Making movies is telling a story through pictures, performances, words, and sounds. I began this journey into movie-making through visuals first when my father taught me how to develop photographs when I was in 1st grade. No, before that, I started ballet like many pre-schoolers and started learning about physical movement and performance timed to sound. Eventually, I began writing and falling in love with the written word. I would rewrite and rewrite letters to pen-pals until they were perfectly worded and that the words fell on the page in a visually interesting/impactful way. I began taking piano lessons.
But learning all these techniques does not give you story. For story you have to live. You have to understand, or at least seek understanding. You have to engage in relationships and the world around you, expand what you know and try to look through another’s eyes…It’s a never-ending quest to find story, to write story, to tell story because you are constantly learning and experiencing and framing…
Add to all that the variables of performance, location, crew, equipment, luck, and making movies becomes a miraculous feat when one is completed. A study in controlled chaos. You have to tell a story using the visuals you capture, supported by the sounds you captured and/or design.
So here is a story of how I started discovering my eye.
ACID TEST got the green light on Seed&Spark meaning we received the funds raised in April to get us through post-production. More to come!
Thank you to everyone who contributed and followed, tweeted and posted. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And if you want to support ACID TEST but didn’t get a chance to during our Seed&Spark campaign, you can still make a tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor SWAMP!
So proud and excited to share the news that the band Giant Kitty, featured in my short film ACID TEST, asked me to direct their music video for the title song of their debut album “This Stupid Stuff.” The song is about microaggressions in our language and actions today that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices in our world. The lead singer came up with the concept, which I formalized and structured for shooting/editing purposes.
“The new video, directed by Jenny Waldo, is one of those combination concept and performance videos that’s a throwback to the ’80s, when music videos had their own dedicated television station and the politics of hate weren’t as overt as they are now. With the clever use of the most basic of props, sticky notes and a Sharpie, interwoven with footage of the band performing the tune on stage, ‘The Stupid Stuff’ exposes the absurdity of the politics of hate and fear and its reliance on stereotypes and labels to feed into the ignorance and prejudices that adversely influence your actions and interactions with others.” — Examiner.com
Official description: But what are we without dreams? A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything. Childhood friends, Orah and Nathaniel, have always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the rigid status quo. When their friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—they barely recognize the broken and brooding man the boy has become. Then when Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her. In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a terrible secret that launches the three on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in jeopardy. For hidden in the keep awaits a truth from the past that threatens the foundation of the Temple. If they reveal that truth, they might release the long-suppressed potential of their people, but they would also incur the Temple’s wrath as it is written: “If there comes among you a dreamer of dreams saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”
David Litwack’s Children of the Darkness offers a lyrical, well-structured, and well-written dystopian story about the power of truth and lies. In the manner of stories like Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the world has regressed to a simpler time and simpler style of living without any technology and governed by their religion. At first, it’s hard to determine in what period of time the story takes place in and it’s fun and interesting how the author places clues here and there to let us know that we are far in the future from our normal reality.
There’s a lot of work that goes into making a movie – short or long – and I know it’s a choice I make to do it, especially when it’s outside of my day job that keeps me and my children alive. Yes, I would love to be able to do this as my job full-time, but it’s also incredibly freeing to choose which projects to do and when. And no matter how much is going on at my day job, I am constantly, constantly, working on a creative project. I don’t see filmmaking or writing as “work” even though it’s hard. I don’t see it as work even though I know sometimes I’m sucking at it. To me it’s like breathing – it’s part of my autonomic system. It’s in my DNA.
That knowledge was something I discovered when I dropped acid as a teenager and came home after a concert with hours more to go in my trip. All I wanted to do was write things down. I was a wildly moody teenager (or maybe that’s just being a teenager) and writing about the world and about what was going on in my head helped me survive from one day to the next. I truly believe that writing saved my life, and as it saved my life it became my life. So no matter what I’m doing, every day, I’m writing or reading or watching something that expands my knowledge of the world, of myself, of people, but mostly of storytelling. The goal changed as well from simply surviving to the next day to producing something for someone else to enjoy.
Recently, I wrote a short film about this moment in my childhood. ACID TEST will be in production at the end of January. So the question is: Why this project? Why now?
We are producing the upcoming short film ACID TEST about a teenage girl who drops acid at a concert only to go home and confess to her parents what she’s done with four more hours to go in her “trip.” Set in 1992, the story is about teenage rebellion and parents’ unconditional love and was inspired by difficult personal experiences.
