Tag Archives: Movies

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.

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

Fan Girl Lament: Will There Ever Be a Harry Potter 8?

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 5.25.25 PMIt was a normal day on my Facebook feed yesterday until I saw that an old acquaintance from high school had posted this article quoting JK Rowling saying that she was 75% done with an eighth Harry Potter novel.

Begin instant fan-girl freak out immediately.

I scrolled right past the April 1, 2013 date at the top of the story. Began clapping my hands eagerly at “more details to come during Rowling’s press conference in Scotland” and was already tweeting “PLEASE LET IT BE MARAUDERS! #HP8 #LETITBETRUE” before I got to Daniel Radcliffe’s alleged statement that he was itching to get back into the Potter world. Honestly, that’s when I should have known something was up. I have basically been cyber stalking Dan since I saw Kill Your Darlings. I’ve seen every interview he’s done over the past three months and if one thing has been clear it has been his desire to establish himself as an actor outside of the Potter universe. (However, there is so much to be explored in the wizarding world outside of Harry. Like I said, MARAUDERS. NOW. PLEASE.)

I was in the middle of leaving my mother a voicemail that I would need my Hufflepuff (and proud) scarf express mailed to Los Angeles – not to worry that it was 91 degrees last week, fandom trumps comfort in every instance – when my friend and trusted Potter expert Terri Schwartz tweeted this helpful (and soul crushing) article from MuggleNet (the internet’s most trusted HP source). Their points were so accurate. I finally noticed that date. Daniel would never be interested in reclaiming his Potter title. Why would such an obscure website have such a hot story? More importantly, why would they be so cruel to play with our emotions that way? It’s November, not April! How dare they!

Begrudgingly, I closed my make-your-own-wand tutorial and began to sulk.

The Intent theme this week has been fantasies, and to be invited back to the Wizarding World for one more adventure probably tops the list of mine. Every birthday I still naively wish for my letter for Hogwarts to arrive. You know, maybe they have a late bloomer night-college for adults campus or something. I started reading these books when I was 10 years old – I am now 24. What is it about Hogwarts that still has me (and millions of others) still captivated  a decade and a half later?

It’s more than the fact that magic and flying broomsticks are awesome. Harry Potter taught kids like me, and people the world over, that under dogs can surmount any obstacle as long as they have integrity, faith in their friends, and the belief in themselves and their own intelligence over shortcuts and darkness. Harry Potter taught us to reach for the light. For seven books and eight movies we were able to travel to a magical world where we could all be heroes. Two professors from the University of Vermont published a book earlier this year on the political impact the Harry Potter series has had on millennials. In a national survey they found that young people that grew up reading the books tend be more open to diversity; politically tolerant; less authoritarian; less likely to support the use of deadly force or torture; and more politically active. Harry Potter has fulfilled its role as the ultimate fantasy for the current generation – it provides us with an encompassing escape and returns us to the real world with a desire and motivation to be better than we already are.

“The stories we love the most will always live within us,” JK Rowling said at the premiere of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, “so whether you return by page or by screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” You may not be writing another book right now, Jo, but we’ll eagerly accept the invitation back any time.

3 Young Adult Books that Will Make You a Better Grown Up

The third week of October is annually celebrated as “Teen Read Week.” Since young adult fiction is in a golden age and having a large impact on our mainstream media (see: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc) we thought we’d take a look at the section of the book store you normally leave to teenage girls.

NYT Best-selling author John Green says he has no interest in writing about adults because they are too cautious with their emotions. By writing stories about teenagers Green is able to ask and answer the tough questions directly without having to duck around the bush – teenagers go all in when it comes to their hearts and their curiosity. Through those qualities we as adults are able to be more honest with ourselves as to the questions we have about life, love, and the world we live in. Hence the reason for this list. Actually, speaking of John Green, let’s start with him.


