Dying For A Place to Live

‘Oh you poor thing.’

That is the expression I get anytime I mention I am looking for a place to live whether I sound chipper or if I have a slight tone of defeat. Strangers or friends, even if they don’t verbalize it in words, the sympathetic look on their face says it all.

Yes, being in Los Angeles on the hunt for a space to hang my hat, stow my stuff, rest my head, heat up discounted frozen burritos, wash off the sweat of the ‘hustle’, unwind with a glass of wine, again…still…is killing me.

What you’ve heard about finding housing out here is nothing compared to the reality. Especially for someone like me who isn’t ready to share a place with 10 recent college grads and argue over whose turn it is to sleep on the yoga mat and who gets the bathtub.

And I’m also not in a position to afford a place of my own yet, since I do not have a steady income. I tell you though, finding my own space is a motivator to keep hitting the pavement, looking for work.

The search for a place to live has been ongoing since I arrived a few months ago. I’ve been fortunate to have several places to stay in friend’s homes, or friends of friends. I figured that would give me time to find a semi-permanent or permanent space to call my own.

Everywhere I’ve found thus far though has been short term, or temporary with the possibility of long-term that ended fairly soon. So even while I have a roof for the moment, I’m spending all my time looking for my next place and not spending time on writing, creating, applying for work. Really. Trying to find a place to lay my head at night has been a full-time job.

Before I headed out here, I was fine with the idea of being “on tour”, couch surfing, as I put it in a blog post back then. But it is wearing on me. I am ready to take the next step with Siri, where I add an address to my name in contacts, and I can tell her “Directions home,” and she will guide the way to my cozy haven where I have a parking space to pull right into, and can walk into my comfortable space and be ‘home’.

Admittedly, I have had an opportunity or two that my instincts told me weren’t for me for different reasons, so they were passed up.

The main issue is parking. Wait, no, what am I thinking? Cost! That’s it! The price of rentals here is absolutely, positively, ridiculously outrageous. Everyone obviously knows it. Even landlords have gone on about how incredulous rates have become.  At the moment with just occasional background talent work, it is hard to justify rates above what I have set for my current budget (as close to $1000 as I can possibly stay with utilities and parking included).

Everyone here has warned me the cost of not having a space devoted to parking my car equals countless parking tickets. No matter how much a person swears to themselves they will be diligent and stay on top of the street sweeping schedule, it is tough, and still results in a lot of fines. I’ve missed out on some cute places in areas I really liked because there was not a parking space. I tell myself the same as other people said they convinced themselves: “This place is wonderful. I love it. I’ll be good about moving my car when I have to. How tough can it be?” But then I remind myself that for times when parking is prohibited on one side of the street for sweeping, that makes parking even more scarce. And do I really want to be driving around and around late at night after coming home from an event, only to find something blocks away and have to walk alone to my door? So I move on and continue my search.

Another huge pain in the butt are the scammers. Most of the scams I’ve encountered are from Craigslist, but they’ve wormed their way into other rental sites as well. This is no exaggeration, I have received at least 15 responses to my inquiries about an apartment like this one:

Thank you for admiring our post.My husband and I need an honest tenant to rent our property located at ### S Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. I am Deaconess Veronica Weisgerber and Apostle Jason Weisgerber is my husband.We are presently in Africa running a non governmental organization that educates the underprivileged ones and also leading them to accepting Christ as their Lord and savior. We decided to make our rent affordable $1050 per month (rent already include utilities; Water,Trash,Electricity e.t.c) so we can attract an honest and transparent tenant.
 
Our Previous property manager were only concern in making their money and never attends to the needs of the our tenant and property so my husband and I decided to handle the rental ourselves.
 
N:B (The document and keys are with us and i have no problem sending it to you through fedEX which will take 16hours to get to the states so you can go view the inside property but the security deposit will be put down before the keys and document be sent,the security deposit is refundable if you do not like the inside of my property after viewing.I will give you a call once you agree to my terms and conditions).
Feel free to drive by the property to view the outside.
 
Best of regards  Veronica Weisgerber
You can reach me through this number +2348126414201 or let me know when to give you a call if you can’t call internationally.
I will love to speak with you

