You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘The Jen West Quest’ tag.

Happy fall!!! I am so glad this season is here. We celebrated the first day right with some Terrapin Pumpkinfest, football on the TV and all of the windows open. It is so cool living by an active trainyard and hearing all of the strange sounds it makes. They go on through the day and night – clanging, banging and beeping. You would think it would be a tremendous annoyance, but instead it is soothing. I love trains and industrial type factories, so this is the perfect environment for me. From our top porch you can peer down into the yard and see a wide variety of box cars in bright colors. Also on the wall that separates us from the yard is a long stretch of graffiti art, which is highly organized. Very unusual and unique.

We have great news! Bubble has been officially selected for the 2013 Cucalorus Film Festival, which will take place in Wilmington, NC from November 13 – 17. You can view all of our acceptances so far on the Bubble website. We are hoping to announce a piece of good news this week as well, and even more in the near future. If our fall/winter goes as planned, we will be traveling around as much as possible to screenings. It is a high priority to meet other filmmakers, see other independent films and learn as much as we can before taking on our next projects.

I’ve officially found a title for my feature script… which is still subject to change depending on what the future holds. It is simple & descriptive. You ready to hear it? :) It will be called, “Bird”. I also have a title for the second script I am currently working on, but will hold that one tight until I get farther along. The first competition I will be submitting Bird to in it’s entirety will be the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition. I plan to turn it in by the regular deadline this weekend. I am excited to see how it does out there in the world all by itself. Here is the official short synopsis:

A young performer from a New York prostitution district in the early 1900′s gets uprooted from her life in Brooklyn and pushed toward Storyville, New Orleans in the height of the ragtime movement. She is faced with the challenge of following her dreams despite the obstacles that she must face in the process.

The other script I am working on is also a period piece, but will be easier to make with the means I have available. It is on a topic that I’ve also researched for years. Yesterday I made the first short outline for it and today I plan to dive even deeper. I feel very connected with it’s heroine. It is a story I feel completely comfortable taking the lead on as a director as well, because the subject matter is clear to me. I have a strong feeling that I will be able to write this one faster than Bird, so I think a goal by the end of the year is a likely possibility. The fact that it’s based on a true story is also very helpful.

When I find myself bored or without things to do, I am so lucky to have a pastime like writing to fill the void. When I write, I feel like I am exercising a muscle that is getting stronger and stronger by the day. In the past, I would have never even thought to say the word writer in reference to myself, but I can now officially claim that title I feel. I do have weaknesses though, especially in the ways of technical skills. But I think I’ve crossed over the line to where that isn’t really an issue anymore. Grammar can be fixed. The storytelling skill is what I value most and is the hardest to come by. How wonderful it is to get lost in your own head, with the only limitation being your imagination.

View from our top porch.

View from our top porch.

My favorite Birmingham landmark - Sloss Furnace - the night of the full moon.

My favorite Birmingham landmark – Sloss Furnace – the night of the full moon.

Celebrating fall with a pumpkin beer and all the windows open.

Celebrating fall with a pumpkin beer and all the windows open.

Mini replica of the old Terminal Magic City Sign at the Birmingham's Best Party

Mini replica of the old Terminal Magic City Sign at the Birmingham’s Best Party

My mom's birthday party in Columbus, GA!

My mom’s birthday party in Columbus, GA!

I seem to be prone to an active life, which I have no complaints about. In the last week I’ve made my new home in Atlanta, been to Cincinnati to hang out with James’ family while attending the Cincy Film Festival and am now back in Birmingham for the better part of the week.  This Friday & Saturday we will be in Columbus, GA for my mom’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY Jamiejean916!) before finally heading back to Atlanta for some rest and kitty time. I do love movement and activity, but I also love quiet and stillness. Despite outside appearances, I actually think I have a good combination of both right now. Plenty of things to look forward to, while enjoying the here and now.

In the coming weeks I will finally be done with my feature script… at least until another phase is entered. I have a new idea of what I’d like to do with it: While still submitting to script competitions & the like, I want to open myself up to the possibility of having it optioned by another party to create. There are several reasons for this… #1, it is going to be super expensive to make. #2, I actually have a story in holding that I think makes more sense as my feature directorial debut while being easier on the wallet. I am equally in love with both stories, so between the two I think one will be the jackpot. I plan to start writing the second script in the next few weeks, and will take the rest of the year to complete it.  I hope in the coming months a clear direction presents itself. I would love nothing more than to enter into preproduction on a feature film in 2014.

