I Did It

At the beginning of 2016, I had one main goal: to write every single day this year.

I did it.

Almost.

I wrote 363 out of 366 days this year. I missed getting my writing done on three days: My sister’s wedding (I was the maid of honor and was up for something like 18 hours, going nonstop), a day in early December when I was working as a PA on a reality TV show, and another day about a week later when I was very ill.

But only missing three days out of a whole leap year is pretty darn good. I’m proud of myself for sticking to it.

At the start, I was confident in myself, but with my busy schedule, I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I thought I would miss a day long before July 30. Looking back at how often I had made excuses to not write in the year plus since film school, I wondered how I would push back against all the excuses I managed to come up with time and again.

The plan was simple. I created a document on my computer and called it my writing log, then typed in the date and the project that I worked on each day. The execution was just as simple. Find some time, open up a project, and write. Or revise.

So 2016 started and I started writing. And I didn’t stop. Yes, I missed three days, but after I missed a day, I kept on going.

I revised a feature screenplay that I started in film school, strengthening the story. I revised a short film and went on to direct it in March. I finished a feature that I started in 2014. I wrote the first draft of another feature. I started yet another feature. I revised a short film with my friend Max. I wrote numerous comedy sketches. I worked on some fiction, blog posts, and articles. The vast majority of the days found me screenwriting.

Some days I wrote pages. Some days I wrote sentences. Occasionally, on very busy days, I wrote or revised a few words.

No matter how much I wrote each day, I made so much progress on so many projects over the course of this year. That is why writing every day matters. And to think, I used to hear about people writing every day and scoff at the idea, wondering how anyone found the time. How silly I was.

Going into 2017, I’m not sure if I will write every single day again. I know I want to. I have forged a strong habit to make time for writing. I absolutely intend to keep that going and to continue to keep a log. The only leeway I plan to give myself is on holidays or vacations or times when I’m with family. Those days, if I have down time, I’ll write, but if not, I won’t stress over it. Either way, I’m gonna keep moving forward.

Writing Every Day

Normally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, or at least I don’t strictly hold myself to resolutions I make at parties or around the dinner table on New Year’s Eve. At the very least, I usually resolve to write more often. Often, that doesn’t happen.

For the first eight months of 2014, I was still in film school and got a lot of writing done—feature screenplays, a TV spec, short scripts—because it was assigned and therefore had built-in deadlines.

At the end of that year, I moved back to Wisconsin. When 2015 hit, I got two jobs and poured most of my energy into balancing them. Yes, I still made time to network and work on a handful of film projects, and yes, I wrote from time to time.

Ultimately, though, as I looked back on the year in December, I realized that I had spent a lot of time not writing. Instead, I wasted time and made excuses.

I worked both jobs today.

My friends want to hang out.

I’m going to a film festival.

It’s ten p.m. and I just got off work.

I’d rather spend time on facebook before work.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

It’s easy to make excuses. I looked at all the time I spent on social media, or complaining about how I never had time to write, or doing anything instead of sitting down for 30 minutes before I left for work or after I got home and writing a few sentences, and I realized that I had plenty of time to write. And despite my busy work schedule, I had that time every day.

So as 2015 drew to a close, I quietly resolved to write every day.

Over five months later, I haven’t missed a single day.

I don’t hold myself to a certain word or page limit each day. With my current schedule, that would be very hard to achieve some days. But I write something every day. Some days, it is one sentence. Some days, it’s a little revising work. Some days, it’s several pages. Most days, it’s something in between.

I hold myself accountable by keeping a writing log on my computer. All I keep track of is what project(s) I worked on each day. I still have days where I feel tired, or work a lot, or get distracted by social media for hours. I still make myself write on those days.

I have wondered if something will happen that will trip me up, or if a day will come when I find an excuse to skip writing. For example, in March, I directed a short film that shot for two days. I wondered if I should allow myself to skip writing because I was directing a film that I had written. Does doing something creative that is not writing allow me to take a break from writing? Not this year. In the future, it may. The truth is, on the days that I was on set for 12 hours, I still felt compelled to write something after I got home. So I did.

I didn’t write this blog post to brag, but to simply say that if you want to do something creative, you can work toward it every day if you put your mind to it, and, most importantly, if you hold yourself accountable.

