On August 12th, 2011, I was given a gift that could never be replaced.
My family was looking for a change. Something to bring a little bit more light to our lives, and we got that with you, Miss Joana Villar (or Rock [or loser] as we like to call you). You were coming to the tiny town of Rio, Wisconsin from Pinhal Novo, Portugal as an exchange student for a year. I would be a junior in high school, and you would be entering your senior year. The moment we were able to read your profile through AFS, we knew we had to meet you. When everything was settled, and we knew you were coming to stay with us, we talked through Facebook over the course of those weeks before you came. I couldn't wait to have you as a part of my life, and a part of the family.
Little did I know, that having you here would mean I would have the absolute best year I could have ever imagined to date, and at the end of it all (it was actually more towards the beginning when I knew) I would have gained a sister - who taught me about life, how beautiful it is, what truly matters, and really the meaning of it all.
When I think of the word "friendship," I think back at all of the memories we've made throughout the years. I think of you calling clouds, "shadows," and your big toes, "thumbs," within your first few weeks here ( I know, when I went to visit you, I was a fool in every way in trying to speak any form of Portuguese ). I picture us dressed up for homecoming week and Halloween and you and I are making whatever weird face that comes to mind followed by whatever jokingly violent act we could force towards one another. I also think back to the time where you wiped glitter on my arm, then soon after, painted lipstick on my face on the car ride home from school one day - probably falling asleep a few minutes later over the span of a ten minute drive, because you're weird and that's what you do.
It's also difficult to forget the many times like Florida where we wrestled, and I'm pretty sure one of us farted on each other's face, you absolutely hating my "baby cry," your hilarious "obsession" with Justin Bieber, you breaking your pinky after Dominic tripped us during a running piggy back ride, or honestly, every day we were together. I feel like there were never any dull ones.
One thing though, was during senior night for volleyball, when I was able to talk about you (which I know you hate and I'm sure loving this blog so far), I remember hugging you and crying because even though the school year had just really begun, you were already that much closer to leaving. With that, I know many of our teammates were feeling the same.
You were the life of the party, and the light through any dark situation. No matter what kind of drama was going on around us, no matter how boring any situation may have been, if anyone had been really having a tough time, or if someone needed to be told something to keep them on the right track, you were always there to pull things through.
You're one of a kind, Rock. You really know what it's all about, and you've taught so many people that, especially myself. You don't let any sort of drama get in your way. You recognize what's going on, deal with it in your own way, but lord knows you would never do anything to hurt anyone or waste your energy or time on trivial matters. You've taught me and so many that there's nothing better to be than yourself, and that straying from who you are for anyone or anything is not worth the time or effort. You put your heart and soul in to the things you love, and know that taking your time is a part of the process. You're the definition of loyalty and epitome ingenuity. You know how to laugh and not take everything too seriously. You've understood that relationships and spending time with the ones you love truly is truly what this life is all about, along with just going with the flow and the meaning of it all is to be happy. You've continued to teach me the importance of all of these things throughout the years.
You're also the most incredibly talented, hard-working, determined, adventurous soul who is absolutely, stunningly, beautiful on the inside and out. You seriously kick butt at everything you do, and if you want to get better, you work harder than everyone else around you to get there. Not to mention, you excel in too many things to count. Also, you are open minded to every new situation and are willing to try and listen to anything new. You're a wandering soul, always willing to learn and experience new things. You're unbelievably humble and kind, and give love to everyone you cross paths with in your own way. That's why you have made such an impact on everyone you have met. That's why you mean so much to everyone in Rio - Why you so much to anyone who is blessed to know you. Especially me.
You give everyone you meet perspective and a warmth they never see or experience. You don't put up barriers for the sake of making people comfortable. You listen and converse genuinely. Most of all, you make them smile every moment you're around. Not everyone can do that, no one can do it like you, and no one will ever be able to.
With that, I don't know if you'll ever truly understand how much you are loved here and everywhere. You are family in every way, and man it sucks not being able to see you more often.
August 12th, 2011 was the beginning of our house becoming a home because you were in it. We gained an incredible force to our family who could never be replaced, and I a sister who I couldn't possibly love more or be more grateful for. You've taught me too many things in life to count. You've been there for me when times have been terrible, and helped me see clearly, you've also put me in my place when I was being a cruddy person, and showed me the way to getting better by just being you. You've shown me what true friendship is and with the times we've had, I know there are thousands more to be had.
Your nickname is Rock not only because of your Arnold-like strength and beast-like qualities, it's also because you are my rock in life, and nothing could really begin to explain what you mean to me, except for the fact that I'm one lucky and blessed girl to have you in my life. To the best sister and friend in the world, I love you times infinity and beyond.
I'll see you soon. <3
Ninja (AKA - the coolest person on the planet) (P.S. - Noodles or Culvers first, Loser?) ;)
With The Festival De Cannes coming up for its 72nd year next month (May 14th - 25th) I thought it would be suiting that I share with you an experience that changed my life in exponential ways within the entertainment industry and discovering myself. In 2016, I applied for and was accepted to intern at the Cannes Film Festival with the Creative Mind Group. To me then, as a soon to be junior in college, this opportunity meant absolutely everything to me. I was placed within an International Film Sales and Production company, Bloom at the time and as of a few months ago, and my duties really included being a hostess - but man, it really was a dream come true. I was excited for the opportunity to ask questions about the film world and how it worked, to be within the race of the industry that was Cannes, and most of all, to experience the true magic and appreciation of filmmaking and to meet the wonderful people who would change my life forever.
I Got To Experience the Industry Glamour
Walking along the French Riviera in the morning to pass the countless yachts, luxurious hotels, the Palais, the high-end fashion boutiques, and at night, the cameras lining the red carpet leading into the Palais Premiere Theater - capturing Hollywood Stars like Elle Fanning, Kristen Stewart, Woody Allen, Shane Black, Ryan Gosling, and Geena Davis in their flowing gowns and suits and ties was something I thought I'd only be able to experience in a dream. On the "Boulevard de la Croisette" is where the ultimate magic of the entertainment industry is made, and the true appreciate for the luxurious art form takes place. Here, everyone involved and those who admire the craft truly celebrate those in front of and behind the camera and the process of it all. Being in the middle of it all allowed me to see the possibility of my future in the industry, and wow, what I imagined was SO bright.
I Was ABle to Work with An Amazing Company That I worked for After Graduation
As I said above, I was placed with the International Film Sales and Production Company - Bloom. In 2016, they did the sales for and helped to produce "The Nice Guys," with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. When I met everyone there, it was an extremely intimate experience. Bloom launched at Cannes in 2014 and was a relatively new company. That being said, the team was pretty small - yet mighty. Not only had they worked sales on many well-known films, but they did it with a team of seven people - and rocked it all of the way. With that, I worked my butt off every chance I got, going the extra mile in every small way to make the slightest but most wonderful difference each day.
While most other companies were housed in those lavish hotels for their meetings while in Cannes, Bloom was in a three-story villa a little off of the croisette. That being said, each morning I climbed up and down those stairs hundreds of times to get the offices set up, taking guests to their meetings, and prior to, having in depth conversations with them and making them their drinks - showing them material, making sure they were happy and well-cared for, as well as picked up after guest lunches in the courtyard of the villa, attending to any needs that weren't yet known to be met, running to the other end of the croisette to the Palais to grab tickets to any screening the company needed, and any other thing I couldn't possibly think of right now.
Those in the company took note and saw the effort I was putting forth. While they were waiting for the morning or afternoon pot of coffee to be made, they stood with me in the kitchen. We had conversations about how they ended up in the industry, along with their dreams and my own, and I asked them countless questions about what they did and how it was done - as well as many other things regarding the industry. It was the best two and a half weeks of my life at the time, and I met life-long friends at that company that I cherish beyond belief.
I Networked And Learned - to put myself ahead
The Cannes Film Festival is not only a film festival, but one of the largest markets for film in the world. It certainly is the most prestigious. This means that everyone who was anyone, whether they were producers, directors, actors and actresses, singers, and the like were in Cannes during the festival. This being said, I made conversation with any and everyone I could and asked as many questions about themselves, the industry, and what they'd advise about getting into it. I wanted to be at the top, so I asked those who were already there, how to get there. Also - being a good person along the way, along with being yourself, is key. Don't listen to that "fake it until you make it," business. It's for amateurs.
