Coffee with Creatives: This is Who I Am

To learn more about Dior's work,  check out her site.

This bonus episode of Coffee with Creatives is with Dior Vargas, a mental health activist who I met on Twitter after stumbling upon the Kickstarter campaign for her People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project.

As supporters of The Videoblogs already know, mental health is an important topic to me and to Rebecca. We reached out to Dior to offer some help with her project, and at the same time I asked her to come on the show.

The result was an inspiring (but realistic) talk on mental health in America, nationally, but also specifically in regards to communities that continue to be underrepresented in the media in regards to this topic.

Other aspects of the discussion include:

  • The universality of daily struggle
  • How to get help, if you’re suffering
  • Finding some measure of peace, by sourcing out how you can contribute to the world in a way that is also fulfilling to you
  • The importance of empathy in the fight for progress of all sorts
  • How people who aren’t suffering from mental illness can still help contribute to de-stigmatization and/or help their loved ones cope and thrive

Please note that we do also talk about suicide during this episode.

Thanks for listening. If you support Dior’s mission, I would encourage you to join Rebecca and me in supporting her campaign. If and when it’s over, you can also follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on Facebook, to keep up on how you might help in the future.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Like my style? Subscribe to my list for advanced/exclusive (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month..

Coffee with Creatives: Be Who You Are

Comedian/Actor/Singer Rick Younger brings the funny (and some fake opera) to Coffee with Creatives.
Comedian/Actor/Singer Rick Younger brings the funny (and some fake opera) to Coffee with Creatives.

As he explains in this latest episode of Coffee With Creatives, Rick Younger identifies first and foremost as a Comedian.

But you may have also seen him in commercials, on The Today Show (as a panelist on Guys Tell All), or on stage in New York City — acting, telling stories, or singing.

Among other topics, Rick and I talked:

  • The importance of finding your own path and voice as a creative
  • The phone call from Tracy Morgan than helped Rick gain new insights into his writing and his act
  • How he and his wife have begun to share their experiences, as an interracial couple, to foster more dialogue (through art) about race
  • The awesomeness of working on a film set with the likes of Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton

I wanted to get this episode out a little earlier than planned, so that listeners in and around the NYC area, who dig what Rick has to say, have time to check out his upcoming show (aptly named The Rick Younger Show) on Friday, July 10th. I plan on being there, so join me and we’ll laugh at Rick and then later we can high-five.

Thanks to everyone who has been listening to the podcast so far. It’s been a fun and rewarding new enterprise. As a reminder, if you’re enjoying the show and want to show your support, you can become a monthly supporter on Patreon, can make a one-time donation via PayPal, or — and this is the best way — you can share a link to this page (or to your episode(s) of choice) via iTunes.

Until next time, Coffee Heads.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Like my style? Subscribe to my list for advanced/exclusive (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month..

Just Make Films: Coffee with Creatives “Bonus” Episode

diane3

I scare the quotes around “bonus” (did it again!) because my talk with Sundance award-winning filmmaker Diane Bell has already been released in text form.

I decided to re-release it as an extra podcast episode in case anyone missed it the first time around, wants to revisit some of Diane’s great advice, and/or feels like hearing my side of the conversation.

As I said when I published the text interview — I think Diane is great. If you haven’t yet listened to what she has to say, particularly about focusing on process (as opposed to results) and about not waiting around for permission or (certain forms of) outside validation to make films (or any art) — I would recommend you do so.

Thanks to everyone listening! If you’re getting something out of the interviews, please consider contributing to my Patreon campaign for the podcast.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Like my style? Subscribe to my list for advanced/exclusive (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month..

What I Liked This Week: Gratitude Edition

It took me a few years to realize that the climb can be as good as the view.
It took me a few years to realize that the climb has as much value as the view.

Hello Handsome People.

I’m sitting here trying to think of my list for the week and I’m having trouble because life has been hectic. But I know well enough by now (most of the time), to not fall into The Busyness Trap — and that, further, I can choose to look at the situation in a different way.

Which is why today’s WILTW this week is about gratitude.

Something Collin Schiffli said during our interview has stuck with me. When I asked him what he was most proud of in his life, he answered by reflecting upon the fact that — despite circumstances not yet being “perfect” — he is doing what he loves.

And so am I, really. I feel the same way.

Plain Old Regular Adulthood

That which I feared in my twenties has come to pass.

Most days, I get up, go to work, come home and eat and go to bed and then I do it again. My younger self failed to realize that this is — it’s just life. And while I don’t mean to oversimplify, and could say a lot more about this, the fact remains that this pattern…is mostly it.

This is why I believe what we do (and who we spend our time with) is almost as important as who we are. It’s also why I believe in fighting for better conditions, for more people, to be able to pursue the sort of contentedness that I’ve been able to build in recent years — it’s an alleged “right” in this country that’s been tied down and ensnared by innumerable qualifiers that mostly stem from class, privilege, race, and gender.

So, first, I feel fortunate to be able to say that I agree with Collin. When I get up and go to work, it’s not simple. I have many jobs, most of which I have given myself. But when I do get around to sleeping, it’s a lot easier than it used to be, when I wasn’t doing at least the best I could to keep creating and to make the art-life balance work for me.

