I’ve had writer’s block before. It’s not so bad. More than anything it’s a matter of getting past the fear from anticipation and starting to write. It’s lots of procrastination and then more procrastination. But at least you know what project you’re stuck on or at a dead end with. A bottleneck of projects and ideas is different.
I survived my first marathon and it was amazing. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I initially signed up on a whim, but tried really hard to stick to my training to begin with. Back in September, just before we moved, I felt that not only would I finish, but I would also have a decent showing. The last six weeks were a mess though. After sporadic training during that period, I was hopeful just to be able to finish. Here are my thoughts by mile of the experience.
The journey to making Monsoon began with a mentor who was interested in producing it. He had a relationship with a young up-and-coming actress who was on a popular TV show at the time. I met with them for dinner and had a fantastic night. They were awesome, she really responded to the script, and there was talk of bringing other actors they had relationships with into the fold. At the end of the night, I handed both of them a copy of the short film I had made a few months earlier.
It’s been a busy year production-wise so far. The first three months were devoted entirely to getting Casey shot. That ended up taking a lot more time than planned, especially with the extra recording and planning time for the performance aspect. Then there was Chutes. Chutes 1.5 is finally being released online. The Chutes Vlogs are in post-production. The entire process from script to getting the thing shot was pretty fast for the Vlogs, but still all consuming with time over the last few months. Then there are the features. We’re working hard to get two features shot next year. What seemed like an impossible task earlier in the year now seems more and more feasible. Extremely difficult and still without any guarantees, but feasible. And all of this has been awesome.
The final follow up day is fast approaching for Monsoon. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be making this script a while ago, so if it sells, I would obviously be ecstatic. But it’s been a few years since I’ve entertained the thought of making it myself. And the more I think about it, the more it excites me.
I’m continuing my reverse jinx efforts. Two weeks ago, I wrote about my indecision about which feature project I wanted to put my energy into first. Two things have happened since. First, the script pitch for one of the projects went really well and a company requested the script. They loved the script too and may be moving forward on it. But they also said it would take time. There’s a follow up in a month to have a final decision. Good news, but who knows. The second thing that happened is that I’ve made my decision: I want to make Title Redacted (The coming of age with a supernatural twist one).
Part of me hopes that this blog post becomes an elaborate reverse jinx. One of the projects I’m going to talk about is being pitched today. If it sells, it not only makes a decision about which film to do first easier, the sale would also make that next film possible. But honestly, that’s highly unlikely.
Sometimes when you’re going through the stages of grief, you don’t even realize it. Which is nice. It’s like dozing off on a long flight and waking up at the end. You don’t want to be conscious of the entire trip. That’s brutal. As I reach the end of this most recent flight of events, I’m relieved it’s coming to an end.
Our final numbers: 84 backers, $4,094, funding unsuccessful. Disappointing is an understatement. We were going for $28,000 and we fell flat on our faces. I fell flat on my face. That’s not to say the campaign was a failure. We didn’t raise what we needed for production to happen as quickly as I wanted. But I learned a lot about the project and myself. There’s a lot to take away from the experience.
“How long have you been doing this?” I dread when I’m asked some form of that question. Do I gloss it over or do I go into it? I’m never sure.
In the summer of 2004, I was on my way to grad school for film at Chapman University. I had sent my security deposit, had my classes assigned, and was planning my move from Phoenix, Arizona. But before I left, I was working a summer job that required a road trip to Albuquerque. Then things changed.
There was an accident. A blown tire. Our van rolled a couple of times. I didn’t walk away unscathed. Shattered 1st metacarpal, chipped elbow, fractured scapula, and a broken neck were the largest issues.
While in the hospital, they wanted to operate to fix my thumb. I was hesitant but agreed. That morning, not one, but two IV’s popped out. I took it as a sign and decided to wait until I was back in Phoenix to have the surgery.
