At this time there are only two things that give me pleasure: listening to the music Edoardo (composer) made me for NUNE and finding the right artist for my illustrated novel, RED AS BLUE (which NUNE is loosely based on).
We’re going into a 5.1 mix for NUNE now to make the DCP, which is a bit involved and stressful. But while going through all the technical details, the only thing that makes it worth it for me is the music. When I listen to the score, I just float. It takes me out of my head. Music is transcendental; it is healing. It is not of this earth.
On the RED AS BLUE front, my journey with working with artists for this novel started as far back as two years ago. That is two years too long. I learned A LOT about working with illustrators—from the most amateur, to the struggling, to the desperate and to the most professional. I learned about how they work, how each prefer to communicate (or not at all) and how they handle commitments and deadlines.
Collaborating with artists is a lot like dating. You have to match on many levels. When you both get it—that’s like true love.
Technically speaking, I have gone through four artists. That’s a lot. I can’t describe to you the PAIN of starting over. That’s also why I don’t date. If I dated, I’d be jaded like those people who meet everyone new with skepticism. And that’s what has happened to me with illustrators.
The first one was flaky, the second one was flaky, the third one worked hard—but then got burnt out, then flaky, the fourth one worked hard—but worked me even harder—and then burnt out and burnt me out too.
April 2014, we started pre-production on NUNE. I could not work on the novel because the film took over. I had given the third artist a September 2014 deadline, which rolled into October when ended up getting him fired. He told me I could keep all the work ‘cause I paid for it. Great. I have images that I can’t use because the book is not complete.
During the NUNE production, I found a new artist. I told him I’d work with him after the filming was done. That happened in October 2015. We had a deadline, and then he stopped because of personal problems. So like dating, you don’t want an illustrator with drama.
Before him, the illustrator for RED AS BLUE was a white guy in Boston. It was extremely difficult to get across the milieu of June Lusparian’s world to him. I had to do a lot of research and articulate a world that this guy wasn’t familiar with. Most of the artists I came across know nothing about the world that Lusparian lives in; except for maybe the 1980s punk music scene. I don’t expect them to know her world, but the point is: it’s hard to find the perfect match.
Ideally, I was looking for an artist that drew LOVE AND ROCKETS style. I even contacted the Hernandez brothers and they said no. They said they got their own shit to draw. I’m thinking “your loss.”
RED AS BLUE is a lot like LOVE AND ROCKETS, but unique in its own way. It deals with the Mexican-American culture, the violence in high school, the coming-of-age of teens, and the ethos of the 1980s—and all the weird yet beautiful things that came out of that period. It is about oppression and finding voice and belonging. Its blood is based in music. It is music that keeps June alive.
The months May-June 2015 were my darkest nights with RED AS BLUE. The illustrator just stopped. I won’t go into great detail but I will say that the ordeal felt a lot like Milarepa’s struggle for mastership (self-mastery):
Milarepa was a Tibetan saint. Before he became a saint, he had a master he had to please in order to earn his worth. The master made him build a house so he did, brick by brick with backbreaking effort. Once the house was done: his teacher told him to move it. So he had to tear the house down and rebuild it. This happened time and time again. And after a while, Milarepa transcended complaining and bitching. He was so exhausted that he learned to expect nothing but to put his devotion to the effort.
And that is similar to what I did. I put my devotion to the effort.
When Milarepa stopped expecting results, his master finally granted him mastership. The house was unfinished. But Milarepa was “finished;” he became complete because he had burned off all the anger and resentment. He had attained his sainthood.
When I struggled to finish RED AS BLUE, I faced nothing but the terror of making it halfway and not getting it done; of starting all over. I went through this until the fear was wiped out in me: and all that was left is vision.
I put the vision in a box and closed it up. I didn’t want to feel anything. It was too big to feel—because if I felt it—I had to make it REAL. It is similar to food you crave but can’t have or desiring a woman or a car you cannot have or afford. You stop dreaming because you don’t see the prospect of it coming true.
So I was repressed for several months—several months too long.
Listen, I don’t need sex. I just need my novel drawn the way I like it. It is a more painful type of repression.
Like the houses that Milarepa built—none of them were worthy because Milarepa was unworthy. I look back at all the artwork I glorified—and realize that all of the work that was done was unworthy. I loved my baby so much that I couldn’t see that the art WAS NOT PERFECT. Stepping back, I would say that a lot of it was bad. Bad, not because of the technique but because of the lack of emotion, love and power that I need injected into these characters.
A guy came my way and told me he could do it. He said he loved LOVE AND ROCKETS. Many others tell me they are huge fans of the Hernandez brothers—yet none drew in that style or had the talent or capacity to do so. I find it odd that all these artists were fans but drew nothing like them. All I know is that as a filmmaker, when you’re a fan of a director, you try to work just like them. But this new guy wasn’t kidding. HE’S GOOD. Skeptical about getting burnt again, I decided still gave him a chance.
I went back to square one: from the ground up again, and reorganized, rebuilt and prepared all the introduction to the novel, ideas and images again.
What’s unique about this new artist? He’s Mexican. A real Mexican.
It suddenly dawned on me that that this was what I needed all along: a Mexican artist that understands June’s world, who’s also professional and talented. Finding an artist that understands the world you’ve created takes 80% out of the guesswork. In this way, it’s like how in film, they say that most of directing is good casting.
When I got the first rough of June Lusparian by the Mexican artist, I was smitten. I saw that this was the house I was waiting to be built. And then I started to dream. The box was open, and all the angels flew out—and I was high. Suddenly, my visions became more powerful than anything that’s out there. I was allowed to feel the world of my story again as if they were real in the flesh. Whenever I’m driving around in my car, I feel transported to a parallel universe where RED AS BLUE really lives.
The unlocking of the story gave me the capacity to see the actual movie. The movie was always in my head—but bottled up in doubts and questions about how and when. The illustrator had given me my vision back. And when something is that good—it’s unstoppable.
I look back and realize that if I finished the book with any of those other artists—the house would have been wrong. They didn’t work out or was torn down because Destiny saw a bigger picture. It knew that the novel needed to be PERFECT. I had experienced this time and time again with NUNE. I had to take some big losses until Jessica and Brianna stepped into my life and they were perfect. This was not my choice. It was destiny.
Destiny loves the vision more than I do.
Destiny pushes through regardless of pain, suffering and loss to make sure that what needs to be told—is told with the exact dimensions and configurations the Land of Genius had blueprinted.