It’s time for pajamas! Christmas cookies are probably almost done in the oven and we have just a few more hours before we need to settle in so those sugar plums can start dancing. In case you’re looking for something to watch as a family, here are 5 of our favorites: Continue reading
This week the whole world grieved at the unfathomable murder of 140 students and teachers in Pakistan at the hands of terrorists. A little closer to home for many of us, theaters pulled “The Interview”, a satirical film from Seth Rogen and James Franco about a news team sent in to North Korea to assassinate Kim Jong-un, after hackers not only hacked Sony’s computer system but released threats to harm movie theaters and movie goers attending the film upon it’s opening this Christmas holiday.
There are a lot of ways to feel unsafe at the moment and people everywhere are speaking up about it. It seems that wherever there are those seeking to live in freedom, there will be others seeking to take it away. On a small scale, this our hope for you this holiday season: Continue reading
Yesterday a friend dropped an email into my inbox.
It said, “I just have to share something with you …..on Sunday, Brian
and I went to see the feature film, Hector and The Search for Happiness…
we laughed, we cried…it is funny, inspiring, transformational….we just loved it.”
By the end of the day, I’d watched the trailer several times, remembered how much I loved Simon Pegg, and had some great answers to questions about happiness from director and co-writer Peter Chelsom.
May I present “Hector and the Search for Happiness”…
As the man who filmed a man traveling the world in search of happiness, Chelsom seems pretty qualified to offer insights as to what makes people feel whole and satisfied. We’re happy to share the interview and his wisdom here!
Intent: Why do you think “Hector and the Search for Happiness” is important for today’s audience?
PC: We have lost sight of what happiness really is. We have become too “needy.” We are more pre-occupied with being interesting as opposed to be interested. And credit and advertising have made sure that we are never going to have enough!
Intent: What is one thing you think the world doesn’t get about happiness?
PC: Making happiness the goal doesn’t really work but what does work is understanding that real happiness is a by-product of giving yourself over to life, being in the flow, being inspired. What does work is that real happiness is richness. Richness is the full spectrum of all of the emotions, all the colors.
Intent: What/where is your happy place?
PC: Being with my family. And, being with my family at our home in Italy.
Intent: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who starting their own search for happiness?
PC: I say to my sons. “Come on boys, what is the secret to happiness and they reply kindness.” I love that because it’s a mission, a plan, an transitive action, something you can do. The by-product is surely happiness.
Intent: Were you surprised to learn anything over the course of filming- about yourself, about your career, about life?
PC: Very much. How lucky I am. How far I’ve come. As writers, Tinker Lindsey and I had to get personal and look to ourselves.
I genuinely feel that the zero on my axis has risen so that the lows are not as desperate and the highs are more cherished.
Intent: Has there ever been a big risk that you took and ended up being really glad you did?
PC: Yes. Becoming a filmmaker, is a ridiculous risk. What bugs me about non-believers and atheists, they talk about deluding yourself and I say, if I had NOT deluded myself, I would have never become a filmmaker. If I had been a realist, I would have never had tried. You say delusion, I say faith.
Intent: When it comes to making choices about your life, what criteria do you use when deciding yes or no?
PC: The criteria used to be selfish, now that I am a family man, family has become the criteria.
Intent: What fears are left for you to conquer?
PC: Growing old.
Intent: What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
PC: Having children. I wouldn’t have said that I am naturally qualified, now I think I’m pretty good!
Intent: If you could go on an adventure, where would it be and what would it look like?
PC: Having been round the world making this film, my idea of adventure is not a check box of lots of different places, but exploring one place, one area in massive details. Probably, me, the family, the car and 8 weeks to travel through all of Italy.
So go see it.
Go take a couple of hours to rest your brain, laugh, cry, and then ask yourself what you want out of this life. Every day is a day where everything can change. It might was well be today.
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
When 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.
SPOILER ALERT for those not familiar with the history of the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac & William Burroughs) and the story of the Lucien Carr murder of David Kammerer.
To be honest, the main reason I went to see Kill Your Darlings this weekend is because Arclight Hollywood was hosting a Q&A with actor Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) afterwards, and being in the same room with him would officially put me one degree away from the Hollywood love of my life – Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man).