Speaking of film, we have some more exciting news for Bubble later this week! It was so much fun to go to Cincinnati for their festival and to hang out with James’ family. We spent most of our time in their backyard by a bonfire in the cool fall air. I got to try several local staples like Skyline chili, Grippo’s potato chips and UDF’s strawberry malt. They took me to the school where James played baseball and I got to see his Papaw’s house. It was a great trip.

Kitten Azza and Baby Kitty (not a baby) are becoming better friends! The hissing is down to a minimum and there are hints of potential playtime in their near future. Azza came down with an upper respiratory infection that she is finally feeling better from. Her sweet belly is fat with food and her fur is fuzzier by the minute. She is going to be a great cat. I think her and Baby Kitty will be good companions, as Baby Kitty is very young at heart. :)

This week I want to focus on eating healthy and getting regular exercise. With all of this moving around I need to establish a routine for my body. I hope in the coming weeks I can find some balance again with these things. All I know is that exercise makes me feel like a million bucks… and who doesn’t need that in their life?

Life in ATL

Life in ATL

Art on the Atlanta Beltline.

Art on the Atlanta Beltline.

Pinky love after an afternoon run.

Pinky love after an afternoon run.

Cincinnati

Cincinnati

Quick lunch in Knoxville, my first time there!

Quick lunch in Knoxville, my first time there!

Swinging with James' mom in Cincy.

Swinging with James’ mom in Cincy. Photo by James

Big things happening here…there, and everywhere. Very recently my 8-5 was changed into a work-from-home situation. For quite some time I’ve been dreaming of moving to Atlanta to be closer to James, as well as new adventures and opportunities. But I was in complete denial about not being in Birmingham the majority of the time – as this city has defined who I am on many levels for the last 8 years or so.  How do you say goodbye to a place that you love so much? Well, I’ve decided that I’m not. It’s complete fate that I can share my time between both places now… nothing short of a dream come true. Over the weekend I moved myself and Baby Kitty to our new house that we will share with James and Azza in Atlanta! The plan is to live in Birmingham for 3-4 days every other week in order to work, see my family and hang out with friends.  I will be just as active in the community and invested in its future. I would have it no other way.

As for Atlanta – I am very eager to become equally as ingrained in its creative culture. I want to take advantage meeting new folks and finding new inspirations. The film community here is diverse – you will find the die-hard indie filmmakers that I’ve come to know and love, while also being surrounded by the big dogs. Many Hollywood films are being shot here daily. Large-scale productions studios are being built. Just when I find myself trying to jump the line to the next level of filmmaking, I am put in a place where it could be a little easier to do just that. I see myself doing big things during my time here.

Going from an office to working from home is a big change. I remember the last time I made this transition, but it was vice versa in 2007. I went from working for myself for over five years to a big organization. It was a struggle to rediscover the social boundaries you need working in a communal space. But now I am going back to the independent life, and I find myself missing people.  But I have a feeling that I will get used to it soon. I am a productive solo worker. I love the quiet time and thrive when left to my own devices.

It will take a few weeks to figure out a pattern and feel completely adjusted. I am already thinking about my next trip to Birmingham. I am already missing the faces I used to see every day. But I am so very happy to have a relationship with James now where I get to see him all the time.  I am so excited to take advantage of my time here professionally and personally. This is the beginning of an important chapter in my life, I can feel it.

photo

I’m back! I don’t think I’ve taken this long of a hiatus from my blog since I started, but it was really nice to be out-of-pocket for a week and a half. Since I last wrote on August 19th, the Sidewalk Film Festival has taken place and we’ve returned from our epic Northwest vacation to Portland and Seattle. Also during that time, we’ve adopted a new baby kitten named Azza! We found her before the festival in Atlanta crossing a street, and pulled over to see if she belonged to anybody. She was roaming with a few of her siblings and some other relative cats…none of which were really being taken care of. A man who was the closest thing to being her owner said we could take her home. She is a darling kitten, and I can’t wait for her to meet Baby Kitty next week.