I got to Attend Huge Movie Premieres on the Red Carpet
Okay. I'm going to fan girl here, because...WOW. Being able to get premiere tickets to the "Nice Guys," "Neon Demon," "Cafe Society," and this last Cannes when I went again, to "Blackkklansman," was absolutely out of this world, a dream come true. Walking the red carpet in a gown of my own, past the photographers, up the stairs, into the Palais, and to my seat made me feel like I was living my own Hollywood magix fairytale. Looking down to the orchestra section to see Ryan Gosling or Spike Lee a matter of feet away from me was mind blowing. To experience the appreciation for a film the way they're meant to be celebrated with applause and possibly a standing ovation for the talent and director of the film taking it in presently. To see all of the smiling faces, possibly tear stained cheeks, or breathlessness of the thousands surrounding them and myself is a feeling a couldn't possibly describe. Being in that theater inspired me and made me fall even more deeply in love with filmmaking.
I got to Experience The Luxurious City of Cannes
Whether it had been strolling through the historic streets taking in the architecture that had a thousand stories to tell, passing the high-end boutiques and stores, laying out on the beach drinking cocktails, attended world-class clubs, eating at the most exquisite restaurants that all serve food so delicious you could easily cry over, or drinking wine from decades to a hundred years ago - it felt like I had been the star in my own personal movie - and boy, I was loving it. Being immersed in the French culture, language, the prestigious film festival, the lights, the camera, the glory - was a life I was living beyond my wildest dreams. Also - not to mention the film after parties where you could congratulate the actors and directors first hand.
I met life-Long Friends
Whether it had been through my three roommates from the Creative Mind Group, the other friends in the group that we made from around the condo we were staying at, from networking around the festival, or simply through those from Bloom I made from working my internship. I made so many memories, lived through so many amazing lessons, and made life long friends along the way.
I Found Out Who I was and WHo I wanted to Be
Through my experience interning at Cannes, and really having that traveling experience be all on my own, I realized myself making choices and asking questions, that I'm not sure I would have done otherwise. I grew infinitely by being surrounded by the industry I dreamt of being in, and deciding to go after everything that I knew I needed and wanted while there without thinking. While experiencing life with friends and enjoying it through dancing, making up stories to get into extravagant parties, and not having reservations about how I would be seen, I learned to live in the moment and go with it with the most positive and opportunistic attitude. Most of all though, I allowed myself the chance to live the life I never knew I wanted, and to put myself into a position to achieve at the first moment of every day. I learned so much and worked so hard, that In fact, I got a job at Bloom before I graduated in 2018, and got to go back to Cannes for the festival right after I walked across that stage in my cap and gown.
This experience has impacted my life forever, and if your'e at all interested in the entertainment industry, the film business, or are just curious and wanting to grow in every way you can - please check out The Creative Mind Group to see what other programs they have in Berlin, Hollywood, Toronto, Cannes, and the Cannes Lion Festival (that's also in Cannes). You won't regret it.
Check out this link to find more about The Creative Mind Group.
Mary Gabrielle Strause
Good golly, I am SO guilty of this. When you're interested in and want to be a part of everything, feeling a door could open in any direction at any time, I understand it's enticing to keep tacking on another item on the "to-do" list. Really though, does it need to be done? When I was in high school, and most of all college, I had no less than forty things on my to-do list at a time - most of them time consuming, highly involved and stressful. It got to the point where I was doing so much that I drove myself into a depressive and manic state, resulting in an intense anxiety attack the night before a performance I was acting in and directing.
If what you are spending your time doing on a daily basis doesn't run in line with your ultimate dream and what you feel your purpose on this Earth is, the answer is - you probably should be spending what precious time you have on what's most important to you. Obviously you should spend time with your family and friends that build you up, and taking the time to do things to find out who you are in the beginning, but when it comes to things that you're the least bit "eh" about - the real answer should be, "Thank you, but nope, nope, and nope."
If You say Yes to Everyone Else, You'll never be able to say yes to yourself
This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes, when you're on the path to finding yourself, it's obviously good to keep your options open, because they could lead to who you're supposed to be! My freshman year in Los Angeles, one of my dear friend's was a dancer and they asked me if I'd shoot a concept dance video with her and her boyfriend. Before this point, had I ever shot a concept dance video before? Nope. But I tried it, because I didn't know exactly what kind of director/filmmaker I wanted to be then. Now, shooting dance is one of my favorite things to do and I try to incorporate it anything I can regarding visual art. Also, that dancer and her boyfriend - Katy and Dennis - are two of my dearest friends whom I've met in LA, who also happened to help me find myself! The same kind of story happened with me in photography and acting, and I'm grateful for those experiences.
It takes these experiences to help you realize what it is you truly want to do, but once you understand what that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is, you need to allow yourself the time to hone that craft. You can't say yes to everything the world is asking of you and make your dreams happen at the same time. Learn to say "yes," to yourself first.
Tacking too much on wears and tears at your body like an angry and ferocious rabbit
It's true. Even though you might not realize it, each time you tack on another thing to do, the more your body breaks down and becomes exhausted. Slowly but surely, the amount of needless work will take little bites of energy and satisfaction out of you over time - like a ferocious and angry rabbit taking tiny but detrimental bites. Whether it's stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, or an awful combination of all of these things - losing sense of your time management can take a major toll on your body. This causes you to not only do anything because of your state of health, but can really mess with how you perceive things and yourself in the future.
When putting too much of your energy into things that don't truly matter to you, support you, or satisfy you and where you want to be, it can do more harm than good.
With No fulfillment comes depressive states
If you are continually spending your life and time doing work that doesn't actually satisfy your soul, it results in just going through the motions of things and making decisions without a true passion - creating a less than satisfactory outcome. If you want to be a painter, but instead are filing paperwork - something that is most definitely not even close to what you'd rather be doing, your soul and purpose aren't being fulfilled. This allows your perception of life to dwindle into something that has no meaning, and it's because you're not spending it doing what you love - which is the point of it all anyway. We can't take our money with us when we die, but we can cherish the things we love, and leave it behind for others to admire as well.
You lose track of Why you Started Doing EVerything in The First Place
If you have forty things going on and once, and they're all there because you thought they would help you to get to where you wanted to go, but so much time has passed and you've forgotten the reason you decided to do all of these things in the first place. When your life is made up of, let's say, going to set for fourteen hours each day and being a Production Assistant, and having this job go on for ten years, you forgot that you started doing that job to help you become a director. Now you've spent ten years of your life doing a job you only needed to do for maybe a few years, making other people's movies, and not spending that time making your own. The same thing goes for if you work in a company where you believe you'll make connections to get where you want to be, not at all desiring to move up to a higher position - then having several years pass and you're an executive at the company - never having left to pursue your dream because everything became too comfortable and familiar.
If it feels like an "eh," It's really a "Nope."
Though this is said time and time again, if an opportunity comes up and you have that feeling in your stomach saying, "eh, this isn't actually something I want to do," then for heaven's sakes don't do it. Your time on this earth is valuable and irreplaceable. Don't spend something so precious on things that don't make you the slightest bit excited and happy. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like going to your least favorite cousin's birthday party. Also, if your best friend is asking you to do something and it's not entirely your jam, share that you will support them in any other way, but if their work isn't something that you feel like you can contribute to in an honest way because it doesn't excite you, you'll be doing them no harm than good. I know that's hard, but sometimes you need to do what's best for you - and your friend. Spend that time on you and honing your craft.
Spend Time doing and Becoming an Expert on What you Want Most
If you know what you want to do with your life, don't set up time for any distractions. Be specific in what makes you happy, and every moment you possibly can to hone that skill and become an expert on it. Read about it. Write about. Practice it every day no matter what it is. Dedicate your life to what you love most and never look back. After all this life is yours, no one else's. Make it the masterpiece you envision and dream about every day.
Mary Gabrielle Strause
I don't know about you, but as a movie lover and maker, I haven't been too particularly touched or impressed by what I've been seeing in theaters lately (besides Spike Lee's Blackkklansman- which I'll talk about later). As this directly revolves around what I do for a living, I can't help but think to myself of all of the things that contribute to this feeling of mine. I look back to all of the classic films that I absolutely cherish, that bring me to tears, make me wish I were friends with the characters, remind me of the magic that movies can create, and help me escape from reality for a little while. These are the movies that withstand the sands of time, and even still play in theaters today. The stories that don't try so hard to be mega-hits, that don't play to societal standards and are just really only concerned with being themselves (difficult to compare to other films because they are so unique). When I think of the classics, I think of movies like Singing in the Rain, Forrest Gump, Some Like it Hot, Braveheart, but most of all, I think of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
holly is living the (Stylish) story of our life
So, why do we love Breakfast at Tiffany's? It's about a girl, who wanted more out of the life she had and went out to find out exactly what her new life would consist of. Though it meant leaving loved ones and the responsibilities that life entailed, she loved herself enough to create a better life for herself, and wanted to find a way to support someone she loved most - her younger brother. Along the way though, she lost herself in the standards of society, who she was supposed to be according to them, and how to support her brother through only money, not love, and through this she shut off her vulnerability and ability to connect to others on a more personal level by being herself. Does this sound familiar?
