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This weekend I came up to Alexandria, Virginia to help Bernie move into his new apartment. He got a place just a five-minute walk from the patent office where he works, a small but very nice one-bedroom place in a fancy apartment building. I like it very much; it's a real grownup place, and a real change of pace from everything in Boston that all tends to be a bit older and more run down. This is all so nice and new, with amenities like a gym and a swimming pool. I'm spending the beginning of the week in Maryland to help him unpack and be together a little. I hope we can make it nice for him, and I may get to miss the worst of the snowstorm, as the DC area probably won't get it as bad.

I have a lot of work while I'm up here. Bernie's got to work of course during the day, so I guess it's not the biggest problem. But before I get back, I need to grade a ton of papers, put together the very first week of my online class and post it to the website, and prepare for the new round of Vivat Regina and Base Instruments rehearsals. So I can't entirely treat this like a vacation.

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This past week, Bernie accepted a job with the patent office in Alexandria, VA. It's a pretty good position, with a good salary and great benefits, as well as a lot of flexibility and room for advancement. It'll be so great for him to really get his life going, which job searching has kind of put on hold since he graduated. It's not exactly what he wants to do long term, but it's a good move for now and I'm really proud of him.

But while it's definitely a good thing, I'm still a little sad because it means that Bernie and I are going to be separated for at least another year. I was started to get hopeful that he might be able to move back into the area by the point my lease was up and we'd be able to get a place together.

It's not the end of the world. Our relationship has been uniformly strong through all the last few years apart and I'm not worried about that part. As we also discussed, if something else he applied for (he's more interested in lab work or something a little more directly doing science) happens to get back to him with a perfect offer in New England, there wouldn't be much barrier to him taking it. And a year isn't that bad, especially if he's starting to make money, build his resume, and start really putting together his own life.

So this is definitely good news and a step in the right direction. It's just not perfect news, but then again, that's life. I'm grateful for the improvement.
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According to Bernie, I am somewhat capable of carrying on a conversation while mostly asleep. Usually it's just head shakes and nods, but pretty often I actually say things. But just because I can form words doesn't mean they make much sense. There are two particularly good things I've told Bernie while mostly asleep. Apparently in both cases he was trying to find a way to climb in around me.

The first time, I informed him, "I'm a globe. I take up aaaaaaaaaaall the space."

And the second was, "Be careful. There's a snake in the hole." I paused a beat. Then, "It's me. I'm the snake."

I have no memory of these, or any of the other weird things I've told him while asleep. But those are the two best ones he's reported. 😁
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I tend to miss Bernie in waves. I usually go long periods were the physical separation doesn't really bother me, as we talk constantly and our bond still feels strong even though we're not living in the same place right now. But when the waves of being lonely for him do hit, it tends to be because I notice something that just isn't the same without him around

One of the nicest small things Bernie would do for me is rub my back when I got stressed out or sore. I don't think I realized what a difference that made until he wasn't around anymore. It was great both for making my body relax when my mind wasn't so inclined, but I also think it kept me in physically better shape. I think I recovered from exercise-related soreness faster, and it combated the results of some of my unfortunate physical tendencies, such as how I slouch down into my chair and end up sitting on my tailbone. The exquisite machine feels so knotted up lately that it's been a real pain.

That's something you can get done professionally, but it's expensive. Probably worth shelling out for every now and then anyway, but sure was nice having somebody who did it on a regular basis for free.
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Bernie and I are very close to having the current version of the Mrs. Hawking pilot finished. As I said, I've had a really hard time getting perspective on how it's doing due to a persistent negative mentality I've been dealing with lately. On one hand, I worry I'm being too hard on it, but as soon as I start to relax, I worry if I'm not I might let it go out at less than its best. What if I miss something? What if I'm kidding myself? But I think we're finally where we need to be, or just about. I'm giving myself a deadline of the 27th, as that will be exactly one month since I spoke to the producer I want to show it to.

The show bible's also giving me trouble. Bernie thought it would be a good idea to hand one in along with the pilot, so the producer can read it if she cares to and get an idea of the whole show. We researched what it needed to contain, which is basically an overview of the direction and format of the series, plus the setting, the important characters, and the broad strokes of the arcs. It needs to be quick and efficient, no more than five pages, and I find I'm having trouble expressing things concisely. Right now my strategy has just been to vomit out whatever I can think of, while Bernie's cutting it down to size since he has a bit more distance from it. So it's not done yet, but at least it's coming along. It also needs to be done by the 27th so it can be sent in with the pilot.

