The American Way (circa 2013): we kill ourselves working an ungodly amount of hours (most of which are spent watching cat videos) while we try to "compete" with Japan. Or is it China? Is Russia still in the picture? Who cares. We're all a bunch of lemmings who are conned into spending The Best Years of Our Lives
attached to a computer screen doing something a well-trained baboon could do, while we sit on our growing asses, moving in departmental herds through the maze of bleak hallways, hunting for and grazing on that day's celebratory ice-cream cake, and using up our best creativity fantasizing about the different ways to off our co-workers.
And for what? Rent money. And why? Cause a steady bunch of competitive greedy assholes are graduating from business schools all over the country ever year and see the entire world as one big Scrabble game, human lives included. And we let them!
It was leaked this morning that Yahoo!
is eliminating the option of working from home starting in June. Marissa Mayer, the famous pregnant CEO (she already popped), believes that it will inspire more creativity and productivity when employees are working in closer proximity for longer hours together. Though on paper (re: back-lit monitor) this makes sense, I can't help but think of my own pet project wherein I've been studying my personal productivity and creativity. As an artist with few resources and time (see above: The American Way) it's important for me to know the exact ideal surroundings for creativity and the exact moment when it's time to quit for the day and rest/live. You may already know the answer, but suffice it to say, a bitterly cold office with crap lighting and uniform furnishings chosen by other people - plus the requirement to stay seated and stare at a computer monitor - does not an ideal creative environment make. Now, I've done what I can to change the feel of my allotted nine sq.ft. Please see decorative picture below:
Why, yes, that is baby blue ticking stripe fabric pinned to the wall by thumbtacks and a bird lamp purchased at TJ Maxx, so sweet of you to notice...
But the one thing that is literally killing me are the long hours. My patience for pretty much anything taps out at six hours (I would've never survived the first screening of von Stroheim's Greed
- I would've stood up, slapped that fucker, thrown up on him, and walked out to the nearest bar). On Monday I left work at 2:30 to go to acupuncture. Luckily, my lovely acupuncturist always runs an hour late, so I sat in the waiting room reading about lovely things in her books and magazines, smiling at how I couldn't possibly return to work until the next day. I had a blast. I felt energized - so energized that I stopped by 23rd street on a whim to obtain a spelt bagel and read a few pages of my book. I didn't crawl home like I usually do and opt to just eat hummus for dinner cause it's easiest. I felt alive, like part of the living! I felt so good that the next day I thought for sure I could even cook something when I got home from work! Here's what actually went down: at 2:30, six hours into my daily tenure, I was ready to get up and do something else. But wait a tick, my contract requires that I stay until 5:30 because the phone may ring at any moment!
Or there could be, *gasp*, a FedEx delivery to sign for, or someone may generally need their ass wiped by the support staff (re: me). So I tried to focus and do three more hours of work. I barely pushed out one email. I managed to half-heartedly organize something. And then I dragged myself to the gym where I had to cut my workout short because I didn't have the energy. And then I went home, collapsed on the couch and ate hummus for dinner.
No amount of ticking stripe fabric can save a genuinely creative person being worked to death by The American Way. And all those people who spend 1-2 days a week working from home? They're bright people who inherently know that should they be forced to spend more than 30 hours per week with people they have no familial relation to and didn't choose to marry, then their creativity and productivity actually suffers. So, in conclusion, and on behalf of all Yahoo!
employees...dear Marissa Mayer: I have an exhausted widened ass you can kiss.
Upon joining the Twitter community this morning (yes, I'm social media shy), I discovered that the big news of the day is that Disney has announced its first Latina princess. Then another headline catches my eye: apparently Castro had a stroke. (But I didn't consider that big news since he's been looking - and acting - like shit for decades and, let's face it, probably died and was stuffed thirty years ago, with his physical movements controlled by a complex electronic system.)
So let's talk about this princess!
Naturally, the only thing people can talk about is the color of her skin, hair, and eyes. As you can probably guess, those Latinas with light skin and light eyes (they exist) were pleased and commented, "She looks like me!" The Latinas that have dark skin and eyes commented (I paraphrase), "What a crock of shit, she doesn't look Latina at all." What was my reaction?
Where the hell are they getting the notion of a Latina princess when there was never a monarchy in any Spanish-speaking country in the New World? And, more importantly, when are we going to get past this princess shit?