Of course I responded immediately and not only paid the deposit but also sent my bank account number just to be sure. Yes, sarcasm!  Driven by the anxiety of what began as an adventurous search for a cozy, safe place to live turned into a battle for a bedroom.
Other than parking, another HUGE issue out here is ageism. I have been looking for people who have an apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms because although these places are generally more expensive, I’ve decided a private bathroom is another must for me. If someone else doesn’t care about clogs and mildew in their sink and tub, that’s their thing, but I don’t want to have to scrub up someone else’s hair every time I go to shower. So, an apartment with one other person with our own bedrooms and bathrooms, and only the living room and kitchen for common areas seems like an affordable way to go.
So, I’ll be reading a post on a Facebook LA rentals group and begin to get excited. In my budget! Private bedroom and bathroom! Parking space! Utilities included! In an area I want to live! Where do I contact them now? How do I snatch up this great space before anyone else gets it? Then, inevitably, as I look for contact information I get to the line…”Mid-20’s looking for someone same age.” Seriously. I’ve been reminded LA is a huge attraction for trust-fund babies. I am sure some recent graduates have respectable paying jobs to allow them a luxurious residence. However, it is incredible how many 20-somethings are affording $2000 rent.
It is a time-suck with all the searching online, driving around, phone-calling and emailing. My sweetheart reminded me, “You are a director and a producer. Finding a place to live is your production.” Or at least that’s what I heard through my gasps and sobs as I sat listening through my earbud, in my Subaru at the curb, sun beating down on me through the windshield, feeling sick to my stomach because I had to move in two days and I still didn’t know where I was going to go. And in the few months I’ve been here I’ve somehow managed to expand my stuff from the belongings that fit snuggly in the back of my Forester when I arrived from Colorado to three carloads! And that includes a rug I just had to buy at a thrift store when I wasn’t even sure I’d be in my last apartment for more than a month, because hey, it really pulled the room together.
Suffice it to say, regardless where I moved, it was going to be a schlep.
The time and effort that go into looking for housing have been taking up my creative energy. I don’t want to “produce” a place to live. I want a haven to appear. A simple sanctuary where I can breathe, meditate, write, read, watch movies, enjoy a glass of wine, pee when I want, not have to reach over a pile of dirty dishes to use the kitchen sink, use my blow dryer and electric toothbrush (yes, I mean my electric toothbrush!) without concern that the noise is disturbing someone.
I am so grateful for the reminders from people why I came to LA. I didn’t come out west to pursue a full-time gig looking for places to live. Besides, it doesn’t pay anything. Instead, it costs–time, money for gas, pieces of your soul.
A few people have reached out to me with connections, links, advice, for which I am very grateful. And one by-product of my hunt has been meeting some fantastic women and making friends through it all.
Last week when I began writing this post, I had no idea where I would be living this past weekend.
Finally, as I stuck with it and continued the search, through blood, sweat and tears at what I felt was the last minute, I found a place in Los Feliz where I could live for the remainder of April. The woman whose apartment it was had to leave town for a few days so I rushed over to see the place and meet her. Though she didn’t ask for any money to hold it, which was fine since we didn’t sign anything at the time, we verbally agreed I’d move in Saturday morning.
This was a relief to an extent, but I would have to lug everything I have here up a flight of steps and then schlep it all somewhere else in only three weeks later. As much as I was dreading the thought, I tried to accept it is all part of living in LA.
Living the dream!
Those arrangements made, on Friday, the day before I was scheduled to relocate, I met with another woman whose second bedroom/bathroom in her apartment would be available soon, this place in Sherman Oaks. I was hoping to get something lined up for May instead of spending the next three weeks on edge as I continued the quest.
After touring her place, she invited me to sit down on the couch. Neither of us being 20-somethings, it was nice to be in the company of another woman who could relate to the benefits of sharing a place with someone closer to her age. Eventually she asked when I was looking to move. I took a breath and said with a slight laugh though I’m sure my eyes were serious, “Tomorrow.” She wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not, so I explained that I was needing to be out of where I was the next day regardless and I had a place I could go for three weeks. Sitting here with this adult, I didn’t have to spell it out for her. Instead she was the one who said it out loud, “So, you could move there but then you’d have to move again in three weeks?” I laughed and nodded.
I could see her thinking. She was going to be renting the bedroom eventually, but it is a big deal to have someone come into your space with such short notice. Even in the best of circumstances, it changes the dynamic of how you live.
She pondered it a moment. We discussed a few matters to make sure we were both on the same page. Then she said, “Okay.”
We both were almost in shock at the spontaneity of it all. Neither of us was used to making this type of decision without long deliberation, spreadsheets of pros and cons, weighing benefits and costs.
Then we hugged on it. Wow, a kindred soul.
Her apartment is on the third floor. On her balcony she has several bird feeders. She explained that since her sweet dog and cat have passed away, and especially with the drought out here, she does what she can to take care of the wild birds.
As we sat on her couch, there was something peaceful about their chirping and fluttering. She told me the different types of birds as they’d land and peck at the seeds she had for them. Reminder, if you’ve read my blog since my time with Daddy, we often spent time in the courtyard or at the park sipping coffee and watching the birds. There was even a nest outside his bedroom where we watched on as eggs were laid, babies hatched, momma feeding them, and one by one they learned to fly on their own. so often when I see birds, especially in this type of atmosphere, I feel Daddy’s presence really strongly.
IMG_3592-1At one point I glanced out and asked her in a hushed voice so not to frighten it, what the huge bird was that had landed on her railing. She turned and was shocked. “It’s a hawk! I’ve seen them on the branches of the trees out there, but they’ve never done that before. It’s a sign.” I hoped it was a good sign, and she said indeed it is/was, it was a sign of power. Curious about the symbolism of the hawk, I looked into it a little bit, so if you are wondering too, more on the hawk below.

The decision that I would move in the next day made, I expressed my concern for how to let the other woman know. Since my new ‘roomie’ has lived in L.A. I thought she might have some insight how to respectfully let the other woman down. It is difficult for me to feel I am backing out on anything that others might be counting on. As she and I thought out loud, we came up with a text I felt comfortable sending. I received a message back, “No problem. Thank you” Whew.

So this past Saturday I loaded up my car, three times, and made the move northwest to the next leg of my journey.

My new roommate has some unknowns of her own, and might need to relocate with her job which was one of the things we chatted about beforehand. I told her this was fine with me because I am still exploring and looking for work. So ideally if I have a place to regroup as I’m now starting to make connections and learn the area without committing to a location for a long-term lease, that would be perfect. So we both know in the least we are here through the end of May.

