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

 

Work ethics

It’s easier said than done, and that’s why it’s rare.

It’s something that has become a rare commodity as the younger generation replaces the old.

So what is work ethics and what makes it so rare these days? Work ethics to me is whether a person delivers what he’s promised. If the stake is low for you to deliver something, maybe you would postpone doing it, or you might never do it after all. 

My dad is one of the few people I know holding an impossible bar for himself. He’s not only punctual, he’s at least thirty mins early. He’s not just experienced, he reads the roads like the back of his hands. He retired two years ago. The company was supposed to have nothing to do with him, but they wanted him back. Today, he went to a dinner his former boss threw on his behalf. Some two dozens of company officials attended. During the fine wine and dine, his former bosses complained to him the newer drivers too often get lost, get fined, get into serious accidents that almost get people killed… They gave him gifts and asked a former colleague dropped him off after the dinner.

Too often we can’t wait to brag about our accomplishment through social media. For my dad’s generation, their action is their brand. It takes years to build the kind of reputation that my dad now has. And it takes only a couple of slips to wreck the name. 

It’s about doing what one’s required, surpassing it and repeating it days after days. Years after years. Until it’s in our bones, our second nature.

It’s easier said than done, and that’s why it’s rare.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Communication

All I can do is to listen better; make sure who does what by when in writing.

I was going to have three calls today. One with the feature project director. The other two with the short film directors. 

The first one went extremely well. I was elated how this pro from the Big League liked my voice and nuances in the script. 

The second director was caught up in production. So we rescheduled till tomorrow. 

The third, boy oh boy, the third one got my head spinning like crazy. The director bumped into every possible pet peeves I had, the ones I didn’t know I had or the ones I thought had departed me…

Maybe I was being greedy. Because I didn’t need this extra short for my credit list when I was slaving away three short films, one feature while trying to build up the structure for my first Chinese animation feature plus a few other things.

Through the communication with the third director today, I learned a few things about communication and miscommunication.

Phone manners: Never answered the phone while you are in the loo when you tell the other side that you are ready while actually you’re not. Lock yourself inside the room when you know your call would meow and distract your conversation. The director blatantly did both. I rolled my eyes so openly. Thank the Lord it was not FaceTime.

Everyone needs to be acknowledged. This person never once said: “Thank you so much to turn it around within the 12 hour window.” Maybe she’s just another spoiled rich brat from China that need some spanking. I heard myself thinking.

Especially for screenplay projects, written words should be everyone’s best friend. I found myself trying to convince the director my vision from our previous conversation. It became her words against mine. When she said, “oh, my characters won’t do that. You can find it in the file I sent earlier.” “No, you didn’t.” I called her out loud. “Oh, now the male character has changed so much blah blah blah and the female character…” That part of our convo was a mistake, if not a disaster like Trump v. Pelosi & Schumer. I should ask her to send me more background stuff in bullet points before I started. Maybe she is young; maybe she’s inherited the worst part of the director title before earning it.

As a rule, I try to speak Chinese unless I can’t come up with the English word. I know how pretentious it could sound to the others in certain scenarios. We are both Chinese. So what the fuck? The director’s cringe-worthy English pronunciation got on my nerves if you want to know the truth. I’m not a pronunciation Nazi, but having so little awareness of how poor her English is by contaminating her mother tongue is what gets me. I found myself speaking English unnecessarily frequent with her as a way to beg her to stop.

And earlier I should sense the red flags. Like when I told her my price. She tried to bargain for a few rounds when I already told her that was what I charged for her three other classmates. Or, the part where she tried to give me RMB instead of USD and calling it thoughtful because I’m in China. I would have appreciated her street-smart in a whole different setting. Right then, I was not impressed to say the least.

When I asked her at the end of our call to send me her notes in bullet points, she never did. I recalled earlier when she came to me that she was worried about not being able to make it in time to the hands of her producer. Now she’s stalling?  Or maybe, we are just not the right fit. It happens. 

