Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Holiday in Geekville

With the holidays upon us, and my calendar already digitally inked with social events and family obligations (not that they won't be enjoyable as my family and friends are pretty cool), I took a moment to wonder 'what if?'  What if I didn't have every day of the next two weeks pre-scheduled with an activity or a dinner reservation?  What would I do?  No time consuming day job or cross town treks to commercial auditions...hmmm...what constitutes a fanciful winter repose in my mind?  Colorful images of Wonder Woman and Buffy came flooding into my mind. A vision of a digitally aged Brad Pitt in a perfectly dark theatre devoid of Blackberry beeps and unruly children manifested.  Even the Mac guy popped into my head.  'I'm...dreaming of a...geek...Christmas'. 

I'd be curious to hear your personal geek escapist thoughts (unless it's a weird Megan Fox fantasy so keep that one to yourself) but mine pretty much came down to Sci Fi/Fantasy/Technological 'catch-up'.  Hours and hours of it.  There are A LOT of shows and books and, well, things, that I have to catch up on and a geek holiday is the perfect time to do that.  

First and foremost: 'Buffy' Season 8 comics.  The 4th volume has just come out so I have a lot of reading to do.  Joss has apparently taken Buffy on quite a roller coaster ride since preventing Armageddon at the end of Season 7 on UPN and if there is indeed going to be a film (because of the 'Twilight' success) then it's time for me to get back on the bus.  (BTW, what's your favorite episode of all time?  I pretty much concur with the 'Hush' episode as it was brilliant, moving and terrifying all at the same time but I have to say that I knew SMG could really act when I watched 'The Body' episode after her mom died.)  OK, an hour a day of 'Buffy' comics, check.

Moving on but not straying from the theme of 'Joss is a god'- I will finally watch 'Serenity' and 'Firefly'.  Yes, I fess up, I admit, I have never really gotten into the series.  Whhatt?!  I know, I know, I'm banned from ever becoming a member of Whedonesque.  I did watch some of the episodes, most of the movie, but for some reason the Sci Fi outlaw cowboy theme didn't gel with my sensibilities.  I think I had a circuit loose or something.  So one ENTIRE day would be dedicated to watching all of 'Firefly' and then 'Serenity'.  I'll be really relieved when that gets done because I truly believe that I will work with Joss one day and I'm not a fan of uncomfortable silences.  Ability to converse with Joss without guilt and dig Nathan Fillion even more than I do, check.

Next, (and this isn't possible where I'm spending the holidays but I'll just pretend) I would book four back to back tutorial appointments at the Apple Store.  Honestly, I'm just not very software savvy and I'm incredibly impatient when it comes to trying to educate myself through online workshops.  My producing partner is the technical genius so he takes care of all that technical 'stuff' (see I can't even describe what he does above and beyond words like 'upload' and 'compress') for our different projects so I'm starting to feel inept!  So with the help of a 'Chuck' like instructor, and because of my innate brilliance, I would become an expert on Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Soundtrack Pro in the course of an afternoon.  I would also learn the ins and outs of my fabulous new Macbook Pro, you know, learn what this monster is really built for and most importantly get help with auto sorting my emails!!  I honestly need intervention when it comes to my inbox.  I'd like to learn code too, but just for party conversations when it turns dull.  So, in control of my technical destiny, check.

I think my brain has had enough exercise so it's time for the body- ninja warrior style!  I got into martial arts because of 'Buffy' and I think it's fun to admit it (guys get a kick out of it).  But there's nothing cute about my fighting style and how much I enjoy it.  I've been doing too much of the hard core boxing and muay thai as of late so I want to mix it up and do some of the crazy creative stuff.  So every few days during this geek week I would head over to Xtreme Martial Arts and train in Caporeira and ariel stunts.  And because this is a 'what if' post, my knees and wrist wouldn't hurt at all!  Able to do own stunts as star of 'Alias' type show, check.

