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Achieving the Impossible

 

My goal is to change the world with my art.

Change happens with big films like Schindler’s List. Or not. Of course, I, like everyone else pursuing our wildest filmmaking dreams, hopes to have a movie like that. Until then, what happens? For me, a movie doesn’t have to be a Best Picture winner, or within the drama genre, to change how people think or help society. Science fiction, action, and adventure movies, along with animated works, speak to young people when they are first forming opinions about the world. Introducing youth to powerful themes and characters works because it did for me as a young person. Through movies like these, I learned about the beauty of friendship, the boldest women you will ever meet on screen, and revenge coming silently in the form of winning the crowd so you “will win your freedom.”

I believe in bringing back old fashioned work ethics and ideals into cinema. For me, this means always being kind and friendly with people I work with, and taking inspiration from the range of pop culture, filmmakers, and animation houses I loved in my youth. I cannot ignore the truth that someday, someway, somehow I dream I can better this place through the work I create, or I don’t have a reason for having lived.

The “how” in achieving your dreams isn’t always there. We find it along the way when the answers jump out at us unexpectedly. I am figuring it out every day much like you are.

 

Advice

 

Young people write me all the time asking for tips. This section is for you! 

• If you don't believe in yourself, no one will.


• Rather than focusing on working for someone someday, focus on becoming the successor to that person’s throne.


• Your brain is a computer. Whether you are a boy or a girl, there is no difference inside. Our brains are powerful! A brain can be slow, and like a computer, you upgrade the software by learning or getting better at a skill with practice.


• Dislike how others see you? Change your image! Do everything your way – clothing, mannerisms, career dreams, and all life decisions – because when you live for others, you will never be happy. The more transparent the real you is, the more people will know who that is, and the better you'll be able to live with yourself.


• You don’t have to have clothes, hair, makeup, or anything related to your physical appearance that will make you feel uncomfortable simply because many women dress like that. People will try to pressure you into dieting to be “prettier” or dressing “sexier” to look “more attractive.” The right people in your life as employers, friends, and love interests will come to you because of you not being like everyone else. Times exist when it’s cool to wear fun clothes like miniskirts or bandage dresses, like date nights with a special someone, but I have never felt comfortable dressing the way people do on red carpets when I am meeting people whose careers I admire. I want them to notice me. Not my body, not my “flirty” makeup, me, the person inside who is talented, hopefully funny, driven, happy, and outgoing once you get past the tinge of shyness. I might be one in a million within a crowd of “skin is in” ladies, but I will do my best so people like you, younger men and women, don’t have to partake in that attitude to achieve success.


• Have a list of things you love about yourself and achievements you didn’t think you could do. Read it whenever you have a bad day.


Never be the face of a project and hire everything out to skilled people. You look, and are, misinformed. You will suffer from imposter syndrome because you really are an imposter. Develop skills on your own before you work with others. People won’t respect you unless you have proven yourself capable of understanding their line of work. Secondly, you will need a full comprehension of what you are talking about. I learned how to animate my own work because I always want animators, digital effects, and practical special effects crews I work with in the future to be assured I understand what I am talking about. I need to describe what is in my mind to them. When people see me promoting my work, film lovers must know I am involved in every aspect of filmmaking.

• Never give up. When you do, you let the bad people win by proving them right about you.


• Does your mind draw a blank when asked about who your female role models are? When nobody exists who you want to be like as a female role model, become that person so you can be a role model for people like yourself in the future. People ask me all the time about my female role models, and I never had any because I don’t know of anyone doing what I dream of. A woman in Hollywood has never become a blockbuster filmmaker and savvy businessperson rolled into one like Peter Jackson, with the added bonus she composes sweeping film scores for her own movies. My lifelong job now is to become the person I wish I had looked up to when I was 12 years old, way back when people like teachers laughed at me whenever I shared my dream work goals. Girls and young women must be able to point to me, “She did it. Why can’t I?”


• Never starve yourself down to fit into clothes. Advice for young women and young men. Make the clothes fit you! The reason you have a muffin top, unflattering look or unflattering attire generally is the clothes are awful. Don’t be afraid to size up to make something work, or skip that item altogether. If it makes you feel bad, cut out the tag like old film stars did on set. My personal rule is, “If it needs shapewear, a strapless bra, or special underwear, I am not wearing it.” Too many people either have poor body confidence or starve themselves down because they are working with the wrong clothing.


• This specific advice is all about girls and young women who haven’t begun down their career paths or are thinking about changing careers. The world is oversaturated with women whose careers and businesses fall under the lifestyle category or exist around what you look like; few do it well. Why must I decorate my bedroom with perfection if perfection bores me? And, why have fashion choices gone from fun to peer pressure? We don’t need more people telling us what to wear to work. We need people who make us wonder, “What can we do at work?” My favorite feminist film characters as a young person were never found in movies where what you are wearing on tonight’s date is the primary storyline. Women from movies like the Alien series, Terminator’s Sarah Connor, Sandra Bullock in her mid-90’s action days, and other leading ladies made me believe women could have bold personalities ruling the world as they see fit. Today as an adult, I refuse to make stereotypical films now or in the future, animated or live action, because reinforcing the belief that the only value you have to add to this world is about what you look like and who you are dating is ridiculous. My tip is for everyone in every industry. You have the power right now to not be another one of many creating a business, career, and/or personal brand about superficiality. We don’t remember those who blend in. We remember those who stand out. Be the first to do something big involving your intellect and talent.

