themellowdramatist

I'm just so chill when I'm overanalyzing text messages.

This is for you, Emma

Get 'em.

                               Get ‘em.

In Emma Watson’s recent speech at the UN, she calls for men to stand in favor of gender equality. She describes her life as a privileged one because everyone from her parents to her teachers cultivated a supportive environment for her in which she didn’t feel her gender was a factor. She calls those people “inadvertent feminists” and states that we need more people like that. Well, you know what Emma? I’m with ya. I’ve been with inadvertent feminism ever since I realized that commenting on a girl’s sexual attributes often had a negative impact on her well-being. I never called myself a feminist, because I thought it would be odd to be both a “feminist” and a “man”, but because “humanist” sounds pretentious and useless, I’m going to go with feminist. I’m themellowdramatist, and I’m a feminist.

For a long time now, thanks to having strong, confident women in my family, I’ve realized that I hate sexism. Out of all the prejudices out there, I think sexism, which the OED defines as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex” is the most frustrating. Probably because no matter what country I’m in, what political views the people have, or what television shows they like, I see sexism. I see sexism every day. I see it when I walk home at night. I see it when two men are talking to each other. I see it on Bravo. It’s everywhere! If Ed Wood were still alive, he’d make a movie called “Return of the Sexisms.” If King Kong had to fight Sexism, he’d lose.

Why is it so ubiquitous? There’s a fine line with sexism. There’s nothing wrong with discussing something on the basis of sex — sex is a pretty interesting subject. I get why people would want to talk about the difference between the sexes or sexy things. It’s when the conversation about sex leaves neutral territory that makes it problematic. Take this conversation for instance:

Last weekend, I met a dude, who was a mutual friend of a dude I already knew. New Dude seemed very nice, asked me about my day and what I was doing in LA. Mutual Dude discussed how he and this girl he’s seeing aren’t having sex anymore, despite the fact that he stays over her house nearly every weekend. New Dude expresses surprise that any dude would keep hanging out with a woman once they weren’t having sex anymore. I asked Mutual Dude whether they were having any problems, but before I get an answer, New Dude suggests Mutual Dude force his way “in” to make use of the time he has with her. The dudes laugh. I stop enjoying the conversation, because we are no longer in neutral territory. We are “this is a problematic conversation” territory. The thing I regret the most was that even though I stopped enjoying the conversation, I personally didn’t say anything to stop it.

The fine line between having primal desires and objectification is often described as “consent.” Without the consent of the person one is interested in sexually, any verbalization or action expressing said interest is considered harassment or assault. The concept of being harassed or assaulted appears, to me at least, to be something most people would not like inflicted on them, but for some reason, it keeps on happening. Ask any girl about their routine about getting home at night and you’ll hear a well-rehearsed set of parameters they give themselves not only to be safe, but to get home without drawing any attention from a dude. What kind of world do we live in that normalizes this? I hate living with the knowledge that no woman I know is free from harassment just because she wants to walk down the street at night.

So I’m going to walk this walk. If I hear the same kind of conversation again (seeing as how I’m in LA, I’m sure it’s going to happen any second now), I’m going to explain why that rape joke is not funny. It might not be funny because the girl you’re talking about might be your daughter someday. Maybe that girl has suffered sexual abuse all her life and she thinks assault is a part of a loving relationship. Or maybe there are a bunch of people joking about raping you. None of these possibilities are funny.

I’m standing in solidarity with HeForShe, because I want the catcalls, the rape jokes, the harassments, abuses, comments, everything to be abnormalized. The longer we act on the plane where we don’t treat each other equally, the longer we operate a world that fosters inequality, and it’s just too late in human history to keep inequality going.

People’s Climate March: Time to Stop Upcoming Scorched Earth

Climate change is real. Climate change might not be the best name for it — it actually might have been a term Republicans used to replace global warming because it sounds less threatening — so we might as well call it “Scorched Earth.” If that sounds hyperbolic, consider what’s going on in the world right now: California has been in a drought for three years. The Permafrost is melting (which either means the person who named it was bad at naming things, or global warming is so intense it’s melting something that’s PERMANENTLY SUPPOSED TO BE FROZEN). Warmer oceans make stronger hurricanes, including the current devastation in Mexico by Odile. If we aren’t living in the time of “climate change”, we’re at least living in the time of a “Hotter Earth.” It’s time to make sure that we don’t reach Scorched Earth.

