How to Make A Movie: Write

As I mentioned in the past posts, I’m making a movie with my friend Caroline! So far I’ve talked about how important it is to be committed and have the right attitude. The next step was all about the work.

Once Caroline and I decided on the story, an idea she had about what we do for the people we love, we sat down with index cards. Each card represented a concept that we wanted to address in our film. We brainstormed each of these concepts, filling the index cards with notes. For homework, we decided to each write a version of the story and send it to each other.

From there, we came up with a script we liked. We then asked some of our actor friends to do a reading for us to hear how it sounded. It was amazing to hear our words read with so much emotion. The actors, who are trained to understand character, were so helpful in pointing out inconsistencies and weak spots. A huge thanks to Laura Hankin, Katrina Medoff and Ashley Harrell for their time and expertise. Sorry about the blurry pictures below:

After that reading, we decided that we wanted to try a different approach to the story because a lot of it took place in a car and we thought that would be too difficult to film/boring to watch. We tried out thirteen different versions without a car. We decided on a version we liked, and then the next day we decided we didn’t like it. At that point, it was starting to get overwhelming. It was looking like we’d never agree on a final script

Over a fantastic dinner of pizza and wine, Caroline and I realized that every version we wrote was really good and that we both had high standards for the project. The truth was, we could go out and film any of the scripts we wrote and make a  beautiful film. This realization was a huge relief. It meant that we weren’t stuck, we were still climbing.

We both agreed that this was the only stage where we could play around with the movie as much as we wanted to. Fortunately, Caroline and I are both great with letting go of our writing for the sake of trying something new. This approach can be scary, deleting pages that you love, but it leads to fresh ideas.

After that dinner, we tried out six very different ideas. We settled on one that incorporated a lot of the different ideas we had while remaining simple. Then we sent that version back and forth, fine-tuning it.

Finally, we sent it out to people we trust to get their feedback. The response was incredible. While we got some minor notes to make things clearer, overall everyone loved it!

Now that we are busy finding the cast and crew, we still tweak the script every few days. All in all, for a ten-minute film, we probably wrote close to 200 pages of script. What we have no is excellent and I’m excited to turn it into a film!

If you are working on your first movie, remember that the writing is the cheapest stage. This is the time to experiment and make the leanest, strongest, most compelling story. During filming, if something isn’t working right with the story, you waste hours with the actors and crew. That’s thousands of dollars in equipment and hourly wages. Spending an hour or even a day to fix something while it’s on your computer will save thousands of dollars.

Next up, more on the challenges of making a film, how to come up with the money, and location scouting!

How to Make A Movie: Right Attitude

2014-03-23 15.58.32Practice saying this out loud: “why the hell not!” I promise this attitude will take you far in life.

As I recounted in my past posts about making a movie, I had a great first meeting with Caroline. I was taken with her enthusiasm and ambition. It was clear that we both had great ideas and we were both looking for an opportunity to showcase our talents.

A week after our first meeting I wrote to her, “I think we should just jump for it and make a short :)” That simple statement got the ball rolling. In a matter of weeks, we had a script ready and a crew forming.

It’s so easy to make excuses and convince yourself that you’re not ready, but it’s just as easy to say “why the hell not!” That attitude evokes a playfulness with your life. It makes you realize how pointless it is to resist your curiosity and excitement.

I’ve learned that once you commit to a project, the details take care of themselves. You can tackle the problems as they come. However, if you try to consider and tackle all of the intimidating details before you even start, you probably won’t get past that phase. Take the plunge because…why the hell not!?!

What would you do with a “why the hell not” attitude?

How to make a movie: Show up

As I said in the last post, I’m making a movie with my friend Caroline!

While it’s easy to research how to make a movie online, I’m addressing some of the crucial, universal steps that often get overlooked with any major project.

This step is so simple and so obvious, but, yet, so many people fail to do it.

Step 2: Show up

This simple step is two-fold. One, make concrete plans. Two, follow them.

