The Stranger on the Platform

Urban SprawlLife in Los Angeles can drive one mad. The hustle and bustle, the noise, the confusion… add to that the insanity of the entertainment business, and you have a mix that is guaranteed to bring the most stoic of people to their knees.

One of my coping mechanisms is to get out – not out of L.A., but into it. I find hidden treasures everywhere. And so, the plan today was to explore: an architectural jaunt to Hollyhock House, then a Metro trip to the Gamble House.

As the train pulled into the 7th Street Station, it jerked and slowed, then stopped. There was a great commotion outside. People were yelling and pointing. The lights went off in the train; the airflow stopped. Moments later, L.A. County Sheriffs swarmed through, ordering people off the train. We exited, confused. A man pointed. I turned and saw one of the Sheriffs on his knees. He held a flashlight, and was peering under our car. A man was under there. He had jumped in front of our train.

Within a few minutes, the place was evacuated as emergency personnel descended to carry out what could only be described as a grisly mission. We were with the people who had tried to prevent the man from jumping; apparently, he threatened to do so in a joking manner, making several false starts before he most determinedly flung himself in front of the tons of steel barreling towards him. No one knew him; some said he was 40, others claimed he was 20. The truth will come out by the end of the day, once the local media prioritizes the importance of their newsfeed… but what is known is that he is dead.

I was in shock; not 15 minutes before, I had been talking about a story that I am working on, strangers coming in contact with one another, a tale of urban life. One character – a young man – had traveled to the train station. He had gone there to commit suicide – by jumping in front of a train.

We were led upstairs and pushed out onto the street, only to land in the middle of a Hollywood blockbuster filming a great action and adventure sequence. Helicopters were everywhere – police, media, and the ones that were filming. It was chaos. The trip to the Gamble House was off, as train service was suspended, and the desire to go there had diminished. I spent the next few hours wandering around the Theatre District and Pershing Square, as my mind returned again and again to the event. Eventually, the Metro declared the situation resolved, and the trains resumed their schedules, with a few minor delays.

photoThe return to 7th Street. It was so very quiet. There were neither police nor emergency responders; the platform was all but empty. As I waited for the train, something caught my eye. It took a few moments to register, but suddenly, I realized that I was standing in the precise spot where, just a few hours ago, that desperate soul had taken his life. That man’s entire existence – all he was, all he would ever be – was reduced to three sad objects – a coroner’s glove, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pool of dried blood.

***

Unknown-1I keep wondering about that man. Who was he? He was somebody’s son, that is for certain, and at one time or another, he had been somebody’s friend, somebody’s lover. What happened to him, what despair so consumed him that he felt this action was the only one he could take? And… where were his angels? Where were those voices, those soft whispers, telling him to stop, reassuring him, telling him to breathe, that everything would be alright? What had left him so bereft and alone? Why had his angels, that grace within humans that stops them from committing the unthinkable, abandoned him? And, so, I think about Caim, and Father Buer, of Lillith, Lucien, and Beliala, and of their falls from grace. I think of the guardian angels in my life, and realize how grateful I am for them… and I wish fervently that, for just one second, they had left me, to give comfort to another.

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Good Night, Sweet Prince

220px-Philip_Seymour_Hoffman_2011“I had insecurities and fears, like everybody does,and I got over it. But I was interested in the parts of me that struggled with those things.” ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman

For creatives, our mind can be our greatest asset – or our worst enemy. Philip Seymour Hoffman succumbed to his fears and insecurities today. He was perhaps the greatest actor of his generation. His ability to step into a character’s skin, and to transform into their personas was uncanny; his gift was as immense as his deeply vulnerable heart.

As creatives, we’re asked to open ourselves up to the world, to stand naked, to bare all of our secrets. This emotional accessibility is what makes a great artist, and yet, it is also what makes so many of us fall prey to one form of addiction or another. It’s painful to feel so much all of the time, and for some, this pain is so great that they desperately try to numb themselves, in order to be free from its grasp. They seek respite in the form of drugs, alcohol, and sex.

Hoffman’s death comes as a great shock to us all. We believed he had conquered his fears, and that his days of addiction were long past. He was very candid about his struggle with sobriety; and yet, the story seemed a long-closed chapter of his early life.

We were fooled… because we wanted to be. It’s a difficult truth, to discover that what you most love about a person ultimately leads to their undoing.

Good night, sweet prince,

and flights of angels guide thee to thy rest.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967 – 2014

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Scribe, Interrupted

Dementor image“There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass….” ~ The Right Stuff

I have met this demon.