For me it's a definite yes. In Breakfast at Tiffany's, Audrey Hepburn is playing nineteen-year-old Holly Golightly. She is living on her own in Manhattan, trying to make a way for herself - at NINETEEN to support herself and her brother - who is currently away at war - so those she was connected to before won't have to - and so she can be free from her old life for good. This is so relatable in the fact that so many of us, at eighteen, leave for college trying to create a life for ourselves that will support us for the rest of our days. With this though, our main focus is the ability to make enough money, all the while, often forgetting about what will make us happy. Holly does this by trying to find a wealthy man to marry, forgetting about her own happiness and chance at love, and therefore, disconnecting emotionally. I feel, especially in this day and age, this is extremely relevant.
It's so difficult not to love Her
Even with her scheming and less than moral ways, it is ever so very difficult not to love Holly. Audrey Hepburn does an exceptional job and portraying the character of Holly in the most charismatic and natural way. It doesn't once feel like she is acting, and because of that, you feel like Holly is a friend you would die to have. She is spunky, eloquent, knows how to stand her ground and get what she thinks she wants. Charismatic is her middle name, and style is her first, she has a lot of love to give and passion to share, and all the while, is going through the same problems as us (that can be interchangeable of course).
Because of this, you just want to shake some sense into her and tell her to forget the icky rich guys who will never love her like she deserves, and go be with Paul. That way she can be herself and they can find a life together in actual happiness compared to the pre-perceived notions of it.
The story Doesn't Try to Be Something It's not
Breakfast at Tiffany's is something that is incomparable in every way. It's just as unique as you or me. It has its own personality, is going as it's own pace, the story doesn't feel made up to appease our needs, and as far as Holly's concerned, you're just along for the ride. That's what makes it so magical. This film is about a girl, going through life, and all the while, finally understanding who she is allowed to be in the world, and who she'll be happy being. It's not a quest for love, it's not an action piece trying to woo you with every forced shot, it's not a character trying to get you to like her, it's just a movie about Holly Golightly being her wonderful self, meeting someone who reminds her that being herself is always enough to be loved, and is taught how to genuinely love again and have an emotional connection. That's it. Just a movie as simple and as unique as "Breakfast at Tiffany's," would be.
It's Honest, relatable, and completely unique
...and because of that reason above, is why we love it so much. It's why it's a classic. It's why it's still showing in theaters on select days throughout the year so people can experience this special story on the big screen. Originally a book by Truman Capote in 1958, he told a story about a girl just going through life on her own way, and finding the true meaning of it at the end - on her own terms. You are just a fly on the wall, you are of no concern to the characters living their lives - and because of that, they're your friends. The story is simple, and you're allowed to just sit back and take in each magical, heart sparking moment. It's not about entertainment, it's about being vulnerable - and in today's case, that's something that lets you escape from every day life - and that's what stories like this and theater are all about.
XOXO - Mary Gabrielle Strause
Are you planning your next adventure and looking for a way to truly experience where you're going without running into all of the tourist-y shenanigans? If so, boy do I have a surprise for you! Chances are you may already be using Airbnb to book a place to stay for a lower cost and more of a personal vibe for a "home away from home." That beings said, HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE EXPERIENCES OPTION when the different home options emerge on your screen?! Holy Toast. Guys. Once you do, your life will be changed forever.
"Airbnb Experiences," are truly an amazing way to integrate yourself with the culture of the place you are exploring, meet new friends that are possibly locals or from a completely different place in the world, and allow you to immerse yourself in something unique that you could never forget. Yes, some tourist attractions are necessary to see, but so many of options provided on Airbnb will make you feel like you're living a whole different life and are able to truly take in your new surroundings.
Whether you are interested in trying new foods, doing yoga in a brewery, learning how to sketch live models while eating dumplings in an underground art gallery/bar (I did this), taking surfing lessons, going on a haunted walking tour of the city, learn how to make coffee or chocolate in a castle, a sunset dip for two in a private hot spring, maybe even attending a private concert, or biking through the mountains, Airbnb experiences truly has everything you can ever imagine looking for. Each experience is created and ran by locals within the area that you are visiting, and they will be sure to give you the ultimate cultural experience and tips on where you can snag the best bite or where you should check out while you're in town.
The prices vary just as much as the experiences do depending on where you are going, but I assure you that they are 100% worth it! Each trip I've gone on, I've tried to at least squeeze one of these experiences in and I've never been disappointed. The time of the experience is included so you know how to plan the rest of your day. Also, more often than not, meals, drinks, and supplies (if it applies to what you are doing) are included in the price of attending. Really all you have to do is show up, ready to rock with a smile on your face.
Booking these experiences is just as, if not even easier, than booking a space to stay on Airbnb. You book for how many people are going, what dates are available for the experience, confirm your booking, and pay! That's all there is to it! If you're at all skeptical of the experience, or are wondering if it's worth it, please read the reviews written on the experience's page for a better idea if the event is right for you or not!
Just to give you an idea of what could be in store for you, here are a few snapshots of experiences from Los Angeles, New Orleans, London, Paris, Berlin, and Rio de Janeriro!
Among these, there are literally THOUSANDS of these experiences to choose from all around the world! From areas that range from Food & Drink, Concerts, Classes and Workshops, Entertainment, Arts, History, Nightlife, Nature, Music, Sports, Health & Wellness, Social Impact, Cooking Classes, and comedy shows, there's no doubt something will catch your eye and make your trip unforgettable!
If you'd like to give Airbnb Experiences a go for your next trip, follow the button below to see what could be in store for you!
I constantly battle with this thought. This notion. This idea that money is what determines success - when really, it's not at all. Often times the stress of money and the time put into making it in most situations takes away from the point of life in general - to enjoy it and make the most of it with the ones you love. Ultimately, if you spend your life making money, you'll never get the chance to thoroughly enjoy how much you've made. That's not entirely the point of this article though.
When you're living your life as an artist, or truly, in any career decision, money should never be the most important factor. I say this because if you're only deciding to do something for the financial satisfaction of it all, where is the passion behind what you'll spend the rest of your days doing? How are you fulfilling your life's purpose, if you're leading it by the means of other's expectations? What I mean by this is, if you're doing it all for the money, where is the reason, the inspiration, that even had you wanting to do that something in the first place? Remember, you live this life by your rules, by the messages you want and need to tell the world, you might as well earn the freedom that money can give you on your own terms, on your own time, based off of the stories and work you create authentically - not because they could make you a whole lot of dough (though obviously, that'd be nice too) .
AS an artist - you're not thinking about the story anymore
If you're thinking to yourself, " If only I write this book and get it published, I can finally pay off all of my debt," or "Once I sell this script, I'll be able to buy that house I've always wanted," or truly anything along these lines, your treating your art has instead become your desperation - not your means of expressing yourself. If you get caught up in the money you might make and are rushing to get your work done, chances are, the story you were once so close to might get lost along the way.
If this happens, you might be doing all of this work and not get published, or if you self-publish, there's a chance that not many will connect to the story you've told. With this in mind, take your time and play the story out in your imagination as you write it down ( or truly whatever your passion is - give it the time it deserves [but not too much time - you need to take the leap]), and make sure that it rings true in your heart and soul. Once your work feels like it's the message you need to tell the world, the time has come for you to put it out there.
If your Only Goal is to Be Rich - You Need to Step Back and Take In What Life is Really All About
Money is great. It is a tool. It is an avenue for freedom, support, and comfort, but it's not the meaning of life. Yes, it is important, but realize when your time on this earth ends, you can't take your money with you. If you spend your entire life just pushing and thrashing through the teeth of a job you never truly connected with in order to get top dollar, but in the end have little to few experiences that truly made you feel alive - take a deep look inside yourself to figure out what you were truly put on this earth to do, and how you can make just as much if not more money doing what you absolutely love.
You'll never Be Truly Satisfied
If you put your work out there, and are rolling in dough, but are only creating off of the ideas that people think will sell ( or you think will sell) - can you honestly say you're satisfied? Like I said above as well, if you're working a job only for the money and not the work - are you happy with how you're spending the life you've been given? And last but not least, if you're only trying to finish something in hopes of it making it big, will it really mean that much to you if you don't put your heart into that work?
On the Other Hand - Don't Wait Until you Have aLl the Money In the world to Go on that Once in a LIfe Time Adventure
As I stated above, when you die, you're not able to take your money with you. If you're 22 and just finished college, or you're looking to take a gap year between high school and college to go travel the world for a while - obviously you don't have heaps of money just lying around. This time of life is when nothing is truly holding you down. You probably don't have children, a full-time career, a spouse to look after, or anything of that sort. The most valuable thing in life is time, and if you spend this time making memories and living life to the fullest - money doesn't really matter. You have the rest of your life to make money, use what precious time you have taking advantage of what this life is truly all about. Don't wait until you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank to go on that once in a lifetime trip. Pool together money with friends, fundraise a bit with bake sales, T-shirts, odd-jobs, or whatever you can to make just enough money to pay for a hostel, food, and transportation.