As with the show bible, the biggest struggle with the pilot has been keeping it concise and moving quickly. It can never be allowed to drag. Right now it's fifty pages, which is not too bad, given that these things are allowed to fall basically between forty and sixty, but I don't want to go beyond that. It's an action story, and action always takes longer than it seems like it will on the page. There's also the one-minute-per-page metric, and an hour-long drama these days is usually only forty-two minutes, but it's more a guideline because some things are quicker, some things are simultaneous, and it's hard to represent that in the text.

Fortunately, we've had some good feedback from people. Bernie's brother Joe in particular had some interesting suggestions for punching up the atmosphere in the beginning, and for keeping the non-literal "specter" of the Colonel present throughout the piece. Joe suggested playing up the "gothic mystery" aspects of Mary first arriving in Mrs. Hawking's house, given how strange and unwelcoming she's supposed to find the place at first. This gives it a bit more of a surprise when we find out what secret Mrs. Hawking is truly hiding. Also, he had the idea to make the motif of the roses recur in the background whenever the Colonel is invoked. I really liked this, though it's tough to express "background" presences in text without making them seem too overt. Still, I think I incorporated it okay. I'd actually like to continue the idea with other characters in future episodes. Like think of something to indicate Gabriel as well, though I don't know what it would be.

I'm really close to done. I just want to finalize it, and make sure the show bible is clear and concise. That's the most important personal project I've got right now, and I've got ten days left to finish it.
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Today Bernie defended his dissertation for his doctoral thesis. He's been practicing his talk like crazy, trying to cut it down to thirty minutes, and making a Power Point presentation to provide visuals along with it. I attended it today, along with his parents, [livejournal.com profile] bronzite, and most of Bernie's lab at Brandeis. Then they kicked us all out and questioned him for a half an hour or so. I wanted to be there when he came out, but I had to go back to work. Finally he texted me with the verdict: he passed! He has completed the work to earn his doctorate in physics from Brandeis University!

He has to get some paperwork processed before he can officially call himself Doctor Gabin, and he has to do some minor edits to his thesis paper. But he need do no more to secure the degree. He's finished, after eight years of work. I'm so happy and proud of him. Now he's going to be in town for the rest of the week, so we can actually spend some time together as he decompresses and celebrates. I have a lot of my own work to do in that time, unfortunately, but at least we'll get to be together some.

Make sure you congratulate him when you see him! Sending texts are nice too.
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I'm super excited for Thanksgiving this year. My family is coming to my house, which I like because it makes me feel like a grownup, so I will be spending it with my dad, my brother, his girlfriend, and, for the first time ever, Bernie.

I have had the cooking and baking bug hardcore lately, so I'm champing at the bit to have the chance to make a huge elaborate meal. We've had basically the same Thanksgiving since I was a tiny child, and I'm not planning on changing up the dinner menu much. That makes a roast turkey with a kind of French country-inspired stuffing that was my mom's invention, whipped mashed potatoes, roast brussel sprouts, a fancy pear and parsnip puree, spicy cranberry sauce, and croissants in place of dinner rolls. It's a homey meal that I really love, and one I look forward to all year.

The differences I'm introducing this year are mostly to do with the baking and dessert. We usually buy croissants, but this time I think I want to try my hand at making them from scratch. It's definitely not an easy task, as it involves making a laminated dough, but I think beautiful homemade pastry would be a fun challenge and a nice addition to the table. I am using a recipe by Paul Hollywood, the judge on the Great British Bake Off. I'll have to convert some of the measurements to Imperial, and there's probably easier version out there, but I'm kind of on a kick with him right now. He knows his stuff, and, because I am shallow and easily manipulated by personality, I like his spiky hair, his blue eyes, and his slightly coarse accent.

I'm also going to make a pumpkin cheesecake for Casey and Sarah. Our usual family desserts and pumpkin and apple pies, which I really do love, but I wanted to shake things up this year, and Casey asked for cheesecake. Again I've never made one before, but I'm trying to expand my baking repetoire. For this I'm using a recipe of Alton Brown's, who is my go-to guy for when I want to try a dish I've never done before. This one is from his personal website, so sadly there is no corresponding Good Eats video, but he did do a regular cheesecake episode which I've watched for reference. With this version we can keep the presence of pumpkin on the table somehow.