Here’s an example of the infuriating email exchange I have way too often:

Them: … I’d love to meet up and talk further …

Me: … I’m free for coffee the next two Sundays, or I can work around your schedule if Sunday’s not possible. Just let me know!

Them: Yay! I’d love to catch up.

Me: Great! What is your schedule like?

Them: (three months later) Sooo Sorry, my schedule got super busy. Can we still meet up?

Me: … I’m available after 6pm any day next week.

Them: no response.

If you want to make things happen, you have to commit to a date. Be proactive and offer concrete options, not vague plans. Yes, you might end up having to say no to another event that sounds cooler, but it’s worth it.

Now for the second part of this step. Sometimes you can’t show up no matter how hard you try. Last week, my back was killing me and I had to cancel lots of plans. But in general, make every effort to keep your word. If you plan to meet at 7pm on a Tuesday, show up at 6:50 on a Tuesday. This will get you far in life.

I knew Caroline and I were going to hit off before we even met because in our first email exchange, we made concrete plans, and then we both showed up. Seems simple, but somehow it’s still rare.

Stay tuned for more steps! A lot’s happening and I can’t wait to share it with you :)

How to Make a movie: Announce yourself

It’s official, my friend and I are making a short film! If you asked me a year ago what I thought I would be doing now, I never would have guessed this. Life takes you on a bizarre and awesome path when you follow your interests.

making a movieIn my continuing effort to share what I’m working on while still keeping my posts helpful and accessible, I now introduce a series of broad lessons I’ve learned from the process of making a movie. These lessons are helpful to anyone who’s trying to make something bigger than themselves.

Step one: Announce yourself

During the last writer’s conference, I asked my audience if they consider themselves to be writers. I was surprised that most of them said no. They believed they needed the external validation of an MFA or a publishing career in order to use that title. I shared with them that my life was never the same after I started describing myself as a writer.

  1. I felt encouraged to write every day because I wanted to live up to my title.
  2. It was easier to invest in my writing career once I was a self-proclaimed writer. It seems crazy to spend $400 on a writing class if I’m a web designer with an interest in writing, but it makes perfect sense if I’m a writer with a side job.
  3. People started connecting me with other writers because they know me as the writer. This helped me make connections for my conferences as well as the movie project that I’m about to get into.

So, yes, first things first, let everyone know what you consider yourself to be and what you hope to do. I made it very clear to everyone I know that I’m a writer. For the last few months I’ve been letting people know how much I enjoy writing screenplays and that I hope to develop a project.

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That brings us to the lovely Ashley H., who you might remember from when I dyed my hair purple. Ashley knew that I was interested in screenwriting. She also knew that her friend, Caroline, was interested in screenwriting. With this simple email from Ashley: “I really think the two of you should meet and discuss things!” we were off!  It was a match made in movie-making heaven.

Do you see how important it is for your friends to know what you are interested in doing? If I had kept my ambitions a secret, if I was too embarrassed to say what I wanted, Ashley never would have thought of introducing us. If you want to start an ice cream company, start telling everyone you know. If you want to put on a one-woman show, start talking about it now. After you share what you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazed at the connections that start popping up!

So what is your dream? What do you want to do that is bigger than yourself? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below!

Stay tuned for the next step in making a movie!

Life lessons from hosting a writer’s retreat

I know that not everyone has the desire to host a writer’s retreat, but if you have any desire to take a big risk, the skills and lessons are the same. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m making an effort to go into more details about what I’m doing and still keep it relatable.

In mid-January, I hosted my second writer’s retreat in the Catskills. This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I love being around other writers 24/7, sharing ideas, supporting each other, and getting motivated by the clicking of their keyboards. As enjoyable as these retreats are, the preparation for them can be a stressful practice in patience and faith.