Seven weeks. I have a ‘home’ for seven weeks.

IMG_3598-1

Sherman Oaks has a very different vibe than West Hollywood where I’ve been, and loved, the past two months. And though the atmosphere is definitely more suburban here, Ventura Boulevard with a variety of restaurants and shops is only a mile from my current home.

My “current home”. It is temporary, but that works for me. I don’t know where I’ll be in seven weeks. But I do know that for now I have time to write, attend networking events, go have a glass of wine with my new apartment-mate. And for now, finding a place to live is only a part-time job.

Below is what I discovered about the symbolism of a hawk. Nature/the universe truly steps in when we need to be reminded of our individual strengths to cope with challenges on our personal journey.

“The hawk’s gifts include clear-sightedness, being observant, long distance memory, messages from the universe, guardianship, recalling past lives, courage, wisdom, illumination, seeing the bigger picture, creativity, truth, experience, wise use of opportunities, overcoming problems, magic, focus.

Hawk is associated with the number 14, with the tarot card Temperance. The Temperance card represents the teaching of higher expressions of psychic ability and vision.”

From Hawk Power Animal

I’m here.  Now!  The adventure continues!

And by the way, ’14’ has always been my favorite number.

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Run Like A Girl

Happy International Women’s Day!

This morning the inboxes from my various email addresses were flooded with headlines and articles regarding International Women’s Day. I’ve been thinking leading up to it how cool it is to be in Los Angeles for this special day, commemorating women’s rights. Although, when I woke up, I wasn’t sure why that would be. I didn’t have specific plans to do anything to celebrate ‘women’. I mean, it isn’t as though we had a big organized march or protest. I didn’t have a brunch planned with a group of ‘besties’. I didn’t put together a sit-in outside a politician’s office who votes against equality for women. I’m not doing anything in particular.

Then I realized why I am so glad to be in L.A. for International Women’s Day…because last year I wasn’t here.

I’m not sure what I was doing 365 days ago. However, I am certain I wasn’t sitting in a coffee shop across from the Directors Guild of America recalling what an inspiring night I’d had the evening before listening to a panel of prominent directors and writers including Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya; Lars and the Real Girl), Angela Robinson (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women), Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Battle of the Sexes; Little Miss Sunshine), Larry Karaszewski (The People vs. O.J. Simpson; Ed Wood) as I am right now.

A year ago, I wasn’t in California looking for a tribe of filmmakers whose films, through hard work and collaboration, we can bring to fruition and to the silver screen.

I hadn’t met the fabulous women who in the short time I’ve been here have shared their experiences with me, and who have offered suggestions for avenues I might wish to pursue, and who I might even end up collaborating on a project with. No particular plans at the moment, but things evolve!

As a matter of fact, it was wonderful last night when at the reception after the panel discussion I bumped into a woman who I met at the Film Independent Spirit Awards Viewing Party I attended last Saturday. We hadn’t a chance to speak much then, but yesterday we found out we don’t live far from each other. And the woman she was with is fairly close as well, so the three of us are going to get together and learn more about each other and our projects.

Inch by inch!

Also after the panel last night, I introduced myself to Valerie Faris and told her how much I absolutely love Little Miss Sunshine. The topic of the panel was Real Life vs. Reel Life. I shared with Valerie a story of a phone call I received from my mother in 2006. We were talking about other things when my mother asked if I’d seen a certain movie. She went on to say how much she thought it was ridiculous and so unreal. ‘Those things don’t happen’ and ‘people don’t behave that way’.

lms

With the Little Miss Sunshine directors.

She was talking about Little Miss Sunshine. I laughed out loud. Indeed I had seen it, and the hilarious thing was, I’d seen it several times and enjoyed it because I related to it in so many ways. I shared this with Valerie because it very much supported the ongoing conversation about when making a movie based on a real life person or events, that everyone has a different perspective of ‘real’.

Valerie laughed and I handed her my card and let her know I am looking for work. Yes, I stood and spoke with the co-director of one of my favorite movies and gave her my contact information.

I wasn’t doing that last year on International Women’s Day.

Another director I was fortunate to see in person since I’ve been in La-La Land is the amazing Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time; Queen Sugar; Selma). So inspired as I listened to her speak and share her experiences, I only looked away once to write down something she said:

“Make a film like a girl.”

Wow. That spoke right to me like a message in a bottle arriving, floating at my feet.

My personal inspiration comes from telling women’s stories. That is my ‘wheelhouse’. Yet, for some reason, sometimes I find myself reluctant to express that publicly. There is the concern that I might be passed over for an opportunity if someone considers me to be in a different niche.

Additionally, most projects I’ve worked on, other than my own, have been headed up by men, and I’ve garnered some fantastic experience from them. Yet, when it comes time to shooting my own films, I see a difference in my approach. For instance, even before Frances McDormand’s encouraging speech, I knew I wanted to have inclusion riders.

However, what I am saying, I think, is that sometimes I hold back from being a ‘woman’. I shy away from who I am.

The ‘feminine’ in me has so often in the past been criticized as a weakness, there is fear no one will want to hire me, or I will be considered inept if I behave like myself.

In the audience of some people I meet, I am even hesitant to mention I’m a director and writer because I am afraid they will start using some advanced lingo and I’ll be outed as an amateur.   A poseur. I’ll have set back women’s rights by 50 years.

