have given me freedom. He wouldn’t have given me a head bursting with stories and ideas.

I love you. I always have. And I always will.

There are 1.8 billion of us. And none of us have any good TV. (Until now)

My dearest friend, assalam alaikum!

I should put my glasses on for this, right? Hold onto yours if you’re wearing them.

What?! You’re looking at your phone in bed?! Go to sleep, child. I’ll be here in the morning.

Fine. I’ll just tell you.

An idea has been knocking around in my head for quite a while. It’s wild. Well, no, not really. But it seems hard. Especially with what I’ve learned.

“What have you learned?” I hear you ask from beneath your covers.

I’ve learned that we Muslims don’t trust each other.

I sent a survey out a few weeks ago to three of my favorite Muslim WhatsApp groups. I loved them and they love me. I assumed.

I asked them very simple – absurdly simple! – questions about their viewing habits. I want to know what makes Muslims tick when it comes to visual content. These 60 or more people whom I already had a relationship with might be the easiest and most willing mine, right?

Wrong.

Maybe this means I need to work on my friendships. Fair assumption.

Maybe this means Muslims in general do not trust the mainstream media. This would explain why I got crickets when I asked the local Muslim community for help on my latest film. (To be clear – I wasn’t asking for money. I was asking for locations and discounted catering, if they were up to it. No one was up to it.)

This suspicion is understandable. I mean people like me made Homeland.
Fox News.
Donald Trump. (Yeah it was us.)

But it’s also distressing. And I’ve been wondering how to bring down those walls. What are your thoughts on why we trust each other so little?

Here’s what I think: we need to build a worldwide Muslim filmmaker network. Dare I say it – a MAFIA. Movies and TV could be a powerful dam to stem the tide of Islamophobia.

When you actually engage with a story, you’re inviting strangers into your house. You’re giving them a cuppa. You’re asking them where they’ve been. If we get more people to do that with Muslim stories, we may lose a few enemies and gain a few more vocal allies.

I mean take the LGBTQIA2s+ community for example. The fact that I even know that acronym means that, at least among the ‘liberal progressive’ media, people are sympathetic to the queer cause. I ask people for their pronouns before speaking with them or about them. Through shows like Queer Eye and Soldier’s Girl (Lee Pace is insane in this one), I was given a peek into the life of a transgender person.

Do people have that level of knowledge about Muslims? There are 1.8 billion of us!
Do people know what halal meat really is?
Do people know why or how we pray? (Watching Homeland, the answer is definitely no.)
Do people know why women wear the hijab and what’s the appropriate etiquette when meeting one in the wild?

Movies and TV could change that. But we need to band together to do that. We need to start trusting each other.

These are all ideas that Lena Khan, a fellow hijabi and filmmaker, has floated in her talks.

  1. Muslim organizations and businesses need to support local Muslim filmmakers. That means money. If not money, free in-kind services. If not that, free locations and free consultations on their areas of expertise
  2. We need to have grants for Muslims films, TV and web-series. See above: money. Film-making is an expensive business. A few less Audis, a few more films.
  3. We need to support each other with time, resources and expertise. And money.
  4. We need to recognize the value of using visual art to change things.
  5. We need to NOT sell out. We need to be as loud and as proud and as MUSLIM as we can.

What do you think? How can we create a thriving global Muslim film scene?

Okay. You can go to sleep now. With that bee in your noggin.

P.S. When you wake up, watch these shows.

Yes, my friends made them/are in them, but I have no affiliation with the projects. So many hijabis. Wallahi, it warms my heart.

5 Steps To Finding A Producer

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

I have cried. I have bled. I’m sweated. I’ve fought. This script has cost me money, time and a whole heckuva lot of peace of mind.

But I’m finally going to do it. I’m going to make a feature. Specifically my ode-to-my-mother romantic comedy Whose Wife Is It Anyway.

For the few – or many – of you, who have never heard  me talk about it, this is the logline:

When her terminally ill mother asks her to get married before she dies, a Muslim female comedienne dives into arranged marriage again, but with a new twist – she tests her suitors with improv games.
Whose Wife Is It Anyway is like Bridesmaids but they’re trying to plan love badly as opposed to trying to plan a wedding badly.

