Slightly Resembling Gumption!

You may recall, awhile ago, actually when I was in Ohio with Daddy, I committed to, and completed, watching 52 films by women in one year. Obviously it was intended to be one a week, though some weeks I didn’t take time to watch any movies, and others I watched more than one. Eventually I will post about each of the films I didn’t write about back then, but I’m excited to share this one in particular because there is a screening of it coming up hosted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

It’s a 1940 film, Dance, Girl, Dance, and co-stars one of my favorites, Lucille Ball.

The story is actually about Judy (Maureen O’Hara) as she plays the complacent, sweet ballerina. But Lucille steals every scene she’s in as she portrays a stripper who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go for it. I always liked the word for this type of courage that also comes up in Nancy Myers’s movie The Holiday. Arthur Abbott (oh, Eli Wallach, I’m so sad you are gone!) is having dinner with Iris (Kate Winslet) who has allowed herself to be led on by a former boyfriend who is now engaged to another woman. Realizing Iris’s insecurities and inability to kick this guy to the curb permanently, Arthur encourages her to get some ‘gumption’ like the classic female stars he worked with during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Actresses like Barbara Stanwyck and Irene Dunne who were tough in the face of adversity, and still maintained their femininity.

Lucille Ball is all that in Dance, Girl, Dance. But the main reason why this upcoming event is so fantastic is because it is very rare to have the opportunity to see a Dorothy Arzner film on the big screen.

Image result for dance girl dance mov

Dorothy Arzner, who had quite a bit of gumption herself, was the first prominent female director after sound came to pictures. As the first, and for awhile, the only, woman in the Directors Guild of America, Dorothy has quite a legacy. Yet, I’ve never heard of any of her movies being shown in public, including classic movie events. I’ve only seen a couple of her films because I’ve managed to track down hard-to-find DVDs in boutique video rental stores or on YouTube.

Back to the showing of Dance, Girl, Dance coming up at the art museum–I’ll admit, when it comes to leaving the comfort and safety of my host’s home and heading out onto the LA freeways into areas unknown, sometimes I’m hesitant, especially if it is in the evening.

Is where I’m heading in a relatively safe part of town? And always my next question–is there parking? It is tough enough finding parking in this city, but even harder if you don’t know your way around. Am I likely to be sitting in tons of traffic where my foot starts to hurt from driving a stick shift? Or am I going to be intimidated on the highway with cars whizzing by me and cutting over super fast in front of me? Am I going to be stuck in a left lane when my exit is rapidly approaching on the right and not be able to get over in time? To all of those questions, the answer is–anything could possibly happen and in some of those cases, especially traffic, it is likely.

But bit by bit, I’m learning how to navigate and make my way along these roads. And the best way to learn is to venture forth, and like Iris in The Holiday, I might need to muster up some gumption to stop clinging to old fears.

So I am going to gather up that courage and yes, I am going to see a Dorothy Arzner picture on the big screen even if it means driving in LA at night to an unfamiliar location where I have no idea yet where I will park.

I am so excited! What an inspiring film to see as I foray into the movie business here in Los Angeles.


That Time of Year Already?!?

Amidst everything I’ve been doing since arriving in LA to find work and figure out housing, I didn’t realize the season has already arrived!

All the hustle and bustle–so little time, so much to do. Seems like it was just here. How did it sneak up on me so quickly? Seriously, how am I ever going to get ready in time for…awards season!

Oh, not the same thing you were thinking about?

On November 21, Film Independent announced their Film Independent Spirit Awards nominees. Usually by now I’ve seen at least a few of them.

However, with all I’ve been tending to this year, looking at the list, I’ve only seen one of the nominees, Beatriz At Dinner. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me! And Lady Bird is at the top of my list.


In past years when I’ve watched the Spirit Awards, I always thought how cool it would be to attend. And though I’m not involved with any of this year’s nominees, (who knows what will happen between now and 2019!) it is pretty cool thinking how the awards will be taking place ‘down the street’ from me.

