All posts by Megan Vick

About Megan Vick

Megan is the managing editor for Intent Blog, but hopes that one day you'll recognize her as an Academy Award winning screenwriter. She tells stories locally in Los Angeles and performs improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade and indie theaters around town. She loves movies and TV more than she knows how to say and you'll most likely catch her talking about the last thing she watched or how much she loves "The Social Network" (no really, it's such a great movie). You can find her on twitter @MeggoInc and website coming shortly!

The Importance of “Keep Trying”

keep trying
This is definitely not me, but let’s pretend anyway.

Six months ago I spent half of my savings on a gym membership and a personal trainer at the gym down the street from my apartment. It was supposed to be a three month membership only because I had this Groupon, but I’m a sucker and they brought their whole sales team out. Next thing I know I was handing over my debit card, feeling convinced that I was finally making the right positive change in my life. I was also under the delusion that if I lost the right amount of weight that I could potentially replace Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane in the next installment of Spider-man (and basically my entire life would be a fantasy). I woke up the next morning having a full fledged panic attack. If you’re not aware, six months of personal training is expensive. Like thousands of dollars expensive and while I love my job, being a wellness blog editor does not really afford such luxuries. When I called the gym to cancel they informed me that they don’t do refunds on personal training unless you get hit by a bus or something. This is not a fact they mentioned the night before, or else I’d like to believe I wouldn’t have been so willing to just hand over the cash.

The point is I paid for this trainer. And now it’d be my job to make it worth it.

Yesterday was my last session. I have lost a total of five pounds. It’s not my trainer’s fault really – or at all even. The thing is that even though you’re paying someone all that money to help you get in shape the job is still yours. So you can pay someone to tell you how many reps to do twice a week but if you go home and eat an entire bag of Sour Cream and Onion chips – you’re only screwing over yourself. This is not to discredit the work of personal trainers. Their enthusiasm and guidance are invaluable, but they can’t lose the weight for you and if you’re not in the mindset to do it then all the wisdom in the world isn’t going to get you there. I can make a lot of excuses about why I didn’t lose more – I was depressed, I was juggling too much, there were scheduling problems, I couldn’t get a regular routine – but at the end of the day I just didn’t do it. 

It’s hard not to feel like a failure with something like that. It’s not like I didn’t want it, you know? I’ve been chubby to obese my entire life and for once I wanted to know what it felt like to try on pants at Old Navy without having to go to the maternity or plus sizes section. I wanted to know what it felt like to go shopping with my friends and not want to curl up in a fetal position thirty minutes in because none of the clothes I want come in my size or look right. This was the perfect opportunity to get there and I didn’t make the most of it. I’ve been beating myself up about it for weeks as I knew I was running out of sessions.

It came even more acutely at the end of the session yesterday. I had made it through warming up, backward bench presses, arm curls, rowing, twenty minutes of boxing and ab exercises (Okay, so how much did I have to gorge to only lose five pounds doing all that? I KNOW.) But to finish it off my trainer wanted to do these push up exercises. You start on your elbows and then push up into regular push up position. Then rotate back down onto your elbows, repeat. On top of being a chubber I also have basically no upper body strength. So I got onto my elbows and could barely hold myself up. I tried to get up on my hands and every time I did I would collapse onto my front. My trainer kept trying to encourage me, but it happened two or three times and the frustration really set in. Really? I know I didn’t lose the weight but I really can’t do a few push ups on my last session? Universe kick a girl while she’s down why don’t you? So I started crying. Now I’m just collapsing onto my still larger than doctor recommended belly in a boxing ring that is literally in the center of the gym, with tears streaming down my face as I explain to my exasperated trainer “I can’t! I keep trying and I can’t! *falls* DAMNIT!”

But I kept going. Even when Darlene told me that I had basically done the 10 I needed to do, I knew I hadn’t done a full one. So tears, chub and all I kept pushing myself up and falling until I got up on my elbows, rotated my hands, pushed up, and down on my elbows again before collapsing to the ground. “I killed your arms today,” Darlene tried to explain, “Don’t beat yourself up because you couldn’t do this. It’s more important that you kept trying. It’s only once we lose that, that we have a problem.”

