Grief Isn’t Normal

Picture of the ladies

Grief takes you by surprise.

Lemony Snicket says it best:

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”

Lemony Snicket

I recently read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis as well, and he had some powerful things to say about grief. About how to reconcile God being good. And a lot of thoughts about coping, understanding and continuing life with grief.

One of the strangest things about loss and grief is the fading of memory. We forget how a person really was. Dom from Inception talked about that when the phantom of his wife haunted him:

I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all your complexity, all you perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.

Dominic Cobb

The people we lose are never really true in our memories anymore. They leave a piece of themselves with every person they know, and those pieces can almost be combined into an image of who they were when they were here.

My friend was a wonderful person. She was also occasionally annoying, like every other human I know. She was also brilliant. Funny. Welcoming. Awkward (although not anywhere near my level).


I think my grief became stronger the more I learned how many others were grieved.

But as the weeks have passed, the grief is less harsh. The loss, while still felt, is not as daily. I have her film to complete, and it is nearly completed. I was gifted her lovely dog, Bella, and she is a constant reminder of joy.

There are no magic words to help someone through grief. The most comforting things that people did for me in the early days were this:

  • My brother, though he had never met my friend, said he was grieving with me for her.
  • My sister brought me two plants – 1 for my eyes and 1 for my stomach.
  • My friend saw my post on Facebook and called immediately to see what had happened.
  • My husband accompanied me to a film group meeting where I had to ask for post production help and try not to cry.

Grief isn’t normal. It’s part of life here on earth, but it isn’t normal. There is nothing normal about losing the chance to chat or see a friend for the rest of your life. There is nothing normal about the ache in your heart when you see something that reminds you of someone you loved who’s gone forever.

But normal or not, to feel grief is ok.

And as always, love the people you have. Focus on the good. These connections may not last long, so enjoy them while you have them.


12 Months of Movies: December

I guess you’ve probably noticed the gap between September and December.

Life. As it happens. Is rarely the way that you planned.

Actually those are song lyrics, but they’re good song lyrics. We have filmed a movie every month since September, but we haven’t finished editing them. October’s movie will be in post for a while, and is titled Fail the System. November’s film is an art piece that lacks a few imperative components. It has a crazy story of its own.

But this, this is December. And we finished a fun little film that I am very proud to call my own. We had some notable awesome help. We had a great location given to us by Officeworx, downtown KC.

So here it is…Three Single Guys.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, critique or projects of your own!

KC 48 2015: The Mistakes Make Us Better, We Hope

I posted in depth about the 48 Hour Film Competition in 2012 and 2013.  Because of those experiences, my team felt a lot more prepared to compete this year.

If you would like to view my team’s film before reading the mistakes we made, I posted it here.

First off, I had a great group of people.  24 people total were listed as either cast or crew on our credits, and even more helped in support and location availability.  There was an outpouring of kindness that took me completely by surprise and made this film possible in a way that also made it a good experience (most of it anyway).

When I make the following comments, please keep in mind that almost everything that went wrong/mistakes that were made are entirely my fault.  My people did exactly what they were asked and directed to do, except in a circumstance of miscommunication.

So.  Here’s my somewhat comprehensive list, prepared after receiving feedback from cast, crew, friends, family and total strangers.

1.  We pulled the genre Fantasy.  And we kept it.

You have the option of pulling a wildcard genre if you don’t like yours, but the wildcards are usually a lot more niche genres than the first genres.  The real problem is, audiences in America don’t take fantasy movies seriously, and most won’t even appreciate fantasy unless the budget is incredible.  Over here we’re a lot more interested and accepting of Scifi, which makes sense to me in light of American culture, but I don’t have time to analyze it here.

2.  We decided who was shooting the film the day we started shooting.

My man Troyer was supposed to be AC, but when our other possible shooters ended up cast as actors, Troyer stepped up to shoot the film.  This was his first time shooting as DP, and he did marvelously at following directions and listening to advice.  But it would’ve helped him out to know he was shooting the night before, make himself really familiar with the shot list when it was finished late Friday night and have time to give input and plan ahead for some things that went wrong for which we were just not prepared.

48 on set 2015

3.  We thought the script was too long, so we missed out on filming longer scenes that would’ve helped clarify the film.

Our shooting schedule was amazing.  We finished filming before 5pm on Saturday, and we had the first half of the day to the editors by about 2pm, assembled in a rough by 5 ish, and then added the rest of the footage, which was roughly assembled by 7pm at the latest.  WE HAD TIME TO SHOOT MORE, but I chose not to.  Because I was scared that we wouldn’t have time to assemble it all appropriately.