When I returned to Phoenix, I found out that my neck injury wasn’t just a hairline fracture, it had slipped in such a way that the x-ray didn’t look pretty. Had I gone through with the thumb surgery earlier, the anesthesia tube probably would’ve hit the spinal fracture and paralyzed me.
I had a spinal fusion surgery to fix my neck and then a surgery to put a couple of pins in my hand to fix my thumb a few days later. Undeterred, I still thought I could make it to Chapman. It was August and I was going to be in a neck brace and cast through October. Since I couldn’t drive, I looked up bus routes to see if it would be possible. Then I had a follow up appointment for my neck surgery. I had an infection in the repaired area. It was so bad I needed another surgery to clean it out and make sure the instrumentation hadn’t also been infected. That would’ve caused major issues. I was stuck in the hospital for the next several days fighting off a fever. I made it through okay, but it meant more time in the next brace and required me to take it easy, stay indoors, and rest. No school for me.
After the cast came off my hand and the brace came off my neck, I had several weeks of physical therapy. I couldn’t lift more than a gallon of milk for a year. I couldn’t walk for very long without my neck starting to hurt at first, but I kept at it. By the time I made my way back to California the following year, the money I had saved up was gone, I had no car, and no money. I crashed on a friend’s couch and in Violet’s dorm. I worked at a Seattle’s Best inside a Border’s, which helped me regain some physical strength. I’d hide in the back and sit on a crate when I could because standing for an entire shift was exhausting and painful.
By the end of that year, Violet and I found a place and jobs. A year after the surgery, I received the all clear to resume all normal activities, except for riding a motorcycle or playing football. Not that I ever did either of those. It took a while to start digging out of the financial hole I had been in because of the accident. Two years after the accident, I should’ve been graduating. Nevertheless I was happy to be at a point where I finally had a life returned to normal.
I kept writing during this time. Writing actually helped me through a lot of it. But the film industry seemed miles away. I slowly crept my way back into it though, PA’ing on a couple of sets, joining NALIP, and then finally shooting a short in 2007. I worked my way up to Production Coordinator and UPM on a couple of small projects while focusing on writing. Then I grew tired of waiting for my projects to get made as a writer and that’s what led to initial creation of the Chutes & Ladders web series.
There’s a balancing act done for the sake of sanity between chance and fate. What an awful, unfeeling world we live in when we win lottery level odds to a bad situation. But fate is different. Maybe things happen for a reason. I renewed my relationship with some family members and old friends and strengthened it with others. It strengthened an already strong drive and gave me a fresh perspective to appreciate the moment. Who would I have been if it hadn’t happened? Would that me be a weaker person? Who knows.
That’s where Chutes comes in. It’s about the choices we make when we don’t think we have a choice. A man from the future has a collection of photos that reveal his fate as well as the fate of others. No matter what he does, the events in the photos happen. How long would you fight that before giving in? What does it say about your character if your actions are already written? When seemingly little events happen to Alex and Olivia that put them on a course with Vikram, is that fate? A lot of little events have to fall into place for a big one to happen. You can go crazy playing those events over and over in your head and feel helpless to them. But that doesn’t mean you’re not in control of your actions. What happens when Alex and Olivia decide they want to take control, photos be damned? What can change and what can’t? That’s what drives Chutes.
The same forces are playing out right now in our Kickstarter campaign. So many little events that lined up against us, our own actions included. A lot to be learned. Are we going to shrug our shoulders and call it a day? Or are we going to look back at all of the little events, good and bad, that led to the creation of a movie? Things can happen for a reason when you make them. Right now, this can be the story of how a project died, or it can be one of how a project overcame challenges to succeed. In hindsight, one way or another, it will look like those events were meant to be.
Maybe the universe deals the cards. And maybe they’re the house that, in the end, always wins. But regardless of the hand you’re dealt, you control how you play it. You can be dealt pocket kings and blow it. You can bluff your way to a huge pot with a 2 and a 5. But you get to decide how to play those cards, and how to make the most of them, if you so choose.