The other part of plain old regular adulthood that I like is that I’m sharing it with someone who loves me. And an old lady cat and a young lady dog who the pair of us both love, too. And there are plenty of other wonderful people in my life, from days old and new.

Not everyone has that, though we all deserve it.

Sometimes, lately, I just stop in the middle of my apartment and I think of where I’ve been and where I am now and I allow myself to feel happy. It’s still a fairly new experience but I like it.

Coffee with Creatives

I held at least six separate positions during production of The Videoblogs. Why? Because it had to be done to keep things moving.
What came first, the caffeine or the creativity?

The interviews have been more fun than I expected. And more fulfilling. It’s really great to sit down with people, some of whom I know and some who I don’t, and have an hour-long conversation about — basically what I just wrote above — balancing life with purpose.

Coffee with Creatives will morph into a podcast soon. It’s already costing a bit of money, and I want to do it right, so I probably will have to build some fundraising into the endeavor to keep it viable. We’ll figure out a way.

Feedback on Coffee with Creatives has been very positive so far. Thanks to everyone reading and sharing the interviews. I hope this is just the beginning.

I’m very grateful to my guests as well. They’ve all been great.

The Generosity of Others

I was approaching a street corner in Manhattan the other day, when I passed a homeless woman who was asking for help with getting some food. I didn’t have any, couldn’t give her cash, and wouldn’t have an opportunity to grab something for her on my way back from the errand I was on — which I would otherwise have tried to do.

Privately, I wished that someone else would help her soon. It was a sincere hope, not a means of assuaging guilt.

Then a second, work-casually dressed woman approached the corner, and offered a single-serve box of Cheerios to the homeless woman, who eagerly accepted it, expressed her thanks, opened the package and started eating.

A few days later, a similar scene transpired.

I was running to the pharmacy. As I approached the entrance, I saw three people sitting on the street, against the building, asking for help. I was just making a mental note, to pick up some food to offer them while inside, when I saw a young boy approach each, one by one, with a proffered brown bag lunch. All three graciously accepted.

When he was out of bags, he returned to a small group of women, who must have been supervising the effort, and they gave him more bags and he quickly found a few additional people who needed and accepted the food — people I hadn’t even noticed among the heavy pedestrian traffic of the area.

Do these sort of actions solve the world’s problems? Of course not. Are they humane, and immediately recognizable as kind, good things to do? Yes.

It honestly felt great, to see that, when it wasn’t immediately easy for me to help, that I could still hope for help to be given, and witness that hope quickly fulfilled.

I suspect, as well, that these sort of stories are playing out, in plain sight, all around us, in New York City and beyond, and that maybe we’d notice them more often if we let go at least temporarily of the drama and dread fed to us by the culture via the mainstream media.

I’m finding, more and more as I continue to age, that it can be that simple. And, a lot of the time, it can be enough.

Have a good week.

Why Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking is Essential Reading

I highly recommend this book, especially if you're an artist. Read on to find out why.
Highly recommend this book, especially if you’re an artist. Read on to find out why.

 

I am stingy with the word essential.

It and so many similarly strong words, especially in American popular culture today, are wildly overused, and too often leveraged outside the narrow subjectivity with which (in my opinion) they could otherwise more appropriately be applied. I’d call all this an epic bummer, but in honesty it’s an easy thing to shrug off.

Still, I bring up the point to help introduce my recommendation of musician Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking…because rarely have I felt so compelled to “drop the e-word”, with confidence, outside the realm of eating, drinking, sleeping, and luvvvvv-making.

Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with my choice. But, speaking primarily to the aforementioned audience(s) of art-makers and art-lovers, here are my personal reasons for advocating for the book — and Palmer herself, since she’s an interesting personality on her own and identifies first and foremost as a singer (I have been also listening been listening to her music for weeks, which I similarly recommend).

The Art of Asking provides an unparalleled level of context for the contemporary relationship between art and people (or art and life)

liam_sscamp
We raised enough money to shoot The Videoblogs by asking our audience for help. Photo credit: Liam Billingham.

Early in the text, Palmer remarks upon how what we’re witnessing right now, in terms of the relationship between art and artist (especially in tech-equipped indie circles) is in actuality a return to The Way it Used to Be. Artists create, put their work (and themselves) out there, and the audience returns the favor by giving some part of their own selves (be it in the form of money, time, etc.), simply and directly — if and as there’s an authentic connection made in the process.

That’s how it used to go early on, and for a long time, in human history. Various forms of progress and change shifted that relationship, such that several intermediary systems rose to prominence, which weren’t (and aren’t) necessarily bad but, nonetheless, today, can cause complications, introduce impurities, and/or create distance in the otherwise mostly direct artist-audience relationship. Today, now that individuals on the whole are much more broadly and immediately connected than ever before, and now that new (relatively) cheap funding, distribution, and communications systems exist than ever before, it’s not only once again possible for the artist and the audience to remain in a more direct, on-going relationship — it’s also easier to cultivate and keep up that relationship than ever before.