This is where the People’s Climate March comes in. This weekend in New York City, protestors and climate activists from all over the country (some walking all the way from LOS ANGELES) will march through the streets of Manhattan to advocate for climate change reform. At the same time, world leaders will be meeting at the UN to discuss climate change regulation. The march will put the pressure on these big-wigs to make finally make decisions on what to do about Hotter Earth.

The March will be organized by speakers and advocacy groups delivering different sides of the argument in different succession. Starting from who’s the most affected, to the solutions of renewable energy and change in food infrastructure, to demanding a change. All of this can be seen on a pretty map here.

So if you’re in New York this weekend, join the march! Even if you’re not an activist, check it out to see how many people and what kinds of people are dedicating their weekend and lives to this issue. We might seem crazy, but we have our reasons for wanting do something about climate change. Air-conditioning can turn down the heat of Hotter Earth by only so much, but there’s not much we can do to cool down in Scorched Earth.

PS. If you can’t go to the march in New York, look for a march that’s happening near your city! I’m in Los Angeles and I’ll be attending the South California Climate Change Demonstration tomorrow! As they say, there ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop.

Sundays Since I Have Graduated:

Wake up early to beat the hostel bathroom rush and spend fifteen minutes waking up by scrolling on my phone.

Go back to sleep.

Wake up and decide I should do laundry, watch classic film for research, and write ten pages of a screenplay and then a blog post.

Watch the classic film while eating breakfast.

Wait until I’ve watched half of the film until I actually pack the laundry bag.

Watch the second half before I walk to the laundromat.

Forget to bring the gallon of Tide detergent and waste some precious laundry tokenquarters on detergent at the laundromat because I’m tired (I’ve done so much work already).

Read something beautiful in a novel while swatting a fly from my head — think I’ll finish 50 pages before I get home.

The fly doesn’t leave me alone — maybe I’ll get to 30.

The fly is gone until I realize it’s in my hair.

Laundry is done — ten pages have been read.

After I shove my laundry in my hostel locker, plan to write a blog post.

Remember I haven’t seen the rest of the last season of Korra.

Remember I’m hungry.

Watch Korra while I eat.

Prepare to write the blog post, but realize I only have five hours until I go to sleep early for my internship the next morning.

Remember the internship doesn’t pay.

Question why I’m spending my parents money in a new city without a job.

Check my spam folder to see if a prospective employer’s response got lost.

Check job listings for anything that’s suitable.

Realize everything available would be a hassle to reach by public transport.

Consider getting a car.

Remember climate change.

Ask Google how expensive Teslas are.

Ask Google how expensive bikes are.

Remember the car crash I was in last time I was in LA.

Ask Google if I should leave LA.

Ask Google if my favorite filmmakers moved to LA.

Remember I have to write a blog post.

Consider the opinions I have to express about climate change, the economy, the military-industrial complex, institutional racism, women’s rights.

Feel like I would rather talk about my favorite books and/or movies.

Consider if this a generational problem or if I’m just selfish.

Get a phone call from someone and talk to them for an hour.

Make beans and rice.

Watch another classic film while I eat.

Fall in love with the idea of making movies.

Ask Google how the filmmaker got started.

Write furiously on a script. Convince myself it’s perfect for about a minute before I self-doubt myself.

Rewrite furiously.

Hate the rewrite. Hate the script.

Remember that Orson Welles was also horrible when he started making movies.

Reread for things to change — can’t find anything bad but unsure if anything’s good.

Decide I’m going to go to sleep.

Pack up everything in my hostel locker.

Lay on my twin size top bunk bed.

Ask Google if I can make movies outside of LA.

Watch the television cover the developing story about the US’s military intervention in the Middle East.

Remember I haven’t talked to a person in real life all day, despite being in a hostel house of fifteen.

Remember that there are bigger problems than me.

Remember to write about them.

