And… she’s back

Hi guys,

I’m back, stronger, healthier, and more balanced.

For awhile I couldn’t see myself back. When I was at my lowest, I didn’t see the point of coming back, ever again. That voice was taking hold: You don’t matter. Nor does your voice. So shut up and piss off.

So I did. For two months.

During the period of my cock blocking my own blog, a dear friend asked when I would update again. I said I was busy. Truth is, I was. But I still found time to watch Colbert, follow the US politics shitshow, and binge HBO’s Barry and Insecure, Hulu’s PEN15 and Ramy… so what kind of lame excuse was that, right?

A few things to update here:

  1. One of the films I wrote just won Best of Fest, first of hopefully many awards during the festival season;
  2. I’ve almost finished my first ever comedy spec pilot script after tons of rewrite… I’m already nervous AF about the feedbacks.
  3. My teaching at the arts college has been going well. My students seem to like my class and I have a steady stream of followers who sit in for my class;
  4. Because of this teaching gig, I would very likely land another teaching gig for the fall semester at an institute whose values I share. Things would likely to unfold in a matter of a fortnight;
  5. I’m now collaborating with three people on three separate creative projects. It’s a lovely change for someone who used to work alone;
  6. My negotiation skills are now officially next level:
    a) I set boundaries with a bloodsucker (*see definition in the footnote) by upholding my dignity, telling him to fuck off without actually dropping the F-bomb.
    b) When a wannabe writer asked me for rewrite service, I told her my fees, which in turn shocked her the shitless. “I didn’t know screenwriting can cost this much.” My OS: Well, bitch, now you know. You don’t question the lawyer when she charges you by the hour.  Or your therapist.  Or your dentist.  Just because you vomitted 100 pages doesn’t make them un-stink… It went on like this for a bit in my own head.  I was caught off guard by my epic animosity towards this stranger who I had never met and possibly would never meet.  I took a Sorkin-esque walk-and-talk.  Then something hit me: when someone doesn’t see the value I provide, I get frustrated. My ego screams, “They don’t see what I see, and thus I don’t value what I think I’m worth.” It was all fear talking…  Sure in the end, I scared away a potential client, but I got in touch with my own psyche.
  7. I threw myself back into the dating pool. Quite a cliche move ‘cuz I felt I was in a rut with my writing projects. Now I wanted to seek validation from elsewhere. Bingo: men.  Regardless of all the debates why I should focus on my work and my work alone, my strongest inner voice fought on, “Bitch , I need to live. I need to feel like an actual natural woman. I need to feel that I’ve got game. Just fuckin’ do it already!” Without getting into too much detail, I’m pleased to report that I’m doing quite okay. I’ve learned that I’m beautiful just the way I am (Yo, Bruno Mars).   And here’s the list of key findings from my dating adventure:
    a) I’m a good listener.
    b) I’m a fun conversationalist.
    c) I’m told that I’m a pair of bossy fancy pants – which 99% of the Chinese men don’t dig but fine by me. #theirloss
    d) Could flirtation actually be my mother tongue? Hmm…
    e) Even though I’m a feminist who doesn’t wear it on her sleeves, I enjoy being pampered and seeing men pick up the tabs without making it weird or a big fucking deal.
    f) Trial and error also works in dating. Gurls and gents, don’t quit on your first unsuccessful date. Assess why it didn’t go well and charge the fuck on.
    g) More often than I’d like to admit, I sometimes have out of body experience that I would start writing scenes at an imaginary desk. Beware, #pervertwriter aboard…
    h) I’ll have to save more for later for now.

After two fucking months of blog drought, I’ll close this post with something my dear friend Barbara shared in our recent Zoom call:

Nobody else is the source of ​change​ to our destiny.  The bread actually sits right on our heads, but most of us look everywhere else just for crumbs…  Don’t ever minimize the purpose of your life.  

We get to live just once. So live it well. Make it count.

That’s it for today.  #illbebacktmr

Yours truly,
YZ

*Bloodsucker: one powerful individual who wants to pick your brains and suck your blood dry but doesn’t value or respect your time.  Let alone consider the $$$$$ it fucking entails.

*A reader of my blog reached out asking for some English writing advice. I was touched by the sincerity between the lines.  To rw: Thank you for getting in touch. You’re a Messenger sent by Higher Power who commands my presence in the blog sphere.  Thank you, dear.

What makes a good story

I had a call with a director on her short story today for the rewrite.  She wanted to make sure all the elements were there, all the ambiguity was explained at the beginning.

