Get it done

I turned in my first major feature project a couple of hours ago.

In the midst of all kinds of interruptions from pneumonia, bad cold, friend’s visit, to other side projects, I got it done.

That “You can’t do it” voice in my head, so loud at times, finally quiets down a little.

I’m grateful for the people I’m working with. They were patient, and understanding.

That’s empowering.

And there is an obvious lesson re-learned:

How to get things done?

Drip by drip. Word by word.

I will catch some sleep. Because I have a new project to take on tomorrow, from scratch.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

When politics was boring

Everyone was just busy living. I was busy making my dream a reality. 

I don’t know what it feels like to be American right now. I can ask my American friends to find out. Sadly, I’ve lost my only Republican friend or I could have asked him what it feels like to live in DC right now. Last time I heard, he was made partner at his all-white law firm.

For what the Mueller investigation looks like, it could be much bigger than Watergate with Michael Cohen’s pleading guilty for lying in Congress. 

I have to make a memo of what’s been scooped out on a daily basis to keep up with the American politics… It’s anything but boring.

Just a few days ago, I started reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. It dawned on me that Obama was still president when I arrived in the US in 2015. Because of him, my parents benefited from the ten-year tourist visa, which was unprecedented before or after his administration… And I didn’t recall once the urge to check MSNBC or Colbert or SNL… 

Everyone was just busy living. I was busy making my dream a reality. Now it’s impossible not to talk about politics. It’s almost offensive to just watch Ellen or Fallon. 

The news hasn’t cheered me up since I began following it religiously after the fall of my work visa. I’m seeing a world where the privileged has gotten to get away with crimes. They can lie about it and still get bravos by their diehard believers. Case in point: Trump.

Then why do you still want to go back to the States when things sound so bad? I hear you ask. Because I want the truth, even though sometimes it gets ugly, offensive, hurtful, mind-boggling. But having the press, independent from the executive officer, believe in people’s good judgement, is priceless. 

Because you have to know the truth before you can ask: what can we do to change?

Otherwise, you only raise a herd of people who care nothing more than their paychecks, watch nothing but their soap operas. When you ask them about social affairs, they’d say, “Why should I care?” Why should they when the media never gives you the full picture?

 

 Yours truly,
YZ

The funding

When the money trickles down to the people at the bottom of the food chain, they get peanuts and jackshit. 

“How did it go?” I asked my soon-to-be writing partner after our new feature project meeting. She also teaches screenwriting at this well-off art school. Over the past week, she has been trying to get funding for her students’ short film projects.

“They gave me a flat-out no.”
“Based on what?”
“a) it’s the end of the year. There is zilch budget left; b) even if they do put in some fund, it has to go through competition so everyone gets a fair shot; c) they might reward the students once their short films won some serious awards.”

And one more thing, in the history of the school, students always fund their own projects. Why do they suddenly need the money now?

I was angry but least surprised. Here is a college that spends money on swans, willows, and moving two ancient buildings from another province to the campus. Now they admit they don’t have any budget?

I believe them. Now, you need to understand how things work here. If there is 100 dollars. The top dog snags 80 dollars as his income, and hands over 20 to his subordinates. The underlings copy their boss. So when the money trickles down to the people at the bottom of the food chain, they get peanuts and jackshit.

Just how driven are these students to get their movies made? I don’t know. Because it now comes down to on how much money their parents would invest/waste and how resourceful the students are.

No wonder when artists here finally get recognized, they thank their family, their loving and understanding parents, their mentors. But they may never mention the schools they graduated from, the system in which they were raised.

Why would we blow your horn when you are here just for yourself?

And to continue the Thanksgiving spirit:

I vow that I would not forget the wonderful people who have helped me along the way.

I vow that I would do so for the younger generations who are talented and dedicated but need the support because the system won’t.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

To live and let live

If the earth has only human in it, it won’t be long before we face our own extinction.

In China, we don’t have animal control bureau running around capturing stray cats and dogs. Naturally, people form opions around these little creatures who are in the grey areas of the law.

Some retirees would feed the neighborhood cats on a daily basis. My mum became one of them four years ago when I told her my observations of these fascinating little creatures as I did my morning walk.

It soon became our daily routine to cat-watch and cat-call. Overtime, mum got acquainted with other retirees, mostly women, who have a monthly budget to feed the cats. They even have a walking routine of “fantastic cats and where to find them.”

Our family cat Michael used to be one of those stray cats before mum and I took him home when he was thirsty by the neighborhood fountain.

Now, on the other side of the aisle, quite much like the Republicans, you have, mostly men and some portion of women, who just hate these furry little things. Some even throw decorative pebble stones at them, not unlike what Trump would do and boy do they feel righteous abou their action.

“They are so filthy. They make the hallway smell. You should stop and let them be (die).”

My dad, who usually let people mind their own business, couldn’t take it no more when he was with mum one day:

“If the earth has only human in it, it won’t be long before we face our own extinction.”

Like the Trump supporters, when you bump into those people in the neighborhood, there is no way you can win the argument. For people who see the world as a zero-sum game, how can you try to talk to them and stay sane?

