A Love Letter to Indie Filmmaking

Dear Indie Filmmaking,

After all these years, I’m still so madly in love with you. You’re with me when I wake up, and I take your hand in mine before I go to bed each night. It’s a testament to true passion that we still have a healthy relationship after so many years, even after so many difficult moments, occasional uncertainty, and frequent financial roadblocks.

Why do I love you so much?

Indie Filmmaking, you’re best-all-around, all grown up. You’re my beloved multiple personality of development, pre-production, production, and post-production. (Let’s save the distribution talk for later.) You’re with me in the solitude of the written word. You’re always one image away in the safe-space of my imagination. You’re also right by my side during the revision process, and you travel with me to the comfort of community support during casting, rehearsals, crew hiring, and location scouting. You’re my life of the party, altruist, and confidante, all rolled into one.

Okay, about distribution. I know I’ve been harsh on this weaker side of yours. Can you blame me? I know distribution is outwardly pretty impressive, with all the wheeling, dealing, and small checks, but I’ve come to realize: distribution makes me nervous, and not in a stomach-butterfly way. The moments before a movie screening can be torturous, like a performance review at work, only with a few hundred people or more. The audience’s stares before the screening are often not affectionate, and there’s no guarantee this will change when the curtain closes. Distribution is also anal-retentive and bureaucratic, with its copyright applications, restrictions and approvals, and music cue sheets.

I love it when distribution steps out of the room and it’s just me and the rest of you. The way you ease up to me in the form of shot lists and storyboards. That sexy sound you make when I power up my editing suite. That look in your eye when you flirt with me across the room at the wrap party. You make me gasp when I’m sending an external hard drive via FedEx. You’re one sexy lady, Indie Filmmaking.

Brains, brawn, and beauty. That’s you. May we share many more years together, and may we learn to gracefully accept those moments when distribution crashes the party. She’s always the first to leave, anyway.

 

10 Things I’ll Force Upon My Employees After I Open a Religion-Based Business

Hobby Lobby won. Thanks to five men on the U.S. Supreme Court, the corporate human being of Hobby Lobby will no longer have to fund the odious sin of contraception committed by their female employees. Praise Jesus, who died specifically for our right to deny basic healthcare to wanton hussies and the men who boink them!

With the road paved for corporate religious freedom everywhere throughout our fair land, why not start our own religion-based business? Yeah, let’s do that, then make our employees abide by the tenets of our incorporated, moral pathway to the afterlife.

  1. Even though some very smart people have said the morning after pill does not cause abortion, it’s not a question of fact—it’s all about belief. So, we believe idolatry and obsession are the same thing. No more use of social media by any employee.
  2. Since we all have to honor our father and mother, no employee will ever be allowed to place their parent into a home for the elderly.
  3. Abortion is unnatural…and so is processed food. Junk food vending machines will be banned within a 50-mile radius of the company. Anyone caught eating or possessing junk food will be terminated immediately.
  4. Thou shalt not kill, but you can own a gun, but only if you open-carry that gun and not kill; you can only scare people and especially children. You can also scare corporations, which are people.
  5. If you’re an anti-gay employee who’s later found to be secretly frequenting gay clubs or other dens of iniquity, you will be turned into salt.
  6. Sex and pee-pees are dirty unless you’re married. Unless you provide us with a copy of your marriage certificate, your healthcare plan will not cover Viagra, erectile dysfunction drugs, penile implants, vasectomies, or circumcision.
  7. Related to number 6: all men are prohibited from purchasing condoms, sex dolls, and porn. We’ll be watching you.
  8. Anyone working on a Sunday will be stoned to death.
  9. You must love others as you love yourself. If you hate, disrespect, or dishonor anyone, this means you have a deep-seated feeling of self-loathing. Although we’re not doctors, we’ll diagnose you with borderline personality disorder. We’ll also deny you benefits to cover therapy.
  10. You have to attend all happy hours. We’re a happy fucking company, so act like it.

Welcome to the company! We love having you here!

 

What White Culture?

I recently read Justin Simien’s piece posted on the CNN website from February of this year: 5 things to know about black culture now. He discusses a scene from his movie, Dear White People, where the lead character is asked to write an opinion piece for the college newspaper on black culture.

Lionel’s dilemma is one many black Americans share: a deep desire to have an identity rooted in black culture coupled with the knowledge that what’s seen as “authentically black” in popular culture doesn’t reflect our actual experience.

Wait, black people have an “actual experience”? What does this mean?

What is black culture?

