Happy Black History Month and Valentine’s Day!

I’m not one to always say Happy Women’s, Latino, Pride or Black History month because I believe that all those histories or herstories (and MANY other voiceless histories) are a daily part of my existence, 24-7, everyday of the year. They should be integrated into our curriculum, conversations, fabric of our lives and art all the time. However, until everyone realizes that a young black girls’ story, or a Latino immigrant story, or queer liberation or a young Indian girl riding the bus and being violently attacked is just as valuable as dead white presidents– I will use every moment I have as an artist and educator to remember, remind and resist. In honor of Black History and Valentine’s Day, I honor Audre Lorde, the powerful poet, feminist, lesbian, activist and essayist. She was the child of Caribbean parents from Barbados and Carriacou. She also shares my birthday month of February. She was born on February 18th and died of breast cancer, but not before living a prolific life with words that transformed the feminist movement, that provided a voice for women of color who were both queer and straight.

Two days before my birthday, I ask myself how will I continue to be an activist for justice throughout my life? How can you I continue to use my writing and films as a tool to change and transform? How can the images that I create make people remember, think and act towards creating a better world? How can I learn balance from those elders that sacrificed for others, but did not live holistically and self-care was not in their vocabulary?

In the words of Audre Lorde, ““Your silence will not protect you.” (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches). She also said, ““It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

RIP Audre Lorde. Many blessings for your spirit on this planet that has inspired myself and so many to break our silences and transform. Ache.

Screenwriting from Iowa

“I’m in the emotional transportation business. If you want to be in that position, you have to understand drama. You have to understand how characters interact. You must understand how to move audiences emotionally, because that’s what they talk about in word of mouth. You don’t talk about what the film was about, you talk about your experience seeing the film: I loved it, I laughed, I cried, I observed. That’s what makes people go to the movies.”
Peter Guber, Chairman/CEO of Mandalay Ent Group (Exec Producer Rain Man, Batman Returns)
MovieMaker magazine
Winter 2006
Page 69

Related Post: 40 Days of Emotion

Scott W. Smith

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What I’m Grateful for in 2012!

2012 has been a challenging year in the world (too many things to list) and in my personal life, additionally with the loss of my beloved cousin Kevin, the health challenges of my BFF Sofia, my abuela, my uncles Bobby and Frank; hurricane Sandy and the cleansing of other negative forces. However, through it all I’ve resurfaced stronger, even more grateful and I’ve reaffirmed that I can’t chose what happens to me, but I can choose how I want to feel about it.

Counting my many blessings for 2012, here it goes:

1. I celebrated 12 years with my husband Alex this December. Lucky to have such an incredible love in my life that always reminds me that where doesn’t matter, together is what counts.

2. An incredible birth family and in-laws. I love you ALL very much! We’re not always perfect, but we weather the challenges and in the end love one another unconditionally.

3. My community of old and new friends that feed my soul, names are not necessary as you know who you are. I’m blessed and grateful for having such real, inspiring and ever evolving friends.

4. The privilege to dream, map out my desires and make a living doing what I love and makes me happy.

5. My students who everyday inspire me to be a better person and continue to make revolutionary art without even knowing it. We talk about real world issues and how to use our art as a tool for liberation and justice.

6. My continued health and my work towards trying to live more holistically and healthy.

7. Seeing Sofia finish chemo and kicking cancer in the ass for real.

8. My doggies, Zina and Zorro who bring me such incredible unconditional love.

9. Having a positive moment with my father after not speaking with him for over twelve years. I’m reminded how much he has been missed and can never be replaced.  Our visit reminded me that my dreaming started with him.  My father told me I could dream, my mother’s compassion gave me the confidence to continue.  My own courage taught me I must follow my desires to be happy.  My husband joined me and now we actualize our dreams together.

10. I’m blessed I can raise my able bodied legs to officially kick 2012 out of my life while lifting my glass to say, “Bye Beyotch.” I know that wasn’t the most progressive use of words, but if the word fits– use it.

All that said, I’m looking forward to 2013 and I’m entering again remembering that I can’t choose what happens to me, but I will always control how I want to feel about it. This is personal power and it’s all mine to use towards whatever I desire.