• Never say mean things about yourself on social media or when meeting others. A friend of mine used to say, “Half of what we joke about is true.” He called these things “half jokes.” I meet many people online and in person. Too many women tell me they are terrible actresses or “unattractive.” “Why do people hire me?” Too many men tell me they are untalented, ugly or stupid. You really mean what you are saying a little bit when you say these things. People who can hire you are going to see the second half of the joke, the negativity you mistakenly accept as your truth, and say, “Maybe he/she is right. We won’t hire this person.” When you make negative half jokes about yourself, you reinforce negative beliefs you should not have directly to yourself, creating a worse cycle. Don’t write on social media, “Hey! Here I am studying acting again because I suck.” People will believe you do—and you will never become good at it because you believe you can’t change.


• Nothing is wrong with being cheesy. Half of me inside is the cheesiest person you will ever meet. Find me in the aisle below the Swiss cheese! People will try to change you. They will tell you how you have to change your personality and hobbies to be attractive to others as a friend, prospective date or company employee. Someone who doesn’t value you for who you are isn’t worth your time. Enough people exist in the world, so much so, you will find the right people in work and life. Don’t change who you are—find a way to make being yourself marketable for work!


• Use free moments at school or work to learn about the profession you want to be in! Hang by yourself at the library or a quiet place Googling or checking out books.


• When people make fun of you, don’t reduce yourself to their level. Let them be the ones with the malicious gossip and cruelty. Revenge is best served in the form of accomplishing your wildest dreams.


• Be the person you wish to date in terms of INNER and OUTER beauty. Using myself as an example! I all through my life have been most attracted to people who are humble despite success, work in fields using their brains, don’t look like cookie cutter expectations of what society says we should such as existing for having six-pack abs, are not shallow, live for eating food at restaurants, and a list of things. When I read about that list, I always said to myself, “That person is who I need to be for someone to like me as a friend or more.” Of course, every day I wake up and begin anew, this is a learning experience. Bettering yourself doesn’t happen overnight.


• Have a website you frequently update. Be as active as possible on social media and online via any platform. If you don’t tell the world who you are, the world decides for you. I am so public online because I was tired of false assumptions made about my character, lifestyle, personality and entire self, half the time stereotypes assigned to me because I happen to be born female. You don’t have to be pursuing my same career goals to show the world your beautiful personality. Example: a scientist could have a website talking about life at the lab, with photos and funny chemistry humor abound.

FAQ

 

"How do I become a film director?"

A) Be an actor or actress. Become popular or at least somewhat famous. Write a movie. Get funding to make your movie from an indie studio.

B) Write a movie. Make an indie film using your own budgeting and whatever you can get. Show this movie at film festivals. Repeat this until someone at a film festival picks up your movie for distribution. Do that again and again until you become popular and seem to know what you are doing enough for a studio to trust you. A studio then hires you to be a mainstream movie director.

C) Write a movie. Make an indie film using your own budgeting and whatever you can get. Show this movie on any home media service like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. For greater exposure, get thee on a streaming service like Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix. Do that again and again until you become popular and seem to know what you are doing enough for a studio to trust you. A studio then hires you to be a mainstream movie director.

"How do I become a screenwriter?"

A) Make your own movie. Write it. Direct it.

B) Get an agent. Have that agent submit the script the proper way. If not, the studio or filmmaker will either ignore you or throw away your idea for legal purposes. Sell the script to the studio.

Never approach the nearest filmmaker or studio person, be it a famous person or someone up and coming in Hollywood, and mention your "amazing film idea." Don't shove a script at that person. Do not approach him or her on social media. In the Midwest, some people might use very proper grammar and say, "Ain't gonna happen." Don't think you will be the first to change that. Your unsolicited script idea is like the word "fetch" in Mean Girls. These people get asked about "my great film idea" and "my amazing screenplay" all day long from the moment they leave home to logging onto social media back at home.

“How do I become an actor/actress?”

Nothing matters for credits unless it’s on IMDb. People want to see lots of them, so get going! Socialize, study acting, network and do all you can to get IMDb credits. Join SAG-AFTRA. Never stop working at it. The day you slack is a day someone could have cast you at that audition, or by attending that industry function where you could have met the right casting director. Don’t worry about changing your look to be cast as “the right roles.” Whoever wants to work with you can use hair/makeup/wardrobe/CGI to change your look. Apart from getting in better shape, I would advise everyone pursuing acting and/or modeling to never diet restrictively for work because all you will do is ruin/worsen your health and look like everyone else. You will be cast because you don’t look like everyone else.

“How do I start a successful writing-based website?”

