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  • Writer's pictureJenny Waldo

Just Another Day

My debut feature film, Acid Test, premiered this past week in festivals. It went as perfectly as it could have gone, I think. We had a sold-out enthusiastic crowd at the Austin Film Festival. In the four days preceding, I think we worked the festival well as my Producers Anna Tran and Kerianne Parker (who were also 1st AD and DP, respectively) and I divided and conquered and spent quality time together for the first time since our shoot. I loved the look on people's faces when we would approach and say we had a film premiering there - these 3 women, one a woman of color. It definitely felt like a power move.

I wrote a whole blog post on the film's website about how amazing the premiere was, but I wanted to spend time here exploring the realization that this was just another day. A damn good day. An incredible milestone day. But as I came home to a house full of kids, my husband, my work, laundry and groceries and all the mundane tasks of life, I feel myself itching to keep the party going. I think anytime you do something intense for a short period of time, there's always that comedown period. Being on set is like that. Being at a festival is like that too. Like sleep-away camp where you make instant best friends and live in a parallel universe to your life. It can be hard to let go.

I think when I was younger, I went through a grieving process whenever these events would end. Like you knew you might not ever see or talk to these people again, these temporary best friends. But in the world of film and festivals, you can. And you can pick back up where you left off. A lot of filmmakers I know seem to be especially good at this: letting go and picking back up as if no time has past. In my own life, I attribute this to strong compartmentalization. It's what allows me to move from writer to producer to director, you have to be wholly committed to the stage you're in, totally present.

So I jump into the deep end, and I forget about my real life for a moment. Not completely, but sometimes I find myself surfacing and remembering "Oh, I need to check in!" I appreciate the terrible mistakes I made in my youth with this zoned-in mind-set, mistakes that hurt myself and people I loved, that taught me to keep a tether to my real life. Because eventually, I will be going back to my real life. That's what's real. This parallel universe is just temporary, you can't live here forever. I don't think I'd want to. It's exhausting! Especially when you've got something to promote and push. It's work.

There definitely is a bit of a reentry process. Anna said that she learned in her Yoga training that just because you have been transformed by something doesn't mean that the people around you have transformed because they didn't go through the same things. I started this blog in the midst of my divorce and this visceral acknowledgement that the only constant thing in life is change, and I find myself coming back full circle. I feel like the particles of my body have been rearranged into the same shape, but different order. My husband, my kids, my friends, the world...everything is always changing at different rates and in different ways and we need to give each other the love, respect, and space to grow and change, which can be scary.

I am terrified of change sometimes. Even if it's good change. Because change means that things will be different, and I don't know what that looks like or feels like. Sometimes I worry that these turning points will be the start of the end to something. I've already had one marriage that couldn't keep up with the massive changes in life and personality from the age of 16 to 32. Will my current marriage survive? Will my friendships? How many friends have I grown apart from over the course of my life? As a parent, you worry about the choices your kids are making, wondering if all the changes they're going through will lead them to happiness. Knowing that sadness and struggle is part of life too. I don't wish that on anyone, but I also know that it can make you a better person, shape you into who you want to be. Hopefully. With support. It can also be crushing and life-ending.

But that's the Czech in me. Doom and gloom. So I'm embracing the now, staying in today, reminding myself that I've had a series of great days. But they are just days like any other. So when bad days come (not if), I hope to remember that those are just days too. Days that pass into another.

My 16 year-old son came up to me after the screening and told me how good the film was as he pulled me into a hug. I could hear the catch in his throat, which of course sent me into tears that I had to rein in before the Q&A. When we talked later, he admitted that he actually cried a lot during the film. Curious to see what moved him in particular, he replied that he was just so proud of me. I can't tell you what it means to have your teenager reflect back to you what you feel for them. Not without sobbing all over again.

And to the women and non-gender-conforming people who came up to me and said they felt seen, that I captured what it was like for them...thank you. This is why I made this film, and knowing that I got something right means everything. My struggle is not unique, but I hope I was uniquely able to share a glimpse into that struggle for others. I hope I did it justice. I'm sorry if it was triggering, but I hope it was also healing. If you make it to the end of the credits, my dedication is to you:

Dedicated to everyone struggling in their identity and in their relationships with those they call family.

I wish I could spew euphoria and ecstasy. I wish I could feel it. I have a tendency to lock down my emotions when something big is happening. Prepare for the worst; hope for the best. I can't quite feel the happiness or accomplishment because I don't want to feel the sadness or failure. I'm getting better at it. Realizing that I have some kind of idea of what these events "should" be like and feel like, so when they don't fit the picture I think I must be missing something. So as I stay in the moment, I remind myself to embrace what comes as is.

When I got into my car, alone, after the premiere on Sunday, I broke into sobs. My emotion lock down released and with it, a flood. When Anna jumped in for the ride back to Houston, she just held me as I tried to pull myself together. I hate crying, but I tend to burst into tears a lot. At big moments. At life-changing events. At my kids' performances. I used to cry a lot on the way out to a journey, like the first time I went to Los Angeles for my first internship in the industry. I didn't know what the future held, but I knew I would be changed. I was scared, and I grieved the person I was and the life I led that I was leaving behind. But I also knew I had to keep moving forward. Face the change willingly and with curiosity.

It's interesting to see how cyclical life is/can be. How I keep finding myself in the same kind of moments just with different circumstances and with more life experiences to guide me. I'm not sure where it's leading, but it feels good and I know for today, it's great.

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