One Woman's Journey
Have you ever read Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own"? Well the big revelation from the book is that you have to have an income to be a writer. "Wow! Thanks Virginia! Thanks for crushing all my dreams just like that! Now I'll NEVER become a writer!" Don't despair. The road to your creative freedom may be long, it may be hard fought, but just like the old adage, "if it was easy everyone would do it", just don't give up. In this blog, I will detail my journey from stay at home mom, to would be movie producer.So to Virginia Woolf's point in "A Room of One's Own", she wanted to tell woman that as long as they were living under the finical chains, the finical realities of having to either make a living or be tied at home, cleaning raising children and what not, the possibility of unlocking your creative potential was slim to none. Her point was that you needed a patron to provide you with an income. You needed someone to believe in you enough to give you the freedom to write, and that you should have that freedom in a private space, without a husband looking over your shoulder asking you every five minutes what you're writing.Of course she was speaking to a turn of the century woman, that was still cloistered in long skirts and needed to be escorted everywhere she went like a small child. We've come a long way baby! But still, there are financial realities; and even though being a mom and a wife or a working woman, are a different thing altogether now, not nearly as labor intensive and opportunities to make more money exist, we still have some work to do before we can overcome the odds.
Get Out of Your Own Way
In the mid 90's I took a job at a children's museum as a receptionist. I had to beg for that job. It was part time minimum wage, even still the owner felt that I was over qualified and that I would be board and unhappy with my position. She was right, I was board and unhappy, but the point is I needed an income, and no matter how board or unhappy I was, I needed a job. Hour after hour I sat their doing data entry on the computer and taking admissions to the museum. Some days I thought I would drive a pencil right through my skull rather than sit there one more minute. But sometime that summer, in the heat of the day, my mind began to drift. There was a fountain outside in the courtyard where children would play, and I could day dream. I started to dream of a story. I had to do it mostly on the sly, but eventually I began to write my story. One chapter, two chapter, before you knew it I had a little novella. Put a pin in that, we'll get back to it later.When the novella was done, I quit that job, and had two more children. Ask me why? Go ahead ask me. I couldn't tell you. It seems silly now, but I had been a single mom, found a guy, married him and when the finances started to look better I quit my job and let myself get talked into more children. BAM! I could have had a V8. The important thing is I have some beautiful children, the stupid thing is I was extremely unhappy in that marriage, stifled at every turn. But you can't just turn creativity off at will! I needed an outlet. I sewed clothes from curtains, I made sculptures from paper mache, anything and everything I could do to release my creativity I did. I was trapped, I was unhappy and then one day I set myself free. One day after years of crying myself to sleep every night, I said to myself, "it's okay, you can leave this marriage. You've been a single mom before, you can do it again." And I left another marriage.
The Path to Discovery
Someone said to me "Hey, why don't you go back to the theater." I laughed, I scoffed. "You can't make a living in the theater, not at my age, not with my responsibilities." So what did I do? I started my own theater! Did I do it all by myself? No. I had encouragement, I had donations, I had a community. But it took a long time to build that community. That didn't happen over night. There were things to do first. I started a non profit (which just so you know took about $2,000 when it was all said and done), I went to my city hall and asked about grants, I applied for grants. I built sets, I made costumes, I sent out fliers, I casted actors. And if you're not in the mood for begging everyone you know for money, don't start a non profit! I cried, I begged I pleaded. I threatened to go live under a bridge. For 5 years I was on the verge of bankruptcy. I called my friend who was in collage and asked her for $75 to keep my water from getting shut off. I had my mini van repossessed, and a theater friend bailed it out. Why? Why were people so willing to help me? Because, those that knew me knew I was working day and night for the community I lived in. It wasn't charity, it was patronage of the arts. Was I broke? Yes, but I was also deliriously happy. I went to rehearsals everyday with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I honestly was on top of the world.
Some Called it "Luck" I called it "Knowing What I Wanted"
I don't mean to put a love story in the middle of a career path, but a little love never hurts. By 2008 I had quite an impressive resume. Did I feel like a fraud? Sometimes, I admit, being poor, always struggling to pay one bill versus another leaves a person feeling like a bit of a failure, but I told myself it was like saying "I'm fat" when you're not really fat at all. I still lived in the three bedroom home I rented out when I was a single mom the first time around. I managed to pay rent by hook or by crook, one way or another for 14 years. I live in southern California, which isn't cheep, somehow, I always managed to put food on the table and keep the lights on. So when I met a really good looking man in a bar, with an engineering degree and a great smile and personality to go with it, that's the foot I put forward. The "I'm the president of my own non- profit" foot. I believed in myself, because others had put their faith in me and suddenly, faith in myself was something I could afford. Not to give you all the gory details, we fell in love and we got married. You might be thinking with a solid income behind me, life suddenly got very easy. Well you would be wrong. We have 6children between the two of us and at the moment I write this, 5 grandchildren. Life keeps coming at us and nothing about our journey has been easy.
