In His Footsteps goes to Boston!

I had nearly given up on the film festival circuit. I’d submitted to some, but the wait is so long. So I just forgot about all of the submissions! I’ve been busy working on a new script, this time one that is NOT autobiographical – pure fiction – but still filled with food and travel. And then out of the blue I received an email from the Boston Film Festival telling me me In His Footsteps is an Official Selection! I read the message on my blackberry but didn’t quite believe it until I got home and could read it in full size on my laptop. My film’s first festival! Hooray!

But as everything associated with my film has two sides, the happy side (having accomplished it) and the sad side (the fact that it is about my journey since my son died), so too is Boston a mixed bag. My son and I used to live there. It is from there we moved to London. And Boston is the airport I flew into so many times to take the drive out to Amherst where he went to school at Hampshire College. It is hard to believe he will not be with me when I’m there. Or I guess I can say with a little bit of faith, that maybe he will be with me in spirit when my film, that he helped me make in so many ways, is screened.

I needed a traveling companion and Susana, my fellow road warrior and camera girl, can’t make the trip. So I did the only thing I could think of – I bought a new pair of shoes! Well, actually I bought two pairs – one last week when I was in Madrid visiting Susana, and one this morning. My new shoes will travel with me and help me through any dark moments. They will hang out with me while people are watching the film and be there with me for the red carpet and the Q&A session later. My new, beautiful shoes will make me smile.

About 3 years ago I was in Cannes for a music conference, the first one I attended after my son died. A guy we knew walked up to me and gave me a big hug. And then, oddly, he took me across the street to sit on a bench facing the sea and proceeded to give me a message from Shaka; he was channeling. I don’t know if I believe in any of that stuff, but one thing he said rang true. After he told me he “saw” a red pen and Shaka encouraging me to write, he told me that Shaka wanted me to go out and buy some new shoes! I guess it was his way of telling me to be happy. Last time he was in Cannes he bought a fabulous pair of Miu Miu boots and was over the moon about them. So, I chose to believe this message from beyond – it just might be true. Why not?

The Boston Film Festival begins on the 20th of September and In His Footsteps  screens at 2:15 pm on Saturday the 22nd. Tickets are available here.

Running with a crowd

The film is nearing its completion! Phew! This has been a long, hard road. Yet it has been rewarding. It all started with a road trip, which, like other journeys, had many detours and lots of surprises. A journey, like a vision quest and the tribal ritual of going off into the desert alone, is a perfect metaphor for inner transformation. My experience, like those before me, showed me big darkness before the dawn. The emptiness gave birth to something. The creative process, like the healing process, is usually something that must be done alone. At times during the editing of this film I felt completely alone. I was ready to give up. I got tired of putting myself through the pain of looking at the past in order to get back into the present and to create a vision for the future. And then at the very darkest hour, which happened a few weeks ago, I took a little break. By stepping back, I began to see light at the end of the tunnel.

For the last few weeks I’ve been working really hard with the editor, who lives 8 hours away in time and 10,000 miles away in distance. I think we are nearly there. And since the success of my Kickstarter campaign I have had the support of all of the new friends I met during that incredible 30 days. I may not speak to them, but knowing that they contributed to the successful completion of the film makes me feel as if I have been reunited with my tribe. I am coming out of the desert into the warm arms of my people, those who felt this story resonated with them so much that they became a part of the film’s team. I am so grateful.

The journey has been long. But I think I now have a lot more to share than I once thought I had. This is a personal film, but one I hope has some universal messages of hope. I did it for me. I needed to see hope in action. I now know my prescription for getting through hard times is clear; it is the path of action. It may not work for everyone, but it has worked well for me. I get up in the morning and engage in something, anything… sometimes something small and sometimes something bigger (read a blog post I wrote about this on my other blog). Today as I come out of the desert I have committed to the ritual of sharing my experiences with others. I’m now ready to begin sharing my work with others and have begun the process of submitting the film to festivals. I’ll let you know how that goes, but for now it is the action that counts.