1.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.faultinourstarsbookcover

Story:  Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Though doctors have miraculously found a way to stop the disease from spreading she knows she only has a limited time left and her life is defined by being a cancer patient. That’s until she meets Augustus Waters. They fall in love, go on an adventure and break your heart in every conceivable way. Obvious warning: keep a box of Kleenex with you at all times while reading this book.

Why you should read it: If you think about it, we all have the same death sentence as Hazel, hers is just sooner than most of ours. Still, Hazel’s decision to live her life to her fullest capability no matter if she has a few months, days or weeks left is inspiring. TFiOS isn’t about cancer, it’s about life. It’s about lowering our defenses to allow the important people in our lives to <i>really</i> matter. It’s about letting yourself to feel – the good, the bad, all of it – because if you don’t it doesn’t matter when your terminal date is, you’re not living anyway.

Similar reads: “Looking for Alaska” – John Green, “Everyday” – David Levithan  & “You Know Where to Find Me” – Rachel Cohn


the-hunger-games-wallpaper-logo-2560x16002.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Story: To pay for the sins of uprisers 74 years before them, the citizens of the Panem districts must nominate one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – a sadistic, caged battle to the death for those unlucky enough to be chosen until only one “victor” remains. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for District 12 to save her sister Primrose from having to go in. As Katniss does everything she can to survive, she unknowingly sparks a revolution that could bring her entire system of life to its knees.

Why you should read it:  There is the obvious argument that by not reading these books (seeing the movies isn’t the same!) you are literally living under a rock. There is more to it than being pop-culturally relevant though. “The Hunger Games” is a story of human nature – how if we go unchecked humans have a disgusting habit of letting our egos destroy ourselves. By sparking the revolution Katniss has an inside look at how societies corrupt themselves, and has to find the strength within herself to stop the cycle from repeating. Most of us can’t relate to toppling governments or taking down dictators, but we can all learn something from breaking negative patterns and making choices to provide ourselves, and those we care about, with a better life.

Similar reads: “Divergent” – Veronica Roth & “The Maze Runner” – James Dashner


3.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanorPark_thumb

Story: Eleanor is invited back to live with her mother after being kicked out by her abusive step-father for over a year. Every day she has to struggle to stay under the radar from his rage, while protecting her younger siblings and begging their mother to leave. Her life at home and her family’s complete lack of budget make it difficult for her to fit in at school – to the point Eleanor just wants to be invisible. Instead, she meets Park who shares his seat with her on the bus. It starts as a casual sharing of comic books so neither of them has to talk but inevitably they fall in love, and so starts the mission to save Eleanor from her hell at home and for Park to truly find himself.

Why you should read it:  It’s easy to be cynical of teenage love stories. They are too young to know better, right? “Eleanor & Park” proves that teenage naivety actually allows teenagers to fall deep enough into love to find strength and change the world, or at least the world around them. The beautiful thing about Eleanor and Park as characters is that they aren’t perfect. She isn’t a shy and clumsy, but strikingly beautiful damsel in distress. Park isn’t the smarter-than-he-wants-everyone-to-know athlete who gives a chance to the new girl. They have flaws, large ones. They have problems that are even bigger. There’s a quote that says “Love isn’t finding the perfect person, it’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” And these kids nail it on the first try. “Eleanor & Park” teaches us to love as deep as we can, no matter how scary it is. It’s a book about trust and inner strength and you find the people who will matter the most to you by being yourself.  By falling in love Eleanor and Park stop trying to blend in and allow themselves to really be seen for the first time.

Similar reads: “The Spectacular Now” – Tim Tharp & “Paper Towns” –  John Green

This is by no means a definitive list. What are your favorite young adult books? Was it “Catcher in the Rye” or something newer? Tell us in the comments below!