I have only lost five pounds. And all of the excuses – holidays, work, family drama, etc were killing my arms. The important thing is to keep lifting yourself up. Keep trying to do the push up. Maybe you never get to do it or it takes 5 times as long as you expected it to. The important thing is you keep at it because it’s only once you give up that any of it becomes impossible. I’ll be seeing you eventually, Old Navy.

photo by: mikebaird

3 Tips to Help Crawl out of the Creative Dumps

creative dumpsThere’s a pile of dishes in the sink. The bed hasn’t been made. There are a stack of bills on my desk that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to pay. “I need to shower,” is a relevant thought but currently I’m sitting in the middle of the floor, legs crossed, laptop on my lap with a Final Draft document open – completely white except for the blinking white cursor in the top right corner. The cursor refuses to move. There are a million thoughts in my head, scenes that play in regular rotation but can’t seem to make their way from my brain to my fingers and into the document. This is the story of a writer, and how so often the hardest part of being a writer is, well, writing.

My Year of Intent was to finish my first screenplay. My goal is to have a first draft by my 25th birthday (July 4th, if you want to set off an extra set of fireworks for me, that’d be cool). I want so badly to be able to say I wrote my first script by the time I was 25. It’s an over-achiever thing. The problem is that it’s really hard and I’m behaving very much like an under-achiever, which is something really difficult for me to deal with. I’ve had really good training on how to get things done – to make schedules, deadlines, to burn the midnight oil so that it happens – but this is different. This is personal so I want it to be perfect which means I edit myself as the scenes come instead of writing them down. I am convinced that all of them won’t work before they’re even born. The truth is you have to write everything down. If it doesn’t work you can delete it but if you don’t put it down then nothing really exists. The internal struggle has created a bit of a creative depression. Or it’s quite possible that it’s an all around depression at this point. It seems a lot easier to stay in bed than to write. I’ll put those dishes in the dishwasher at some point. Right now, I feel the need to rest in a fetal position and tell myself a few hundred more times how much I suck because this isn’t getting done. I’ve been told this is a thing that happens to a lot of writers.

It’s been my experiences that these pot holes happen to everyone when they’re working towards something big. You get stuck, and the exhaustion from spinning your wheels can put you in a funk. The important thing is that you have to get yourself out of those holes. The dishes are still in the sink, but I did manage to finish the first act of my screen play, so it’s possible. Here are my tips for pulling yourself out of the creative funk.

1. Take That Shower – This sounds like basic information, but it’s important especially if you are working from home. The appeal of rolling out of bed and sitting down at your laptop in your pajamas is so hard to overcome. Next thing you know it’s 7pm and there’s no point in showering because what would you change into? More pajamas. Make yourself get out of bed, take a shower, put on CLEAN clothes (yes, this means you have to do laundry. UGH I know). Eat some breakfast. These basic routines are part of a full robust wake up system. They make you more alert and prepared. They make you feel like a real human instead of a creative zombie on a hamster wheel. I’m not kidding – making yourself wear real pants has an amazing effect on your outlook. It also makes it more likely that people will want to be around you because B.O. is awful.

2. Set Deadlines – The problem with self-appointed goals is just that – they’re self-appointed. That means the goal post can move whenever you decide. Stop that. Set incremental goals and then give yourself a timeline in which it has to be done. My friend and Intent partner in crime MeLissa told me about her brilliant system of asking herself when she thinks she can get something done in a reasonable amount of time, and then she sets a deadline of three days earlier. So if you think it’s going to take two weeks to get something done, tell yourself you really have 10 to make it happen. Set up a penalty if it doesn’t happen. Didn’t get that draft done? Bye bye potato chips. Page count wasn’t met? I guess I’ll be DVR’ing Mad Men this week. Decided not to write at all today/this week? Haha, oh buddy, those plans to see Captain America this weekend just went down the toilet, congrats! When something is at stake you are more willing to keep the ball moving. I’m fortunate enough to have a great screenwriting teacher that’s been coaching me through the process – which brings me to the next thing!

3. Find a Hero/Coach/Inspiring Person  – This can take a lot of forms. For me, it’s Jon Bernstein. He teaches the classes I’m taking to help get this done (I realized that having grown up an academic nerd, literally making writing this screenplay homework was the best way to get me going). He is the loveliest person and super encouraging and his praise is like dancing in a rainstorm of sunshine and rainbows and candy. I feel like Eve the robot in Wall-E when she boots up in the sun whenever he tells me that I’ve done a good job, or that something I’ve written is funny or makes sense. On the downside, when he gives notes and it turns out I’m not his favorite thing about Earth I don’t know how to handle it. When I first started his class I barely had an outline, but I managed to improv my way through a log line and basic plot points. Then I had to given him a detailed description of my Act I plan and he wasn’t impressed. To be fair, I was still winging it and hadn’t really done the work. He told me he wasn’t compelled by the ending and there was no reason to keep watching the movie if that’s how I was going to do it. Um, what? This was life shattering news to me and the worst part was he was right. Everything he said rang true and that was worse. I could have thrown in the towel then because writers are sensitive and clearly if my rough outline of things I was planning to write was crap then there was no hope for me. But…I need Jon Bernstein to love me, because I respect him and trust his advice. So instead of giving up, I sat down at my desk and I wrote. I changed almost everything I had up until that point. Created new things. Broke up my darlings that were supposed to kiss at the end, made them miserable (because that’s what movies are until the end!) and I felt better for doing so. I felt more creative.