That doesn’t mean that, on the part of both artist and audience, that we aren’t still (on the negative side) facing challenges posed by the still-dominant machinations and gate-keeping fears of the aforementioned intermediaries, or (on the positive side), that there aren’t mutual advantages to those sort of relationships (and plenty of good people working, in various capacities, for intermediaries) — it just means that everyone today can perhaps be kept more honest and more focused on what’s important.

I’m paraphrasing Palmer there, possibly with a little bit of my own beliefs and observations sprinkled in, but the important point is to recognize and accept that, with the right attitude and a lot of work and patience, things can be better — for independent artists and their audiences in particular.

Within this context, Palmer embodies (literally) and carefully guards Authenticity and Trust as the most crucial elements of the artist-audience relationship

This is generally how I feel about everyone who watches our films.
This is generally how I feel about everyone who watches our films. Photo credit: Alexia Adana.

The Art of Asking is mostly written in the style of a memoir. Longer-tenured admirers of Palmer than me probably already know that she doesn’t shy away from getting (literally) naked in front of her fans (given certain conditions that she takes careful pains to point out in the book, while also providing context for such decisions). Such occasions don’t always go well, her courage in this aspect does not come without its share of suffering, and in the text she frequently (and with typical transparency) gives voice to the doubts such “bad” stories spark in her mind.

Still, Palmer does a much better job than I ever could ultimately deconstructing not only why such “setbacks” (I’ll let the book itself substantiate my repeated use of scare quotes) are necessary (and illuminating). She provides much evidence for — and a lot of useful commentary on — the observable truth that, after opportunity, the next thing we all need for this sort of arrangement to work, in the best possible way, is an unyielding commitment to trust not only in the work but each other.

Palmer never claims that things will always go perfectly, even in filling in useful back-story to her successes. But she does do an excellent job consistently reporting on the dialogues she has had both with herself and trusted friends in sourcing out the right thing to do, as often as possible, as she stumbled through especially her early career on the way to a better and more comprehensive understanding and respect for how this all ideally might work on a regular basis. The stories she tells in relaying this process are not only intellectually accessible, but emotionally so as well — which sets Palmer apart especially in today’s unfortunately less-emotionally forthcoming social landscape.

Palmer’s narrative provides an accessible road-map for success

Multiverse Screening and Videoblog kickoff
Hint: It’s about People. Photo credit: Alexia Adana.

Riding off that last point, it can be tempting in this environment (I’ve been tempted myself) to take an honest goal like that of Palmer’s book (which to me seemed to be: “teach and attest to the benefits of trust, kindness, and vulnerability”) and warp it into something more broad and self-serving.

Especially in what sometimes seems to be rounding out into The Age of Tech, advice of the “road-map” sort, nudged towards gathering greater numbers (versus forming real connections), seems to proliferate further every day.

That’s not to say that all the lists and guides out there aren’t without value, or that they’re all guilty of crossing some arbitrary Authenticity Line, or should be faulted for failing to see that most of what provides value to people begins by engaging with them on an honest, emotional level. It just means that, for instance, when Palmer maps out her path as herself, in context, while constantly guarding and respecting The Point — it becomes that much easier for a similarly minded, or near-similarly minded (I’ll probably never get physically naked for you) individual or small group to internalize her journey and absorb her lessons in a much more useful way.

This road-map is revealed to be (and simultaneously evidenced by) the aforementioned Authenticity and Trust

This is indie musician Mike O'Malley -- in real life. After seeing this set, we asked him to appear in The Videoblogs.
This is indie musician Mike O’Malley — in real life. After seeing this set, we asked him to appear in The Videoblogs.

Obviously, I admire Palmer’s approach with the book, and her execution, as much as the content. I bring the sort of cyclical nature of her testimony up as a separate point because of how accurately it mirrors how important both authenticity and trust are to the artistic lifestyle (or to living a fulfilled life in general).

It took me so long to build up the courage to begin sharing more and more of my actual self in my work. As documented here, it’s also been frequently terrifying, sharing more and more of that work, more widely.

I’m eternally grateful for my audience. I hope you know that. I hope you also know how essential you have been (continue to be) to my work and my own growth. We’re in this together. I’ll keep trying to keep it honest.

For anyone still struggling to build up the courage to start down a similar path, or who could use a boost (I needed one) — read The Art of Asking.

Palmer makes it clear that indie success takes not only talent but (a fuck-ton of) hard work

I held at least six separate positions during production of The Videoblogs. Why? Because it had to be done to keep things moving.
I held about six positions on the crew of The Videoblogs. Why? Had to be done in order to keep things moving.

While this definitely isn’t a criticism, Palmer often speeds quickly through commentary about how much work things took, at many different stages in her career. She seems to take it as a given — which really isn’t a bad thing, for the most part, especially since she clearly also “plays hard”.

Most of the useful stuff delivered by the book in this regard arrives while Palmer is monologuing or dialoguing with friends, not in a direct way but more often reflectively, in the wake, for instance, of first sharing an anecdote centered around a particular challenge, or a normally-occurring instance of doubt.

