Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

It is December 28 and I am desperately trying not to make New Year's resolutions. I find that every year I set up impossible goals for myself and end up disappointed when I don't reach them. And how could I? They are goals that assume that each day contains 48 hours, most of them dedicated solely to me. As a mother of 7-year-old twins, it's obviously not realistic. Yet I find myself wondering, once again, what I should be planning for the next year. I am lucky that I have choices - I don't have to work for pay (much), my husband still has his job, my kids go to school and are in an AfterSchool enrichment program leaving most of my week-days free. Still they are full when you consider that I am writing, fund-raising, filmmaking, volunteering at school, managing homework, networking, managing the household and more.

I spend many hours volunteering at the kids' school. It is my way of being involved and making sure that they are getting the best I can give them. Although sometimes I wonder if some of it isn't a way of avoiding my art. Or if it puts me in a comfort zone of saying "I never have time for what I want to do!" Because sometimes, thinking about being successful at what I want to do is depressing. I want to (and do) write plays and movies. I want to direct my own scripts. I want to see my movies get made well. I want to write what I'm interested in (small, indie dramas centered around women's lives). And the odds are not good. Not if I want to be successful. And by successful, I mean have the movies pay for themselves and get distribution. Okay, I'd be happy with not having to put all of my own money into my films to get them made. And I just read a depressing statistic that said that dramas only comprise 7% of Hollywood films being made today. There are even fewer films starring women. I have a better chance of being elected to Congress than of being a working female director. Where does all of this leave me?

I suppose I'll have to make resolutions after all. That are do-able. Here goes:
1. Be the best mother I can be without trying to do everything.
2. Stop focusing on the statistics of why I can't make films and figure out how to just do it.
3. Concentrate on what I want to do and not what I should do.

That's it. If I can remember those three things, the year will be a success.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sick Days and Holidays

I never knew how many days off my kids would have, both planned and unplanned. When I first got pregnant, I naively assumed that I would work in the kids around my schedule, with minor adjustments. Little did I know. In the last three weeks the twins have been home six out of fifteen days. Two of them were holidays, one was a protest day (mine) and the rest they were sick.

At first I'm relieved. They're too sick to go to school. I don't have to get out of bed. I don't have to go anywhere. We can just hang out and be together. Then after two hours of hearing "I'm bored" while I try to answer e-mail, update the website or whatever minor task I've set for myself (because there's no way I can write or make phone calls or edit with all of the interruptions) I give in and play Princess Monopoly. Twice. Then the paints come out. Then the Legos. Then the pillows and blankets. By lunchtime it looks like a tornado swept through my living room leaving it filled with the entire contents of our local Toys R Us. And I realize that I it's time to be "Mommy" with a capital M. There's school work to do. Piano to practice. A valuable lesson in cleaning up after oneself to be learned. All of which takes about an hour. By 2:30 I give in to their pleas to watch TV so I can lie down for a few minutes. By 4:00 they're bored again and I'm watching the clock trying really hard to restrain myself from calling my husband and screaming "COME HOME NOW!"

Planned days off are better, especially when I actually make a plan. On Veteran's Day we went into the Central Park Zoo with some classmates, another Mom and a babysitter. We ate pizza at a local restaurant. We ran up and down the big rocks in Central park and played on the cool rock-like playground attached to it. We ride the subway home tired and satisfied at a day well spent. And I think to myself how wonderful it is to spend time with two terrific seven-year-olds who will throw their arms around me on a whim. I wonder why do I have this need to write, to film, to tell stories? Why can't I be content just to be? Perhaps, I think, I can give it up.

They go back to school. I go back to writing. I write a scene that moves me to tears. And I know that this is something that I have to do. There is no choice. And so, I continue to pursue my dream between sick days and holidays and hope that in both pursuits, I am making the world a slightly better place.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Apple Pie

Since this blog is called "Filmmaking, Motherhood and Apple Pie," I thought I'd better do a post on Apple Pie, since this is the time of year when I usually attempt one. I say "attempt" because I've probably made a dozen apple pies in my life, with varying degrees of success. Our family goes apple picking almost every year, a ritual that I love. We always seem to end up going Columbus Day weekend, even though our friend whose family owns the farm, Applewood Orchards in Warwick, NY, tells us that it's too late and too crowded. Nevertheless, he always steers us to the best area with the perfect apples that always taste a thousand times better than what we get at the store. And so we invariably come home with 2 bushels of apples and I'm left figuring out what to do with all of them. It's unavoidable with two young children who love to pick them and have a daddy who's willing to carry them.

So, we decided to make an apple pie. And when I say "we", I mean the kids decided and I acquiesed. Because like most things I commit to in life, I always forget how much time it takes and blissfully dive in, realizing at the halfway mark that I'm finished, want to be done, and still have much more to do. Take the dough, for instance. Even with a food processor and three pairs of helping hands (we added a friend to the mix this year), it still takes a while to get it right. And I refuse to buy prepared pie shells. So we made the dough, I flattened them into 2 disks and dutifully refrigerated them. The kids got bored, the friend went home and I sat down for a few minutes. I thought to myself, "Now I just have to peel and cut the apples. Shouldn't be too bad." After my daughter took 10 minutes to peel one apple, my son the same, I decided I'd better do most of that myself. An hour later I finished peeling and cutting and the kids came back to help me measure the spices for the mix. Then we rolled out the dough. I never get it right the first time and always over process the dough and it never seems to stretch out as much as they say it should. But finally, we got it all put together, albeit imperfectly, and put it in the oven. The hardest part was waiting until the next day to eat it, since it needed to rest for four hours and we all went to bed before it was ready. It didn't look beautiful, but tasted great and I derived great satisfaction from doing it with the kids.

