New York City

How to Make a Movie: the budget

I can’t believe how much has happened in the last few weeks! We have an all-star cast for Lily + Mara (more on this soon), an uber-talented crew, a location in Staten Island, and now an IndieGoGo campaign.

While I’ve had a lot of experience writing screenplays, I’ve never been on the production end of a film and it’s been eye-opening to watch the budget come together. Here is the general overview of the costs:

  • filming and location permits
  • transportation for cast and crew
  • props and costumes
  • feeding the cast and crew
  • paying the crew and talent
  • equipment rentals; camera, lighting and sound
  • insurance – so much insurance!
  • post production: film and sound editing, color correction, prints
  • festival fees!

If you want to support a couple of passionate dreamers, if you think there needs to be more women making films, if you want to see a beautiful film about the bond of sisterhood, or if you’re just an awesome generous person, please consider donating to our campaign.

Please spread the word, and stay updated by liking the Lily + Mara facebook page.

Behind the laptop

Sometimes you walk into a coffee shop and there are so many laptops it looks like a computer store. Have you ever wondered what all these people are working on? I always think, “Maybe my new favorite book is being written in this room right now!”

For the last few weeks, I’ve been going up to strangers in coffee shops and asking them what they are working on. It was pretty intimidating at first. I didn’t want to interrupt their work, I’m not used to starting conversations with strangers, and strangers don’t look very inviting when they’re staring at their computers. But it was a great experience. I learned that people really like talking about their work and that they are aching for a connection with other creative people.

Meet Tricia Alexandro

Below are her answers to the three questions I’ve been asking writers in coffee shops.

20151130_112749

Tricia Alexandra writing at The Queens Kickshaw.

Me: What are you working on?

Tricia: “A short film about a couple taking a trip to Paris. It’s one of those trips you take thinking it’s going to solidify your relationship but instead it reveals all the cracks.”

M: What’s your next stage and what do you need to get there?

T: “I want to be paid for my work. I want more exposure and a writing community. I find that kind of support is imperative for getting to the next level because those kinds of people inspire you and also hold you accountable. When you see the consistency of other people, and the fact that they’re making a go at it on a daily basis, that encourages me. And you also share resources when you have a community.”

M: What does a writer need?

T: “I think self-compassion is probably the best thing to have as a writer because most of your first drafts and even fifth drafts are going to be shitty. Also curiosity about what’s going on around you. Be gentle on yourself and persevere.”

This conversation was such a great affirmation of what I’m doing with my organization, Writers Work. I’m proud to be creating a supportive community to help writers develop their craft, career, and community. I’m hosting my FIFTH conference on Saturday, April 9 and it’s going to be a great place to find a community as well as get inspired and informed. I hope you can come and spread the word.

*** As a side note, I’m still working on the film. We’re in the audition process for cinematographers and actors. I will be writing about it soon, but in the meantime you can get more updates by liking the Lily and Mara facebook page.***

How to Make a Movie: Location location location

Last week, Caroline and I visited Long Beach, NY as a possible site for our short film. This was such an exciting part of the filmmaking process. After finishing the script, it was so much fun to imagine the characters we created in a real space.

Please enjoy our recap of the location, and ignore my awkward joke:

We spent several hours walking around the beach, pinpointing specific angles we liked and possible settings for different shots. It was a great way for us to talk about how we envisioned the movie.

We still have a few more locations to scout, but progress is being made! More to come on our first production meeting, and the audition process.

In the meantime, please like our official facebook page, and follow our new twitter acount for the film. We’ve been blown away by how supportive and encouraging everyone has been so far. Every like, comment and follow goes a long way in making this crazy dream feel more attainable.

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 🙂

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!

Exciting News!

Do you ever have one of those months where everything finally comes together? I hope you do, because it feels fantastic. After a lot of hard work, I have some great news to share:

  1. I have a new website for my Writers Work conference series, and I’ve added a writer’s retreat feature! I used the logo you guys chose. Check it out and let me know what you think.
  2. I sent out my first query letter for my novel!
  3. I submitted a short story to The New Yorker and The Missouri Review.
  4. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…discounted tickets are now available for the next Writers Work Conference 9/20/14 in Times Sq. NY! Have lunch with an agent, hear about authors’ experiences of getting published, meet approachable editors and publishers who want to share the inside scoop with you, and connect with other writers. It’s going to be an amazing day
2014-03-23 15.58.18

Ahhh the joy of getting sh*t done!