Again, possibly, this is because she’s just that used to the amount of work it takes to succeed in the way she has. Reflection may also be a healthier approach than the more typical American, “process and power-driven” work approach (I can tell you from experience that adopting this approach as an underfunded indie will burn you out). Her attitude appears gentler, more patient, and more directly caring or forgiving of how hard it can be than someone like me, who might allow lingering faulty programming to relay a similar lesson via more a blunt admonition like “you better be ready to work”.

That caution is in fact true, but because Palmer is so forthcoming and thorough in her testimony, she doesn’t have to address the reader so directly in these terms. As I said, she does detail her struggles, and it does become very clear how hard she works — in the book this all just happens in the process of her telling her story.

Especially to today’s entitlement-prone younger generations, her approach provides not only a valuable lesson but a valuable method of delivering that lesson.

The book does not shy away from pain, even in mostly relaying stories of wonder

This is actually just the result of cooking some beets. But it could be BLUD!
This is actually just a result of cutting some beets. BUT IT COULD BE BLUD!

I hinted at this above, but it’s worth mentioning more specifically.

One of my favorite recurring patterns in the book is Palmer’s willingness to share the bad with the good. She utilizes the space provided by her narrative, in addition to whatever she did in the moment (usually talking to a friend), to find a way to come to terms with why pain is part of the artistic process, just as it is part of the process of living.

Again speaking personally, I’d add that this is a hard lesson to learn, and one that arguably never stops asserting itself. Still, I have found in recent years that doing exactly what Palmer does — talking and sharing and avoiding isolation or self-pity as often as possible — works wonders.

I believe it’s particularly important that we exhibit patience throughout each instance/cycle of this process as well.

The pain of others screams at us, every day, from the headlines, in real life, and even on our social media feeds. As artists (and as people), it can be hard to remember that our job isn’t only to absorb and soothe such pain. Neither does it help anyone to focus solely on ourselves, in this respect.

The healing comes from the sharing, and the connection.

The central narrative isn’t just the titular subject, or Palmer herself, but the vulnerability and love that must be shown in order for art, and art-relationships, to work in today’s socioeconomic environment

Laughter without voices.
At the time we made Multiverse, I was struggling to see people — and to feel seen.

Long-time readers of this site are probably used to me harping on the following point — but I’m going to keep repeating it for as long as I feel it still needs to be made.

More than any other crisis we’re facing, here and now in America, the gap or decline in empathy — between any of a number of (sometimes arbitrarily) defined groups, and within and across the individuals that make up those groups — seems to me to be hurting us the most.

Empathy is the basis from which all progress begins. Even when it seems incomplete, even when finding it seems to take forever, any progress on this front, at any level — is good for everyone.

No matter what sort of progress or social change an artist or an individual is compelled to chase, empathy will always be the most powerful vehicle we can “employ”. It is that authenticity, that trust, that connection — all wrapped up into one mysterious-but-essential universal concept.

I use the scare quotes around the word ’employ’ there, because (especially now that I’ve absorbed Palmer’s book), I believe it’s more helpful to think of ourselves as vessels, in this respect, than as an agent.

Conclusion: How The Art of Asking has Affected Me

Things get intense during Margaret (Rebecca De Ornelas) and Vee's (Phoebe Allegra) first meeting.
The Videoblogs is about leaving isolation behind, opening up — and trying to connect.

I’ve written quite a bit, so I’ll wrap up, but in support of that last point I wanted to end with some personal testimony on how The Art of Asking has affected me on a personal level.

First, as I mentioned, it has strengthened and renewed my gratitude towards anyone who has supported one or more of my projects, who has ever visited this site, who has even taken a moment to click through to anything I’ve done and given it a quick glance. As I have said before, I simply would not be here, making art and chugging forward, without all of you.

I also emerged from my read of Palmer’s book with a greater sense of clarity, in regards not only to the worthiness of the path I am on, but also the necessity to continue to be transparent and supportive of the artistic and personal communities to which I belong.

And, finally, I have been acting with more kindness, just in general, as I have gone about my day-to-day life.

I don’t feel more kind, as a result of reading The Art of Asking. I’ve always been a fairly kind person. But reading the book — particularly at this stage in my life, wherein I’ve been putting so much effort into both “cleaning house” and being me — has helped me slow down and act upon feelings of compassion, much more often than I have otherwise done in recent years, without hesitation or judgement.

There have been plenty of available reasons, for me, in the past, to remain guarded, to follow the lead of any of a number of fears, and/or to keep barreling forward in pursuit of The Mission.

It can become especially easy (sometimes, unfortunately, even necessary) to do this while living and working in New York City. There’s just too much going on, everywhere, constantly, to remain vulnerable for too long of a stretch, or in certain environments wherein to do so at all would be potentially too damaging to the self. There are times when you simply need to establish and respecting healthy boundaries to protect your health and general happiness.

But, still, lately, I’ve been realizing (and, to be truthful, finally listening to the pleas of others in this regard) that it’s time to slow down again. The Mission isn’t a career level, or an accomplishment, or even the realization of a specific project. It’s not even the work itself, or the drive to keep doing it and sharing the result.

