Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Springing into 2022: Cover Story, NPR/PBS, and School Visits

Since coming home from New Orleans, where our Almost Fairytales Films latest short, METHOD: A Voice Actor Prepares, premiered at the Lysistrata Future is Female Film Festival, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. (If you want to read more about our fabulous experience at Lysistrata you can read my previous blog here.)

Word spread of our premiere and the NWI Times ran a cover story about our creative process and our crew’s postproduction experience during the time of Covid-19 (full story here). Then Chris Nolte from Regionally Speaking contacted me for an interview on NPR about living as a working creative in Chicagoland, Lysistrata and the other festivals/ awards our comedic short is up for this year (full interview here). 

After my Regionally Speaking interview, Eye on the Arts got a hold of me to be one of their featured artist’s interviews for NPR/PBS. John Caine and I chatted about the challenges of filmmaking during the pandemic and the tenacity it takes to complete a project (full interview here). It was a lot of fun discussing our little project with like-minded artists supporters. Love all the local support for working creatives!

The spring has also been one for school visits. I participated in a collaboration between the Family Folklore Foundation, NorthernLights Eco Adventures, The Hammond Academy of Science and Technology and ThePaul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education.

In celebration of Earth Day, these community partners assembled to hike the portion of the Indiana Dunes National Park located in Gary, Indiana. Participants wrote out their observations of Miller Woods, then interpreted them as creative nonfiction. They also performed a radio play about the history of the dunes 100+ year battle to get recognized as a National Park. My little wild thing even played a skunk in this historical reenactment. The Chicago Post Tribune ran a nice article on the celebration (full article here). 

 

I had a wonderful time helping the participants draft their pieces and presenting about my experience writing natural science articles for Cricket Media’s Muse Magazine.

This past week has been filled with activity as well. I started by submitting my partial requests to the literary agents that liked my #PitDark tweets. (#PitDark is a one-day-long Twitter contest for writers seeking representation. It is open to all writing age groups the stories just need to have a spooky theme.) Now I wait, but it is exciting. I hope THE SECRET OF THE GHOST SHIP’S COMPASS finds a home. Some of you may remember from my past blog, about the awesome yet challenging (due to the lockdown) year I had as an Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Advancement Grant Fellow

This middle grade paranormal mystery is set in the dunes and features a fun cast of nature-loving characters. It would be amazing to find the right agent to help it get to the shelves. So, if you are the good vibe-sending type, please throw a few my way. It has been an excellent learning experience and doing #PitDark also helped me connect with more members of the writing community too.

I also got asked to do a school visit at the Area Career Center. Located in Hammond, Indiana, they serve high school students seeking vocational education from across Chicagoland. It is an amazing facility. I would have loved to attend this program as a high schooler. 

 

I cannot believe the amount of equipment they have access to, that they graduate with 12 college credits and that they also get certified in Adobe Premiere Suite. Just wonderful all around and their teacher, Stephanie Reiser is doing a great job. These young leaders have made it to the national championships several times. We discussed my zigzagging career path, what it is like to be a working creative/small business owner and deciding what type of life they wanted to shape for themselves. 

 

I shared my experiences working in the Hollywood Studio System and for a boutique sound studio in Burbank, as well as when/why I went out on my own. Speaking to some of the future broadcasters and filmmakers of tomorrow was a great honor. My “production assistant” and I also enjoyed the full studio tour and view down of the students’ award-winning projects. I am hoping to help become one of their internship sponsors and have these talented young people work on the postproduction of Almost Fairytales’ latest documentary, Take Bike the Streets (film info here).

I cannot wait to see what this summer brings. I will keep hammering away at my writing and filming a few passion projects, as well as doing wedding planning with my Fiancé for our October nuptials. My guys and I are also looking to savor these soon to be summer days, as winter will be here again in a blink. Hope all of you dear readers enjoy this warm weather and the seasonal festivities.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

12 Years Tackling 12 Minutes

Some projects take longer than others. They follow us around like ghosts tucked away in a cobwebbed attic, popping up to haunt our creative cores. They creep up from time to time, usually when we have a marathon to do list to tackle. My short film, Method: A Voice Actor Prepares, was just such a project. I wrote and directed it while I was rounding out my last year of my 20s. Now in the first year of my 40s it’s wild to see what a decade away from a project can do to my perspective about it. 

