Rejection & Renewal

today is the 22 yr anniversary of the death of my son's namesake. he was driving back from his mother's funeral in Portland and fell asleep at the wheel 10 min from his house in McKinleyville, CA. (Margaret and I started dating shortly afterward and said if made it thru the hazards of being in a relationship in college and one day got married and one day had children, the boy would be named after him.) The last thing he said to me, in the foyer to our classroom on the 2nd floor of the Theater Arts Building, in a rush to get to Portland, the news of his mother's death fresh on his face was I'll be okay.

I got rejected for a job I wanted. granted still a day job (ie not filmmaking) but one that at least would intersect w/ my creative training and background. The sting was primarily ego-based but enough to mostly ruin the weekend. Late Sunday I started to think that maybe it was a gift, this not getting the thing I wanted, this transformative opportunity, this second chance to rise from the ashes and chart a course forward. That it was the pursuit of the job that was more important than the job itself (esp as relates to how I value my own self and voice).

It hasn't been confirmed but a rejection from a very selective film program I wanted desperately to attend is imminent. Getting in would have been a game-changer for my next movie Sister/Brother (which starts shooting this Spring).  When I got picked for the second round back in August, I had a few weeks to get the screenplay in shape and I did a line by line rehaul. In a sense that was the gift of advancing, not the perceived end goal. I am making the movie regardless.

Thursday I went to see the Pixies. In that weird sort of bookending that only music can seemingly do recalled seeing them 28 years earlier in Atlanta at the Roxy on October 15, 1989. Standing here in the recent present watching them made me think of the small tiny person I was then, a senior in high school, the broad deficiencies and wants that consumed me then. How I wish the me of now could go back in time, telling him not to put focus on such meaningless things. That made me think of the broad deficits and wants that consume me now. Is someone coming from 28 years in the future to tell me something similar? something like this:

Light can conceal as much as shadow can reveal. Things break one way, things break another. You'll be okay.

Today on my lunch break I ran up past the Duniway Park Lilac Garden, up Terwillger Blvd, on the path that circles the hospital where I had 2 brain surgeries, where my son had a fetal MRI when he was in utero to help them get a better look at the mass in his chest that was changing shape week to week, when we didn't know if he would live or die before he got to us, or shortly thereafter. The sun was out and the sky was blue. It was crisp and clear. My app told me when I finished the run but something inside me told me to keep going.


MM on Residency - end/return

really flubbed the landing there. meant to do a real-time day by day account of what it was like with aims to sort of document the price of art and love and marriage where both parties are pursuing something creative and there is taxation w/ in. I'll just say that there were a couple big low points (the macaroni night, Thurs b/f MM came home) but I weathered, we weathered. I am so proud of MM and cannot wait to see what kinds of fruit this trip bore her. Also, I'll get her back when I shoot my next movie Sister/Brother in the spring or summer of 2018


MM on residency - night 7, day/night 8, day 9

a blur of compromise and moments blended with good and bad in equal loops and rotations. two very good things: dinner w/ friends and other kids and playdate the next AM at other friend's house. both of these were moments to re-set and take a breath, find community w/ other parents and get some space from kids and allow them to play/connect w/ other kids. very grateful for that. also grateful that my mom and dad watched kids for an hour or two on Sat afternoon so I could go to New Seasons and then to have a beer at Corkscrew in Eastmoreland (but they of course were closed for private party!). Sunday afternoon, after nap they stepped up again and come over for an hour so I could rehearse my presentation for work today and to go to New Seasons (again! over and over). I purchased app so I can count down minutes/hours til MM comes home. This AM kids up early but school. My mom and dad come over and take them to school so I can go to do my presentation and then they pick them up and are at home w/them now waiting for me. I drove to 17th and Rhine max station again and should really stop on way home to get some food for dog. Just a few more nights. Plus I am home on Thurs and Fri. Hallelujah! (amount of work I have done on anything film related in the past few days is zero. Plus I had grand plans to revisit whole untapped swaths of cinema watching but thus far have managed to take in Remains of the Day, the 1st hour of Mon Oncle, 3 episodes of Mindhunter).