Wonder whether I should write about them on the blog or in a script.

Wonder if I am getting read.

Realizing that I’m qualifying my writing about real problems like climate change, the economy, the military-industrial complex, institutional racism, women’s rights by whether anyone will read it.

Realize that I’m selfish.

Think that things would be better if I had a job.

Recognize I need a structural change in my life.

Wonder what that change is.

The room is so hot that I have to strip to my boxers. Think the change is to move out of the hostel.

Remember that would cost more money than I’m spending.

Think all that matters is my craft. Life will be simple that way.

Remember devoting time to helping others is just as important.

And spending time with your friends.

Take solace in the fact that life is too difficult to find the answers for in your twenties.

Fall asleep.

Film = Art + Commerce

Yesterday I watched the documentary Great Directors (2009) on Netflix by Angela Ismailos, not just to satisfy my love-affair with Richard Linklater, but to get at the heart of what some filmmakers whose work I like feel about film. It’s hard to grapple with the logistics of being young wanting to work in a creative industry, because by nature of doing so, you risk forfeiture of your idealism for the convenience of cold hard terms like “per-screen averages” and “merchandising” and “residuals” (basically all the different terms that mean money). I came out to Los Angeles to be a television writer and I’m discovering that knowledge of the financials of the industry is necessary to be a part of the television conversation. (That and a resumé with seven internships on it.) But the thing about film and television is that the art does not come without the commerce and nor does the commerce come without the art. It’s important to remember that the two are connected, but if one wants to focus on one aspect of the film equation (which surely can stand for the equation of any other artistic medium) over the other, then one should, because failing at what one loves will provide more self-worth than succeeding at what one is unenthused by. 

In Great Directors, the conversation about commerce denotes it as an entity that works in mysterious ways. Stephen Frears talks about the difficulty he had with Margaret Thatcher. Old Margie was Reagan’s BBF in their “small government, big business” bookclub and thus restricted the political edge of the BBC, where Frears was working in favor of creating more creative sectors for business. Now Frears, a super political guy who loved the freedom the BBC to produce any kind of subversive work (they even broadcasted work that was an attack on themselves), felt stifled and worked his way to directing My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), a story about violent crime that was a direct result of Thatcherism. The movie was a success, which meant Frears was creating revenue for England, doing exactly what Thatcher wanted him to do.  The lesson to take from this is: money cares about no one but itself. It’s a greedy bastardo. 

In the documentary, Richard Linklater said he knew that he didn’t want to have a job where he’d have to tie a tie. I understand, mostly because it takes me 20 minutes to make sure the back part doesn’t stick out under the front, but also because there’s something uniform to commerce. If art is the exchange of ideas for feelings, then commerce would be the exchange of ideas for cash and feelings come in many different forms but cash can only come in a rectangle or circle (sometimes a octagon maybe?). The issue however, is not to forfeit commerce to live a life of artistic fulfillment. The issue is to place priorities. A film is always going to be made for the art and the commerce, and to hinge one’s frustrations on the necessities of the dualities is a waste of time. The level of importance one has over the other, however, varies. 

Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) is the fourth film in the Transformers film franchise. Each film has received less than favorable reviews, but because they’ve each made roughly five times their budget (a billion a pop), they continue to get produced. Now I understand the logic of give the people what they want, and it’s what films and business in general should be about. But do people really want to see the same big-budget movie of robots crashing into each other four times? With a fifth one underway? They satisfy our urge for epic story-telling, but the notion for what is “epic” for the most part remains unchallenged. Linklater’s Boyhood (2014) is similarly being called epic for its twelve-year filmmaking process, a feat that is something that hasn’t really been done yet in film on this scale. With 4 million dollars, Boyhood brought about something that sparks a new conversation about what is possible through movies. With 210 million dollars, Age of Extinction brought about a conversation that’s been had three times before.