The concept of Method: A voice Actor Prepares came to me while working as a production coordinator/ Japanese translator in a sound studio specializing in original animation, video games and Japanese-English dubbing. So much of film and acting is about the art of a project and can get very serious at times. Even working in animation, which tends to be seen as lighthearted, there are very high stakes and a lot of moving parts to get a project to premiere. In all the hustle and bustle of my day job I began to think of all the dedicated voice actors I worked with who were professionals with a ton of classical theater training. Many of them starred on Broadway, or in national shows that toured. They also tended to be the character actors who the general population could recognize from a guest role on “Law and Order”, but never know the name to match the face. Most voice actors that specialize in dubbing, usually get very little recognition for their work from the film/TV industry. (You wouldn’t believe all the people who have gotten their starts playing Pokémon.) So, this idea began to percolate in my mind for a comedic short that showcased some of the best voice actors working in anime, while also poking fun at how seriously the entertainment industry can take itself. On any given day, a voice actor can play a dragon, a sex pot and a little boy, sometimes all in the same show! 

So, what would it look like if one of these dedicated thespians was also a method actor? Then the brilliant Ben Diskin came into my life. He was cast in several series simultaneously and I couldn’t help but notice that he also looked like a character he played on a very popular anime. I realized that I had found my star! Luckily Ben is a great sport. He has been working in show biz his entire life. A child of the 80s, like myself, he had a very different life path than me. While I was growing up in Gary, Indiana, he was starring in some of my favorite classics such as “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Wonder Years.” Like many child actors, Ben switched to voice acting as an adult. He also happens to be a black belt in karate. So, with a little coaxing I talked him into wearing some very silly costumes and coming back to on-camera work. With my lead in place, it was easy to get the rest of the cast to join in on the fun. Our cast stars some of the most popular and prolific names in animation. Since initially shooting this film, they have gone on to win Emmys and make waves on the small screen.

We finished shooting the film in 2010, but only completed the post-production this January (2022). Everything technical and personal that could complicate getting a project to completion happened to me in the last decade; job changes, the death of my mentor, cross-country moves, computer crashes (twice), and having a late in life bundle of joy during an international pandemic. That was just my decade my production partner/ editor had quite the wild ride as well! Our Almost Fairytales crew, who were all volunteers on this project, may have taken almost twelve years to tackle this twelve-minute film, but we managed to complete it. 

So, in January with the final version in hand, I had to make the big leap to let it be judged on the festival circuit. Cue the imposter syndrome and all the other waves of worry that can come while living as a creative. Hitting submit can be the hardest step of the process sometimes, but I made myself do it. After all, what’s the point if you never let anyone see a project, or read it? 

I got the best Valentine’s Day gift when FilmFreeWay.com (the film festival submissions hub) sent me a notification that “Method: A voice Actor Prepares” was accepted into its first festival and the event was in New Orleans. I’ve never been to America’s only European city, but I’ve always wanted to go there and so has my fella. So, the premiere was a long-awaited experience for many reasons. With my supportive fiancé and wild haired toddler along for the adventure we headed due south in my trusty Rav4. Fourteen hours-straight on the road would have been tough for a pair of adults, but throw in an 18-month-old and we knew a pit stop was needed. I’m blessed with a big blended family. My dear cousin Emily put us up in her fabulous oasis outside of Memphis. (She actually AirBnBs it so if you’re looking for a comfy spot to stay, you should check it out.) 

It was wonderful to connect with my kinfolk before hitting The Big Easy for three days of comedy. We came into New Orleans on the second longest bridge in the world. 

The landscape shifted from southern forests into inlets and swampland. Stilted houses and boat docks, eventually gave way to the airport and then the curve of The Crescent City itself. Our AirBnB was in the 7th Ward and within a variety of walkable attractions. 

The main feature we came for was Method’s premiere, which was set for Sunday, March 20th. Lysistrata was billed as three-days of comradery and comedy. It delivered! Named for the classic comedy, this inaugural event seemed like just the right place to premiere my quirky little film baby. Friday night featured Improv Troupes at the Hi Ho Lounge, Saturday was devoted to Stand Up Comedy at The Allways Lounge and Cabaret and Sunday was the short film festival at Café Istanbul. (You can read more about the genesis of the festival in this Gambit article by Jake Clapp.) 


My nerves revved before the premiere and panel. Would the audience laugh in the right spots? Comedy is hard, I would venture in some ways more difficult than drama, because you know when you bomb.

Nothing can be worse than the sounds of crickets and a few coughs when a joke doesn’t hit the right beat. There are a lot of meta moments for the true animation fan in "Method: A voice Actor Prepares.” I began to worry that it might not have a broad enough appeal, but it is also chalked full of fun slapstick and an extra dose of silliness. For being brave enough to hit submit and show up to the premiere, I was rewarded with laughter. People got it. They got all 12 minutes of satire and it was wonderful to share this moment with my love and our little guy. 

