Monthly Archives: October 2012

What is the Point, Werner?

Werner Herzog always has a way of making me ponder the meaning of life. After watching “Encounters at the End of the World” I was reminded that everything I do is essentially meaningless. The activities that were going on in Antarctica were spectacular and interesting, but were all trumped by the Zen attitude of the ice upon which it was happening. Penguins that run for the mountains instead of the sea are called disoriented… While openly we admit they are headed for certain death, I saw that one penguin as a dreamer. However, our attitude is “How strange… Why would a penguin deviate from the norm and do something as fruitless as run away from the life of the colony?” Can’t we apply this to ourselves? In our society, dreamers are recognized for their successes and are praised for taking action and changing the lives of many people. But aren’t we all headed for certain death just like the penguin? It’s so easy to forget this and get caught up in life’s daily drama… we are controlled by the fear of failing and so we stay in our comfort zone instead of taking advantage of the fact that one day we will die and it’s pretty likely nobody will care if we screwed up that one time.

But what would be the point of pushing boundaries and taking risks during our short time on earth? For me the point is to be happy and enjoy my time for as long as possible. When I think of what makes me the happiest, it is without a doubt my relationships; friends, family, lovers, and pets included.

However, I have been on the giving and receiving end of one-sided relationships that leave us feeling hurt and betrayed. Every time I feel myself getting into one of those situations I feel the need to cut it off before it becomes like a gangrenous limb, but it’s not healthy and if I keep doing this I will end up as a stump.

I cannot choose who I care about. It sucks, but I have tried to practice what I have been preached: to love freely and expect nothing in return. Forgive and let live. Reap what you sow etcetera… in other words, become a fucking doormat for everyone to walk on.

So how can I win and be happy? Balance.

What balance? If I knew I wouldn’t be writing this. Find out what you expect from others and let them know. All I want right now is to have my feelings be respected.

So I will love freely and do what it takes to make a relationship healthy and happy, so long as I am not treated like a doormat. Pouring love into a black hole won’t make the world a better place and it doesn’t have to. It won’t make me happy and I will only live for so long. The best I can do is be honest and open about my feelings and expectations with the people I love and hope they do the same… and as soon as that love starts to hurt and become draining, the relationship is becoming one-sided and needs to change. I will try to recognize it quickly and not waste my time; I don’t get a lot of it. However, I will continue to take risks and fail because I am human, I just have to accept that it’s ok, move on, and be happy.

Now that’s all well and good, but I still need to find a way to pay the bills while I choose to live on this earth.

So then what kind of job can I do that will leave me all the time I need for my relationships to be a priority? I can’t think of any comfortable jobs that will leave me feeling creatively satisfied or help me grow. So, I will make films and tell stories with my time on this earth; projects that reflect the importance of loving freely but are not so idealistic we feel we can’t make mistakes. It’s human nature to have expectations, become disappointed, and get angry when we feel disrespected. It’s stories we tell that reflect these human truths, and so I tell stories.

P.S. It’s a beautiful film.Image

Tall, Fit, and Blond.

Everything today is telling me I should write this story. From a Sunday morning girl chat in the kitchen to the front page of Reddit, popularity in school has been on the tip of my tongue. Perhaps it’s the yearly ritual of getting dressed up and finding a party to go to that has everyone reminiscing about times past. It seems like Halloween is a time capsule, and we stumble around in costumes trying to find our friends year after year.

But it’s also October, Bullying-Awareness Month, so I’m going to tell you the story of my school years, and my experience with friends and bullies as I grew up.

Elementary School

When I was in elementary school I was a free-spirited and imaginative child. For the first couple of years this was a fine way to be. I would be more than happy to run off by myself and pretend to be a unicorn, and I even had some friends who would join in. I did tend to stand out from the rest of the class due to my relaxed parents who let me dress myself. My classroom had a rule that students had to wear indoor shoes when inside, so I naturally took the opportunity to wear a pair of wooden clogs that couldn’t go outside… every day. The teacher ended up moving my desk to the carpeted part of the room so I wouldn’t make such a racket.