Hands down, I admire the Democrats on the Hill.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: Braveheart (#013)

Depression and procrastination are your twin babies if you’re a creator of any kind. This comedy writer, who was featured on the show last week, shares her struggles and strategies.  Tune in and find out how she did it. Kudos to her Braveheart! What you’ll hear:
  • Cinematic immunity is real. So is jackass.
  • Why was production jobs addictive?
  • What made her put her foot down to really pursue screenwriting?
  • How does she deal with the rough winter alone in LA when her father had a stroke and her boyfriend left her?
  • How did she overcome impostor syndrome?
  • The consequence of letting a revered professor co-op the script she was writing?
  • Why did she prefer writing comedy over drama?
  • Why did choose to write at Starbucks knowing the cliche LA writer?
  • What did she learn about herself and the business of counseling through the years of therapy and changing therapists?
  • What benefits does she see going to film school even though she had tons of on-set experience?
I would keep taking jobs. because I don’t want to face my own thoughts. The job had the best hours but I had the longest days. I have a blind faith in life. “What are you gonna do next?” People ask me. Well, I don’t know. It’s gonna happen though. Things would come around.  New writers are like a new virus that Hollywood wants to get rid of. If you are lucky, you get to take hold. Then you can’t get rid of Hollywood. I hope to be that virus.
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.

Imperfect

The most important thing is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

Ever since I was a kid, I loved reading biographies, from entreprenuers like Steve Jobs to great poets like Su Shi from ancient China’s Song Dynasty. I read David McCullough like the Bible, from his recount on the creator and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge to the 1000-page books on John Adams and Harry Truman…

I studied the successs patterns. I tried to find out exactly what made those people great. And I wanted to “fake it till I was great, too.”

Then, I found the cultural differences between the Chinese and the English versions on the same subject, say Newton or Einstein.  In the Chinese version,  they were almost always so damn perfect.  It was in the English version that I realized that, “Oh, they did have a sense of humor. Oh, they were kids once too.” You might be able to imagine how shocked I was when I read Walter Isaacson‘s Steve Job biography…

To err is human. And yet, it was hard to get that message reading the biographies in Chinese… So, as a teenager, a young adult, I tried hard to get rid of my little foibles, my big shortcomings. It worked for a while, then there was always counterattack.

As I took up writing, it dawned on me that what made characters relatable is exactly their freckles, their imperfections.

When I chose Eddie the Eagle (2015) for my movie buff dad to watch tonight, I ended up watching it with him.

Eddie didn’t look like a pro; he didn’t have the Olympian presence as per the snobbish British Olympic Committee.  But Eddie tried, he failed and fell. He came as last but people fell in love with him and what he stood for – He is our guy. He is the guy who doesn’t care to be perfect. He can’t. He was 22 when he was 16 years too old to begin ski jumping according to the pros.  He can’t change people’s minds, but he sure defied gravity and elevated the founding principle of the Olympic Games:

“The most important thing is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

– Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Most of us aren’t going to be Mozart, maybe not even Salieri. But I’d say this, something plastic surgeons never say, if you are able to feel okay your imperfection in public, I think you’re closer to be the person you dream to be.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Speaking of imperfection, we might be the last few generations who are imperfect. Now those gene-edited babies are among us…

Five Insurances & One Fund

Some are better off with a job. Some are not. Knowing which one you are is the key.

When you negotiate benefit package as you find employment in China, you ask if the benefits include “Five Insurances & one fund,” meaning:

  • The Endowment Insurance;
  • The Maternity Insurance;
  • The Medical Insurance;
  • The Employment Injury Insurance;
  • The Unemployment Insurance;
  • And the Housing fund.

Before I left for the US in 2015, I was well-compensated in my old job at the ad agency. I used my Housing Fund and my Supplementary Provident Fund to elevate my parents burden when we bought the new apartment.

You see, before I was a screenwriter, I functioned on the basis of what kind of benefits I could get down to “I’m not gonna pay for my Uni-ball pens or my 3M scotch tapes and stickers.”

It’s been five weeks since I moved back. I’ve not been looking for another 9-to-6 job that would put me back on the “Five Insurances & one fund” track.

  • I like that my stomach won’t feel tight every Sunday evening.
  • I like that I don’t have to pretend I’m busy when I’ve finished the tasks at hand.
  • I like that I won’t feel guilty when I browse websites that are not work related.
  • I like that I don’t waste time commute, crushed by the rush-hour man- sardines.

Most of all, I love taking an afternoon stroll with dad in the new neighborhood park. I love giving mum fashion and beauty tips. I love the occasional distractions from my cat when he scratches against my door. I love being able to have all three meals with my folks and just hear them bicker and complain about each other.

I love taking control of my time. Knowing that those benefits, insurances, funds, staplers we get “for free” are never free. It’s our time, our experience they are paying.

Some are better off with a job. Some are not. Knowing which one you are is the key.

A decade and six jobs later, I got the answer. True, right now, it seems that I’m sacrificing pay cuts. But in the long run, it would pay off as my own brand grows. But it can never happen if a) I don’t start to nurture it; or b) I stop nurturing it.

And lastly, just how many people around you are doing what they love and get paid to do it?

I’m proud to say that I am.  It’s still at the early stage before the dawn of my hopefully future glory days.  It’s hard right now, just like any new operation, new business.  But it’s worth it. Like a proud new mother seeing her baby wobbling the first steps. You know she would fall, and fail.  You’ve heard about the Terrible Two, the Horrible Teen, But you won’t put her to adoption right here right now because of those obstacles, would you?

Exactly.

Yours truly,
YZ