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I haven’t done a favorite things list in a long time, so today I want to do one as a reminder of all the wonderful things in my life that I love:
1. Sitting in a park on a beautiful day
2. Making a meal with people that I enjoy being around
3. Watching the yellow ATL airplane make circles around the city
4. Making movies
6. Dreaming of all the possibilities, and feeling as though they can all come true
7. Popcorn and bad TV
10. The comfort of sunshine on my skin
11. Petting Baby Kitty as I wake up in the morning
12. Friends new and old
13. Planning trips with my family
14. Bonnaroo! The countdown has begun…
15. The excitement of doing anything new
16. Challenging myself to do things that scare me
17. Most of all… I am so very grateful to have an optimistic attitude and fighting spirit.
Tonight I get to see the first rough cut of Bubble! I could jump 10 feet in the air with excitement. I will let you guys know how it goes.
What a crazy and exciting day! Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit our website and vote for your favorite story. We are giving away a Six Flags Over Georgia season pass to two lucky peeps (through 9 a.m. tomorrow). ((: It’s been a roller coaster so far of emotions, but fundraising always is. We will be doing this for 17 days, with a new giveaway at 9 a.m. every morning. Most things can be taken advantage of no matter where you live! We also have some fun media stuff coming up that I’m excited to share with you guys. First thing is schedule for Monday! I will announce that morning so you can stay tuned.
Last night after I got home from work, I got a package in the mail. It was from New Jersey, so I had no idea what it could be. Turns out it was a gift from James, an elephant bracelet, for good luck. He is home in Cincinnati this week/weekend, so he is many miles away. Little gifts like that can really make a difference in your day. Every time I start to worry, I just look at my little elephant for confidence.
Yesterday was the first Birmingham Tastebuddies event, a Facebook group headed up by Vero. Sherri Ross orchestrated the inaugural gathering at Ollie Irene for about nine of us…. and of course it was delicious. It was nice to get my mind off of the launch today and just be with friends (and enjoy some Prosecco)! You should join this group if you live in town and love food, and if you don’t live here, then you should consider starting one for your own community. The premise is simple: an open forum for people to organize food meet-ups, make new friends and support local restaurants. Sounds good to me.
This weekend I am looking forward to a little lake time with friends, as well as a story event called Arc Light. I almost submitted myself as a candidate to tell a story, but I completely chickened out. However, I look forward to being inspired by other local storytellers and possibly learning a public speaking technique or two. I am always fascinated by people who can perform dialog in front of an audience in an effective way. They are able to detach from their egos and are completely saturated with the story they are communicating. Hero status in my book.
James and I are officially one year old! We celebrated with a picnic lunch in Avondale Park consisting of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. It was a beautiful day with temps around 70 and a breeze flowing through the trees. Also over the weekend we have a reunion dinner with all of the Birmingham peeps who attended the Oxford Film Festival (minus Sam Frazier, who was in California with his short film at Cinequest!). All of us brought an assigned course/dish around the theme Spaghetti Western (with some Italian thrown in). Each one of us got to talk about our upcoming creative projects and we had mini brainstorming sessions throughout the evening. It was such a fun night, thank you Vero for hosting!
I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with folks who have ideas and are actively making them a reality. There is now a group of ladies in Birmingham who meet up fairly often for work sessions and/or discussion. This is of course headed up by the one and only Sherri Ross, who if you don’t know, you must. So last night was my second mini get-together with some of these ladies (holla Billie, Mandy & Abbey!). Mandy and Abbey are both working on novels and talked to me for awhile about long-form techniques. Two of the biggest things I took away from this were: don’t write in chapters for your initial drafts (guilty) and be open to writing in a nonlinear fashion. It never occurred to me to write scenes that I felt the most passionate/inspired by first. I’ve always felt this pressure to write in sequence, scene by scene. Last night after leaving them, I went home and worked on my own book for awhile. It is still the highest priority of mine to finish it this year. I also practiced my elevator pitch to them, which I haven’t done yet with anyone. They were very receptive to my story and thought it was really interesting. That made me feel so good. Their stories were fantastic of course… I can’t wait to have more writing sessions with them in the future.
This is a pretty big week for me, as we launch the fundraising campaign for my next short film this Friday! It’s always super scary to put yourself out there in such a vulnerable way, but I hope I have proven my filmmaking capabilities with the last two projects. Since we are going about our fundraising in a unique way, we’ve been able to get some fun media coverage that will soon be unveiled. Not only will you get to choose the story that you want to see produced, but we will be giving away some amazing gifts to our contributors on a daily basis! Stay tuned to those alerts here. James (the producer) and Dan Gavin (the developer and wizard) have been working really hard behind the scenes to make this a fun and unique experience for everyone. Please keep your fingers crossed that all goes smoothly, and we certainly appreciate any support you are willing to give. We can’t do it without you!
