I've been in a bit of a limbo recently. This ordinarily drives me insane (and did at first), but lately I've been realizing how good it's been for me.
I'm waiting for a few things: for some contracts to be drawn up, for our poster to be completed, for the branding of our new production company, Morning Dove Films, and more. Most of these things are out of my control (uncomfortable) so I've been forced to sit. And think. (And look for a new day job.)
I recently read this killer book, Dying to Be Me. Now, I'm a super fan of New Age books and "paranormal" stuff (love that classification by B&N), so I'm already inclined to love this woman's story. But how it went beyond the normal “I-died-saw-God-and-came-back” book was the wisdom that the writer took the time to learn and share. She didn't publish this book until five years after her near death experience. It took her five years to absorb what happened, adjust to being alive again, learn from the experience, and be willing to interpret it for millions of people. See, she knew that being on the New York Times Best Seller List was in her future (she was all-knowing for about an hour, after all), so she knew she needed to be ready for that kind of attention.
The part I found inspiring – and relevant to this filmmaking process – is when she talked about the Universe giving you exactly what you're ready for exactly when you're ready for it. I completely understood and felt a weight lifted when I read that. Do I know that someday I'll be making films back to back and be a household name? Absolutely. I was born knowing it. Am I ready for that to happen immediately? Probably not, truth be told. It's become an enormous shift to go from being able to walk out of your apartment in bunny slippers and dirty hair to get a tub of hummus and not have anyone give a shit (a weekly occurrence with me), to realizing you need to slap on some lipstick, a pair of shades to hide the lack of eye makeup, a hoodie to "blend", and a pair of stilettos for the paparazzi before you reach for that hummus tub...and better make it a small tub if you don't want to be on the cover of US Weekly with a pic of your cellulite that every single person has but somehow is not allowed on movie stars because what, their skin is made of plastic? I don't know.
Anyway, there's just a lot of details. And I get that. And right now I'm comfortable presenting my film for say, a hundred people and speaking about it afterwards. And when I'm ready to speak to a crowd of two hundred, that crowd will present itself. And that's the perfect beauty of the Universe. And I love that. I trust in that.
As an actor, I've met a lot of people who wanted to blame me for not being an "overnight success." In fact, most actors get blamed for this from every corner: expensive classes that want to convince you that you're not Brad Pitt because you're not marketing yourself right and, wouldn't you know it, this class for $1,000 can teach you how to do that. (Fill in the necessary blanks for a variety of con artists trying to "teach" bullshit skills.) In my case, it was several acting teachers I had early on that would always tell me, "there's no reason you couldn't be the lead in Titanic!" – as if it were my fault. (Turns out there were several reasons, the first being that I was a 15-year-old boarding school nerd while that was filmed.) Meanwhile, I had just started, hadn't even begun to learn a technique, and could barely slate my name believably.
If overwhelming success had come to me at that age, or any age before I was ready for it, I can guarantee you, I would be sharing a cell with Lindsay Lohan. And there would undoubtedly be a picture on the cover of US Weekly, but instead of a tub of hummus and cellulite, it would be my drug overdose meltdown.
So I am sitting here now, taking it all in, and preparing for the next step – whatever that is. And I am trusting that it will grow organically from my own development. And that's really all you can do in this crazy world, isn't it?
My protein or yours? Trick question.
Dear Attending Physicians,
I am vegan. My husband is vegan. About half our friends are vegan. I am 32 years old and I have not keeled over yet. In addition, my cholesterol has not gone above 160, I have not had my bones break off one by one (as you threatened they would when I gave up milk four years ago), and I have definitely not suffered from protein deficiency.
Which in fact raises my question to you: have you ever seen anyone suffer from protein deficiency, outside of medical journals reporting on starving children in Africa? Cause I have a news flash for you:
this is America. We eat on average 160 grams of protein a day. The recommended dosage? About 50 grams a day. Which explains a lot. A fuck load, in fact. Have you read Dr. T. Colin Campbell's seminal work, The China Study? Cause you know what, I did. And I'm not even a doctor. So what are you doing sitting around not reading it?
In said book (plus several others) you'll find the real history of our protein obsession: two egomaniacal white-supremacist 19th-century buffoons practicing pure quackery at astounding prices and throwing in sexual politics for good measure.