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A birthday wish for “La Fi” and “Nana”

It’s exactly 12 AM on February 16th. I don’t always make birthday wishes and if I do, well I don’t share.  But this year I’m making my wish public so that my BFF “La Fi” can feel the positive energy and vibrations of the universe.  I want “La Fi” to be healthy and cancer free.   If you wish me a happy birthday, all I ask is that you think of her too.  The power of positive energy goes a long way.  I could feel the chanting and well wishes that were being done while I was surviving ovarian cancer eight years ago and I do believe that energy has the power to heal.  On this birthday, I share the celebration of life with La Fi and my abuelita “Nana” two of the many powerful women who have impacted me on my life journey.  #grateful #hopeful #determined #survivors

Support Independent Films Gun Hill Road and Circumstance (opening this weekend)

While in attendance this year, my two favorite films were Gun Hill Road (Director: Rashad Ernesto Green) and Circumstance (Director: Maryam Keshavarz, Producer: Karin Chien).

If you haven’t seen Gun Hill Road yet, please support TODAY Thursday, (August 25th)  as it’s still playing at the Angelika in New York. After today it won’t be screening there. Here is a link to their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/gunhillroad. You can also check it out on the Angelika Film Center page: http://angelikafilmcenter.com/angelika_film.asp?hID=1&ID=527z260.81236532781o2s3045.92.

Meanwhile, Circumstance is opening this weekend and you meet the cast and crew at the following venues this weekend:

Please join us for the opening weekend of Circumstance!
Q&As with actors Nikohl Boosheri and Keon Mohajeri, producers Melissa Lee and Karin Chien.
See below for times.

FRIDAY 8/26@ Lincoln Center – Q&As following 6p & 8:20p shows
-Cinereach’s Phil Engelhorn will moderate the Q&A following the 8:20p show, then we’ll all head over for drinks at the Emerald Inn (205 Columbus @ 69th)

SATURDAY 8/27 @ Lincoln Center -Q&A following 3:40p show

SATURDAY 8/27 @ Sunshine Cinemas – Q&As following 7:10p & 9:35p shows
-Cinereach’s Adella Ladjevari will moderate the Q&A following the 7:10p show
-Tribeca Film Institute’s Tamir Muhammad will moderate the Q&A following the 9:35p show, then we’ll all head next door for drinks at the White Rabbit

SUNDAY 8/28 @ Clearview Squire, Great Neck LI – Q&As following 3:45p & 6:45p shows

Link to Circumstance’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/circumstancethemovie.

EXPLORING “THE SHEROE’S” JOURNEY taught by Obie-Award winning playwright, Carmen Rivera

EXPLORING “THE SHEROE’S” JOURNEY taught by Obie-Award winning playwright, Carmen Rivera
Begins: Saturday, September 10 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. 
In the 1980s Joseph Campbell introduced “The Hero’s Journey” to the public at large.  But “The Hero’s Journey” isn’t just an ancient concept of mythology — it is a dynamic and ever-evolving experience that exists in all of our lives.   When you wake up in the morning, intending to pursue a dream, you have embarked on the “hero’s journey.” Participants will explore the archetypes and stages of “the hero’s journey” through writing exercises, designed to develop a more fully realized and metaphoric theatrical language.    Writers of all levels are welcome.
Dates: Sept 10, September 17, September 24. October 1st
Time: 1:00 to 4:00 p.m – Registration fee: $250.00
Where: FELT THEATER
107 Suffolk St. Suite 311
New York, N.Y. 10002
If you want to sign up:
or call: 212.228.3705 –  5:30 – 8:00 PM  Monday to Friday

LEARNING TO BE WRONG…

As an artist we must fearlessly play, experiment and allow our imagination to run wild.  Often, as people of color we are not afforded the second chance to be creative if we are wrong.  Resistance for me has meant learning that if I’m wrong, I will continue to write and direct,  even if that means I create that space myself or with community.  It’s in those imperfect moments that my imagination illuminates. Learning to be perfectly imperfect has been a process of freeing my mind.  It’s a lifelong journey.

Support New Voices in Independent Filmmaking. Si Se Pudo!

Almost thirty days ago, filmmaker Aurora Guerrero had enough faith in her community to believe that they would support her first feature Mosquita y Mari (MYM) by donating to her Kickstarter Campaign.  She has three hours left and to date the MYM team has raised $75,788 of their $80,000 goal.  MYM has almost met their goal, and now has 782 backers, proving that independent Latino voices can be supported by our community.

Team Aurora had vision and the ability to take a risk that Latinos would support and yes, mi gente we’ve proved that if we as Latinos see ourselves reflected in quality content, we will step up to the plate and support.  Being a Puerto Rican filmmaker and novelist, I too have faced similar sentiments about Latinos not supporting our own in regards to films and books.  My response has been to write the book, I want to see or make the movie that I believe must be made.  And as team MYM has proven with a lot elbow grease, a crowd call for support and a cup of cor ázon dreams can become a reality.