And that’s what a good coach does. Stephen King calls them an “ideal reader” but it’s the person who keeps you on track. They pop your ego balloon when you’re floating too high on praise instead of work. They are the ones that remind you that you are capable and brilliant when you’re down in that hole. Find your Jon Bernsteins. Find the people that are going to push you to that finish line because the most important lesson in all of this is that no one ever really gets there by themselves. (And again, it’s why showers are important).

Plus, I have to imagine that it’s sweeter to have people to celebrate with at the finish line.

Why You Should Always Read the Book First

the giver bookWhen I was in elementary and middle school I was the level reader snob that competed in an annual competition called “Battle of the Books.” For thos unfamiliar, BoB as we affectionately called it, was a competition where students had the entire school year to read a list of 20 or so books, or as many of them as they could. Then they would compete in a team against other schools in their district by answering questions that always began with “In which book…” Three points if you could correctly identify which of the 20 books and the author the questioned event came from. Two points if you only got the title correct or answered the question after the first team didn’t give the right answer. The team with the highest cumulative total of points at the end of the day wins. It’s basically a wet dream for library rats who have a penchant for trivia.

Battle of the Books is responsible for me discovering many of my childhood favorite books, some of which are sitting on the book shelf next to me because I couldn’t bear to part with them even during a 3,000 mile move away from my parents’ house. Ella Enchanted, Lily’s Crossing, Trumpet of the Swan all top the list. And then there was The Giver. The Giver is a book by Lois Lowry (Number the Stars) set in the future when humans have created a way to eliminate suffering by basically suppressing all basic human emotion. People are assigned their role in the Community when they are 12 years old and are to accept it without question. When Tobias is assigned to be the Receiver of Memory he learns the truth about human history and how to feel – and it begins to make him question things in the Community. Soon his probing begins to unravel the very fabric of the existence he’s known his entire life.

I was in 4th grade when it was first put on the list. It’s insane now to think about reading that book at 9 years old considering how it grapples with death, sex and that bit at the end (spoiler alert) about forced abortions. I read it again in middle school when my ability to comprehend the underlying messages of the book was a little more advanced. I re-purchased it recently when I heard they were turning it into a film. The trailer for that film premiered today:

And it concerns me. It’s not just a feeling of “Oh god, the movie is never going to live up to the book.” (Please see: The DaVinci Code, most Stephen King novels etc). I know why The Giver was finally produced now despite being around for a couple decades. The time is ripe for dystopian young adult literature. ‘Sup The Hunger Games and Divergent. I see you hanging out over there too, The Maze Runner. The difference is that TGH, Divergent and The Maze Runner work on a broader scope – their worlds are so large they demanded cinematic attention. And, not to put any of them down because they are all great series (Okay, The Maze Runner has some sexism issues but that’s another blog entirely), but their messages are pretty direct. The Hunger Games is separate but equal isn’t equal with a bit of commentary on the inevitable corruption of oligarchies (There could also be another blog on the essential facts that were left out of the first film that dulled Suzanne Collins brilliant writing, but again that’s another blog). Divergent is about finding your identity and the freedom to be more than one thing. The Maze Runner focuses on the importance of working together and finding yourself in the face of adversity.

The Giver’s message is more opaque though. It’s hidden in the memories that Tobias receives from his mentor. The fact that the first half of the film isn’t shot in black and white and then transitions to color as Tobias learns more about the Community’s shared history is a big red flag. That’s a huge part of the novel – that being emotionless may lead to a more colorful life but also a grey one. As Tobias starts to fill in the colors, that’s also how he begins to find the truth. The trailer seems to focus more on the adventure aspect of the book – which is really only the last couple of chapters. Can you really show Eric from True Blood killing babies to a young adult audience and maintain a PG-13 rating? Are you going to be able to do it in a way the depravity of this way of life despite it being founded in the name of human preservation? Despite my high hopes with actors like Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep backing this, the fact there’s an alien like space ship chasing Tobias to close out the trailer doesn’t make me that optimistic anymore. (Did I mention that Taylor Swift is making a cameo in this movie? Yeah, that’s a thing.) It seems to me that film companies were just trying to cash in on the Young Adult angst craze making crazy tons of money at the box office these days at the sake of great literary works of art.