Elephant in the Room: How Do I Find the Right Man to Marry

Beneath the veil lies my darknessDear Cora,

I just celebrated my 27th birthday in April. I’m finally at a point in my life where I have a great job and can help support my mom and our family. (We’re Guyanese and staying close to family is very important). I’m really happy except for one thing – I want to get married. I want to start raising a family of my own, but I have the worst luck with men. My last serious relationship was years ago when I was still in college. I’ve dated a few guys since then but nothing has panned out. I’ve even had my mother try to arrange a marriage for me, but there was no spark and I couldn’t do it. When I do find a man I’m interested in long-term he doesn’t seem serious about dating. Sometimes I worry that I am too picky so I’ll give guys a shot who I don’t think I have chemistry with, but it’ll turn out my gut instinct is right and they aren’t the guy for me. I’m worried that if I don’t find a good guy to settle down with soon that I am never going to have the chance to start the family I want. What’s your advice?

Single gal


Dear Single Gal,

Oh, honey. The first thing we need to address is that 27 is way too young to start practicing your spinster routine! In my eyes you are a baby adult, only just beginning to get serious about long-term plans and taking complete responsibility for yourself. It sounds to me you are quite the capable young woman (key word: YOUNG) with a kind and compassionate heart. Guyanese or not – supporting your mother and family is a noble task and I tip my trunk to you, lady.

As for the husband, I think your trouble finding one comes from the fact you’re looking for one in the first place. We often feel compelled to find a life partner by a certain time in our lives so when women hit 25 and are still single they go into rabid husband-hunting mode. The problem with that is when you are only looking for a husband you stop being present. You look at every man that comes into your life through a lens of “Can I marry this person? Would he be a good dad? Would he remember to take out the trash? How serious is he about settling down?” and you forget to look at them as a whole person. If they don’t fit the mold you have prematurely set for the rest of your life then you move on without really taking stock of who you’re dealing with as a person and you don’t ask the much more important questions – Is he kind? Does he respect me? Does he make me laugh? Is this someone I can be best friends with and love for the rest of my days?

You won’t find that person with a checklist of “husband” attributes. You find that person by paying attention, being present, and allowing yourself the chance to get to know someone without the pressure of your entire future bearing down on the situation. Even if you don’t say it on a first date, most people can feel the wedding hungry vibes radiating off of you and it’s a clear signal to them to run. It’s the same thing with “the spark” you’re looking for. Is that a real thing? While the movie “He’s Just Not Into You” is pretty problematic with its message to women – one of my favorite parts is when Alex (Justin Long) explains to Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) that “the spark” is made up.

(Warning: Some language, NSFW)

I don’t really think it’s a man-made conspiracy as an excuse not to call a girl, but it speaks to our obsession with fairy tale scenarios. If you’re expecting the perfect guy to walk in and say the perfect things then whisk you away to your dream life – you’re going to be waiting for a really long time. Life isn’t that clean and simple, relationships definitely aren’t. They are complicated and messy and never perfect, which is what makes them enriching and powerful.

So my advice, Single Gal, is to stop looking. Relieve the pressure. Open your eyes and be present. I have a feeling when you let up on yourself – and the guys you meet – it’ll be much easier to see the guy who probably isn’t perfect, but who is perfect for you.

Best wishes,

* * *

avatar-NO-BKCGRNDSubmit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.

photo by: AMELIA SPEED

5 Ways to Free Yourself

Django Unchained. Photo Credit:: nerdbastards.com
Django Unchained. Photo Credit:: nerdbastards.com

Like many of you, I recently headed to the movie theater to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest brainchild, Django Unchained. If you haven’t seen it, the film involves a slave, played by Jamie Foxx, who is freed to serve a … lofty purpose.  In my opinion, the movie was exhilarating (although I will admit my only original motivation to see it was the promise of God … often referred to as “Leonardo DiCaprio.”) The film’s incredibly vivid portrayal of enslavement (Tarantino leaves no blood left un-splattered) got me thinking about freedom and slavery – emotional, spiritual, mental and physical.  While most of us don’t have actual shackles around our ankles, we still find enslavement elsewhere.  How do we free ourselves on a daily basis? When I broke it down for myself, I came up with these five laws of liberation:

  1. Be the leading actor in your life, not the leading re-actor. This is not about control, or about being a control freak – this is about action. This is about doing your part to change the things you can. Don’t wait until someone asks the question to come up with your answer.  No, “I don’t know, you pick” doesn’t count.  You do know. Pick.  Advocate for yourself. Make choices that resonate with you. What is it you really want? Find people who can help you figure out your answers, not people who tell you what they think your answers should be.  Make the call. Send the application. Finally tell your date yes, you did decide on a movie, and no, you remarkably don’t want pizza for the 11th night in a row. And, although I’m a huge fan of the song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” let’s get one thing straight: no one is keeping you hanging onto anything. You get to set yourself free … why don’t you, babe?
  2. Phone a friend.  Regis Philbin made a good point when he called this a “lifeline.”  It is. What’s troubling you? Talk it out with someone. Get some perspective.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten on the phone hysterically crying and gotten off the phone hysterically laughing.  Perspective changes everything. But, it’s not a DIY job. Cringing at the thought of telling your inner circle of your inner conflict? Join a support group. Hire a paid professional. Become part of a group or club that calls out to you. Give yourself permission to find people who let you be you.
  3. Be Selfish: martyrdom is so two millenniums ago. The word “selfish” has gotten a seriously bad rap in the modern world, but being selfish is not the same thing as being self-centered.  Being selfish is about making yourself your own first priority. It’s about self-esteem. Can you find me one person in this world more important than YOU? How easy it is to cross ourselves off of our own Christmas lists, thinking of ourselves as the one person who won’t mind. We mind. We get depleted until we have nothing left to give. It’s a shell game. Think of giving to yourself as giving to others: by nurturing yourself, you get to be of better service to other people. You have more love to offer because you have more love within you. You are worth it.  Take the action: get the manicure, the new shoes, that item on the menu that you really want – not the one that’s two dollars cheaper. If you don’t feel like you’re worth it, you’ll feel a lot more worth it afterward because you did it.  Parenting? I can’t say I’ve been there.  But, I have been a kid, and I can say that I’m not sure there’s anything more valuable than the power of example.  Show your kids what self-esteem means by demonstrating it.  Actions speak louder than words. Act. 
  4. Get quiet. I like to think of prayer as talking, and meditating as listening.  I love talking.  Listening? Hmmm…perhaps less so.  So often our answers are right there, but we’re too frantic to hear them clearly. Make time to get still, to listen, to write, to just breathe. There’s something about taking even one deep breath that brings me back into the moment and reminds me that whatever’s going on in my head isn’t happening right now.  Right now, I’m just breathing. I’m alive. No, I’m not going to be fine: I already am.
  5. Embrace your inner whatever. By whatever, I mean absolutely what. ever. In his latest book Super Brain, Deepak Chopra writes that “having a bad thought isn’t the same as carrying it out.” They are just thoughts, not actions. So, you daydream of dangling your boss out the window? Join the club. In my experience, most of my deepest darkest thoughts have usually been met with rip-roaring laughter by friends who I’m comfortable enough to share those things with.  We are all human.  We all have those thoughts. (Yes, even that one you just had.) Liberate yourself. Embrace your humanness. Join the land of the living.


Free yourself.

The robot next-door: real-life avatars

New Scientist recently reported on the groundbreaking development of robot avatars in the treatment of people suffering from paralysis and locked-in-syndrome.

The technology operates by way of brain scan. Promising results from an experiment in Israel demonstrated that a man situated under a brain scan could coordinate motions with a robot in France. The man was instructed to concentrate on different types of motions while scientists developed software to pick up these subtle intentions, to which the robot then responds. The person controlling the robot via brain scan is also able to see through the avatar’s eyes and, in the near future, will be able to speak through the avatar’s mouth. This technology aims to give the patient the virtual sense of actually being in the robot’s “body.” The project is aptly named “Virtual Embodiment.”

Who’s afraid that robots are going to take over the world? Come on, be honest. My brother-in-law recently said he thought world peace would be achieved when robots were in control of global politics. I shuddered slightly at the thought. But this new development confuses the human-robot paradigm by fusing the two, à la Iron Man. And it’s not for political domination, but rather for medical and psychological treatment. Who could argue with that?