Just go out and live. This way, you'll create stories that will last a lifetime.
If Money Takes the Reins - Authenticity Takes the Back Seat
Don't try to be something you're not. Don't try to be someone else or something you think someone else wants you to be. When money or the thought of needing to be a certain something takes the reins, you lose your authenticity. In losing your authenticity, you lose the message that the world needs to hear - and that can only come from you.
Money is Nice and NEcessary, but having Your Passion be the means behind the success of freedom is what this life is all about
Money is nice and it is necessary. I love money and it allows so much freedom - but only if you earn it in the proper ways- which is through doing what makes you happy and what you're meant to do - not what others want you to do - or what you think will be the quickest way. So go out there, wipe your mind clean of how much money you could make, and think of how deep your story could go in the hearts of people. Passion drives success - and what I mean by that - the freedom to live the life you choose, that makes your heart smile, and makes you proud to be who you are.
We've all been there. Whether you're trying to think of the most elaborate and life-changing idea for an opportunity that just presented itself, or write because it's what you love to do, we always have a bit of a tough time figuring out exactly where to start. Today, I've listed a few little things I've always done to help get the ol' noodle where it needs to be for maximum storytelling. Take a peek below and try a few of these things for yourself if you haven't already!
Music | Listen to Spotify on Weekly Discovery
This should be every writer's go-to. It's also a fantastic challenge if you allow yourself to truly explore your head and imagination. If you listen to music you don't know, in genres other than pop (I usually recommend Classical, Instrumentals, scores, or Indie genres) and allow yourself to sit in a nice dark room with a candle lit, or take yourself on a walk, and close your eyes, magical things can truly happen. Letting yourself take in the music emotionally, imagine what you're feeling or where that music is taking you, you can picture yourself as a character discovering a new world. This practice also helps you to dig deeper within your imagination, and gives you the extreme power to develop and hone your emotions in a different space compared to what's happening in your reality. This is especially cool because it creates a world of your own - not a world that you see every day.
Also - if you have a specific genre in mind, it helps to listen to music with that sort of vibe. If you're trying to write a fantasy, listening to the scores from Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter may help. If you're trying to write a noir, listening to Lana Del Rey or maybe a little bit of Frank Sinatra may help as well.
Pictures! | Open Pinterest
Like I said above, if you're feeling or seeing a certain character, setting, car, window, forest, or really wherever your imagination and heart are telling you, looking up pictures with that sort of subject line always get the imagination jogging a bit. That, or if you're interested in something and want to incorporate it into a story, looking up pictures of that certain subject will help you create characters, a place where they go, different people, they interact with, etc.
For example, I love fashion photography and the different makeup styles, dresses, settings where people shoot, and the moods they create. If I wanted to incorporate something regarding the magic of fashion photography into my story - or I appreciated the story that a photo already tells, I would look up "fashion photography" on Pinterest and allow what I saw to help create a story in my head that I could build off of.
Read Letters Between Strangers
I know this sounds a bit weird, and it definitely can be, but I was researching a few different aspects of my town history at our local library in Rio, Wisconsin, among many other libraries for different research, and along the way, I came across letters between two brothers, a man, and his wife during the war, a thank you note from a local woman to the town mayor, and a postcard between sisters. These letters took me to multiple periods throughout time, telling me stories of strangers I'd never met, but could feel their emotions in their words. These letters painted four different stories in my mind and created a movie within my imagination that consisted of exactly the moment I sat there reading them.
On top of this, if you go into a used book store or local library, there may be dedications from loved ones or friends for a specific book. When you read the words they wrote, along with the story they attached them to for their loved one, you create a story in your mind about their relationship and boy, it sure can turn into something beautiful.
Look into Local History
Going off of what I said above if you visit your local library from a town you've grown up in and have been a part of your whole life, reading it's local history can develop new thoughts in your head. You can find old pictures, newspaper clippings, discover buildings, and come across stories that you're able to imagine in the exact place they happened - places you know about! Whether its that one of the first schools in the region of where you live stood exactly where your family's barn does now, that your town was the first to have gravel in the entire county, or the first mayor of your town was best friend's with Thomas Edison!
With looking into the history of the place you grew up, you already have an emotional connection and a spacial awareness that you can draw from. Why not use it?
Walk Around Places You've Never Been
Whether it's a new neighborhood with new houses, a different part of town with a variety of buildings, walking down a busy street with bustling and interesting restaurants, or a village completely on the other side of the world full of people who are so different and so beautiful. Pay attention to which places and which people jump out at you. Maybe there is a menu of a restaurant that serves "Unicorn Blood," or a dance club called, "Watch Me Whip." Think of how they make you feel. Is there a story that comes to your mind when you take them in with all of your senses? If so, while you're walking around, make sure to take a moment to let blood flowing throughout your body really do its job, and stand there to take everything in.
If you're in a new area and are walking, you observe your surroundings more. Give it a shot for your writing!
And I mean EVERYTHING! Whether you're walking, sitting, in class, at work, at a restaurant or bar with your friends, in a museum, or anywhere - watch, listen, smell, feel, taste EVERYTHING you can. Let what you take in with your senses soak into an emotional state. If you see a painting that especially resonates with you, take in the people around you at that time, maybe what you're drinking, or what you're listening to, and create a story out of it. All that you experience should be mopped up into your memory and your imagination like a sponge, and utilized if it resonates with you.
Just let your mind be open and clear wherever you go and it will reward you greatly.
As you observe everything, take into account the different people you come across. While you're sitting on the train, in the park, walking through the airport, hanging out by the window at your favorite coffee shop, or just as you live through daily life - pay attention to different people. How they walk, how they talk, what color their hair is, their mannerisms, if they're shy, hiding from someone, looking for someone, what key chains are attached to their backpack, and the clothes they wear - among many other details us humans have. I've brought this point up before, but if someone grabs your attention, grab back every detail you can muster regarding their personality without seeming like a creep. This will create some wicked characters.
Look Up Random Names and Jobs
Look up baby names from all over the world, last names and look into their meaning, as well as google "Random Jobs No One Knows About." Chances are, you'll find something completely crazy and/or unique that helps a story pop into your head, or possibly an insane backstory for your characters - which create stories of their own, really! Doing this creates a realm for your characters to work off of and build upon. I bet whatever you imagine is exactly what the world needs to read.
Sit in Nature and Be With Your Thoughts
I couldn't stress this enough. When you're within a place that has been untouched and beautifully created by God's hand (or whatever you choose to believe), you are able to absorb a sort of peace that takes your mind to different places. You are all of a sudden not having to think about the stresses of work, potentially running into someone, or protecting yourself from your surroundings. Here, you are safe. Here you are able to expand your mind without limits. Breathe and just take in all you see - what do you feel and how can you create from those things?
Have your phone on silent or don't have it at all when you're in nature.
The best way to truly ignite your imagination and keep it constantly flowing is to read every day. No matter what - no excuses. By reading, you're able to live a thousand lives in one and imagine things that stand the test of time, throughout time. You are truly able to immerse yourself in multiple different stories and allow yourself to see them through your own imagination. That's really the cool thing. No one can imagine a place, a character, how someone talks, a creature, or anything really after reading it as you can. That's the magic of reading. The experience is completely your own, while you share the story with so many others. Based off of what you imagine, it allows the worlds you've seen to intertwine into a world all your own. Write about that world.
Actually Listen to Strangers
Maybe you're on a trip by yourself or sit by someone on the subway who you start talking to. Whether they seem a little nutty or completely normal, ask them honest and genuine questions like, "Where are you headed," "Are you having a good day today?" or "What brings you here?" If and when they answer you, make sure you listen!! Sometimes the stories they tell and based off of how you imagine what they're explaining to you, create the absolute best fictional stories (make them fictional or else legality may be a thing later on).
Regardless though, truly LISTEN to them. They will appreciate it as it never happens anymore, whether you get a story or not.
Really Think of The MessAge you Want to Relay
Overall, so many people like to write about and are talented at writing different things. Sometimes imagination isn't where you need to focus at all. Think about you and your heart. What lessons have you learned? What experiences have you been through? What do you want to teach the world, and/or what is it that only you can tell them, that you think they need to know? First and foremost, be true to yourself, write the story that comes from your heart, not from what you think other people want to read. That way, none of your work will truly resonate. If you think of the message you want to relay and tie it in with your life story - there is your book or movie right there. It tells itself. Of course, with a message and/or theme, you can create a story from whatever you imagine, but make sure it feels right to you.
