This adventure began in March at Outfest Fusion, the premiere LGBTQ Film Festival for people of color. They held a contest for a one-minute short film contest where the given topic was “micro-aggressions.”
I wrote a poem entitled, “Ultra-Feminist,” about the recent trolling that I had encountered online about the stance I had about believing rape and abuse victims, as well as the rampant misogyny that I face every day in the industry that I work in. My entry was simple. Just me, speaking into my laptop camera with subtitles for those hearing-impaired.
When I went to the closing night Gala for Fusion, I was surprised when producers Quincy and Deondre Gossfield called up my name as the winner for Honorable Mention.
It also meant that my little film was to be included at the bigger festival in July.
The opening gala was overwhelming. On the red carpet, there is someone who introduces you and there is space between all of the attendees.
I am okay speaking in one-on-one situations. Also, most of the press didn’t know who I was and generally shooed me off of the carpet (nicely of course) to make room for the A-Listers. But after the step-and-repeat, over 2000 people were ushered into the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
I could feel the sweat forming on the bridge of my nose and my heart begins to palpitate as my adrenaline began to kick in. I started to count my breaths and generally tried to find pocket of open spaces and hugged the walls as we made our way up the stairs. I always try to find a seat near the exit aisles if I can.
The film for the night, “Circle of Books,” was a fascinating portrait of the family that ran the sex-positive, book and video store in Los Angeles.
The next week was filled with networking parties and filmmaker educational events. I was excited the learning opportunities the most since they took place at the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, (one of the “big five”) and more importantly, breakfast was served each day.
Because I know what is expected of me – mainly listening and taking notes – educational events are easier for me… but networking before the panel is always stressful.
Here are the coping mechanisms I have used:
Getting there early to have prep time alone in my car to calm down and meditate before I head into the meeting.
Allowing myself to be awkward.
Finding friends from previous film festivals/projects I have worked on and sticking near them for the rest of the event. *Having an extrovert “adopt” me at a social gathering is honestly a Godsend.
(*shoutout to badass filmmaker Kayden Phoenix, who did not have to be so kind, but was awesome)
Tips to make introductions less awkward (these may seem remedial, but this is where I am in my social skills):
Wait for people to settle in before you say hello or approach them. If they are just getting there, they probably need some time to settle in.
Don’t approach people in the bathroom, because they probably have to use the bathroom.
The best time to introduce yourself is right after they get their food or drink. (But don’t expect to shake hands if their hands are full.)
I was also gentle with the expectations that I had for myself. As long as I met one new person, I would call the day a success.
I also learned how to be more gentle with myself regarding my self-talk.
At the beginning of the festival, I had a huge case of the imposter syndrome running through my veins because I was in the company of brilliant filmmakers and writers who have already received international acclaim for their films. My inner critic would scream: “Who do you think you are?” and it would fuel my already present social anxiety.
Towards the end of the festival, as I focused on what I was learning and watching these beautiful (and hilarious) films about living in a world that tends to discredit marginalized voices, I realized that I was doing that to myself.
I began focusing on the fact, that I was being recognized as a creator with the most bare-bones structure of a film – which means that if I can create something with so little, then I can learn to create stories with more resources.
I just needed to continue learning and growing.
It lit a fire under my rear end to dust off a script that had been sitting in my desktop folder for three years and really start putting the intention out into the universe and begin putting the building blocks together.
My feature film is a religious satire/rom-com called “Dis-Graced” about a good girl named Grace who is ostracized from her church for her husbands’ indiscretions and finds redemption through an unlikely friendship with a booze-drinking, bad-boy-in-a-band named Hayden.
It is loosely based on my experiences coming out of a fundamentalist Christian cult.
I’ve already got the supermodel/super activist Rain Dove attached. My kiddo made a mock poster that I put on my Facebook feed and a few people have already reached out to me about the project (also, if anyone reading this is interested in becoming an investor/producer – get at me!).
I think the biggest personal lessons from the festival is allowing myself to be exactly who I am (social anxiety, awkward moments, flaws and all), allowing myself to take up space and take my time with each new situation, and always be willing to learn from the people that have already paved the path.