A few times I’ve noticed as I left my apartment, though I’d like to wear a dress or skirt, I put on pants.  If I happen to meet anyone that day who would be looking to hire, I want to make sure they see I’m capable of working on a crew, the thought being that wearing jeans or activewear makes me look ‘stronger’. On the flipside that would mean a dress makes me look weaker.

How am I ever going to find my tribe if I am not flying my ‘colors’?

Though it might not be a huge contribution to the U.N. or other women around the world, as a woman, I think a way to honor International Women’s Day is to honor myself. And I decided it doesn’t have to be in a special, huge gesture.

One little thing that can make a difference for me.

I’ve been thinking about changing my blog banner photo for awhile to something depicting the direction of my life now. The other was complacent. And though it’s fun–wearing a dress and sitting by the river with a glass of champagne–my life now isn’t about lounging demurely, I’m up and running–like a girl. The old picture is gone. That is one thing I am choosing, today, to embrace being me. The woman, the girl, and the balance of sometimes masculine.

Tonight I’ll wear a dress and have a glass of champagne or wine in Hollywood with a new woman friend and watch Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time.  Like the LA woman I am.

“Inch By Motherf—— Inch”

If you’ve read my posts in the past at this time of year, you know I love awards season. And obviously this is the biggest weekend with the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday afternoon, and the Academy Awards this evening.

I have watched the Academy Awards since I was a young girl laying with pillows and a blanket on the red carpet of our living room watching the gala on an old tube TV.

In those days the daydream was that I would one day win an Oscar for acting which was my original foray into this industry. However, with time, things change. Instead of being an actor, I’ve found my creative place behind the camera directing and writing.

In past years, I’ve viewed Hollywood’s biggest night from a variety of places. My own home curled up on the couch alone with a bottle of wine, hotel rooms around the world when I was a flight attendant, friends’ extravagant parties, and I hosted a red carpet event for several years.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards, started over three decades ago, didn’t come to my attention until they’d been around for about 10 years. Taking place the day before the Oscars, those also became a staple to my awards show viewing.

So the irony was that this year, I now live about 30 minutes from where the Spirit Awards are held, and 12 minutes, yes 12 minutes, from the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards take place, but I had no idea where I was going to watch them.

We don’t get network TV channels at our apartment, and the only party I knew of was a viewing party for the Oscars with a high, $60 ticket price–high for me anyway.

Film Independent has a Spirit Awards viewing party at their offices which is free for certain members at a higher tier than basic membership, which is where I reside.  Doesn’t matter anyway, because when I inquired, a kind woman told me there was a waitlist.

Last week, the days leading up to the ‘big’ weekend that I might not get to watch, was one with extreme ups and downs for me. People ask me how I feel since coming to L.A., which always surprises me because even with the low moments, I am still so glad to be here. However, I understand how even people who are socially apt can become lonely in this city of 4 million people. Not having a place to watch the upcoming awards only reinforced that I have yet to find my tribe.

I have met some wonderful people here, and one of them, a screenwriter, has become a friend, showing me around a bit, taking me to gatherings and filling me in on events I might be interested in. However, last we spoke she said she would be watching the shows at a couple of  gatherings with longtime friends.

Time ticked on.  Then, I was thrilled to receive an email that a spot had opened for the viewing party at Film Independent for the Spirit Awards. And I could bring a guest.

Things were looking up!

FI Screens

I considered if there was anyone I knew who would be interested in going with me. On a whim, I asked my screenwriter friend, mentioned above, if her plans were still on or if she would like to join me. As it turned out both of her gatherings were cancelled this year for various reasons. She was definitely in!

And it was so fitting because she and I met in January at screenings for Film Independent voters of the Spirit Awards.

After she said she would love to join and appreciated the invitation, I took it a step further and asked about her plans for the Academy Awards. She wasn’t sure. We both knew of a party, but tickets were pricey for me, even though there was a $10 per ticket discount if you bought two. (Talk about penalizing the singles!)  I took a chance and asked if we could watch them at her house.  She liked that idea.

Not only was I going to get to see both awards shows, I was going to have the fun of partaking in both days with a new friend, Tish, in Los Angeles.

FI 2-shot

Yesterday, Saturday was Spirit Awards day, so she picked me up and we headed to the Film Independent offices on Wilshire Boulevard.  We stepped off the elevator and the first thing to see was a Film Independent step-and-repeat , a photo studio background with the sponsor logos. There is nothing that says ‘Hollywood Party’ like a designated spot for taking photos in your fancy attire.

FI ML

We took a couple pictures before heading into the party. After checking in, we scouted out a place to watch the festivities. The show only minutes away from starting, Tish spotted what might have been the last two chairs available. Since I had heels on, I was particularly grateful.

Now that we had seats, we headed to the bar for a cocktail and the buffet for some snacks–a cheese plate, strawberries, pretzels, and chocolates.

Along the way I met a few other Film Independent members. I guess because I was probably the most dressed up person there, one man pointed to the screen where the show was about to begin and said to me, “You are going to be there soon.” I smiled at the notion, told him it was nice meeting him and took my seat. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Here I sat dolled up in my favorite red dress, next to a kind new friend, in a small crowd of fellow cinephiles from all over the world who have come to L.A. to strive in their own unique ways to be telling their stories, all of us members of this organization created solely for helping those movies get made.

As winners were announced there’d occasionally be applause or reaction in some regard from my fellow viewers.