When you snap out of it and join the world of the living, you'll find that every single food group contains protein. Obviously, some higher than others, like beans. But in the end, as long as you don't eat, say, 50 lbs. of eggplant as your only dish all day every day, you're gonna find that it evens out. A couple of almonds here, some kale and swiss chard there, cup of beans, some brown rice and maybe a banana with honey for dessert ought to do the trick. And voila, you'll get your protein fill without putting yourself at risk for death by heart attack (or something worse) at the ripe old age of 28.
So the next time I'm in your office for a recommended yearly check-up (which I take very seriously, thank you), when I mention I'm vegan and you ask me if I'm getting enough protein, I will point you to this letter if I don't accidentally slap you first (my mood depending). And when you ask for extra tests on my blood work because I'm vegan, it needs must be asked why you're not performing those extra tests for meat-eaters. Because when was the last time you saw your precious burger-ingesting children chow down
on piles of spinach and sweet potatoes (rich in calcium, beta-carotene and the recent catch-word antioxidants)? And if you seriously think dead cow flesh is going to contain adequate levels of necessary vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants, you need to rethink the process. Think hard.
I will from now on only be taking questions regarding my protein when you walk the walk you've been talking. Yes, doc, I want to see you shoveling fistfuls of kale and quinoa. Because it's your job. Till then,
have you checked your protein counts lately? Cause frankly, I'm concerned.
Viviana Leo, et. al.
has been a hot catch-phrase in commercial and print castings for the past five years or so. Fancy words, but all it means is generally light brown skin color, preferably with a slight almond shape to the eyes. It stems from a profit-driven ad world more desperate to avoid offending anyone than interested in including
everyone. A similar trend has gotten a strangle-hold on Hollywood (except only among "supporting players," not the stars driving the film.)
I was thinking about this term today. Thinking about how I kind of do fit into this category, though I don't show it on my skin or physical features. I was raised in a Puerto Rican household in various parts of the United States. I speak two languages fluently, but am left with no specific culture I can comfortably call my own. In a room of white Americans, I am seen as different because I speak Spanish, despite my upbringing in America. ("Exotic" is a term many people use when first meeting me, which really pisses me off: is Palm Beach exotic
And in a room full of Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, I am still seen as an outsider because I didn't grow up on the island. I know the places they talk about, and I (mostly) get the cultural references, but I don't have a three dimensional vision, just a fuzzy photograph swimming around my head.
So I am left looking for a cultural home - one beyond the cottages of 19th century American history, where I feel I fit right in. (I have a French friend raised in Utah that describes this same feeling: not welcome in Salt Lake City and not welcome in Paris. He opted for a Ph.D in Classics at Harvard. Sensing a trend?)
I was captivated today by an interview
in Filmmaker Magazine with Ava DuVernay
about her journey to self-distribute her film Middle of Nowhere
. Everything she was saying about marketing "brown films" (her words) and finding an international market for them spoke to me. I was like, "YES! I must get in touch with this woman! I want to learn!" But then it occurred to me: everything she was saying - in fact her company's mission statement - is all about getting African-American films out there. And as well she should; the African-American community needs an trailblazer and champion like her. So I began wondering where I should turn with my film. To the powerful white producers, who may tell me they don't "do" Hispanic films? Or to the Hispanic community, who might not really "get" my film because it may lack standard Hispanic themes? I think that anyone can relate to the movie - and that anyone can relate to me. Why are we dividing ourselves?
There's this guy at my job who comes every week to empty out the bins for shredding documents. It's my job to take him around to all the floors. He's a really nice guy, lives in New Jersey, loves hockey, and hates the snow. He's also Hispanic. And he is thrilled
, gleeful even, whenever I sign the paperwork and he can see that my legal last name is Rodriguez. It's because he thinks I'm one of "them". (I get this a lot as a Puerto Rican living in NYC.) And most of the time it makes me happy to see him happy. But when the mood catches me, I start to think: if we were trapped in a room together, we probably wouldn't have much to talk about. I'm not a ray of sunshine, I don't live in New Jersey, I hate hockey, and I love
the snow. All these topics failing, we can always talk about being Hispanic, though, right? At least that's the idea. "La patria
, woo-hoo!" But the truth is that beyond my grandmother's stories of San Juan in the '40s, and feeling teary-eyed whenever I hear En Mi Viejo San Juan
, I've never really lived there. I don't know what that's like. And truth be told, neither has he.
