I’m HAPPY to Direct a Short Film!

About a month ago, I mentioned directing a short film. Sometimes plans, as they roll downhill, unravel or disintegrate. Other times they pick up speed and size until you’re running to stay ahead of them and not get flattened.

In this case, I’m happy to report it’s the latter. Happy, of course, being one of medley of emotions that also includes recurrent heart-racing panic and existential dread. For those of us with a certain temperament, this is the price for getting things that we want. As the snowball of happening—and its accompanying panic—gets bigger and bigger, it helps to keep reminding myself “This is something I want.” And it is. For years, I’ve said I’m going to direct something.

Here’s a little background and an up-to-the-moment update on how it’s going.

ORIGIN STORY:
Back in 2020, Paul and I sent three pitches for a TV show called Creepshow, an anthology series with short episodes that are like Twilight Zone with a horror bent. One was chosen, leaving us with two fairly well outlined ideas. I decided to write out one of these and it became THREE DAYS. I was hoping to use it as a second sample for more opportunities in the horror anthology space — but when those opportunities never manifested and Paul didn’t seem interested in directing it, I started thinking more seriously about taking the plunge I’ve been talking about for so long.

I began to visualize the film taking place in a mostly furnished apartment I have access to. As the industry strikes crept into autumn, a friend with a small film equipment rental mentioned that she would donate equipment. And then in September, an out-of-town friend crashing at our place mentioned coming to LA at the end of October to produce a friend’s music video. Half-joking, I said, “want to produce my short film while you’re at it?” She said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Her trip in LA became our de-facto shoot dates.

WHERE WE ARE NOW:
For almost any event, once you have dates and a location, it’s “just” a matter of filling in everything else… In five weeks, I’ve gotten more “Sure, I’ll do its” that I could have imagined… from cast members and also a DP we met at a film festival (who insisted on providing an even nicer camera and lighting package than I’d been going to get from my friend). It’s been amazing.

But as we gather more people, I feel more obligated to make my no-frills, “hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” learning experience into a good product for all the people who are being so generous. I want to ensure we make something they can be proud of, put on their sample reels and use to get other work. And I want make it a good experience… I’m terrified of being that friend who you agree to help move, only to show up and realize they aren’t done packing, there’s not enough people to share the work, and not enough boxes! I really want to have my boxes packed and in order.

We shoot in six days. As we get closer, every potential hole looks bigger. The actors are wearing their own clothes and makeup — should I have looked harder for professionals? I’m ordering bedspreads late at night like an addicted home-shopper, and each one that arrives is not quite right. Should I have sprung for a production designer? Production design is production value — what if our minimally furnished location looks shoddy? Our producer knows sound and will set the levels, but she won’t be dedicated to sound. Sound issues are the worst! There’s no assistant director, no script supervisor, no one is dedicated to continuity… am I courting disaster? Have I left myself so many producing worries that I don’t have time to cram all the “directing” prep and learning into my brain? What have I been doing for the last decade? Why have I not spent them watching videos about camera blocking and lenses and taking acting classes? Is this all a big, terrible, expensive mistake????

In my heart, however, I believe it is not. I remind myself that I have so many talented people on board helping me, and so many things that have fallen into place Catastrophizing is a waste of one’s imagination.

This is something I’m happy about. I am grateful. It’s going to be fine

Here are some images from my amazing volunteer stand-ins who patiently let me work through my storyboards yesterday!

Why Do I Keep Doing Things That Terrify Me?

I’m directing a short film.
I’m starting a weekly Substack newsletter.
There’s a 90% chance that by the end of the day I will sign up for a class that will force me to pitch paid publications.

All of these things have been on my to-do list for awhile, but I have not done them.
But right now I’m feeling a desire to pull the trigger on these things. This desire has unknown origins, but it is not unfamiliar. It is a desire that pokes its head up very intermittently and causes present-me to set events and projects in motion that future-me will then have to navigate and carry out long after the desire to do so has beyond diminished and she is reduced to a frenzied ball of “Oh-God-just-let-me-get-through-this-and-I-will-never-put-us-in-this-position again.”

During the pandemic I wrote an article for Emry’s Journal that described this process in some detail. It all holds true.

More on this topic in coming days.

2022 Recap #1 (“Everything is Awesome”)

This year I decided to do two versions of a year-end newsletter. This is the one I sent at the end of November to entertainment industry contacts and folks from that arena. It is work-focused, accentuates the positive and politely doesn’t mention the negative. Privately, I think of it as the “Everything is Awesome, I’m Awesome and You Should Hire Me” Edition… Enjoy!

Happy End-of-Year Greetings!

2022 was a topsy-turvy year, but there was still good fun to be had.

