Almost There

Almost There

I am approaching the finish line.  I knew it was coming but it still feels surreal.  The film is done. It is now with the color correction and sound mixing experts.  While they are performing their magic I am working with the team to create the movie poster and the electronic press kit that will be a part of each film festival submission.  We will likely submit to ten or more film festivals around the country. Then we will wait.  It will be late fall or early winter before they contact us with a yay or nay.  Pins and needles time.

Two and a half years. I have had a few misses during this time.  The picture above was one of them. I was being filmed for a possible opening sequence in the Beyond Sixty Project.  It was scripted.  I just couldn’t do it.  They were my words, more or less, but I couldn’t string them together and sound like me.  I would make a lousy actress.  I cannot imagine ever learning to memorize a script.  Maybe I am selling myself short, but I don’t think so.

What I have confirmed is that I do best when I am in conversation with people or when I am just talking naturally, about any subject.  It was the same way in my previous job. When giving presentations to groups, small and large, I would usually have note cards to ensure I covered the necessary topics but did best when talking from my heart.  As long as  I was passionate about the subject it usually went very well.

There has been a tremendous amount of passion associated with this film.  I feel so lucky to have production partners that share the feeling with me. I still work best in collaboration with a team of highly talented people. I could not have done this without them.

Several people have asked me what it feels like to be at this juncture.  It’s hard to explain but I can tell you that when I watched the last cut of the film I became very emotional when the credits rolled. It was the first time I had seen the credits and it was an overwhelming sensation to see all of our names scrolling to music that gets me every time I hear it.  It may sound corny but it’s true.

The biggest lesson learned through this process is that we are never too old to try something new.   I am in awe of all the women I interviewed for the film.  They have such unique stories and I am better off for spending time with them.  Their commonalities are clear.  They are resilient and they are continuing to remain relevant as they age.  They are not willing to call it quits and hunker down into their golden years.  They have a confidence that allows them to say no to things they do not want and a boldness to step out and try new things.  They expect some failures along the way but chalk that up to experience which adds to their resilience bucket.

Where we all go from here is unclear, but as my friend Sara says, if you are open to the unknown things can happen.

Back to work. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

Inspiration

Inspiration

By now, if you are following my story, you know the short version.  That one day I took a detour from my usual routine and the end result was a day on a movie set with M Night Shyamalan.  Seemingly, the main impetus for leaving the comfortability of my corporate career and becoming a filmmaker. But there was more to it than that.

The grainy picture you see above was my true inspiration.  Let me explain.

When I won the bid to spend the day on the set of Shyamalan’s The Visit, I was contacted by the young woman in the middle, Jenn.  At the time she was the Shyamalan Foundation’s Executive Director. She and her colleague Joanna, who is not shown above but also plays an inspirational role in my leap, were the first people to contact me about the logistics of my upcoming day. They hung out with me on the set and our conversations were rich. These conversations have continued since that first meeting in March, 2014 and today I consider each a good friend, despite our age difference.

Shortly after my incredible day on the set I received an invitation from Jenn to come to an event that would feature a young woman they supported through the foundation. Eager to learn more about the Shyamalan’s work I jumped at the chance. That evening I met the third woman in the above picture, the one on the right, Katie Meyler.

The Shyamalan Foundation supports the grassroots efforts of emerging leaders as they work to eliminate barriers created by poverty and social injustice in their communities. Katie Meyler is one of those leaders.  Katie is the Founder and CEO of More Than Me (MTM), a leading education network in Liberia.  She started MTM in 2009 in an effort to find the most vulnerable girls in Liberia and get them into school. She was 27 then.

That night at the foundation event I sat in the front row listening to this thirty-something woman tell us her story and her dreams, through her poetry. We connected that night in a big way and it was at that moment that all the little fears I had about jumping ship and becoming a filmmaker were washed away. I have never been inspired as much as I was by this woman. We have remained close and have had deep conversations about life and love and dancing…she is always dancing!

Since starting MTM, Katie has not only helped to transform the educational network in Liberia, but has gone on to work with the Ministry of Education to add 8 private partners running over 200 schools impacting over 50,000 children.  She was named 2014 Time Magazine person of the year for her efforts on the front lines of the Ebola crisis.  The list goes on.  Her story is inspiring not just because she has achieved so much but because she achieved it on her own, with no money in her pockets, just a lot of love, fierce energy and big dreams.