David Lynch describes his approach to watching films as “getting lost in a world and having to feel-think my way through… and have these experiences that I know, I know that feeling, but I don’t know how to put in words. And it’s magical that cinema brought it out.” This is the feeling of watching a film that does not immediate convey its brand, market potential or even it’s politics, for it’s seeking to convey a mood and thought in the hopes that the viewer can connect. The idea of commerce, whether it’s the backer thinking how their money is going to be spent or the audience member reminding his or herself how much he or she paid for the ticket, has been suspended in animation, for it’s the art’s turn to move. This is the secret to film as both art and commerce, because this is what people pay to see. Once the film is over, one thinks back and ascertains will this make money, who will watch this, would I see it again. This is the magic David Lynch talks about.

Now, it’s important to see the perverse side to the magic.  Outside of the what equals film equation, there exists the what equals the function of film equation. For every Bertolucci at the helm of a camera, there’s a Riefenstahl. Stay tuned ’til next time, because I spent all day typing this and my fingers are about to fall off. 

Things to do in LA for screenwriters when they aren’t writing

Today is officially the tenth day anniversary of me being in LA and since I have some free time on my hands (as in I’ve ordered something from Starbucks and I’m using their internet for the rest of the day), I decided to compile a list of helpful things to do in LA if you write when you’re not writing. If the old adage”You’re writing even when you’re not writing” is true, then these are the things I believe will make it even MORE true. 

Take the bus and chat with the person next to you. 

Most LA-ers have the privilege of discussing how much traffic blows because they have a car. That’s fine and dandy for those Rockerfellers, but it can be a little anxiety-inducing for those on public transportation. We may never be fortunate enough to experience needing to pee while trapped on the 405. Luckily for us, the bus system is almost always late! The one time I stayed out in Hollywood past 10 PM kept me waiting for the bus for nearly two hours, which might sound horrible at first thought (and the next thought… and the next thought…) but there was another guy waiting at the bus stop. At first we did the polite nods as you do in LA when you make eye contact and minded our own business, but when thirty minutes rolled by, we were no longer strangers. We were two folks who were both stranded and really really tired. We kept talking and exchanged numbers, and that my friend, made the journey almost worth it. 

See movies all the time. 

Unemployed life is hard and the rejections you face can be demoralizing, but that’s okay, because you’re in a town literally built on the craft you want to build. The cinema culture here is vast and eclectic, and even though Hollywood might be more well known for the commercial features made here, there’s a great selection of independent, classic, experimental, what have you. The Arc Light is expensive, but great if you want to attend 21+ film screenings or if you want to go to Q&A’s for new films. For cheaper shows, check out the Leo S. Bing for four dollar matinees of classics or the Billy Wilder Theatre at the Hammer Museum for screenings from the extensive UCLA Film and Television Archive. The best experience I’ve had here was at the New Beverly Cinema, a theater that Quentin Tarrantino bought out when it was about to go out of business. The reason why is because it shows a double feature EVERY NIGHT of well-paired classics for only eight dollars. Yeah. Not only did I see James Dean movies for the first time on the big screen, I was surrounded by other filmmakers and film lovers who were eager to make conversation. It’s a great and fun way to learn about movies. 

Also, take notes on everything you see. What you liked, what you didn’t. Even if you unwillingly watched your roommate’s Pretty Little Liars marathon, write it down. Make your time count. 

For a comprehensive list of Los Angeles theaters, check out LAist’s list here

Travel around the towns. 

Whether you take a car or have to walk for miles with the sun in your eyes, get a feel of the landscape. LA is a desert with canyons that’s right next to the beach. It’s a unique blend and you’ll want to experience it all. If your boyfriend just dumped you, hop into the Pacific Ocean and let the crippling cold take your mind off of it. If your girlfriend sabotaged your interview so she could get the job, go for a hike at Topanga and oversee your problems down in the city from high above. If you can’t give yourself another perspective, follow the earth to find it. 

But whatever you do, don’t go to Universal Citywalk. 

citywalk

DO NOT ENTER. THE JOHNNY ROCKETS INSIDE IS NOT WORTH CANCER.

But most importantly, center your day around why you came here!

Jobs are either internships, low-paying, things you can’t get yet, or extremely stressful portions of your day. If you don’t wish to have the jobs you’re looking to have or keep to be the focal part of your day, then don’t! Write when you can, read up on what you want to learn, eat that great Mexican you keep hearing about, shoot the bull with your peeps. Careers are a big reason why people come out here, and if that’s your goal, all the power to you, but it’s important to keep in mind that there’s more to living than being in an industry. 