After a couple awards had been given out, I took a moment to look around the room for what I could see. To take this all in.

My eyes began to water. I didn’t know anyone there very well, but still I felt a part of something.

After the show and most people had disbanded, we lingered to chat with a few different folks. I exchanged cards with some of them and we made plans to get together and discuss more about our projects and our personal goals.

As we headed to the elevator, a bright-eyed woman posed in front of the step-and-repeat as her male companion took her photo. Timid for a moment, she began to jump into some fun poses as he clicked away.

It can be nerve-wracking having your photo taken,especially when there is an ‘audience’, so I admired her willingness to go for it. As I watched the scene, I suddenly stopped when I noticed her face. It seemed familiar. Did I know her, or did she remind me of someone?

AmbikaLeigh

Ambika Leigh

Then I knew.
We caught eyes and I asked, “Are you Ambika Leigh?” She smiled and said, “Yes.” I could see the apology in her expression as she didn’t recognize me. And no wonder, it’s been about 11 years since we’ve seen each other!

Yes, here I was in Los Angeles, California, at an event where I knew one person coming in and I bump into this wonderful, talented woman I knew years ago in Colorado.

I was planning when I came out here to reach out to Ambika at some point. However, it had been so long since we’d been in touch, and my world is so much in disarray, I didn’t want to impose. Well, the universe imposed for me.

We hugged and she asked what I was doing there. Excitedly I told her I’d moved to L.A. and her eyes grew wide. She teased that I had better not have been here more than a week since I hadn’t reached out to her yet. Guess I might not be as much an imposition as I had thought.

Ambikaand friends

Ambika, 2nd from right.

She asked where I was sitting during the awards show and we realized we’d been sitting on exact opposite sides of a column separating the back of the room.

After more hugs she introduced me to her boyfriend, David.   When I asked Ambika if she knew another Colorado transplant, Roe Moore, her boyfriend mentioned he did. Hearing my question, two nearby exclaimed, “We know Roe!” So, of course, we had to do a “We Know Roe” photo and I posted it to her on Facebook.  Roe commented on the photo that she felt like she might be the next Kevin Bacon, as in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

FI Group Shot

Ambika and I agreed we need to get together soon, then said our good-byes and parted ways after one more big hug.

AmbikaMeDavid

l to r: David, Me, Ambika Leigh (sounds like the name of a song!)

After a long, fantastic day yesterday, today holds a comfortable evening at my friend’s house sharing a bottle of bubbly, and of course ballots filled out with our predictions. This weekend provided me the best of both worlds.

As I settle in for the Academy Awards show to begin, who knows where I’ll be watching these or the Spirit Awards from next year. Maybe I’ll be there in person. Regardless, I’m reminded, as tough as it is to live with patience at times, things, like making friends and getting jobs, don’t often happen in leaps and bounds. And as Oliver Stone urged when giving the keynote address at the 1989 Spirit Awards, he said “stick to your soul and to hell with your egos; it’s inch by motherfucking inch.”

POW! Holy Batgirl! It’s Women Storytellers!

Last year, I was elated to hear there was a Batgirl film in the works. It was a Joss Whedon project which was fine with me at the time because I felt he was decent at how he portrays women characters. However, I also thought how fantastic it would be if a woman wrote and/or directed this newest female superhero story.

Batgirl was the first superheroine I knew and admired. I loved the Batman television series from the late 60’s (watched it in syndication) and was absolutely thrilled each time I had the opportunity to see the third-season episodes when Barbara Gordon/Batgirl was in the storyline. She was a librarian and I was a book nerd.  She was a smart BatgirlMotocrimefighter. There was no one else on TV like her. She had her own agenda and wasn’t portraying a victim, or someone’s wife. And oh my god, she rode a motorcycle! She didn’t take back seat to someone else on their ‘hog’. Batgirl was her own entity.

I remember asking my mother if I could be Batgirl for Halloween. I don’t recall her reasoning why I couldn’t, but I think I ended up going as Topo Gigio that year. And to be honest, I’d have to look up who Topo Gigio was. Not sure I knew even then. But I’ve never forgotten Batgirl.

Fast forward to 1997, it was a huge letdown when Batman & Robin turned out to be the  disappointment it was. I remember being so excited that Barbara Gordon (though her name was Barbara Wilson in the movie) was being brought to the big screen. I sat there in the theater, almost in disbelief, and waiting, hoping that if I watched long enough the movie would transition from it’s laughable state to being something entertaining and inspiring with Batgirl in the story. It never happened.

While Batman & Robin was in the theaters, I was often told, “You look like Alicia Silverstone in that Batman movie!” I’m not sure if it was because we both had long blonde hair or because I wore a black leather jacket or what, but I’ll admit, I liked the comparison because it was Batgirl.

Knowing a Batgirl story is in the works, I am anxious to know how her story will be developed.

So, although I originally wanted to trust the movie to Whedon, I was so excited to hear he stepped off the project this past week because pretty much everyone is saying the same thing I was thinking–with the white guy known for superhero movies out of the way, this movie needs to be in a woman’s hands.

To me that opens up the likelihood to bringing more dimensions to this female character.

And as Scott Mendelsohn of Forbes puts it:

“We’re past the point where a female-led genre film, be it a bawdy comedy or an action thriller, is in itself a big deal. The next stage of evolution is actually hiring women to write and direct these movies on the regular. Sure, female filmmakers shouldn’t just be hired for movies about/featuring women in the lead roles, but until that becomes normalized, situations like Michelle MacLaren directing Chris Pratt’s Cowboy Ninja Viking (nice work, Universal) or Catherine Hardwicke directing something like The Fighter will be all the rarer.”