Last year, I would tell people that I was “working on” several projects. What I meant was that I had several projects that I had started but not finished. I hadn’t touched most of those projects in months.

This year, I am literally working on several projects. I have some features in the works, as well as short films and a web series. I’m collaborating on a project with another screenwriter. I revised a feature film that I started in film school and sent it to the PAGE Awards screenwriting competition. I have written countless pages.

Most importantly, despite getting distracted from time to time, I don’t want to stop writing.

The Minneapolis Underground Film Festival

In July, I finally received the final version of my short film, Smile, Baby. Once I had the final film, I submitted it to several film festivals and created an IMDb page for it.

Then I waited to hear back from the film festivals. I knew that my chances of getting into all five of the festivals that I had submitted to were low, and I was expecting that the first news I heard from any of them would be that my passion project was rejected.

At the end of August, I was surprised to see that I had received a message from the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. I was expecting to read something like, “Thank you for submitting your film. Unfortunately, we cannot accept it at this time.” Instead, I learned that the festival had accepted Smile, Baby and the film would be screened in early October!

I received the message on Monday and I had to get all of the materials–on set photos, a director’s statement, a screening version of the film–sent to them by Friday. It was a bit of a scramble, as I was working both jobs and preparing to write for the 48 Hour Film Festival that Friday, but I managed to get everything ready and sent it to them in time.

Eventually, they sent me the schedule for the festival, and since it coincided with my day off from work, I decided to drive up for it. Seeing as it was the world premiere for Smile, Baby as well, I figured it would be strange to not be there.

The day before the screening, I drove up to the Twin Cities after work. I stayed with my sister in St. Paul (thanks, JB) and the next day we headed over to the St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis. The theatre is in a cool, historic part of town, just across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis.

The St. Anthony Main Theatre

The St. Anthony Main Theatre

Excited and nervous

Inside, we got our tickets and went upstairs, where I grabbed some programs and posed for a red carpet photo.

 Posing on the red carpet!

Posing on the red carpet!

At my insistence, we had arrived extra early, and at first, my sister, her boyfriend, and I were the only ones there. Shortly before the program started, a few more people showed up. The festival organizer opened up the theatre and we went inside. A couple more people showed up. We all made up an audience of seven people, or eight, including the festival organizer in the projection booth.

Smile, Baby was the second film in the program of shorts, and as soon as it started, I got nervous. Even though the audience was small, it always makes me nervous to share my work, ultimately because I worry that no one will like it or understand the message. Of course, I’m still proud of my work and I think that Smile, Baby is a solid film. After it played, I was able to relax again and enjoy the rest of the films. Some had strong messages, others were funny, some needed a little more development, but they all had some redeeming qualities.

After my film program, I didn’t have any plans aside from driving home, so I hung around the theatre for a bit. The next showing was a documentary, and I was one of two people in the audience, which made me feel a little better about the audience that Smile, Baby got. After the documentary, I hung around again and struck up a conversation with the other audience member. She had a short film that was in the next program, and she had travelled from Chicago to see it. That made me feel better about driving up for one night. Alex, my new friend and I, posed for a red carpet photo together and then headed back into the theatre.

IMG_0512

Filmmaker Alex Heller and me

After that screening, I bid Alex farewell and headed home.

Even though I was only there for a short time, and the audience for my film was small, I am really happy that I got accepted into this festival and that Smile, Baby has officially been released to an audience. Going to the festival and posing on the red carpet made me feel like a legitimate filmmaker.

Check back for screening updates. This is only the beginning of Smile, Baby‘s festival run!

A Year After Film School

I have officially been out of film school for a year. (Well, a year and a month and a couple days. Who’s counting?) The burning question all my blog readers most certainly have is this: What have I done since I graduated from VFS last August?

After moving back to Wisconsin and doing…mostly nothing for a few months, I started writing current event articles for Geek Happy Network, teaching yoga at Prairie Fire Yoga, and working part-time as a manager at Teavana. It’s a packed schedule, but I dig it.