Back to books and I have a laundry list of Sci Fi/ Fantasy sagas to read.  As much as I'd like to settle in to the Twilight series for a third time (cue the eye rolling from some people I know), there are myriad series that I should focus my creative eye on.  Do I hit Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman' series?  'A Song of Fire and Ice'?  'Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever'?  Even the 'Dark is Rising' series?  I'd also like to dive into the new Wonder Woman comics (The Circle) now that Gail Simone is writing.  I'd like your opinion on this one as I don't have a full year to dedicate to this vacation.   Submersed in alternate universe for countless hours, check.

Heading back to the computer one last time, I would watch every movie trailer available on the Apple site and YouTube.  Seriously.  It drives my husband crazy when I ask him to stop fast forwarding through the commercials while we're watching 'Fringe' as I spot a movie trailer that I want to see.  The silent dialogue between us, only articulated through his nostril flare, is 'why don't you just go online and watch it?!!?' Well, when I'm online, there is a lot of content vying for my attention, both work and non-work related and I'm always jumping to a new page or back to my email as I have inevitably forgotten something that I'm supposed to be doing (just realized two things right now as i write- so be right back- OK I'm back).  Sitting on the Apple site for an extended period of time just to watch trailers seems way too indulgent, so it's the perfect activity for this personalized vacation!  I'd watch them all on HD and make notes on the up and coming filmmakers and actors that I want to keep an eye on, maybe post a blog about one of them.   So perfect!  Brain saturated with movie trailers, check.

Finally, I would head to the theatre for the one film that I truly want the full cinematic experience of.  No, not 'Twilight' (already did that...twice...and no I am not buying the life sized stand-up poster of Robert Pattinson as Edward- my house just isn't big enough for his coolness).  I'm heading for some reverse aging F. Scott Fitzgerald storytelling through the mystical eye of director extraordinaire David Fincher.  Yes, I am indeed Curious about Benjamin Button (I even auditioned for the part of Benjamin's mother so I'd like to learn about the strange little guy who caused my teary audition death).  Wit aside, I am incredibly proud to see such a unique, epic story brought to the big screen by such a visionary director.  Holiday movies hold a dear place in my heart as it was a December the 27th viewing of 'Shakespeare in Love' that moved me to follow my dream of acting.  I look forward to a magical moment in the theatre this year with Brad, Cate and even my friend Bianca (playing Cate's friend in the film) lending their talents to the type of storytelling that fills me with purpose.  Cinematic inspiration to make 2009 a banner creative year, check.

Thanks for joining me on my geek journey, I have to head back to reality, and luckily it's a pretty good one and for that I'm very thankful.  

Be back soon and Happy Holidays 2.0!!!!

All Things T


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Continental Divide

Being both an aspiring Parisian and neophyte techgirl, I was thrilled to be able to watch the Ustream Live feed of LeWeb '08, a web conference held in my favorite city, yes the City of Lights.  Not that I was able to catch much of the live streaming panel discussions considering the nine hour time change but I did catch the last bit of the incomparable Gary Vanderchuck and his mainstage interview and the closing night panel of the Gillmor Gang.  I won't bore you with the topics and inevitable arguments that ensued during this latter panel, but one topic caught my ear and I wanted to reflect on it:  the European vs. Silicon Valley (ie. American) work ethic and subsequent quality of life.  Loic Le Meur, founder of LeWeb event and his American guests (Steve Gillmor, Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, to name a few) became ironic metaphors for the difference between the New and the Old World regimes, in a digital age.

One of the things that I love about my visits to Paris is how 'in the now' I become.  I savor the moments, whether it's just walking the streets, sitting in a cafe reading my book while nursing a beer (strange how much beer is consumed in the country considering its reputation for wine), enjoying a long lunch and an even longer dinner, or simply riding the metro.  Perhaps you can argue, it's only because I'm on holiday hence I give myself over to a slower pace, but this historic European city, and many others that I have visited, embrace a certain joie de vivre that seems sadly devoid in American life.  We super-achievers here in the States embrace our work weeks as long as they exceed 40 hours, rarely take full lunch hours, let alone 2 week vacations and race back to work after a few months of maternity leave.  Especially in this bleak economic time, the news wires are filled with stories of people taking pay-cuts, working double time, accepting an extra heaping of responsibility as opposed to a fat bonus, just to hold on to their job.  That 'nose to the grindstone' mentality has been alive and well in Silicon Valley for years, especially considering the do or die nature of the Tech 'start-up' (and especially considering that IPOs are so late 90's).    