Here’s what we should’ve shot:  In the parking lot when it cuts back to the guy in red (Joshua) standing next to Franky, and Alex walks up to see what was wrong, there’s one line and he walks away.  This scene should’ve been about 5 or 6 lines longer to show that Joshua was using mind control on Alex.  There were a few other things we could’ve done, but this was actually thought of on Saturday night.

4.  I called Picture Lock too soon.

I did.  I wanted to call it, so I did.  I wanted to go to sleep, actually.  So after I went through and hacked at the film, I let the editor take over and when he asked if we had picture lock, I said we did.  I knew that I wanted to clean up a few things.  Why did I do that?  Because I partially had a fundamental misunderstanding of what picture lock meant to my editors, and our workflow.  The way we set up post with sound editing made it impossible to send the film to sound and then send it back to our editing program and retain the ability to make good cuts.

So on Sunday afternoon things got a bit heated (okay, the most heated I’ve ever gotten on any film set ever, but cut me a little slack, I was low on sleep and my editor was pushing 25 hours straight of being awake) which ended with me re-editing a few things and our post sound guy doing his job all over again.  Literally, all over again.

He was a trouper.

5.  I let my head get in my way.  Er, I set myself up for failure.

And I wasn’t the only one.  We all knew–all of us on crew who had done a 48 before–that the time constraints create a lot of stress, split-second decisions and sometimes really bad films.  Films are not necessarily meant to be made in that short of a time period.  And that’s OK.

But my head told me that if we created anything less than a good film I was failing my team, my husband (he is the reason we actually did this contest this year) and myself.

I’m the writer.  I’m the director.  I’m in charge.  What goes wrong is on me.  What goes right is on my team.

If I did my job right, our film should’ve been the best film of the weekend.  But it wasn’t.  So I was a failure.

And this feeling pervaded me Saturday night, even before I saw the totally finished project.  And that feeling stopped me from innovating.  We could’ve called Anna (actress who played Franky) and Alex and shot some more.  Both of them were more than ready to help out and make the film great.

But I gave up on the film half-way through.  I let my head get in the way.

6.  I let the failures and mistakes knock me down.

I failed me.  And instead of laughing it off, realizing that it happens and moving on, I let it get me down.

Every day this past week was a struggle between asking for feedback and wishing I never had to pick up a camera or a script again.  Every day my husband Joshua (yes, the hot guy who got away in the film, that one’s my constant encouragement) tried his best to get me up and over.  And every day I wanted to.

But it wasn’t until last night, when nearly everything failed all week leading up to the most epic failure of all, that I realized that it doesn’t matter how many times we fail.  It doesn’t matter if I can’t seem to get things right, whether it’s work related or otherwise.  It doesn’t matter if I disappoint people sometimes.

That’s gonna happen.  It’s inevitable.

But I have a Hope, and I have a lovely partner named Joshua, and I have a family, a team, a community, and a whole stinkin’ horde of individuals who want to see me succeed.  And not just me, but my people.

Not because we’re the best (we aren’t, the team that won the contest is hands down some of the most talented filmmakers I’ve ever had the blessing to meet).

Not because we deserve it.

It’s because we love it.  And we want everyone else to love it too, whether they be audience, cast or crew.

At the moment we’re the John Hammond of filmmaking.  But maybe someday we’ll be Joss Whedon.  Or Steven Spielberg.  Or Christopher Nolan.  Or Joe Wright.  Or JJ Abrams.  Or Katheryn Bigelow.  Or Debra Granik.  Or Catherine Hardwicke.

We Hope.

12 Months of Movies: May

May happened.  It was crazy.

Our movie for the month of May was the short film my team made during the 48 Hour Film Competition.  Basically, on Friday, May 29th, each team drew a genre, and then each team was given the same character, line of dialog and prop that had to be in each film.  Then we had until Sunday at 7:30 to turn in a finished film longer than 4 minutes and shorter than 7.

We pulled Fantasy.

The other elements were: Frank or Frankie Riordan, Student.  “I want to do it myself.” Strawberries.

I made a lot of mistakes this time, but I’d rather leave that blog for Sunday.  Until then, this is the film we made:

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, suggestions or projects of your own!

12 Months of Movies: April

I realize we are a few days into May.

I’m sorry.

Sometimes things have delays…And this short film had more than its fair share.  We filmed it in November last year and have been in post ever since.  We didn’t record the music until almost the last week of April.  Hence the late post.

Regardless of that, we worked very hard to make this a beautiful film.  My team worked a lot on this, spread across several extra days of filming and numerous problems in post.  Everyone involved was fantastic.