Katie makes you see that any obstacle or fear can be overcome, and that with true passion you can move mountains. I thank her for reminding me of that regularly.  I thank Jenn for knowing I needed to meet this woman.  I thank Joanna for bringing me to Zac, my film Director for the Beyond Sixty Project. I thank all of them for encouraging me, supporting me and offering regular doses of inspiration. They give me a deep and important connection to our marvelous younger generation.

Back to the picture above.  It was taken May 27, 2018, late at night in Rincon, Puerto Rico. After Katie’s marriage to Theodros, also known as Teddy the Bush Doctor. Teddy works along side Katie and MTM to develop school-based healthcare programs in Liberia.  They are one dynamic duo. I remember when she met Teddy and said she thought he was “the one.”  He was and he is.  I have never met two people so perfectly matched. I am sure the universe was waiting for just the right time to place them in the same location. I look forward to watching them as they continue to make their mark on the world.

In my lifetime most of my inspiration has come from people I have read about. Usually people who were older than me and for the most part, people I would never meet. But then one day back in March of 2014 I took the detour and all that changed. I still look back at the chain of events that day and all that has come after it and wonder.  What would I be doing right now if I had not made a change in my routine that day?

I hope you always take the detours.  You just might find your inspiration along that unknown stretch of road.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month

To all the women out there, this is your month.  The 2018 theme, Nevertheless She Persisted, could not be more appropriate.

I am sure you’ve heard the phrase, especially if you are connected to social media.   It came to life during Mr. Sessions’ confirmation hearing for Attorney General in early 2017. If you watched it on TV or saw a replay you will remember that Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, was protesting Sessions’ confirmation and reading a letter that Coretta Scott King had written in 1986.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, used the phrase nevertheless she persisted  after attempting to silence Warren during her reading.  Within moments feminists latched onto the phrase, flooding social media with the hashtag. I get it.  No one wants to be silenced when they have something important to say. No matter how you feel about the chain of events leading to this phrase, it sure became a loud battle cry.

The 2018 Women’s History theme of persistence celebrates all women who are fighting all forms of discrimination against women. Whether fighting for equal pay or against sexism in all its forms we need women and men who persist.  Persistence is what helps to create change.

It is always good to be reminded that women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920. It took more than 70 years of persistence for that to finally happen.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone were persistent women.  Thank God for them and all the persistent women who came after them.  Whenever I stop to think that it is possible I could have lived in a country where I was not allowed to vote because it was assumed that I as a woman was not concerned with politics or because my husband would represent me, I shudder.   I thank each and every persistent woman who spoke up, went to jail and filed lawsuits that would benefit me and all my sisters.

Today, we continue to be persistent about things like equal pay and sex or gender discrimination in the workplace. It is hard to believe that in 2018 these still exist. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a requirement that pay scales be the same for identical work. Fast forward to 2015.  Women only earned 83% of what men earned in the same job.  Some more persistence is needed here wouldn’t you say?

Then along came the #MeToo movement in 2017. The magnitude of widespread sexual assault and harrassment, especially in the workplace, was brought to the forefront where it has always belonged.  Women from all walks of life are now feeling empowered to recount their stories.  I have my own #MeToo stories and almost every woman I know has one or more. I believe the intent of this movement was to shed some light on the magnitude of the problem.  While that worked thanks to social media I am conflicted with the end result.  Is it that we have to show one million examples before it is acknowleged as a problem?  Our culture has allowed this to go on since the beginning of time.  I am not sure that the sharing of these stories of Facebook and Twitter will change that culture.

Let’s be persistent in our conversations with men in power, our brothers, our husbands, our sons, our grandsons and our male friends.  They have to be included in our discussions about equal pay, equal rights and how we want to be respected personally.  I feel very fortunate that I have men around me who value women as their equal and support their need for persistence in having these important discussions.

Women have come such a long way from 1920 when first allowed to vote. We are doctors, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, and CEO’s. Think about what it has taken women to reach these milestones. It is a remarkable showing of strength, determination, resilience and persistence.