WORK: I was super-happy for opportunities to use my writing and production skill sets this year by:

  • Writing my first DIGITAL COMIC. Based on I.P., it follows an ex-mobster’s adventures in the afterlife.
  • Crafting mythology and lore for a VIRTUAL REALITY GAME where you are transported to a magical island to learn to meditate. (With frequent collaborator Paul Seetachitt.)
  • Producing VIDEOS and LIVE SHOWS at a major toy company.

CREATIONS: It’s always a burst of dopamine to see one’s creative work have a life out in the world:

  • TIME OUT, my segment of Creepshow (written with Paul Seetachitt), was featured in Shudder’s ads for the show and immortalized as a comic book in the hands of the six-foot animatronic Creep sold for Halloween!
  • Two original works (a pilot and a short story) were optioned by production companies who pitched them this year.
  • Flash fiction, MY HULK appeared in Altered Reality Magazine.
  • GIRL, WOLF, WOODSMAN will be published in Santa Monica Review this spring. A short story that imagines Little Red Riding Hood’s life after she’s “saved from the wolf.” There will likely be a live reading, and I get paid in unlimited contributors copies, so let me know if you’d like to be on the list for either of those!

ADVENTURE:

  • I am coming out of the closet as a Solar Return traveler. That’s a person who lets an astrologist recommend where in the world she should be on her Solar Return (aka birthday) to optimize her horoscope for the coming year. This year’s destination is Samsun, Turkey! In two days, I’ll be on a plane to Istanbul.

2023, LOOKING FORWARD:

  • Two pieces of fiction and three specs didn’t make it to the finish line this year. If I can pull them across in 2023, I’ll feel great satisfaction.
  • There’s a sweet horror short we’ll be trying to get in the can.
  • Work-wise, I’m fortunate to have a couple “holds” for jobs on the books, but also have some stretches where I am available. Need someone in or around a writers room (temp / sub or freelance)? Production support for an Indie-film? Or something new and interesting? Give me a shout!

Sending you my warmest wishes for satisfying work, whimsical adventures, health, happiness and love in the coming year!

Barrington

The Whole Screencraft Screenwriting Interview

The folks at Screencraft (they run the contest that I won earlier this year) recently sent me some prompts / questions about my screenwriting journey in order to cull testimonials from my answers. They managed to find a few uplifting snippets to use in their Instagram / Twitter posts — and kudos to them for that, because even though I made real efforts to be positive, some of these answers feel a little… dark. However, I seem to have arrived at a point in my life/career where young hopefuls ask me for insights and advice, so for what it’s worth, here are the prompts and my answers in their entirety.

  • What did you find were some of the biggest obstacles to your screenwriting career goals?

Before I went back to school for writing, I was a freelancer who worked on various shows and events, one gig would always lead to other gigs. You work with people, they get to know your personality and work and then either request or refer you for another job. I got used to that. But after I graduated from my writing program, I took a full time day job that was separate from the industry I wanted to be in, and I think I really gave up an advantage by removing myself from the daily view of people who were in the industry. I see the question come up a lot among early career writers — “Is it better to stay close to the industry, even at the expense of writing time, or to get a day job that lets you practice skills and generate material?” It’s a tough call! At the time, I had reasons for making the choice I did, but purely in terms of career-building, I can see how stepping away from the path had some costs.

  • Was there ever a point when you felt most rejected? 

If anyone out there is unaware, it’s probably good to know that the entertainment business is the business of rejection. After your dreams get dashed the first few times, I’ve found that all the rejections kind of become a blur.  But I’m happy to tell you about my most recent example:  I gave a new script to someone who I really needed to like it — a gatekeeper — and they didn’t like it. At all. A big door that I’d hoped would be opened instead slammed in my face. It’s clear in my memory because it was literally a couple days ago and I’m still recovering as I write this.  But at the same time, I’m aware that even having a relationship with a gatekeeper who’s willing to read my work and give their honest opinion is a privilege —one that took me years to achieve, and that many people don’t have — so I never forget to appreciate it.  A rejection of one’s work is still an affirmation of one’s existence!  

  • Are there moments when you think about giving up. What motivates you to keep going? 

In terms of ever making my living by screenwriting, I’d say I think about giving up six days out of seven. My escape strategies are a running joke with friends—I literally have tabs open in my browser right now for “how to be a UX writer.”  But thus far, I’ve kept going, and I think there are a couple reasons why:  The first is that I somehow always have one more iron in the fire. Like right now, I have a pitch being considered at a company for a project I would really-really-really like to do, so I’m waiting to see what happens. And while I’m waiting, I’m working on other things, so by the time this project doesn’t work out (or maybe does—this could be the one —manifestations welcome), I’ll have something else to hope for. The second reason is a little more “woo-woo” which is that I deep-down believe that this is where my gifts lie, and that someday I’m going to be part of making something awesome and meaningful, if I can just find my way to it.