Okay, now I am giddy because when I did a search about the awards, this photo of Jenny Slate at the 2016 Spirit Awards Press Conference surfaced. Sure, I like Jenny Slate, but why I’m geeking out is because the Diane Von Furstenberg dress she has on is the same one I just wore to my niece’s wedding a few months ago!

Here are the 2018 Spirit Award nominees and let me know if you’ve seen any that I definitely need to check out before the awards show! Thanks.

Clean Start

Grateful to friends, old and new, who helped get me here.
Broken clutches, wrong turns and new places to see along the way.
And now I’m at the ocean, no farther west to drive.

My Subaru’s dusty; windshield splattered with bugs.
Granola bar wrappers on the floor, and the tank is dry.
That part of the road is a safe memory, nestled in my mind.

Can’t see to steer through the glare of the California sun
in my filthy mirrors.
Must be time to stop looking back in that direction.

Worried occasionally about finding my way.
But thrilled to be in this place, to be here.
Where I can make some new recollections.

GPS constantly telling me to ‘reroute’
as I want to get there safe
but I want to see what the bright lights are down this other street.

Jacket on and off
as I go in and out of the shade.
Learning to deal with the chill and the heat.

Wanting to stand out
in this brave, ‘new-to-me’ world
and still find my place in the mix.

Not sure where to start.
Guess it’s nothing a fill up
and a good car wash can’t fix.

Sh*ft Happens to #MeToo

From the moment I announced I was moving to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking opportunities, a number of people, some friends, other kind acquaintances who only know me through my sweetheart, or via my blog, had given me encouraging, supportive outpourings.

“You are creative and you will do great.”

Then, in October, The New York Times published the article citing sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein. And with my upcoming move to Los Angeles, the city where he has been practically idolized as Hollywood deity, many people have turned their comments to, “At least you won’t have to deal with Harvey.”

Innocent enough remarks; however, I doubt I would have had to deal with him anyway. For one thing, Weinstein’s attentions have been focused on young, attractive women. And two, I’ve never necessarily felt meeting him was in my journey.

Plus, as has become publicly evident, he is far from the only person in Hollywood to use his position to take advantage of women for his own benefit. And, as we know, the entertainment industry is only one among countless fields where sexual abuse is more common than many have cared to admit.

As the allegations continue to grow against Weinstein and the others who have been outed in past weeks, and as new abusers are brought to light, it shows how rampant this situation is–one victims and bystanders have known about, but only now are taking a stance and refusing to remain silent.

For my own honesty, yes, I have been sexually abused. Not having any idea where the men involved are, whether their behavior was a pattern they’ve continued, and if they now have kids, I will refrain from opening up about any specifics at this time.  Suffice it to say, I felt responsible for a long time because I was insecure. I blamed myself. Opening up to a professional therapist helped me get through the self-guilt.

Getting to the current matters, Hollywood is so undefined, so unconventional. Auditions and meetings take place outside the office all the time. Sexual harassment exists in corporate fields as well, but a female accountant is likely to see bigger red flags if she is asked to interview in a hotel room.

This is why I really don’t think I would have had to ‘deal’ with Harvey Weinstein. I wouldn’t have gone there.

A few days before I left Colorado, a woman I know in our town came over to purchase something I was selling to make cash for my  move. She wished me well, then she commented about the creativity I was taking out to L.A. with me, specifically my feminine creative voice.

It was nice to hear her focus not on what I won’t be contending with, but instead on a positive, and what I am bringing to the world of filmmaking.

Several years ago, a mentor I’ve mentioned before, Barbara, told me there was a feminine shift that was taking place. I believed her, but wasn’t sure how it would occur.

Weinstein represents a patriarchy, a hyper-masculine sensibility that sadly became so accepted that it has for ages been the norm.  That has been jolted. It makes sense he would be outed as even Hollywood sits up and takes notice of the need for a feminine outlook and perspective on how we tell stories today.  Or reflect on life.  Or write about the human condition from both male and female points of view.