Black culture, sans quotes, is the sum total of cultural contributions to the mainstream by the black subculture. It’s a fluid and a multifaceted, often contradictory thing.

Meanwhile “Black Culture” is a lifestyle standard made of assumptions about black identity, often used successfully by marketers, studio heads, fashion brands and music labels to make money.

I started to wonder about “white culture”. Once again, I headed to social media for answers, asking my Facebook friends: what are the current components of white culture?

The answers were numerous and diverse. Here’s an anonymous sampling.

  • Anger?
  • Angst about not having a culture
  • A love of stuff?
  • I know it’s a digression, but is there a white culture? I figure the local dominant group self-identifies in sub-groups: liberal/progressive, religious/secular rich/poor etc.
  • Ranch dressing
  • Owning a home to complain about the upkeep of
  • Home Depot on a Saturday morning
  • Curio cabinets
  • Mumblecore
  • High Sierra Music Festival
  • Shit, in 2014 you could say a component to white culture is hip hop shows.
  • WTF – the white culture is more blended now – at my house – Chinese, Filipino, Cambodian, Black, Indian, and same sex partnership. What White Culture.
  • School shootings

Another insight from Texas rapper Dubwerth: “You almost have to dissect the
sub-cultures within white culture to get a more accurate breakdown. You have your typecast Hillbilly hick and these typecasts range all the way up to the high-nose rich white snob.”

So the definitions of both white and black culture stem from what we see people doing out and about and how they’re portrayed in the media. And millions of other people of the given race don’t fit the particular image we see.

Has black culture caught up with white culture in the American “melting pot” of social organization? Is the food, music, rules of behavior, language, arts, and literature blended (enough) that we can finally say there is a strong American culture?

We don’t yet live in a post-racial society. In addition to recognizing blatant, racially motivated acts of violence and prejudice, white people still need to know 18 things before discussing racism. And of course anyone, regardless of race, can be prejudiced. At least we now live in a time where depictions—on the street and in the media—are moving baby step by baby step towards something resembling reality.

 

A Mulatto Playlist

Cinemulatto is all about laying down truth, whether it’s how to raise a mixed-race child, defining the New Tragic Mulatto, or simply locating oneself in an oft-baffling existence.

To that end, we’re here to act on the age-old trope that says music defines and shapes identity. We present to you the Mulatto Playlist, bringing together the very best of “black” and “white” music. Now you can be a mulatto, too, or just sound like one.

Here’s the perfect mixture of culturally appropriate songs for any occasion. Sit back, relax, and be a Mulatto.

Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul, and Mary

Night and Day – Al B. Sure!

I Honestly Love You – Olivia Newton-John

Don’t Call Me No Mo – Project Pat feat. Three 6 Mafia

Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver

Cat Daddy – Rej3ctz feat. Chris Brown

Surfin’ USA – Beach Boys

Gucci Mane – 911 Emergency

Dueling Banjos – Arthur Smith

Don’t Drop that Thun Thun – Finatticz

Don’t Cry Out Loud – Melissa Manchester feat. clowns

Wiggle – Jason DeRulo

Muskrat Love – The Captain and Tennille

T-Pain feat. B.o.B – Up Down (Do This All Day)‬

(You’re) Having My Baby – Paul Anka and Odia Coates – interracial parenting!

Buju Banton – Good Looking Girl

Because the internet has over 4 billion sites and we can find things like this, have a bonus track:

Mulatto Problems – Alejandro Mulatto

Feel free to suggest additions to the list!

 

The New Tragic Mulatto —
on Social Media?

I took a very informal poll (of like, two people) to find out if most friends on social media are like-minded and homogeneous.

Question: Do you have a very diverse mix of friends on social media or do they tend to be the same? Like, filmmakers, artists, queers, white people, people of color, mods, activists, Republicans, or what?

Answer 1: I have a mix. No religious freaks that I know of, or any hard Republicans. At least as far as Twitter goes. My Facebook is way more diverse. I have a lot of musician friends on Facebook, more than Twitter.

Answer 2: Hmm. Mostly similar, i.e., progressive, artists, queer or queer-supportive, mix of POC/white. Small number are old high school friends or relatives who are more conservative that I don’t interact with really. Should probably unfriend those people!

I asked because I realized recently: I have a very diverse mix of friends on social media. They come from all walks of life, and yes, they include filmmakers, artists, queers, white people, people of color, 60s music aficionados, left-wing activists, Republicans, and “or what”. I have rich friends. I have poor friends. CEOs. VPs. The unemployed. Hustlers. Thieves. Authors. Atheists. Christians. Actors. Poets. Politicians. Comedians. Kids. Just about every race, creed, ethnicity, and religious belief is represented.