MM on Residency - night 5, day/night 6, day 7

Good things: kids still alive; successful visit to Burgerville, successful trip to Lewis Elementary to play and walk dog; successful visit to Rose Garden w Grandpa and N to watch Blazer game; semi-successful trip to Playground Gym; F agrees to take bath and let me wash her hair

Bad things: kids fight in car on street by playground gym; N karate chops F in throat; things spiraling out of my agency; F punches N in eye; nobody’s listening to me; N brings MMs big ergo ball upstairs even though i tell him not to; N and F play around in hallway in said ball, N lands face on floor, nose gushing blood; screaming; shrieking; nobody is listening to me; me relying on iPad too much; that steady burn in my gut


MM on Residency - Night 4, Day 5

Holy moly, last night was absolute shitshow. Got home to find the meal had been prepared by kids (w/ help from G & G, who promptly departed upon my arrival): fruit skewers and rice bowls w/ lots of fixings and additions. We finished eating at 5:15 and I had to clean everything up. Kids had both had endless rivers of screen time so we couldn’t pivot to a show. I tried to get them in their pjs and start early bed time all while kind of piecemeal cleaning where I could. F still not feeling well is just roaming the house crying ‘mama, mama’ and N I can feel ramping up. Eventually we are in the bathroom and he’s punching and kicking me and I’m trying every stripe of Buddhist patience and honoring the moment and speaking to him as adult and bargaining and negotiating to no avail and I grab him and put him over my shoulder and tactically attempt a primal papa bear type shriek/howl. This would be my great undoing. Things escalate from there and I am awaiting the police any second b/c no doubt the neighbors can hear the screaming and barking. F comes in and is sitting on my lap crying for mama and N is across from me throwing things at my face. I eventually wait it out and things slowly begin to recede from threat and I am able to put F in her room in bed and N in his. Everyone is hollowed out and fried. I make it downstairs with a glass of wine and sit on the futon and within seconds F has coughs herself awake and starts crying. This pattern would repeat several times. Instead of watching a work of cinematic genius my scattered mind tries multiple things: 5 min of The Trigger Effect, 5 min of Bojack Horseman, 5 min of  Mindhunter. None of them stick. I am fried and hollowed out and drink too much and binge eat some raided Halloween candy and none of it makes me feel better, only worse. The only good of the night is that F’s fever doesn’t return. At 2 am she coughs herself awake and then I am up and I begin catastrophic thinking and get fearful b/c MM has not touched base w/ me all night and I know she must be dead in WY frozen or bear-eaten so I call her at 2am and wake her up and freak her out. But she’s fine.

The next day the kids have a dance party that predictably ends w/ F screaming b/c she hit her head on the doorframe.

I take F to preschool. Me and N go to BiMart for mop and clock and New Seasons for shredded cheese and beers. We go home and play and clean up and then at 11 we go see Lego Ninjago. F takes a nap at preschool for the first time all year and her fever doesn’t come back. At present I am writing while they are being annoying as hell around me, near-fighting and trying my patience in severe way. I cannot wait until they are asleep and feel like an asshole for thinking that. My reserves of patience and energy are severely low.

amount of work I've done on anything related to cinema or myself: zero


MM on Residency - Day 4

as it happens I didn't watch Bergman or Cassavettes.  I went back and forth on a few choices, watched the first 4 min of a longer Criterion movie that wasn't a great fit for me, started Weekend by Andrew Haigh and got 2 min in b/f MM called. We talked for close to 40 min and then it was too late to finish movie so I watched the next episode of Mindhunter but fell asleep, waking when F was wailing "Mama, Mama" due to a bad dream, discomfort or some mix of both.