In November, I stumbled upon a story. It sprang forth from a conversation that haunted me; it invaded my dreams. I had a visceral, emotional reaction to what had been discussed. It possessed me. I knew the only way to exorcise it was to write it.

And so I began. I welcomed my muse with open arms. I methodically and precisely built my outline; I created characters, and gave them detailed backstory. I knew them inside and out, heart and soul. I created a world. Perfection. Finally, the time came to type FADE IN:

At my first pass, I knocked out half of the script (this was for a 12 – 15 page short). I contacted a few people for a bit of feedback – is this a story of interest? Worth exploring? I received a unanimous “Yes” and took the plunge. I dove into story, headfirst. I made some adjustments, and began again.

Once again, I knocked out half of the script. Then, the problem surfaced. I could go no further.

Every day, I’d open up my trusty Final Draft; every day I would stare at the screen. I’d read my pages, and try to push further, only to have my brain completely shut down.

It was terrifying. I had never experienced anything like this in my entire life. I was beginning to believe that I’d never write again.

I tried everything that I knew to do. I threw away the outline and free-formed it. Stalled at the same place. I dropped characters, and brought in others. Stalled in the same place. I gave my protagonist a new name. Stalled. A new job. Stalled. I was in a complete state of panic; I felt that I was free-falling without a parachute. Stalled. Stalled. Stalled.  I had met the demon in the sky of my mind, and my heart and soul were disintegrating, like a jet hitting the sound barrier. All was lost.

This particular script had a hard deadline, as I had the opportunity to place it in consideration for production this year. The deadline was in a day. I had about 36 hours in which I would need to write, proof, rewrite, edit, and hand off my little drama.

I went jogging. That always works. I ran and ran along the streets of Toluca Lake, until I could run no more. I turned and walked home, waiting for the muse to descend.

As I neared my house, my pace slowed, for nothing had happened. 

I took a deep breath, and walked inside. Surely, something will click, I told myself. I sat down, opened up FD… and once again, stared at the pages.

I took a shower. I scrubbed my hair, breathed in the steam, and poached myself like a lobster.

Nothing.

And so, I broke. I buried my head in my hands and sobbed. I keened for the death of my creative spirit. I surrendered my need for perfection. I allowed the project into my heart, I let go of all expectations, I permitted myself to be totally naked and raw. I felt… and then, it happened.

My hands reached, shaking, towards the keyboard… and once again, I typed FADE IN:

Only this time, I kept typing. I had met the demon… and the demon was me.

***

Apogee - apo*gee (noun) : the highest point of a vertical ascent. Multimedia production and distribution house. We #SupportIndieFilm

Apogee – apo*gee (noun) : the highest point of a vertical ascent. Multimedia production and distribution house. We #SupportIndieFilm

The script is complete, and has been submitted. I’m still making minor tweaks here and there. Pre-production is beginning under my newly formed Apogee Entertainment, and by the end of the year, by hook or by crook, I’ll be able to take you by the hand and lead you through the world of CREED. It’s the unflinching story of a returned warrior, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, who is so haunted by the past, that he is precipitously close to destroying his future. For it’s not only the fallen soldiers who are left behind. Our returning vets are being left behind – by the very country they risked their lives for.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

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Happy Holidays

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Natal Wishes

birthday-candles-1338372401X5qIt’s here again. The day of my birth.

Last year, I began a tradition of creating a wish list on my birthday. Without further ado, here is what I want for my birthday. For myself – and for you:

Personal:

To forgive. We all know people who, for one reason or another, wish us ill. They cause great pain within us, and yet, to hold onto anger and resentment is to cut ourselves off from a more conscious state. I wish to forgive them, for I realize that they behave in this manner because they are living in a state of inner turmoil. II forgive myself. I forgive others.

For those who feel that one has done them an injustice, I wish forgiveness for you. I wish you forgiveness for self.

Joy. We spend a lot of time searching for this thing called “happiness.” I am beginning to believe that happiness is a faux emotion, for it is derived from things or people external to the self. If you think about it, happiness can be a very toxic state of consciousness. I wish for joy. Joy also accepts pain as its partner. I do not wish to live in a state of vapid happiness. I wish to experience moments of grace.

I wish joyful living for you.

Conscious living. I have said before that L.A. is a very noisy place. It is difficult to live in a state of conscious awareness when one is surrounded by so much noise. We need silence, every day. Music is not silence. Silence is silence. I wish to be aware of those around me. I wish to live in harmony with my environment, even when it changes. I wish to be conscious of the choices I make – even the most mundane.

