Writing Through Things

Recently, many people have been asking me to describe what my upcoming short film is about. As I struggled to find the words to describe it, I realized that, at its core, it’s a home invasion story. Once I realized this, I looked back on my previous short film 3:03. I realized that my past film was also a sort of home invasion story.

Suddenly everything clicked together for me.

A couple years ago, I had an experience. I was living in an apartment, and one day, while I was alone in said apartment, one of the maintenance workers just walked in. He didn’t knock. He used his own key. I had no advance warning. I was at my most vulnerable. I no longer live in that apartment, but for the rest of my time living there, I never felt safe.

While I was processing that immediate fear I was feeling, I wrote the script for 3:03. It was filmed in the apartment where the event occurred. The film was about a woman who woke up in the middle of the night to a disturbance in the hallway outside her door. It was heavily based on a nightmare that I had.

At the time, I took that at face value. I thought it was just based on a nightmare that I had. It’s only now, in retrospect, that I’m realizing that my scripts are reflecting the fears that I’m working through in my own life.

I guess it makes sense. Every film that I’ve written up to this point has been based off of real experiences I’ve had. From a creepy public restroom and streetlights turning off around me, to a sort of home invasion, it’s all been based on true events.

Maybe that’s why people say my films creep them out. Maybe it’s because the feelings are genuine. For me, it’s very real.

Of course, this got me thinking about the horror genre. I started thinking of all the recurring themes that come up in horror films. Good horror films reflect real life fears at their core, and this is why the genre has such a loyal fanbase. Watching a good horror film can allow the viewer to process fears in a safe setting. In that same way, horror films can be therapeutic for their creators as well.

I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be done with my phase of writing home invasion films. I’m not even sure yet what my next project will be. Since I don’t have anymore home invasion stories up my sleeve at the moment, perhaps you could say that I’ve worked through the fear at this point? I guess we shall see.

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2017, Year in Review

As the remaining hours of 2017 fade away, I always try to take time to reflect on the accomplishments I had. I don’t typically write them on this platform, but this year, I felt this was the most appropriate place.

This was definitely a long year. It feels so foreign to look at events that transpired in January, and hold them in the same year as events that happened in November. I think this is why it’s such a good idea to reflect.

In the first few months of 2017, I worked with E Leal Productions to finally finish a project that began in 2011. Reborn, a film project that was the launch pad for so many of the people in my network, was finally complete. We held a screening for the cast and crew. It served as a reunion for so many of us who had moved on. It was also a culmination of many years of experience.

Shortly after the Reborn screening, I worked on some employee appreciation videos for Clare Oaks. Through this, we were able to use some of our new equipment. The people involved in this video project were so wonderful and accommodating. It was a great experience.

In the spring, I helped produce Exit Interview for Jason Rugg. It was a submission to the My Rode Reel competition for the year. The shoot day was long and difficult, but as a crew, we were able to finish everything that we had set out to do. The aches and pains were worth it.

Throughout the summer, I worked the Xcelerate summer camps for the 5th year in a row. This was definitely the most difficult year for me for a variety of reasons. The class load that I had this year was the largest it’s ever been, and it covered a variety of topics that really expanded my comfort zone. We’ll see what the upcoming year has in store for me on this front.

While handling all of those summer camps, I finally put together a trailer and poster for my short film, 3:03. I needed to put together these promotional materials in order to start submitting to other festivals. I’m still waiting on word from many of those submissions, but the experience has been a great one so far. The film was actually a semi finalist for Outstanding Female Filmmaker at the Stormy Weather Horror Fest in the summer season!

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In October, I produced another short film for Jason Rugg. This film, titled Pin 5:29, was a submission for a Film Riot competition. For this particular entry, the film was condensed to 60 seconds, but a longer, director’s cut is still on the horizon to show off more of the director’s ideas. It was a fun shoot, and I feel like it went really well. It was a great example of expanding experience.