The Confessions of a LA-LA Lander

Living in Los Angeles: the first week.

It’s hot here.

At night and in the shade there’s a cool breeze that follows you, but in the sun, it’s merciless heat. This might not be the worst thing if you don’t walk everywhere but if you do…. it’s hot.

It’s also extremely long here. It takes me an hour to walk a distance I could do in 30 by bus and an hour to travel a distance it would take 30 by car. It’s hard to feel like you’re part of the city when it takes you this long to move neighborhood by neighborhood, but the fact is that there aren’t any neighborhoods. West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Santa Monica — these places are all different cities in the county of Los Angeles. To walk from city to city would be madness (take it from a mad man).

The hostel is quiet except for discussions about Ferguson, which are heated. We are strangers bound by our engagement to event miles away and although there are different perspectives on the matter, it remains on our minds. In the current struggles we all face in our careers (some people have lived here for years), this provides a tension we don’t have to feel responsible for.

The online job search is still ongoing. Beginning to realize I put too much faith on the internet, that if I press a few buttons my future will come to me. The city, with its jobs and its people, exists around me, not online. I need to get off the screen if I want to be a part of the scene. (Grocery cashiers can make over 20,000 a year… hmmm)

I feel overwhelmed by the realization that this is the time, this is the time, the time to enter the career and purpose that will define the rest of my life. It’s something so heavy to hold on my own. But I came here for a reason. To work in television. That was always the numero uno end goal. It’s frustrating to me that I feel this goal still might take months even though I’ve been waiting for years, but if it’s the reality, then it it what it is.

ON THE PLUS SIDE: I SAW THIS GUY LAUGHING WITH HIS FRIENDS IN HOLLYWOOD.

LUSCHEK

Señor Luschek was in the flesh. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Is he really that handsome in real life?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell when he has cigarette in his hand instead of a popsicle. But I assure you, it was close. 

Til next time. 

Living the Mayfield

Image

I am now officially a college grad on the job hunt. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of my whole life. Homework? A thing of the past. What’s going to pay the rent in two months? I have no idea! It’s exciting, fearsome, exhilarating, scary. I’d like to say I’m not worried, but Mama Dramatist didn’t raise no liar. Change is the unknown, and as my good old pal Alby Dumbledore said when I had a drink with him at the Deathly Hallows (wasn’t a huge fan of the place, too heavy on the fluorescent bright lights of emptiness) our biggest fears lie in which we do not know. So, as a means of curing my brain from knee-buckling anxieties and the like, I’m telling and retelling myself what the future will look like.

The future is unknowable.

But we move towards it every second of our lives.

If we see a café we’d like to drink at, we step in. And determine our future. I didn’t know I would have a cup of coffee that would prompt me to write the first blog post I’ve written in over a year when I woke up this morning. But I do now. I don’t know if I’m going to finish it today, but in this moment, that’s what I’m moving towards. And my knees feel just fine. 

My advice to any grads who are overwhelmed at the prospect of what their next move is would be to just simply move. Whether it’s in a conga line or to Alaska, move to wherever your body takes you. When your mind is unsure, the body takes care of you. (Whenever I have no idea which pasta to tell the waiter I’m eating, my stomach always tells me “gnocchi”). I will be moving to LA, Vince Gilligan to CBS, Sterling Cooper to McCann, Community to Netflix (possibly). 

If you are wondering where you will move, my friend Curtis is here to help. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z66wVo7uNw

 

 

Going Stag on Valentinstag

We had a “Fun and Dating in Berlin” information session at the Academic Center, where we learned the general differences between American and German dating. Compliments to German women tend to make them wary of your intentions rather than flattered, small talk is not sexy, a German man typically meets a woman by making glances towards them until she gets the hint and walks over to him. It all sounded like hogwash to me which was why I had to try it as as soon as possible.