I wish conscious living for you.

Compromise. I wish to continue to practice this choice.

For our nation, and our people in it, I wish for all to practice conscious compromise. This nation was founded by the people, for the people. Not by corporations and lobbyists for personal or financial gains. Democracy means that we are our brothers (and sisters) keepers. We must look out for one another. Choices should be made for the dreams of the many, not the schemes of the few.

Professional:

I wish for They Live Among Us to acquire funding for future episodes. I wish for high production value to come to the table. I wish this for myself, and for the hard and beautiful work of the cast and crew.

For you, and your passion projects, I wish you funding through completion.

I wish forBig Boy Toys to receive its greenlight. It’s reality done right. I wish for Exit Plan to acquire festival placement.

For you who are trying to get your projects moved ahead, I wish you a viral presence and festival awards.

I wish for Impasse to come to distribution. Jeanne and Michael, you deserve this.

I wish for Eden to receive its financing in full, so we can start production. This project deserves it – and it is a story that needs to be told.

For you who are trying to film your features, I wish financing for you.

I wish for growth as a filmmaker.

For you seeking to expand your body of work, I wish for growth for you.

I wish for the Hammer Down monkeys to continue on with our amazing collaboration. It’s the greatest gift I’ve been given in my artistic life.

For those of you struggling to create, I wish for you extraordinary creative partnerships.

And finally, I wish for peace. I wish for love and compassion. I wish.

Now, go breathe. Live. Write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

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Ripple Effect

ripple_effectThe death of a person affects us all. The announcement of such an event causes a ripple effect, like the dropping of a pebble into a pond; as the news spreads throughout the community, its effect can be followed outwards infinitely.

I’m watching as a ripple effect cascades across the screenwriting community, via the  tsunami-esque internet. Early this morning, there came news across the wires that Syd Field had died.

It is during times like this, that I pause, and take inventory. I’ve led a blessed life. I was beyond fortunate to have worked with Blake Snyder and the Cats for as long as I did. That work has provided me with rich, intensive training, and countless opportunities. I still find it extraordinary that I was able to share so many experiences with Blake. The relationships that I forged then still resonate within me today. The Cats are my family; they are my band of brothers.

I was also fortunate enough to have, for a brief time, worked with Syd Field.

Certainly, my relationship with him was in no way equal to the one I shared with Blake. I met Syd when I was working at Final Draft. I had launched an Outreach program, and so I found myself spending many a day with him, discussing the various facets of the program, and how it could be expanded. At that time, I was searching for disadvantaged and young writers, who could benefit from the mentorship of Hollywood professionals. I connected writers with producers, with development people, and so, eventually, the program led me on the path to Syd.

SydField_4x5Gracious and gentle are the words that come to mind, when I think of Syd Field. He was never too busy to take a phone call. He had a smile that could light up a room, and there was a twinkle to his eyes. He was already somewhat frail by the time I met him; heart disease had taken its inevitable toll, and yet, he still had the joie de vivre, the magical thinking one would usually find in children. He was the first person to emphasize to me that “none of us knows anything,” and “the true artist is a perpetual student.” Life for Syd was a process of constant learning.

Syd knew how to make an entrance. When he would come over to visit FD, Mark would announce on the PA “Syd Field has entered the building,” and I am fairly certain that Syd got a big kick out of that.

My time with him was short, but the conversations and work accomplished left a lasting impression on this scribe.

What do I remember most about Syd? He worked with some of the greatest names in the business; people like Darabont and Goldman wrote with great eloquence, heaping praise upon Syd’s shoulders. And yet, at the end of the day, when I would talk to him, it was not about who he had just met with, or what celebrity had singled him out. It was about a project that he was working on – interactive software, based on a gaming model, to help young children improve literacy.

That’s what made him flash that million-watt smile – not celebrity, or adoration -but the dream of helping children. That was the Syd Field that I knew.

RIP, Syd Field. You are legend. You are… shall I say it? Awesomeballs.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

It’s that time of year again….

Princess Scribe's Blog

It’s that time of the year again! I suppose I could write a new Halloween blog, but why? Drumroll, please… the annual publishing of the Halloween blog:

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed by some to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Thus begins one of the most masterful ghost stories of all time, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Halloween is upon us, “Oooooh, scaaaaary, kids!” as Count Floyd would say, which prompts me to rattle on about…

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