Bubble’s premiere at the Sidewalk Film Festival went better than we could have ever imagined. We were both nervous wrecks leading up to it, as usual, but the crowd responded well and we got lots of positive feedback.  We hope in the coming weeks to announce some more festivals that it will be shown at in the near future.

While in Portland, I finished up the third draft of my feature script! It is in the hands right now of the next round of proofers and should be returned any day. After this I want to let one more group of folks put their eyeballs on it, then I think it will be ready for competition and grant submissions. I am very happy with where it is.

As for our vacation, we stayed five days in Portland, and one day in Seattle. Portland has so many restaurants/breweries/shops that it was impossible to even scratch the surface in almost a week’s time. The temperatures stayed in the 60′s and 70′s, perfect fall weather! I can’t wait to return. When we do I want to explore more of the outdoor activities it has to offer. We did make it up to Mt. Hood, which ended up being one of my favorite days of the trip. I love mountains, especially in the Northwest. We didn’t spend nearly enough time in Seattle to come close to understanding its vibe or culture. Our filmmaker friends Mike Harring and Kirsten Barber picked us up from the train station and showed us the sights (personal geek-out moment – getting to see the Singles apartment complex!). They were great hosts. I hope our films get into more festivals together in the near future so we can spend more time with them.

Thursday I will share with you some of our favorite things/restaurants that we did while on vacation in case you ever make a visit yourself. Until then, you will find me watching marathon episodes of Portlandia. :)

Azza! The newest member of our family.

Azza! The newest member of our family.

Beginning of Sidewalk weekend

Beginning of Sidewalk weekend

2013 Sidewalk Film Festival

2013 Sidewalk Film Festival

Proud & happy at Sidewalk after our Bubble screening!

Proud & happy at Sidewalk after our Bubble screening!

Filmmaker friends at the Sidewalk Film Festival

Filmmaker friends at the Sidewalk Film Festival

Mirror Lake & Mt. Hood

Mirror Lake & Mt. Hood

First day in Portland.

First day in Portland.

Hike up to Mirror Lake

Hike up to Mirror Lake

At our Portland Air Bnb

At our Portland Air Bnb

Seattle

Seattle

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! What a big week!!! This Saturday, Bubble will premiere at the Sidewalk Film Festival at 11 a.m. on the Carver Theater screen. If you plan to come, get there early so you have a seat! This block usually fills up. So many filmmaker friends will be arriving in town as early as Thursday for the whole weekend, just like a big family reunion. It’s one of the happiest times of the year. I hope to see you there.

I got some disappointing news on Friday regarding my feature screenplay. It knew it was a long shot – but I didn’t progress to the second round of the Sundance script competition. I spent a day or two thinking about what that really meant… and honestly, it doesn’t mean anything. The entry was based on five pages of the script, an artist statement, bios and cover letter. I really think they are looking for projects from higher profile writer/directors, which means I just need to keep on trying. So once I was done feeling down about the disappointment, I started to plan my next steps. Of course, I am going to continue refining the script. It is really getting to an exciting place that I feel energized about. After talking to James, I am going to wait a few more months before submitting it to any more writing competitions to get it to a more completed place. Also, there is the idea to make a short film out of a segment of the screenplay as a sample of what the longer piece would look and feel like. If that happens, it will more than likely be late winter/early spring of next year. That might be a smart thing to do… and I know just the part of the story I will use. Also, James has been working on his own short film project that we hope to execute in the near future as well. We will swap roles for this – he will direct and I will produce. Should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited to see what he ends up creating.

I find myself questioning what makes a good film director… is it the person with the most overall knowledge of technical and creative techniques? Or is it the person with the most passion and ambition to see a project to completion? Like any other profession, there are always variances in approach. But what kind am I? I feel like I have a lot to learn, but there is plenty of will there to keep moving forward. Would I be happy just writing? I wish I could be, but I think I love the whole process too much. I really, really need to start shadowing people on their own projects and reading more about things I am less familiar with. I want to take workshops on how best to work with actors. So much to learn, I feel. But isn’t that the the best part of something you truly love?