I was once part of family unit of two – me and my son. Now that I am a family of one, I have needed to enlarge my family to include you. I started this journey alone, but that is no longer the case. I’m now running with the crowd, a crowd of wonderful, generous people like you. Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

Coming out in a crowd (funding)

Talking about intimate subjects is difficult for most of us. Even though I am from California, the state of peace and love, I find it hard to be vulnerable with people, especially but not exclusively, strangers. It probably doesn’t help that I live in a less huggie country now (the UK) and have lost some of those “sharing” muscles. So when I decided to start blogging about my film, an intimate story of my emotional journey during the last three years, to complete strangers, I was terrified! And maybe for the first time I got a glimpse at what coming out might mean to those who use the term to talk about telling the world about another very intimate thing, their sexuality. We all worry about how people see us. None of us want to be criticized, objectified, patronized or rejected.

I am a happy person by nature, someone who tends to focus on the positive and what I can do rather than what I can’t do. But things aren’t always so black and white. I think Shel Silverstein gets it right in his children’s poem where he asks the zebra, “Are you black with white stripes? Or white with black stripes?” In making this film, because it is about my dark journey back into the light, I have been more of the black zebra with white stripes, mostly a sad person with some happy moments. Sharing this film with thousands of strangers exposes my darker moments, and makes me feel stripped naked for the whole world to see. And I don’t like people seeing my pain and sorrow any more than I’d want anyone to see any of my character defects. But it is all in the film, in living color.

I was a successful business person and a happy and fulfilled mom all of my life. Then everything changed. This is nothing to be ashamed of, but it often makes people uncomfortable. However, if I’m ever going to get back to a life more recognizable as my own, I need to live with what others might think of or feel about this journey. Documenting the process of coming back into the world of the happy is partly for me, as a reminder, but mostly for others who might take the seemingly insurmountable journey from a big loss to a life worth living in spite of it.

I thought I could fund the full film myself but I wasn’t able to do so. Whatever financial resources I had went up in smoke with my company. I know I will eventually bounce back, but for now I have to reach out to everyone I know… or knew … or hope to know… and ask for help. This is hard. I still want to be seen as someone who is happy and successful. I think I am, mostly, or will be again. But I can’t finish this film without help. We all need help from time to time. And this is my time. I’m pretty sure that this film is the first step back into another success; I’m very proud of how far I’ve come and how the nearly finished film is looking.

So, there I said it. I need your help. I’ve found safety in this crowd. I know that someone out there will hear me, that I will find other members of my tribe among the strangers who cross my path on the internet, others who are looking for a way out of the darkness and into the light. I’m grateful that my crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter and the internet, through which I can share my stories, have given me an even stronger voice. And sharing my story, as I have done in my film, “In His Footsteps,” has enlarged my circle of friends. One of my new, “viritual” friends coincidentally just forwarded me a link to an inspiring talk she gave about coming out about domestic violence. Our stories are different but coming out in a crowd has shown us both that whatever our darkness, the sunlight comes from sharing with others.

Lost and found in a crowd (funding)

When bad things happen a lot of us tend to isolate, to feel alone, to imagine there is no one else who can feel our pain. Even if we want to be around people, many don’t want to be around us, imagining as they do, that if they come too close they may catch our contagious disease – our heart sickness.

A very bad thing happened to me just over three years. At first I was in total shock, the loss not completely sinking in… for a long time. During the early months I carried on with my daily activities, which at the time meant running a startup digital entertainment company that was just about to launch. I had employees to think of. And investors. And the dream that I’d been working on for several years, the dream I was lucky enough to share with my son for two years. When my 32 year old son died I was sure that I died too. But years of habit, the 14 hour days I was used to working, took the reins and I moved forward on my journey to build that company.

I remember walking along Portobello Road in those early weeks, not far from my home. I was literally lost in the crowd, and not just on those busy streets packed with visiting tourist. I was a stranger in my own land now too. No one saw me. I was a form without shape shuffling along, barely able to walk. But it wasn’t just on that busy road. The people I worked with politely ignored my tragedy, I’m sure with good intentions. And other than the interactions that were necessary for work related communication, investor communication, or new business meetings, my busy life was filled with enormous silence. The friends I thought I had, the ones I’d go to films or dinners with, all but disappeared. Many of them were parents and the thought of losing a child was just too uncomfortable; it meant bad things could happen to them so it was safer to avoid me, the reminder of this truth.