The movie junkie in me is hoping that they do it right. The cautious book nerd is saying don’t take any chances – read the book first.

Celebrate Pi Day with These Recipes

pi dayAs a self-proclaimed and nerd and person of the internet there are three days of the year that make my soul so so happy. There’s May 4, or “May the Fourth” – as in May the Force Be With You. Then there’s October 3 because any self-respecting person that’s seen Mean Girls knows “On October 3, he asked me what day it is. It’s October 3.” (It makes more sense in the context of the movie…)  But the of these in the calendar year is today – 3.14 – Pi Day

I went to a nerd magnet school for my last two years of high school. Our rally chant at school sporting events (or mathlete tournaments) was the following: “Secant, tangent, cosin, sin / 3.14159 / Physics, Bio, Polymer Chem / Give ’em hell / Go S&M.” First of all, yes we stole it from MIT, shh. Secondly, it was the North Carolina School of Science and Math, hence the S&M. It wasn’t some weird sexual thing, in case you were worried. Back then I thought that I was going to grow up to be some sort of mathematician (What do people who major in math actually do when they grow up? NASA?). I did Calculus homework as stress relief. Before graduation I realized that my real talents lay in creative fields, but the nerd alert alarms within me sound off on special occasions. Pi day is one of those occasions.

The best part of Pi day is not just celebrating one of the best irrational numbers around – it’s about dessert. Oh, that’s right. What better use of Pi than to figure out the area of a delicious berry filled pastry from heaven? To help you celebrate and indulge your sweet tooth we’ve rounded up some of the best pie recipes from around the web. Treat yourself today!

The Food Network Pie Recipe Collection – Obviously, the best channel on television. Of course they’d have an entire selection of pie recipes ready for your perusal  – from apple to coconut to chocolate swirl. There’s something here for everyone’s pastry preferences.

Country Living’s Favorite Pies – Since I’m from the south I can’t imagine any doctor’s office or waiting room that didn’t have a copy of Country Loving. After looking through these I can tell you I already started drooling over their pecan (pronounced pee-can if you want to get in the spirit) pie recipe.

Martha Stewart’s 25 Perfect Pies – Maybe you prefer an artisan approach to your pie making. I can dig it. Let’s turn to the mother of all things beautiful and domestic then – Martha Stewart. Just the names of some of these give me shivers of delight. Triple chocolate pumpkin pie? Count. me. in.

Huffington Post American Author Pies – The Huffington Post won my heart when they combined their own celebration of Pi day with classic American authors. My math nerd with my book nerd self can celebrate as one! From Jack Kerouac apple pie to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry pie – American literature has never sounded so delicious!

Mental Floss 10 Pies for Pi Day – Leave it to the folks at Mental Floss to create the list of nerdiest pies. The digits apple pie looks way too impressive to eat but I think I could take out those mini pi-pies in just one bite. If you’re good at carving apples and want to take your Pi day love to the next level then this is definitely the list for you.

Are there any “nerd” days of the year that get you excited? How do you celebrate them? And if you plan to make a pie today be sure to tell us which ones in the comments below! 

 

Women in Pictures: The Scary Truth about Women in Today’s Media

women“Today is National Women’s Day!” That’s how MeLissa greeted me this morning. “Hooray!!” was my first thought but as the idea began to process I wondered, what does that even mean? We should do something to celebrate, of course, but how? Intent has always included messages of feminism and sisterhood on the blog and via intents, but a lot of places don’t.

MeLissa and I recently attended a workshop for women with an interest in directing and we learned some startling statistics about the representation of women in media. The following facts come from the Geena Davis Institute  on Gender in Media which conducts various studies on the position of women in film and media.

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Crowd scenes in film and television are 17% female on average, despite women representing 51% of the world population.
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

No wonder women need a day to be celebrated. Part of the reason feminism is still a thing is because of statistics like this. When the images our children and the general public are confronted with are women in secondary roles or as sexual objects it becomes ingrained for women to aspire to these positions and for society to treat them as such. To start seeing a change we have to start portraying the change. It’s as simple as screenwriters adding “must be half-female” into their scripts when writing a crowd scene. Last year the number one selling movie worldwide was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and it was the first time in more than 40 years that a movie with a female lead topped the annual box office.

Luckily, there are many women leading the fight to change the way media portrays (or fails to portray) women in film and television. Last weekend Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award for her portrayal of a depressed woman trying to stay afloat in her own life in Blue Jasmine. When accepting the award she said this, “To the few in this industry that are still clinging to the idea that films with women at the center are niche – they are not. People want to see them and they make money. The world is round, people.” Case in point: Blue Jasmine, Bridesmaids, The Heat. When Lupita Nyong’o gave her speech for her Best Supporting Actress award she also said, “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child that your dreams are valid!” On the surface it is such an inspiring statement, but what it really depicts is the sad truth that there are many children whose dreams are diminished by mainstream media’s backward policies on gender, race and sexuality.