One quick note to my Nashville friends – we are heading your way with Twelve on March 24th! If you want to be in on this supper experience with us, please shoot us an email here. We arethisclose to confirming a pretty rad venue, and if it comes through, could be one of our most interesting dinners to date. More on that very soon…
Vero said something really sweet to me this morning after our run…. she said that I was going to be pretty for a long time, because I got good genes from my mom and grandmother Gayle. That was really nice of her to say after pouring sweat for an hour. When I think of myself, the word pretty doesn’t always come to mind. It’s not that I don’t like my body and physical appearance, but I just don’t associate myself with it. Words that have to do with personality usually pop up first and foremost – like loud, ambitious and creative. Sometimes it’s almost borderline uncomfortable to think of myself in terms of attractiveness, because it just feels weird to do so. I told Vero that my mom is beautiful because she takes such good care of her body. Both of my parents are fairly health conscious, as they get a good amount of exercise and watch what they eat on a consistent basis. They still have fun and splurge when they feel like it, but they’ve adopted a life of wellness that I try to emulate. They buy local and organic whenever it is possible, and they enjoy cooking with whole ingredients. I think that translates to the physical body and spirit. In fact they remind me a lot of Vero in this sense, because that’s exactly the kind of lifestyle she lives as well. I love surrounding myself with people who I look up to.
Speaking of which, when I look at the people around me right now in life, they all have a quality or two that I really admire. The people I see on a regular basis inspire me, and I’ve chosen to be around them as often as possible. I find that if I get a negative vibe or energy from a person, situation or place, that I go into an avoidance behavior. Time is too valuable to waste feeling drained or down more than you have to be. However, we all go through down phases, so it is still important to help a friend or family member when their spirits need uplifting. I love the thought that we give and receive energy every moment, and the more you participate in the process the more rewarding life can be. It’s good karma, and that is something I strongly believe in.
Rebecca and I announced yesterday evening that our short film Crush got into the Indy Film Festival in late July! Woooohoo! Making films can be so much fun…. especially when you get to the part where people get to actually see your work. With that being said, it is still one of the hardest types of creative projects to take on due to all the moving parts and the time (and usually money) it takes to complete. After I finish writing my book I hope to take on my first feature length film, hopefully in 2013. Is it weird that writing something with no images or visuals scares me more than the commitment it requires to make a movie? While I still have a lot to learn in the film world, it is something that comes fairly naturally to me. I feel fearless and I understand how the process works. Writing a book has proven to be one of the biggest creative challenges I’ve ever taken on. But that is also what excites me about it.
I love New Orleans more than I could ever express in words. It is such a magical old city, and while only being here for a few days some very magical things have already happened. Just for the fun of it, several of us went to see a fortune-teller down in the French Quarter last night after dinner, and what she told each of us was nothing short of amazing. I’m not new to that sort of thing, as there is nothing I like more than to have my future told (even by someone who isn’t very good at it). It’s just fun for me. But out of all of the people I’ve ever had “look into my future,” no one holds a candle to this lady. She pretty much blew my mind. It’s no secret that bad things can, have and will happen in life…to everyone. There is no way around it. Luckily though I was very fortunate to not only get an accurate reading, but a very hopeful and exciting one as well. I completely respect those of you who think that this is a load of horse sh*t, but I honestly believe that some people have a gift in this way. While the majority who claim that they have this special talent are totally full of it, I have genuinely run across a select few in life who really have something very unique. This lady was definitely one them. I’m very grateful to have had this experience with the specific group of friends I was with as well. It was something that I will always remember.
While attending our work conference, there’s been a big budget movie (Broken City) shooting in front of the hosting hotel. Out of all the places we’ve been so far in the last 3 days, it is the only film I’ve seen around…and it’s dead smack in the middle of our walking path in and out of the conference. I’m taking it as a sign to buckle down and work hard, as I hope to turn my book into a feature film once it is completed. I get a fuzzy feeling in my stomach every time I pass the working set. Especially since we got to see Mark Wahlberg.
I am going to leave this city tomorrow feeling energized and recharged.
To view last year’s third Quest and Flashback, click here. My Quest from this day last year was to maintain my weight during 2011, and I’m proud to say that I’ve stayed around 152/153. I’m very, very happy with that. My body is healthy, strong and beautiful. I appreciate that everyday.