Seriously folks, let's assume (as they say) that the whole reason they're making a Latina princess character is to serve as an example for little girls everywhere. And what example does that set? That you first have to be born physically beautiful, something totally out of your control. You don't study hard for that shit. And second, you have to be born rich, or just drop dead gorgeous enough to buy your way into being rich...through marriage, obviously. And who said dowries are out of style? They're called boobs. And third, and I'm going on a limb here, you have to be vapid/demure enough to attract a man to "rescue" you from the meaningless existence of, what, being a woman? A non-rich woman? Unmarried? I'm actually at a loss here. What on earth is so wrong about just being a normal gal? And when do we get to the part in our society where we can expect "role-models" for girls to be like, "hey, I freaking aced my SATs!" Or, "fuck state college, I'm aiming for Harvard, bitches!" I'd kind of enjoy a role model like that -- I'd even watch it myself.
I know what Juanita thinks (follow her on Twitter!). But what do you all think?
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far! We're nearly on schedule: only $1,000 left to get to 25%. Please help us spread the word
so we can get there by Wednesday (the quarter mark).
Making this film is the hardest and most important thing I've ever done (taking the SATs is a close second, which tells you something about our warped education system). Here’s why:
1. White Alligator
is my first film. I do not yet have a proven track record or
fancy-pants introductions to big studios.
2. It takes a lot of money to make a movie, but you need a track record to get said money (See #1.).
3. I've had to bleed my friends and family dry in the worst recession of my (admittedly short) lifetime. With more and more celebrities using Kickstarter
for their projects, we newbies are fading into the wallpaper.
4. The networking is killing me. (I'm naturally shy.)
But you know what? It’s all worth it. And here’s why:
In the process of making this film, a lot of people have been telling me their stories. When you take on a cause, you become an ear for the unheard voices. Although it is difficult for me to listen to these stories (I’m awfully sensitive), I know how vital it is for them to be told. Because injustice thrives on silence. When you are not heard, you start to lose a sense of your own humanity. And then you're toast.
Here is the latest story, which just happened to one of our cast members.
She was in an acting class last week. Halfway through the class, the instructor separated the students into groups based on nationality. I have no idea what he was trying to get across, except maybe trying to teach them their "types.” (I hope a shudder just went through you when you read that: actors routinely get "typed".) She was the only Spanish speaker, and when she introduced herself, the teacher had the gall to ask her if she was legal. Later, when she asked if there were many opportunities in film for a woman her age, he said that of course there were because everyone else her age is dead.
This is a teacher. A teacher. And this woman paid her hard-earned money to take this class. And these things happen all the time.
She called to thank me for making this film. I thanked her for sharing her story with me.
We met our goal!
Thank you all so much for your generosity and amazing dedication in seeing this project to fruition!
You will soon be getting an email from Kickstarter requesting your mailing address. If you're anything like me, you will immediately become incredibly paranoid and question why anybody needs your address, and possibly ponder whether you should move to the Amazon just to make sure nobody finds you. Fret not, however: they are only asking for the address so I can send you all the rewards you have chosen for your contributions. None of your personal information will ever be shared.
Now that our Kickstarter campaign has finished, we are working hard to raise the remaining funds needed so that we can start production as soon as possible. White Alligator will most likely be shot this fall, and I will certainly keep everyone abreast of our milestones. If you'd like, for more updated information, you can sign up to "like" the Facebook page that we started specifically for this project (note: this is separate from the page Kickstarter started for us that you all have already liked). Not only will your "like" help us with eventual distribution, but it's a great way to stay connected with the White Alligator message forum. (I will continue posting interesting articles on relevant topics, as I have done with my Kickstarter updates.)
We have also revamped the film's website, www.whitealligatorthemovie.com
, and have included all your names as our backers. Yes, I drew those alligators by myself on Microsoft Paint. And yes, I'm currently looking for higher meaning in my life.
And on that note...
In the news this week: Jane White, Broadway and film actress, daughter of Walter White, the founder of the NAACP, died July 24. She had a nice little write up in the NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/08/arts/jane-white-actress-and-singer-who-rebelled-against-racial-straitjacketing-dies-at-88.html?_r=2&hpw
A quote that caught my eye was: "I've just always been too 'white' to be 'black' and too 'black' to be 'white,' which, you know, gets to you after a while, particularly when the roles keep passing you by," taken from an interview in 1968. I guess this struck a cord, because it is my own story, except replace 'latino' with 'black', and you have White Alligator
in a nutshell. I would have never known who Jane White was if my husband hadn't sent me this article. But everyone knew who Paul Newman was when he died and he was on the cover of many magazines and mourned for years after. What was the difference, other than one was allowed to have a career because he didn't stradle two racial worlds and "confuse" people?
