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.

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.

RBYZ: Straight Outta Deep South (#002)

Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

My guest today is Mr. Jess Womack, former Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general, who defied Rock Bottom and rose to the top.

What you’ll hear:

  • What was it like to be born in the ’40s Alabama?
  • How did he deal with race in the segregated South as a kid?
  • How books changed his life.
  • What did he learn from his White teachers when the family moved to the North?
  • What impact did Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech have on him?
  • What did his two-year Peace Corps sojourn in Kenya teach him?
  • How did he keep having faith as he got drafted to Vietnam?
  • How did he deal with self-doubt as a young lawyer?

Links from the episode:

To the rest of us, Jess seemed to start from the Rock Bottom:
Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

And yet, decades later, he is a revered lawyer who not only served his country, but also served as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Inspector General, twice, building hundreds of schools for kids, lots of whom first-generation immigrants.

Jess Womack
Jess in Vietnam, 1970

Note from Jess:

This photograph was taken somewhere on a muddy hill in Vietnam where we stayed for about 3-4 weeks, which was a typical deployment. The contact we experienced there was atypical and costly. We were glad to leave. As I was rounding up the last of our guys, one said, “Hey Sergeant Womack, turn around!” It was that moment he caught. 

The caption — Perspective!  Years later at a very dark and difficult time in my career and life, I happened to find the photograph. I blew it up and put the caption on it to always remind myself what real hardship was.

Give it up to Mr. Jess Womack, my dear friend and mentor.

And one more thing: Happy Birthday, Jess!

 

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 mixtape

On repeat.

Not LMM’s Hamilton Mixtape. But the most scathing comments I’ve heard… about me.

Composed by me, mostly.
Mixed by me.
Produced by me.

My brain collected them and made a mixtape just for me in times like this.

“You’re a piece of shit.”
“You don’t deserve success.”
“You’ll rot in hell.”

“Even though you can be fun to be with but you’re a nerd [Translation: straight talker] who can rub people the wrong way like the time you told me you need to focus on your schoowork [Actually suggested by my screenwriter mentor]. I knew your intention but it can be quite disastrous otherwise to the others.”
This, is a direct quote from the Chinese director the other day.

“Have you asked yourself why the landlord situation keeps happening to you over and over again?” She probed.

“Misfortune? And I did ask my more experienced friends to vet the landlord for me before I signed the lease exactly because I wanted to avoid another lawsuit.” I fought back.

“Since you came to me, I’ll be quite honest with you. I know you want to be yourself. But there is a side of you that can be quite offputting, no matter where you are, conservative China or liberal America.” The director kept on going.

It was I  who came to her with SOS flags sticking out of my hair after all.

“You can be quite a bitch.” Another dear friend said for more than a few times. I don’t blame him. I called him up at 11 p.m., knowing exactly he had some house guests from Holland, just to prove a point…

 

Here is the theme song from my mixtape:

Look around, look around…
Look at where you are
Look at where you started
The fact that you’re not dead is a miracle
Just stay alive, that would be enough…

To prove my point that
You don’t have what it takes.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: I’m gonna still be writing (#001)

From Midwest to LA, a teacher-turned-screenwriter’s California dreaming and dreading.

My first-ever guest is a teacher-turned-screenwriter who likes simple stories, complex characters, and real-life absurdism.

What you’ll hear:

  • What has teaching got to do with screenwriting?
  • Why did he choose film school after years of writing screenplays since he was 16?
  • Write what you know is a cliche. Write what scares you.
  • How does he deal with frustration, Rock Bottoms? Two words. Angry run.
  • Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the successes. But then, it doesn’t guarantee anything.
  • How to get the writing workshop going after film school? Consistency and the right mindset.
  • How does he process friends’ successes? Acknowledge it’s there and try not to let it consume you.

It’s hard to be successful at anything you do. You just have to like being unsuccessful. If you can do that, then you’re in the right line of work.

Your students are your audience. You’re not owed anything. If you fail to grab their attention, they’ll let you know.

If you think you’re writing something that is going to be successful or popular, it ain’t.

Wherever I end up in the world, I’m gonna still be writing.

Link 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.

RBYZ: Trailer (#000)

Introducing Rock Bottom with YZ, a new podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Premiers August 28.

You ready?
Let’s rock from the bottom!

 

Listen and subscribe via:

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

Yours truly,
YZ

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

 

Leave me be

Yesterday was my second day from being laid off.

Better quitting than being let go.
But here I am. I can’t deny it. I can’t ignore it. My chest felt tight.

Here is what I did:

  • I edited bits of my podcast trailer;
  • I worked with the composer for my podcast theme music;
  • I cancelled the in-person interview with a guest;
  • I powered through the two-hour-long Skype interview with another guest, to whom I told my situation during the warm-up;
  • I gave myself permission to take a day off from writing my novel;
  • I spent the majority of the rest of the afternoon watching Succession, which I finished by the evening.

A good-intentioned friend texted me, a Chinese producer friend of her was looking for copywriter. She recommended me to the producer. Copywriter. I repeated the word in my head. My ego took over, “Fucking insulting. It’s so beneath you.” But I need to give her a reply. I recalled three voice messages until I sent her a “Thanks but no thanks” gesture that was benign.

Then before going to bed, I texted a few more friends back in China about my latest situation. It was a matter-of-factly note. I was not asking for sympathy. Only a heads-up that I would return home soon.

By the time I got up this morning, I got a dozen more messages. Friends, out of kindness, offered there-theres and “You’re going to be alright and better.” Then they bombarded me with questions about my next moves.

The rebel in me doesn’t want to explain more than I want to, or share my next steps when I don’t even fucking know yet.  It’s taxing and tedious to have to reply to every “How are you,” every “Feel better.”  I just couldn’t be bothered.

 

Today a dear friend will take me a concert at the Disney Hall. He knew that I may leave the country soon. So he started to plan things for me before I’m out of LA officially.

The minute I got home on Friday, my last day at work, I called him up. Between the two of us, I could always cut to the chase. Deep into our conversation, I wept telling him that I wanted to be deserving his friendship.

“You owe me nothing.” He said simply.

Yesterday he called again following up on the concert. Then, at the near end of our call, he mentioned several books I lent him and asked whether I wanted those books back because he was cleaning up his library.

“Do you want those books back?”

“But do you ever want to read them?” My blood was boiling. “Like eventually?”

“Look, I have so many books I want to get into. I’m looking at your books sitting in my study, so I wonder if—”

“It’s not like I’m leaving here in a week!” I exploded before I could catch myself and bite my tongue.

He took it in, “Let’s not talk about it for now.”

“Good.”

 

Maybe it’s for the best that people spend time alone when they hit Rock Bottom. I need  this time to reconnect to myself. Some soul-searching. Unless it’s with the closest friends who know my situation from inside out, I might just resort to the “No response” response on most friends.

Then the parents… I haven’t told them yet. But I will in a few days.

One person at a time, I guess.

 

Yours truly,
YZ