As you might expect children to do, the kids in my class grew up a bit more every year. However, I continued to be happy playing my imagination games and hiding in bushes for the entire lunch period. Eventually as the other kids in my class took to other interests like sports and talking on the playground, they stopped wanting to play with me and instead made fun of me when I brought my hand-made stilts to school, or threw my ball out-of-bounds and told on me when I went to go find it.

My class had 22 kids, and we all stayed in the same class group every year. The bullying became more intense every year and the teachers were not a huge help in preventing it so as a result, a few children switched into the English program or changed schools every year. My parents finally let me change schools when I was 12 after I came home crying and begging to be moved. By the time I graduated from elementary school, that class only had 4 students left.

I had seen enough movies to know that when you change schools, you reinvent yourself and do a makeover to become the cool kid you always wanted to be but knew the bullies wouldn’t let you. I started wearing my mom’s old blue and green eyeliner thick around my eyes and tried to dress like Avril Levine. At this new school, I like to think I made quite the impression dropping into the class halfway through the school year like some badass kid that got kicked out of school for being too cool. Everybody was nice at first, but then I became closer with a couple of girls who were considered less popular. I noticed that I was starting to get bullied again by certain looks I would get from the popular girls like, “Are you really hanging out with her?”

I tried to stop it by ignoring these girls but it was too late. I had been lumped in with their group. So I decided to make the most of it by being friends with them. We had an interesting relationship, because while we were friends I secretly resented them for making me uncool again after all my hard work. This would come out in the form of put-downs and I would say demeaning things when they would do or say something I thought was uncool. I wasn’t a very good friend.

However, the bullying at this school wasn’t so bad. The kids were generally nicer, and although there was definitely a popular and unpopular clique there wasn’t too much interaction between the groups. Despite this, there were three girls in particular who I thought had made it their responsibility to make sure I never became popular or got to talk to the boys I had crushes on.

These were the days of msn. Friends would add total strangers to their accounts because they were friends of friends at a different school. I had a boy on my msn account that I had never met before but was friends with some of the popular girls. We were chatting and he asked me to describe myself. I thought about how to do that and decided to stick to the facts and keep it basic. “Tall, fit, and blond,” I said. Little did I know it was not the boy on the other side of the screen, but the three mean girls. I meant my description to say that I’m taller than your average 13 year old, I’m not fat, and I have blond hair, but these girls thought I was bragging about myself. For weeks after this I would walk down the hallway and the girls would mock me and flip their hair as they pranced past me saying, “I’m tall, fit, and blond.”

While in the past I may have been hurt by their bullying, for the first time I actually knew and believed that what they were saying as they mocked me was true. So I thought, “Yea, I’m tall, fit, and blond and you are a jealous bitch.” Thus began a turning point in my life. The more the girls said it, the more I believed it and my confidence grew. I started hanging out with some of the nice and popular girls and getting close to some of the boys I liked. I was still friendly with my old friends but we no longer hung out at lunchtime. I was starting to become part of the popular crowd although I never fully felt secure with these new friends. Every day I would approach them at lunch, I was afraid they would have changed their minds about me or that the bullying girls would have told them some rumor that would make them hate me.

I tried to be cool by being bad. I made friends with some neighbors a year older than me and we would sneak alcohol from my parent’s liquor cabinet and drink it at the local community center. I even got a boyfriend a year older than me (and in high school) who kissed me on the cheek. I later learned from old friends that they thought I was “so hardcore.” That was not the image I was going for, but seemed to come along with the lifestyle of these grade 8’s who were in high school and thus were “cool.” This is how I graduated from elementary school at the age of 13, growing in confidence but looking for some piece of identity and circle of friends with whom I could be secure.