What I need most right now is a producer. 

Where does one find these miraculous creatures?

This very long 27-minute article has a few tips. And I’ve decided to summarize it for you.

Finding a producer is like falling in love. (Oh. I thought it was going to be hard.)

When I am an established director with my own production house…pfft, I can produce anything I want in-house. Though I might go after certain producers to fulfill certain ends like funding or getting access to stars.

What is a producer’s role?

Producers will have to know the film’s value in the market. Based on budget, they can attract foreign and domestic buyers. Script, director and cast all have to be calibrated towards that goal.

However first time filmmakers’ films are rarely presellable. They are what is called ‘execution dependent’.

Producers have to think from the outset how to distribute if a traditional distribution deal does not happen. 

So what exactly does a producer do?

  1. Helps ‘make’ the film.
  2. Finds financing.
  3. Rides point on distribution.
  4. Also controls marketing.

These roles can be divided or shared based on each individual’s strengths.

I should think about what kinds of skills I need for my specific project.

I do need to find that creative soulmate though. This is a peer who’ll be with me in the trenches. 

Executive producers are good in the outset for money and for those extra credits.

To find a producer, take these steps.=

Step 1: Understand your project’s 

  1. Tone
  2. Genre
  3. Audience.

AND why? Why this genre? Why this tone? Why this audience?

Step 2: Look for comparisons.

What films influenced me to make this film? Reach out to those filmmakers.

  1. Who’s making the kind of film I want to make, especially in terms of size and scope?
  2. Which people are working in the region I want to work in?
  3. Which producer would be familiar with my mode of production?
  4. Who has experience attracting cast and crew?

It’s a good idea to follow these people on Twitter.

Watch their movies.
Read their press.

Consider the motivations of each producer.

We can discern tastes from Twitter, track record, etc. But also from the producer themselves or their assistants.

What we are looking for is not content similar to our film, but thematic and emotional similarities. 

Good resources: 

  1. Hollywood creative directory
  2. IMDB
  3. Industry mentors.
  4. Agents who are interested in my short films might facilitate meetings.

Step 3: Make a presentation package.

This includes a:

  1. Script
  2. Look-book
  3. Mood reel
  4. Director’s vision statement

I should know reference points in film, literature and theatre as well.

Personal connections to that person are always the best. This helps cut through the pile. Because birds of a feather flock together. 

Timing is key to meeting with producers. Festivals and markets are good – we’re taking a zillion meetings anyway. However, just going to film festivals to support other filmmakers is great too.

Other ways to meet:

  1. Producer speed dating.
  2. IFP Project Forum
  3. Sundance Film Lab.
  4. Film Independent Lab
  5. Filmmaker magazine.
  6. Tribeca All Access
  7. “Script development markets — i.e., CineMart, Sundance, IFP, Tribeca, Film Independent, Berlinale Talent Campus

Step 4: Submit: Follow submission protocols on their website.
If there aren’t any, email or LinkedIn.

Step 4: Send a reminder after a week. 

How to conduct electronic communication: 
Write a three or four-sentence email with logline. The email should describe what films they have produced that inspired me. What is it about their approach that beckons me?

If requested, send a 1-page treatment and look-book. 

Don’t act helpless.
Don’t act gimmicky.

After I find my producer:

  1. Rewrite script.
  2. Plan different budgets at different tiers.

Producer can get me into the room – but I’m the one who is going to have to inspire. 

What is a film collective? Directors and producers banding together against the system.

What if I just want to make a film with my friends?
This is a viable option. But that may or may not look good enough to move the needle.

Another possibility: Work with someone who has never produced but a) is passionate about the project and b) is super organized.

We can also work with a producer after the film is made to get good marketing and distribution plans in place.

If anyone has anything to add to this discussion, as you might have guessed, I’m listening VERY closely.

 

3 tools for the socially anxious filmmaker

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Have you ever been on a really terrifying roller-coaster? You know the kind that made you really regret letting your husband talk you into this? The kind that has you screaming and praying even before it started?

BUT… when it ended, you were actually sad to get off?

That’s what making my second film was like.