The Mission is serving others. It’s chasing that empathy, by showing — and showing faith in — the kindnesses we mostly all feel, but might for so many, often understandable reasons, hesitate to show.

So, I’ve been doing what I can. I’m trying to support other artists, more often. I’m trying to keep up on taking care of myself, more consistently, so that it’s easier to approach others without agenda. I’m making eye contact with strangers and asking how they are, and I think they can tell that I actually care about their response.

Mostly, I’m doing little things that take a minimal amount of effort even if they cost me a bit more in terms of vulnerability and trust. I’m realizing, as Palmer’s book and life story definitely sets out to prove, that The Art of Asking is just as much about giving — and meaning it, and being unafraid to keep on meaning it — than anything else.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Like my style? Subscribe to my list for advanced/exclusive (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month.

Plans, Expectations, and HOLY SH*T

Woah. Thank you.
Woah. Thank you.

It’s part of the beauty (and sometimes the cruelty) of life — that it proceeds without regard to our plans or expectations. Which is my attempt at a more eloquent way of saying: Holy Sh*t.

The Videoblogs is currently 102% funded on Seed and Spark.

With a little less than two days to go.

How did we get here? The short answer is that a generous supporter, in the words of a pal, helped us “kick the door down”. We went from about 62% to 102% funded in an instant.

This was not planned or expected.

Before that, two friends from college had each contributed at a high level, to bring us to that previous point of 62%. What they had to say to me when I rushed out my sincere and surprised thanks — left me in tears.

Rebecca and I (and the whole team) are so very grateful for all of you. I cannot express that sentiment enough.

Thank you. Your support means the world to us. It serves as validation, and a reminder, that the struggle and the fighting is worth it. As I have said before — we promise to bring a great film to you.

Thank you.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, for the next few days, we would still encourage you to contribute if you can.

Here’s why:

  1. We’re already operating at a very limited budget level for a feature film. This is not at all a problem and we continue to be grateful to be in this position, but any additional funds past our goal WILL be similarly stretched to make challenges (and they will come) less challenging.
  2. We want you to see the film first. As summarized here, this film is also an experiment in helping to arrive at a model for sustainable, empowered indie filmmaking. Every person who simply “purchases” advance access to The Videoblogs via a $10 or $20 contribution is voting for this model. What does this mean? It means you’re helping us make the films that a growing subset of people want to see but which aren’t getting made by big business. We’re going to get The Videoblogs to you quickly, because you are our supporters. After that, who knows? It could take a year or longer before the film is otherwise made available.
  3. In line with our bootstrapped approach, we have not budgeted much money for post-production (editing) or marketing. This is because I can do most of it if I have to do it. But I am simply not as skilled or as efficient at certain elements of post as a professional editor, colorist, marketer, etc. And, even so, the completion of these tasks cost money. We may have to fundraise again next year for theses stages. I can promise you that if we end up with even a small surplus this time around, it will be stocked away to make that process easier.

It feels awkward to keep “the ask” open for these final days, despite our position, but these are in fact legitimate reasons. We would be doing the film, and those of you who have already supported us, a disservice by failing to be transparent about the fact that every additional little bit still helps.

The urgency, of course, is gone. I literally dreamed of puppies and kittens last night. And a few dead birds, because there are always going to be some dark corners in there.

But, let’s choose to focus on the brightness today. At least in this one regard. That’s not going to be a problem for me, I don’t think. Because all of you have made me proud to do what I do.

Videoblogs Interlude: On Depression and Hope

It’s hard to know how to act today.

On the one hand, I want to respect the boundary between the exposure the majority of us appear to be feeling, following the loss of a beloved artist who at one point or another touched all our lives. It doesn’t seem like an appropriate time to be promoting something.

On the other hand, I’m not “promoting” anything. If your impression has been different in recent weeks, I’m sorry. What my team and I have really been trying to do is ask for your support. We feel compelled to make a piece of art and want to share it with you. The only way I felt it could happen was this way: by going directly to you first for validation that this is a worthy idea.

And that’s why, despite even my own sadness and confusion and fear, we’re going to resume our efforts today (after last night’s brief hiatus) to get The Videoblogs made.

It may seem inappropriate to be asking for money, in order to make a movie about mental health, in the days following the death of an icon that appears to have been a result of either depression or the disease of addiction (or both). It seems less appropriate, though, to me, with so little time left, to scuttle the last several weeks of these heartfelt efforts because of this tragedy.

Allow me to be very honest with you about something, not as a means of proving anything but to make it clear why we’re doing this.

I have felt inconsolably alone in the world. I have felt hopeless beyond repair. I have had thoughts, in the past, about ending it all. That’s about as much as I can really say about it, right now.

By some grace, I got help. I started to learn that loneliness, as contradictory as this sounds, can be (is) shared.

Just as we together bear the grief of loss, we can together take on the responsibility to change. We can decide, while or after the grieving process works its course, to contemplate how to move forward.

