There was a time I became aware of my own need to compete like Violet Bauregard in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory…some time in 2008. My boyfriend and I had split, the recession hit and I lost my freelance work and had to rent out the condo and move back with mom and dad. I had been stripped of everything I thought defined me and I had to start from scratch. I remember making believe I had died and on New Year’s Eve I was born again. It was a new opportunity to be who I really am: a fiction writer. And I stopped competing. I started sharing. I started promoting other writers and together we built an amazing art show at the end of the year. I felt truly happy, I think, for the first time in my life because I was NOT competing…I was collaborating. When I visited my friend Lee in LA soon after, he told me I seemed so much more grounded and peaceful. It was an interesting comment coming from someone who had met me when I was 22. I guess I have been a ball of nervous energy for years.
Four years later I am in Prague at one of the best film schools in the world competing again and it sucks. I don’t feel that inner happiness so much anymore because the process is so viscious. What exactly is the prize? Money? An award? The respect and admiration of peers? This is definitely true of my classmates. And maybe when I first arrived I became more sensitive to this idea of winning peer approval. I am not here to “brag” to others that I am studying in Prague. For me, the prize is not the finished product. It’s the experience. The friendships created. The enjoyment of actualizing all the crazy things you think and see in your head.
All of the things I loved about filmmaking never became part of the process here. I have been marking off the days on the calendar as if I have been in an insane asylum or prison full of insecure dictators.
Someone told me the other day that my school attracts dictator types…and that film in general attracts tyrants. Kubrik. Lynch. The Coen Brothers.
Perhaps that is true. I can be a tyrant. I recognize the Veruka Salt in me. But I decided in 2009, after working with this horrible girl who yelled at her volunteers, that it’s not the kind of writer/director I want to be. Sofia Coppola’s style is all about collaboration. She leads with love and encouragement, not fear and ridicule.
But I failed almost immediately in that pursuit because I did not honor my instincts.
I guess there were some hard lessons I needed to learn in order to move forward.