Some of my Facebook “friends” I don’t know all that well, but I respect them. Even so, more often than not, I feel as though I don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Outside of social media, I have very few close friends, or rather, confidantes. This could be part pride, part laziness, part same feeling of not always fitting in. Feelings of not quite being part of the pack, I know, are common. If they weren’t, there’d be no such thing as teen angst.

But I’m not a teen. And I consider myself a pretty confident person. So what’s up with this “not fitting in”, which seems to be thrown into greater relief on social media?

Could this be the New Tragic Mulatto?

Granted, the fictional stereotype involved nasty things like self-loathing, depression, and sometimes suicide. So extreme! The New Tragic Mulatto isn’t so much tragic as kinda-sorta listless sometimes. How would I define this archetype?

The New Tragic Mulatto is an entity on social media who, despite having a diverse social network, feels “not quite [x] enough” in many virtual communities, such as not quite queer enough, or not quite POC enough, or not quite 60s enough. Speaking in situational terms: she’s on the periphery of the periphery. The New Tragic Mulatto often can’t quite keep up with the rules of any given social group, always seeking to do and be something different from what the group dictates. As a result, she ends up bringing this dynamic to the non-virtual world, meaning she mostly avoids social events and goes to sleep early.

Well, I don’t *entirely* avoid social events, but if one is feeling like an outsider is she really present at the event?

Whether this phenomena is truly tragic or a run of the mill midlife crisis is anyone’s guess. Or maybe Mulattos are onto something that transcends any of the dynamics created by their social groups, online or otherwise. Social ties, after all, are ultimately a good thing, outsider status notwithstanding.

I’ll think about all this again in the morning, after a good night’s early sleep.

 

Am I Raising a Mixed-Race Child?

Forced photo credit: Dakota Billops-Breaux

“Are you raising me white?”

“I don’t think so.”

“So you’re raising me mixed?”

I have two mixed-race daughters. My teen daughter and I had the above exchange as we drove to her SAT. It came right after my sage advice to use either ‘bruh’ or ‘blood’, depending on who she was talking to, in the event of a race war. (Always know who you’re dealing with.)

This wasn’t a situation where someone was asking me or my wife if either of us is the birth parent of our toddler. It had nothing to do with someone trying to figure out our daughters’ racial heritage. There were no skin tone comparisons, or earnest inquiries, or attempts to touch hair.

What does it mean to raise a child to be mixed-race? Is there a mixed-race culture?

The teen daughter in question is fond of music. Her favorite genre is pop-punk, whose musicians are predominantly white. Although she’s familiar with contemporary hip hop and can quote lyrics like nobody’s business (or is it bidness?), there are no black hip hop artists on her smartphone. Does this make her mixed-race? Would having music by black artists allow her to play a race card?

Her meals run the gamut from organic and vegan to cheap and processed. Does this make her mixed-race?

She can dance. Does this make her mixed-race?

She has self-proclaimed “hair issues”. But doesn’t that cross racial lines? (Doesn’t it?)

She can switch from a “white” accent to a “black” one. Is this the defining factor?

Most importantly, how has parenting contributed to any and all of the above? Was it early exposure to The Beatles? Did slipping in The Roots shake things up? Was it the hip hop dance classes?

I have no idea. I know she’s aware of the predominance of white women and girls in books and media. Her friends are diverse. The first report she ever wrote for school was on Ruby Bridges. She doesn’t currently identify so much with her Asian heritage, although she wants to someday visit Japan. (She’s not part-Japanese.) We have a blended family that includes black, white, Native American, and Filipino.

Perhaps I have indeed raised a mixed-race child. How has this manifested? My daughter is smart, sensitive, hilarious, and culturally attuned. She can interact with people of all races, ethnicities, creeds, and backgrounds. She even knows how to combat hair issues.

We haven’t laminated the race card, but we’re working on it.

 

Why the Gastronomic is Political

I’m part of a community that embraces people of all shapes and sizes. It’s not cool to make media-influenced comments on people’s physiques. Gay culture has its bears. And, being plus-size doesn’t always translate to being unhealthy.

What I’ll focus on, however, is why being healthy should be part of what defines being queer, and especially a queer POC.