This has nothing about women vs. men. It is about the pursuit of balance.

Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and even (gulp, say it isn’t so!) Garrison Keillor, among others, who are being accused of abuse, if guilty, are likely to have performed these disgraceful acts for their own different reasons. And those who are multiple offenders continued because…they could.

Though it might appear to have been a wholly patriarchal industry for all time, that wasn’t always the case.  The early days of filmmaking had women directors–Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber–and strong female leads–think of the roles that were played by Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Barbara Stanwyck.

They certainly had challenges, but these were women the film industry respected.  Mary Pickford, an early silent film star, started United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith.

We are in a political climate that feels very misogynistic.  We need entertainment that isn’t only from a male point of view.  The world needs women’s stories in front of the camera. It needs women’s perspectives beginning from behind the typewriter and then the camera and all the way through until a film reaches its audience.  Stories about women. Stories about men. Stories about relationships with each other as well as our relationship to history and to the future. A future sharing the reality of our world including women’s perspectives.

After a few friends had commented on my not needing to deal with Harvey, it occurred to me…it is not a coincidence that this moment of reckoning is happening just now as I’ve moved to Los Angeles.  There is an enormous transition taking place, and I am here to contribute.

It is fitting then that the first Women in Film Los Angeles event I attended after my transition to the area was a panel discussion, ‘Sexual and Gender Abuse in the Work Place’.

Cathy Schulman moderated the panel, as Heather Graham, Rosette Laursen, Kathleen A. Tarr, Tracy ‘Twinkie’ Byrd, and Cindy Bamforth navigated through the complex topic and shared their personal experiences and their knowledge onscreen and behind the scenes.

As mentioned above, repeat offenders often continue their patterns because they are able to, therefore it is necessary to educate ourselves beyond, ‘abuse not good’, and be ready to handle potential situations for our own safety, as well as the safety of, as Twinkie described, the “sisterhood.” She stressed the importance of looking out for each other and women helping other women in the industry.

Cindy attempted to put into understandable terms what constitutes sexual harassment in the state of California.

Kathleen also helped understand the fine lines and what women can do to make those vivid for potential predators.

Heather shared how she was so disgusted with what she has experienced at the hands of men who have taken advantage of their power, she wrote, directed and just completed Half Magic, a story that explores female empowerment through friendship in a male dominated world.

Rosette read out loud the appalling email she received, intended for her male co-workers only, from her now former boss, Michael Einfeld, when she requested off for International Women’s Day to partake in ‘A Day Without A Woman’. It’s a must-read!

A bit into the conversation, Cathy brought up a valid question, particularly since it seems most every morning we wake up there is news of another man fired due to sexual allegations against him – what do we do about all the people on so many shows and at studios losing their jobs due to the firings? To which Heather blurted out, “Hire more women!” No need to cue the applause, it came naturally.

I am proud to be a member of the Women in Film Los Angeles organization that was created to enable women’s film and television, media careers, and is also proactive regarding  their well-being. Today they launched a Sexual Harassment Help Line as a resource for victims of abuse.

My dear friend Leigh Anne posted on Facebook when I shared my blog article announcing I had arrived in L.A.:  Now begins the adventure. LA needs you. What wonderful timing for a woman who tells women’s stories. Go get ’em.”

Shift happens. And I am part of that shift. Now, off to work.

Poetic Peace

In the past days I’ve been trying to write a post sharing about my first week here in L.A., and also reaching out for any connections and suggestions anyone might have for production work and housing opportunities.

“Trying” being the key word there. I’d write, get distracted, open email, check for texts, gaze out at the gorgeous ocean view from my counter seat at Starbucks, clear old documents from my desktop.

I’ve been really struggling with this one. I think because it is hard to ask for help, and because I’m worried about being criticized for my decisions.

My current living arrangements, which I’m so grateful for, end in less than a week. I’d really hoped to have been able to find a job, even if it is a one-day gig, somewhere, maybe meet more people, and get insight into where in this vast city I would most want to look for housing before needing to move on.