Like was blossoming about in NYU Berlin yesterday. People were finding each other schön all over the place. No matter how single you might be, seeing your friends wearing smiles that only one person could give them is nothing short of wonderful. Made me think, hey, who says I can’t get a date tonight? I play the ukulele, can cook pancakes, read. The things I’d imagine are important in a date. With my hopes higher than Cupid could fly, I went to a party titled “Balkan Swing Burlesque”.

I tried asking a girl if she’d like to dance in German, most likely with the fluency of a four year old. When I retreated to English, she obliged but kept herself reserved. I tried bridging the gap by saying I liked the way she was dancing, which was met with a sashay-away.

Then a middle-aged Balkan woman made her way over and we did some old fashioned Balkan jitterbug. I have no idea what Balkan jitterbug looks like and my footwork showed, but she didn’t seem to mind. Balkan woman and I both just wanted a dance, who did it matter who it was with? I started making small talk about how Indian music is a lot like Balkan music and she promptly waved goodbye. How unsexy.

At the bar, I saw a girl in the corner of my eye and decided I would keep my feet planted until she came over. I waited with a free tap water in my hand, chatting with a few ex-pats and a strangely forward coke dealer (he told an ex-pat he liked his shirt and then listed his prices), and the girl introduced herself to me. I got frank about who I am, telling her things about writing I never feel confident enough to tell people when I first meet them and she told me about how she was going to save the world by building schools where there hadn’t been before because she grew up poor. At around this time, my left hearing aid gave out and I lost her to the ambiance. I kept shoving my ear to her face to catch what she was saying, which was decidedly unsexy. To try and reel her back in, I tried the “dropping-my-hand-on-yours-mid-conversation” thing but the time for that had passed or it was never to come at all. She told me she thought her friends were leaving and we both left the bar.

On our last drinks out, the Balkan music gave way to electro-swing and hell if my friends and I could have resisted that.  We looked stark raving mad and we didn’t give a shit. As long as there are more Tage of Berlin left, there’s more Tage to be gute.

Berlin in the Night

Berlin bars seem to resist street theatricality. Each one I’ve been to has had nothing more than a sign outside their door. I suppose if they’re worried people judge books by the cover, they’ll be satisfied with anything more than a bouncer who frisks all your junk without so much as a hello. 

I arrived at a speakeasy to a bartender who was none too pleased to see us walk in at three in the morning. “You couldn’t have came yesterday, could ya?” He made us promise to leave as quickly as college students could consume alcohol, but an hour passed and Dean Martin’s croons were still in the air. When we returned to the bar with our beers half drunken, he put his hand to his heart. “You know you can finish that!”

Smoke has followed me home after each excursion I’ve made in the night. It’s started to give have a soothing effect as I get ready for bed, reminding me that the paths I’ve taken in the smoke are something I would never had crossed had I stayed abroad. Like a European blanket of smoke. 

Those handles on the mugs are amazing. It’s like drinking a huge cup of tea that intoxicates you. If only they came with scones. 

You aren’t able to get into a club unless you appear to look like you couldn’t care less about the club. All I can say is thank God they don’t serve doner kebabs at Berghain.

I haven’t stepped in any dog droppings. I swear, sometimes this place feels like a piece of heaven.

I’m studying a broad named Berlin

And boy, is she something. 

The owner of the cafe across the street from my dorm told me she was the architect of it as well. She comes in every morning at five so she can set it up with the cook, who she calls her husband. When I asked her how long she was married for, she responded never. They’d just been dating for 18 months and well, she couldn’t just call him her boyfriend anymore. 

My neighbors and I had an impromptu jam session in the dorm with a guitar, ukulele, empty bottle of Club Mate, trash can and a spoon ladle. We plan to perform Springtime for Hitler at the next open mic, as soon as we can figure out that damn key change. 

I went to an ex-pat bar and realized the importance of the Superbowl. It brings Americans and Swedes and Germans together with the power of Sasha Fierce. 

The baristas here are more than the people who make you tea. They’re the people who invite you to their art shows if you have something more to say than about how the wifi doesn’t work to them. 

I don’t have a smartphone when I’m on the streets of Berlin but that’s alright. I have the people here as my map. I still get lost everyday, but I find something every Hallo along the way. 

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