I had seen a few of Dane’s previous movies and was always impressed by his powerful and dark performances. However, at the end of Darlings I was spellbound. The movie follows poet Allen Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe) during his freshman year at Columbia University – where he meets the rest of the beat poet generation, including the charismatic and troubled Lucien Carr (Dehaan). Together they set forth to ignite a literary revolution, but instead find themselves tangled in the web of Lucien’s identity crisis which leads to the murder of their friend and Lucien’s ex lover David Kammerer.
I had Googled the story before I went and I knew the details were horrible. The real Lucien Carr only spent two years in prison for the murder, though he stabbed David and weighed the body down with rocks before drowning him in the Hudson River. He was able to get less time because he convinced the court it was an honor killing. In 1944, if a heterosexual man kills a homosexual man making “unwanted advances” you serve a lesser time in prison. It’s disgusting and disturbing and in print there’s no sympathy for Lucien to be found.
As disturbed as I was by the circumstances of the story, Dehaan gave a performance that was haunting. I’ve been talking about the movie non-stop since I saw it. Starting with the title sequence (which you can see below) and the first time he says Allen, with his voice breaking like that, it chills to the bone. It’s only two syllables but you can hear the absolute terror in them. His life is over if Allen hands in that statement. Lucien will be forced not only to spend the rest of his life in prison but he’ll have to come to terms with who he really is – and the idea of that is so paralyzingly petrifying that he killed a man to stop it from happening.
I’ve been asking myself since Saturday night what fear do I let control me? I’m afraid that as badly as I want to be a screenwriter that I don’t have the talent or the gumption to make it. I am afraid of being alone forever. I am afraid of being rejected or finding out the people I love and respect most honestly don’t like me. And these fears have a daily impact on my life. This weekend I spent more time playing Candy Crush Saga than I did working on my screenplay treatment outline. I absolutely refuse to fill out an OkCupid profile even though I’ve read a quarter of my generation now meets their significant other online. I sulked home alone eating chocolate chip cookies instead of going to a good friend’s improv show because the group didn’t invite me to join.
By themselves these seem like small meaningless choices. Confronting these fears that I harbor is the first step in making braver choices in my life. It’s the key to embracing the good things I have around me and going after the things I desire, after my passions and after dreams.
Take a moment today and think about the choices you’ve made in the past week. Which ones have you made out of fear and which ones have you made in spite of it? Pick one of the former and find a way to change it. I’ve made a pact with myself that there will be no Candy Crush Saga until I’ve outlined at least one scene or mapped a character for my movie. I’ve made a pact with myself to no longer be held back by fear.
Kill Your Darlings was released October 16.
Photo from Tumblr.
I’ve placed a lot of emphasis throughout my life on the idea of “doing the right thing.” I’m not talking about actually doing my laundry before I run out of clothes or anything, or recycling for that matter (for all of the environmental science courses and east coast upbringing I’ve had, I really ought to be much better at that by now…) I’m talking more about the elusive art of choosing what’s in my best interest. Historically speaking, I tend to exhaust an extraordinary amount of time and energy to insure that I have listened to myself so wholeheartedly that I will never have to suffer through waking up in my old age and wishing I had listened more closely. For someone so obsessed with not having regrets, it’s ironic that my biggest and perhaps only regret to date is the amount of time I’ve spent obsessing over the very idea of being regret-free.
I struggle immensely with putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself to always choose as wisely as possible. I can even see some of my friends in my mind as they’re reading this, nodding their heads in acknowledgement that I, Laura Max, am royally obsessed with making the perfect choice…whatever the hell that is. (Author’s note: it doesn’t exist. Trust me.) What I find interesting, though, is the that things that have served my best interest the most are things I was more or less forced into participating in, things I had no control over and thought would surely be to my detriment.
Take the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, for example. For those of you who didn’t wear out two VHS tapes of this ‘90s classic when you were a kid (a la yours truly), the film revolves around an aspiring composer, Mr. Holland, who longs to have his compositions heard all over the world. Hoping to pile together the funds he’ll need to take time off and compose full time, Mr. Holland gets a job teaching music at a local school where he imagines he’ll only be working for a few years. Only a short time into what should have been a brief teaching career, his wife Iris gets pregnant, essentially forcing him to continue working and spend the rest of his working life teaching to support his family. Mr. Holland exudes bitterness as he struggles with living a life that feels far from what he had planned for himself, but then he meets 18-year old Rowena, the gorgeous star of the high school musical he’s directing. With phenomenal talent, she follows Mr. Holland’s direction and plans to make a break for show business in New York City, but to Mr. Holland’s surprise, she asks him to follow her so they can both have the life they’ve imagined, chasing their dreams. It’s only when Mr. Holland makes an active choice to turn down this beautiful woman’s request in favor of the life he’s made for himself that he realizes the reality he was forced into is the one he would have chosen all over again if given the chance.