I'm not sure which one of the Silicon Valley speakers it was that stated it, but he sees the Silicon Valley tech set as the most efficient and powerful group of its kind worldwide because they live, sleep and eat their job.  They work 24/7.  And the world knows the corporations that resulted, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, even Facebook, the giants in the industry.  And to prove his point, he asked what Chinese or French tech or social media company were we, the general populous, aware of?  Ummm, none.  But as Loic explained in response, he is happy with that.  He breaks even with his company and his blog, and that is enough for him.  And his work is all about love (yes, he really said that), his love of being a digital entrepreneur and of loving life.  (One of the other guys laughed and said 'well I do it more for the sex' a perfect metaphor for the comparison). Loic then continued to illustrate the differences between him and his panelists by recounting how a US business acquaintance had wanted to know why Loic wanted to go for lunch, for what purpose?  And Loic responded, "well just to enjoy lunch?".  

When is the last time you have enjoyed lunch?  Well, besides the fact that I don't like to think of food as my friend because of the pesky calories involved and my chosen field of on-camera work, the last time was in New York, after a long, brisk walk around Central Park on Thanksgiving (one of the three days of the year where it is OK not to work), at a French bistro. We even sampled the new Beaujolais that had just come out- an hour and a half of relaxed french dining.  The time before that was probably at a restaurant in Paris, Chez Janou, that I feature in the photo at the top of this post.   

So how do we merge this over zealous work ethic, or obsession I would argue, with this 'joy of life' mentality that the European espouse, and still be successful?   The digital age and the growth of the industry that supports it proves that you need to be a viable working and thinking entity 24 hours of the day, the Internet never sleeps.  And as the moderator, TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington, stated, 'winning is a great feeling too' (when responding to the whole love issue.)  Why don't we want that balance though?  I know I find it hard to put energy towards something that doesn't have to do with the numerous projects I'm working on.  Planning a dinner, just to have dinner, seems counter-productive.  Perhaps we live in such a disposable society where, if you don't work hard enough or complain that you are under compensated or unhappy, you are told there are 20 people waiting in the wings to snatch your job (I was told that when I was an assistant at William Morris just like every other new Wall Street analyst), thus there is a sub-conscious feeling of guilt associated with not working.  You're only as good as how hard you work.  Eek- that's not valuing the human component of the job very much, no wonder we fear that artificial intelligence will take over one day.  But I don't think that the American entrepreneurial work ethic will suddenly soften because a few TechCrunch guys were made to realize that they work too hard and don't take the time to smell the roses.  Exponential growth, especially in the technology realm, dicates that we have to revolve our life around our work.  So you better enjoy what you do.  Do what you love so that you don't mind doing it all the time.  Who knows if this economic downturn and the resulting massive job loss will force those out of work to reevaluate their lives and what they want.  I know it did for me.  I don't mind always being in a work frame of mind because I love what I do and am endeavoring to do.  It's what keeps me going.  But I do hope to spend a year, in the near future, becoming a temporary Parisian, smelling the roses.  And I will go to the beauty of the web is that you can work from anywhere!  A plus tard!

All Things T

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Meaningful Life

Stop with the online store emails announcing that I can get 20% off two items for the next two days or a $100 gift card back if I spend $400. It is making me feel cheap.  Not cheap in that I don't want to buy nice gifts for family and friends this holiday season but cheap as in tawdry, as in I'm done with being an active part of this whole consumerist, luxury laden society.  I don't want to acquire anything more than what I need and be grateful if I can afford to do that.  I want to get down to the basics, I just want to lead a meaningful life.