The only real sticking point is Bernie's keeping kosher. My family lives on butter combined with meat, and up to this point it's been an integral part of our Thanksgiving recipes. My dad is not enthusiastic about the idea of a kosher Thanksgiving, so it's up to me to manage the cooking so that it goes as smoothly as possible. If I can pull it off so that it's not a pain in the butt to do, and the food comes out just as good, then I hope that will send the message that Bernie joining us for holidays is not a kink in the gears. I think if that precedent is set, it won't be an issue for the future.

Most of our holiday traditions are doing things we've been doing since Casey and I were born, basically, and never really involved anyone besides the four of us. We're all introverted to a degree, and part of the appeal was to celebrate exactly the way we liked it without having to put on anything for company. But I want Bernie to be part of my family now, joining us for our celebrations-- and honestly one of the advantages of being a mixed-faith couple is we can each celebrate our most important holidays in the way we prefer. Still, this is a small hurdle I'll have to work out.

Currently my plan is to start with Alton Brown's recipe for roast turkey with stuffing and adapt it to my purposes. I'm going to use my mother's stuffing instead of his, but follow his cooking instructions because his version doesn't use butter. I really hope you can't taste the difference too much-- everything is better with butter, and I don't want my dad to be disappointed. The extra stuffing that won't fit in the bird we usually put in a pan and bake separately as a dressing, so that can have butter in it-- though no meat juice from the turkey. The brussels sprouts can be done as we usually do them, as can the cranberry sauce. I think we'll do two versions of the mashed potatoes, one with milk and butter and one without. I hate margarine and think it's basically like eating toxic waste, but maybe I ought to pick some up just for Bernie's sake. The pear and parnsip requires sour cream and I'm not sure if there's anything that can substitute for it. He'll just have to wait on the croissants and desserts, but that's what usually happens anyway.

I hope it works out. Integrating new people into family gatherings can be tricky, but at least I've got a plan.
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It’s times like these, when I have so, so many things on my plate that I miss Bernie being around the most. He’s always very supportive of me, which he has no difficulty doing from far away, and I’ve relied on that as I’ve been getting through this shockingly intense schedule. But the one thing I could really right now use is an extra pair of hands, the little extra help that you can expect from sharing your life with a partner, and that I’m sorely missing.

I feel kind of bad confessing that’s the part of Bernie being gone I find most difficult. It sounds as if the most important value I place in him is what use I can make of him. But I swear it isn’t that. It’s that it’s the only part of our relationship that we cannot have from a distance.

I do surprisingly well being on my own for long periods. Bernie and I talk for hours every day, and he’s so good at making me feel loved and supported from that alone, so the emotional closeness is there. I don’t really experience the phenomenon of becoming touch-starved. Whatever the state of things are in that regard, I just kind of get used to it and that becomes okay. So even though it’s been over a year at this point, it hasn’t been that bad.

But the one thing that isn’t the same is that we can’t help each other out in any material way. Just little things— like, if you’re going to be cooking for yourself anyway, it isn’t much extra work to make enough for two people, and then the other person is saved some work. That somebody can run an errand for you in the course of their day, or be the one to turn over the laundry, or help you carry all the bags you need for your day to the car. Those aren’t huge things, but when you’re this busy any little bit of relief makes a difference. And on top of that, it makes me think of all the things I may not suffer too much from the absence of but that I still did enjoy about partnered life. I try not to dwell on it, but it makes me a little bit melancholy.

Driven

Oct. 8th, 2015 10:20 am
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In the study skills class I'm teaching, the current chapter is one about choices and taking action. The idea it wants to communicate, basically, is even when you're in a bad situation that's totally not your fault, you should still make the effort to make positive choices to put into action for yourself, because even if you can't fix things completely, it will allow you the maximum amount of control and improvement over your life.

I think this is a good mindset to have. I try to live my own life that way. Still, it's a tough subject for me to teach, mostly because I want to emphasize personal agency without slipping into victim-blaming-- like, "There's no point in ever getting upset at unjust things that happen to you, because effective people always have the ability to take control of every situation," or anything extreme like that. But also because a big component of that is positive thinking. And for the last ten years or longer, I have struggled with that.