I’m currently casting for an upcoming short film that I’ve written and will direct. As a writer/director, I both love and hate the casting process. I love it because I get to try on different faces and voices and bodies to the characters and words I’ve had dancing around in my head; I hate it because I have to pass judgment on people based on face value. It always makes me think how hard it must be to be an actor, putting your face and your body out there for a quick judgment without knowing you or your abilities or your passions. I couldn’t do it, and so I admire everyone who is bold enough to throw in their hat, and I want to tell each and every one of you “Good luck!” and “I wish I could take all of you!”
At the same time, I see a number of ways that actors are shooting themselves in the foot with their submissions. Websites like Backstage.com or Actors Access allow you to submit more and more to peak a casting director’s interest, but MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER. So here are some things, obviously based on my own opinions and experience, that I would like to offer as food for thought when you submit:
When my daughter was around 3, she created what my father liked to call “Confederate Graveyards” (don’t ask me why) because she would line up pillows from around the house in a row, stick every doll face down on that pillow, and then cover them entirely with a blanket. The thing was, that’s how she napped in pre-school – you would lay down on a little mattress and the teachers would cover your entire body with a blanket. So my daughter wasn’t burying her dolls, she was putting them to sleep for their naps. I couldn’t find a picture of one, but she had around 10 dolls, so you can imagine the mounds lined up in my living room.
I don’t remember playing with dolls much, and I’m not a very girly-girl, but for my daughter, dolls are a living thing. In addition to putting them down for naps, she also did circle time and taught them like she was taught at her Montessori pre-school. I once opened up her closet to find 3 dolls in the back corner. When I asked her why, she said that “They were bad” and were being punished by getting stuffed into the closet. She didn’t seem to understand that maybe they had paid for their crime.
She’s going on 9 now and her imagination still astounds me. She has full-on conversations. Each doll has its own personality. My daughter teaches her class of dolls and stuffed animals, which now numbers in the 40s. I know have a step-daughter who’s 10 and she is equally (often more) intense about her dolls and play-acting. Like many girls, they have an obsession with American Girl dolls, the bane of any parent’s existence save for Disney. And the American Girl Doll stores are so crafty and clever about playing into this obsession: Come eat with your doll at the cafe! Get your doll’s hair styled! Hers-and-hers outfits so that girl and doll can match (swimsuits, pajamas, dresses, t-shirts, shoes…)
You would think with how much the girls love these dolls (and with how bleeding expensive they are) that they would treat the dolls like they were made out of porcelain and keep it tidy.
Such is not the case, at least not with my girls. They are everywhere in my house. Often lurking behind some corner or in a chair where I mistake that hair for an actual child/person. They freak my sons out, staring at the boys from their perch. Sneaky, sneaky little devils.
Enjoy the horror.
One winter when I was around 10, on the road back to DC from Montreal, the weather forced us to stop overnight. In a hotel room with a street lamp right outside our window, casting shadows everywhere, my father turned on the TV and watched NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. I was supposed to be asleep in bed, but I wasn’t. And so I watched and would be afraid of Freddy Kruger well into my adult life.
Wes Craven terrified me as a child, and yet from everything I’ve read about the man, he seemed so unassuming, so quiet, and so nice. There was something about this sensitivity, his intelligence, and his quiet yet forceful dedication toward storytelling and filmmaking that I always respected and admired. He was part of the flashiest section in the flashiest field and yet he seemed anything but. It’s a testament to the imagination. He is our generation’s Hitchcock.
RIP to a man who made nightmares real and revolutionized and inspired horror films.
Ruby by Cynthia Bond is about Ephram Jennings who in his 40s finally finds the strength to go against the sister that raised him and the community that supported him to pursue his childhood love of the local crazy Ruby who is shamed as a godless whore corrupting the good men in a small black town in Texas during the 60s. Through various character vantage points and flashbacks, we learn the harrowing and complicated history of the central lovers and their community, which includes unflinching accounts of child rape, murder, and physical abuse, set within a spiritual war between Christianity, a form of Voodooism, and simple human decency.
I am so glad that I read Ruby by Cynthia Bond. Given the subject matter of the book, “glad” would seem like the wrong word, but this book fed a piece of my soul, and for that I am grateful and, yes, glad. Given the subject matter of the book, it would seem like a “hard” book to read, something I wouldn’t easily consume, something that would take me a long time to get through. But Cynthia Bond has a way with words and a way with story and she wrapped her words and her story around my mind and my heart and my soul and took me down this path, little by little, until I couldn’t turn away from the horror, but became a witness and therefore part of a possible solution. What is the solution? Hope. Acceptance. Not turning a blind eye. Not shying away from truth.