Just Start Writing, Don't Stop, and HAve Fun!
This is the BIGGEST tip and practice I can stress. If you just start writing from some random perspective, write down how you're feeling that day, explain the dream you had last night, create a character out of thin air who would probably be your best friend if they were real, or just start from a certain person being in a certain place, doing something. Whatever you start, don't stop! Just have fun with it and keep going. Write. Write. Write!!! This is usually where the best stuff comes from.
Don't think too hard or analyze yourself too much. Just keep going and finish the story you've started. This is always the most difficult part, but doesn't have to be - as writing should be fun all of the time! Heck, you're creating people! You're creating worlds! You have sensational ideas. You better share them, or no one will ever know what goes on in that magical head of yours.
The coolest part about writing and sharing your work though, are the people who read it and how they imagine and interpret it for themselves. There are people out there who need to experience your ideas, your words, and what you've created. Your stories could save lives. Give so many a sense of belonging, comfort, or friendship. Don't deny those sweet and incredible individuals of that freedom. Give it to them with open arms. All you have to do is pick up a pencil or start typing, and never stop.
You've thought up your idea, you've written it down. You're proud of what you've created. Now, why not make it into a short film? Nothing should stop you, right? RIGHT! There are a few things you need to know and prepare for though before showing up on set. After four years of film school, trust me, there are more steps to the process than what meets the eye, but by reading below, you'll have a great idea regarding the basics of how to make the best film possible and have it be a smooth experience throughout!
Photo by: Chandler Kravitz
To make a film, you need a script! One page of a formatted screenplay (see below) translates into a minute per page. You can of course format a Word Document yourself to look like this, but there are also programs like Final Draft (The industry standard and my preference if you're serious about screenwriting) or Celtx - which is fine if you're just beginning, that will format your action, characters, and dialogue for you (we'll talk about formatting scripts and things to think about in a later blog post). You do have to pay for both, though.
The script is a blueprint of the story you see in your mind for the director to ultimately visualize and put together. With a script, your job it to give your characters a unique voice within a story format that's engaging. Find links to both Final Draft and Celtx below.
Here's a bit of an example of a formatted screenplay. I don't agree with the scene heading (it's usually referred to as a slug line, but obviously scene heading makes sense and works too). If you're writing a teleplay ( a script for TV) you would need to center align (Cold Open for the first four minutes or so, then ACT ONE, ACT TWO, and ACT THREE with a page break after each is finished - besides act three of course because it's your ending.
Now look at you! You have your script! You’re on a roll! Now, what is your film going to look like? Who’s going to literally call the shots? You’re going to need a director - someone who has a vision and a way with people. This could be you, or it doesn’t have to be - just as long as the director of your film can make a decision, stick with it, and have a positive attitude along the way. Not only does your director need all of these things, but they also need the skill to communicate their vision with the Producers, Director of Photography, Wardrobe, Production Design, and most of all, their actors. Your director needs to be able to explain emotions and situations in order to get his or her actors in the right headspace to deliver the performance they envision. The director also needs rehearsals to go over blocking (movement in a scene and what the characters interact with) with the actors before the film and right before it’s time to shoot to ensure efficiency and understanding of what is going to be filmed. Make sure this person is reliable, hardworking, has great communication skills, is creative, and fun to be around. This person could make or break your film.
You'll also need a first assistant director, who is your first in command who whips everyone into shape, is in charge of the schedule, ensures that everyone is safe, and makes sure everyone is on time. I'll dive deeper into these roles with an e-book soon.
Tarantino is one of my favorite directors. Being that he was an aspiring actor himself, he has the ability to truly communicate with the actors about how they are unique and how they portray their particular voice. Ron Howard is also a great example.
For starters, holy cow this position can be a handful and is usually ridiculously underrated. The producer locks down your location, your crew, sets up your production meetings, handles legal work and permits, meals for cast and crew, makes sure everyone is accounted for, comfortable, on the same page, and doing their job, calls different companies, etc. to source funding, keeps track of spending, creates the budget, the shooting schedule, and makes sure everything and everyone are safe at all costs. They also decide the time of filming based off the creative needs of the director and director of photography along with the location's ability to accommodate the shooting. As your production grows, so do the needs and tasks of your producer. This person must be very level-headed, well-organized, a negotiator, timely, responsible, think of every possible thing that could happen imaginable - and be prepared for anything and everything. This person is very innovative and can think on the fly. They can't be shy. They can't be pushovers. They get things done, done well, and at as little cost as humanly possible.
When it comes to making or breaking your film, actors also play a major role in this as well. The casting process will be different no matter where you are, as will the talent pool. Sometimes your principal actors won’t be actors at all, and they’ll do a better job than most professional actors will. It all comes down to who seems the most natural in their performance. The best acting is when you can’t tell they’re acting. Also, the best actors are the ones who take their jobs seriously. They get their script. They memorize their lines. They create goals, intentions, objectives, tactics, and they execute them well. They show up on time and give the film everything they can. These actors are hard to find, so it’s best to ask all of the questions you can before you cast them such as - what’s your availability? How committed to this movie would you be if you were cast? Tell me, what is your on-set etiquette? Best of all though, ask them - why do you enjoy acting, and do you take it seriously? Making your movie should be a fun experience for you and everyone - and you can’t do it without actors - so might as well make sure they’re people you trust and that are fun to be around.
Director of Photography and Camera
Good golly, this department has so many parts. To keep things simple for now though, let's just stick to the director of photography, who usually on smaller and lower budget productions, handles moving the camera as well. The director of photography (or DP) listens to what the director wants the scene, frame, movement of the camera, tone, atmosphere, and lighting to look like, and the director of photography makes it happen. They tell the gaffer (the chief of lighting on the production) what they need done and where, then the Gaffer has his or her team of "electrics" make it happen. The Best Boy is the assistant to the Gaffer. The DP also tells his or her team of "Grips," the head being the "Key Grip," what they'll need regarding support of the camera, whether it be building a track for the camera to dolly or rigging anything regarding lights.
You need lights for your production! If you're indoors especially. If you're using natural light outside, that's a different story, but it doesn't hurt to have a little extra light on your actor or subject's face! If it's night time - then obviously a little light wouldn't hurt either - unless you have a killer aperture on your camera with high optic quality. That brings me to the need of your camera. Obviously to make a movie, you need something to document it with.
If you have a cell phone, are on a tight budget, and are just beginning to make movies (or not -Tangerine was an Oscar nominated film and shot on an iPhone 5) just use this as your camera. Why spend money on something when you have an incredible camera already in your hands. If you're looking to get more funky and/or have higher resolution on more close up shots, then you can level up to a DSLR and purchase or rent different lenses depending on your preferences, that you can keep switching out based off of the director's vision.
You also need a shot list - a detailed and scheduled plan of what you will shoot, what frame it will be, if there is movement within the scene, which scene it is, when the scene will be shot in sequence to everything else being shot, in what location, and what is actually happening in the scene. This will usually be created amongst the director, director of photography, first assistant director and the producer.
I almost forgot! Slating your scenes is necessary as well (this is the clapper thing you see in the movies about movies). This labels what scene it is, what shot, what take, what day of the shoot it is, and when the sticks of the slate clap - that's an indicator of where the editor should sync the audio as that's when the scene starts. The person who usually takes care of the slate is the second assistant camera - who also verbally expresses the take and the scene number as well. For example, they'd say, "Ronnie, Scene 204B(eta), take 4,"with the clappers open, and when they finished their label, would smack the sticks shut to create a peak in the audio .wav file for the editor to see.
Sound is something so many people forget about when in the midst of pre-production of their movie. It is one of the MOST important aspects of your film. You need at least one person with a shotgun mic on a boom pole getting in there on the scene between actors to catch separate sound levels of their dialogue. What records this sound is an external device, something within the "Zoom" series works well. It will need a separate SD card, and with this device you can adjust the levels of "gain" which ultimately opens up the range of the microphone you're using. If your actor speaks quietly, you will bring up the gain to about a 7 compared to someone who speaks at a normal volume. Their gain would be at about 4 or 5. Also - you can't forget to turn your shotgun mic ON! I've personally done this when my camera didn't run audio automatically...it was a mess and the footage was unusable as a silent film wasn't what was intended of this particular project.
If you're not able to afford a shotgun mic along with a boom pole, using your phone can work as well. You can use your "Voice Memos," app to record separate dialogue. Recording sound is especially important, and making sure it's recorded well is something you should do with every take. If there is a car horn, an airplane flying past, a dark barking, or a cell phone ringing (volume nor vibrate should be on during production), you should wait until the sound is gone to start shooting and rolling sound. Also - make sure that the recording device, whether it be a mic or a phone is not in frame.