Another noteworthy article our director sent my way (subject of her email to me: The Help needs our help...): http://www.indiewire.com/article/2011/08/10/critics_notebook_how_movies_like_the_help_reinforce_hollywoods_race_problem
I read this book one boring Summer when I was temping. My thoughts: emotionally sucks you in and fun to read, but we've heard it all before. I was a bit shocked (but not really) to see it become a film so soon after the book's publishing. And it's funny, but one of my first thoughts when I saw the film's poster was, "what if Viola Davis wants to wear the pretty dress for a change?" (...and stop being the maid). I mean, honestly, it's a period piece being shot in 2011, we can all suspend our disbelief. Emma Stone's character could have easily been played by Zoe Saldana, and we all would have gotten what was going on.
And finally, for the hat trick: http://www.examiner.com/soap-opera-in-riverside/former-young-and-the-restless-star-francesco-quinn-dead-at-48
Now, not to be morbose and include another death in this email, but this news of Francesco Quinn's early death caught my eye for one reason: the article states that he was nominated for an ALMA award (American Latino Media Arts Award), the "Latino Oscars." The thing is, though, Mr. Quinn was actually Italian. Pause for dramatic effect. So, should we then rename these awards, GDMA (Generally Darker-Skinned-Than-Others Media Awards), if that's really what they're going for? When has Italian been considered Latino? Should we include Greeks in that grouping? And while we're at it, let's throw in Turkish people, why not, it's geographically close enough. Is Japan too far?
There is indeed a point to all these articles. I say, if the media has had trouble in the past with actors' ethnicities, and Hollywood has had trouble following its own rules on this front, let's just forget the whole thing. Why don't we take ethnicity out of the casting picture, shall we?
(Originally published on Kickstarter on June 27
I had a tough week that culminated with an entertainment industry professional requesting that I do black face.
Let me explain. I happened to be at an audition for a Spanish speaking project, a rare opportunity due to my white skin. As I sat there going over the material, the monitor approaches us, humiliated, with a small jar of bronzer and some cotton pads. He says to us, "they want you to put this on before you go in." I could tell the boy was just a messenger, and he himself was horrified at the request. Nevertheless, I looked at him like he had three heads and I was about to eat one of them. He apologized and walked away silently. The other girls and I tried to laugh it off and go back to our material.
You know how I was able to laugh it off? Because it's happened before
. I have had a manager ask if I can wear darker foundation to appear more Hispanic (by the way, there is a scene in White Alligator
comprised of this experience).
This happened after I already had a friend stare at me in shock for a few minutes after I told him I was born in San Juan, and
I heard another industry professional explain to an actor taking direction that a Hispanic character's motives for cheating on his wife were "cultural". All in a week. And this is the norm. I took the edge off by treating myself to the Klimt exhibit at the Neue Gallerie on Sunday.
I leave you with this fascinating article about a man who's lived in the US his entire life (like me) and is still trying to fit in, just like you and me. Hell, at the end of the road, we're all in the same boat...pursuing the American Dream.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html?_r=4&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all
(Originally published on Kickstarter on June 21)
First of all, thank you all for pledging to make this movie happen! I'm so overwhelmed with the positive response this has gotten, and I'm forever grateful.
Something interesting I've noticed so far... Since I launched this project last Thursday (16% already in only 5 days!), I have gotten so many emails and posts on Facebook from people telling me that they too are white alligators. I love this. I've inadvertently coined a new phrase! Let the white alligator be our symbol for anyone who falls outside "the box"!
This brings to mind something a very wise man once said to me (okay, it was Larry Fleming, nutritionist extraordinaire, during a Little Lads cooking class, and he addressed the entire class, but whatever...). He said that in this country, the consumer controls the product. Yes, at the time he was encouraging us to demand true whole wheat bread with no nutrients taken out and replaced by wood chips for fiber...but the lesson was that he was encouraging us to demand what we want, and take no substitutions! If we want to truly see a change in this country, hell, let's demand it! Yes, I dare write that films can change the world. This is why I do what I do. Let's demand more acceptance of minorities in lead roles. Let's make movies where we're all actually equal, and the asian isn't stuck always playing the best friend. Let films be an actual slice of life, where we have every age, race and creed comingling on screen, just as we do in real life. Quick poll: Has anyone ever said when meeting a "minority" (which is actually the majority, let's face it, this is America), I'm sorry, you don't fit into what I think my intended demographic wants, so I can't actually converse with you. Answer: I think not. All of these Hollywood rules are all of a sudden sounding ridiculous, aren't they?
I'll leave you with this: a friend wrote to me saying that my film sounded a lot like Hollywood Shuffle. I looked the film up. I had never heard of it. It came out in 1987 and made quite a bit of money, putting Robert Townsend on the map, and some argue, started the indie movement. I read about the film, and he was saying the same exact thing I'm saying. Twenty-four years ago. How long does it take a society to learn a lesson? I guess we'll find out...