Ultimately, Mr. Holland gets to live in the relief that he didn’t mess everything up when he went with the flow of life – perhaps the flow of life was even better than what he’d originally wanted for himself. Unforeseen and forced change in direction is uncomfortable and terrifying, but many times we get an opportunity later on to go down the road we thought we should have chosen in the first place. When we ultimately choose our current lives instead of what we think they should look like, we understand that we haven’t been led entirely astray by the non-negotiable forces of the world around us.
Often I am carried somewhere I’m sure I have no business being, only to find out after I’ve arrived there that it’s something I subconsciously wanted the whole time. I can say at this point that without fail, if I am stuck somewhere I feel I don’t belong, life will give me an opportunity to either see that I do belong there or allow me to choose a different direction. I am never without hope if I am not without the willingness to see that my dreams might be coming true in ways I couldn’t have planned myself. The outcomes of where I’ve “chosen” to go, or rather where I’ve been pushed and shoved, are usually not what I planned on.
Most of the time, they’re better.
We don’t have a letter this week and I thought I’d try something a little different. Something sort of extraordinary has happened that has inspired me and I’d like to share it with all of you.
I’ve been a writer all my life. Not always professionally, but a good pen (preferably blue) with college ruled notebook paper has been where I’ve felt home since I was a child. I’ve gone through several evolutions with how writing would fit into my life – taking turns as a journalist, wannabe novelist, “hobby”-est – you name it and I tried it/thought about it/didn’t make it through. It was in a dark movie theater in Queens that it all sort of clicked into place – screenwriting. After all that time it was strange how easy it was to see that’s what I needed, that’s where home truly was. It just made sense.
So I packed up my bags and I moved west. It took a year to get my feet on the ground and off of generous family members and friends’ couches, but I finally found a job that would allow me to have my own place, afford to live and give me time to keep chasing the dream. I started taking classes and soon the dream started evolving. I developed a new-found confidence on stage and performing started edging its way in to my frequent success fantasies. I found the story I wanted to write, knew the part I wanted to play, all I had to do was get out my pen, put it to paper and write my way to where I truly felt I belonged.
Of course, especially in this town, self-doubt creeped in with the new desires. Do you know how many aspiring screenwriters there are in Los Angeles? More than you can count, and those are just the ones that managed to make it into city limits. And acting? I had no experience outside of high school drama. I sure as hell didn’t look like someone meant to be in front of a camera. The doubt made me bitter and negative. Even though I had a great job that afforded me so much I felt miserable because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I hated myself for being so ungrateful, for not being more motivated, for not working harder. Maybe I didn’t want it as badly as I thought, and just that idea made me sick to my stomach.
I began bargaining with the ordering forces of the universe, begging for a sign that I was doing the right thing. I wanted it so badly but the obstacles seemed insurmountable. I just needed some help. I was already on the trail, I just needed a magic dose of courage to put on my shoes and really chase what I wanted.
Then I heard from a friend that she was leaving her steady job to pursue her passion project full-time (you’ll actually be hearing about it quite soon!). I was in awe of her courage – the journey she is about to embark on will be challenging and daunting and beautiful and will save lives. She said she knew it was what she wanted for a while but it took a few other things to push her into taking the plunge, and now that it was here she was terrified but invigorated. She hadn’t worked so hard on anything in a long time. The passion was evident – it radiated off of her. And while being so happy for her, I found myself feeling jealous. I wanted to feel that passion again, as I had when I was sitting in that movie theater, when I first moved to Los Angeles, so sure and so excited.
That’s when I remembered a scene from the Steve Carrell movie, “Evan Almighty.” It is mostly a physical comedy about a man who is tasked with building an ark by God himself. In the midst of the madness, Evan’s wife, played by Lauren Graham, gets some unsolicited advice from a kind stranger that has always stuck with me.
We are not just handed the answers, but given the opportunity to find them for ourselves. My friend was creating her own opportunity, and my envious feelings stemmed purely from me waiting around for someone to hand me my dreams with a bow wrapped around them. She stopped floundering or wondering and decided to just do it.