I grew up in a family that didn’t know any better and ate loads and loads of fast food, sweets, and canned shit. My dad worked as a janitor in a bakery and would often bring home big boxes of cookies and cakes. My childhood was filled with sickness: fainting spells, anemia, fatigue, and what would later be diagnosed as Meniere’s Disease, which was accompanied by hearing loss and massive dizzy spells.

Being physically active (riding my bike and skateboard, high school track and field) made my bad nutrition environment tolerable and perhaps prevented me from a worse fate. I was never concerned about weight, and even went on a diet once to gain pounds. Weight wasn’t the issue; health became the main concern in a family wracked by sauces and preservatives and Twinkies.

After high school I got out of Dodge, so to speak, and have since made some hardcore changes to my lifestyle and eating habits. I’ve tried many different healing modes and methodologies: Body Ecology, macrobiotic, seeing a nutritionist, acupuncture, fasting, hypnosis, yoga, Chinese herbs, and Chi Nei Tsang (also known as internal organ massage, my favorite form of self-care)—just to name a few.

These were all choices I made to protect myself from and prevent further illness. This was even before I learned about how the food industry works. When I started reading and hearing about how food is processed, what goes into food products found on supermarket shelves, and the communities that are targeted by dispassionate marketers—I got mad. Sometimes furious. Often overwhelmed. The discourse on body image was, for me, no longer about big versus small. It became about the continued, concerted effort by the food industry to profit from people’s ignorance, and to continually fuel that ignorance in ever-changing and shadier ways.

What kind of self-respecting liberal pinko commie mulatto dyke would I be if I didn’t fight back?

The LGBT community is at an increased risk of health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, and diabetes. We’re well aware of the violence against our community in the streets; we should be just as adamantly against the slow violence in our kitchens. This goes for poor people, poor people of color, and anyone who’s unknowingly feeding the beast of mass consumption.

We should be squarely part of the political movement to protect ourselves, our communities, and communities of color from the food industry. Here’s why.

The food industry is killing us and they don’t give a fuck. In April of 1999, some of the most powerful food industry moguls (read: rich white men) met in Minneapolis to discuss the worsening problem of obesity in America. Whereas the first VP who spoke rallied his audience of 10 around a theme of responsibility and leadership, the next speaker responded, “Don’t talk to me about nutrition. Talk to me about taste, and if this stuff tastes better, don’t run around trying to sell stuff that doesn’t taste good.” This essentially killed further discussion. Nothing changed. The food industry continues to find ways of loosening regulations, falsely labeling its products, or not labeling them with important information (such as whether or not they contain GMOs).

It’s not your fault that the “taste” is addictive and dangerous. The moguls know good and well that “taste” will always win out, since “taste” has been constructed in a laboratory to keep you eating—and buying—unhealthy food. More and more studies are exposing the addictive nature of sugar. Salt is so ubiquitous that many people would consider their food too bland without it. These companies are bent on creating more and more heavy users. Guess how much money the processed food industry makes each year? I encourage you to do a bit of research on the largest American food companies and why processed foods are horrible, if you’re not already aware. It’s like street drugs were legalized all of a sudden and the dealers are going buck wild.

Bad food slows you down, and we need you to be productive! There is a lot of information on how food is related to more serious and life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Unhealthy foods have also been linked to many ailments and conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and even schizophrenia. (There’s a great documentary on how Margot Kidder treated her schizophrenia through nutrition.) As a filmmaker with a lot of ambitious goals on her plate, I can’t afford to be sick, sluggish, or incapacitated. Think how many more movies, songs, art installations, and performances we can create just by adopting healthy eating habits?

We’re gonna have some kick-ass parties in the queer assisted living facility.
I have another goal to live past the age of 90, and with any luck, become a centenarian. Who wants to join me and be in charge of dance night?

Oh, and fitness, too – a few exercise (and food) recommendations

Along with healthy eating comes staying physically fit. I’m lucky to live in the Bay Area and to have friends who empower folks to feel their best, both exercise and foodwise. Here are a few great ones; most are fairly inexpensive.