You Gotta Keep On Keepin' On
For two years my husband Brian began helping with the theater. First it was minimal, then it was extravagant. The economy crashed and grants dwindled. In a last ditch effort to save the theater we rented a little space in our town. We held that down for a full year. I worked the theater everyday while he was at work and the two of us holding shows on the weekends. I cannot stress enough the emotional growth I did in that year as an artist. To have my own space, my own dark theater space to go to day after day and write. I bloomed, I blossomed, I created. However eventually, we could no longer pay the $1,500 a month rent and we closed the theater in the summer of 2011.I Always Said... If God Wanted Me to Make Movies, He Would Give Me a CameraThe first thing I did when we shut down the theater is get four bunnies. I'm done having babies and I needed something to take care of. So I threw my heart into my animals, played with the stock market (on a very small level) and pretty much put all my energy back into my family. Of course, I'm an artist and that wasn't going to work for long. Months went by and I was beginning to get depressed. Everyday I sat around my house trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I had an idea for a novel called the "Coma Story" and just when I was ready to sit down and put pen to paper, someone gave me a video camera. My husband threw his hands up in disappear. He had spent months trying to convince me that now was the time to write the great "American Novel". That I had waited all these years to have the time and concentration to write and here it was. What he knew the minute I got the camera is that I was going to try to make a movie. He knew that because I always said that's what I wanted to do after the theater, I just didn't know how to do it.
Venus and Adonis the Curse of Love
The thing about me is I love Shakespeare. I've studied his work, independently since I was a teenager. I'll tell you right now, my last completed grade was 8. Yes, I'm a woman with a 8th grade education. I went to high school, but never got through one year without somehow moving and then conning my way up to the next grade. I was technically a sophomore when I dropped out and started working at a burger joint in Albuquerque NM. Anyway, when it came to literature, ol' Willie was my fist love. So when it came to making my first movie, I started with what I knew, my favorite poem. The making of Venus and Adonis the Curse of Love will be handled in another blog post. For now let me just say, that it was harder than running a theater, harder than anything I had ever done, but also the best time of my life so far. Just so you know, it cost about $2,000 when everything was said and done.
Dead Serious About Making Network Connections
Once my movie was complete, or rather even before it was completed, I had a vague idea of what to do with it. Most importantly I knew I needed to speak with other creatives and filmmakers. I grew a network, I spoke to people. I began writing a short. I was online everyday, talking and listening and talking some more. I researched, I reached out, I learned. There were things people told me that I thought were completely stupid, only to find out later they were probably right. There were times people said they would help and I actually believed them. I had expectations that I would get invited on sets to help- I was willing to help for free, no one ever asked for my help. I offered (locally of course) no one wanted my help. I got jealous because guys in the community were making films, independent films and they would all help each other out, but no one would volunteer to help me. Well the point of all that is, I kept trying, even when no one wanted my help and even when no one would help me. I didn't give up and that's the point. Remember the little novella I wrote when I was working at the children's museum? Well, I networked my way into a publisher's heart and got myself a contract for it. The short I started writing? I developed it into a feature. Venus and Adonis? I submitted it to two film festivals, just enough to get myself an IMDB page. At one point I realized I needed an LLC for my company, so I sold my jewelry and formed the LLC. Just so you know it's about $2,000 when everything is said and done. And that's how Tin KB Coffee Co pictures was born, and I couldn't have done any of it by myself, I had to build a network.And it's Only the BeginningWhat I want to close with is that I'm only getting started. It's taken me all these years, to just begin. I'm only at the starting line and I'm 50 years old. A friend said to me recently "Really hadn't you just better face the dragon?" Meaning, shouldn't I just give up, I'm too old to start a career. I laughed in her face. I did not spend the last 30 years of my life slowly putting one foot in front of the other only to give up now. No sir. I may be 50 and I may only be starting, but when I call myself president of Tin KB Coffee Co pictures... I mean it! I've earned it, and you can too.