I found time to work on several film projects over the last few months. In April, I helped out as an assistant director on a local music video produced by Project Famous Films. In early August, I was a first camera assistant for a locally well-known web-series entitled The Ethical Slut. At the end of August, I co-wrote a short film for Madison’s 48-hour film project. Unfortunately, I was only able to be there for the writing and not for the filming due to my work schedule, but I had a lot of fun working with my co-writer, Max, and I think my team made a fun film, which you can watch by clicking here.

My short film, Smile, Baby got accepted into the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 8th at the St. Anthony Main Theatre! I am going to Minneapolis to see its world premiere and I am so excited! I have submitted the film to six other festivals and I look forward to showing it at many more.

Writing wise, I have not been as busy as I’d like to be, but I still have several projects that I am working on. I have a short film that I am working toward getting produced within the next few months. More on that later! I also have some feature films in the works. My biggest struggle is creating a writing regime for myself. I really need to start writing more often and not making excuses to not write, which is incredibly easy to do.

But those excuses end with this blog post. No more excuses. It’s time for me to eliminate distractions, put in the time, and let the words flow. It is time to write. Now and always.

What am I Doing with my Life?

I graduated from film school six months ago. So what have I been doing since then? Not much blogging, obviously.

I spent the first three months wandering around Vancouver, applying for jobs here and there, and writing when the mood struck me. This sounds boring, but it was actually pretty fun, considering I could see movies or hang out with my friends whenever I wanted to. We even had a couple of writing workshops, which was fun in addition to being useful.

After failing to secure a work permit (which is nearly impossible for Americans who graduate from VFS) I moved back home to good old Wisconsin at the end of November. The worst part was going from Vancouver’s tropical-seeming 30-degree fall to Wisconsin’s freezing dead of winter. But the weather wasn’t that hard to get used to since I’m a native and because it’s colder here, so we have better methods of staying warm: wool, fires, down-filled comforters.

I spent the first few weeks home reading and going to yoga classes. I also started making some film connections here, thanks in part to my cousin, Tony. I even made these nifty business cards!

Here's my card

Here’s my card

I’ve been reconnecting with old friends, which has been really nice. It’s so interesting to see someone after a number of years and notice how both of us have changed, yet we still have things in common.

I have also been writing, of course, though not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on a number of scripts at the moment, and in January I started writing articles for my friend Mike’s website, Geek Happy Network.

I got a part-time job selling tea a couple of weeks ago, and so far that’s been going really well. And in March, I’m going to start teaching yoga at a new studio in Prairie du Sac. I’m so excited!

Other than that, I’ve been seeing a lot of movies (gotta keep up on what’s out there) and getting ready to promote my short film “Smile, Baby.” A Madison production company, Frozen Stage Films, is going to host a screening of the film on March 15 at 2pm at the High Noon Saloon. After that, my lovely producer Amanda and I will be sending “Smile, Baby” out to film festivals. I’ll share more details as soon as I have them!

I’m also working on another short film that I’m going to make this year. I have a full script that I’ve rewritten several times, and I also have an actor who’s interested in being a part of it. So the next step is getting crew on board. I’ll share more details soon on that front as well.

So in conclusion, despite the cold and the snow, I’m doing things. And it feels good.

2014

Ah, the obligatory “looking back on the past year” post. On December 31, of all days.

In all seriousness, 2014 was an amazing year.

I spent most of the year at VFS, writing all kinds of projects. I saw my writing produced on two occasions–two episodes of a web series that I co-wrote with Dan Christensen came to life through the Film Production program, and I directed my short script “Smile, Baby.” And, in case you missed it in the last sentence, I directed for the first time! I also learned to produce through a new part of the VFS writing program, and with my team–Connor, Sarah-Jane, Michael, and Sasha–brought Sarah-Jane’s script Infect Me Not to life.

2014 was the year I got an IMDb profile.

I solidified a number of great friendships with my classmates in 2014. I met and worked with some very talented people.

This year, I wrote more than I’ve ever written before. I made my first film, and I helped to make several others. I submitted my feature screenplay and had at least one producer read it. He decided not to option it, but said it was “well-crafted.” I’ll take that!

2014 was the year I graduated from film school.

I gained confidence through these experiences. I know I can write a feature screenplay and finish it in a timely manner. I know all the work that goes into making a short film. I know that I can network and be smooth when I need to be. I have faith that my ideas are good. I know that I will write and make films wherever I go.

Happy New Year!