But leading up to it was a fantastic work-out of the ole emotional management system. Particularly of my anxiety disorder.

One never knows what’s going to happen on a film set. That’s why we’re always encouraged to back everything up and have back-ups of your back-ups. So my personal Balrog just luuuurrrvvved that.

Here’s a couple of things that worked for me this time around.

I avoided my tripwires, not my triggers.

My triggers are basically decisions, screens and other people. And I’m a filmmaker!

Can’t avoid those. And don’t want to avoid those.

What I looked for instead were my tripwires. How did I know I needed a break?

Usually if I found myself glued to my screen. Making excuses to not get up and get lunch or get some exercise.

If I found myself snapping at my husband and my son, that was a major trip-wire.

But the biggest one, I think, was starting to lose sleep. I knew I needed a day off when that happened. It was hard but it was necessary.

This process has actually really helped. I know that I can work hard when I need to. And I know that I can stop myself from going overboard.

I also tried to space out my triggers. 

My son’s schedule helped me stay away from screens a lot of the time – one of the many times that #momlife has been a blessing. I would try not to schedule too many meetings or decisions in the same day. No one is dying so usually nothing was that urgent.

And last but definitely not least, I tried to up self-care, not reduce it. (Spoiler alert: I failed) 

I’ll be the first to admit I’m the worst exerciser and still am. My meals got weird very quickly very soon too in the thick of pre-production. I’m talking doughnuts and camomile tea weird. But it didn’t help. So I’m telling you – it’s not going to help. It made me a whiny baby by evening. And I already have one of those.

Hope this helps. There’s more coming, once I wrap my head around life and film and post-production.

Being a filmmaker is a lot like being pregnant.

Take care of yourself, beautiful people.

Why Pride and Prejudice (2005) is absolutely perfect

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Because this movie rocked my socks off as always, even on the millionth viewing, I want to break down why it works. It is one of the few “I hate you, but by the end of the movie, I love you” movies that work.

I’m going to use notes on rom-com structure from this fine tome. 

download

Set up – what are each of the protagonists missing?

What he is missing is more readily apparent. He is obviously miserable. Perhaps lonely. A number of walls between his true self and his outward appearance. He doesn’t converse well with strangers, by his own admission later in the film.

What she is missing is more problematic to think about. She seems happy. But she isn’t like her sisters. She doesn’t like performing for strangers. She is constantly demeaned by her mother and others for being headstrong, bookish and plain (plain in Hollywood is Keira Knightley). Perhaps what she unconsciously looking for is a place where she can be herself and be loved anyway. But for that, she’ll need to give up her peace and quiet and that of her family’s as well. Something she, like her father, values far too greatly.

Cute meet

For him, it is practically love at first sight. It is obvious. Even to her. But he insults her instead. Like a damn fool.

Negging doesn’t really work in the real world, bruv. Just so you know. (I think he knows.)

What I love about this scene is that it’s apparent how vulnerable the falling in love has made him feel. How the walls almost immediately start to crumble. And he immediately armors up by insulting her.

She of course never lets him off the hook for his behavior. Not for the entire film.  Which is great fun to watch.

This is her usual teasing behavior but this time, it causes much more trouble than it usually does.

Sexy complication

This is either Jane getting sick.

Or Elizabeth finding herself attracted to Wickham, who is Darcy’s sworn enemy.

Jane getting sick leads to a very sexy hand-holding moment.

I always find it unbearably charming that he stands every time she enters the room. And doesn’t join Bingley’s sister in finding fault with her ‘wild’ appearance (that’s my girl). And did you see the way he starts when the footman says her name? Gah. It’s the little things, dudes. The little things.

And you see in this moment? Ms. Bingley is making pretty obvious plays for him, but he chooses with his eyes.

The city girl/country girl dichotomy is apparent here. Though is it the virgin/whore dichotomy? That’s less apparent.

Wickham is definitely a complication. Though not particularly sexy. Like most of us, she’s looking for love in all the wrong places.

Hook (midpoint) – stakes-raising bonding moment. 

Oh but this is the clever bit.

Darcy proposes; she rebuffs him in no uncertain terms. And accuses him of ruining both her sister and Wickham’s life.