For me, I need to continue to strive for more openness and bravery in these areas. So I am going to continue efforts to fund and produce The Videoblogs over these final days of our funding push.

Pushing to get the film made doesn’t feel any less like the right thing to do, this morning, as compared to yesterday morning. To be honest, it hardly feels more urgent after what’s happened.

I’m mourning the loss of Robin Williams today. More than that, though, I feel for his family, and all the families around the country and world whose struggles with the sometimes overbearing responsibility of just being human…sometimes result in the tragic loss of life, livelihood, health or happiness.

Depression, addiction, mental illness, these are not just the problems of the afflicted or their nearest and dearest. They are sicknesses in the world that are not made any better through ignorance or neglect.

Since last night, I have seen people reminding others that help is out there, that they can reach out — and I join that chorus. The message we received from NAMI-NYC, in regards to The Videoblogs Dialogue, is repeated below for anyone who might need a number to call.

I’ve also heard others say that reaching out “is not that easy.” Having been there, I don’t disagree.

What I would like to say to that last group, however, and anyone listening to them, is this: just know that there is hope. I promise you that. I am proof.

NAMI-NYC provides support groups and is available to direct people towards any care they may need in dealing with any difficult subjects. Please call their resource helpline at 212-684-3264 or visit their website at: http://naminycmetro.org. Outside the NYC Metro area, call The National Information Helpline: 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

Gilmartin, Esqueda, Spivak Join Videoblogs Dialogue

Host/Actress/Writer Grace Parra Also Signs On as Juror for Video Contest Centered Around Mental Health and Personal Expression

Jurors signed on for The Videoblogs Dialogue
Jurors signed on for The Videoblogs Dialogue

(New York, NY) – Brooklyn-based indie filmmakers Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca De Ornelas are delighted to announce Paul Gilmartin (The Mental Illness Happy Hour, TBS’ Dinner and a Movie), Ashley Esqueda (Senior Editor, C-NET TV, Tomorrow Daily), Alice Spivak (OnTheRoad Rep, How to Rehearse When There is No Rehearsal), and Grace Parra (“The Collective”, Pretty Strong Opinions) as the first four jurors for The Videoblogs Dialogue, formerly known as “Phase 2” of the filmmakers’ overall initiative to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health and to advocate for the positive use of technology for personal expression. Bios for each juror appear below.

The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest aimed at helping tomorrow’s filmmakers and performers tackle difficult subjects with an ultimate focus on hope. It’s also a way for DiBiasio and De Ornelas to pay it forward, by ultimately mentoring younger filmmakers in the creation of their own work on these subjects.

DiBiasio explains: “We’re making The Videoblogs because we want to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health, particularly in America. We think this is needed, and we think there’s plenty of evidence that it’s needed. Beyond that, as people who have benefited greatly from taking the important step of admitting we needed help — we want more people to know not only that it’s okay to do that, but that it may be in everyone’s best interest that those of us who need to are able to reach out without fear of judgment.”

“Still, we realized that just making a statement with the film wasn’t going to be enough. The film itself is about reaching out through today’s communication technology as a bridge to more community in real life. Taking the responsibility of that message seriously, we determined to come up with something more engaging.”

De Ornelas adds: “As you get older and progress as an artist, it’s not enough (at least for me) to just make statements with your art, like: ‘Here’s me! Here’s what I think! Hope you like it!’. Your responsibility changes and grows to something greater than just saying things. We want our work to be part of a dialogue. That connection through art, we feel, is exactly what artists are seeking, and that’s what we are hoping to establish with The Videoblogs Dialogue.”

Gilmartin, Esqueda, Spivak and Parra will join other jurors (including high-level contributors to the film’s funding campaign on Seed and Spark) in selecting finalists for the contest, from which an ultimate winner or winners will be chosen by DiBiasio and De Ornelas. The filmmakers will then mentor and assist the winner or winners towards the creation of their own short film about mental health and reaching out via technology.

In recognition of the possible hurdles that may come up as potential entrants attempt to craft their submissions, DiBiasio and De Ornelas crowdsourced the production of sample videos from a network of colleagues. Here is the latest sample:

Stone
Written by Asmara Bhattacharya
Starring Kari Nicolle
Shot by Alex Hollock
Directed by Rebecca De Ornelas

The filmmakers also reached out to NAMI-NYC (National Alliance on Mental Illness, New York City Metro) about The Videoblogs Dialogue, and the organization would like participants to know that:

NAMI-NYC provides support groups and is available to direct people towards any care they may need in dealing with any difficult subjects. Please call their resource helpline at 212-684-3264 or visit their website at: http://naminycmetro.org. Entrants outside the NYC Metro area are encouraged to call The National Information Helpline: 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).

The preceding message will also be delivered to all entrants in the contest and will be posted as the first comment on every video for which comments are enabled (at each creator’s discretion).

The Videoblogs project is currently in its final week of funding. To learn how you can help, please visit: www.seedandspark.com/studio/videoblogs.

paulpic
Paul Gilmartin

Paul Gilmartin co-hosted TBS’ Dinner and a Movie from 1995 to 2011, and has been a stand-up comedian since 1987. His credits include Comedy Central Presents: Paul Gilmartin, numerous Bob and Tom albums, comedy festivals and the Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He is also a frequent guest on the Adam Carolla podcast, performing political satire as right-wing Congressman Richard Martin.