So this week I say let’s all take a page from her book. Let’s stop waiting for answers in signs or feeling sorry for ourselves when our lives don’t take the immediate direction we want them to. See each turn as an opportunity and take it. Find your passion and follow it.
Tell me how it goes lovelies. I’ll see you again in two weeks, but as for now I have to head out to get a box of red hair dye, a gym membership and new box of blue pens.
For the most part, I make a big effort not to tell “cute things my daughter said” stories to anyone but the grandparents. I have a list of topics that are often boring to other people, and this subject definitely has a place there.
But I simply can’t resist telling these two connected stories.
Every Sunday night, we have “Movie Night,” when we watch a family movie. A few weeks ago, I chose the 1937 movie “Lost Horizon” (a great movie if you haven’t seen it).
My eight-year-old daughter was so delighted with the movie and the idea of Shangri-La that she was inspired to write a sequel, about what happens when Robert Conway returns to that magical land. “I’m going to call it ‘Lost Horizon: Everyday Life in Utopia,’” she told me. Everyday life in Utopia! I love that phrase so much. It’s my new motto for my happiness projects.
I’d told her about the word “utopia” and what it meant. Some days later, I was reading aloud to her from Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I explained that Camazotz, in the book, was a “dystopia,” and gave a little lecture about how that was the opposite of a utopia. My daughter listened patiently.
About a week later, as we continued with A Wrinkle in Time, I asked in a teacherly voice, “Now do you remember the word for the opposite of utopia?”
“Metopia,” she said, without missing a beat. It took me a moment to get the joke.
Everyday life in Utopia and Metopia!
“We must be willing to get rid of the life that we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
– Josepeh Campbell
“Finding Joe” is a documentary that interviews visionaries from a wide variety of fields on how Joseph Campbell’s teachings on 'following your bliss' and 'The Hero’s Journey' can be applied to our everyday life, including our challenges and personal dragons.
While most inspirational documentaries focus on how good life can be if you get everything you want; “Finding Joe” stands out because it interviews real life people ranging from Deepak Chopra, Tony Hawk, to Rashida Jones about how their struggles, failures, and personal dragons were necessary to help them develop the capabilities to truly follow their bliss.
According to the film, everybody receives some sort of mysterious call to adventure or to awaken to a life previously unknown. Not everybody answers this call. However, those that do and then choose to act on this call embark on what Campbell and the film describe as 'The Hero’s Journey.'
As the documentary portrays in vivid detail from popular movies, enactments of classic tales by a group of sweet and motley group of kids, and first hand accounts from real people 'The Hero’s Journey' is filled with a series of tests, trials, or ordeals a person must go through to begin and complete a transformation. Often a person will fail one or more of these tests. But, if the hero remains steadfast and open to unexpected help along the way, he or she will emerge victorious.
For example, Campbell summarizes this process in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” when he writes,
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
I had the chance to interview the filmmaker for "Finding Joe", Patrick Solomon, and asked him what sort of dragons he faced in his personal journey. His answer was very insightful and eye-opening:
“On my own personal journey, there are a lot of challenges in making a movie. I went down this road when I first started this movie. And I shot a bunch of things. I went to Bali. I went to Jerusalem. I shot just a ton of film and interviewed a bunch of people and when I started to put that together it wasn’t working.
So, at some point, I had to admit that this wasn’t going to work and we got to take another path. But, that to me was a dragon. That was months and months of work and thousands and thousands of dollars that I kind of had to let go of and come to grips with the truth that that wasn’t going to work. And, that was a wrestling match and that took months to come to the point of saying ‘okay man this isn’t going to work, you gotta let that go.' And, I’m glad I did because the movie would be quite different had I hung onto that.”
“Finding Joe” started playing in theaters on the West Coast this past weekend. For more information on where it is playing, please visit the film’s Web site at http://www.findingjoethemovie.com/.
Finding Joe is truly a transformational film that will help anyone who is wrestling with a personal dragon right now, but knows in their heart that they are on path. Or as Joseph Campbell said,
“Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
Eat. Pray. Love . . . Three individually simple and unanimously positive words that, when combined, as in the title of the book by Elizabeth Gilbert and newly released film starring Julia Roberts, conjure up mixed feelings within the yoga community. It’s hard to pinpoint the precise root of these feelings, especially when the book was, by most accounts, well-written and well-received. I suspect our reservations stem from the ongoing dialogue about how yoga’s mushrooming popularity and commercialization makes us feel—a discussion we have on this site often.