  • Where are you currently in your career? Anything that you are excited about?

I’m at a place in my career now where it’s easy to feel frustrated, because time passes and I’m still side-hustling to support my writing when I want my writing to support itself. But, I’m also in a place where I once aspired to be: I’ve had representation for a while, and recently added a TV agent to the team! And I’m celebrating my first produced TV credit (with writing partner Paul Seetachitt) — an episode of Creepshow that came out last month called “Time Out.” It’s gotten a lot of complimentary reviews, which is validating. These things give me hope that I’m getting closer to where I want to be.

  • What drew you to ScreenCraft and how did the competition help you?

A good friend who knows that I also write short stories sent me the link to the ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story competition. At this point I’ve largely forsworn writing competitions, but for some reason I decided to enter… and it worked out! I got to meet with one of the judges which was my first one-on-one meeting with a showrunner and was exciting for me. And while I already had representation, the buzz surrounding winning the Grand Prize inspired my reps to send the story out, and I think was key in their decision to add a TV agent to my team, which is something I’d really been wanting for a long time — so that felt like a victory.  I’ve really appreciated that Screencraft has a team of real people who have checked in on my progress since the contest. They’ve pushed me to evaluate those things that any writer can and should control — like online visibility and professional outreach —  and encouraged me to be accountable and level those up. 

  • What advice would you give to your younger self as a writer?

Now that I sometimes teach writing, I’ve realized how much I appreciate students who make the effort to show me who they are — I don’t mind if it takes a few minutes after class. It’s enjoyable, and it makes it easier for me to write a recommendation or refer them for an internship or whatever. Being on this side of things makes me look back and think about how often in my life I’ve made the choice to  “not bother” someone higher up the ladder than me instead of taking that little risk. If I could advise my younger self (without disturbing the time-space continuum), I would say, “Be braver sooner. You’re a joy, not a burden.” It’s probably good advice for my older self as well.

Writing Update: August/September/October

WRITING

My top three projects for August/September/October (as measured in hours devoted) were:  

A VERY PEARTREE CHRISTMAS – horror rom-com spec feature (with Paul Seetachitt) 
Christmas-resistant journalist is sent to the town of PearTree to cover their annual Twelve Days of Christmas Festival only to discover that a series of  gruesome “accidents” occurring during the festivities are actually ritualistic murders, orchestrated to resurrect the demon, Krampus.
Paul Seetachitt and I pushed to get it ready for pre-holiday reading. Available now!

THE INFLUENCER (suspense-horror spec feature)
When the manager / best friend of a struggling social media influencer cuts a deal for her client to beta-test some new tech in order to get more followers, the results are more than she bargained for. 
Did some rewriting in September and submitted. Readers (i.e. my reps) have come back with an intriguing idea… should it be a TV series instead?! Hmmmm. Stay tuned to hear how this one turns out.

GIRL, WOLF, WOODSMAN (short fiction)
A contemporary re-imagining of “Little Red Riding Hood” that details what happens after the woodsman heroically dispenses with that pesky wolf. 
Found this one in the archives and decided to finish it at long last. Did a round of submissions to literary journals — we’ll see if it finds a home.  There’s also a short screenplay version waiting in the wings.  

WATCHING

MOVIES: The Green Knight, Free Guy, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Card Counter, Americanish, Natalie, The Tomorrow War, Malignant, No Time to Die, Last Night in Soho, Eternals

TV: Dave, Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown, The Boys, We Are Lady Parts, The Other Two (pilot); The Chair, Foundation, Squid Game, We Are Here, Great British Bake Off

READING

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguru; Anxious People, Fredrik Backman; Women in White Coats; Olivia Campbell, Gone, Lisa Gardner; An Ordinary Wonder, Buki Papillon; Afterlives, Thomas Pierce; Elevation, Stephen King; The Woman in the Window, A.J. Finn; Best of Tor.com 2020; Heroine with 1001 Faces, Maria Tatar  Heroine with 1001 Faces, Maria Tatar 

LISTENING

New category! I’ve discovered and am really getting into scripted podcast series. Like radio plays of old… or TV for your ears…

Wolverine, The Long Night (Marvel), Moonface, Blood Ties, True Love, Bridgewater, Aftershock

APPRECIATING

Boundaries crossed after seeming millennia:

A TV agent (Auri Maruri at Gersh), and my first official TV credit (Creepshow, Season 3, Episode 5: “Time Out.”)