Went to bed. F woke me up at 12:50. I laid w/ her for an hour and then N screamed "Dada, Dada" b/c he had a bad dream. By now I was wide awake so I did crossword puzzle for long time until I finally felt the pull of sleep. turned out light and went to sleep. ten min or so later F woke me up crying. This pattern repeated a few more times. around 5:30 I came out of her room again but cat mewing to go outside, N got up to use bathroom, I fed dog. I pleaded w/ N to go back to sleep and let me sleep until 630, (as we normally are up at 6). he said sure. by some miracle F stayed asleep. He came and woke me at 630 and we read chapter of his book and then F woke up. Kids were crazy. FaceTimed w/ MM and it started good but ended w/ them talking over one another, F sobbing, N hurt in the neck when F pulled him. Oy. I let them start a show and then Grandma and Grandpa came over. I got F fully dressed and got her in the car but electrician showed up to look at bathroom remodel. I had to show him where panel was and explain we've had 3 GFCI's and one overhead light in garage that hasn't worked since demo a few wks ago. he said ok. I drove Fred to preschool. (I gave her a dose of cough medicine and advil right before drop off). I drove to Max stop in Brooklyn, right at 17th and Rhine but it took me so long to park that by the time I was parked and walking to the station and just 2 blocks away the max was pulling up and I couldn't catch it. Waited 14 min in the chilly AM for the next one.

At work I emailed grant guy about sister/brother grant and investor deal, asking him to qualify what he told me. turns out I misunderstood a key point. No big deal. Had acupuncture appt at 10 and went running on treadmill at noon. both were key since I've been exceedingly focussed on others the last few days. Headed home in a few. Grandma and Grandpa are w/ kids making dinner (polka dot rice and fruit skewers). I have to decide which movie to watch tonight provided kids sleep long enough to allow it.


MM on Residency - Days 2 and 3

Monday woke at 5 am, or rather N woke at 5 am, still adjusting to daylight savings. I was fried from waking up to be w/ F no less than 10 times, one for no water, one for bathroom, the rest for either coughing or coughing-related issues. N was excited to go finish his legos but it was 5 so I said no and split the difference (usually he's up at 6) saying if he stayed in bed for 30 min to read he could go and do the legos at 530. oy. so he did. Both kids and me fully up around 610. I had to make judgement call of whether or not to send F to preschool. part of me thought she was ok enough, but the other part thought it would be ill-advised. asked my mom to come over to watch F and she said sure. now it's 6:15 meaning there were about 2.25 hours to fill/kill b/f grandma came over. endless negotiations about every possible bit of minutae about everything. exhausting and deflating. somehow we make it through breakfast (was today the day N at 3 hard-boiled eggs? or was that yesterday?) Somehow N gets dressed. Grandma comes over at 820 or so. N and I and the dog walk up to Lewis Elementary. He goes in to class. check. Go home with dog. say goodbye to mom and F. drive down to bybee max station but naturally there's nowhere to park except on a street a million miles away. whatever. get on max, go to work.

the accoutrement of kid-care

at work. all well there except endless chaos of work-related items. around 2:30 I get call from person afiliated w/ bigger-deal film related thing (even though we said 3). he tells me the details and I ask questions. I hang up and email my producer Dave M. all looking good but figuring path forward on how to make Sister/Brother. We will need some $.

Home, excited to put kids to bed and go downstairs to watch rest of Remains of the Day. I let them watch show while I make dinner (frozen pizza!). we eat. F is in bed by 6:22. I leave N's room by 8 p. But then F starts coughing. And coughing, and coughing. I get downstairs w/ glass of wine ready to watch movie but she's crying and half-asleep and uncomfortable. I'm starting to lose control of my steadiness, starting to feel a little edgy b/c I just want to be off-duty for like an hour or so but that's not looking possible. I start/stop the movie no less than 4 times to go lay w/ her, remedicate her, readjust her pillows, readjust the humidifier etc. Over it. Watch end of movie and it's so GD spectacular.  How has it been so long since I've seen? Perfect mix of craft and memory and time and regret, right in my wheelhouse. To bed.  F wakes me up multiple times. Middle of night her fever is back, over 100 now.