Production Design & Art Direction
This is the person who makes your set a set! They bring life to it! They pick the furniture, the colors/pallet, the posters, what your character has in their living room, what kind of music they are into, what food they eat, what they drink, what kinds of cigarettes they smoke, if they have a stuffed animal, and/or what their decorative tastes are. this person makes your movie cohesive and gives it style and a heartbeat. Your production designer takes the mood and description from the script and creates it in real life. If your script is about a haunted house that as a sheesh tone of clown paintings - you best bet your production designer will find every clown painting they can scrounge up to make that house creepy as as Hell. If not, they will turn to their art director.
If there is a specific label or brand involved in your story, or your character is a painter, your art director will create these things for you. In the situation described before, your art director will either paint those clowns photos for your scary house, or they will figure out how to do it so they match the tone that your production designer has set for the film already.
Usually on smaller sets, the production designer takes care of the props as well. If your character swings a bat, has a special notebook, throws a tomato at a different character or so on, your production designer decides what that thing that your actor interacts with, looks like, and makes sure that it's it in the scene at the time you're shooting it. That's also why it's important to have shot lists, schedules, and locations set - so everyone is prepared on the day that specific scenes are happening.
No matter what kind of movie yours is, or your budget, you need production design. It will always make your film that much better and tell the story you're trying to tell on a deeper level. If your production design is completely out of line with your story though, it will instead be a distraction, so make sure you and your production designer are on the same page before you shoot. Having mood boards and visual examples of what you're looking for are extremely important and help a ton.
What are your characters wearing?!?! Is it a period piece? A sci-fi?! Is your character a robot? Or an alien? Well, if your medieval queen is wearing a sweater from Zara and a pair of hot pants, it's probably not going to be too believable that your movie takes place in 1378 - you know, unless that's what you're going for. Wardrobe is extremely important and having a trustworthy person who's willing to study the characters in your script, what the setting is, what social status each character stands within, paying attention to what kinds of things your characters like, if they're fashionable or not, if they are more of a recluse, or if they're a "nerd," etc., is necessary.
Like production design, wardrobe brings a movie together in a whole different way. What clothes your character wears helps the audience to get to know who they are a little bit better. Also, it should be cohesive with the color palette of the movie. Your costumer should also make sure to have all of your actor's sizes and measurements, and be innovative if you're on a budget and need specific costumes based on your script. A rack with labeled hangers with already scene-separated wardrobe for your actors should also be on set in order to be efficient and organized for each scene to be shot.
The wardrobe stylist also ensures that the attire that they put the actors in looks great on camera and is diligent at all times.
Hair & Makeup
You know when on screen, you must look fabulous...or bloody...dirty...like an alien...have a disease...whatever it may be, whatever the script and director call for, the actors must look accordingly to the imagined character they portray. This type of thing calls for a make artist and hair stylist. If your film includes both beauty makeup and special effects makeup, chances are you'll need two artist who specialize in each on set. Same goes for hair. If you need pigtails, long braids, wigs or hats, helmets, or horns - you're going to need someone who can do those things - these tasks go to the hair stylist...unless you need those horns - those go to the makeup artist - but either way, you're going to need these two or three key crew members to have your actors looking ready for camera.
These people should usually always have their own kits of the essential items, and if what you need is a bit more specific, that must be communicated with them so they're prepared for the proper look on the right days. They must always have the shooting schedule as well so continuity is also in check. Hair and Makeup should also be on set at all times to be sure that the actors are still looking at their best - whether it be wiping off sweat and reapplying powder to someone's face or fixing a flyaway hair after an actor was running. These people should always be prepared and know which tools/products to use as well as know whether or not the actors are allergic to anything (which the producer and 1st AD should know as well).
This. THIS is what EVERYONE forgets on set and doesn't truly understand the importance of. Your script supervisor watches every scene like a hawk and analyzes the continuity of everything going on, along with eye lines, details in the script being logical, and ensuring that the scenes that are being shot that day are brought in, compiled together, on small documents called, "sides." Not only that, but they keep logs and photos of what wardrobe, makeup, props, etc., were used in scenes sometimes MONTHS ago to ensure everything makes sense and is fluid, as well as what scene was just shot, what lens it was shot on, the frame of the shot, if there was movement, the time code of each scene, the details of what happened, and which was the best take. An example of this would be if there are twelve background actors moving in a busy street scene behind the principal actor - who is twirling a baton, it would be the script supervisor's job to make sure they are all moving to the exact same places they were in the previous take, doing the exact same things with their bodies and props, and make sure they do what they're supposed to be doing at the proper time.
An example of failed supervision would be in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere are eating breakfast at the table in the hotel room and Julia switches from eating a croissant to a pancake every other shot. It's hard to notice if you're not paying attention, but if you are, it's comical that even at such a high level of filmmaking - continuity errors still happen. This also happens with logistics as well. For example, if your film or pilot is dealing with medicine or doctors, legal work, forensic science or the like - you better do your research to make sure what you're saying is correct - and if you have a good script supervisor - they'll double check for you. That being said - don't forget your Scripty. They can save your lives and your movie.
Video Village ( Monitor)
Whether you're shooting on a high resolution camera or your cell phone, having a monitor where you can see what you're shooting is necessary. Even if you're shooting film, you can't see everything going on, on screen through your viewfinder. Whether it be the lighting, the hair in your actress's face, the water bottle on the table from a crew member, or the boom pole and mic in frame - a take and time will have been wasted if you're unable to see what's going on.
My suggestion is to have a separate monitor from camera, that's attached to it, so the crew that needs to be able to pay attention to what's happening on screen - can. The more eyes on frame to spot something off the better - that way every take can be an option - just as it should!
Crafty & Meals
If your cast and crew are on set for 12 hours or more and are doing their work for free - you have to feed them. It's the least you can do. Besides, food really is the way to so many people's hearts, and if the food on set isn't good and tender love and care don't go into each meal, people aren't really going to want to come back.
This is also something you want to account for in your budget. If you have twenty people on your cast and crew, that's twenty lunches you need to buy, or a catered meal for twenty, along with coffee in the morning with some sort of breakfast options.
You also need crafty! Crafty are the snacks your cast and crew can go to between takes to tide them over during the long days on set. Having healthy options will only do you better. If you have chips, cookies, doughnuts, and candy on set - everyone is going to crash and burn, but if you have veggie trays, nuts, fruits, yogurts, and tons of water, you will have a cast and crew who are ready for anything! As long as they have full bellies and are treated right - everyone will be happy.
That being said, food can get expensive, so just remember its necessary you have it, and the fact that it's a necessity, means you need to budget for it. If you're making a movie at home though, take advantage of pre-cooking everything and making trays of foods yourself. It'll save time and money.
Depending on where you're shooting, you'll need a permit to shoot at the location you're wanting. If you're in Los Angeles or any film-heavy city or state, you will definitely need a permit. If you're in a more relaxed state with small towns or cities where they don't thrive off of getting money from every movie made (especially if you have little to no budget) you can get away with just asking someone if you can shoot at they're property when is most convenient for them and is consistent with your script. Better yet, write for locations you know you can use for free and on your own accord - like your house or your friend's backyard. If you do need a permit though and you're out in LA making your filmmaking dreams come true, go Film LA to obtain your filming permit if it's a public place, otherwise, if you'd like to save time and have less of a hassle, you can go to shooting space sites like Peerspace or Giggster to pay by the hour for a place and be just fine legally. Using these spaces are always my preference, because Film LA can be a pain and expensive.
Practical vs. Built:
Like I said above, paying for locations can get expensive, but obviously you need locations to shoot your film. That being said, writing locations into your script you already know you can get for free is really the way to go when you know your budget will be tight. If you have a connection with some amazing, vintage ballroom though that will set your movie apart from all of the student films shot in the living room of some place - you go for it. Using practical places that are already built, available to you, and fit your story are always the way to go, but if you just aren't feeling anywhere you've visited, have a giant shed or garage that's relatively sound proof, and are magically a carpenter or can build things, you can also create your own sets. That's what they do in the big movies or TV shows in sound stages where they need the set to be unique to that particular motion picture and they'll need it for longer than a day or two. These are called standing sets built of wood, wooden flats, styrofoam, chicken wire, and the like! Those these sets can get extremely innovative and creative, they can also get pretty pricey - it just depends on what your director envisions and how to make the story come to life in order to help you choose which you'd rather go with!
Last but not least, you'll need an editor! Preferably, you choose someone who's edited digital media or film before. This person should know how to format your digital SD cards or Mags that go into your camera, how to upload it onto your hard drives (you should always have two just in case something happens to one of them - that way you have a backup), knows how to label and log each take according to the slate, can sync your audio files with the video files, and can navigate around an editing software so they can splice your movie together in a creative way.