I then said, “Look, I understand where you were coming from. But doesn’t your version sound like a beige flight safety promo video? How do you want me to feel in the end?”

So what is a (good) story? What isn’t?

The bottom line is, we want our hero to go through hell, to hurt, to lose, to experience a near death before he grows, and learns, before he gets his want, or not. No matter what the reward, he has to earn it first otherwise the audience would feel cheated. Besides, we want the surprises to keep our minds engaged. By giving us details like how we deal cards, our hearts are satisfied through working and solving the puzzles by ourselves. And when we feel what the hero feels at the very end, we finally realize that we have been manipulated by the storyteller. But like the hero, we let it happen. Because the journey is the reward. 

By pinpointing her mistake, I also realize it’s the pitfall that I also tend to fall into. 

As a storyteller, my job is to stir emotions. If I can’t feel it when I write it, how can I expect anything else from the audience?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Two kinds of exhaustion

I finally turned in the second draft of the live-action feature rewrite. Adrenaline’s pumping. If my brain is in the stove, it’s now close to well-done. Tomorrow, I’ll spend the day doing a third draft on the second short script project.

I can’t remember a day that I’m not tired since I go down this creative path.  

In what feels like a parallel universe, I remember the lonely chilly nights I dragged my body back home at two o’clock in the morning when I used to work for the paycheck, the title… In that universe, I was not only exhausted, I was burned out.

We all get tired at the end of a work day. Doesn’t it feel so much better knowing we are doing the work we’re proud of?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

RBYZ: Hollywood Inside Out (#005)

If you were born into a Hollywood family, would you do anything else other than film?

My guest this week is an aspiring visual artist. Last year, she quit her job, traveled around half of the globe for four months before moving back to LA, starting afresh.

Her bio is quite unique—

I can write upside down and backwards; I always say hi to left-handed people; I helped dress the models at the Elie Saab Summer ’06 Couture Show in Paris; Blair Waldorf wears a headband I made when she says “I love you” to Chuck Bass in Gossip GirlI have a pretty good relationship with my cell phone and technology; and I love reading children’s books as an adult.

Meet Amee Carter, who dares to differ even it means hitting rock bottom.

What you’ll hear:

  • Is groundedness even possible for someone born in Hollywood?
  • What are the disadvantages to be in the family business apart from its clear advantages?
  • How to look at the world like a production designer?
  • How does she find courage to break out of the familiar world? What’s the drive behind that choice?
  • What does it feel like to have 17 home bases in four countries in a year?
  • How not to be fazed working with the greats? What’s the advice?

It’s not about you. It’s about the work.

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.

Lightning doesn’t strike out of nowhere

I had a new idea for next quarter’s feature screenwriting class. It sort of just came to me.

Is that how it works now?

Truth is, it never worked this way as long as I could remember. I had to actively think about what story to write, or to use my past experience. However, being a writer, you have only this much of life experience — ever enough. If you were that experienced, you wouldn’t have time for writing, would you, Bear Grylls? (No, I don’t mean hiring ghostwriters, thank you.)

I have been told since I came here that “To write what you know” is a piece of shit advice that anyone can give to a writer. How do you expand beyond writing your own roman à clef?


Here are some of my lessons learned (aka. lightning-struck-me moments) over the past two quarters at the program.

#1 A good idea can go south if you don’t have good execution or good structure.

#2 A ‘Meh’ idea can surprise you if you think outside the box.

#3 Sometimes fresh characters visit you in your desperation.

#4 No one is responsible to make your story better than yourself.

Stop complaining you get shitty comments or uncorporative cohort.


The two points below are wisdom from a beloved sage professor —

#5 Always take meetings whenever you’re given one. It’s not a waste of time. You need practice in meetings.

What else more imporant that you need to do, darling?

#6 It’s not all about who you know, but more importantly, who knows you.

Being a nobody in the industry, you need to expose yourself.


The next time you wonder why X Y Z happens to that lucky bastard, it should occur to you that the bastard is always out there — busting off his arse to get hit by the lightning.

Back to my point at the beginning — So, I had an idea about a new screenplay. Were I not in the program, wouldn’t I be thinking “what’s next?” as constantly as I do now? Nope.

Because I put myself into the Lightning Zone.

Before you know it, miracle/inspiration/idea might really strike you, hard.

Picture Credit: energyrealities.org

And oh, lastly —

#7 Be patient with thyself.

You can’t rush art. 
*I’ve tried. And I failed, like the others.