N wakes up at 5:50, progress. I decide to let him get up. I decide to call in to work so I can stay home w/ F b/c Grandma did it mon and she's going to be w/ N all day on Wed (no school November PPS!) plus what harm can come from me staying home? I tell Grandma/Grandpa they are off the hook today but they offer/insist on taking N to school anyway.  We do FaceTime w/ MM around 8. She shows us her badass lodgings and the particulars of what's going on out there in WY. Grandma shows at 8:15 and 20 min later she and N walk up to school. She agrees to stay w/ F when she gets back so I can walk dog (ie LB). A few moments later my dad stops in. says he saw grandma and N walking to school. He agrees to stay w/ F so I can walk LB. I run into my mom on the walk. We talk about these kids and reminisce about when she called me on the phone (this is at SE 80th a million yrs ago) and she said "Are you EVER going to have kids?" ha ha. She tells me my dad while out of woods re lymphoma and re cancerous growth on his scalp is contending w/ carcinoma on nose. Life this never-ending BS of dealing w/ these mortal bodies. Over it. Back home and they leave and me and F are together all day.

We play and read and do play-doh and then a car pulls in our driveway. it's the project manager for the bathroom remodel we're ensnared in. He's just coming to check on some stuff in advance of tomorrow's elec inspection. whatever I say and mention how we haven't had power in the garage since the demo about 2 mos back. He says he can ask electrician to look at it as if I'm asking him for some favor or something. I say, no this is from the demo and also the electrician might want to know in case the circuit is tied in to the bathroom that's being remodeled and he says "oh yeah". He leaves and me and F go watch SING in the basement but 1/2 way she gets sleepy. we have lunch and I put her down for nap. about 75 min.

She wakes up sad that momma is gone so we do facetime again. F does some playdoh and I take some pix. N and grandpa come in around 310. N has lost his brandnew blue jacket. Somewhere on the playground at AM recess. Grandpa said they went to the office to look thru lost and found but it wasnt there. Problem since N is off school for the next 3 school days plus the wknd and it might get cold. Oh well. I make kids do quiet time and then let them watch a show while I fold laundry. I also change their sheets and put their laundry away. I make dinner while N nobly lets F play legos in his room. I am braced for shit to go south any second but he is in the zone and ably navigates her somewhat annoying interplay and demeanor. We eat dinner (burritos, quesadillas) and brush teeth. I put N down first and then F. I pour a healthy amount of wine into a glass and sit at the computer documenting this. I plan what movie to watch tonight, stuck b/t Tati, Cassavettes, Bergman or just watching dumb shows. TBD,  will advise.


MM on Residency - Day 1

 documenting this just as element of living the artistic dream. will try to add every day

Sunday, MM woke around 4 a and left. I caught her just as taxi was pulling up, ready to take her to airport for 3 flights (13 days in WY, part of her being finalist for Pen/Hemingway for People Like You).  I went back to bed but F had cough and fever and so she was waking up every few moments and then on top of that it was daylight savings so the kids internal clocks woke them at 5 a instead of 6 a. fun!

we got through the morning slowly. since it was grey and cloudy and cold i let the kids climb into bed w/ me and watch shows on the ipad so I could doze mindlessly beside them. By the time all that was done it was 8 am and the day stretched before me like a long road.  breakfast and then walked the dog. then got them into the car and went to Tryon Creek, a frequent haunt. walking in the woods is harder w/ 2 kids, both of whom wanted to be carried at same time. made it home for lunch and then they both napped. i watched e1 of mindhunter.

after naps gave them presents from MM (lego and butterfly costume) and then went to grandma and grandpa P's. then back home for dinner and bed. F's cough/fever persists so gonna keep her home on Monday and grandma P will help.

at night, I am working on fundraising trailer for my next feature film Sister/Brother. version 1 is edited just needs color correction and final sound mix. re-watched Remains of the Day and freaked out at how great it is, though i only got in an hour b/f starting to get drowsy. Headed to bed and F woke me up every 30 min or so.