My life is easier thanks to all of the women who came before me. I hope that I have been able to do my part in ensuring the generations behind me have it even easier.  I hope in the remainder of my lifetime I see a shift that finally brings wage equity. I pray the sexual harassment culture that has been accepted for so long is toppled.

Happy Women’s History month to all of you strong, beautiful women. I am grateful to be a part of the tribe.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

February, Facebook, Fake News

February, Facebook, Fake News

February.  It has been a brutal month so far.

Just days ago, on Valentine’s Day, 17 people died while doing whatever they normally do on a Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  The families and friends of the victims are settling into their grief right now, forever changed.  Just like the people of Rancho Tehama Reserve, North Park Elementary, Umpqua Community College, Marysville Pilchuck High School, Santa Monica, Sandy Hook, Oikos University, Chardon High School, U of A Huntsville, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mines School, Red Lake, Appalachian School of Law, Columbine, Thurston High School, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Heath High School, Pearl High School, San Diego State, Frontier Middle School, Lindhurst High School, University of Iowa, Stockton schoolyard, CSU Fullerton, Olean High School Kent State, Mesa, University of Texas Tower, have done before them.   I remember all of these incidents.  I hope I never hear of another.  I hope my grandsons feel safe and will be safe throughout the rest of their years in school.  I hope your family will be safe.

I just took a break from Facebook.  I have to keep my personal page in order to have my Beyond Sixty Project page, but I really needed a break.  Do you ever feel that way?  I know Facebook entered into a global fight against fake news about a year ago, but I am not sure how well it is working. To me, most of the fake stuff is easy to spot.  For starters look at the source.  Then fact check the stories before sharing.  What I have learned is I can do a better job of creating a more effective ” filter bubble” for what I want on see on my Facebook feed and I can stop reading the comments attached to some of the topics.  Negativity, hate and disrespect has become the norm for so many.  It saddens me greatly.

I love social media for the connections it provides.  I am able to connect with film people all over the world through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I have access to tools and information I need for my project instantly.  I am able to maintain a connection with family and friends who live far away through text or social media as often as I want.  I have been reunited with people I care about through social media.  It is mostly a beautiful thing.

In a world filled with tragedy and sad news there are ways to reset yourself without going into hiding and I have been experimenting.  I began meditating each day.  15-20 minutes is all I can do without the restlessness setting in, but it is refreshing and helpful in shooing away the negativity.  I use some of the music from Canyon Ranch, where I first learned to silence my mind (Alice Boyd!).  When the weather is good, taking a mile walk around my neighborhood while listening to music has been a big plus.  Lastly, baths.  I have a big soaking tub and have been using it quite a bit this winter with some salts or bath tea.  20 minutes does it for me.  These examples are simple but I have never been good at doing them routinely and I am glad I am now. Maybe in older age I am finally becoming wiser?

It is good to reset rather than turn off don’t you think?  I am constantly looking for new and improved ways of changing how I assimilate the negativity of the world in my daily life.  If you have any suggestions I hope you will share them.  The older I get the more I realize how important this is. So please tell me what you do!

I am looking forward to February ending.  It will end on two positive notes.  My eldest grandson, Adam, will become a teenager this weekend.   Thirteen years I have known this incredibly wonderful human.  We will celebrate him and be very thankful.

After a bit of a break I am now back full swing into editing the second rough cut of my film, looking forward to all the final steps we need to take before I can report we are done!

I hope you end your February on a positive note or two and do whatever self-care you need to keep on marching and smiling.

Peace and Love to all,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Just Like That, 2017 Turned Into 2018

And Just Like That, 2017 Turned Into 2018

Have you noticed that each year seems to go by faster?  Apparently there are scientific explanations as to why it feels that way.  One explanation is based on our experiences and how often we repeat them.  Think back to when you were a kid and list all the “firsts” you experienced.  First time you rode a bike.  First time you drove a car.  First time you flew on a plane.  Like many experiences in life, they are repeated.  Again and again.   The psychologists say all our firsts are so exciting that we make incredibly vivid and lasting memories of each.  As the years go on, and we repeat each experience over and over, they don’t make the same impression they did when we were younger.  Everything becomes a fleeting and fast series of every day motions.  Maybe some of this relates to how 2018 showed up so abruptly.

Here it is and I am reflecting a little on 2017, as most people do.  My second year retired from Genex.  My second year as a filmmaker.