If you have a little bit of money

  • Rena Marie Guidry’s dance class: Rena teaches Fusion Rhythms at Rhythm & Motion in San Francisco (a mix of hip hop, jazz, African, modern Latin, world, and pop). This is non-stop energetic. I’ve never seen so many people smiling in a dance class on a Saturday morning. Check out the Rhythm & Motion class schedule to see when she’s teaching. Rena is also knowledgeable about healthy eating habits and using food to feel great.
  • GrooveCore with Teresa at ProAction Athletics: Teresa is awesome and has her own hashtag, #TeresaRocks. Her class has been known to be “so popular people show up half an hour before class to reserve a spot – during a busy work day.” She also provides general health information and like Rena Marie, she’s an amazing dancer!
  • Jada Delaney: I’ve been seeing Jada on and off for years for Chi Nei Tsang. Although she’s based in Santa Barbara, she visits San Francisco monthly. You’ll fall asleep on her massage table and feel so much better after a session with her.
  • Ace Morgan: Voted “Best of the Bay, Best Personal Trainer” by the SF Guardian, Ace has a loyal following of fitness devotees. Ace is all about health and lifestyle change, always attributing the results to the individual and not himself. He’ll also go food shopping with you. A great person—humble, kind, and inspiring.
  • A gym membership: Planet Fitness is one of the cheapest deals in the Bay Area. If you join Valencia Street Muscle you get the added bonus of catching up with Ace.
  • Independent grocers and co-ops: Rainbow Grocery is the big one in San Francisco, but there are tons of others like Berkeley Bowl and Farmer Joe’s in Oakland. Find one in your area. Stop supporting conglomerates and chains.

If you ain’t got no money

There’s no reason those with less means can’t eat and be healthy. It’s just a matter of getting the word out, like People’s Grocery is doing. Farmers markets are cheaper than you think, especially if you go to smaller community markets. Many of them accept food stamps. Or, you can rally people together to start your own. If you must go to Safeway, read labels and shop organic. And while you’re at it, go to their Facebook page and tell them to label their GMO foods, and sign the Credo-sponsored petition as well. Stay informed with sites like Fooducate and let other people know about them. For getting in shape, economics be damned—run, walk, or crawl if you have to.

The tide is changing

With enough visibility and concerted efforts, things can change. An urban farm is being built in Detroit. Latino communities in the U.S. are fighting diabetes with nutrition. If enough people start making a huge fuss and holding companies accountable on an ongoing basis, we can literally prolong life. See you in the rec room.

Use the hashtag #FoodJustice on Twitter and Facebook when posting healthy recipes, news stories related to healthy eating, or information exposing food industry worst practices.

 

How Are Those New Year’s Resolutions Going?

You may be lucky—you may be one of the 8% of Americans who’ll actually make it through all of their 2014 resolutions. Cinemulatto wishes you the best of luck! I made a few of my own resolutions in January, so since the first quarter of 2014 is behind us, time to check in.

How are you doing with yours? Here’s where I am:

  1. Write and produce six original shorts around a theme. I’ve already downsized this to five shorts instead of six (let’s hear it for stretch goals). Still, production for one short is complete, editing is underway, and I’m in the middle of production for the second short. In the spirit of Zero Dollar Shorts, I might set an offshoot goal to post all of my undistributed films online for free. Please leave a comment if you’d like to see this happen.
  2. Complete five feature scripts (four rewrites and one new one). I think I’m on track with this one. One of the five screenplays has been submitted to a staged reading competition and the second is in review with a reader. It can happen!
  3. Find a mentor. I came to a conclusion: I don’t want a mentor. I want a mentee. To this end, I now have two aspiring actors who’ve decided to take my guidance and work toward roles in indie films. What better way to organize and solidify what I believe I’ve learned from 25+ combined years of drama and film experience? And what better way to force myself to know what the hell I’m talking about, and to make myself fill the gaps in knowledge I know I need to fill?
  4. Hold four “movie retreats”. I’ve done one retreat so far. Three to go.
  5. Get out more. I’m not doing so hot on this one, but I have been doing a healthy amount of socializing while I film, making this goal two-fold: also become known as someone who has a mellow film set, who’s there primarily to build community, have fun, and be creative. A passion should never be work.

I’ll do another check-in after June. I encourage you to do the same. Onward!

 

6 Profound Statements from a Mixed-Race Aunt

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Alice

My Aunt Alice is pushing 100. We’ve never been close, but we’re cordial during very rare get-togethers. When I was a kid, however, she was a regular presence in my life. While her heart was in the right place, her tongue couldn’t always keep pace. As a result, she holds the esteemed title of Most Likely to Say Clueless, Inappropriate Things at Breaux Family Gatherings.

But were the things Aunt Alice said really all that bad? Can we learn something from her rudest and most egregious utterances?

I think we can.