As the final months of 2017 approached, I found myself heading back to the pre-production plan for my upcoming short film, Return to Sender. My pre-production work for this film began at the end of 2016, but was put on hold for a variety of reasons, mostly stemming from my work load at the summer camps and my personal life. I also got engaged, planned a wedding, and got married this year! It was a big year!

It’s nice to be getting back in gear for that project! I know I’ve said this before, but this time I’m hoping to stick to it.. Let’s hit the ground running in 2018!

31 Days of Reviews 2017 – Reflection

It doesn’t matter how many years I do this, or how much I prepare, doing a review every single day for 31 days is tough.

This year I did more prep than I ever have before. I knew that time just was not going to be on my side with my wedding being the same month. Even with all the prep I did, I still could have done more.

No matter how much prep I do, it always gets draining around the 20th of October. I always seem to hit a slump around that time. I usually have to push myself for a couple days before I get my groove back around the 25th. It’s been a trend the last several years.

I really do enjoy doing the 31 Days of Reviews. I’m a genre enthusiast. I’m a woman filmmaker who has a focus in horror films. This is kind of my thing. I enjoy discovering hidden gems and sharing them with people who might not have known about them otherwise. I really do enjoy doing this. It’s just a lot of work.

If I’m going to do this again next year, and I know I’ve said this every year, I will need to prep more so it doesn’t hit me all at once. The prep work that I did this year really helped. I think I just need to start earlier with that. Maybe I could start now? Who knows. I guess we’ll see.

Weekly Reviews will resume as usual… starting today actually. Happy Wednesday! Regular content from my career will resume as well. Stay tuned!

Borealis – Two Year Retrospect

Over this past weekend, a picture showed up in my memory feed on Facebook. The picture was from the Borealis Film Festival, back in April 2015. In the picture, I’m holding the two trophies for the honors that my short films received. Lights won “Best Dramatic Film” and ms and me won “Best in Festival”

At the time, that was exactly the boost that I needed. Both of those short films were a culmination of everything I had come to learn during my academic career, and as my time in academia was ending, I was scared that I wasn’t where I should be.

I knew that the Borealis Film Festival wasn’t a huge prestigious event. It certainly wasn’t comparable to Sundance or Cannes. It was being held at my university, and there weren’t many submissions. Nevertheless, it was my first time showing my work on a big screen in front of people at a public venue. It was a milestone event for me.

When my films received the honors that they did, I was floored. It was an amazing feeling. What started off as an amazing feeling, however, soon became more stressful.

Despite the fact that the festival wasn’t prestigious, I started having lingering feelings of anxiety. Would my future work live up to this? How would my future work be received when compared to this? Did my career just peak? What if it’s all downhill from here?

These feelings aren’t good at fostering a creative atmosphere for writing new projects. I found myself growing stagnant. I was still working, but I wasn’t working on creating anything new of my own. I was too worried about meeting this imaginary standard I had set for myself. Nothing seemed good enough.

I’m still dealing with this anxiety, no matter how much I try to nip it in the bud. My work pace has slowed. I’m far more critical of myself. The best thing I can do with this hyper-awareness is try to use it positively. I can continue to try to create work that I’m proud to stand behind. I can continue to better myself and continue to grow. That’s the plan anyway.

Freelance is Hard

For the last five years, I’ve been trying my hand at freelancing. It’s had some good times, but most of it has been kind of bad.

Maybe it just started out with a bad gig. Maybe I’m just not promoting myself well enough. Maybe I just lack the confidence. I can’t really be certain. It’s probably a mixture of a lot of things.

In any case, being a freelance media producer is really gosh darn hard.

It’s not steady. You have to do everything yourself, like managing and marketing and all that jazz. You have people who look at you and decide what they feel your work should be worth. This can leave you with absolutely no clients or clients who want to pay you with “student pricing.”