Emma Thompson has also announced that she’ll be spending 2014 making a documentary about women in film because she’s disgusted with the way things currently are.

While it’s inspiring to know there are so many professional women fighting to make a difference in women’s opportunities both on screen and behind the lens – these numbers are scary. Not only to myself and MeLissa who are aspiring screenwriters but to the world in general. Do I want my future daughters to watch cartoons where all the girl characters are still sex objects? I want to be able to name pop culture examples of women that have been in charge because of a combination of their intellect, compassion and beauty rather than how great she looks in a pencil skirt. I want my daughter to inherit a media landscape where Kathryn Bigelow isn’t the only woman to ever win an Academy Award for directing.

The numbers are changing, so we’re being told, but it isn’t happening soon enough – especially if some of them haven’t changed since the 40s. Today is National Women’s Day but every day should be cause for us to stand up and support each other and create a more viable place for women in media and film. Our stories deserve to be told, to be validated as much as our male counterparts. We have to keep up the good fight so can stop differentiating between “men” and “women” stories and instead train ourselves and the world to see them all as what they really are – human stories.

A Taste of England: Yorkshire Pudding (Recipe)

yorkshire puddingMy mom grew up in a small village 45 minutes south of London. Having a British mom has awarded me a lot of things in life that a lot of kids never get to have – true English Christmases, the ability to fake an accent better than anyone I know and getting the inside jokes on Downton Abbey. My favorite thing about being a half-brit though is yorkshire pudding.

It’s a running joke in our family that there are so many things to love about England, but food isn’t really one of them – outside of fish ‘n’ chips of course (and I don’t eat anything that comes out of the ocean – so bust.) I mean, would you be willing to be try a plate of spotted dick (that’s a real thing. Least appetizing dessert name ever)? Or maybe some steak and kidney pie? Didn’t think so. However, there is one delicious morsel usually reserved for Sunday roast dinners that make hearts appear in my eyes and the kickstart automatic drooling. Contrary to the name, yorkshire pudding are more like bread rolls and muffins had a baby than American pudding. As I said, they work as a side dish with a bit of gravy for roast dinners or can be eaten with jam for a light dessert.

Whenever I had a rough day at school or wasn’t feeling well my mom would whip up a batch of these delicious morsels to go with dinner and it was always the best surprise. As I’ve been trying to experiment more in the kitchen I decided to try them out for myself. Luckily, they are the simplest thing in the world to make! So get out your union jacks, put Monty Python in the DVD player and get in touch with your Brit side with this easy Yorkshire Pudding recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (It also works with water instead if trying to cut down on fat, but milk makes them fluffier)
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Cupcake pan

Directions:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 450˚F
  • Mix together flour, salt, milk/water, butter and eggs in medium mixing bowl until mixture is cohesive with no bumps
  • Pour mix into cupcake pan, filling each well about halfway (they rise a lot so be careful).
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes (or until golden brown)

The recipe makes about 12 medium yorkshires so prepare accordingly. I was so

The Improv Rules For Better Relationships & a Better You

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 9.33.42 PMI’ve had trouble with social anxiety since I was a kid. For holidays I would hide in the bathroom or some hidden corner of my room just to avoid having to talk to family members we didn’t see on a regular basis. Today I am the most grateful person for Dominoes online ordering service so I don’t have to actually call the store and converse with whoever answers the phone. Initiating conversations in general sounds pretty horrifying as far as I’m concerned (note my job as an internet blog editor).  So it is with a great flare of irony that I didn’t find my footing in Los Angeles until I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade.

For those not familiar, Upright Citizens Brigade specializes in long-form improv. So you and your scene partner start having a conversation and build a comedic scene around a “game” or a repeatable funny idea. And it’s all made up on the spot. So basically, you spend 3 hours a week for 8 weeks starting random conversations with people you just met. At the end of the course you then try to have one of those conversations (praying it’s funny) in front of every friend and family member you could convince to pay $5 to see it. It’s insanity – the definition of my worst social nightmare – and it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten myself to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to pry myself off the back wall for every initiation I make. I want to throw up before 90% of shows I do and when I see the pros do it I am astounded at their ability to make it look so easy. What I’ve learned through my two years of classes and indie shows though has not only helped me develop as a performer (When I moved here I would rather be hit in the face with a shovel than be accused of being an actor, but now I have head shots. It’s definitely part of the dream) – but the rules of improv have helped me become a better person in life. Don’t believe me? Try a few of these basic principles and see the good it does for your own relationships.