What is that by definition?  I've finally realized that it is different for everyone.  And it takes a long time to realize what that is for you.  Throughout these difficult, yet fascinating past two years I have gone from a struggling/ on the verge actress waiting for the phone to ring, having my spirit pummelled every time it didn't, not understanding as I was passionate and confident about the work I was doing, to actually feeling like I had am achieving something substantial and reflective of my passion and talents.  Now that I feel fulfilled and on my correct path (not 'the' correct path but 'my'), the glossy but bloated distractions of a magazine life don't seem as tempting anymore.  I'm seeing them for what they are now:  'Fillers'.  Quick, yet short lived fixes to that empty feeling.  I started this blog admitting to an addiction to online shopping and at the time that was indeed the case, but it's strange to say that the lure of acquiring something new just isn't there now (well, admittedly as I type on my xmas macbook pro gift) because I am full.  Full of purpose and full on life.  I type on my macbook pro happily because it fits into the newly solved puzzle that is my creative life - writing, blogging, photography, web producing (in addition to acting); different pieces, different shapes, finally fitting together, all relating to my career, my friends and my family.  My career truly defines who I am (it doesn't for some but for me it does), and in accepting that, and seeing those around me finally accept that too, it enriches the other elements and makes the time spent with family and friends more meaningful.  By reflecting on and embracing my love of creating, of storytelling, of expressing, of being part of a particular creative community, I realize that I'm just endeavoring to connect more with the world around me.  That's why I look to tell stories, especially those with a fantastical or science fiction twist, because I want to have a small hand in elevating the human spirit and psyche to a place where we can share a higher appreciation for our magical, yet fleeting existence on this planet. (OK -Don't laugh- our very existence on a lone planet supporting life,  circling a star is pretty magical).

In thinking about a meaningful life, I stumbled across a webpage that articulates and further clarifies what I have just come to realize so I thought I'd share it with you:

10 ideas for a meaningful life:

1.  We are all here for a purpose, your life here make a difference.  

2.  The secret to fulfillment is self- knowledge.  Start the journey of discovery.

3.  The second part of fulfillment is to apply your self-knowledge to what you do and how you live.

4.  Don't waste time lamenting what you don't do well.  Concentrate on your strengths- those reflect who you are.  Leave the other things to people who do them well. (This is a big one for me as I have to let go of the idea that I am the best at everything I do).

5.  Build on your strength.  Do more of them and give yourself recognition for doing the things you do well.

6.  Pay attention to the small details that you enjoy in your everyday life.  Do more of them!

7.  On the flip side, pay attention to the small details you don't enjoy.  Find ways to delegate them and or eliminate as many of them as possible.

8.  Keep a journal and put particular emphasis on the things about yourself and events in your life for which you are grateful.

9.  Make an effort to release the negative aspects of your past.  Try not to be imprisoned or defined by your past.

10.  Jumpstart your self esteem by giving back to the community.  Volunteer in a meaningful way that suits who you are and your interests.  (This reminds me how I must get back working with the Miracle Project- please see Autism: The Musical if you haven't already.)

Thanks to Dr. Lehavi and her page, those are my thoughts of the day.  Be back soon.

All Things T

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Creative Room

I knew that I would get behind in my writing, especially once I got hooked on those books, whose names we must not speak of (especially as I haven't read the final one yet but it arrives tomorrow from Amazon!!).  I only have a moment to write this morning, well not even a moment, but I'm going to anyway as I'm sure all 10 of you subscribers are desperately missing my witty prose and I just needed to get the thoughts flowing again.  

I had a pretty cool day yesterday as an article on After Judgment and our new deal with Koldcast TV came out on Tubefilter TV the same day as Tubefilter hosted its Web Television Meetup.  Cool!  What's Tubefilter?  It's OK, if you're not in the digital realm and involved in a web series in one way or another you probably wouldn't have heard of it and if you have, well then you spend way too much time surfing the web (just like me!).  Tubefilter is the new destination for all web series news -think of it as the TV Guide for WebTV.  When I first met the co-founder Marc Hustvedt, it was right prior to our launch in October and I'm embarrassed to say that I had never heard of the site either.  Thankfully a mutual friend introduced us, albeit late into a wine soaked party, but I luckily remembered to follow-up the following week. Tubefilter has since been kind enough to write three articles on After Judgment.  