Not long after I lost my son, I was forced to wind up my business. It was a victim of the banking crisis that started, strangely, in the same week my son died. There were no more crowds to hide in. It was no longer even possible to hide there in that busy life I once had. So I sat on the couch for nearly two years. I was busy there; I filled my days with writing. I finished a book about the first year after my loss on the one-year anniversary. Then I wrote a screenplay. And finally started a documentary. It was the accidental outcome of feeling too impatient to write another screenplay that may or may not ever be made. I wanted to be more active. So I went on the road in search of something, I wasn’t sure what. And I filmed everything. And didn’t stop filming. Now I’m editing this film that spans about 6 months in the life of someone who does everything to come out of the darkness, back out into the world of light.

In order to finish the film that I put every extra penny I’ve had over the last year, I needed to go back into the world to look for help. And now I wish I’d had the energy to leave my couch earlier in my healing process, but I didn’t have the energy. Maybe someone having a hard time and reading this post will find the will to reach out after hearing the results of my recent reaching out.

Just over a week ago I took a huge leap into the big unknown. I’d heard of musicians using crowd-funding, people they knew and complete strangers, to fund projects that had little chance of becoming commercial successes. I need $20,000 to finish editing this film. It is a full length documentary that I hope will be widely distributed because there are many like me who have had bad things happen to them, and like me, they need to see living proof that life is not over when we think it is. In order to reach this ambitious goal I have gone to every single person I’ve known in my life, people I haven’t had any contact with since high school and earlier, people I went to college with. I’ve also contacted people I’ve only ever done business with, people who used to read my provocative blog on the entertainment industry. And I’ve gone out to complete strangers. In the first week of my Kickstarter campaign, a platform that uses the power the crowd to help creative project get funded, I’ve raised more than $3,000. I have 3 weeks left to reach my goal or I cannot collect the money.

What I’ve received so far is much more important than the money to finish my film. People I don’t even know have written to me the kindest, most loving and supportive emails of encouragement and appreciation. I have literally found what I’ve needed so badly these last three lonely years in my interactions with this crowd. Reaching out and sharing my journey has touched other people and they have come back to share their stories and their love. If you have been touched by this post, or the story about my film, “In His Footsteps,” please consider contributing to it. Or you can help in another way by simply letting others know about it. And if you need support in going through something you don’t think you can handle, reach out to me, or other friends or strangers. I think you will be surprised at what you receive.

Impatience

Having decided to practice what I preach, to use the internet to its highest and best use, I’m sitting here waiting for Amazon to verify my company’s bank account so that I can launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the finishing of our first film. I went back and forth for a couple of weeks, researching the best platforms and techniques for crowd-funding and talking to the people who are helping finish the film. First I decided to put off any funding initiatives until the film was finished (but then how would I manage to finish it?). Some people said, it’s too close to Christmas and everyone will be too skint (read “broke” in American) to donate any money to this. My script doctor said that I’d be way too busy to manage all of the communication required to make the launch of the fundraising a success. I listened to both perspectives and did the opposite.

I’m a counter phobic. If something scares me I tend to run toward it rather than away from it. But this time I considered the arguments carefully. Christmas is a happy time for many people, but not all. This campaign about the film will not doubt cross the path of many people who are not happy at this time of the year, who have had some kind of a loss (through death, job, marriage or relationship) or who have unhappy memories of fighting families at Christmas or holidays. Holidays tend to trigger buried sadness. I reasoned that if I can post some clips from the footage of this film that show how it is possible to get through hard days then what better time than now? As for the concern that managing the communication required for this project at the same time as continuing to edit the film might be too much… well, I’m doing this film because of my need to be part of something bigger, part of a community. And starting to communicate with people now is what I need for the run up to the holidays. I hope we can all be generous and think about making a little difference in a lot of people’s lives.

And I will always be impatient. I’ve lost a lot, but not that. Why not do today and right this minute what could be put off? So, while I’m waiting for Amazon Payments (a welcome competitor to paypal) I’m writing to you!

Day 1!

Coming out into the world as a filmmaker after having been an internet entrepreneur is a bit daunting. But there is no time like the present – literally. It is almost as if the past never existed. Memories serve a purpose but they are not really what propels us forward headlong into what we never even dreamed possible. We need strong feelings to motivate us to do something, to take action, to find the power. Sometimes that power comes from pain. Day 1 is a celebration of what is possible after bad things happen.