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?
In the spirit of an exercise my friend JP did some time ago (where he sent an email to everyone he knew to try to get in touch with the Clintons and Oprah Winfrey regarding a world peace conference...and actually did!), I am sending a mass message to see if any of you can get me in touch with Salma Hayek or her production company, Ventanarosa.
The reason? I think White Alligator is right up her alley and Ventanarosa has quite the proven track record (and we're a little film with big dreams - we need some help).
Salma Hayek has been saying for years what White Alligator is saying. Just this past Sunday my husband hands me an article he cut out for me from the Metro
newspaper that quoted Salma's recent interview with German Vogue as her saying, "I hardly had any memories of what it is to be a Mexican woman; my life is completely different now," in response to how it felt to film Traffic ten years ago.
A Latino blog named Guanabee.com took issue, stating, "What did Salma mean by basically saying she forgot what it's like to be a Mexican woman? That she's too French and rich for our blood?" I then took mild offense to Guanabee's comments, thinking to myself, "What do you
mean by basically assuming that all Mexicans are poor and are unable to learn any other language but Spanish?" In fact, Salma's
father is half Lebanese and I believe she grew up speaking both French and Spanish in her household. He was a wealthy businessman specializing in oil.
Yes, a wealthy, cultured Mexican/Lebanese businessman - now what is so strange
and unusual about that? The answer is absolutely nothing. But you obviously
won't find that portrayal of a Mexican in any movies coming out soon.
And I sat there at my piano and took a sip of my almond milk cappuccino in my UWS one bedroom and considered this Guanabee quote. I thought to myself: would they consider me not to be a Puerto Rican because I play the piano and am
vegan? Are cappuccinos and the enjoyment of said drink too French for a Puerto
Rican? And am I at fault because I learned French in high school and college? Is it too much for them that I even went to college? What exactly would make me a Puerto Rican in their eyes?
The truth is there are Puerto Ricans poorer than me. And there are Puerto Ricans richer than me. And there always will be a wide range of Puerto Ricans and any other ethnicity for that matter.
WARNING: THIS MAY BE CONSIDERED CONTROVERSIAL
Last night, I was the unfortunate witness to a Facebook bullying and criticism of my dear cousin's "lifestyle."
He's gay, people, let's just say it, he's openly gay with no regrets. Moving on.
So what happened was he posted something about Chick-fil-A on Facebook, and
another (somewhat estranged) family member started attacking him simply for being gay. This bully was attacking a family member, someone he grew up playing
with as young boys on the island of Puerto Rico.
How did we all get here? Where a family member is attacking another?! At one point, someone said to this gay-hating cousin, "How could you say these things?
You're a minority!" Thing is, he didn't see himself as a minority even though he's Puerto Rican (it's a small island). As a white, heterosexual, Christian male, he considered himself in the majority and with the power to bully "everybody else."
How fascinating. He could not see his own vulnerability and therefore was unable to develop empathy. This man exists in a bubble where he is king and what he says goes.
You usually see this kind of behavior mostly in...well, kings. Or that modern version of royalty, the 1%.
What's funny to me is the reason that the controversial 1% wins so many battles is that they have managed to convince the 99% that they are all separated into a very careful hierarchy of importance. American, white, Christian, heterosexual, male is the highest level in this hierarchy, right? Then deductions follow according to religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, skin color and sex.
But if you start adding up all the possible minorities - women (ha), Jews, Muslims, Asians, Indians, LGBT, little people, blonds, paraplegics, Irish, Atheists, etc. - you're going to find that the minorities are in the majority. And the reason they get pushed around so much is that they've bought into the "us" versus "them" model that the kings have sold us over the centuries. But instead, if we adopt the "there but for the grace of God go I" model, we become powerful and plentiful and there is no stopping any of us. We will not be bullied, we will not be harassed or marginalized. We will stand together, ALL OF US, and win the war.
This is not just a movie. This is a movement.
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.
Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho! This! This is just absolute gold:
Seriously--brownface coming from a well known Hollywood A-lister? Come on, it just doesn't get any better! Up until yesterday I thought I had coined the term "tanface" in my script, but apparently, it's a common phenomenon. Which means...well...god help us, frankly. The internet response to this ridiculously racist ad means that many people out there are aware of what just happened--not just me and my compadres at those Spanish-speaking auditions when they've asked us to put on darker foundation (see earlier blogs for full story).
This kind of brings to mind the responsibility an actor has to not participate in this shit. Quick short story: last summer I went out to support a friend's film that was lucky enough to secure distribution at a decent indie theater. I was excited for my friend as I settled into the seat to watch his big debut. About 3/4 of the way through the movie (yes, it took that long for the horrifically clumsy plot to unravel), I realized that the movie I was watching was about rape. But it was more specifically about a rapist and how hard the world has been on him. Friends, I'm not making this up. I realized this was the case when my friend had a monologue about how bad he feels about raping his sister and how he just wishes he could have a second shot. Um...
You know what, you get it, I don't even have to elaborate. Sometimes the imaginary rant of what I might say to something like this speaks louder than the actual rant.
I left that theater so angry, I was howling on the subway. And the whole sordid long trip uptown was filled with my shouting out loud, "Whyyyyy would he dooooo this?!" The situation really wasn't helped with the drunk German tourists that kept trying to sit in my lap--I swear to god this really happened, when I walked into my apartment, my husband was like, "what the hell happened to you?"
I was obviously angry at these filmmakers for making such a morally reprehensible film. But I was possibly even more angry at my friend for making it with them. I think there's a tendency for actors to get away with saying, "well, I'm just an actor," when faced with their participation in something that is offensive to many groups of people. I'm sure Ashton said the same thing. Well I say, no darling, you're an artist and with that comes responsibility.
So, I'm logging onto the website today to announce the greatest thing ever: We wrapped our first week of shooting last Saturday! It was so fantastic! Every scene is its own gem, and the feeling on the set was so exciting--we all know that this movie will not only make people laugh until they cry, but that it will assuredly change the world. Which is why we're all making movies, isn't it? Well, I am.
So I walk into my (only for now) day job this morning. There is no almond milk in the kitchen, which pisses me off because I was in the mood for a cappuccino. And when I walk outside to go buy one instead of make it myself, it has started to rain. Hard.
Nothing sucks more than NYC in the rain. Why? Because not only do I have to carry my purse, gym bag and whatever paperwork I'm working on (+ whatever library book I'm reading cause I don't have a kindle yet and I have a masochistic tendency to read 1000-page biographies), I also have to get my shoes and jeans wet as I walk from subway to work and back, AND carry an umbrella with the free hand I so don't have.
So I'm feeling glum and I just turn around and go back to my desk and settle for soy milk (ugh). I go to cracked.com cause I just need a laugh. And I read the funniest article about the most disturbing sexual encounters in comic book history:http://www.cracked.com/article_19786_the-6-creepiest-sexual-encounters-in-comic-book-history_p2.html
Which cheers me up, but I just can't help noticing something horrific. And it's not that Robin sleeps with his sister (though that in itself is quite a gem). It's this Tarantula chick. And the fact that she rapes Robin's later alter ego, Nightwing? What the deuce?! But wait, there's more: she tries to force him to marry her! Now this is the first time I've ever seen a minority comic book hero, though there are quite a few, according to Wikipedia (my complete source of all knowledge in general).
My first reaction to reading this superhero blog was, "Hey cool, I think she's a black character." Then later down the line when I see she's having her way with Nightwing, I think, "Jesus, they had to go there? So friggin' typical that a minority character would pull some shit like this in the minds of the writers." But when I see that she's at City Hall trying to force Nightwing to marry her, and then I see that she speaks Spanish ("mi tesoro")--for fuck's sake, people!! Christ, Tarantula, please do us all a favor, first shed that red outfit that's a stereotype all on its own. And if Nightwing doesn't want you to have his baby, man up and move the fuck on! You're a superhero, woman, why don't you go act like one?!
Luckily, I had a cappuccino in hand. Otherwise, I might have been very upset indeed.