Well, I think I can speak for all of us when I say this year did not go according to plan . . .
But, despite all the things that fell through, didn't happen, or were postponed indefinitely, I want to take a moment to acknowledge what did happen, what surprised me, what may not have happened otherwise. Plus, it feels like a small act of rebellion to talk about this tiny list of good things after the horror show that was 2020. Here goes.
The year started normally for most of us. For me, it was the usual fare of work meets negotiating LA traffic. I did get to attend Film Independent's Director Close-Up which featured discussions with some amazing directors such as Noah Baumbach, Lulu Wang, Olivia Wilde, Alma Har'el, etc. I also got to direct a proof of concept for a non-fiction, female-driven show my company is producing. In terms of directing, 2020 was off to a good start.
In February, we locked our proof of concept horror short, The Bleeding, and finished a new draft of its corresponding feature film. And by March, we had finished our other proof of concept, The Lookout, and were strategizing how best to send it out. Ironically, we locked the short and materials the week before the world went into lockdown . . .
April was a bit of a rough one. Work had been supercharged for two months as we, and so many other companies, attempted to pivot our entire ecosystem to remote work. I had to look back at my camera roll to see what had even happened that month because it felt, in real time, like such a blur. I was surprised by I saw. I found photos of a socially distant movie theater I had set up in my friend's front yard for her birthday, complete with a projector and a bed sheet screen. I found images from a photoshoot I'd done with my roommates at two in the morning while listening to some serious "sad girl" music. I found human moments that, while normally insignificant, probably kept us going.
Even so, by May, something had to break. And that thing, apparently, was my creative sanity. Anyone who knows me has seen what happens when I go through a "creative breakdown" - they usually happen during a stressful or emotional period of time in life and, instead of being incapacitated, I throw myself into some sort of bizarre project with full force. In the past, these have manifested as creating murals out of paint chips, redesigning entire rooms, or stylized photoshoots involving glow-in-the-dark paint. Whatever the project is, the catharsis comes from the act of working on it, no matter how large, frustrating, or inconvenient. This time, I decided I was going to make a short film. In my room. By myself.
Cut to me shuffling equipment around my tiny room over the course of a weekend while attempting to act, light, direct, design, and pull focus on myself. Insane? Definitely. I almost gave up countless times. I was exhausted from working a crazy week, claustrophobic from living in my apartment for three months straight, and frustrated at my complete inability to act. And yet, even though no one would have known or cared if I hadn't finished it, I needed to. It became a sort of warped metaphor for this year - especially as I faced hellish post-production difficulties with crashing computers. I had to prove that I could not only see it through, but make something good from it.
And, spoilers, I did. There's Something Between Us will premiere early next year. And while it's a far cry from perfect, I'm so proud of this little film.
In June, I fled Los Angeles. My sister and mom were in Albuquerque and I just needed a change of scenery. About that time, I also was brought on to write a video game a friend of mine is developing. And while we're still in the thick of it, I can tell you it has been one of the most challenging and fun writing experiences to date.
I think by July, we hadn't really "gotten used" to quarantine so much as begrudgingly accepted it. There were rhythms to life again, even if they were somewhat bizarre. My company gave me the opportunity to direct two videos for Google Arts & Culture. We pulled these off completely remotely — one was an online scavenger hunt and the other featured a couple digitally reliving their honeymoon.
In August, my sister decided to foster kittens. It's really hard to be completely consumed with all the bad in the world when there is a tiny little fuzz asleep on your chest, purring away. My brother also graduated from college with a degree in engineering which is amazing!
September rolled around and, although we all seemed to have a better handle on COVID life, I was feeling burnt out across the board. The usual remedy for this is to go on a vacation, but alas. So instead, I bought a few plants. Then a few more. Then a few more. Pretty soon, I was a fledgling horticulturist. With the pandemic, so much of our lives are tied to the internet, so it felt really great to have something that was completely grounded (excuse my pun). Something tangible.
Ah, October. Remember those kittens I mentioned? One of them decided I was his new person. So, now I have a cat. His name is Ghost. He follows me everywhere. And chews on my plants. I also decided to watch 31 horror movies that I hadn't seen over the course of the month - I called it my "Spooktacular" and it was really cool to study such a broad mix of the genre side by side. In fact, it inspired me to make a horror film spoof called Cattack! My sister and I made it in an hour to pay homage to the classic horror films of days gone by.
November was quiet. A lot of cat pictures were taken. Plants were propagated. Work was busy.
We found out The Stranger's feature script was selected as a quarter-finalist for Final Draft's Big Break Screenwriting Contest. That was a moment that involved some jumping up and down.
And then came December. At work, I was put in charge of creative directing an interactive Instagram experience (which will launch early 2021). I also (spontaneously) decided to make a long-time dream a reality and launched a female filmmaker centric clothing line called "Film Femme". And, of course, as many of you have seen me shouting from the social-media-rooftops, we released our MFA thesis film, The Stranger, on YouTube.
While I know these small things do not come close to offsetting the suffering and hardship so many people have faced this year, looking back at these minuscule accomplishments reminds me to be grateful. And to be resilient.
A friend posted a quote the other day that said, "Your future needs you — your past doesn't." As we close (or slam) the book on 2020, that's what I am trying to keep in mind. 2021 won't be magically easy — it will have challenges of its own. But as we continue to work toward a vision of a better year, our tiny lists of accomplishments will add up until it's exactly that.
Here's to staying grateful and getting weirder.