When Patty Jenkins was brought on in 2015 to direct Wonder Woman, which had been in the works since 1996, people took notice. Jenkins had her fans and her critics as she undertook the massive story. And she was able to bring a superhero to the screen who is confident and compassionate, two traits the world needs more of in characters that are role models.

Here is a huge opportunity for the decision-makers of the filmworld. Roxane Gay, (Bad Feminist, Difficult Women) offered via Twitter to pen the Batgirl script. And what is so fantastic is the reply she received from DC Entertainment–if Roxane’s serious, she should contact them.

And journalists and other enthusiasts are putting forth a number of suggestions of other female writers and directors that would be a great fit for bringing the Batgirl story to film.

And as Batgirl Yvonne Craig demanded back in this fabulous 1974 PSA as she saves Batman and Robin from an explosion, whoever does take over the project, their pay should be at least equivalent to what Joss Whedon’s pay would have been.

Batgirl needs an opportunity to stand on her own platform. She needs to have a story worthy of women and men, and little girls and boys, who are looking for strong female role models. She needs to have a woman at the helm. And we need Batgirl.  And her motorcycle!

And you know how I’m going to dress for Halloween next year!

Intelligent Hunger

Only recently have I started listening to podcasts. To be honest, I didn’t quite understand what they were and what was required to listen to them.

Turns out, I just need my phone and a time and place to listen. But I don’t need to set aside specific time because I realized many of them can be listened to and enjoyed as I’m doing other things.

It is a shame it has taken me this long because just as I read non-fiction books as a constant form of feeding my hunger to learn about myself and my pursuits in life, podcasts are an excellent way to learn from other people’s experiences. Well, I’m listening now!

As I get ready in the mornings I get a kickstart on my day by playing a podcast that has caught my attention.

This morning I listened to one from the Writers Guild Foundation dated July 2016, that many of my fellow creatives, particularly screenwriters, might enjoy. The sound quality is somewhat rough but there are lessons and tidbits in there that make it worth the little extra effort:

Breaking In At Any Age

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I personally found it encouraging because although they don’t really discuss the ‘age’ issue as much as I’d hoped, the panelists Ronald Bass (RAIN MAN, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING), Douglas Jung (STAR TREK BEYOND), Peter Landesman (CONCUSSION), Meg LeFauve (INSIDE OUT), and Linda Woolverton (ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, MALEFICENT), share other significant insightful information including their own journeys to becoming screenwriters via other jobs, and what producers are looking for when they meet with a writer who is pitching them a script. They also spoke about what it is that might make them inclined to bring a fresh voice in and give them a break into the business.

I’m not sure which person used the phrase, “intelligent hunger,” but it stuck with me. At one point, they mention that you shouldn’t act like you know everything because then you will be expected to know how to do everything.

Often, I feel as though everyone here in L.A. I come into contact with knows so much more than I could ever learn.

Likely some people really do know ‘so much’, and others are simply acting like they do. And much of it I am sure is my own insecurity and newbie-ness. This feeling is often intimidating.

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The truth is, not knowing everything is an opportunity. It is a chance to ask questions from others in positions of authority on subjects in which I may not be so versed and giving them an opportunity to share their insight. It creates the potential to develop relationships.

So I really am beginning to embrace that my ignorance at times is a good thing, instead of allowing it to hold me back, because it is balanced by my own intelligent hunger.

A hunger that will not prevent me from reaching my goals, but instead will bring me closer to the possibilities!

Question-Able

The other day I wandered into a Goodwill Thrift Shop looking for a couple of storage bins for my room in my apartment. As I browsed the shelves in the home goods section, an announcement came over the speakers, “Attention Goodwill shoppers. A reminder that all blue tags are one dollar today. All blue tags are just one dollar. Thank you and have a great day.”

Although I did not find what I was looking for, I decided to check out the electronics area, thinking I might find an alarm clock. No luck on that either. Then I noticed several DVD players. We don’t have one in our apartment and I happen to have just a few DVDs, including Batman: The Movie, which I picked up at another thrift shop a couple of weeks ago for fifty cents.

Not sure how long I’m going to be in my current living arrangements, and where I’ll be next, I don’t want to spend much money on items now that I have no idea if I’ll need in six weeks. So, I was elated when I noticed one of the players had a blue tag.

“I’d buy that for a dollar!” [Quick, name the movie.]

A sign said all electronics had been tested, so that was assuring. The only trouble was that there were no cables, including no power cable, on the device. I looked around for a box of random cables for sale as I’ve seen at numerous other shops but there was none in sight. Heck, the DVD player was a dollar. I’ll find the cables somewhere for a couple of bucks.

Searching in several other thrift stores over the next couple of days, I gave thought to breaking down and buying the cables new, if that was even possible considering the age of the unit and the demise of Radio Shack and their wall of wires and connectors. Frustrated, as I entered a slightly higher-end thrift shop, I went directly to the meager electronics section. No random cables on any of the shelves.

Filled primarily with good quality furniture, books, and collectibles for sale, I figured a box of cables was out of the question anyway. So, even as I paid the gentleman for the wooden hangers and fabulous woven basket I’ll use for a hamper, I decided not to even ask. To be honest, and it might seem silly to you, I often struggle with asking for anything, even if it is a cable for an outdated electronic device.

