My 2018’s 20/20

I remember dreading whether I could be do screenwriting again when I started working at a high-profile production company. In my sometimes ten-hour workday at the office in Beverly Hills, I was either reading or writing about the stuff I just read. When I ran out of materials, I asked people to send me more stuff to read. 

With the 20/20 I have now, it’s pretty easy to see what drove me then.  Fear.  

Fear of not fitting in.
Fear of getting caught as a fraud.
Fear of losing the job.
Fear of writing.
Fear of sending people my specs.
Fear of having written something that isn’t good. That might never get better.
Fear of getting kicked out of the country and losing everything.

As a result, I didn’t write a word for eight months on end. I was preparing for my small claims lawsuit against a former landlady. I was entertaining my family. My aunt fell sick. There was always a new hedgehog popping its head out for my dirt cheap undivided attention.

I believed my writer’s block was earned. It felt real and got more so by the day, by the hour that I postponed, procrastinated from: merely start. 

By August this year, almost all my worst fears came true. My visa fell through. I was let go. I didn’t have more or better samples to show when I took meetings.  I had to physically uproot and wholesale what I’d built in LA and leave the country within two months.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

It was more than just a hard pill to swallow. It was a cocktail of my bruised ego, my crushed pride, mixed with a triple-shot of wrath soaked in broken promises, trust and hope.

Friends urged me to look at the brighter side of things, greater design of the scheme.

You don’t have to tell the whole truth.  Control your narrative so you won’t be mocked or pitied. Have faith in your ability. 

Easier said than done.

At the time, I couldn’t. I was sulking and moping. I couldn’t seem to hurlde even the first stage of grieving. I was in total denial. 

I think what got me through are basically two things:

  • First, take one step at a time; and live one day at a time.
  • Second, rage and regret steal your energy, not your enemies’.

My psychologist friend Barbara said, “As long as we are human, we have ego.” So yes, if you’re wondering, I still have a chip on my shoulder. I learn to live with it. But I don’t plan to indulge on it further.

I’ll end on this note to whomever it may concern: My future success is the best “Fuck you very much.”

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Those commercial stuff

I just watched The Spy Who Dumped Me. I chose NOT to see it when it premiered. I remembered passing by the billboard when a friend drove us somewhere for dinner.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me.”

“What?”

“A new movie. Looks stupid.”

And that was the end of the conversation. When I smell something too commercial to my taste, I shoot it down, fast. I frown upon cheap spy movies, car chase movies, action movies. Because it’s almost always all adrenaline, no brain, no real emotion or substance. When I was still in film school,  I detested and resisted from writing commerical stuff. I even drew a hard line between artists and those sellouts.

I even take my coffee pure black, no milk, no sweetener or other weird stuff. I like to taste it real, with no disguise. And yet, a friend reacted, “Com’on, life is hard enough. Let’s make it sweeter.”

Interesting. Then I keep on drinking my esspresso, black.

Now here comes the plot twist. I took on a commercial feature project recently. Watching The Skp Who Dumped Me tonight gave me so much inspiration. I was with Kate and Mila all the way through on their wacky journey. I was laughing so hard that my chest still sores when I try to take a deeper breath.

So when I accused those feminist nazis, I became one myself. Can’t commercial do good too? Why does everything have to have a ‘point?’ Doesn’t make people laugh a lofty goal already?

Thanks to this commercial “stuff,” I just got an extra doze of motivation and drive to strive to make my own project sizzling fun.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Whisper v. Scream

I recently started testing and uploading my podcast to a Chinese podcast platform called: XimalayaFM.

Everything I know about listening to podcasts and podcasting is all done on iTunes Podcast. 

When I wanted to play my album on XimalayaFM, it took me more a few clicks. As you launch the app, you will be greeted by a 5-second full-screen ad before you can hit “Skip.” Once you are inside, you are bombarded with banner ads from campaigns like VO Competition to trending playlists. 

I feel like I’m walking down on Nanjing Road Shopping District with my non-Chinese friends. One second we start walking, vendors storm over like wasps yelling in pretty impressive English, “Chanel? Louis Vuitton? Rolex?”  The more we shake our heads and respond, “Bu Yao” (meaning ‘Don’t want’ in Chinese), the more those vendors feel the responsibility to engage and explain, sometimes for a couple of blocks.

It’s exactly how I feel about using XimalayaFM. Since I upload my content there for free while I pay for the audio hosting fee on the US site simplecast.com, XimalayaFM automatically feels entitled to replace my cover art to their low-res cheaply cropped banner ads, or disgust me with its screen poop rain ad, or voiceover ad before people can hear a syllable of my show. 

Like Taobao (Chinese Amazon), it rewards you with virtual coins by how many days in a row you check in, by how long you listen on a daily basis. What can you do with those not-real coins? You can purchase content on the platform.  You can even pay them per impression (just like Facebook Page promo) to promote your content. And it will tease or appease your ego if you want to know just how many more subscribers you gain on a daily basis, how many new listens you get and down to how many people actually finish listening before clicking on. 