He writes a letter telling her the truth; about Wickham’s deceit of Georgiana Darcy, and his own mistaken view of Jane Bennet’s affections for Bingley.

Why does this bond them? It is after all a deeply painful moment.

Well a good argument is always rather sexy. Meanwhile an exchange of truths, even in very heated terms, is still a deeply intimate conversation, particularly for the walled-off Mr. Darcy. She tells him about her relationship with her sister; he tells her of his relationship with Bingley. And later his history with Wickham.

This shakes our Elizabeth to her core. What Darcy has said to her would shake her sisters to the core as well, but she prefers – not unlike her father – to keep the peace. A choice she will pay for later.

There are more small moments that show the gradual breaking down of Darcy’s defenses.

He admits her, in the most goshdarn endearing and adorable manner, that he is bad at talking to people.

He tries in an awkward but sweet way to have a conversation at dinner with Elizabeth. His aunt immediately cock-blocks him. He shows many signs of visible irritation as she lays into Lizzie. Something she could not have missed. Though Lizzie, always our girl, holds her own.

Swivel – Second Act turning point decision that lays tracks to climax. 

She and another aunt and uncle go to Derbyshire. Their carriage breaks down near Pemberley. Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle want to visit; Lizzie doesn’t want to, but decides to anyway. Against her better judgment.

In the course of visiting, she finds herself in the family’s private chambers where she spies Georgiana playing the piano. And Darcy come home to surprise his sister. They spot her; she’s embarrassed. He’s very gracious. But her heart has already been softened towards him.

Did the dirty great big house change her mind? The lake for miles? The tons of naked statues? More likely, the view of Darcy as a man begins to melt Lizzie. He is unfailingly generous, according to his housekeeper; plus, much like her, he dotes on his sister.

And here again is another one of my favorite scenes.

What I like best about this scene is the numerous times he says “I love you still” without really saying it.
Going after her in the first place instead of letting her go.
Asking if she had a pleasant trip.
Upset that she’d be leaving the next day.
Reassuring her that she hadn’t intruded.
“May I walk you to the village?”
Trying every which way to prolong the conversation.
Reaching the inn even before she gets there to invite her family to dinner, so that she might meet his sister. Lizzie is deeply troubled by this invitation.

Which leads to an exchange between the two, the only civil conversation they have the entire film. And also the only time Mr. Darcy smiles. My heart is mostly mush anyway, but this made it goo.

Dark moment

Lydia’s marriage to Wickham. Darcy tries to comfort Lizzie but is a man of action more than words. He leaves immediately without telling her what he intends to do.

Lizzie’s keeping of the peace has led to the precise opposite. Her family is almost ruined by scandal and her heart is broken by her own sister.

Joyful defeat 
When Lizzie finds out that her sister’s marriage is bankrolled by Darcy, well….not much left to say or do really. Other than propose.

There is a clash between two titans. The aunt and the prospective niece-in-law. Lizzie holds her ground and refuses to refuse to hook up with Darcy.

Note here – he didn’t stalk her. He didn’t try to convince her to marry him. He backed off UNTIL his aunt probably came home in a puff and said that that blasted Bennet girl must have the hots for him.

And then of course, is the best proposal ever.

The End.

Except in the US version, there’s this wonderful ending scene. Darcy is smiling. Elizabeth is teasing him but also at peace and in love. And you have that first kiss we’ve all been waiting for. Or is that just me?

I’d have to find the script to see if it was in the screenwriter who wrote in these gorgeous moments or in fact if it was fabulous acting and innate understanding of rhythm on the director’s part.

I must read the books again. And I must watch the mini-series. But I refuse to watch Lizzie kill zombies. I refuse.

Should I? I don’t know. I’m punch-drunk on Jane Austen.

10 Lessons from my first short film-making experience

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

So Alhamdulillah (thank God), I shot my first short film.

It’s a 8-minute short called I Like Long Walks. One location (my house), one character (me), minimal set ups. We’re currently tightening it up in post and hoping to submit it to a few festivals. Watch this space.

Here are a few lessons I learned from this teeny tiny but mighty experience.