The man admired my ring and we fell into conversation. Okay, what have I got to lose?

“You don’t happen to have any old DVD player cables for sale, do you?”

“Yes!” He was almost ecstatic. And I made quite the impression when I even had a picture of the ports that I needed them for. Apparently people often ask for cables but don’t know what they need so he drags the box out and they dig through, unsure what they are even looking for, and leave empty-handed, and he drags it to the backroom just as filled.

He practically ran to the back and came out with, yup, a box filled with cables that’d been rubber banded to prevent tangling.

Digging in, he eventually found one of each cable I needed.

Handing them to me, he motioned to the pile of remaining ones and said, “Glad you asked.”

I’ve written about this before. A fear of asking questions. And in many ways I’ve overcome some of those fears. But out here, in L.A., everything feels different. It may seem ridiculous, but I genuinely feel like I’m the only person in this town that doesn’t know what they are doing. Everyone I walk by and encounter in my day seems so self-assured. As though they know already exactly where to get a power cable for a DVD player from 15 years ago, though they’d never need one because they know exactly how to access every movie ever made through Roku, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any of the other outlets I’ve yet to explore.

The other evening I was fortunate to attend an event, …But What I Really Want To Do Is Direct: Becoming a Writer-Director hosted by the Writer’s Guild Foundation. It was very informative, educating writers who are considering becoming directors. However, Tina Mabry, (Mississippi Damned, Queen Sugar) made a particular impression on me. She was so open and honest regarding her experiences. She admitted she might go home and cry after struggling to connect with an actor to get the performance she wanted. But the next day she’d be right back on set and ready to shoot. We are talking about a woman who has achieved significant recognition for her projects, and who is a producer-director-writer on Queen Sugar! Tina mentioned she thinks it is generally harder for directors to become writers than the other way around. Hey, she’s talking about me!

She also brought up the importance of mentors which has been on my mind. I’ve really been feeling out of place on so many levels. Like I’m supposed to be here, but there aren’t many people who ‘get me’. A mentor would be at least one person who could provide some guidance who would have a good sense of where my personal skills and life experience could be best utilized.

All of the writer-directors were generous to stay after the panel discussion and chat with those of us anxious to pick their brains further.

At first I hung back. What would I say and to who? Did I have a question? Would my question be stupid? And probably the biggest thing that prevents me from asking things, am I imposing?

Let me clarify, not only did Tina describe the importance of mentors, she stated how she does her best to mentor people who approach her. And for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking how it would be so fantastic to have someone take me under their wing and be able to give me guidance as I navigate my journey. ‘No, can’t do it. I’m too old. She probably means she’ll help people who are in their twenties and went to film school.’

Somehow I summoned up the courage to approach her. But that was only part of the battle. You can stand in a circle of others and learn from their questions and the answers given without having to speak up.

In my mind I formulated my question and went through different ways to word it, while also attempting to hear what sage advice she was providing to the group of three or four others.

She looked at each of us as she spoke. There was a break in the conversation, but I hesitated. Okay, just listen, maybe you need to really hear what she’s talking about now. Do I even need to ask a question? Maybe I’m just supposed to stand here and take in this other information. Darn it, ask! You want a mentor, MaryLee. Here you are, standing next to an accomplished, working professional who is there for the sole purpose of sharing her knowledge and experience. Ask her!

She’s looking at me. Oh god, I’m getting called out. She’s giving me an opening. What do I do? What do I do?!?

Smile.

“Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciated so many of the things you said. I’m one of the people you mentioned who is a director first and now I’m delving more into writing. I’m not really young (what?!? Did I really just say that?) and so I find it a little hard to…

As I struggled with words, Tina exclaimed,”Forget about your age. That has nothing to do with it. We all bring to it what each of us has.” Tina+Mabry+TFI+Awards+Ceremony+2011+Tribeca+5KSq1ktX8ZFl

“I’m new in L.A. and I really would love to find a mentor. Do you know how I could go about finding someone I could work with or shadow? Somebody who could help me figure out my path?”

Okay, I’m not sure that’s what I said because my brain was discombobulated and in no condition to be sending words to my mouth. But it did. And apparently it was in the form of a question because Tina generously responded.

She explained that though she has a hectic schedule she tries to do whatever she can for her protégé, including trying to get them on set so they can gain real production knowledge and experience.

Tina is talking about what she does as a mentor. And yet I still held back. I don’t want to force myself on anyone, so I continued talking in general terms of finding a mentor. And this fantastic woman writer-director was standing there talking about how important she believes mentoring is and that she tries to be an adviser for others wanting to find their niche as much as she can.

When she finished she gave me a smile as if to ask if I had anything else I wanted to say.

Yet I still never came out and asked her, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” “Could we get together and talk about my scripts?” “Do you have any projects I could assist you on?” “Do you know of any crew openings?” “Could I shadow you on set for a shoot?”

In my mind, each of those translates to, “May I impose on your already limited time though everyone else in this town knows more than I do about cameras and the flow of huge productions like yours while I know nothing?”

Instead, I thanked her and she turned to the next person who asked if he could have a few minutes of her time to pitch her his script. What?!? You can do that?!? Guess what, he didn’t get laughed at, or kicked out, or anything.