Now many of you don’t know the path Aurora has taken to get to this point.  The over eight years she’s been writing the script and the many years before that she had the story stewing inside her ready to be shared.  If being a filmmaker, a novelist or any artist were easy more of us would chose to do it. It’s a scary thing to risk the security of a day job or tiring to work three jobs just to survive while doing your art.  Especially coming from working-class and immigrant families, explaining you want to be a filmmaker, especially after attending college where you could have the choice to have a better job then those of your parents is a process.  Making movies is hard for those with money, now add no trust fund or rich family member that can write a check and the fact that many of us also come from families where we have to work to also support our families.  Making the choice to seize your vision also comes with sacrifices and moments of doubt.

I sat in the audience with Aurora during Sundance 2011, thinking when will there be more films not only about Latinos, but BY Latinos  in which we tell our own stories.  Even more courageous is that Aurora will bring to the screen a Latino film with two lead Latina leads that are dealing with family, their own love for each other and healing in  a world that often renders us (Latinos, queer people, women) invisible.  Making this film will not only show that there is an audience for this type of content, but it will move us towards creating a cinema that has feminist oriented narratives that are diverse and are told by those of us that hail from that very world. Most importantly, and non-white narrative, in this case a Latino story with two female leads can be just as captivating and powerful for a universal audience.  I’m not a thirteen year old white boy, but I loved Stand by Me.  You feel me?

In 1996, Aurora and I both left San Francisco quitting a job that we both held at a youth leadership program for youth of color.  We were both making the choice to continue our work as activist, but our tools would be film, publishing and other media.  We both in our hearts knew that dreams were not only something for white people as one of the students in the leadership program told me one day.  However, Aurora and I had been blessed with benefiting as children being raised during the post Civil Rights in which People of Color and Latinos, Women of Color feminist/womanists like Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Gloria Anzaldua, Octavia Butler, Julia de Burgos and Cherrie Moraga paved new ways for women to tell their narratives through poetry, essays, novels and theater and now we have this vehicle called film media. Let’s also honor our African American ‘manos y ‘manos who wrote books, made movies and created visibility beyond white on television as a model of what’s always possible.  Let’s also acknowledge our Native American brother and sisters that were here before any of us telling stories that were verbally based on from generation to generation.  After all, being black and indigenous is a part of the identity that many of us as Latinos carry and must also being reflected in any media.

The success of Mosquita y Mari makes me very emotional today during a time when making movies with a social justice lens is not easy, but was it ever?

I’ve written a novel, it’s not easy but I can do it alone in a room of my own which many of us don’t always have. The challenges become how do you sustain yourself while penning a book as a working class person with radical politics?  Or after the book was released,  how do you build an audience and explain that to be Latino is not just to speak Spanish.  But we do after all, read books in both English and Spanish.  We come from diverse nations, immigration status, religions, sexual orientation, etc..  We need platforms for our stories, we need our communities to support our voices by buying a book, taking in a theater performance, supporting a KICKSTARTER campaign and even seeing our film during opening weekend.

Which brings me to the fact that team MYM still needs support!.  You have three hours to donate, EVERY dollar counts.  How about we not only make the $80,000 goal, but we blow the goal over the top?!  How about $100K?

I know they will make an incredible film with the $80K, but being a screenwriter and director myself, I also know that surpassing the KICKSTARTER GOAL during these final hours will give Aurora y team even more tools to do their cinematic magic. In other words, our support does not stop here, donations could still be used by contacting the team even after KICKSTARTER, but let’s represent now.

And when they screen their film, folks need to pack the audience.  In other words, the country knows Latinos are growing force to reckon with now let’s continue to utilize those numbers to not only support, but build new ways of making movement among ourselves and with communities that will continue to understand that we must voice our stories, our own way.

Si Se Pudo!  Props and love to Team MYM.  You’re all inspiring!

If you still want to support MYM on KICKSTARTER:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mosquitaymari/mosquita-y-mari-a-new-voice-in-independent-filmmak

Books I Recommend on Screenwriting…

The art and craft of screenwriting is constantly changing, always in motion. The motion picture evolves constantly, forever will, into what unknown future we can only guess.

How is technology effecting the screenwriter and how has it already effected the screenplay form?

What interests me is how modern screenwriting is starting to challenge
the classical structure and its paradigm. Screenplays such as Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Memento, Run Lola Run, 21 Grams, Mulholland Drive, Vanilla Sky, Magnolia, Inception, The Player, American Beauty, Training Day, Lost in Translation, defy the classical (Old School) teachings on structure, conflict, and even sometimes drama and characterization.

As a screenwriter or soon to be screenwriter, you might be thinking about purchasing your first book on screenwriting or adding to that small collection scattered about on your bookshelf, and on the floor next to your desk.