  1. Food rocks. Food is super important. Food is the wind beneath my wings. (I’m fasting.) Seriously though: Plan lunch in advance in consultation with your crew. If you’re going to do French hours i.e. no lunch, have tons of healthy and nutritious snacks on hand. Again in consultation with your crew. I had precisely one other person so that consultation would have been easy. If I had done it. And have lots of water on hand.
  2. Get help. I was so overwhelmed writing, directing, producing and starring that I failed to account for pretty basic needs (see above).
  3. I was initially planning to shoot the thing myself so I did not feel the need to do a recce with sound and light in mind . If I had, I’d have known the train and the highway right outside would be rather a bother for sound. Plus my loud neighbors and their ludicrously long home improvement projects.  I had also initially wanted to shoot in my bedroom. But light is terrible there. So we chose the living room but light fluctuates like crazy where I was sitting.   It all made for fun times in post.
  4. Take your time on set. Goodness takes time. Especially when your actor (me) has not had a lot of sleep and is acting out some tough emotions.
  5. Divide your script into units even if there aren’t any scenes. So this makes it easier to shoot and easier to edit as well.
  6. Make sure sound is rolling when camera is rolling and off when camera is off. It can make for irritating work in post listening to sound files looking for the correct audio. Label sound files with scene numbers.
  7. Choose people to work with who are generous with their knowledge. Who don’t laugh at you when you ask questions. Who teach you everything they can. Because personally, I learn best from other people
  8. A true spirit of collaboration is key. No creative should dominate the conversation, should drown someone out, should muscle in, negate or ignore any other. Empathy and being a good listener are SUCH PIVOTAL QUALITIES for a good filmmaker, it’s ludicrous. I would highly recommend reading Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication. The whole book seems to be up here for free with seemingly no copyright claims.
  9. This is where directing overlaps with mothering to a great degree – the director directs the vision of the film. What that means to  me is: Directors set the most gentle parameters they can and then allow their people to play freely within those parameters. Those gentle parameters are key, I think.
  10. Keep the props in a safe place in case you need to reshoot! 

Hope this helps. If it is in your heart to do so, go out and make movies, folks. Nothing quite like it. I always knew this. But I’m only accepting this truth now. Better late than never, I guess.

 

Handling vicarious trauma as a mother of color

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of absolutely disgusting things being done by humans to other humans and very often to animals all around the world.

Every time I open up Twitter or Facebook or anything for that matter, I find evidence of the unending evil that we can inflict upon each other.

For me, living in a Western country during peace time, people who share my identity categories gather to complain and commiserate. I must say we live in enviable comfort.

When it comes to WOCs in the film industry, what we’re doing is extremely important though. Seeing people of color like myself going through the same things I am was like oxygen to me. Like climbing out of a well and smelling fresh air for the first time.

I think we also need to start moving forward. We all know there’s a problem with the film industry, with the hiring of women and people of color. Now the question I am continuously asking is…what can I do about it?

We’ve defined the problem. Now let’s define the solution.

It’s Ramadan. It’s the month of mercy. It’s the month of forgiveness. I’ve decided to turn off the darkness so I can find my light.

Log off Facebook and Twitter for a month.

But it’s not that simple. Nope, it isn’t.

I’ve found a lot of professional contacts on Facebook. I have a few projects I’m working towards in the coming months that would require me to connect with potential collaborators on Facebook.

So what do I do?

I’ve been trying to put some limits on my social media connection. Only 10 minutes. Only in the night-time or only in the morning. Only things I can actually do something about. I don’t feed my personal Balrog more narratives of victimhood and powerlessness.

Like I said, compared to some in the world, I live in enviable comfort. There are systemic blocks against me. But I can actually do something. And I will. I will go to my grave doing something, even if it ultimately means nothing in this life.

But for that, I have to stop giving away my energy, mental, emotional and spiritual. I don’t know yet how to do that and still maintain the access to professional networks I’ve carved out.

The methods I’ve mentioned – they aren’t actually working. It’s hard not to fall down a rabbit-hole on social media when dang it, smart-phones and opposable thumbs make it so easy.

But I’ve been feeling this oppressive weight lately from the amount of stuff I consume. I wan to create more. And give more.

I’ll let you know when and if I figure it out.