If you are planning to take on a new challenge, here are some lessons I’ve learned from organizing this retreat:

  1. Commit Commit Commit
    This is the most important rule for any risk you take. If you try to do something new and out of your comfort zone, there are going to be challenges. There will come a time when quitting seems like the most obvious and sane choice. The only way to succeed is to decide that there is no quitting: you will do whatever it takes. Surprisingly, everything gets easier once you take the option of quitting off the table.
    Once I found the venue I liked for my retreat, I had to pay the dreaded deposit. This is super scary to do when you have no one signed up, but you can’t get people to sign up if there’s no venue. Once I sent out the deposit, I decided that I wouldn’t back down no matter what.
  2. Strike while the iron is hot
    For some reason, I thought it made sense to book my writer’s retreat one month after my writer’s conference. The conference takes about 200 hours to plan and market. It’s thoroughly exhausting. A week before the conference, I realized that I had no one signed up for the retreat, and the final payment was due in two weeks. I was in jeopardy of losing my deposit.
    My husband suggested I give a promotional discount for the retreat during the conference and let everyone know that it would expire by the end of the day. This seemed beyond ridiculous to me. My guests were already shelling out their hard-earned money for my conference. It felt greedy to ask for more money.
    That’s when I was forced to confront a harmful belief I had. I was thinking my guests were doing me a huge favor, rather than recognizing that I was giving them an incredible gift: my conferences and retreats are inspiring, informative and an incredible value. Once I accepted that fact, it was easy to announce the promotional offer and capitalize on the excitement and motivation I had already worked so hard to create at the conference.
    And guess what? Five people signed up that day!
    This is all to say, figure out when you can maximize your efforts and don’t let any doubts get in your way.
  3. Relax and enjoy the ride
    At a certain point you have to believe that all your planning will pay off and that it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I believe one of the reasons why my events are so powerful is because I am a writer and I give other writers exactly what I would want. If I can’t enjoy my own events, why the heck am I doing it? Passion projects are going to wipe you out. They will use up every last reserve of energy and will. If you can’t stop and enjoy the moment, I promise you won’t be able to sustain the passion.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Was this helpful? Leave a comment ’cause I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in joining the next retreat, send an email to Tracy [at] writerswork [dot] org, or apply here. I am starting to plan a week-long retreat for this summer in Long Island, and it would be a huge boost to know that people are interested in it.

*** Pictures provided by Josh Conrad. Josh has a blog where he’s tackling 25 interesting dares this year. You should definitely check out his blog and see what he had to say about the retreat! ***

How Beyoncé saved my blog

In writing this blog, I forced myself to do a lot of crazy things I would never have done without a sense of public accountability. I told the world, or at least my few followers, that I was going to figure out a career path that satisfied my (he)art and (so)ul. Through the heso project, I started a company to make baby products, I became a personal consultant in Central Park, and I tried my hand at public relations. It took a few years and a few misguided attempts, but I learned that what I love most is creating writing communities.

In the last two years, I developed Writers Work, a supportive community for emerging and established authors. I’ve been hosting conferences, retreats and readings through this organization, and while it’s extremely exhausting, It’s equally rewarding. On a personal level, the creative communities I’ve established have helped challenge and develop my  writing. I’ve even gotten into screenwriting, which I will be posting about shortly.

Interestingly enough, the more followed my heso project, the less I was writing about it on this blog. Here were my two reasons: One, the day-to-day minutiae of following your dreams can be really boring and involves a whole lot of patience. I didn’t think you guys would want to read a post about me sending a follow-up email to someone I met at a party and waiting a month for a response. Two, I don’t have a lot of extra free time. For gosh sakes, I’m writing  a novel and two screenplays, I’m constantly planning and marketing my conferences, and I take on freelance work to pay the bills.

Of course these two excuses are nonsense. What’s the point of figuring out your dream job, if you don’t know how to follow through with it? I’ve learned so much in the last tow years and it’s greedy not to share it :) In my future posts, I’m going to go into more detail of what I’m doing but also keep it broad enough so that you can relate to it even if you’re not a writer.

And as for the time excuse, I love this little piece of advice:

beyonce

Thank you, Beyonce, for reminding me to use my time wisely.

Stay tuned for a  behind the scenes look at how I put together a writer’s retreat and how I’m collaborating on a film!