1. Listen – This is the first and most important rule of creating any scene – but it should be the first rule of any interaction you have. Get out of your head and stop thinking of what you’re going to say next and actually take a second to hear the words someone else is saying. Watch their body language. Take notice of the intonation of their voice and make sure you understand what it is they are trying to tell you. For better or worse, everything said at the top of your scene if your foundation but it is only through listening that you can lay down bricks next to each other in a coherent fashion. Listen first, and you’ll be shocked how much easier it is to talk second.

2. “Yes and…” – Tina Fey has a similar list to this in her book Bossypants (which everyone should read) and she talks a lot about the “Yes and..” rule. This is actually the first thing you learn in improv. Your job as a performer is to agree. What does this mean? Don’t deny anything your scene partner says. You do not have to agree with it, but you’re not allowed to negate it or say that it isn’t true. It’s disrespectful and ruins the progress their contribution made. In real life terms, saying yes being means staying open to someone else’s ideas. It goes hand-in-hand with listening, really. The truth of the matter is that we’re all on this planet together and no one gets anything done alone. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun when you’re contributing together and a lot less stressful than trying to build an empire by yourself.

That brings us to “and..” This is the hardest part. You have to agree, and then add to the conversation. You have to participate. Otherwise you leave your scene partner doing all the heavy lifting and often times a scene will stall. It’s the same in life when you just plod through saying yes without actually getting involved. You become an inactive observer and before you know it you’ve watched so much go by without ever being part of it. So be open and jump in.

3. Be honest – When you’re building a scene it only works when everyone agrees that what you’ve built is real. If halfway through someone says “Ha, but I lied!” then it negates all the work up until that point. If you tell one lie then it’s impossible to be sure if anything that you’ve said has been the truth – on stage or off. An extension of this is don’t be coy. A lot of beginner improvisers will pretend to have a secret or delay saying their full idea because they think it will prolong the scene but really all it does is prolong the frustration. When you’re direct with what you’re thinking then it can be dealt with and built into the universe. When you’re dealing with real life relationships being direct may cause more confrontation initially, but the problems can be dealt with immediately and you learn only to make issues out of things that you really care about. When you purposefully try to be sneaky you waste scene time on stage, and you waste time in your relationships, for what? Something you’re going to have to deal with eventually, so just do it now so you can move on to better things.

4. Be a human – My favorite improv coach started our first class by saying the most popular critique he would give us would be “Be humans to each other.”  It sounds like common sense, right? I mean, how would we not be human to each other? What he meant was to combine all of the aforementioned rules and react to our partners like real people. We may be making things up but comedy comes from truth and you create a richer scene when you play it real. Being a human means you have to listen to what your scene partner says and be affected. If they insult you then you need to be honest and show that you’re insulted. If you’re not insulted then you better “yes and…” with the reason why. Sometimes in the real world we don’t take the time to be affected by the things around us. We’re moving too quickly in our own bubbles to absorb the events in our lives. When you take a second and process how something makes you feel and you react honestly to it you make progress. You learn. You grow. You’re more empathetic to others and you’ll find that it’s much less stress for you.

Improv hasn’t changed who I am, but it has given me several tools to be a better version of it. I will probably always choose the online option over calling it in, but at least I know I can get off the wall if I want to. I know that not all the pressure is on me, and if I can listen and react honestly then there’s the potential to create something out of nothing. Isn’t that the magic we’re all looking for?

How do you try to be a better human? Share in the comments below! 

5 Valentine Movies to Watch with Your Best Friend

friendshipMy best friend and I have known each other since the 6th grade. We’ve endured middle school treachery, dramatically intense boarding school, family drama, broken hearts and quarter life crises together – all the things that make a solid friendship. We haven’t always agreed about each other’s decisions, but when it comes down to it we know that the other will always pick up the phone when we need it (even if you are way too drunk and it’s 3am and no one can understand what you’re saying because you’re crying too much).

Her dream to run her own non-profit and mine to write the next indie darling dramedy require us to live on separate coasts though. Maintaining a BFF-ship from that distance can take a lot of work but we’ve come up with a few tricks to make it work. One thing we do is go to the movies together. We pick something we both want to see and find similar movie times (her three hours ahead of mine). We text on the way there and then call to sum up what we saw when it’s finished. It’s almost the same as her sitting right there next to me.