The Meetup last night vividly reflected both Tubefilter's exponential growth as a news leader in the web series realm and the proliferation of web content and series creators.  The James Cagney room at SAG (don't get me started on SAG issues right now) was filled to capacity with the quirky digital folks that I have come to love, along with some curious studio folks and a few 20 something starlets representing the network quality (and funded) MySpaceTV shows like Sorority Forever.  It was an evening tinged with irony, however, because of where the event took place, ie. SAG (don't send me threatening letters not to work on non-union web series), and that one of the guests was Cristian Cussen, an ex-Scott Rudin development exec turned Original Content VP for MySpaceTV.  Unfortunately, his speech and subsequent thoughts during the Q&A didn't exactly reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of the event as they boiled down to this: around .1% of all web series submissions to MySpace had a pilot commissioned and that it would be practically impossible to get into his office to even submit unless an agent and/or an already successful show got you there.  I felt like I was right back at a talent agent showcase where they were there to watch your work and maybe offer advice but not consider you for rep unless you already had six guest stars under your belt.  The catch-22 of Hollywood had manifested itself in the digital world.  

Not that Cristian wasn't interesting or at least well-intentioned.  He was there to elaborate on his job.  I'm always game to broaden my knowledge about digital distribution platforms, especially when they are the 2nd biggest on the internet.  It's just unfortunate that the continental divide that existed between the aspiring creatives sitting in the audience and the guy with the microphone was so awkwardly apparent.  As each of the brave questioners learned, after first announcing who they were and plugging their show of course, was that MySpace couldn't really help them.  Well, unless they had a MySpace page with thousands of friends, but other than that, unless you made it into the inner sanctum of content development with an idea that happened to correlate with an advertisers wish list at the right time of the year and with an ICM/Endeavor/UTA digital agent behind you, good luck, but don't forget to spend money buying personalized ad banners!  It was a little disconcerting to say the least and I think that Cristian was aware of 'the man' that he had become in the room.  

Perhaps, though, his slightly uncomfortable experience gave him food for thought.  It certainly gave me some.  Maybe it might have spurred an idea like this, somewhat similar to what Tubefilter is developing with it's Screening Room project: create a MySpaceTV incubator.  I don't have the idea fully fleshed out, but why not offer a distribution platform for web series creators that has limited access to the full rolodex of MySpace users.  Have a different featured video from the Incubator page everyday, tailored to the preferences of the user.  I produce a SciFi show and I bet that there are just a few folks out there on the site who have happen to like genre.  If they click through, then it takes them to the incubator page, of course laden with advertising, with links to the official MySpaceTV programming- the fancy stuff if you know what I mean.  I would assume there would be a screening process to get onto the incubator page - a certain level of production value needed- but it seems like a good idea to me.  Just as I think that the Screening Room project that Tubefilter is developing is a potentially groundbreaking service for new web content developers to use as a launching pad for their show, if the relationships that Tubefilter have are actually solid enough, though knowing them and their work ethic I believe that they are. 

The spirit of the web community returned once Felicia Day walked to the mike as she is the poster child for indie web success.  Over the past year she has turned down more than twenty deals before signing a lucrative deal with Microsoft, XBox Live and Sprint so that she can maintain her intellectual property rights of The Guild- pretty impressive to say the least.  But, having researched and followed her for the past year, nothing that she said was new news to me, she just re-confirmed that her success took a lot of hard work, passion and a little help from Joss Whedon's fan base.  It was strikingly apparent how everyone stared at this petite, quirky red-head with awe and admiration; she had fought Goliath and won.  The night ended with me, however.  No, I wasn't introduced or singled out because of the Tubefilter article.  I just happened to win the raffle for a pair of tickets to another Digital event next week.  Though it might sound conceited, the best thing was, when my name was called, I could hear a bunch of people react as they actually knew who I was.  I guess my quest to conquer the monster has already begun.  Be back soon.

All Things T