Bernie thinks it's at least partially because of my depression. He thinks it warps my perspective, making me prone to assuming the worst, and taking any downturn as a sign that my efforts will be for nothing. I think that's probably part of it, but I also think there's more to it. I am morbidly impatient-- I tend to assume that if my efforts don't pay off immediately, they're not going to. I also tend to want to prefer preparing for the worst rather than hoping for the best, in an effort to not have negative consequences come out of nowhere and wreck me. Whatever the reason, I am extremely inclined to those cognitive distortions that have to do with negative expectations, outlooks, and interpretation-- black and white thinking, filtering, overgeneralization, catastrophizing.

My one saving grace in this is that, no matter how negative my MINDSET gets, I am very good at not letting myself stop trying. One of the things about myself I have always been most proud of is my drive. It's something that friends often mention when they want to compliment me. When I want things, I am very good about not forgetting that the only way to guarantee you'll never get it is if you quit trying. So, despite my impatience and occasionally morbid pessimism, I am known for pushing and working and never giving up.

I have made a lot of things happen in recent time. I decided I wanted to do a new exercise and diet routine, so I did-- I've been doing it for almost five weeks now. I knew I had to change up how my life ran if I was going to succeed at my new jobs, so I made those changes. I've got projects I'm adding on on top of that, which I will be talking more about shortly. It's going to demand a lot of me. It may make me tired and stressed out, which pushes my attitude toward the negative. But I want these things to be, and the only way they will happen is if I make them happen. So I'm grateful I know I have the drive to push through, not only the amount of work and effort, but any possible roadblocks my mindset might put in the way.

Wish me luck!
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As I mentioned in my entry for day #1, my conception of certain things in the Adonis sequels has evolved since I tried scribbling out ideas for them last year. Since I'm collaborating on these with Bernie, he gets equal input on the directions we take, and it works because when I run my thoughts by him, he's able to give a perspective that is different than I have but still constructive to my process.

I talked about Saturnina, the commander of the Roman armies fighting to stop the rebellion, who is the primary big bad of the next part of the story. But I don't know if I've talked much about Pavilla, the other important villain. In the first Adonis, the empress's Dragon is Livia Janaria Pavo Gothica, a successful general ten or twelve years older than Diana. Pavilla is her daughter, Livia Janaria Pavo the Younger, raised to believe it was her destiny to ascend to the reins of power in the empire. That meant that she could stand as the representation of the destructive nature of entitlement that I wanted in the story, which was initially an idea for Saturnina but which Bernie talked me out of.

Following from that, I really want Pavilla to then stand for Aidan as a force of dehumanization. But again Bernie balked at the idea of her actually having a history of abusing him personally. He still found it too coincidental that a big bad happened to randomly encounter him years before, and he didn't like the idea of too completely embodying "Aidan's rape trauma" in a person-- Bernie felt that implied that destroying that person would be the way to destroy/move past the trauma. "We don't want to suggest that sort of issue can be killed with a sword," he said, which is a pretty damn good point.

I still want to do something with the notion that Pavilla's monstrous entitlement is a legitimate threat to Aidan, and her absolute objectifcation of him gives her that psychological edge over him. Maybe the way to do it is her developing an obsession with owning him in particular as the war wages, without any previous history. I'm not sure what would be most effective.

But here is a scene depicting kind of what I was imagining, a flashback. It probably won't be useful because it includes the history I don't think we're including anymore. But it kind of explains the sort of person Pavilla is. Mild adult content advisory.

Day #4 )
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Here it is, my first entry for 31 Plays in 31 Days 2015!

This one is a possible scene for an Adonis sequel. I scribbled a little bit of this last year, but my ideas and thinking on it have changed a lot as Bernie and I discussed it. I originally conceived of the big bad of the next stories, the general commanding the Roman armies trying to put down the resistence, to be an embodiment of "the-establishment-as-rapist" idea that runs throughout the story. I thought maybe she could be a previous abuser of Aidan's to give her that psychological edge, and make it clear that just because Aidan's in a better place it doesn't mean he's completely conquered his trauma.

Bernie kind of talked me out of that. He felt it was too pat and coincidental for the big bad to happen to have abused our hero in the past, and I had to concede that point. So this character, Saturnina, is becoming by Bernie's suggestion more of an embodiment of "The Edifice of Rome," a True Believer who felt she was defending all the good things that the empire brought to the world, things that she felt would not exist without it. This scene tries to get at exposing some of that thinking.

I kind of miss the old idea-- enough that I'm trying to preserve at least the spirit of it in another character --but this change is a good example of how Bernie tempers me.