And I find myself thinking how much making a pie is like writing, or filmmaking, or editing. If I really thought about how much work I was getting myself into, I might never get started. But every script starts out a perfect film in my head. Then comes getting it onto paper. Then there's the first time you read it out loud and realize you've got so much further to go. But when it's done, it's a great feeling. And the process starts all over once you go into production and again, when you're editing. Yet each time, I dive in with the same enthusiasm that I started the pie, certain that this time, it will all come out exactly like the beautful picture in my head.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Juggling Time

It's been three and a half weeks since we wrapped principal photography for the first half of "That's What She Told Me," a short film I directed. I'm also the editor on the film. The plan was to create a trailer with the footage we've shot, show it, and raise the rest of the money to complete the film. But as I started looking at the footage, I realized that I needed to edit together all of the scenes that I have before I can cut together a trailer. So I began, thinking it would take me about a month. In three and a half weeks, I've spent a total of 20 hours editing. And I'm only halfway done with the rough cut. It will probably take me at least another 20 hours to finish cutting the film before I can start on the trailer. Why so little time?

In that time, I've also had three school holidays, attended one high holy day service and held one family dinner for Rosh Hashanah, had four therapy appointments (me), two occupational therapy appointments (my son), one appointment in the burn unit (my father-in-law), one sick day (all of us), moved my kids into two separate rooms and painted both rooms, attended five meetings at the kids' school on volunteer projects, bought two birthday presents (the kids' friends), three other birthday presents (the kids and husband), took the kids to three piano lessons, designed and printed birthday invitations, designed and ordered Christmas cards (my husband is Jewish and I'm Protestant), and paid the bills. And that's just on the personal side.

In my other film work, I've had two phone meetings for film consulting, attended one artist networking event, submitted two film grants, put together a proposal for a potential producer for "Weeki Wachee Girls", did some re-writing on "Weeki Wachee Girls", read 12 pages in my writing workshop with Mick Casale of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and sent off "Flower of a Girl" to the Baltimore Women's Film Festival (playing Friday, Oct. 24 at 10:00 p.m.).

And I ask myself for the thousandth time, can I really keep doing this? So far, the answer is still "yes." Or maybe I'll just go back to bed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On directing your own children

I just have one thing to say, "DON'T DO IT!" Especially if you're the Mom (as opposed to the Dad.) A week and a half ago, I directed the first half of a wonderful short film called "That's What She Told Me." It was my first time directing a piece I hadn't written and the first time that I worked with women in all of the key positions. It was a fabulous experience, except for the morning I was shooting my daughter. Her role was to play the lead as a young girl, who is left on a park bench by her father while children play around her.

I talked to her about it a month ahead of time. On vacation we used Sun-In in her hair to get it light enough to take the red rinse. (She has light brown hair that needed to be red.) I was so excited that there was a role for my son as well. He got to play on the monkey bars. It all fell apart when my son found out that his best friend was coming and they would get to play together in the movie. My daughter broke down. "Why can't I play with someone in the movie.?" she said through her tears. So I explained. She was the star! It was an important role! The whole scene would be about her! Finally, I must have said something like "We can shoot some scenes where you get to play, too."

The day of the shoot started out promising. She played her part and did the same walking with Daddy scene about six times. The other kids played, mostly. We shot some more walking with Daddy scenes. Finally, she refused to do any more. I stopped shooting, took her inside and discovered she had a fever. I gave her Tylenol and talked to her in bed. (I'd been MIA for two days by that point.) We played Uno. Finally, I told her that I needed her to do one more thing and that was sit on a bench for two minutes. That was it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have a scene. She agreed, sort of. Luckily, the scene called for her to be unhappy. I have to cut out the parts where she's shooting me dagger looks.

The rest of the day went swimmingly. We were literally shooting underwater. We finished early. I got to put my kids to bed. All was right with the world.

Until today, where I finally put together a rough-cut of the park scene. I showed it to the kids. About halfway through, my daughter started crying. "You said I would get to PLAY in the MOVIE! Why didn't you let me play?" I started backpedaling. Stumbling, I probably made some other misguided half promises. And I swore to myself, "Never again." At least, not until next time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blogging and Flower of a Girl

Despite growing up with a refrigerator magnet stating "Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt," I've decided to start blogging. If you think me a fool, please keep it to yourself. If you like what I'm saying, please speak up!

I'm an indpendent filmmaker, a screenwriter and playwright who also happens to be the mother of (almost) 7-year-old twins. Needless to say, making all of those things work together is challenging, to say the least.

I'm starting this blog initially to introduce my film, "Flower of a Girl," a 5-minute experimental piece that once elicited the comment "That was terrible!" from an elderly woman in the audience at the 2006 Staten Island Film Festival. During the Q&A, when I spoke about what the film was about and how the woman and the teenager were related, my husband says that same woman turned to her friend and said, "I knew it!" Judge for yourself. The film can be seen in its entirety on imdb.

It is also playing at the 2008 Baltimore Women's Film Festival at 10:00 pm on Saturday, October 25 as part of an Experimental Shorts Program. I plan on being there, although it is the weekend that my twins turn seven and I'm expected to throw a birthday party. At home. For 20 kids. Yet another challenge. Somehow, with help and more than a little grace, I'll manage.