Paul was thrilled to be diagnosed with clinical depression in 1999 because it meant he wasn’t just an asshole. By 2003, he realized he was still an asshole and an alcoholic. Since 2003 he has been sober, mostly happy and a tiny bit less of an asshole. He leads a happy life in Los Angeles with a patient, loving wife and two spoiled dogs.

ashley
Ashley Esqueda

Ashley Esqueda is a geek of many talents: She’s currently a Senior Editor at CNET, hosting the futuristic and fun daily talk show “Tomorrow Daily.” She previously created content for other high-profile online publications, including G4, Technobuffalo, The Escapist, and more. She has a penchant for all things tech, ranging from mobile technology to video games to pop culture, offering a wide variety of knowledge across various topics.

In addition to hosting, she has written a variety of articles, scripts, and punchlines for many outlets, including two consecutive years as co-head writer for The Geekie Awards, an awards show celebrating indie creators in nerd culture. She also sits on the board of Take This, a non-profit charity dedicated to mental health advocacy for gamers and geeks.

Ashley serves charismatic and witty realness in the tech scene, and has charmed celebrities, CEOs, and consumers on red carpets, trade conventions, and the streets. There’s nowhere she won’t go for a laugh, especially at her own expense. In her spare time, she is the Queen of an unnamed island nation and enjoys including one outrageously false fact about herself in her bio.

Alice Spivak
Alice Spivak

Alice Spivak began her acting career at an early age, joining Actors’ Equity in 1956, Screen Actors Guild in ‘59, and AFTRA in the early 60’s. Having trained at the HB Studio with Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen, she was made a teacher there in 1962, and taught on their faculty for fifteen years. Since that time, she has been a popular free-lance acting teacher and coach in NYC, currently teaching Advanced Scene Study Classes while also serving as Aristic Director for OnTheRoad Rep, founded in collaboration with her advanced and professional acting students.

She has acted extensively off-Broadway and in regional theatre (receiving the Joseph Jefferson Award in Chicago in 1975 for Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite). On television, audiences have seen her more recently in Law & Order, Sex & The City, Law & Order CI, and as a regular performer on Sidney Lumet’s 100 Centre Street. as well as television commercials and voiceovers. Her more recent film appearances are in The Waiting Game and Find Me Guilty. and Only The Devil Knows You’re Dead.  She has also been seen in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories and Another Woman. Two of her favorite movie roles were Jenny in Privilege by Yvonne Rainer, which premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1991, and Louise, an American tourist, in An Electric Moon, written by Arundhati Roy, directed by Pradip Krishen, and made in India.

She has coached on numerous feature films, Broadway shows, regional shows, TV mini-series, pilots, etc., receiving technical credits on quite a few, including The Fan, Buck & The Preacher, Harem, Now & Forever, etc. She also taught Film Directing Workshops and was a recipient of the Indie Award by The Association of Video and Filmmakers in 1977.  In 1981, she was on the faculty of NYU Film Grad School, teaching the course, Directing Actors. Spike Lee was her student there. In 2003-4, she again taught this course, this time at Columbia Film Grad School. She is co-writer and director of a short film comedy, Working For Peanuts and the author of: HOW TO REHEARSE WHEN THERE IS NO REHEARSAL – ACTING AND THE MEDIA (Limelight Editions), which has received glowing reviews.

Grace Parra
Grace Parra

Grace Parra is a Mexican-American writer/host/actress based in Los Angeles.  She’s originally from Houston, TX and graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Political Science. Screen credits include: How I Met Your Mother, Zeke & Luther, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Farah Goes Bang, The Bonnie Hunt Show, Greenberg, and many more. You can catch her in commercials for HONDA, OLAY, COFFEE BEAN, BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD, HOME DEPOT and several others.

She’s presently the comedic host of NUVO’s “THE COLLECTIVE” produced by Jennifer Lopez. On the side, she writes and hosts the brand-new PRETTY STRONG OPINIONS WITH GRACE PARRA, where she created her very own political comedy series in the vein of The Daily Show, presenting a POV on all the political and social topics that differ wildly from your Stewarts/Colberts/Olivers. She also hosts live talk shows in LA including PARRA’S PINATA PARTY and “The Really Late Morning Show,” interviewing hundreds of celebrities and creating sketches for sold-out shows on a monthly basis.  She created and starred in the webseries FRIDA KAHLO, JUNIOR MARKETING EXEC, a semi-finalist in the 2013 New York Television Festival, and was a cast member in the prestigious 2013 CBS DIVERSITY SHOWCASE.

Grace is also an accomplished TV comedy writer, whose credits include ABC’s Work It, TBS’s Glory Daze, and Disney’s Jonas LA. She recently developed and sold a pilot to MTV produced by Jennifer Lopez and Nuyorican Productions.

#MultiverseDay

Today is #MultiverseDay. What is #MultiverseDay?