Tina urged him to go for it and said he should get used to presenting for a group of executives and motioned for him to give his pitch to her and me.

And that’s exactly what he did. Right there he blurted out the details of his story. Tina had some feedback for him, then she said she had someone she wanted to connect him with. He gave her his card and she motioned for a pen. As she tried to write on the dark gray of his card, I mentioned to him, “If you get more business cards, make sure one side is white,” and I showed him my card that’d been kind of curled up, getting slightly bent because I had it in my nervous hand a long time, displaying the one black side with my name in bold and flipping it over to show the white background with my contact information. “That way people can write down and remember where they met you, or what information they offered to send you.”

Tina nodded in agreement. Wow, I do know something.

At some point most of the attendees and panelists had left for the night and the hosts of the event had even turned out some of the lights. I could see that Tina did not want to be rude to the guy who was still chatting her up, but it was getting late.

During the session they had discussed the importance of a good 1st AD (1st Assistant Director). So, I kicked in my skills and began to step backward toward the elevators. As the young man continued, Tina listened and also stepped my direction. It’d worked.  We were moving.

Once we were all three in the parking garage, she gave him a parting note of encouragement and he peeled himself from her and went to his car. Tina and I walked toward our vehicles, continuing the conversation, her reaching her car first.

She asked where my car was to make sure I would get to it safely. I pointed to it just a short distance away.

Then I turned back and handed her my business card.

“It’s late, and you received a lot of business cards tonight. I’ve been told I can get a letter to you through the Writer’s Guild, so I’ll give you this for now so you’ll know who it is from.”

“Alright,” she nodded (and worn out from a long day I think she was a bit grateful I wasn’t asking her for anything in that moment).

We hugged and I thanked her for everything she’d shared that night.

I have a letter to write and in it I am going to be direct. It’s interesting that I am less hesitant to be forward in a letter as opposed to face-to-face. But I’m going to work at getting good at that, too.

I have no idea if I’ll receive a response since I know she has several things she’s juggling, but being the kind of woman she is, I bet I will hear from her.

My new mantra: Heck, it can’t hurt to ask.

What Time Is It When An Elephant Sits On Your Clock?

Though I’ve mentioned it before, it really is overwhelming the amount of time you can spend looking for a place to live in the City of Angels.

Add networking to that, plus hours I spend redialing the background casting agency trying to book work, and I have myself a full dance card, and then some.

I’m often gone all day and not home until late at night.

Back in Colorado I used to wake up on my own around 6:00AM. I’d have an alarm set, but I was usually turning it off before the alarm would ring. When my sweetheart would ask if I wanted to shower first, or if he should, I’d almost always say I would go first. I wanted to wake myself fully and get my day started. I like the feeling of knowing I have a whole day ahead of me and accomplishing things before many people are even awake.

Sleeping in is nice, but often if I don’t stir until later in the morning, by the time I crawl out from under the covers, I feel like I’m playing ‘catch up’ and I’m not even out of bed. I’ve hardly opened my eyes and I’m already having to prioritize. What do I want to achieve today and do I have the time to do them all? Are there things I wanted to do that will have to wait?

Since I’ve moved into the cute, little apartment in West Hollywood I share with a young actress, I wake up closer to 8:00AM, sometimes 9:00AM.

And you know what the first thing is that usually gets eliminated? Breakfast.

If I don’t have specific plans, I’ll get up, shower, get dressed and do my hair and makeup. And because it feels so late to me, I’ll head out the door without eating. I specifically bought groceries to save money. I have a whole bag of avocados on the counter just waiting to be made into avocado toast or guacamole. avo-toast

But I want to get to the coffee shop and get a seat. So I’ll be here, in my choice spot with a matcha latte, but then I feel hungry. And I don’t want to spend money on something to eat, especially when I have food at home!

Another thing that often gets sacrificed to time is my creative writing. I spend much of my coffee shop time doing research and trying to find an apartment online. I’ll try to ‘squeeze in’ time for writing a blog post, or working on one of my scripts. I am happy to say I’ve started journaling first thing in the mornings again. This allows me to get down on the page any inspirations that might have come to me during my sleep, or to write out any thoughts I have about the day ahead, and release anxiety that might be lurking about something on my mind.

However, I’m a storyteller. And lately, the stories I seem most focused on are recapping to my sweetheart via phone or text messaging tales like sitting in my car, the scorching sun beating down on me through the windshield, as I’m trying to get my phone charger to work, because I need to see the Maps since I have no clue where I am or how to get where I want to go next.

My days are filled with reaching out to the people I meet at events with hopes of friendship, work, collaboration, or to see if I can somehow support them in their projects, or vice-versa. Or I’m driving all over town looking for a place to live.

As it turns out, I am able to stay where I am, for March at least. And now with that off my immediate plate, I don’t have to spend my time sitting in traffic as I head to look at another apartment, thinking to myself, “Gee, if only I had time to write.” Now I do!

I don’t have a full time job yet, but my job now is to be taking advantage of the time I do have to be working on my stories. By choosing to spend each day committed to my projects and developing my skills as a director, I am strengthening my abilities for when the opportunities are here, and letting the universe know that this is what matters to me.

And another realization. If instead of leaving it to fate as to when I begin my day, I start setting an alarm and wake up at a consistent hour of the morning, I’ll have time for avocado toast!

Consistence

Look! I did it! I wrote this post! Now for some breakfast. And then? Time to get a new alarm clock!