I’m not a purist. Scientific and medical developments excite me, and I believe in the positive power of technology, if used respectfully. But I’m also the product of media hype through films like A.I., The Terminator and Avatar, which paint troubling, if not downright disturbing, pictures of what the world could become if humans misuse robot technology and “virtual embodiment.” It’s time we invented a new paradigm and a new repertoire of hit films to celebrate humans’ ability to optimize technology for positive change in the world.

What do you think? How would you feel about remotely controlling an avatar halfway across the world? Leave your comments below!

photo by: JD Hancock

Win Film Festival Gold On A Shoestring

Affordable technology, low-to-no cost distribution channels like Youtube and a proliferation of film festivals have all lead to the democratization of filmmaking. You don’t need a blockbuster budget to make a good movie, but you’ll still need skill and know-how. We recently turned to Jackson Adams, an award-winning young filmmaker and recent graduate of Emerson College, for some tips to make a quality movie on a shoestring budget.

1) Simple storytelling. The key to avoiding a costly production starts with the script. Focus your story around elements that you know you have access to. Unless you’ve got a friend with plenty of pull at Grand Central Station, avoid writing scenes at the helm of a runaway train.

2) It takes a village.
Don’t be afraid to get help from family and friends. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and your production will require a lot of support. Do you know a carpenter who might be willing to lend a hand to the production? Maybe hire some students on your crew. They’ll be some of the hardest workers. They may even hook you up with student discounts on anything from a lighting kit to any number of postproduction services.

3) Engage you fans. Whether it’s your hometown or a special interest group, find the people who are enthusiastic about this project. Use Facebook and Twitter to spread word about your film. Get your community interested from the get-go and you’ll not only have an easier time finding support during production, but you’ll have built an audience for the finished film.

4) Choose your format. Film used to be the only way to go, but in the age of HD video, the possibilities for shooting gorgeous footage on the cheap are endless. Film will almost always be the more costly choice after the price of the stock, the processing and the video transfer. If you shoot video, make sure you have the proper editing system to handle your files.

5) Strategic scouting.
Choose locations where you can easily get permission to film your movie. Consider looking beyond urban areas, as smaller towns are more likely to help you out at no extra charge. Keep your locations clustered to save money on transportation costs and time.

6) MacGyver it.
Substitute some of your equipment with tools from your garage. Use Chinese lanterns for soft lighting. Borrow a wheelchair or a shopping cart instead of renting a dolly. Buy some white and metallic cardboard at the corner store for lighting bounce. Nobody will judge your rag-tag equipment if you save thousands of dollars.

7) Use the sun.
Shoot as much as you can outside and during the day. Natural lighting saves you money on expensive lights and generators, and it looks great. If you shoot during the summer, you’ll have longer hours to work with.

8) Splurge on sound.
Invest in good sound equipment and an experienced sound recordist and designer. Sound is one of the common weaknesses in student and low-budget independent film. Get it right the first time. Your actors will appreciate it and so will your audience.

9) Take your time.
Don’t rush if you don’t have to. Storyboard every scene and make accurate lighting overheads for each set-up. Visit every location with your key crew and make sure they know the plan. On-set, make sure to get a satisfying take, even if it takes a while to get there- you’ll have to cut bad footage anyways. Get plenty of coverage (i.e. footage), and never say “we’ll fix it in post production.” No matter how much you plan, you’ll always wish you had more angles to work with. Do whatever you can to avoid costly reshoots.

10) Bask in indie film glory. Remember to invite all of your supporters to the premiere.

Jackson Adams has been making short films since he was twelve years old. He was recently selected from a pool of young filmmakers at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth– where his short film WARREN BUD AND HIS PROPELLER PLANE won an Audience Award– to film and produce a short film profiling Pepsi Refresh Grantee Operation Gratitude.


This post originally appeared on www.refresheverything.com, as part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, a catalyst for world-changing ideas. Find out more about the Refresh campaign, or to submit your own idea today.

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