I don’t miss my old job anymore but  I do miss some of the people and have done my best to stay in touch with them. So far it’s working and I like to imagine they will always be a part of my life.

I love my new “job.”  I am getting better at it.  I have made a few mistakes along the way and have enjoyed learning to correct them.  My film is now in the rough cut stages, very rough cut!  I screened it with people in or related to the film world recently and received very positive and crucial feedback.  It was nerve-racking watching them watch what we had cobbled together.  I wanted them to like it but I also wanted someone to talk honestly with me about the rough spots, and they did.  What a great group of individuals.

Now we are working on those rough spots for the second rough cut. Hopefully soon we will be ready to find some comfort in a final cut and begin to plan for final processes including color correction, sound correction and music scoring.  I try not to think too far ahead regarding distribution but those discussions are looming.  I am staying focused right now on completion and shushing the little voices in my head screaming, “who is going to buy this??”  I am not sure where it will end up but it has been a true labor of love and a learning experience I never thought I would experience.

I think about next film opportunities often.  I have a couple of ideas and I think they are good ones.  I have met and talked with a number of experienced film directors from around the country and have learned so much from them.  I wouldn’t mind tagging along with a couple of them as they make their films,  Each person has a different approach and seeing that in action is how I learn best.  I will let you know how all that pans out.

So here I am in January of 2018 reflecting.  2017 was a good year.  Aside from a pesky case of chronic Lyme Disease I am ok.  My family is healthy.  My grandsons, almost 13, 9 and 7 are active and funny and I am so lucky to live near them.  John and I went to Venice and the Austrian Alps this summer which was amazing.  Then I topped off my birthday week seeing the total eclipse of the sun in Ravenna, Nebraska.  Whoever thinks that is a non-event, not worth traveling for, hasn’t done it.  It was John’s dream and I tagged along and was blown away by the experience.  I will do that again if I can!

My partnership with Expressway Productions in Philadelphia is strong.  We had a good year together.  We are both feeling positive about the film and excited to make it to the finish line.  We ended the year at Expressway’s 7th annual holiday party.  The theme was The Magnificent Seven (Western).  John and I are now proud owners of some pretty cool western gear.  If we go to Shyamaween later this year you will be able to pick us out in  the crowd pretty easily.

The Philadelphia Inquirer did an interview and gave the film some press.  Thank you PI!

Outside of my personal sphere it has been a pretty troublesome year.  Disturbing politics, fake news, #MeToo, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes have taken their toll.

At this writing, over 100 days since the hurricane, about a third of the population in Puerto Rico is still without power.  Try to imagine that.  I know of people who lost property in the CA fires.  I know of people who lost their homes and cars in Houston.   When I hear people complaining about the weather being too cold or the inconvenience of a snowy day or week all I can think about is how lucky we are to be where we are and to recognize that inconvenience is nothing compared to what so many people are going through.

So long 2017.  You were hard on a lot of people.  I hope that 2018 will be a kinder and more gentle year for everyone.  I wish you good health and lots of laughter as we make our way through 2018.

Thank you for sticking with me and The Beyond Sixty Project.  It means a whole lot to me.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

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Confessions of a Binge Watcher

Confessions of a Binge Watcher

 

According to a recent survey conducted for Netflix, 61 percent of TV streamers regularly engage in binge watching.  The definition of binge watching is viewing between two to six episodes of a show in one sitting.  It appears to be consistent across age demographics.  Is this a new cultural phenomenon?

I have never been a joiner of clubs but I believe I am a card carrying member of this one.  It all started a year ago when I was recovering from a terrible bout of Shingles. I was truly immobile and had great difficulty sleeping so lying on the couch at all hours became my place.  My husband brought us into the here and now with a subscription to Netflix and I was off to the races.

The first and most obvious joy of watching a series through Netflix or other streaming channel is there are no commercials.  With the advent of the DVR we learned to watch “taped” shows so we could fast forward through the never ending commecials for the pharmaceutical of the month. According to MarketingCharts, an average hour long TV show is 36% commercials.  It feels like more to me but I will go with the experts.  For me, there is nothing more distracting to a storyline than commercials, the ultimate disruption.