A morning trip to Singapore

One of the perks of having a blog for so long is that I get invited to do some really cool things. Yesterday’s event was by far the coolest.

On a breezy September morning, my friend and I traveled up to the fourth floor of an anonymous building on Fifth Avenue. When the elevator doors opened, we were transported to Singapore. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, I and about fifteen other bloggers were about to participate in a cooking class with the top chefs of Singapore.

Bloggers observing chef Justin Quek of Sky 57 making crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.

Bloggers observing chef Justin Quek of Sky on 57 making crab vermicelli in a light ginger broth.

I guess if I read any of the promotional material before arriving I would have known that a ton of crab was in store. After all, the name of the event was The Singapore Crab Throwdown! I’ve never eaten four crab dishes before noon, but I’m not complaining.

The morning started out with Wayne Liew, head chef of Keng Eng Kee, going over the basic flavors of the traditional cuisine and making us some spicy, sweet and sour chili crab.

Next up, Salted Egg Yolk Crab, which sounds less than appetizing but was one of the most unique and delightful flavors I’ve ever had. Wayne told us that they ferment the yolk in salt and then add cream and some other secret ingredients to make what I would call a umamified version of hollandaise sauce.

Crab makes me happy :)

Crab makes me happy :)

After a short break to wash our crabby hands, Justin Quek of Sky on 57 took over. Justin showed us how quality ingredients (you have to make your own broth) and the right proportions, can make an elegant, simple and divine soup. I find ginger an obnoxious overwhelming flavor, but Justin’s ginger broth was so gentle it changed my mind on ginger forever!

We finished with a dish on the other end of the spectrum: the bold Wok Fried Black Pepper Crab with Lobster. Those strong flavors stayed with me for the rest of the day – and again, I’m not complaining :)

The chefs were so sweet and humble even though they are profoundly accomplished and internationally renowned. I loved getting to taste how the same main ingredient can be prepared with wildly different flavors. I left desperately wanting to visit Singapore and continuing this culinary tour of the senses.

If you’re in New York, there are still a few more events you can check out. As part of Singapore restaurant week, many popular restaurants are adding special Singaporean-inspired dishes to their menu. For instance, Shake Shack has a Singapore milkshake, The Meatball Shop is offering a Singapore meatball, and Bergdorf and Goodman is hosting a Singaporean feast. For more info on the events, click here.

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I left feeling like a super star!

32 things I love about Mike Sayre

20150905_013013I cannot believe I met my husband when he was a mere 24 years old. Over the past seven years, I’ve been privy to some of the amazing traits that make him so special. On this day we celebrate his birth, I would like to share one thing I love about him for each year of his life.