It’s is a day-long movement in which we ask you to do two (perhaps three) things:

  1. Watch Multiverse, our short film about reclusive young woman braves a night out in NYC and is confronted by an increasingly isolating series of strange events.
  2. Ask your friends to watch Multiverse and to consider contributing to #VideoblogsFilm, our first feature film, on Seed and Spark. Both films are about mental health. The Videoblogs is also about advocating for personal expression through technology.
  3. Contribute to #VideoblogsFilm if you’re able and haven’t already. Every dollar helps.

Below is both a copy of Multiverse and a sample Tweet/Facebook message that you can copy and paste and post. If you’ve already seen Multiverse, feel free to skip to Step 2. And/or Step 3 🙂

Tweet This!

Today is #MultiverseDay. Watch #Multiverse + then help @MichaelDiBiasio + @RebeccaDeO make their 1st feature! Pls RT! http://bit.ly/1pX8XUF

Share on Facebook

Today is #MultiverseDay. Watch #Multiverse, from Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca De Ornelas, and then help them make their first feature, The Videoblogs, which is about mental health and reaching out through The Screen. http://bit.ly/1pX8XUF

We have 10 days left to raise $13,000 to make #VideoblogsFilm. It’s an uphill battle but we started fighting years ago by making Multiverse.

March with us?

poster_image_web
Help us share this film today!

The Videoblogs: Why We’re Doing It (10 Reasons)

It's on.
It’s on.

My first film was a crime drama about a thug whose past mistakes catch up to him. My second? A crime drama about a two detectives and a confessed murderess who go up against a corrupt district attorney. Multiverse is as much scifi as it is drama — although as you can hopefully see there’s a lot more going on under the surface than what is presupposed by constraints of genre.

My point is that, if I wanted to, I could go out tomorrow and make something that pulses and thrills. But I don’t want to do that. Not yet. Very soon, I may want to do that, but not now.

Here’s why I want to do something else. In ten reasons, boiled down.

Here’s why we’re making a tiny, quiet film about mental health and reaching out through The Screen — about starting off painfully alone and ending up surrounded by friends — instead:

  1. This is how we feel. Feeling is everything. I used to be someone who professed this, a bit pretentiously, but I never actually believed it before now. There is what we do, and then there are the feelings behind what we do — which, for better or worse, dictate the whys of our life. Why we are who we are. Why we are where we are (and, to circle back, why we do what we do). Sometimes, in reflecting on all this, we view what we are and, dissatisfied, we seek change.
  2. We seek change. We face challenges of racism, sexism, faithlessness, hopelessness, and institutionalized injustice, here and now, today, in contemporary America. These challenges, in my opinion, are rooted half in denial or despair (on the part of the populace) and half in apathy or willful subjugation (on the part of those in control).
  3. We seek clarity. Despite all this, we believe people are inherently good — or at least inherently neutral on a moral scale. We believe much of the collective pain that blocks us from progress is obstructing paths to awareness.
  4. We seek awareness. There is no point to yelling into the crowd. The crowd is not listening. Instead, we must engage. We must dialogue. We must share our fear, our anger, and our pain.
  5. We seek a dialogue. There can be no progress without understanding. Everyone must feel heard, and all expressions exhausted, so that the paths to redemption may be cleared of obstruction, confusion, or deceit.
  6. We seek redemption. Raymond Chandler once wrote: “In everything that can be called art, there is a quality of redemption”. We believe art, and particularly the medium of the moving image, via it’s dominant position in cultural communications — is the vehicle by which redemption can be sought.
  7. We seek to make art. This is, in all honesty, all we know how to do. To quote the inimitable Marc Marc: “There is no Plan B“.
  8. We seek your patronage. This is a fact of the artist-audience arrangement. Ours is an interdependent relationship. We make films so that we can share them with you. This takes a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. We’re asking that, based on past results, you trust us enough to pre-purchase advanced access to a copy of our film so that we can get it made and then get it to you, as quickly as possible. Just contributing at all guarantees that you can watch it eventually on Seed and Spark. For $10, you can own a copy. We appreciate any and all contributions.
  9. We seek your help in growing our message. No large undertaking of note can be undertaken without participation in large numbers. If you like what we’re doing, and especially if you’re interested enough to pay for advanced access to our artistic product — we ask that you tell any friends and family who you think may be interested.
  10. We seek the grail. Partially, this last note is a test to see who lasted all the way to the bottom of the list. But, in all honesty — no matter how brazen or stupid the aspiration may sound — we do seek the grail. We believe in the possibility of an America where artist and audience remain in direct contact first and foremost, beholden only to each other, with few middlemen in between to dilute or corrupt messaging. We aspire to be able to participate in such a relationship in a sustainable way, wherein we may someday soon be able to make a living from doing our job, which is, again — making movies for you.

And that’s the story of this story. Hopefully this is all the beginning. Regardless, we do appreciate your time, your contributions, and your help in letting the world know that we aren’t completely satisfied with the status quo.

But we do have hope for change. Don’t we?

Thanks for being you. Please help us make our movie if you can.

liam_sscamp