shooting trailer 10.8.17

me walking, SB pointing (pic by Phil G)
first time directing per se since January 2013, holy moly. plenty of writing and editing and cinema in between but being on set again was a balm for the weary. today's undertaking a trailer for upcoming feature called Sister/Brother (production starts March 2018). shooting on Alexa. 7 static shots, no dialog, plus 1 shot w/ dialog, so I make mistake of thinking things will go at fast clip. always budget extra time. guerilla style but 6 locations. DP Scott Ballard, AC, Asia B. , Sound Phil G, plus 2 actors and myself. 8 am call for all minus 1 actor. Loc 1 is my house. simple shot down hallway but we didn't wrap 1st loc till 9:20. loc 2, easy shot but rain. I ask DP to add tilt down even though I designed the whole thing static. just felt right. I text actor 2 and say push back an hour b/c we're running late already. loc 3 has 3 separate setups. stop back by my house for another camera battery and bathroom breaks. loc 4 easy peasy though i add another tilt down, which also felt right. Actor 2 arrives. go to small street near stop sign and both actors in car. several shots, several considerations. airplanes overhead bad for sound. neighbor comes out, asks what we're shooting. she's nice though. AC leaves as we're finishing this location. All remaining pile into Phil's van. we head downtown for last shot. Traffic horrendous. construction plus portland marathon earlier that day plus apparent protest nearby. we park, head to top of building. get shot. I design another quick shot, no dialog  w/ both actors b/c location is good but it ends up looking like an album cover photo so i don't know what purpose it can serve, possible title card/poster down the road. we wrap but Phil has to take off. He drops us at my house. that leaves me, Scott and 2 actors. We go have some lunch and beers around 3 pm. we all toast the movie. directing again at last is different sensation. i feel strange sense of confidence about the project, in part to being older, in part to project, in part to having made feature before. the day is me planting a flag along w/ cast and crew. ready to continue, ready to begin.


memorial day trip

driving down the winding road alongside the Smith River on the 199, tiny towns subject to change and decay, unlike the rising landscape

maybe aging means existing alongside your former selves, not transcending them. the complication is in keeping the timelines in order, the thread of the narrative bloats with each year, bleeding into the watery present.

there's the theater in eureka where I was a projectionist 20 plus yrs ago, moving heavy film canisters to the projectionist table, threading films into projectors, watching the ends of movies over and over, checking focus and frame out the small window that overlooked each auditorium, aching as I looked forward to life in LA, toward becoming a filmmaker. all that aspiration and ambition pulsing with the knowledge that it was going to happen. no matter what.

there's the theater in Arcata where I watched rivers of double features starting 25 years ago, where I worked for a time, where M did too, where one early morning she and I sat out front on the raised corner of the loggia and she looked at me and said we both know last night didn't mean anything and a possible door closed before re-opening a short time later, arguably beyond my agency or hers.

In Ferndale (where I was an extra in a film 23 yrs ago and where another film was shot 16 yrs ago produced by the company I worked in the mailroom at in LA) here's a house where we stay with old friends - some not seen in decades - all of us older, greyer. All fundamentally the same and unmistakably altered.

and there's the trees, standing for ages before my great-grandparents were conceived laughing at my insights (oooh 20 years, come back and see us in 500 bud), standing through fog and wet, through sun and ache. still t/here.

my filmic trajectory has not lined up with what that projectionist anticipated but that is not a unique story I suppose. still my next film project stirs, slowly gathering form and heft.

and this is a thing borne of many unconnected things, of where I find myself, of reading some D Lynch interviews, of recalling M Haneke directed The Last Continent at 47, of rewatching Man on Wire, of my 45th birthday just days away, of the trip to past corridors where my old iterations stand on every corner : I have always found myself waiting for things - mentors, money, approval - needing those things to grant me the power to move forward. This new film is the embodiment of that, which is to say a character wrestles with all these competing strands of history and desire of time and oblivion - and by the simple act of continuing to step forward, she transcends it. And so for me the act of making this next film is the renunciation of that need, that reliance on approval. I'm tired of wanting to be liked, this grade-school ache to fit in that I've toted around for decades like a fat cement albatross. Time to cut that loose and to finally get busy.