When my mentor asked me to not to internalize other people’s urgency but to go with my pace, I said I don’t have many choices right now because I want to get back to LA before I get bogged down by the Shanghai way of thinking (translation: What’s in it for me? How much can I milk out of it?)

I know better now after the bumpy voice call with the wannabe director. I took the rest of the day off; took a stroll with dad in the park; caught up the latest Colbert I’ve missed for the last few days; lit my scented candle and took a warm bath. I felt calmer. 

On the flip side though, I can’t help but think about those general meetings which I never heard back from. Is it because I was having too huge an ego for my petite stature? 

Hell, I can’t please everyone. All I can do is to listen better; make sure who does what by when in writing especially when I spar with another person whose personality doesn’t fit mine, which I’m sure may happen quite often.

And yes, I will need to breathe more and chill out. 

 

Yours truly,
YZ

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 on commute, getting crushed into a tube of man-sardines in the rush-hour metro.

Most of all, I love taking an afternoon stroll with dad in the new neighborhood park. I love giving mum fashion and beauty tips for her reunion parties. I love the occasional distractions from my cat when he scratches against my door trying to get in. 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 that 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 nurturing 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, and any 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

Do the right thing

Do the right thing so you can do things right.

“Take me to the hospital.” Dad raised his voice from the other room.

My old man cut open his finger while chopping meat two nights ago. He didn’t tell me sooner since I had been out with my LA friend.  “The bleeding stopped after about an hour.”

The scab was peeled off by accident. It start to bleed again. That was the tipping point when he said “I should have gone yesterday…” He added as we got into the cab.

The emergency doctor peeled off the band-aid and tended to his wound, “Because the cut is rather deep. It would get easily infected by just using band-aid. Come over on Saturday to change the wrap.”

“How long would it take to recover?”

“A while.”

I’m glad about my dad’s good call after his bad judgement earlier.

“I sharpened the knife before chopping the meat.” He gave me another crucial piece of information on our way back home.  I winced.

 

I decided to not to work with one of the student directors due to her lack of passion for her foggy story.  I sent her a text message while I was with dad in the hospital. Several hours spent on this potential client for nothing in the end. Time is the sunken cost that I paid. Like my dad’s wounded finger, I have to stop the bleeding before it does me more damage.

It sounds crucial of me. But sometimes, you just have to do the right thing so you can do things right.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Instant

The other sides don’t need quality. They want speed.

Tea.
Coffee.
Food…

Reply.
Feedback.
Reaction…

All can be achieved in a matter of seconds regardless of the quality in our age.

The other sides don’t need quality.
They want speed.
Because speed equals to attention, which equals to busyness and respect.

But does it really?

I find myself frustrated lately. I keep refreshing my email inbox every 15 minutes right after I send something important to me, which I need an instant yes or no.

Just tell me if you would give me this, or not.

If not, why.

If not now, when.

I drive myself up the wall for what?

After several hours of silence, I decided to do some chores: more packing and cleaning just to get my mind off the things I so wanted instant answers from the people whom I don’t have a) power over; or b) control over.

I got a lot done. By now, I’m quite happy for today’s accomplishment.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

30 under 30

Why does Forbes ever make that list?

I decided, out of blue, to check Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.

Well, not totally out of blue…

A young VC and I had a meeting the other day. At the end of it, she asked a very flattering question.

Which year of the 90s were you born?

I felt ambushed and limited.

“90.” I panicked. “How about you?”

“93.”

Good for you.

Since reviewing every possible category of 30 under 30, I’ve been feeling like shit the whole day today.

I’m 30 already. The next time I might get a slight chance to get on that list is 40 under 40?

Do you ever wonder why Forbes ever makes that list for fuck’s sake? Every year?

To make young people feel inspired, empowered?

But do we? I don’t need to be a man to feel utterly emasculated.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Thanks Forbes.

 

Yours truly,
YZ