With that being said, sound design, sound mixing, visual effects (if you need them), and coloring are also giant aspects of editing that need paying attention to. If you are supposed to be in a busy bar in your script, but need everything quiet while shooting to hear your character's dialogue, you're going to need to put those diegetic sounds in to make the atmosphere of the character's believable. This could include murmured voices, glasses clinking, muffled music, etc. - that's part of sound design. Sound mixing would determine the loudness of any of those sounds, where they peak, where they crescendo, when they're super quiet - sound mixing is an art, and also a strategic form of not allowing any of the other sounds to be distracting from the story.
Visual effects are a whole other ballgame. If you need visual effects, it's best to know someone who can do them after your editor has finished your picture. Visual effects take time and skill - and it's good to know if you'll have them readily available to you or not while you're writing your piece -and if you're not sure you will, nor might you have the budget for them, it's best to leave them out.
Coloring! All can be done in multiple different softwares, but if you're doing the editing yourself and/or aren't experienced with coloring to an extensive degree and want to give your film that specific look - you can color within Adobe Premiere Pro. They also have speed looks if you're really stuck. Coloring is when you create the tone of what you want people to feel when they watch your movie. You could make it cooler blue tones to make your audience feel more unfeeling and afraid, or warm golds and soft reds if you're looking to inspire. It all depends on what you're going for, but the overall style of your film comes from coloring - take your time with it. It's worth finding someone who can do it well.
If there is anything you feel I missed, please share and comment below! I would love to hear and add to this list!!! Either way, please, if you have an idea, bring it to life! Make a movie!!!
Mary Gabrielle Strause
When I was fifteen years old, I remember sitting in Homeroom in High School when my advisor expressed that I should look into a leadership program called, "People to People." He was informed that it was an organization developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower back in 1956 after he had experienced and witnessed the tragedy that WWII and the Holocaust had brought the world. With the intention and understanding that the only way fear could be washed away and peace could be made, was for people to understand one another. Mr. Eisenhower expressed that this mission would not be fulfilled by the government, but "...through the hearts of those who yearned for dignity, freedom, and peace. " This involved young adults traveling throughout the world, taking the time to learn about and live through each other's customs and ways, and ultimately share their own while building genuine relationships with those from all around the world.
Needless to say, my parents agreed and I went on to apply to become a student ambassador of Wisconsin, who would travel to six countries in Europe over the course of one month, at fifteen. As I was going through the process of applying, and throughout the school year before the journey I would take, I was going through depression. I was my own worse enemy for so long, and it felt like nothing could take the pain away. I was wrong.
Discovering the world through People to People changed my life forever. It is an enormous reason I am where I am at today and am the person who I've become. Actually, now that I think about it, People to People didn't only change my life, it saved it.
At fifteen, everything is very impressionable. I didn't know who I was, and I had no idea where to begin looking. When given the opportunity to venture 4,000 miles away from home with other people my age, though, it was an opportunity I sure didn't want to pass up. And who knows, maybe I'd find myself along the way?
This opportunity meant the chance to begin truly thinking for myself. Upon hearing or seeing something, what made my eyes and soul light up? Would something I read help me to understand what I'm interested in? What kinds of questions am I asking, and what does that mean about me? Am I brave? Am I willing to get up and go out there in front of everyone? The truest teller of all, though, is throughout the time spent with 29 strangers of the same age group, how will they see me? Which talents and gifts will they see I have? Most of all, what kind of person will they think I am?
Of course, before leaving, I had no idea this journey would do all I said above for me, nor did I know it until after I returned home. Following my acceptance into the program, I found myself in a room at a state-central high school with 28 other high school students, of whom I've never met, from around the state of Wisconsin. I was number 22 (we were assigned numbers to count off by on the trip). In this room, and prior to, via quizzes at home, we went over the courses in government, culture, geography, architecture, religion, daily life, and a small portion of the history of each of the places we were scheduled to visit. These countries included Belgium, The Netherlands, France, England, Wales, and Ireland. The 29 of us met every two weeks for about six months before our trip, learning different lessons along the way that would prepare us for our journey and the purpose it served.
When July 3rd, 2011 rolled around, we all said our goodbyes to our parents at the airport, hopped on a plane and made our way over to Amsterdam. The Netherlands was our first stop on the journey. Here, we learned how to make clogs, visited a local farm where they taught us how to make cheese, the significance of tulips there, and created a giant hay bale maze we were able to crawl through (it was absolutely awesome). We also experienced Anne Frank's Annex and further imagined the tragic life she endured - but found a way to make beautiful, made our way throughout the city of Amsterdam, learning how to speak basic Dutch, meeting locals business owners who told us about their way of life and what living there meant to them.
We saw the Heineken factory, learned that cycling is the main form of transportation - and that road rage is a very real thing on any form of wheeled transportation, along with the fact that there are 165 canals within the city of Amsterdam, and besides bicycle, traveling by boat is the next highest form traveling from place to place. In fact, Amsterdam is regarded as the "Venice of the North!" I remember as I sat outside the place we were staying, writing underneath a willow tree by the river, and explaining in my journal that I had been opened up and found my true love - learning of new places and people and showing only love and light along the way. It was the first time I was truly happy with knowing who I wanted to be, and what got me to that state of bliss.
Next stop on our journey was us learning how to make chocolate in Belgium, visiting different WWII war zones there - being told the history of the area and what it meant to their country, as well as being taken to a monument erected in 1950, dedicated to the United States Armed Forces who fought at the Battle of the Bulge during WWII, and there, understanding the true power of working together.
This lesson further continued when we were taken to the beaches of Normandy, France, where we stood in the ruins of D-Day on Omaha beach, and continued on to visit a cemetery and memorial for those who died there that day. While we were there, there was a tribute to the U.S. soldiers, and because I had expressed my interested and love of singing with those I was on the trip with, I was asked to lead the group in singing the National Anthem, which was such an honor in a place with so much meaning. We also got to go through the Caen Memorial Museum, which touched on the Holocaust and its horrors. Traveling to Paris was also included in our trip through France, so, we also tried frog legs, escargot, visited the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs D'Elysee, walked through Montmartre, visited Sacre Coeur, along with many other historical landmarks and locations "The city of lights," had to offer.
England was next, where we met members of parliament and were able to enter the building and discuss their role in the government. We experienced many of the ventures of London including the Elizabethan Tower (Big Ben), the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, along with Westminster Abbey and saw Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theater. We ventured to Warwick Castle, where we learned how to joust, sword fight, launch a flaming ball from a catapult, and battle with Batons (this was one of my favorite days). Prior to this, we visited the Isle of Wight, where we stayed at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (or UKSA) and learned how to windsurf and sail a dingy boat. Throughout our trip, it was mandatory we kept a journal - one for the organization (which they read), and a personal journal for the things we didn't really want to share with anyone else. After going through and learning all of these opportunities of growth in England, I was absolutely blown away by how much my life had escalated in value, and how my mind had opened at the age of fifteen. Little did I know that where we were headed next, would truly impact my life forever and be the beginning of the paved path leading to who I would become.
After we were taught how to become medieval warriors, we made our way to Wales, where we learned how to speak Welsh, where I found my new favorite meal - Bangers and Mash, and where I gained the confidence and inner strength to break a board with my bare hand and repel down a castle wall (doing the Bernie). This proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to as long as I believed in myself.
The last stop on our journey was Ireland, where the biggest difference was made in my life. This is because Ireland is where we spent the most time with the communities and creating relationships that truly involved being with one another and building on human connection. Here we took boat rides through the lakes between the mountains and horse and buggy rides through them. We made our way to the town of Cahersiveen where we stayed and did chores at a local bed and breakfast, spent time with local teenagers, learning the music of Ireland's past, the Gaelic language, how to jig and dance, and where those who wished could get up and sing in front of the community. I did - I sang Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri. The next day, we went out and dug peat for homes in the community, played Gaelic football with a local youth group, and from there, we chose to do different acts of community service throughout the town - a friend of mine and I chose to go to the nearby retirement home and sing the song we learned, " Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears," to a few of the tenants there. To say it was rewarding would be an understatement.
We ended our journey with a scavenger hunt around the town of Cahersiveen, which under the circumstances of a sudden death round, my team - "Team 15% Off," won. ;) We were each given an "Ireland," hat as a prize.
After countless bus rides, friends and memories made, and lessons learned, I sat there, within my own world, at the airport waiting for my parents to come to pick me up after my journey. I thought to myself, " I'm not ready to go home yet. I feel like my life has only just begun." And that it had. People to People changed my life in terms of having me discover that connecting with the world, the people in it, understanding who they were, where they came from, and what made them, them - is what I yearned for to take up each and every one of my days. To listen to them, make them smile, create with them, and open their minds as they had in mind, through who I am, is all I could ever want. The promotion of peace through taking the time to understand and be present with another human being from who you differ from (which is everyone besides yourself), without only listening to respond with one's opinion, is really what this world needs to become stronger and less torn apart.