Writing the Subway

nyc_subway_map

The New York City Subway System can be a hotbed for the worst of humanity. Here are two stories that always come to mind:

I was making my way down a crowded stairway to get to the subway. Foot traffic was excruciatingly slow because a woman was struggling to carry her bulky stroller down the stairs. A man pushed past me, and I figured he was rushing to help the woman with her stroller, but instead he ran past her and yelled, “if you make me miss this subway, I’ll kill you and your f***ing baby.” To this day I wonder where he was going to warrant such hostility.

Another time,  a homeless man asked a guy for spare change. The guy didn’t have any cash so he kindly offered up his Chinese takeout. The homeless man took the food and threw it against the subway wall. Greasy, stir-fried rice flew everywhere. Then he pinned the man up against the wall and yelled in his face, “Do I look desperate to you?” I was picking rice out of my purse for weeks afterward.

Oh the stories I could tell.

I love NYC but I oftentimes consider moving far far away after every sweaty, dehumanizing, sardine can-like commute. But, as a writer, I cannot deny the invaluable observational opportunities it provides (wow say that 10 times fast).

nyc_subway_13_2006_07_23

A few days ago I did a fun little writing exercise. I had a 90 minute commute ahead of me so I  took my journal and pen instead of a book. I picked a random stranger at each subway stop and wrote down as much about them as possible.  With over 25 stops I really got to hone my observational skills.  The subway ride flew by, and I was a better writer for it.

Here was my favorite observation:

A man sits across from me.  Slumped in his seat, his legs spread wide and his knees pointing toward the ceiling. He wears light jeans, ragged at the hem, a black knitted hat and a zipped up, navy blue parka. Three black plastic bags rest on the floor between his feet.

With sausage-like fingers he wrestles with a small, colorful, plastic wrapped object. He furrows his brow and sighs, bringing the wrapper to his mouth. He bites the corner off and spits it on the floor. His face glows and he smiles wide when he looks inside the newly opened package.

He dips his finger inside the package and pulls out a candy ring with a shiny red sucker. He places the ring on the very tip of his index finger, as far down as it will go. Licking his lips, he opens his mouth to reveal a glistening pink tongue. He takes the candy jewel in his mouth and closes his eyes for a long time.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed that bizarre little moment if I had my head buried in a book as I usually do. The next time you’re stuck doing something you really don’t like, see if there’s a way of turning it into a constructive exercise.

A Second First Impression

2012-11-07 22.09.12

Day 2 on the High Line

Since I got such a great reaction to my crazy idea, I decided to go out this past Saturday and try it again . My friend and I visited the High Line, which is one of my favorite spots in Manhattan. This historic, elevated railway line was converted into a public park in 2009. With help from a long list of high-profile investors (such as David Bowie), the High Line has become a great place to stroll along the West Side, 30 feet above ground, and soak up the indigenous flora of New York along side the glass and steel high-rises. They have great food vendors too!

2012-11-07 22.32.02

At the center of a crowd.

I was a little hesitant about taking this project to the High Line because they’re strict about street performers, but two separate guards came by to tell me that technically I wasn’t allowed to be there, but that it was so funny they would look the other way. The crowds started instantly.

Again, people could not fathom how I came up with this idea. Coming up with the idea was easy – actually going outside and trying it out, subjecting myself to potential ridicule and public shamming, was the hard part. I feel like I’ve invented the adult version of the lemonade stand; something that gets people to stop and say, “oh that’s too cute, honey, give her a dollar.”

2012-11-07 23.18.36

Giving advice on a handshake.

So far three different people in television have expressed interest in this idea. I’m not holding my breath, and I certainly didn’t do this to get a pilot, but I do love the idea that as soon as I got out of my comfort zone, opportunities just started presenting themselves.

2012-11-07 22.58.43

People tell me the funniest stories when I’m doing this.

At the end of the day, this is a lot of fun. Yes, I’m wracked with anxiety before I go out, but it’s easy to feed off of everyone else’s enthusiasm. There’s a lot of laughter and appreciation. Yes, appreciation.

I can’t believe how much people love to hear criticism. While I don’t critique things that people can’t change, I’ll tell someone they should try a different lipstick color, or  that their pants don’t fit them right. When they listen to this they look relieved. Perhaps they’ve wondered about the lipstick before, and now they finally have a stranger’s confirmation. Or maybe they just appreciate having someone’s undivided attention for a few minutes. I don’t know what it is exactly, but people are really enjoying it.

2012-11-07 22.37.13

At times I feel like a therapist. People really like to explain themselves during the process.

2012-11-07 23.21.16

I felt like such a mom telling this girl to keep her hair off of her face.