I’ve seen so many movie lists this week – “The Most Romantic Movies of All Time” or “The Best Movies to Watch with Your Valentine.” Since I am on the never ending quest to get a boyfriend, these lists are really just depressing. Since we are celebrating all the different types of love this week on Intent (and today is friend love!) I thought I’d make my own list – The Best Movies to Watch with Your Best Friend. Here are my faves:

I Love You Man – 2009

Say what you will about Judd Apatow, but this is one of my favorites. I don’t think BFF-ship should be limited to girls and this is an excellent movie about dude-bonding. I enjoy movies where multiple characters have to go through “growth” arcs. Paul Rudd stars as the shy, socially awkward Groom-to-be on the hunt for his best man while Jason Segel plays the outgoing unrefined best friend that Paul never knew he needed. They both like Rush and they both have a lot to learn from each other. It goes to show that there is nothing more important than life than finding your best bro, and realizing that Chocolat is delightful.

The Fox and the Hound – 1988

If I’m going to be listing my favorite buddy movies, I should probably include my best friend’s favorite as well. First of all, animated movies are nostalgic and amazing and thus always a great choice for BFF bonding. Secondly, this is one of the few Disney films where the main tragedy isn’t a parent dying. However, there is still definitely tragedy and any person who does not sob by the end of this movie is heartless. You and your best friend may be completely opposite people, but that could mean you’re the perfect match. Even if it causes you to go down separate paths, the love of a true friendship is always going to anchor you. It’s always going to come first. So grab a box of tissues and snuggle up, because if Fox and Hound can do it, so can you.

Thelma & Louise – 1991

Is it possible to have a BFF movie list without mentioning Thelma & Louise? These two literally die for each other (Sorry, spoiler! But you should already know about this…) in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time. This is a great movie about friendship because these two stick together no matter how deep the trouble they get into becomes. It’s the ultimate tale of loyalty. Also, a very young Brad Pitt shows up shirtless with a blow dryer down his pants. Really, you can’t lose.

Beaches – 1988

While we’re on the topic of iconic movies, how could we forget the film that gave us The Wind Beneath My Wings? This is another movie that drives home that your best friend is your anchor and no matter how far you drift apart you can always be brought back together. This is another one that requires a box of tissues, but it’s worth it if only to belt out the best friend anthem with one of your favorite people on the planet.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – 2011

I am currently wearing a shirt that says “Books turn Muggles into Wizards” and I have made no secret of my love for Harry Potter on this site. And having known my best friend since I was 11 we traversed through this series and the movies together. There were midnight screenings and intense conversations as we made it through each of the books. Harry Potter was a monumental part of our growing up. The story is about a lot of things – overcoming adversity, the importance of family, belief in magic – but at the core of all of that are three best friends. The three of them, as completely different as they are, have to band together to defeat the Dark Lord and save the world that they hold so dear. Their seventh year puts them in constant danger, and despite Ron’s brief departure, they stick together. If you’re going to celebrate your friendship, do it with a movie that shows the truly remarkable things you can do when you believe in each other and work together.

What are your favorite BFF movies? Or favorite traditions with your best friends? Share in the comments below!

photo by: birterohden

The Fault in our Stars: One Sick Love Story Shows Us What It Means to be Alive

the fault in our starsIf you’ve been to a Barnes & Noble recently then you’ve probably seen the bright teal cover of John Green’s best selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t been a stranger to talking about it on this blog either.

If you aren’t familiar The Fault in our Stars or TFioS as the internet refers to it, is about two teenagers Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters who have both been diagnosed with cancer. They fall in love while attending the same cancer support group. It starts off as any other young adult love story would, but Hazel and Augustus have the oppressive knowledge that they don’t have as much time as their peers. Thus, their love takes on a more epic quality and two seventeen year olds teach us what it means to live every day to its fullest and to love like you won’t have the chance to do it again (because we never really know if we will).

Megan, that sounds ridiculously depressing, why would I want to read that? Because while the potential is there for a ton of cliches and melodrama, John Green strives to tell the truth. The characters in this story are sick but does that mean they don’t deserve the opportunity to love? To be happy? To make the most of their lives even if they are threatened to be shorter than we imagine? The beauty of Gus and Hazel are perfectly aware of their situation but they don’t allow it to make them wallow in the fear or depression that goes along with it. Instead, the give in to each other and go for their dreams, and there is a pretty magical trip to Amsterdam involved that will melt the heart of any cynic. It’s hard to explain the magic specifically without a giant SPOILER ALERT.

Don’t have time to read the book? I actually insist that you make time because it is so worth it. But just incase your schedule is that packed, Fox Studios released the first full-length trailer for the movie adaptation today. The movie stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendents, The Spectacular Now) and Ansel Elgort (Divergent). It arrives in US theaters on June 6 and it is bound to make you cry and laugh and realize what it means to make the most of every day we have. I dare you to make it through the trailer without getting a little bit wispy.