And 100 years from now when this next movie and the next and the next have been born and lived and been long forgotten this tree in the fog will still stand, not really giving a crap about anyone's aches or iterations.


screening 5/6/17 "The Black Sea" and "Ekimmu/The Dead Lust"

I arrived at Clinton Street Theater (via car2go) at 6:30 or so. Had some of the familiar pre-flight nervousness associated with all screenings and was really eager for the lights to go down and for the films to begin. THE BLACK SEA was playing as the 2nd of a double feature with Ekimmu/The Dead Lust. This had great personal significance for me because Ekimmu's filmmaker is Andy Koontz, a fellow brain tumor survivor. Andy and I connected on line some time back and communicated frequently via social media but we had never met in real life. There is an ease and shorthand to survivor communication (particular to trauma in general I presume, not just medical/brain trauma) - where since so much is understood without being voiced. Andy understands things that no one else really can by virtue of his journey and his battle (sidebar: Andy had medullablastoma, I had chondrosarcoma). A few minutes before 7 Andy and his wife Chrissy arrived. We took a couple pix out front and then headed into the theater.

Andy Koontz, me (photo by Kelsey Grace Soriano)
The lights dimmed and Ekimmu/The Dead Lust began. Now, I'd seen it a couple times at home but as with all cinema: see it in the theater, the best and truest way to experience it. Ekimmu in particular benefits from the biggest possible screen and the most dynamic sound system. The film - in part about a young couple who find a bloody woman on the side of a rural road at night - has a raw energy to it and is most impressive considering it was made on the slimmest of shoestring budgets. Andy not only wrote, acted, shot, directed and edited, he also did the sound design and composed and performed the original score. A true labor of love. I can't wait to see how it does on the film festival circuit (I suspect quite well) and even more what Andy does next. Seek his movie out and lend him your support. (sidebar: both movies looked and sounded great at Clinton Theater)

When Ekimmu ended, I wasn't certain if Andy was going to do a Q & A before for my movie or not, we hadn't really discussed it - but it didn't matter b/c the lights stayed down and THE BLACK SEA began. I hadn't seen the film or actively contemplated it all in over a year (last shown in Feb 2016 at the SoCal Film fest) which was truly a liberating experience. Letting go. I watched solely (okay mostly) as random viewer and allowed things to just happen before me, void of judgement. Letting go. Things I'd previously disliked seemed to work. The movie has a dark flow and dream logic to it that I've always felt like I have to defend or rather that I have to be on guard about but this time to put it in crude terms I didn't give a shit. The cast is awesome, score, camera, sound design all top notch. I am very proud of it and eager for it to be seen. (there is rumor of upcoming NW Film Center screening this summer, will confirm - and some possible upcoming West Coast dates/venues that I can't discuss just yet but TBA).

Q & A, me & Andy (pic by Kelsey Grace Soriano)
After Andy and I both went on stage for Q & A. We discussed our influences, how the projects came together, how our brain experiences affected the final product (Andy had already shot and been in post when he was diagnosed - I was at screenplay stage when I was diagnosed). I had a private moment on stage, remembering that a decade prior on 5/6/07 I ran the Vancouver BC marathon to raise $ for the National Brain Tumor Foundation and now here I was with a finished feature, standing next to another brain tumor survivor talking about his feature. I can't fully express with words the power and gravity of this feeling but I'll reduce it to this: gratitude. Andy and I are hoping/planning to replicate our double feature again in the fall at another Portland venue. Stay tuned.

Later, across the street at Dots with Scott (who shot and co-produced THE BLACK SEA) and Erin (who plays Charlotte),  Michael (who plays the gallery employee), filmmaker Ryan Graves  and some other friends a robust discussion about certain scenes arose. What did this scene mean? Why did character X do Y? I didn't answer as much as observe. It was a reminder of the power of cinema and how this movie that I made, that I hadn't seen/contemplated in awhile, that's been in the rearview mirror for me for quite a duration still has a pulse, is still here, is still alive.