So, what books should you be considering? Which ones can keep you in step with the ever-changing craft of screenwriting? Well, I have some suggestions.There are many books out there on screenwriting, below are my personal favorites that have either inspired, structured or withstood time over the years.  If you have any other recommendations, please leave a comments so we others can benefit too.

Linda Aronson. Screenwriting Updated: New (and Conventional)
Ways of Writing for the Screen, 2000.

Paul Chitlik, Rewrite: A Step-by-Step Guide to strengthen Structure, Characters and Drama in your Screenplay, 2008.

Neill Hicks, Screenwriting 101 (Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 1999), see pages 124 to 134.

William Froug, Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade (Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1992), see pages 56 to 59.

Michael Hauge, Writing Screenplays That Sell (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), see pages 113 to 152.

Linda Seger, Advanced Screenwriting: Raising Your Script to
the Academy Award Level, 2003.

Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great, 1994.

Blake Snyder: Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, 2005.

Michael Tierno, Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters, 2002.

Christopher Vogler, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Ed., 2007.

Bonus: Great Screenwriting Websites:

John August: www.johnaugust.com

Marilyn Horowitz: www.marilynhorowitz.com

I love the Ghetto Film School!

Whatever we do in life, I believe it’s always important to give back by keeping the cipher expanding.  Two Saturday’s ago, I was invited to speak with the amazingly talent and young filmmakers at the Ghetto Film School.  I was inspired by their questions, skills and talent.

Much of the work they’ve completed during their year fellowship at the Ghetto Film School was equivalent, if not better than some of the work I’ve seen in college level film programs.  These young people may be young, but it’s obvious they’re ready to apply their filmmaking acumen to the real world.  I was honored that the program coordinator, Derrick Cameron took the time to send me student feedback from my hour and half session with them.  It was a huge pick me up during a particularly stressful day. Any one who has ever worked with young people, knows that feedback from them is always the most honest and sincere.  It meant more to me than a grade in grad school or an award. I don’t normally share feedback, but I was particularly proud of these since NY teens don’t play.

I too was a product of a youth program as a teen, and I wholeheartedly believe that projects like these are critical towards for our communities.  I look forward to seeing the final films these students will produce, one will even be shot on location in Shanghai, China.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Derrick Cameron
Date: Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 10:50 AM
Subject: Re: Thanks again from Ghetto Film School
To: Elisha Miranda
Hi Elisha,
As promised, here’s a sample of some of the feedback given by the Fellows.  You got rave reviews!

One thing that I’ll take from today is that there are tons of websites and resources that help cater to the needs of young, unrepresented artists and it’s just up to us to look for those.  I will also remember how inspiring, ambitious, and goal-oriented she is and use her journey as ambition to help me make my dream come true.

Jade Elliott, 19, Queens

I would actually love to intern for her because she is very imformative and engaging.  I know I would learn a lot from her.  Having a background in graffiti is a great start to any career!  Her advice about getting actors to open up was helpful, too.

Josue Loayza, 16, Queens

As an up and coming filmmaker, her emphasis on being a minority was really encouraging/inspiring because I can relate to her.  She has a great life story, she knows screenwriting and has novels published, which is something I’d be interested in getting into. 

Ashante Parker, 18, Harlem

I would love to work with her someday because she seemed so down-to-Earth.  I learned a lot about how to push through a script by really establishing characters’ relationships and personalities.  I’ll remember how real she was.

Raenell Rankine, 16, The Bronx

Her advice about reading the script and coming back to it later to search for dramatic blocks was helpful.  Deciding which character has which scene is a great way to approach screenwriting.  I also loved her advice that the writer should add as much as of themselves as they possibly can to the script so that it will be retained when it is produced. 

Darrell Vanterpool, 16, Brooklyn

I loved her thoughts on working with actors.  She was extremely open and friendly with us.  The time flew by. 

Ashley Jovine, 15, The Bronx

I will remember the enthusiasm and resources that she gave us during her talk.  Her presentation of “Sangria Street” was really effective in showing us how to approach storytelling and pitching.

Jared Ray, 18, The Bronx

I will remember most her honesty and overwhelming achievement.  She was both passionate about and skilled in her craft, with an interest in bringing a new perspective to modern cinema culture.

Athena Beck, 16, Manhattan

I loved that she knew The Bronx.  It helped us relate to her more.  She gave us a ton of resources that should help us get internships later on. 

Rebecca D’Agostino, 17, The Bronx

We also have our Fellows rank several questions on a scale of 1-10 (10 being great).  Once again, you scored highly:

Was the speaker interesting/engaging?  9.4

Did the speaker’s knowledge on the topic meet your expectations? 9.2