Day #1 -  )
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I am back from my visit to Bernie in Baltimore, and it was very lovely. I am reminded every day how lucky I am to have him in my life, but it was great being physically in the same place for a while. He's so good and adoring to me, and when I read that article that's been going around on how much emotional work women tend to get stuck with in their relationships, I realized in ours most of it is readily taken on by him. Not too many men like that, and certainly NOT the way of my previous relationship experience. Bernie's the best.

On other notes, I stuck to my diet, though I didn't exercise nearly enough. I also got very little else done, besides keeping up with Hipster Feminist (which turned four years old on Sunday!) It turned out to be a very nice vacation, though, which I guess I needed. But it's tough to get my brain back into getting-things-done mode now that I'm home again. August is almost here, and I'm trying to figure out what I need to focus on for the new month.

Probably the most externally important is finishing my syallbus for the class I'm teaching at Lesley. I know mostly WHAT to talk about and stuff, but I need to find good texts. I don't want to make my class buy a ton of books, as I remember how I hated breaking the bank on that when I was in school, so I need stuff I can post as PDFs on the class website to save them money. And they need to have examples of protagonists who are possible to discuss in terms of what they mean for the culture and individuals that have embraced them.

I need to finish my article for Game Wrap Magazine, "yearly publication focusing on the art and craft of live action roleplaying games." I'm on the editorial board as well as contributing, because I've always wanted a forum like this to exist where people can really examine larping seriously! My article is on the narrative function of villains in theater-style games, and how they must be designed and managed in order to properly push the conflict.

I want to do 31 Plays in 31 Days again, though probably under different terms than the ones expressly stated. Not sure exactly how I want to tailor it to my purposes, but I have been very happy with what it's done for my writing to participate for the last three years. I just need to decide what my personal parameters will be. As you can probably tell, I find structure very helpful.

Possibly related to that, I want to finish draft 1 of Base Instruments by the end of the summer, which I'm considering to be September 1st. Maybe I can use 31 Plays in 31 Days to faciliate that. But I want a complete draft, so I can schedule a time for friends to come over, read it to me, and give me their feedback to shape the edit.

That's a fair bit! I shall use this week to figure out how I'm going to do it.
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I am going to Baltimore this weekend to see Bernie. I'm very happy, since we haven't been together since May. We'd been shooting to visit around once a month, but haven't been as good about it as we hoped. It'll be a quick visit, as I can't take any time off of work, but it will be worth it to spend the time with him.

I vastly prefer when he comes here, not just because I dislike the process of traveling. Motion sickness sucks all the fun out of that. But when he comes here, he can make plans with other friends that he's missed. But he's got to buckle down on work to finish his thesis for the deadline, and his family is out of town right now, so it makes sense. I like his family, but I'm not a super social person, so if I'm only going to be there for a few days, I'd rather not have to visit with a lot of other people. I'd rather just have the time with him.
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I have been trying to pare down the amount of stuff I own recently. For the last week, I have been digging through my drawers and closets and boxes to find things to either donate or throw out. I get this tremendous sense of relief when I can let go of objects; I strongly dislike clutter, and I really love the feeling of indepedence from worrying about or attachment to physical crap. So out goes anything I haven't touched in forever. Out goes any costume piece I've had forever but never used. Out goes all the clothes I never wear, or no longer enjoy wearing.

I grew up in a very clean, clutter-free home. When I was little, if we didn't touch something for a certain period of time, my dad would get rid of it. Nothing precious or important, fortunately. But it did force me to develop a zen-like detachment from material things. When I was a kid I would get upset at first, but honestly I'm glad it taught me that physical objects aren't really that important.

I sometimes find myself slipping into that creepy Depression-era mentality of, "Ugh, what if I need this useless thing sometime down the line and I have to buy a new one? I hate spending money on dumb stuff that I used to already have!" But I follow the rule of if you haven't touched it in a year (some people say five, but I'm conservative) then you really don't need it. And whatever, you had to buy a thing that was probably already pretty cheap to begin with. Useable space, and the appearance of that space, is more precious.

Bernie loves stuff. If he and I ever live together, which I'm hoping we will in the foreseeable future, this is probably going to be a sticking point to work out. I tease him by calling him a few steps away from a hoarder, which really isn't true, but to my perspective he does have an excessive attachment to things I consider to be useless clutter-- tchotchkes, broken stuff that could theoretically be repaired but never will be, "emergency backups", supplies that may never actually be needed.