Write stuff. On a website. I can’t guarantee it will become successful overnight. Fate plays a role in that. How do you define success? You can have a widely read website that does not pull in big money like someone else’s because he/she might be getting paid sponsorships whereas all you have is ads running. Does success mean people are reading it and hiring you in your profession, or that you make loads of money monthly from marketing to your readers over the content? The choice is yours.

"How do I become a film score composer?"

You should probably have learned how to play music before embarking on this journey. Once you've taken a childhood's worth of music lessons, or made up for it somehow with music knowledge attained through experience, follow these steps below.

A) Become a film score composer's minion. Too bad for you! Everyone graduating from music school either wants to teach music or be a film score composer's minion. Good luck getting a job. It's doable but hard! Work your way up as a minion. This may or may not work out for you due to the many former composers' minions also competing against you. Wait around forever for lightning to strike. It's probably not going to. It could. Probably, it won't. Being honest.

B) Make a movie. Hire yourself to be a composer for the film score. Rinse and repeat.

C) Have your friend make a movie. Bribe your friend with free pizza for life or whatever it takes. Have your friend hire you to be a composer for his or her movie's film score. Rinse and repeat.

D) Be at least moderately successful as a music producer, rapper, hip hop mogul, or rocker. Have a director hire you because he or she thinks you are cool and probably know what you're doing. Rinse and repeat.

"How do I record orchestral music as a composer?"

A) Find students excited to help you. Pay them in pizza, gift cards, or some form of compensation. Be nice to them. Use either a full orchestra made up of students or layer instruments over each other for a fuller sound, an old trick used in pop music.

B) Compose music on your computer using a fake orchestra. Preferably, an instrument pack you made yourself using the nice students from point A so your work sounds real.

C) A combination of A and B.

D) Hire a more expensive city orchestra or studio orchestra. Pay up. Give them awesome sheet music.

“How do I record my own music at home as a producer, singer, or rapper?”

Buy a professional microphone. A good producer can make a cheaper microphone sound good. Don’t go too cheap: buy something at least $150 USD.

Seal off the door at the bottom with pillows or those cute long pillow animals used to block drafts. Ensure you have total silence, or as much as possible. You can edit out some exterior noise afterwards if you hear a slight breeze outside you can’t control, or city traffic.

Hone in your production skills learning things like singing/rapping your own backing vocals. Use yourself as a guinea pig learning how to produce different styles and with assorted effects! Focus on giving people cool production no amount of music education or money spent on fancy instrument packs can buy. Build a solid catalog of work people can find on streaming websites. I argue, production itself and uniqueness will take you farther than copying what is popular. Producers, and people hiring film score composers, want to work with versatile people who might have a specific sound but are capable of doing everything. You should be good enough where an artist walks in demanding you come up with a song inspired by some genre and/or a filmmaker demands, “I want a score influenced by East Asian historical sounds but modern.” Never limit your creativity because it will limit your career.

"How do I animate my own movies?"

A) Go to animation school. Learn how.

B) Don't go to animation school. Learn on your own. Sit down and draw on paper and using your computer until you get good enough. Animate your own movies. Learn more as you get better at it enough to improve on your style. Obsess over every animated film possible. Watch lots of Bob Ross. The will to learn can overcome any obstacles!

C) Don't learn animation at all. Hire an expensive professional animation staff. Steve Jobs did it with Toy Story, as does just about every mainstream filmmaker getting into animated films.

"Do I have to be a specific age to make a movie?"

No! You can be 16 or 83. Get started! The sooner, the better. You will take much longer making your first movie or two than anticipated.

"Why should I befriend people in Hollywood/London/Sydney entertainment when nobody is going to finance my movie (or insert career goal here)?"

Because, as I wrote in a first grade homework assignment, friends are good. When you embark on a career path with end goals that aren't "normal" to people or often, are viewed as setbacks because you won't be earning huge income for some time until you make it, you deal with people who don't understand. The only ones who will relate to you are people at every step of this crazy career path. People who are A-list and those who won't be A-list for another fifteen years. A life without friends is terrible. The longer you clam up, the worse you feel. Making friends won't happen overnight; some friends won't be but lunch buddies you eat with every six months. Some are the unexpected lifelong BFFs you read about in old stories.

And, a special someone may be waiting for you whom you meet because of career stuff. Maybe he/she won't be "in the industry," or if he/she is, not famous.  He/she could be that restauranteur you meet catering the party. A behind the scenes film person. A flower shop assistant delivering flowers to the director. Life happens. You need to be there when it does, or this whole career stuff will never make you happy on its own.

The answer to the second half of this very common question I get is, people will help you. They won't overnight. Do you like it when a doctor's office reminds you once per month to book an appointment? No, you don't need any help. You know when to return to the dentist. And being asked to help strangers is exactly that feeling intensified. Someone of power will help you when he/she determines he/she wants to help your career. You never ask that person. Becoming successful is like training as a Jedi, or a ninja or karate champion, for those who like martial arts films. Your master will find you. You may have more than one great master. But you'll be helped by your master. and when he/she feels you are ready to chop a block of brick metaphorically in your career, he/she will help you get to that black belt. You don't ask. It comes to you–and you earn it!