Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Natural Course of Friendships

What happens when a friendship dies? Should a person resort to heroic measures to fan the fading embers that once burned brightly, or step aside and watch the tow trucks remove the wreckage?

When we were children, we thought our classmates and neighborhood buddies would be friends for life. What's now known as a BFF (best friend forever) in Internet and cell phone shorthand.

At some point in life we must learn and remember that every person we meet can't be considered, nor will become a true friend. I've never been one to meet John Doe or Sally Que on Monday and attach myself to either as their friend. I had (too) many relatives while growing up to need outside stimulation or company, but I had friends all the same.

What is a true friend? Does a true friend come to the rescue when a bully wants to pummel you for not doing his homework? I remember sprinting to Granny's house like Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens in the Olympics after school when I knew a bully had me in his sights when I was in the sixth grade.

I was accused two years later in junior high of using muscle to win the election for student body president. I didn't intimidate voters. I didn't know anything of the sort back then. I had a friend in Mary, a big-for-her-age student and relative to one of my mother's lifelong friends.

If her walking around the school with a large sheet of white construction paper (used by the art teacher to create banners that the sports teams and cheerleaders burst through before games) pointing at unsuspecting students with the request to sign their allegiance and vote for me was intimidation, then I stand guilty these many years later. I felt bad when another student complained and cried that Mary made students vote for me, rather than exercising their free will. Mary was a true friend back then.

In recent years I've been struggling with the definition of friendship. Beyond high and college cliques, adult friendship require more work than those we had as children, oftentimes with fewer perks (candies, sleepovers, camping trips, amusement parks). I've had friendships where I was a parent, a mentor, or big brother, which were always exhausting.

I get along (better) with creative types, but can navigate other worlds as well when needed. I used to think that the zodiac played a large role in finding, developing, and sustaining real friends, but the truth of the matter is that it is free will. We seek out people who make us happy, comfort us when we're sad, and gives us tough love even when we're in no mood for it.

My criteria for friends has changed
since I relocated from the Southwest, but the dynamic of my closest friendships are the same. I'm an honorary Hispanic among my closest friends, most of which are natives from Spanish or Portuguese-speaking countries or islands. I'm a proud American, however I feel like a foreigner when I look at the faces of those nearest to me.

Do I believe in reincarnation? Was I here before as a Spaniard or Ecuadorian, but didn't get it right the first or second time, only to try yet again in this body surrounded by familiar sights, sounds, and smell? Should I try to further dissect who and what naturally gravitate toward me? It's best that I bury my burnt out or imbalanced friendships and move on with those who respect and love me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Learning Curves

It seems with each passing day, God teaches me yet another new lesson. I'm getting back in the habit of reading regularly, which has always been a pleasurable escape from the sometimes harsh realities of life in New York City.

I've made a concerted effort to read African writers, and realized that while their stories and struggles are different from my own as an African American, the characters and voices are universal.

A few of the African writers on my reading list are Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

One of the advantages of reading international writers is that I don't have to travel to witness the hardships of child soldiers, apartheid, war, or famine. My goal in reading a wider array of authors is to broaden my reading palette and learn from people that have experience things that I've only seen on CNN or PBS. Of course, that's not the extent of all African writers. There are allegories,magical realism, and stories of deceased children in heaven trying to be reborn to their parents.

Most important of all is that I will undoubtedly improve as a writer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

For The Love of Filmmaking

I was told a story back in school meant to motivate or frighten would-be stars and starlets who were pursuing an elusive Hollywood dream of super stardom. If my memory serves me correctly, the quote came from the legendary actor Glenn Ford, who was on The Johnny Carson Show or The Merv Griffin Show.

The question was allegedly ,"What's your advice for young actors who want to break into the business?"

His answer: "Take a flashlight, a pad, and a pen. Lock yourself in a closet for two hours, and write anything and everything you could be if couldn't be actor. At the end of two hours, if there's anything on your pad, you'd best do it because you don't have the dedication it takes to be an actor."

I enjoyed my time as a film, stage, and commercial actor. I look forward to the time I'll return to the stage and film set as an actor, but my current and immediate focus is writing and directing feature length, shorts, and documentaries.

My approach to directing can't be gleaned from reading a book. Allow me to digress. I believe that writing, dancing, singing, and culinary arts can be taught, but there are people who seem to have a lifeline to God. I feel one must be intuitive, inspired, and focused. All the academic knowledge in the world won't substitute for a trained eye, ear, or touch.

Books can provide tips, tools, tested strategies. Implementing information from books, websites, or advice from friends should be measured according to the person or situation.

In the coming weeks, I'll be looking for others who share my belief and love of video, documentary, and filmmaking.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Independent Filmmaking 101

Filmmaking isn't the faint of heart. I grew up on the other side of the casting, directing, and production table as an actor. My eyes have been pulled wide open in the early stages of auditioning actors, interviewing creative and technical crews, a searching for affordable equipment.

There's no class to teach what my roommate and I have been going through, and I probably wouldn't trust a book written on the subject. Personalities are hard to distill into a book, and each person is different. Case studies are often controlled, edited versions of an experience.

Filmmaking will cause you to return to church if you've been absent from the padded pews. Filmmaking will cause you to pace the floors between auditions, miss meals, and remember to brush your teeth just as an eager actor arrives early for a scheduled audition.

While not ignorant of the movie industry, I had to get up to speed on film scheduling, budgeting, and fundraising. A good friend loaned me two books from her college production course: The Beginning Filmmaker's Guide to a Successful First Film, and Film Scheduling.

I know that reading the books will be half of the challenge to producing and directing commercials, film shorts, documentaries, and feature films. One of my business partners gifted me with a copy of Directing Actors. Let the fun begin!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fallen From Grace - Fundraising Drive

Dear Family and Friends,

Some of you know that I'm directing my first feature film, Fallen From Grace. We're now open for funding. Please help us spread the word!