And though I’d hoped to get here sooner to meet up with people, circumstances prevented me from getting to Los Angeles until last week, the week before Thanksgiving. The holiday time is challenging because many people are out of town, or have in-town guests, or are simply booked up with other plans.

I have been able to get together with some friends though, and that has made a difference. It’s been wonderful catching up, and having them each provide their own tips and advice. Plus, Terry, my friend who opened his home to me for a place to land, drove me around a good portion of town, and that was really nice to see many of the sections of Los Angeles and very helpful in giving me a little sense of the area.

The other day as I sat at the coffee shop, with my laptop in front of me, I thought it would be a good thing if I worked on one of my screenplays instead. Perhaps I might feel some reprieve from the pressure of job and house hunting. But nothing would come. I felt empty.

Driving to town that morning, I had said to my sweetheart on the phone, “I just wish I could make one connection today. It would be a relief and so encouraging.”

However, I knew already that no one I’d been in touch with was available that day.

Sitting there with the sun glaring down on me through the window, and thinking about being away from my sweetheart on Thanksgiving, and missing Daddy like you wouldn’t believe, I was feeling so detached.

Why would I come here with no job? I had to remind myself that in this business it is hard enough to get hired, but even tougher if you don’t have your ‘face in the place.’ Some of my local friends have said the same thing.

How could I drive to L.A. without a place to live? Because I don’t want to pick a random roommate off the Internet and agree to a lease sight unseen. Plus, it is hard to get a place, though not impossible, without being employed.

Decisions I had made, not right or wrong, but ones I had made. I know if I hadn’t made those decisions, and come on out here, it is likely I’d still be in Colorado searching for the courage to do something, that ‘someday’ dream. But at the moment, I was frustrated.

I thought about leaving and forgetting the post for the day. I made myself sit back down and open up my computer.

But instead of opening my blog program to finish writing the post, I randomly clicked on a folder, and then opened a file that I had no idea what it contained. More diversion stalling tactic. The document turned out to be notes from a day in 2015 when I was in Ohio with Daddy.

He didn’t want to get up. He said he was more tired than he has ever been in his whole life. He said it feels like someone came and just took everything out of him and left him nothing.
I told him I was sorry he felt so tired. And that they didn’t take me, he still has me.

I remember that day. He did finally get out of bed. And we went and sat on a bench outside in the late afternoon sun. We ate dinner at the table in his apartment and laughed. As the evening went on, he said he was feeling much better.

Now two years later, sitting here in L.A., after reading the note, my eyes teared up. I sat and stared at the screen for at least five minutes. Not for what felt like five minutes. But an entire five minutes. Then, slowly shifting my eyes away from my screen, I glanced to my right. A young girl near me, waiting for her drink, gave me a smile. I turned up the corners of my lips wanting to be cordial. She looked at my computer and asked if I was writing a book. Not sure why I said this, but I told her I was working on a script.

There are a million people in this town writing scripts, and many of them actually worked on them that day. So I felt like a poser even as the words had come out of my mouth, and even more as her eyes widened.

She said, “I would like reading your script someday. You seem poetic.”

I’m not positive what ‘poetic’ seems like, but it felt like a good thing. Particularly coming from a kind young woman on a day when I was feeling like Daddy had, like someone had “come and taken everything out of me.”

Next thing I knew, I found myself telling her that I was kind of working on the script, but I was also trying to find a place to live. She nodded knowingly.

She asked if the script is my life story. I told her it is based on a part of my life, as well as a part of many women’s lives that I know.

“Is it like Steel Magnolias with a group of women?” she asked. I told her it follows one woman’s story, but she is affected by other women she comes into contact with.

Then this lady asked me if I was rushing myself to get the script done, or if I felt I could take my time. Though I was caught off guard by the question, I opened up about feeling pressure to work on it, and that some days I can enjoy the process, and other days I fight it. And that maybe I was silly to have come to California without an income lined up.