2012 Quest #3: To get a book contract.
I’m closer than I’ve ever been to having a concrete launching pad to a pretty kick-ass book. I think it’s fair to say that this has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever tried to do… even more so than training and completing my Half Ironmans. Writing takes so much discipline, especially in long form. Since I have zero experience in the book world (like that’s ever stopped me before…) I’ve had to learn a lot of things along the way. Just this past weekend I finished what I consider to be a pretty great outline with each chapter fleshed out. I’ve also made a pretty good dent in the first chapter. Once I have that completed, my next goal is to try to get a book contract. Hopefully I can start doing that by the end of January, as I see no reason why I wouldn’t be able to. I don’t know how long that search will take, but I am hoping by summertime I will have everything locked down. I’ve said this before, but I would like to eventually turn this book into my first feature film… but one thing at a time. This is strange to say, but I have a definite genre that I tend to lean toward – romantic comedies. Which is a very interesting situation because romantic comedies don’t do well in the independent film world… but they would do very well as books and bigger budget movies. I always wanted to be the dark tormented artist with deep thoughts to share (ha!), I really did, but turns out that I’m more inclined to write feel-good love stories. I’ve learned to own that, and there is certainly nothing wrong with being a little more marketable.
2011 Flashback #3: Co Directing and Producing CRUSH
This year I co directed and produced a little short film called CRUSH with my friend Rebecca Pugh. It is about the relationship between a woman and her favorite chair. It’s colorful, emotional, fun and experimental. This is my second short film to make, the first being Piece of Cake in 2006. Making CRUSH really reminded me of my love for filmmaking, as it had obviously been a few years since I took the reins on a project. We have high hopes for this film, and I think it has a pretty good shot at getting into some fun film festivals in 2012. We should start hearing back in late January/early February on some of our first submissions. Fingers crossed…
Independent film was something that I didn’t really know existed until I was in my early 20′s. While working at a small production company in Rome, Georgia, I discovered that people could actually make movies on their own and find audiences outside of big commercial movie theaters. I was instantly smitten by the whole process and had a deep urge to learn more. So I did. Over the next 3 or 4 years while I lived in Atlanta and eventually back in Birmingham, I worked on many small film projects… usually for friends. It took a while before the thought occurred to me that I could make my own films too. It all happened while I was taking a screenwriting class with Elizabeth Bradley (now Elizabeth Hunter). I never thought of myself as a writer and my arm had to be twisted to even consider being in the class. But behind that insecurity was a very confident person just waiting for an opportunity to make a dream come true. I first started out with a totally random idea to write about these young kids who moved to New York, but I struggled to find their story and what to say. This is when Elizabeth told me the most powerful advice for any writer out there – write what you know. What I knew then was weddings since I was a wedding videographer & editor at the time. I also wanted to write something very dark… but for those of you who’ve seen what I ended up with, that couldn’t have been farther from the final product. From the second that I had the first rough draft of Piece of Cake in my hands, I knew I was going to make it. And I also knew that I wanted someone well-known to be in it. Well, after a live performance by Mo Rocca at the Alys Stephens Center in 2005, I knew exactly who I wanted that person to be. I think within in a two-week period after seeing him in person I had sent his agent in New York the finished script and he had accepted the part. The next biggest thing I did was partner up with Alison Britt, who came on as the producer and played the main character Claire. We had a cast and crew of over 60 people, not including the extras in some of our biggest scenes. Piece of Cake was a huge undertaking, and one that I still think was worth every second of to this day. As for future film projects, I currently have a film called Crush in festival submissions with my friend Rebecca Pugh, and I hope in the next few years to have a feature film in the works based on the book that I want to complete. We will see what the future holds.
As for Mo Rocca, most of you know that he is coming in town again to perform at the Alys Stephens Center this Friday night. I have been given some tickets to give away in honor of this, so pay attention to my Facebook page today at noon, then my Twitter feed tomorrow at noon for some fun trivia. I will definitely be there, wouldn’t miss it. I also have some cute videos from cast and crew with special messages and memories about Mo to share on Facebook over the next few days.
Watch Piece of Cake here! It’s finallllly on YouTube.
I took a little bit of time off of work this morning to relax after the big weekend and finish a few last-minute errands. I didn’t really sleep in too much because I woke up daydreaming about all of the wonderful footage we captured. Looks like Joe Walker, our editor, is giving us both a DVD today of the raw footage to watch and make notes from. I can’t wait to look at it tonight and really absorb what we did.
Now that we are finished with the shoot itself, my goal is to bring the excitement levels in my personal life down a few notches. While looking at my calendar last week, I have a really good opportunity to build some quiet in over the next few months. I hope I take advantage of that.
While driving chairs back to their owners yesterday, I was thinking about all of the people who gave in some form or fashion to our little film. Some of you gave money, some of you gave time, some of you gave words of advice and some of you shared your unique talents. We are so grateful, I hope you know that. I’ve already started a pretty big list of names that we would like to thank in our credits. It seems like a small thing to offer back, but I hope it’s enough.