I love listening to stories and hearing the whole story so I can drink it in and let it envelop me.  It’s like reading a really good book where you can transport yourself into the story and you can’t put the book down until you are finished.  Ever have that experience? Binge reading, binge watching, kind of the same to me.

Back to Netflix and their season at a time approach.  I love it.  Netflix has given me full control over how I will watch the series of my choice. I can watch two or three episodes in one sitting or spread them out as long as I want.  From wonderful British series to the many shows produced here in the US, there is a tremendous amount of choice in programming.

I had never watched the televised series of Breaking Bad or Homeland until this year. I knew they were touted as some of the best on TV but when I had a more demanding work schedule I just didn’t get around to it.  I watched Breaking Bad over a couple months recently and can’t imagine watching it any differently. And I caught up on Homeland to bring me up to this season.  Both incredibly well done series. Admittedly, they left me breathless at times due to the intensity of the storyline but they definitely transported me.

There are people in the television industry that feel binge watching is a bad thing, arguing that TV loses its power if we don’t watch it at a moderate pace.  There is discussion that sensory overload from watching too many episodes in a short time may confuse the ending or leave the viewer with a sense of loss and sadness that the show has ended so abrubptly.

I don’t know about you but I have none of the above concerns and I think binge watching or marathon watching is an option that fits nicely with some people.  It’s a personal choice.  Just like reading a book.  Some people devour them in one sitting and others take months or a year to finish.  Luckily for all of us we have expanded choices.

I did binge Grace and Frankie this weekend, thus the reason all this was on my mind.  It’s a short series of 30 minute episodes and easy to binge in between cooking, grandkids and weekend stuff.  It didn’t disappoint and I feel fine this morning.  No sadness over the end of the show, no confusion from over stimulation.  Thanks Netflix!

Wishing you all a great week ahead and maybe even a little binge watching.

Love, Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

On March 8th the world celebrated women, commemorating the movement for women’s rights.  The United Nations celebrates women with a theme.  This year the UN theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” A message from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that women’s rights today are being “reduced, restricted and reversed.”  As the economic gender gap continues to widen, Guterres calls for change by “empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.”  The sixty-first meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women began today and will run through March 24th at the United Nations.

Outside of the UN, the theme heard for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change.”

I am sure you read about or maybe even participated in “A Day Without A Woman” last week.  Many of the women who participated were part of the Women’s March on January 21st, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

Not just here in the U.S. but throughout the world women took to the streets to stand in unison on International Women’s Day.  They all have one thing in common and that is a sense of urgency surrounding women’s issues and rights.  Each country surely has its unique set of circumstances but there is commonality among all the women when it comes to equity and the human rights of women.

The day is also designed to encourage reflection on the progress women have made throughout the years .  It is important to have knowledge about the history of the women’s movement.  If you have a clear understanding of the history of women’s struggles for equality then you can better understand the uncertainty and fear that many women have today.

I have actually heard women say that a protest for equality is ridiculous. I heard that exact remark while sitting in a restaurant recently.  Two women were sitting at the next table next to me. They were about my age. They looked fairly well to do.  I made the assumption they were educated.  So what was it that was making them react negatively to the recent organized protests?  I did not lean over, introduce myself and ask. Instead I remained in my seat with my salad and I am not totally ashamed to say I continued to listen to them.

The dominant one did most of the talking and in a voice that made it easy for me and other patrons to hear.  The thrust of her conversation was around abortion and the need to abolish it. I think her friend may have disagreed a little but was overshadowed and only made a few protest noises while trying to change the subject.   The subject eventually changed to equal pay and the less dominate woman became more animated and offered her opinion as to why women should not necessarily get paid the same as men for the same job.  Her reasoning did not make sense to me but I tried to see it from her perspective and just appreciate our difference of opinions.

There is so much more to it than just the discussions surrounding abortion rights or equal pay.  I sometimes think people tend to compartmentalize one issue that resonates with them without fully vetting the wholeness of the situation.  Maybe it is human nature to do it that way, I don’t know.  That said, to all the women of the world, my wish for you is that you live in peace and be valued every day for all that you offer.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”- Audre Lorde

 

Off the bookshelf:

The Women’s Liberation Movement in America, by Kathleen Berkeley

Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan

We Should All be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Call to Action, by Jimmy Carter

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman, by Lisa Shannon

 

Peace and Love,

Melissa