Please enjoy Paix de Dieu, one of the happy dramas we’ve made.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 51

In honor of Christmas I wrote an essay.  Ish.  I don’t like essays as a rule, so I hope it’s more like a short story.

It was read at the Christmas Eve service at my church.

The Best Christmas Present
“What’s your favorite Christmas present ever?” asked Jeremy at my work Christmas party a few days ago.
“You know, it really was a red rider BB gun,” Joshua replied. “And I was awesome with that. I used to shoot dragonflies with that thing.” He laughed, his whole body shaking with the memory.
The question traveled around the table, disintegrating after a while into funny Christmas stories and poignant memories of childhood. I stayed quiet, my brain rushing. Only one present came to mind at first, but the more my mind processed, I realized that a second present meant even more to me.
Let me tell you about the first one though.
During my first year of film school I was very confused. Confuzzled. Summer ended and the man I thought I was going to marry stepped out of my life. He left a mountain of self-centered hatred in his wake, a depression that soaked me. Work, school, reading—nothing could erase him from my thoughts.
Around Black Friday I saw a pair of headphones on sale. I wanted them, man, I wanted those headphones. But I worked all day black Friday and the following Saturday. In the midst of business I forgot about them.
Christmas rolled around. Surrounded by my siblings and parents, I ripped into a package from my parents, destroying the paper with extreme prejudice.
I looked up at my mom. She smiled.
I’m wearing those headphones as I write this. 5 years of headphones. I use them on set when I am filming, I use them while working on my computer, and that spring I saturated myself with Owl City through them, my main defense against the disease that is depression. Through these phones, I set my failures and losses aside to focus on the future.
No wonder they were the first to come to mind, eh?
In 2011, after graduating with a B.A. in film, I left the country for 6 weeks to film a documentary in New Zealand. Chatting with my family was sketchy at best, especially from a country that possessed no free wifi and was, like, 18 hours ahead. It was hard, but I was never alone with God beside me.
While I roamed the gorgeous land of the Lord of the Rings, my older brother, my closest friend, experienced a heartbreak of his own. A week before he was supposed to be married, the woman decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I tried to contact my big bro, but the shock and loss made it difficult for him to speak to me, his little sis.
I arrived home late on a Monday night after traveling for about 23 hours, though you wouldn’t expect it from the clock.???? I guess gaining back the day I lost on the way to New Zealand was a big plus, but I spent the majority of Tuesday in a haze. Wednesday morning my entire family, minus 1 sister, departed for sunny Cali, because our “flight-to-the-wedding” tickets couldn’t be refunded. We rescued my brother…spent a few days walking around San Fran…watched a certain Robert Downey Jr. movie, and flew back home.
It was a sober Christmas. But you know what? In the midst of all that hurting, that feeling of betrayal, the questions why and the even deeper loss to all of us, we sat in my parents’ living room and we sang hymns. We read the Christmas story. We opened presents– way more presents than anyone could ever need. We hugged, ate delicious non-Christmasy food, and took turns passing around tiny baby Jonathan.
Images flipping through my mind, I turned to Jeremy again. The noise at the table continued, but I said to him,
“I think the best present I ever got was when I came home from New Zealand.”
He smiled. He turned back to the group. And I thought, but he doesn’t understand. My present wasn’t the fact that I was home.
My big bro wasn’t supposed to be home for Christmas that year. He wouldn’t have had the money after the wedding. We had planned on just seeing him for the days before the ceremony and heading home.
So the present that year, in spite of the loss, was my brother being home for Christmas.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 48

I know I missed the Monday deadline.  In fact, I bet you’ve lost hope that I have maintained my Sunday deadlines…But I always have.  I just can’t always post on Mondays.

This week is taking me longer because the thing I made last week is a present, and it was supposed to be given to the recipient already….and hasn’t.







I’ll post a finished pic when it’s been given away.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 45

The last three weekends have been consumed with filming.  On Saturday we wrapped on DefineFast Productions’ new film Paix de Dieu.

In honor of that film, I made a fake trailer for the film.  Fake, you ask?  Yes.  While Paix de Dieu is a quiet drama about 2 neighbors who meet for the first time, this trailer is a twisted…Thing.


As always, feel free to comment with feedback, suggestions or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 43

This week was hard.  But I ended it sweetly.


I sketched my sister and I.  In my now classic style.


Thought about adding color, but decided against it.  What do ya’ll think?


And thank you to all the people who helped film this past Saturday.  You’ve given me the beginning of my next project.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, suggestions or projects of your own!