I never went to film school. Probably will never attend a school. I did take workshops at film initiatives and even graduated from a dedicated Scriptwriting Program and watched thousands of movies at home… and even took a free online course about the history and the use of color and sound in movies.
Is it worth it? All the trouble and following the alternative path?
I have already accepted my fate as a non-filmmaker but a more writer-ly goal. That I can control and that I can continue to dance freely as possible at home and trying to construct the right amount of words to make people feel good, scared, sad, and pissed off. I need that fix and there’s nothing more uplifting than the high of a writer from writing a few thousand words. It’s always the beginning flow that takes so goddamn long and then after a good hard run of words, you just can’t stop.
I graduated from Scriptwriting in 2011 — about six years ago. After that, I spent a good chunk chasing a backup plan and moved overseas and started teaching ESL. Which was a bold move but it was all about creating a myth afterward and not during it. As it’s always more exciting to hear someone tell you about their adventures than to truly follow along. Because all the mundane parts of life are still there.
The waking up parts. The agony of finding something to eat. The times when you are constipated and creatively constipated too. It’s hard. Literally.
Wedge in the middle of those six years was a small portion of me dropping to a deep dark hole of deep depression and never having anyone to share this information. It’s only hearing afterward that I’m beginning to accept my own pains and pleasures and allowing myself to be truthful about how dark I could have gone and how the years even before that (around 2008-2009) were some of my darkest times.
That, I called my “Health Ledger in a hotel room for a month to prepare for the Joker” moment but spread across 16 months. Never did I feel so alone than during those times and it was a shitty time. Like having yourself so lost and locked away from the world that you literally stayed in your room and didn’t want to leave.
But, I climbed up and out, and even though deeply scarred, I’m still pushing forward and trying to appreciate myself and my life more. No regrets and no dwelling on what-ifs but taking all that pain to ball up and vaporized by my love for it.
I spent a huge chunk trying to live and breath within the standards of what the screenwriting gurus preached and then tried to move away to strive for what I wanted to express. There I got away from the horror genre and more into this urban fantasy niche but that, too, morphed into a genreless mess that is me just being me with my own fantasies mixed in for the sake of pain and pleasure.
I am blessed for all the people I got to know and get to continue to work with. I love them all and I wish them all the greatest success they could ever have in this life. Sometimes, when I’m walking in the subway and I’m watching this massive sea of faces on the train with me or when we transition in and out of the underground station… I just can’t help but notice how neutral we all are and numb from each other. So, I quietly wish everyone a good one and smile. It’s the best I could do.
This is my own way of becoming a little more like Sally Hawkins’s character in Happy-Go-Lucky — a person who is so unnaturally optimistic that it is almost insane to continue when the real shit hits the fan. But, it’s great. And the character is great.
That’s my own personality now. At least on the outside. I’m trying to be happier and trying to pass on the can-do attitude to my students and colleagues and strangers.
Sometimes, I can be a little angry when I don’t realize it but now I’m quickly getting out of that anger by quickly realizing what I’m doing and using the same strategy that you could do when you have any Automatic Negative Thoughts pestering you. Just, literally, say, “Stop!” and quickly deny it and try to love yourself and all its little pieces better.
So, it’s important to understand the hardships and trials we all face but it’s so damn important to keep on smiling for the sake of happiness and love. Other folks will make quick judgments about you and try to put you down. And it’s always a natural feeling to feel like shit. Just breathe and smile. It’ll all be OK when you realize that it’s OK.
Just do it because it’s what makes you happy and feel alive.