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

 

A writer’s life

I’m proud to say that I’m now a working screenwriter. I’m for the moment out of my “between job” phase. 

After getting in bed (Hollywood uses it as a catchy phrase… so bear with me here) with some eight directors and counting for a number of feature and short projects, I’ve found the G-spots that are sure-fire turn-offs. 

Here comes the list:

  1. Comment that begins and ends with “The feel is not right” phrase. Then give no follow-up explanations, leaving the writer in the dark trying desperately – in all kinds of positions – to please the director who’s likely impotent. 
  2. Got the script from a writer who turned in at some strange hours but never ever say, “Thank you.” As a writer, I start hypnotizing myself that, “Now now, remember you got paid for this. It’s a blessing to earn money doing this. Just suck it up.”
    – But is good manners this hard?
    – Did someone just say ‘hard?’
    – My bad.
    – Come here, bad girl.
  3. The no-reply no-payment treatment till you beg for a response. Then the other side would simply say “Oh gee I forgot. I was so busy with XXX.”
    Or, give you the shrug plus the guaranteed eye-rolling in your back. Probably with the O.S. “The fucking nerve!”

I’ve never tried prostitution. But given the abundant resources out there, sex workers and writers share more than a few resemblances. More often than not, they get fucked in the ass for less than what they do to deserve.

But sometimes, you hit the jack pot too. Say, for a recent project even before I turn in the second and final draft, I got the rest of the payment in my bank account.  I stared at the incoming wire and couldn’t believe my good fortune. Alas, the gratitude is fleeting because you have other customers to please

Like Susie’s advice to Mrs. Maisel before baring her soul to the audience: 

Tits up!

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Happy New Year!

The power lies right within us if we dare to summon it, tirelessly, lovingly. 

Happy 2019!

And she’s back.

Yes!

I still have a few pressing writing deadlines at my hand. But I’ve decided to log back onto the blog I’ve been turning to since around my major Rock Bottom last summer.

2019 may very well foresee my film career officially taking off. My first feature movie will premiere at the end of 2019 amongst other things. It all sounds surreal, but getting back to LA won’t be for too long after all.

For 2019, a few things will be my priority:

  1. Fear less. Worry less. We shall see how my Mrs. Bennet-esque poor nerves would serve me in 2019.
  2. Just do it. I think, strike that, I know I can. (My guilt pleasure is still to binge-watch Frasier whenever life or circumstances spit on me. I’m currently on Season 3 Episode 22…)
  3. Spend quality time with my parents. (I will take my folks to Japan for a week in the fall if I finish everythething I should finish by April*.)
  4. Be a friend indeed to my friends in need. (Say yes if I can help it.)
  5. Get up early. Exercise daily. Eat healthy. (Well, I just ordered a large pack of MyLikes, aka. Chinese Maltesers…)

After the months crawl out of the shitty place, all I can say is this:

The power lies right within us if we dare to summon it, tirelessly, lovingly. 

Or as Sir Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

Never, never, never give up.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Here is my first four months to-do list:

  • Animation feature script – done
  • Feature script polish – done
  • Paper – first draft
  • New feature script on spec – first draft
  • New short script – first draft
  • The class plans for the spring semester (I’m teaching two screenwriting classes at a Shanghai college)

Choice

Maybe two months later when I read this blog entry, my future self may have a better idea.

I was born and bred in Shanghai, the most expensive and exciting cosmopolitan city in China. Via my dad’s calculation, its food and beverages are even more expensive that those in LA – although I would defend that Shanghai’s rent is much cheaper than that in LA. 

The Chinese people (other than folks born in Beijing) seem to make Shanghai her goal as “making it.” But I never feel like I belong here. Shanghai is all about money and efficiency. It’s not a place for writers, or artists in general. 

Today, my cab driver told me that he just couldn’t stop but work in Shanghai. He can’t afford to rest because of its high living expense for his family of three. I listened and felt grateful that right now I’m rent-free.

So this evening, I went to downtown Shanghai, at a place where Chinese and expats mingle for a dinner with a friend who runs her own company. This friend came from a family of businessmen and women. It was only natural when she set up her own shop in her early 30s. After several rounds of wine and beer on her part, she tried to reason with me why moving back to the US sounds like an unwise idea. “You’re Chinese. You would never feel like you belong there.” She then gave me a cautionary tale of her friend; she listed her resources that we could exchange to do something big and interesting together; she told me tricks of how to set up my own  studio (aka. gong zuo shi) so I could charge much larger fees when I negotiated with brands and firms, creating an illusion that I ran an army instead of working as a freelancer. 

This was all new to me. The artist side of me resisted and rebelled. But the pragmatic side of me wanted to learn more. After all, who doesn’t want financial freedom and more flexible working hours plus having extra to take care of the parents?

I told my friend that I would like to explore those notions going forward. I promised that I will pop at an event she hosts on Monday so she can start to introduce me to her acquaintances.  I’m not a star sign believer, but I do relate to and adore her Pisces-ness – flexible, creative, and resourceful. 

“God, things we could’ve done.” John Sculley told Steve Jobs when they met again more than a decade later when Jobs was hired back to Apple. Steve replied, “Things we could’ve done.” 

Of course, this moment, this line were all created by Aaron Sorkin who wrote the award-winning script for Danny Boyle to shoot. But to me, it’s also a reminder in moments like this. I don’t want to be another person to confess to my potential ally that why the he’ll we didn’t end up working together when we can?

For the past three years, I closed myself off opportunities that are not film related. I think I need to think different. There must to ways to utilize my talent… on a bigger scale, stage-wise and pay-wise.  

And this morning, a fourth student director came to me to fix her script. I was flattered albeit overwhelmed.  Every day I feel and think more like a screenwriter. But I’m not happy with its power limitation in filmmaking. Or, maybe two months later when I read this blog entry, my future self may have a better idea.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

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

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

Thick skin

For the pride, the ego and the bully

I don’t understand why someone would keep the same hairstyle for so long.

Well, I like my short hair.

But don’t you find it boring? Don’t you think this manly haircut is partially why you are still single.

I let it slide.

I don’t think you’re that flexible.

What do you mean?

You almost always play by the book that you forget that what you get but focus on how you get it.

Could you be more specific?

Well, that’s how people say about you.

How can I come up with another rebuttal when I’m against the ‘people’ no matter if it’s two or three people?

 

I grit my teeth to sit through the preaching of this well-meaning ‘mentor’ who seems to always have tons of issues with my traits and my core values. I was too tired and bored to get into an argument with her.

She is right about this one: I’m not able to get the O-1 visa within my three-year sojourn in LA.

I wasn’t aware how painful it is to come to terms with me coming back home in order to go back soon enough after granted the O-1 visa.

But I have to swallow my pride in a mouthful, tuck away my ego, and refrain from barking at the people who revel in pinching and pissing on my open wound.

I need extra layers of thick skin to sustain me through the bone-cold Shanghai winter and as an unknown artist who is building a name for herself and for the immigration board.

Bring it on.

 

Yours truly,
YZ