The summer of 2003

The summers were an interesting experience for me, as a child who has friends outside of school and no longer feels like they have to be on defense all day. I would go to summer camps, play outside with the boys in my neighborhood, and take summer courses. In 2003, I took a sailing course with my older sister. One of the instructors was 16 and I had a total crush on him. I went through puberty early and was almost fully grown into my height of 5″7′ by 13. By acting more mature like my sister and pretending I knew who Ozzy Osbourne was thanks to the amazing Internet, I became friends with this guy. When the course ended, we would hang out and I met his other friends. Here I was at 13, hanging out with a bunch of boys who had already been in high school for 2 years. These guys were pretty alternative and into heavy metal music, so I got into bands like Rammstein and starting wearing all black. I even tried to dye my hair pink, but my mom wouldn’t let me dye it permanently so I would by wash-out pink dye and put it in my hair every day I showered.

By the time high school came around, I was full-on wanna-be-Goth I didn’t quite understand it, but my cool, older friends were into it so I was into it.

High School

I quickly found out that Goth people were not popular in high school, so I made a change in what was probably under a month and became a “baller girl”. If you don’t know what it means, imagine a “wigger” but a girl. It was basically a gangster-inspired lifestyle that happened to include playing basketball, hence the word “Baller”. I showed up to school in a pink velour tracksuit, wore the Lugs boots that construction workers wear, and shaved a line in my eyebrow. I wore orange makeup to look tanned and had a bling P necklace that I stole from an accessory shop.

14 years old and at the height of my popularity

I found my place in a group of the most popular kids in school and fought tooth and nail to stay there. I even had a girl threaten to beat me up because I was a dating a reform-school boy that she liked. Some of the bullies from my first school ended up being my friends, and we would purposely exclude the kids who wanted to join the popular circle of people talking by cutting them out by standing directly in front of them. I was being cruel, but I saw it as “Eat or be eaten”. In private, I was very nice to everyone and honestly harbored no bad feelings toward anybody. But if one of my popular friends were making fun of someone I liked, I would join in the fun because it was more important for me to be popular than to be nice.

I continued in my “hard-core” ways despite no longer being a Goth kid. I would chug bottles of vodka with my girl friends on the weekends and kiss boys at parties. In this way, I took this way further than the popular kids. This lifestyle eventually drew me away from the popular kids at school and I found a partner in crime who could keep up with me. We would go out together in search for thrills and older boys, and instead of being a “baller” I became a bit punk or a bit alternative or a bit gangster depending on the group we were hanging out with.

After that friend left, I suddenly found myself without any close friends at school. Now I was 16, and I felt I had outgrown popularity and would have more luck finding good friends in those kids that I liked but would ignore because they weren’t popular. I found myself a great group of girls and boys and we would hang out in our special spot in the hallway every day. I made some new friends, and got one of my best friends to this day, Leanne. Through this group, I eventually went through the unavoidable growing pains of finding out who I really was when I took away all the labels I had been sticking to myself over the years.

I like what I found underneath.

When I graduated high school I finished with a clear head and a confidence in myself that was hardened and crystallized by years of fighting to prove I was good enough. While I don’t support bullying and feel very sorry for the pain I  caused others, it made me who I am today. I’m tall, fit, and blond, and proud of it.

Note: While I may have come out from the experience of bullying a stronger person, I don’t think bullying should be something kids have to deal with. I am lucky to have a good life, with great friends and a loving family, and this is probably why I managed to stick it out. Many kids and adolescents become depressed and consider suicide, so please stop bullying if you see it. Give support to those who need it and avoid taking out your insecurities and anger on other people, and others will follow your example.