I have noticed that whenever I hear about any situation that has even the suggestion of excessive amounts of stuff, I get a weird panicked feeling. If I read about hoarders, I want to pile up everything I own and set it all on fire. Even if Bernie mentions the tendency toward clutter at his parents' house, I feel the urge to start throwing stuff away. I'm not sure why my reaction is that extreme. It just feels so suffocating, like I might drown in stuff. It's pretty unreasonable, but honestly I'd rather just be free of useless crap.
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I've been a little off the grid recently. You'd think that with the free time I had in my last week before my work started up again, I'd be pretty accessible, or at least updating my journal every day. But I've been completely consumed with taking on a challenge I'd never faced before, but need to take on if I'm to progress in my chosen work.

I got an opportunity to pitch a script to a movie studio this weekend, which is a great step for me. I really need to be getting my work out there, so this is a skill I need to cultivate, and jump on these opportunities when they arise. So I decided I was going to put together the strongest pitch I could for my subversive feminism gladiator movie, Adonis.

I've never pitched before, however. I didn't even know that much about it. And Adonis is not exactly the easiest movie to sell. Y'know, with the gender role flips and the female-on-male sexual assault and the hundred and fifty million dollar price tag. But it's what I'm feeling most passionate about is Adonis, and I want to get it out there eventually, so I wanted to try channeling that passion into a pitch.

I did a ton of research, figuring out what goes into a good pitch. I consulted with my old teacher, the awesome Mark Edwards, and his enormous media knowledge. I learned that generally, the best pitches describe the broad, important arc of the story, including the specific genre, the logline, and recent films that it can be compared to in some signficant way. It should not include "marketing speak" or informing the executive how they should regard or feel about it -- just the story told in the most efficient, engaging way possible. They want you to say it, not read it, so you need to be memorized, but not so that you sound like you're just reciting.

So Bernie and I wrote a pitch. Not only is it challenging to boil down what (I think is) a fairly complicated story, we also wanted to present our challenging subject matter in a way that would be less scary to mainstream audiences and seem to have more universal appeal. We wanted to represent it in a way that was still honest, but more palatable and accessible. That was tough, but we finally finished a version that we felt captured it. Then we chopped it down until it was no longer than five minutes to say. And I practiced. I practiced and I practiced and I practiced. I walked around my neighborhood reciting it. I gave it to remembers of Bernie's family over Skype. I invited some lovely friends over for dinner to listen to me give it. They gave me some really useful feedback, helping me refine my language and anticipate the questions I might get after I gave it. Thanks, guys! You were so helpful.

I was very afraid my nerves would make me forget what I was going to say. There wasn't a lot of reason to be nervous-- it's not like I'm pinning all my hopes on my very first time out, and even if I do super badly, it's not like I'll always be talking to the same person who got that one negative impression of me --but I was.

It was to happen over Skype. I dressed up, even though they'd probably only see me from the sternum up, and did some very natural-looking makeup to conceal my acne and make me look better on camera. Presentation is important, however, and I'm not too big to try to make use of "pretty people get what they want." And I vibrated with nerves until they called.

But you know what? The minute we got going, it all snapped into place. I gave the best, smoothest, most enthusiastic version of the pitch that I've given yet. I knocked it out of the park. And the executive responded to it! He listened to my pitch with engagement, making listening noises at the right points. His comments included, "Gladiator happens to be one of my favorite movies," when I mentioned the comparison (along with Hunger Games and Mad Max: Fury Road). He asked me three questions, none of which were bad. They were basically "Do you think there's franchise potential?"-- Yes! -- "Is this attached to any particular moment in real Roman history?" -- Nope, using the Roman trappings with its own history! -- and "Ever consider writing this as a book?" He acknowledged that's not exactly a small endeavor, but with the industry's tendency toward existing IPs, that helps films get made. He concluded by saying, to my pleasure, "Great pitch, rich characters, rich world. I'll have to think more about this."

I know that it's unlikely that anything big for me will come of this. But even if nothing else happens, I think this was a really positive step for me. I gave a great pitch. I got a compliment on it from a real film executive. This is a persistence game, and encouragement like that keeps me going. I got a good experience at a skill I need to cultivate my first time out.

I do hope he'll ask to read the script. That would be a real victory, even if nothing else happens. Probably the most realistic best case scenario I can hope for is he'll ask to read the script, like it even if he knows he can't buy or make it, and want to know what else I've written. Or offer me a job of some kind. That would be cool.