With Krista & Wendy - two great ATL friends. <3

With Krista & Wendy – two great ATL friends. <3

 

What a week… so many things up in the air, and still waiting for some of the cards to fall. It’s an interesting thing to watch yourself (and others) in slow motion, which has been my experience in the past few days. I’ve thought several times that I had no control over events to come, but that was never really the case. Last night I spoke to someone who became an unlikely mentor. She strengthened my spirit and perspective, which I am forever grateful for. This morning I woke up with a new attitude, and therefore, new opportunity. That drastically changed things. You know who you are – thank you.

I am still waiting on some big news this week about my script. I know ultimately I will be fine either way…I can still make things happen with or without that boost (though, that would be a pretty big boost!). I will know by Friday, so literally any minute. Please send the posi vibes my way! I am almost done with the revisions from Charles and Carrie Beth. Those two put in a lot of work editing it up, and I’m enjoying making the upgrades. This weekend it will go to three more people for notes.

Through challenges sometimes comes our best gifts. They can be the push we need to take action where we otherwise might be too comfortable to do so. I am a great believer in the master plan…whoever and whatever is in control of that. Maybe we are ultimately in charge without ever even knowing it. It’s hard to say. There may still be a dash of fate and chance mixed along in with the map of our lives. Sometimes crazy things happen. Sometimes amazing things happen. All I know is when I feel happy and fulfilled, the tougher times are worth it. 100%. I hope you feel that way too about your own life. Onward & upward! Always. :)

Vero's drawing of us at Art on the Rocks!

Vero’s drawing of us at Art on the Rocks!

A note from Charles on my feature screenplay.

A note from Charles on my feature screenplay.

James at Sloss Furnace

James at Sloss Furnace

Trail running at Ruffner Mountain.

Trail running at Ruffner Mountain.

Me at Sloss Furnace.

Me at Sloss Furnace.

I had an unexpected happy moment this week when I decided to ride my bike down to Avondale Park after work on Monday. I wasn’t biking for the exercise, just for the enjoyment of being outside. Once I arrived at the park, I took a seat in one of my favorite places in Birmingham – the Avondale amphitheater. I got out my blue notebook that’s reserved for ideas only and started to scribble. I had Arcade Fire Pandora playing beside me, and also a little line of marching ants nearby. I sat there for a while and thought about what I wanted, then wrote it down. I watched people walk back and forth by the pond, and the ducks swim peacefully. It was a great moment. Quiet time is good.

Monday I met with my dear friends Charles and Carrie Beth, who had just finished up reading my feature script. They both marked up their own copies and returned them to me full of ideas and notes. Today I am going to take a stab at going through them and organizing my game plan. Charles is a magazine editor by day, and also wrote a book last year called Fading Ads of Birmingham. Carrie Beth is an English teacher and avid reader. They were perfect for the job, and I can’t thank them enough for the time they put into helping me out. My goal is to have a revised draft by early next week, then it’s off to a few more select proof readers.

Since the last time I wrote, Bubble’s been accepted into two more film festivals – the Orlando Film Festival and Cincinnati Film Festival! The truly remarkable thing is that these have been based on rough cuts so far. Bubble will be completely finished early next week, just in time for Sidewalk. This Sunday we are having a private cast & crew screening to thank them for all of their hard work. I am so proud of how it’s turned out, and I can’t wait for people to start seeing it. And today we’ve officially launched the website for Bubble, which was created by James Martin and Dan Gavin. It is absolutely fantastic. There you can see our festival acceptances as they happen, and also our IMDb page.

This past weekend I had the privilege of watching St. Paul and the Broken Bones again, this time in Atlanta. It’s inspiring to see any artist succeed in their own medium, which they are definitely doing. Pretty soon they will be a household name, and we’ve been lucky enough to see them front row & center two times now. I screamed so much that I thought I was going to be hoarse the next day. Their music is full of passion and feeling….which is always the best kind of art to make.

Avondale Amphitheater

Avondale Amphitheater

Me.

Me.

Final sound mixing and score for Bubble.

Final sound mixing and score for Bubble.

Biking to work!

Biking to work!

I found a bb in a Van Gogh painting.

I found a bb in a Van Gogh painting.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at The Earl in ATL this past weekend.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at The Earl in ATL this past weekend.