Interactive Storytelling and Bear 71

Over the last year or two, Interactive Documentaries and Films have been discovered as a new and exciting way of telling stories. With the levels of interaction varying between complete user control to a slideshow, interactive films are an interesting way of telling stories in a non-linear way.
The NFB’s website has many interactive films that I recommend you check out, but I suggest you start with this documentary that premiered at DOXA 2012 with a live performance and installation to add appeal to the festival crowd. I wrote a blog on the experience when I was participating in the Kris Anderson Youth Connexions forum which you can check out as well. FYI, the total Bear 71 experience is about 40 minutes.

Bear 71

The NFB’s Interactive Film ListImage

The India Initiative

ImageLast May, I had the trip of a lifetime to India that was made possible by Simon Fraser University. The SFU India Inititative Program focuses on increasing collaboration between India and Canada.

“Through the generous support of Western Economic Diversification Canada, SFU is accelerating its linkages with India, in particular, focusing on mobility programs and projects that support the clean energy, life sciences, new media and film sectors. With the objective of building strong ties between BC and India, the BC-India Mobility Initiative allows scholars and executives from India to visit and conduct teaching, research or knowledge-sharing activities, supports the placement of SFU students in India, and the development of series of industry workshops.” – Taken from SFU’s India Initiative website (http://india.sfu.ca)

This particular trip involving the SFU Film Production Program was to increase collaboration and involvement of SFU with the film industry and film schools. Sara Blake and I went to India 10 weeks with the intention of networking with industry professionals, visiting institutions and organizations, and gathering information on the current state of the film industry. From May to August, we conducted one-on-one interviews with industry professionals including Anurag Kashyap, Ketan Mehta, Jayanth Paranjee, and Nimisha Mukerji to develop our understanding of the many faces of Indian Cinema and find opportunities for coproduction.

Oh we had such an incredible time. In fact, we are returning to India in order to follow up on the connections we made and further our research of the industry. Stay tuned on the blog as I will eventually release an article about the trip in full detail including our projections and plans for the future of Indo-Canadian CoProduction.

A Model of Myself

Modelling is one of the many careers that I have been interested in since I was a child. My sister became a model at 16 with John Casablancas and got an ongoing job as the Talula fit-model. When I was 14, my mom recognized my own interest and signed me up for a modelling course at John Casablancas. The course was designed for adolescent girls to develop confidence in their skills such as public speaking, and also gave workshops on posing, dressing, walking, and makeup. At the end we had a photoshoot with a professional photographer, and the models who showed promise would sometimes end up with a contract with John Casablancas.

I had a great time during the course. I made friends with some of the other girls my age, and there was an energy of excitement that lasted throughout the course with a potential modelling contract at the end of it. On the day we were supposed to give speeches to the group on what we believed in, I remember I wore a belt with my 1-inch zip Dorinha jeans that was bright red with the word “SEX” printed repeatedly along the length. It didn’t even occur to me that it was inappropriate, and I stood up and gave me speech with confidence. My mother and I were both shocked when we realized I had gone the whole day wearing this belt and that neither of the modelling coaches mentioned it.

When the course finished and I did not receive an offer to start modelling, I immediately decided that the course was a money grab designed to give hope to young girls who want to be models regardless if they have to body-type to be professionals or not. I applied to another agency and received a reply that stated that not all girls are meant to be models and that I wasn’t tall enough. Being an inch or two taller than my sister, I knew it wasn’t true. I told myself that they were too nice to tell me that I’m fat and should just give up. So that is what I did. My mother still insists that I benefited from the course she paid $2000 for. I did learn how to do my makeup in a tasteful way, and to this day my headshot is still stuck to the fridge.

Eight years later I met Shilpa Mukerji, a photographer based in Mumbai. My friend and colleague Sara Blake and I met her through her mother while we were interning at a workshop in Chennai, India. We discussed over chapatis the prospect of doing a fun and creative photoshoot together before we left Mumbai. We threw around some ideas and at the end I was super excited to be infront of the camera again.