When I shot this short as a 29-year-old single lady living in LaLa Land did I see myself watching its premiere in my 40s holding my baby boy in New Orleans? Not at all! Was it wonderful? Absolutely! 

 

The decade in between sent me on many an adventure and gave me the perspective to come back and corral my crew to get this project to competition. 

We are up for an award at the WRPN Women’s International Film Festival and in consideration for several other fests. So, Lysistrata was a wonderful Launchpad and I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey goes. 

For anyone wrestling whether or not to hit that old submit button, you can suffer in analysis paralysis for years. Yes, you want your work to be polished. Yes, you must turn in your best effort. At a certain point, you have to say “yes” to your project and get out of your own way. Will everyone get it? No. Has mine been rejected? Yes. Was the premiere worth the risk of failure? Indubitably. 


Being able to surround myself with funny ladies and their supporters in an amazing local was just the recharge I needed to get cracking on a few more projects. 
 "Method: A voice Actor Prepares" is a comedic short for anyone who enjoys workplace comedies with a streak of romance and a healthy dose of the ridiculous. We will host a virtual premiere at a NW Indiana venue in 2023 once we have finished our festival run. You can check out our trailer below. This film has been a labor of love and I hope that it tickles your funny bone. See our full film page here.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2021 In Review

 Happy New Year everyone! 2021 was one of those strange years that was both slow and fast. Well, I'm ready to see what 2022 will bring. On the personal side it was eventful with Shawn and I navigating parenthood in the second wave of the pandemic and getting engaged in October. My day gig had me commuting to downtown Chicago on the train every day for 3 months. That meant at least 2 hours of commute time. I decided to make that my writing time, which ended up working well, as anyone with a 15th month old knows, it's hard to steal quiet time.

Here are my stats:

  • 2 articles published in 2021 in Cricket Media's Muse Magazine (One was a feature!)
  • Joined Storyteller Academy (Totally worth the monthly subscription, especially if you're someone who can't travel to in-person workshops. They do remote learning both live and recorded they also set you up with a critique group.)
  • Joined a wonderful critique group
  • Joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 
  • 16 article pitches submitted for various children's magazines for 2022
  • Workshopped my completed middle grade mystery/ fantasy and currently querying it.
  • Completed and workshopped first chap book. 
  • Did my first Inktober
  • Did my second Nanowrimo
  • Got first full request from an agent. (Waiting to hear back post holidays. Even if I don't get signed, I see this as step in the right direction. So far, I've queried this book to six agents. I've gotten 4 polite declines, 1 no response and 1 full request. The query journey is interesting.)
                                         

My 2022 Goals:

  • Complete my first upper middle grade fantasy 
  • Finalize the video for the comedic short film I wrote and directed with my crew a few years ago.
  • Get our short film into some festivals.
  • Finish the quirky romcom script I've been brewing on for a few years.
  • Get an agent.
  • Plan our fun fabulous getaway wedding for October with my love.



CHEERS TO A HAPPY HEALTHY 2022!

Falling Out of 2021


“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 


My favorite middle grade heroine said it best, and I really do love October. Maybe it's because I'm a fall baby, or maybe it's because Halloween is one of my absolute favorite holidays. The tenth month of 2021 proved to be very eventful for my little family. The really big news is that my long-time fella, Shawn, proposed. 

On the publishing front my first feature article for Cricket Media's Muse Magazine dropped this month! I'm really stoked about this as I grew up reading many of Cricket's magazine and love that they remain to be an ad-free space for kids. You can purchase this edition, or get an annual subscription here

This year I tried Inktober for the first time and really enjoyed it. It took a while for me to get my sketching muscles back. I loved drawing as a kid. I drew before I wrote. I was the kid who’s mom had to teach her to write early because she was tired of dictating all the toddler stories I told her so she could keep up with the illustrations I sped through. I was the kid that got every art award at all the schools I went to until I graduated 8th grade. Art was easy for me, it came naturally and then for some reason I can’t really figure out, I put my art aside. Coming back to it over a quarter century later is humbling. I’m so out of practice. My sketch skills aren’t close to what they were, but that’s what I like about Inktober. The stakes are low and it’s all about creating a drawing practice. I’ve gotten better at sticking to my writing practice now I’m getting this pursuit started. I’d love to eventually illustrate my #ChapBook. This has been such a great way to start a real drawing practice. Next I’m gearing up for #NanNoWriMo project which starts Monday.
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Springing into 2022: Cover Story, NPR/PBS, and School Visits

Since coming home from New Orleans, where our Almost Fairytales Films latest short, METHOD: A Voice Actor Prepares , premiered at the Lysist...