She went on to say, “God has it worked out. We think it’d be nice if we knew his plan, but that’s not always the case.” She said it took courage to come out here, but I had made the drive, so it was meant to be. She looked at me and said, “I can tell you are going to be okay.”

At the mention of ‘God’ a fence started to go up. I respect people’s religious beliefs, but when she fearlessly went public with her mention of ‘God’ to a person she doesn’t know, I was apprehensive. Was she going to try to get me to come to services? Join a cult? Hand me a pamphlet? Ask me to go with her to more coffee shops to find others to convert?

Breathe. What did I have to lose? If she went down a path I wasn’t comfortable with, I could say, “No, thanks.”

So, instead of backing off, I hung in there with her and the conversation. She asked what my first name is and more of my situation such as what part of town I was staying in.

Then I was surprised when she asked if she could pray for me. I presumed she meant she would say a prayer next time she was at church.

I said, “Sure, thank you.”

Right then she came over and rested her hand on me. As she said a prayer, asking God to help me with my “journey”, I listened, and then, taking my timid eyes from the counter in front of me, looked at her T-shirt. It was adorned with a graphic of three doves.

‘Hear Peace. See Peace. Speak Peace.’

peace doves

As she continued, for a moment I felt slightly embarrassed if anyone else was watching us. Her standing there, hand on my shoulder, me on my stool at the counter. But then I realized, there was no need to be embarrassed. A stranger was extending care and compassion–why should I feel uncomfortable?

Someone I didn’t even know saw me and reached out to me, calling me “poetic”. Then, asking for nothing from me, she went on to do what is her form of speaking to the Universe, and she prayed for me.

As she left, I asked her name. “Babylonia,” she said. Then she smiled, picked up her drink from the counter, and walked out of the shop.

I’d made a connection. Not the kind I was thinking, but I don’t know where help will come from or exactly where opportunities will be.

And that’s my lesson. Where I will find my answers very often may not be the direction I am looking, and I am open to opportunity coming from unexpected places. That is how we learn. That is how we grow. That is how we connect.

That is poetic peace.

Happy Thanksgiving Hugs

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning I began another blog post that continues to stretch as the day goes on. I’ve sat down several times to put an ending on it and publish it, but it simply continues to get longer.

This being our favorite holiday, I’m missing Daddy dearly, and earlier stepped away from  the gathering at my host’s house, to allow the tears to fall as my heart was feeling the pain.

And now Thanksgiving is over on the east coast, and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t at least share what else my other post is about…

To my sweetheart–I am so grateful for you.

Some of you know him personally, and some of you know him only through my posts here. Regardless, you have likely been able to sense what a good man he is.

Hearing I was moving to L.A., many people have been concerned we were ending our relationship. The decision to come here was ultimately mine, but we discussed it as partners.

So, on the contrary. He strongly supports my choice to uproot myself from a physically comfortable existence, where I had a roof over my head, a job to afford to pay the bills, and a hug at the end of the day, and any other time I needed one, to come to California, with so many unknowns, and pursue my passion for telling stories as a writer and director.

The dream of coming to L.A. has been mine, not necessarily his. And for reasons of need for personal growth and regaining my confidence in my instincts and my voice, we realized that not only should I come to L.A., but I would need to make the journey, at least initially, without him directly by my side. Not every partner would understand this.

And because he not only understands it, but encourages me to do what I need to for myself to make movies, to find my tribe, to tell stories, I am so blessed to have him in my life. And when doubts sink in, he is cheering me on from miles away and reminding me of the strength I have within me to do this. And for that I am so appreciative to have this special man–companion, partner, friend, cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, putter of Dove-dark chocolate-squares-in-the-freezer–as my sweetheart.

It’s getting late, so I’m going to share this now. And I see he just sent me a text. I’ll consider it an end of the day hug, until I get the next one in person.

Photo by MaryLee Herrmann

A Stolen Cozy Morning Together