Sara and I did a whole day modelling together for Shilpa. I found the process to be energizing and exhausting at the same time. I liken the experience to acting for films, where you must be aware of your placement and positioning and immerse yourself in the moment and feel the emotions you want to project. I took some tips from Tyra Banks and felt “through my eyes”. It’s amazing how watching reality television can teach you do’s and dont’s through other people’s mistakes.

We followed up with another photo shoot that was just Shilpa and I. Sara is a cinematographer and decided she was much happier behind the camera than infront. I was in my element again and had a blast. I thought, perhaps I really can be a model despite being a size up from commercial model body-measurements. Since that day in July 2012, I have decided that I am a model regardless if I get paid or not. I say this in the sense that someone can be a musician if they play an instrument. Our actions define us, not our paycheques. I have had a paid gig here and there, and soon I hope to be represented by an agency who will support me based on my photos and not the inches around my waist.

Shilpa Mukerji’s Website

My Portfolio

What do you Want to be When you Grow Up?

I have to confess that I have had the desire to write a blog for longer than I care to admit. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question that many people my age struggled with as children. I liked dinosaurs so I wanted to be a Paleontologist. I liked massages so I wanted to be a Masseus. I liked having my hair played with so I wanted to be a Hairdresser. I have always had a fondness for English class so I mistook this for wanting to be an English teacher. This was back in the days when high school kids had to decide what they wanted to be when I grow up at the not-so-tender age of 15 and write it in their ‘Personal Planning’ journal for a grade.

Apparently there is not as much pressure on high-school kids these days to make up their minds. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a study when I was seventeen that showed that most adults go through 4-5 career changes in their lifetime. This took off a lot of pressure, since the only thing I had learned about myself in high school was that I change a lot and often. This is something I have had verified by my high school yearbook voting me “Most Changed Since Grade 8”. I have to admit that my journey from being half-assed goth, to gangster, to punk, to hipster, to notputtingalabelonmyself is well-documented in photographs that I will not share here. But why am I talking about high school when I haven’t set foot in that building for 5 years?

As I said, I was smart enough to realize that I like change. I grew up thinking I was a ‘quitter’ because I had a history of trying new things and dropping them when I lose interest. When high school made me think I had to choose what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I knew it would have to involve some kind of regular change. I searched and searched for my passion, but nothing came up. I came to the conclusion that I like learning as I had always done well in school and have a curiosity that cannot be quenched until I try something myself. I had some skills in video-making that I honed with the support of my high school teachers Mr. Mackay and Mr. Bulger, so I decided I would be a Documentary-maker.

I figured that as a documentary maker, I can explore a subject that interests me and then move on when the film is finished. I applied for Simon Fraser University’s Film Production program and lo-and-behold, I got in!

Four years of film school has it’s effect on people. Not only did I realize that the people in film school were more like me than anybody else I had met, I discovered a new passion for screenwriting and sound design. For some reason, I still think that being a filmmaker is a more “socially acceptable” job than being a writer. With the power of hindsight I have realized that my passion has always been for stories, fiction or documentary. I grew up being read to, listening to Harry Potter on audiobooks, and reading all manner of novels. I wasn’t raised with television but we had a meager collection of Disney films that kept my imagination active. This is probably why I’m a poor excuse for a filmmaker because I was never particularly interested in remembering actors names and knowing which directors made which movies. However, regardless of the names tied to a project, I can appreciate a good story when it is being told.

So, with this blog, I hope to tell a few of my own stories. I don’t anticipate that they will all be good to read, in fact, I imagine that most of them will be completely self-indulgent. This blog is on the interwebs because I want to give myself to the world in as honest and as complete a way as possible. I want to share what I am proud of, and what I struggle with. What I feel, and what I think.

Here. Take it or leave it, I give my stories freely.

Ok, here is a picture of me during one of my phases.

Embarrassing, but true.

555 Soul and Dorinha 1-inch zipper jeans. This was basically the girl’s uniform at my high school… I didn’t realize that just because I could wear it, didn’t mean it fit.