By the time I get to my own voice, I was so nauseated, overwhelmed, and mind-fucked. 

In contrast, on Apple Podcast, the sponsorship message, if any, comes strictly from the podcast itself. The user interface is so pristine that I feel calm and centered. I actually want to browse and explore the great shows out there even though it feels as sparse as LA. I can finally lower my elbows and start jogging. 

Or compare Google and its Chinese cousin Baidu on any given Sunday… or just any day.  Baidu, like our dear Mrs. Bennet, tries to shove you whichever you-couldn’t-care-less celebrity is in deep shit again. “Oh, you don’t know who that celebrity is? Here is the link. And you’re so very welcome, darling.”  

I’m no expert in UX UI design, but as a writer, I know a thing or two about restrain. It’s easy to come up with a funny screaming scene (Think August Osage County), but so much harder to come up with a powerful silent moment (Think The Bridges of Madison County). 

Like my UCLA screenwriting professor always says, “Get that exclamation point out of my sight and let the actors do their job.”

Now, at this time of the year, I want to thank you for being with me during my most tumultuous summer of my life, so far.  

Happy Thanksgiving.  Doesn’t feel right though without the rowdy exclamation points!!!

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Peacemaker

If you ask me to use movie titles to describle my folks, my dad would be Fast and Furious. My mum would be Hot Fuzz.

When Mr. Fast and Furious meets Mz. Hot Fuzz… I tell ya, it’s The End of the Fxxking World minus the cuddling bits.

When dad was away today, I tried to talk to mum about her unfair opinion of dad. Before I could launch myself, my mum cut me off.

“I knew you love your dad more than me.  Oh well, all those years of love for nothing. I’ll be gone before you know it.”

“But ma, let’s not get ahead of ourselves too soon.”

“How could I not?” She is sizzling.

“Maybe try to focus on yourself when we are discussing your end of the bargain?”

“You dad–”

“You sounds exactly like Trump. Every time people try to point out something at him, he would start and finish with either Clinton or Obama, instead of trying to fix or focus on the big picture.”

“But your dad has problems.” She won’t listen or give up.

“Look, I will talk to him. But arguing with him about his faults will never get you what you want. Agreed?”

She nods.

“Do we want peace or not?”

“Okay, now finish your porridge.”

By the end of our breakfast, mum started to smile. She seemed happy. I guess Hot Fuzz just feels that she needs to be heard or she’ll get real fuzzy.

Now all I need to do, is to catch dad before he gets too fast too furious to get his sequal cooked.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: Every day is a gift (#012)

Your little sister died before you could celebrate her second birthday. Your innocent father was indicted on criminal charges for nine years. And you were a teenager busy figuring out who you are…

Tune in and find out about this screenwriter’s origin story before her Hollywood adventure, which is coming up next week.

Thank you for listening and happy Thanksgiving!

What you’ll hear:

  • When her little sister passed away, what did the ten-year-old her feel? How did she remember her parents cope with the tragedy?
  • During the nine-year FDA indictment, what did she learn, from the judicial system to press credibilty?
  • How did she deal with dyslexia as a kid?
  • Even though she was natural with numbers, why was attracted to theatre when she didn’t want to be noticed?

The world is curved, you won’t know what’s ahead of you until you arrive.

The thing about depression is that, it’s about an ordinary person with an extraordinary situation.

Anyone can have a wedding, but marriage is a whole other thing.

You go back and finish your study.

Links from the episode:

Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

The dip

As Seth Godin famously put it. Or the resistence.

I confess I’m feeling it the most as I got sick last time and I get sick again this time. I don’t want to finish my next podcast. I don’t want to write another blog. Everything seems a nuance. Obviously, I’m not cut out as a podcaster, a blogger… Or just anything on the face of the earth.

Case in point, so my next podcast which I vow to ship on Tuesday is not ready yet. When I could edit my podcast, I was catching up on SNL, all the years I didn’t know about it when I was and now am, back in China.

I will pull myself up and finish the rest of the edit and ship it when it’s still Tuesday in LA.

Oh, I know exactly why I was down. Someone shared with me a post via WeChat about this account getting millions of fans and likes. I couldn’t help but think: snap, why can’t it be me?

My friend was only trying to help. And yet, I read it the wrong way. (Because she sent it at the WRONG time!!)

I will get some zzz; when I get up, I will get the next episode shipped. The guest deserves every ounce of my kudos.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Sick again

I won’t say I can’t believe that I’m sick again after crawling back from pneumonia land. Because I am.

My parents are now in the perfect position of screaming “Told ya so” into my eardrums right now. And so far, they have been enjoying themselves.

One month in Shanghai, twice as sick. Shanghai is not for everyone, it seems.  And for those who are out there healthy, please take care.

 

Yours sickly,
YZ