“I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.” – John Green, The Fault in our Stars

Find Your Success by Finding Your Tribe

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

– Oprah Winfrey

springfriendshipsWhen I first moved to California my aunt and uncle were kind enough to let me live in their guest room rent-free until I was able to find a job. The arrangement was not supposed to last more than three months. Instead, it lasted nine.

They lived 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, which was a lot more convenient than my parents’ house 3,000 miles away, but it still felt like a world away from where I wanted to be. Every day I spent the morning sending in job applications, trolling the internet for more places to apply to, nagging every contact I had to see if they had heard of any openings. There were a couple of interviews but they were weeks apart and it was becoming obvious that none of them were going to work out. I started applying for local retail part time jobs as well, just to get some cash coming in but with the unemployment market the way it was they knew better than to hire a recent college graduate who was trying everything they could to get their “dream job.”

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the depression set in. My aunt and uncle were amazing and so generous during this time, but I still felt separated from all of my friends back home and I knew no one in the place I wanted to be. There were one or two people from college living in LA but if I was being honest, their success while I was struggling to figure out exactly what I wanted to do just made everything more frustrating. I felt so alone.

Then I made the most important decision that I’ve made since moving to the west coast. I decided to take an intro-level improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. At first I naively thought I could take one class, prove to be an improv messiah and be hired as Amy Poehler’s assistant before the whole thing was over, or at least get a hook up for a page job at NBC – not to mention it’d force me out of the house and into the city for three hours a week. Of course, I’m still waiting for my call from Amy but what I did find will be more instrumental in my success than any job interview or fancy contact will ever be. I found my tribe.

Suddenly I was surrounded by people exactly like me. They were all at varying points on the road to being able to pay rent by entertaining people, but we were all traveling together. They were people who cared about being funny. About performing. About writing. And as we learned to “Yes, and…” and listen together, we began to care about each other. Improv is entirely about support, after all. It’d still be another two months before I found employment, but taking that class and making those friends gave me a whole new outlook on my journey in Los Angeles. I felt a renewed energy and motivation. I listened to their stories and soaked up their wisdom. I went to their shows and clapped the loudest. For the first time in almost a year since I uprooted my life to go after this ridiculous dream, I felt like I belonged here.

Last summer when comedian/writer Katie Dippold released her first written feature length movie The Heat, her old friend and fellow comedian Chris Gethard wrote an essay about it, and how Katie had been a fundamental part of finding his own tribe.

Now maybe you think you have a shot at being a creative person who pays their rent by being creative. Maybe you’re scared to go for it, like I once was. Maybe you have something you want to do and you don’t know if you can really do it. My suggestion, based on experience, is to find someone else who might be uncertain of themselves, and be brave enough to tell them what you see in them. Be brave enough to hear about the belief they have in you. Be the lighter fluid for someone else, and let them fan your flames too. Find your tribe.

Finding your tribe is not at all about finding the people who are the best connections to get you to the next level. No, those are contacts and you should keep them separate. Your tribe are the first people you call when you land the big job because they were the people you cried to all the times you didn’t. Your tribe are the people who tell you that you’re being an idiot and you need to focus when you blow off a writing a deadline. They are the people that pick you up and take you to the movies the morning after you’ve had your heart broken to give you something else to think about. Your tribe are the people that hold your hand when things are messy and they are the ones that clap the loudest when all of it becomes clear.

After that first class I started taking more and over the past year I’ve been steadily adding more and more people to the tribe. This advice isn’t just for creative people because it’s not just creative people that need support. Everyone participating in life needs a tribe. So do yourself a favor and look at the people you spend the majority of your time with. If any of them make you feel less than deserving of all the things you want, tell them to beat it. Make the conscious effort to surround yourself with people that not only support you, but have the strength and integrity to call you out when you’re being ridiculous. As Oprah said, you need the people who will ride the bus before they’ll ride the limo. These people are your magic potion, your cheat sheet, they’re the key thing you need to get you to where you want to go.

If you’re in need of finding the right people for your tribe, take a risk and put yourself out there. You can follow my footsteps and take a class. Or you could join a book club. Peruse MeetUps.com for people that follow your interests. Put yourself in a room with people you don’t know but who have a common interest or goal and see what happens. And don’t disqualify the internet as a great place for meeting those people. Message boards and social media sites are great ways to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t have who share your passions and can be a great resource as you start to figure yourself  out. 

Find your tribe. Find your happiness. Find you.

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