I am finally working with a great illustrator for my book RED AS BLUE. But it didn’t come easily. This book should have been done two years ago.
After having gone through three illustrators, I have lost a lot of time, energy, work, and money. Each time I met a new illustrator; it was like forming a whole new relationship; like dating. There is a host of technical processes involved that I won’t belabor this entry with. Suffice it to say, making a book has its own can of worms: book editing, illustration, production, and marketing and distribution; all departments in their own right.
Compared to filmmakers, writers are weak. They don’t understand what work really is unless they collaborate. Once they work with illustrators, editors or the production phase, only then do they get strong. When anyone enters collaboration, they are no longer in control—they are vulnerable and always subjected to the worst fear: starting over.
Because I also make films, I am exposed to unspeakable disasters that are far worse than what screenwriters or writers go through. To them, the worst thing that can happen is that their script or idea got stolen or that they lost a revision or draft. Whereas a writer enters through their imagination cerebrally and at times spiritually, a filmmaker undergoes the physical challenges of interfacing with the warring world and battles to win. If you don’t, you literally lose everything. This physical challenge produces trauma.
While redoing Nune‘s master sound mix with Rian, I found the entire process somewhat painful because every scene in the movie—has a story behind how I made it. I went to war for the film. I remember the trekking I did to find the locations, the negotiations, the sketchy deals, shortcuts, scams and disappointments.
I remember the implosion of my brain when the stress between time and reality collided; with how things fall apart last minute, and minutes are ticking and time is money—and everything has to converge at one point perfectly. I remember how nobody would rent me a tennis court, the red tape, the weird tennis rituals that barred filming on weekends, the permits, and then—all was left was total intervention of miracles to make things happen last minute.
Then there was the big stadium party that blasted across the filming of the tennis scene—and how every take was a disaster due to sound issues. Praying that the gardening crew with their high pitched tools would finish earlier—and fighting off all the community folk standing in line to take over our court. The politics left and right.
I promised myself when I filmed NUNE that I didn’t want anyone leaving that set traumatized and that was why I was pissed that a key person I hired ended up being a yeller. The only thing that makes me feel great is when one of the extras contacted me and told me that filming NUNE was one of the best experiences in her life and she made many friends and hangs out with them to this day. I was baffled because I worried over the extras being treated unfairly and I did not like it when they were yelled at.
Yes, I get PTSD when I watch my film. I get over it, but the undercurrent holds trauma. This time around, I sat there thinking to myself, “There must be a way to make films in a total state of grace—so that nobody comes out burnt.”
If you ask, I will say, filmmaking is war. It is a physical battle. It is not some glamorous strut down a catwalk. It is a hostile environment filled with brilliant minds striving to beat the odds, beat time, beat weather conditions and beat anything that says “No, it can’t happen” or “Not today.” It is war that you fight for a vision: to win space in the world—to help it dream—if that is your will.
When you’ve been in war and seen shit go down, you learn to pick yourself up quickly and keep hustling—because if you don’t: you’ll die.
When I get together with screenwriters, I feel like a traitor or spy. I feel like I’m listening in on some world that I don’t belong in. I don’t feel like a screenwriter because I don’t think like them. Their ceiling is too low.
Writers often stand at a shore hoping someone or something will come across and sail them away. Until they put their foot in the water, they do not know what conquering fear really is.
Starting over, death, dying and rising from the ashes are not new to me. I’m not saying that all writers should become producers. They don’t have big enough challenges to measure up to, and the lack of challenge makes them vulnerable and weak. The fear of starting over extends beyond losing a precious draft of your story. The real fear starts when you have no control over that draft period—and you better hustle to make it happen.
When it comes to collaboration, I’ve discovered only two major survival techniques that ease the pain: the first is follow-up (communication) and the second is workflow. The ability to do either will determine whether or not a person survives as a professional—or, to survive at all.