But I'm super proud of myself. I did a new, difficult thing that I need for the future. I made a career step forward. And I did a good job.
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Sigh. I am tired. Not to harp on it, but as I said yesterday, I get so burnt out running from one thing to the next. I have about a week and a half left before Mrs. Hawking goes up, and it's starting to feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything in place. To be honest, I'm probably worrying excessively, as a lot of things are already done thanks to the last production, but it still feels big.

This weekend I'm going to visit Bernie in Baltimore. It's not the best time-- I probably shouldn't be away for a whole weekend, and there's more important things happening in Baltimore right now --but his childhood friend is getting married and he wants me to come with him. It will be nice to be with him, as I haven't seen him since the last production, which was almost three months ago at this point. I really do miss him. We're also going to see Avengers 2, which I'm really excited for. If only to watch Cap rip apart firewood with his bare hands in a tiny shirt. I could use a little inspiration for Adonis.

After that, Bernie will come back up with me and help me with tech week. Having somebody to rely on to get everything done will be a relief at least. And the show's turning out well. I need to focus on that when I feel so burnt.
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Curious for a sneak peek of our upcoming production of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival? Well, check out our offical theatrical trailer to get a glimpse of the play!



Many thanks to Bernie Gabin and Joe Gabin for putting this together! We hope to capture the high action, high intensity ride of our steampunk superhero story, so as to intrigue both fans of the genre and casual viewers alike. So if that looks exciting to you, please be sure to join us for our two performances this coming May!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 9th at 2PM and 6PM at the Center for Digital Arts at 274 Moody Street, Waltham as part of the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival.
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I remember telling [livejournal.com profile] crearespero, when we were working on figuring out how to portray Mrs. Hawking in the beginning of the Arisia 2015 process, that Mrs. Hawking has been mostly by herself for the last year, and while she likes it that way, the complete lack of outside perspective entering her little bubble has made her start to get weird. I think a little something of this has started happening to me. Outside of people I encounter incidentally for my job and stuff, I have barely interacted with anyone in the last several weeks, especially not socially. Like my weird little protagonist, I am emotionally fine with this, but I start to worry it's not good for me after a while, even if it doesn't bother me. I think it makes me out of practice dealing with my particular social anxieties, which makes them seem harder than they would be otherwise. Also I like my friends, I want to maintain those relationships, so I should make the effort to spend time with them.

And I miss Bernie. It's seem to be keen recently in a way it wasn't before. I mean, I always wish he were around, but my solitary nature makes me pretty resistant to ever feeling lonely. And he and I talk every day, so our relationship still feels so strong than I always feel close to him even though he's far away. But maybe it's started to wear on me, as I've begun to be a bit melancholy that he's not here. It also strikes me how I miss having someone around on whom I can count on for help whenever I need it. I'm a really indepedent person, I have trouble asking for help at the best of times, but with Bernie I actually felt comfortable enough to turn to him. I have great, generous friends, but I hate to bother them, and I certainly hate being helpless unless somebody can come to my aid. I got sick with a migraine today, and it would have been so nice to have him here to help me out. But as it was, I had to manage on my own. I can get my fill of emotional closeness with Bernie even far away, but when it comes to physical support, that's just something he can't do from Maryland.

The snow's the biggest problem. It's be so much easier to plan and get around and just freaking see people without it. I want to make that effort again. I love Mrs. Hawking, but I should definitely work to be ANYTHING BUT LIKE HER.
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They've finally begun the rounds of judging for the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, and I am delighted to announce that Adonis, the screenplay I wrote with Bernie, has made the top ten percent of Features for 2015!

image


I am so happy about this. I had been feeling pretty good when we got our initial feedback from the contest, and I felt like it gave us a really good direction for the edit. The version produced for this one was the one that we would be judged on, and I felt it was very strong.

Though this was the last possible version to submit, BlueCat actually offers a second round of feedback on it, which I'd been meaning to write about here but hadn't gotten around to. Bernie and I felt like our first reader grasped the script really well, giving us both astute positives and valid, useful critiques, so we asked to have them look at our next draft as well, but unfortunately they were not available. That made me nervous, as we had addressed their criticisms specifically. But our replacement seemed to get the piece as well! It's such an encouragement to see that people with film industry training and perspective can get behind a piece as challenging as this one.