  1. A few years ago Mike decided he wanted to learn how to play piano and guitar. He’s been practicing every single day since then, and there were some rough patches, but now he can play beautifully, and I find that level of determination inspiring.
  2. Mike always knows how to get where he wants to go. In the forest, he knows how to use a compass and in the concrete jungle, he remembers to get the address of the place we’re going. I would still be lost without his help.
  3. He’s so patient and loving. For five days in a row, our cat peed in our bed. We spent so much money and time at the laundromat, and I was at my wit’s end. When I got to the point where I was ready to give her away, Mike decided that she was begging for attention, so he started cuddling with her more often and giving her catnip. She hasn’t peed since.
  4. Mike is the biggest advocate of following your dreams. When he meets someone who doesn’t seem satisfied with their work, he becomes obsessed with trying to help them to find what they love to do.
  5. On that note, he’s the one who encouraged me to start the Heso project.
  6. IMG_20141028_211839He’s an incredible musician. Not only is he a classically trained French Horn player, but he also composes music for film and television. Here’s a small sample of his music.
  7. He’s an utter goofball. There’s this one dance he does around the house that cracks him up, and once he starts he can’t stop.
  8. Mid-sentence, he’ll stop what he’s doing to write down an idea for a song.
  9. Cindy Crawford has nothing on the cute little mole Mike has on his left cheek.
  10. For the past six months, he’s been competing with me to get more twitter followers. We both can’t stand Twitter, but we realize it’s necessary for our careers, so it’s been good motivation to stay active on that platform. As you can see, I’m kicking his butt! Here’s mine and here’s his, if you want to go and even the score.
  11. He gets along with my friends, and he reminds me to reach out to my friends when I’m being an anti-social homebody.
  12. On our third date, Mike let me cut his hair, and he continues to let me experiment on his beautiful, golden waves.
  13. When it’s his turn to cook, he finds the most elaborate recipe to cook. It’s never just pasta with him.2014-09-12 00.26.18
  14. He can sing the entire soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, and Les Miserables.
  15. He has great legs. When I point this out to him, he’ll point his toes and say “Oh these old things?”
  16. He is always pushing himself to do better. The man is seriously motivated.
  17. He gives the best feedback on my writing. If something’s not working, I can rely on him to give me his honest opinion.
  18. Mike is colorblind and sometimes has a hard time accepting that. It’s always amusing when he mixes up his colors or picks out an outfit that clashes.
  19. Whenever I rub his shoulders, he makes a sound like he’s never been massaged before in his life, and he can’t believe it feels so good.
  20. He is a chocolate chip fiend. Seriously you can’t leave him alone with those cookies.
  21. He gave me the gift of health. Last January, I told him I wished I could run again, but my knee hurt too much. He patiently coached me, and I went from running one minute at a time to running for six miles straight! I’ve never felt better, and my knee is all better. Best gift he ever gave me :)
  22. People seem to think that Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere, but Mike has been watching C-SPAN for years just to hear Bernie speak.
  23. For some reason, he’s crazy about stripes on clothes. Whenever I wear something with stripes on it, he says “stripies!” like a little kid.
  24. Sometimes I overhear him meowing at the cats. He’ll start laughing and then come to me and say one of the cats just said the darndest thing. I repeat, goofball.WW105
  25. He says, “nunya” (short for none of your business) when I ask him what he’s doing. Even when he’s being a child it’s kind of cute.
  26. He’s been by my side through every Writers Work Conference and keeps me going when I want to quit.
  27. If I tell him something’s important to me, he’ll try it out and be open-minded. Six years ago, he trusted me and took The Living Course, and that means the world to me.
  28. He’s always researching the best way to do everything and the best products. If he recommends a phone to buy I’m certain that it’s the best.
  29. He could live off of pita bread for days, which makes #13 even more special.
  30. He’s an incredible poet and songwriter. He has unique perspectives and a sensitive outlook on the world.
  31. He’ll wear one pair of shoes until the soles disintegrate.
  32. He’s the most loving, kind, creative, handsome, smart, funny, romantic man I know!

How much does your t-shirt cost?

They’re lucky to have jobs.

This is what employers said about indentured servants in the 18th century.

It’s what Robber Barons said about young children and poor people during the Industrial Revolution.

It’s also what people have been saying for years to justify sweatshops.

But the economy will crash.

This is what plantation owners said when abolitionism was first suggested.

It’s what people say now to argue for the mindless consumption of goods to support capitalism.


There is always an economic argument for abusing poor people. But every advancement in humanity and civility took place because people put their values before their bank accounts. Imagine what it would be like to work in the United States if we didn’t have the labor movement, or if slavery still existed. Our lives would be a lot like sweatshop workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

I recently watched a documentary that made it clear how unchecked capitalism, spiritual emptiness, corporate greed, climate change, workers rights, and globalism can all be wrapped up in the story of a t-shirt.

I urge you to watch The True Cost and tell me what you think about it. It’s available on Netflix or you can rent it through their website. I’m ready to stop being an ignorant shopper. I’m ready to quit thinking about the money I’m saving at the expense of others. I’m ready to account fo the true cost. Are you?

trash dump

One of the costs of disposable clothing: landfills of last month’s fashion.

sweatshop

One of the costs of disposable clothing: women living their lives in factories, working 70 hours a week and still unable to provide for their children.