  1. I wasn’t talking to her, anyway. My family and Aunt Alice were at a restaurant. Aunt Alice was complaining about my dad. Mom stepped in to defend, wherein Aunt Alice mumbled, “I wasn’t talking to her, anyway.” Important lesson, particularly for artists and marketers: Know your audience. Also be aware of how you’re crafting your message for optimal impact.
  2. Don’t raise your skirt for any boys. I took this one to heart. Because of this important forewarning, I came out during the summer of 1989 and never looked back. I may have looked sideways a few times, but now I’m here and I’m queer. I even think Aunt Alice got used to it.
  3. Learn how to sew. I really wish I’d taken Aunt Alice up on this one. How useful would it be to be able to fix a rip in one’s own pants (that I now wear to avoid raising my skirt), or dabble in bespoke fashions? I missed the boat and the sewing machine on this one.
  4. Did you find a rich husband yet? With some kind of mystic prescience of the economic downturns of the 80s, 90s, and our recent “Great Recession,” Aunt Alice knew how to save a buck and inform others how to do the same. I have a wife who’s doing okay, but alas, no rich husband for me.
  5. Did you win the lottery yet? Advice: Think big.
  6. She looks better now than when she was alive. At my mother’s wake in 1997, as I walked back to the Catholic church pew after viewing the body, these were the hushed, insightful words that lit from Aunt Alice’s red-lipsticked mouth. I’ll never forget them. I know that during someone’s “difficult time,” I can pass along the same words of encouragement, knowing I was taught by the best.

So, the next time that crazy uncle or madcap auntie causes a ruckus at the annual family potluck, or if you ever happen to be down on your luck and dealing with circumstances beyond your control—remember Aunt Alice. I do, and I’m a better person for it.

 

7 Ways I Stopped Being a Jealous, Bitter, Dramatic Mess

ayahuasca ceremony in Peru

I attended a pretty fancy-schmancy university (Stanford, to be exact). When one graduates in the same class as famous political organizers, U.S. senators, and authors (or authors, or authors), there’s a lot of potential to develop a massive inferiority complex. For years, that’s kind of exactly what I did, i.e., compared myself to my peers, or at the very least, harbored a secret wish that they’d do something like eat bad fish, or stub a toe.

Well…as they say, that was then, this is now. I’m proud to say I haven’t harbored a jealous thought in a long time—probably for the last five or more years. How did I reach such a blissful state of confident Nirvana? How did I stop being a jealous, bitter, dramatic mess?

Here are 7 things that contributed.

  1. Started taking better care of myself. What you eat really does directly correlate to how you feel, and how you regard yourself. For the past several years (sugar addiction notwithstanding) I’ve focused on consuming lean meats, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of nuts and legumes. I also exercise regularly and try to spend at least a little bit of time each day being mindful. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of self-pity if your staple food is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
  2. Gave up toxic habits. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I haven’t touched alcohol since 2005. This was a catalyst to find a lot of self-worth outside of a bottle, and led to a lot less drama in my life.
  3. Focused on accomplishments and the process. I used to scoff at people who said, “It’s all about the process.” Now I’ve discovered, without this being a goal, that I love the process—writing, working with actors, composing shots, editing, and everything having to do with movies. Also, “accomplishments” are such socially defined little bastards. Awards? Of course they feel great. Money? Everyone appreciates getting paid; this goes without saying so I won’t (quite) say it. Finding I have a strong set of friends and cohorts who get excited about my movie projects? Excitement is hard to come by these days, meaning generating it is a major accomplishment.
  4. Surrounded myself with supporters. This is related to the above. It’s not one-sided—these are the people who love me who I love in return. One might even say “like-minded”. It took many years and a process of elimination, but I reached a point where I easily:
  5. Identified detractors and steered clear. Know the signs: they never congratulate you on anything, they talk a lot about themselves, they point out your perceived shortcomings in the form of jokes, and they can do no wrong. God bless ‘em. I have none of them in my life.
  6. Had an Eat Pray Love moment. This happened in late 2008. I spent 10 days in the Peruvian rainforest on a shamanic ayahuasca retreat. (After all, isn’t film a controlled hallucinatory experience?) I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone but it worked wonders for me. (It also worked for Isabel Allende in completing her trilogy of adventure books.) Yes, as I communed with the ayahuasca goddess at the edge of the unknown universe, I had a sweeping sense of being a supreme creative being. What did you do this weekend?
  7. Grew older. The aging process is great for self-esteem. It’s made me mellow out a lot and not care so much about what other people think. When one has to focus on maintaining the energy required to get things done, one has little time for peer comparison. The only person I find myself trying to one-up these days is me.

If you’re currently a jealous, bitter, dramatic mess, I hope you find some pearls of wisdom or some small level of solace in the above. But stop comparing yourself to me—go make your own damn list.