Here are the positives from the assessment. )

I like a lot about this, but I think the best and most important line is "It causes the audience to rethink attitudes to both historical cultures and our representation of them." This is the main theme of the story, drawing attention to gendered epic tropes by changing the customary gender roles, so I am delighted to see such understanding of it. He also liked the meat of the story (Aidan's progress through the games, the romance between Aidan and Diana, and Morna's sowing rebellion) as well as the trappings, such as our "deliciously bawdy inverted sexism." I love those bits myself, so I'm glad they were noticed. I also love that he bought into the ship, considering "the real victory" to be Aidan and Diana's kiss.

And now for the negatives:

The negatives I actually was less happy about in this response. )

On one hand, most of this criticism is TRIVIAL. He doesn't like how my screenwriting software (which yes, I did use, but it's just a bad iPad port of a program called Celtx) sometimes separated the sluglines for names and scenes. A tiny thing I can fix manually in a minute. He thinks my scene descriptions were a bit too long and formal-- yeah, they might be a little bit, it's a problem I've had in the past, though I'm not exactly sure what "formal" means in this context. It's actually a pretty good sign when you only get dinged on nitpicky technical things; it means there are minimal substantive things to criticize!

On the other hand, the only real thing he mentions made my eyes pop out of my head-- he thinks we were "missing a major trick" by making Aidan and Morna brother and sister, as opposed to lovers. WHA-WHA-WHAT? I can't even CONCEIVE of that. How would it even work? It kills SO MANY THINGS about the point of our story. In this schema, would he be with Diana and Morna at the same time? We're supposed to like this guy-- wouldn't he come off as a major cad, boning the powerful person who can do things for him when he has someone looking out for him at home? A huge plot point is that up until he meets Diana, he's never had the wherewithal to work on moving past his trauma-- if he already has a lover, the power of him finally taking all that on so that he can be with Diana is destroyed. And also-- a LOVE TRIANGLE? Ugh, that is SO played out.

Bernie was less bothered by it-- he thinks the guy was just thinking out loud about what he might have done if he were writing it (in which case, I say "Why does it need to be mention in his response to OUR WORK?"). Bernie says that while it isn't right for the story we're actually telling, he could see it working if it were an urequited thing, like Morna loved Aidan from afar and never pursued him due to his trauma, adding an extra layer of tragedy to how she worked to protect and save him even though he loves another. But I am much more moved by the idea that Aidan and Morna are FAMILY, all the family they have, and that is a bond that can never be severed. I think there's a lot of feeling that the only really powerful motivating force is romantic-sexual love, and I not only disagree with that notion, I want to depict how other kinds of love can be just as powerful.

Perhaps you'll disagree with me, and I have no proof either way, but while I got the sense that the first reader was a woman, I would guess that this second was a man. If so, that's actually possibly a good thing, as I think the hardest sell on a story like this is men. But the suggestion about making Morna Aidan's lover rather than his sister is what clinched it for me. I think that represents a somewhat more typically masculine way to interpret a character like Aidan. I think the idea of having two women after him is sort of a way to "man him back up." Bernie thinks I'm reading too deeply into it, but that's what I think.

Regardless, this reader liked it enough that we made it into the top ten percent. Maybe Bernie's right and it was just musing. I'm not sure what the process is, but I would guess that each reader has to care enough about the script to argue for its inclusions to all the other readers who didn't see it, and if that's the case, our guy pulled for us. And I'm really happy about it.

I don't know if we'll go any farther in this contest. I really hope so, though I probably shouldn't get my hopes up. But I'm so proud of this piece, and I believe in it so much. Special thank you goes to, in no particular order, [livejournal.com profile] in_water_writ, [livejournal.com profile] lightgamer, [livejournal.com profile] ninja_report, Ben Federlin, [livejournal.com profile] twilighttremolo, [livejournal.com profile] nennivian, Sam LeVangie, [livejournal.com profile] thefarowl, [livejournal.com profile] crearespero, [livejournal.com profile] dendron_ges, and anyone else I'm sorry to be forgetting, who read the script and gave us such amazing and useful responses. You guys did so much to make it as good as it turned out to be.
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I am continually reminded how lucky I am to have Bernie.

He makes everything better just by being part of it. He helps me with everything, from dealing with my struggles to putting together my creative projects. He gives me perspective when my brain spins out of control. He makes me feel stronger and better about myself.

If this week, when we spent days out in the cold helping me build a set, didn't show me, just the fact that I can spend the morning in a tizzy and a half-hour phone call with him can totally change my outlook should.

I love Bernie.

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