Now that I have the filmmaking bug again, I wonder what I will do next? I don’t think I’ll wait another 6 years to make another one… but I do think the smart thing to do is wait and see what happens with this project. Maybe early next year I can start thinking about what that next one will be. I have a feeling that my first feature could happen in the next several years, which would be a huge undertaking. But I know I can do it, as long as it’s something I really really really want to do. That is the key – no more doing things for the recognition or superficial reasons, from here on out if I do something it will be for me.
One of the positive aspects that Mike and I look forward to the most when being single again is to able to devote more time & energy to our personal creative projects. I remember when I met Mike in 2006, one of the first things I confessed to him was that sometimes I lose focus on my creative drive when entering a relationship. We’ve both pushed some of our ambition to the wayside while putting that energy into making “us” work. Maybe that isn’t the way it has to be, but for our case, it was.
While on the way out-of-town yesterday to a baby shower with some of my coworkers, one of them asked a very interesting question – What would you do/be in life if you had to do it all over again? We all went around and gave our answers… but my immediate thought was that my life isn’t over, and I can still be whatever I want to be. My answer in the car was to be a professional athlete, but that’s not the only one. I want to write a book, I want to make a feature film, I want to compete in Ironmans around the world, I want to learn Italian, I want to experience everything I possibly can before the day I leave this earth. I want to live in a bigger city. I want to have a taste of the good life. I want to help the less fortunate. My interests are very broad and overwhelming to most, but for me they are exciting and the reasons for living.
While trying to sleep in this morning, which wasn’t happening, I felt this tremendous urge to write about my future creative projects today as my blog entry. So, I got my tired a** out of bed to do just that (despite the fact that I babysat my niece until the wee hours of the morning last night).
I’m just going to name a list off that I’d like to do in the near future, then talk about each one individually.
1. My book – The Jen West Quest
2. Writing a feature film
3. Sponsorship for my Ironman races (I’ll explain why this is “creative” later)
4. Ghost Ghirls
#1. – My book – The Jen West Quest. This is first and foremost on my list of things to do. While I am not an expert in the process, my goal is to have something strong on paper to be able to sell by early/mid summer. I don’t expect to be finished, but I hope to have something that I can present to people in the industry by then.
#2. – Writing a feature film. You know I used to be so passionate about filmmaking, but it’s something that has faded with time. No matter what happens with this interest, I have three strong story ideas waiting for me if I ever want to pursue one of them. The first one is about Louise Wooster, a prostitute/madam Birmingham native who was the self-proclaimed lover of John Wilkes Booth when he shot Lincoln. Her story is amazingly dramatic & sad, and it deserves to be told. My second concept is to tell the story of Nellie Bly, a female journalist in the mid/late 1800′s who faked insanity in order to study a mental institution from within. I’m surprised no one has done anything with her story yet because it’s so courageous & inspiring. The third idea is to do a modern-day Helen Keller story about a deaf & blind child who learns how to communicate. While doing so, the beauty of a world with no sight & sound is expressed in a whole new way. Honestly, this would be the easiest film to make since it isn’t a period piece and funding could be secured to help raise awareness for this type of condition. But no matter what happens, making a film is a full-time commitment and one that I would take very seriously if I ever decided to jump in.
#3. – Sponsorship for my Ironman races. I’ve already decided that if I am lucky enough to get a slot through the Ironman Kona lottery, then I am going to pursue sponsorships. I listed this as a creative project because I would have to market myself in an attractive way and think outside of the box since I’m not a professional athlete. I would become a product in a sense, which is a whole new way to look at myself in the Ironman world. It would be every exciting and fun to take this on!
#4. – Last but not least, Ghost Ghirls. It’s important to remember that this isn’t meant to be a career or major time suck in any way… it’s primarily just a hobby and something I’d like to do. We are pushing back our webisodes until this summer when we all have a little more time to dedicate to it. It’s turned out to be a little more complicated and time-consuming than we originally planned, but it will be worth it in the end. First and foremost, it needs to be FUN!!
So that’s that for my creative project standings. I am really looking forward to what the future has in store, and my dreams are bigger than ever!
Friends & family are my everything. I get support, ideas, love and inspiration from the people around me every day.
I used to want to desperately move away from Birmingham… I felt like my opportunities and passion would surface in a city like New York or LA. But surprisingly enough, I have found that all of my dreams are possible… HERE. I have grown to love Birmingham.
In Birmingham, I have found a job that I love. In Birmingham, I have found friends that are like soul mates. In Birmingham, I can make the feature film that I know I will be very proud of. In Birmingham, I can be with my family. In Birmingham, my dreams will come true. In Birmingham, I will discover the new, healthy, sexy, awesome ME.
I would like to thank Wade Kwon for the great blog advice given to me last night. You truly are a diamond in the rough, and I am grateful to call you my friend.
Now… off to run in the windy weather! Should be a nice time to think about the week ahead and all of the opportunities in store.