Being able to see the world through my own eyes, and myself through the eyes of others and experiences I had over that month, taught me more about myself and this life than I had in those previous fifteen years. That month prepared me for the rest of my life in terms of having an open mind, finding differences beautiful, and taking the time to truly understand and ask questions when something didn't quite make sense to me. That month taught me that a life lived with passion and doing what I truly love is a gift well spent - and the gift of giving it to others as often as I can with as much love as I can is its purpose. Traveling at that young age to places I've never been before with people I had barely talked to, taught me to be brave, have faith in myself and the opportunity at hand, and to never ever give up on something that my gut told me was the right thing to do.
People to People encouraged me to always try new things, even if they scared me because that's what life is all about - constantly discovering who you are and how you can impact the world in the best way, just by being yourself. A daunting thought, that really isn't that daunting at all if you open your arms to it.
That next summer I traveled with People to People to Harvard University on a week-long leadership summit, where high school students from over 48 different countries were present. While we were here, we did community service, learned to work together, and on our own, build a community service program of our own to take back to our hometowns to implement in areas of need.
Throughout both of these experiences, I have made friends from all around the world, something not many 16-year-olds could say. These experiences taught me to live my life in love, in service, and in courage - standards I live by each and every day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
So, if you, or if you have a child, is looking for a way to see the world in a new light with learning, peace, and growth beyond measure that will impact the rest of yours or their life - People to People programs are the way to go. I owe them so much for helping me become the human being I am today.
Mary Gabrielle Strause
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Good Tuesday to you my dear friends and family, worldwide! Today, I'm sharing a re-cap on what my life is looking like nowadays and just what Vagabond et Virtuosa is, and is to me. Tomorrow, January 16th will mark six months since I've launched this blog. Back in July, this notion was a leap of faith into a place where I would further discover myself. I quit a job at a company that was seemingly "perfect" for me, but just as I left with the intention to create a life that revolved around who I was and what I loved most, that's what I found and continue to develop as each day passes (with the help of some guardian angels I call my family). Now, let me tell you a bit more about what this life consists of and what the future has in store.
Where I was
In May, I graduated film school with a degree in Film and Digital Content and a concentration in directing and screenwriting, from Studio School LA (formerly known as Relativity School). Being a part of the inaugural class here (which overall was 21 students and seven film majors), with no previous experience in film, was definitely eye-opening and life-changing. I grew up writing and illustrating my own books, drawing and painting, creating and performing fun skits at our school's Cabaret, and from time to time, filming myself singing, "The Phantom of the Opera," on our family's camcorder, alone in my bedroom. That was the closest thing I got to filmmaking growing up. I guess you could say editing together fan videos from the couples in Harry Potter and Twilight on Window's Media Maker would be something I could add to my preliminary skills as a filmmaker as well! ;) Either way, the point is, I grew up in a very small town, where I was able to do so many things and had a lot of opportunity for its size, but never enough opportunity in the area in which I would give my future to.
I moved to Los Angeles, California from Rio, Wisconsin at the age of 19, to be the underdog of my peers at a school that wasn't even accredited at the time. I left my little town and everything I knew, with the dream of creating these immaculate stories that would engage people's imaginations and minds. I envisioned theaters jam-packed with audiences watching my movies, crying, feeling, allowing themselves to be vulnerable towards their feelings. My largest hope was to create a sense of belonging in something make-believe, creating friendships with the characters on screen, understanding the beauty of being human, and most of all, give those watching the courage and inspiration to create a life for themselves that would consist of them going after their dreams and opening their minds to others. This still stands true for me today, but after growing through the beginning of my adult years of life within the entertainment industry, I've come to understand that I'm not going to give my life to it in the way so many end up losing theirs.
Through five years of being immersed in many mediums of which this industry is built on - working on sets in multiple positions, working for companies involved with production, sales, distribution, etc., acting, modeling, working to become a writer, the list goes on and on, I've realized that it's a place where magic does happen, but it comes at a price.
The price is losing sight of who you are. It's changing everything from the inside out to be what other people want you to be. It's becoming cold over periods of time so no one can try to manipulate you, so other's know that you're the powerful one, or maybe it's because you haven't had someone genuinely ask you how you are in a matter of years. It's the matter of living a life by a set of check points and expectations that tear you apart inside, in hopes that someone, someday will read your script. The biggest price tag of all, though, is the idea of having to depend on someone else to dictate your future.
This being said, I have met some incredible, down to earth, talented people who are just bright balls of sunshine ( I love them to death), but ask them how this industry's changed them, and they'll agree. That's why I left. That's why I built and am continuing to build this platform as each moment passes. When it came time for me to leave my industry job, I was told that I was doing the right thing. Coming from someone I look up to, they said they wanted to be a director/producer after they finished college, but then they wound up in an industry job that they still are currently at. Of course, they are executives now and are extremely successful and talented, but they never truly achieved that dream.
Where I am Now
I graduated with the same intention as I had going into Studio School, but had a much deeper understanding of who I was and what I truly wanted to do with my life. During my four years there, I had taken so many classes in acting, musical theater, illustration, and concept art on top of my filmmaking and screenwriting classes. Compared to being dedicated to just one of these crafts, I found myself whole when actively doing them all. I became friends with dancers and we shot concept dance videos together. I started taking headshots and editorial photos of my other classmates after a while. I was in musicals, directed "The Wild Party," and pieced together and student directed "Tarantino Night." I was introduced to Tom Southwell, the illustrator behind so many incredible films such as Bladerunner and The Goonies, concept artist for The Sandlot and Star Trek: Nemesis, and storyboard artist for X-Men among many other epics, who became a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and someone much like family to me. With so many things that were like magic to me, I couldn't choose just one. I wanted my work to mean something, and I knew I wanted to share myself with the world through who I was, not through who people wanted me to be.
I also understood that through screenwriting, there was a chance that my stories might never be made into movies, and if you have read a typical screenplay, they aren't exactly literary masterpieces. Directors usually make what they will with them - they're a blueprint. I realized I didn't want that. I wanted to give the story to the world to imagine for themselves before anything was to be imagined for them. Therefore, I decided I'd go back to my childhood roots and write the book of the stories I've created first - then I'll adapt them into screenplays if the world wanted to see the movie. Also, if I wanted to make a movie, I would write it and make it myself.
With all of these things compiled together along with my love of travel, meeting new people, learning new things from those all around the world, inspiring young women, and the need to constantly create, I decided I'd take matters into my own hands and shape my own opportunity. So, I created Vagabond et Virtuosa.
The mission of Vagabond et Virtuosa (or V&V), is to inspire female artists to go after their dreams, travel the world, and create wherever they go. This ideal came from so many thinking they had to move to a big city in order to become a successful artist. Of course, it doesn't hurt, but through this platform I've made it my purpose to share my experiences and my journey along the way to prove that needing to bend to the mold isn't necessary. Also, I find it extremely crucial for any artist to go out there and immerse themselves in as many different cultures as they can, as frequently as they can. This allows a chance to grow as a human being, the opportunity to create experiences to build off of in creation of any work of art, and to live a full life.
This blog is made up of my travel tips, stories, and guides, learning experiences as an artist out in Los Angeles and how to succeed sooner than later, information on how to create a business for yourself and understanding the entertainment industry, analysis on different forms of artwork (mainly films) and how to learn to analyze them for yourself, and of course, healthy doses of inspiration and reminders that you are a gosh darn superstar who needs to share their gifts with the world.
Where Vagabond et Virtuosa is headed
Yes, Vagabond et Virtuosa is a blog right now, but come the end of this week and into the foreseeable future, V&V is about to be so much more. With currently 10.3K visits to the website and six months of building under my belt, Vagabond et Virtuosa is about to become a community where my lady artists come together, create with one another, and take the leaps they need to in order to get out in the world sharing their gifts with it!
This will begin with my Youtube Channel, where I will be posting cover videos and hopefully some original music down the road, along with vlog videos about my travel experiences and tips with working in different artistic mediums, behind the scenes to my photography sessions, the different films, concept dance pieces, and music videos I create, and especially videos of me on my different trips around the world, what inspires me while I'm gone, what new things I learn along the way, and of course, me creating while I'm on the road and sharing it as I go.
From here, I will create different contests and challenges to have everyone be a part of, to inspire them to get their work out there into the world, and maybe join me on a trip or two! I would also love to collaborate with all who are willing!
What's coming next is extremely exciting for me, and I absolutely cannot wait to start this journey! I hope you come along for the ride! <3
Here's to making dreams come true!
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