This isn’t even getting into the taxes. If you think dealing with taxes once a year is bad, try having to do it four or five times a year. With freelance, you have to pay quarterly taxes. This is the part that has confused and annoyed me tremendously. Federal forms stress me out. For me, it could be the¬†straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’ve tried over the last several years to make this work. I’ve done photo jobs, event coverage, corporate video. It just hasn’t panned out for me well. The stresses have outweighed the rewards. It certainly hasn’t provided me enough to live on.

Now, I’m not saying that working freelance is a horrible idea, and no one should do it. One of my good friends has done really well for himself working freelance. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not impossible. I just haven’t had a great experience.

For that reason, I’ve been seriously thinking about switching to a more steady means of employment. I’ve applied for a few positions in the last few months, and I applied for a full time job in the last couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have as much free time to work on my narrative work, but in this economy, sometimes you have to make compromises.

I’m still grappling with all of this, and of course, just as I’m about to throw in the towel, jobs seem to be lining up. I guess this will go on the back burner again. Who knows what the future has in store?

Reborn: Cast and Crew Screening

On Saturday, March 4th, 2017, the cast, crew, advisors, and extras of Reborn all gathered to finally see the finished product. After 6 long years, it was finally complete.

Leading up to the screening, I was equal parts excited and apprehensive. So much work had gone into the project that everyone would have to at least like that it was done, right? What if they didn’t like it? I was determined to have the screening go well.

I can easily, and thankfully, say that the screening did go well. Since so many years had gone by, most of the people involved assumed that Reborn was never going to be finished. The euphoria of finally seeing a finished product was very, very noticeable. In most cases, I think the finished edit really exceeded expectations.


Since this was the first project for many of those involved, it was definitely a homecoming of sorts. We held the screening where the project began, at the TV studio at Waubonsee Community College. We were lucky to have 30 people involved in the production be present.

The room was just teeming with joy. It was nostalgic, exhilarating, cathartic. It was everything I could have hoped for. We have since uploaded the film to YouTube in full quality, and the response has continued to be generous.

31 Days of Reviews 2016 – Reflection

With the arrival of November, another year of 31 Days of Reviews has ended. This was my third year doing it, so in a way, it has definitely become a tradition of sorts, but I’m still getting used to it. I don’t think there ever is a way to be completely used to it. It’s an undertaking, no matter how much I prepare.

I did try preparing a bit more this year. I had about 10 reviews shelled out before October even started, that way most of the heavy lifting was already done for those particular movies. For the most part, I tried watching a film and writing its review to be published the next day, rather than doing all of that and publishing at once.

By writing reviews to be published in the future, I was able to do a lot more editing and proofreading. I was even able to have a second person read the reviews to make sure my thoughts were flowing cohesively. I feel like this helped with the overall quality of my reviews this year.

I won’t lie and say that it was easy. It definitely wasn’t. I still got burnt out about halfway through the month, and I had to find some way to re-ignite the writing flame. I wasn’t fully inspired by a lot of the movies I watched this year, and this was a big part of that feeling. I’m not a fan of writing negative reviews. It doesn’t work well with my style of writing. The occasional negative review is fine, but when it’s several reviews one after another, it gets tiresome.

As a filmmaker, I always try to learn things from the movies that I’m watching. As a filmmaker who personally specializes in scary films, these 31 Days of Reviews can be a really good indicator of modern trends. Where are horror movies going? Based on the films I watched this month, I saw a trend of style over substance. There were a lot of really gorgeous films, artistically crafted in terms of shots, set design, and the like. The problem is that most of these didn’t have a good story to support its aesthetic appeal.

Some of my favorite films that I reviewed this past month didn’t really have a polished aesthetic, but the story was different and compelling. Two of these films that really stood out to me were The Invitation and They Look Like People. Other than some of the wide theatrical releases, these films were my favorites to really dissect. I really enjoyed them.

Now that October is over, I will resume my weekly reviews. It’s hard to believe I’ve already been doing that for a full year now. I’ll be glad to get back into a routine that’s more productive for other areas of my work.

Thank you for sticking with me through it all!