This week something big happens: Bubble will be finished! Well, except for the color correction and a few bonus special effects that are just additional icing on the cake. It’s been heavily worked on for several months now, all to get us to this very moment. We have a pretty big post production team (five people not including James and myself), all working on their own bits and pieces individually and as a whole. Not to mention we are about to launch a website this week as well, so there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m so excited to have this project in one pretty little package. What an awesome team… I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve done.

I’ve been thinking about what I will do with my time once Bubble is officially in the festival circuit, and my feature film also written. I definitely have several drafts left of my feature script left to complete, so that will take another month to iron out. I guess a lot rides on whether or not my script gets recognized in any competitions/labs. There are a few  that I will submit to in the coming months, and I have a big pending one out there (should hear back between August 1 & 15). I also have another really great idea for a feature, but I don’t think the time is right just yet to start devoting energy to it. There are still other things left that need my time and focus. Maybe by the end of the year I can start thinking about that new script. The ultimate goal is to be a strategic and effective filmmaker, because the purpose of it all is for people to actually experience these stories in their intended medium.

So many components go into being successful at something, especially personal pursuits. Besides being good at what you do and having passion for it, I believe branding/marketing is the next most important thing. How are people hearing about your project/initiative/idea? It needs to be aggressive enough that people know about it, and thus interested, but not too much that it turns them off. You need to find your audience and voice, then use it often. It’s unfortunately true that what’s out of sight is out of mind. There is a lot of trial and error that goes into marketing, with the ultimate goal of finding the right balance and technique. Brand your project, and maybe even more importantly, brand yourself. The good news it that it’s fun work. Once you establish your brand, then decide your plan of action – both short-term and long-term. It’s ok if you have to modify as you go, but you at least need a initial map to get from point A to point B. Most important of all, be excited about what you’re doing! Because if you’re not, no one else will be either.

So far I’ve been failing at my commitment to bike to work twice this week. That really only leave tomorrow & Thursday, so I better start getting with the program. :) I know I would love it if I would just DO it. James has already started biking more to meetings & events that are close enough from his house. I know that me-time would add so much to my quality of daily life. Plus, burning those extra calories never hurt anyone. Be looking for a confirmation photo tomorrow on my Instagram feed to see if I can live up to my goal…

Happy Birthday Christy!! :D

Happy Birthday Christy!! :D

Spaghetti Pizza made by James and me.

Spaghetti Pizza made by James and me.

Photo shoot location for work on 18th N near the train station.

Photo shoot location for work on 18th N near the train station.

 

Happy Friday! I am excited about the sunshine and weekend. Vero and Melissa are coming up to ATL tonight through Sunday for a little vacation time, and tomorrow James and I head to Columbus, GA for the day to celebrate my sister Christy’s birthday. In our family, hardly a month goes by with someone turning a year older. That’s the beauty of having a large family, so we always seem to have a reason to get together.

I would love to start biking more. Next week I want to commit to riding my bike to work for two days. I am about four miles away, but the real issue is the hills (and therefore sweat).  Also, do I wear my work clothes? Where do I put my bike once I get here? These are all excuses I’ve used in the past for not doing it, plus the fact that I would have to get up a little earlier in the morning (and I’m a sleeeeeeper). I think I would enjoy making the effort, so I am going to give it a shot. Plus the exercise always does my spirit good. There is something about a nice bike ride to get your mind in the right spot.

Last night I took on a little mini art project – I drew James’ face in crosshatch. I love doing any kind of fine art, it is relaxing and gives my brain something fun to focus on. I don’t really do much hands-on art anymore other than film work or computer driven activities. I’d like to change that though as nothing really compares to making something manually. I love precision and trust. There is never a time when I’m creating something that I don’t question if I’ve ruined it at several points…which to me is a great exercise in perseverance. Even in mediums where you can’t erase a mistake, there is usually a way to make it work. (Make it work!! – Tim Gunn)

I hear myself saying this phrase a lot: “If only ____ would happen, then I will be completely happy.” If only, if only, if only. The biggest load of crap statement out there. I have every reason to be super pumped about the way things are right now. This way of thinking is an easy trap for those of us trying to attain goals or dreams. Yes, I do want to one day make a feature film. Does that mean I am incomplete until that happens, absolutely not. Wanting more for yourself and others that you love is a fantastic trait…but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t already experiencing wonderful things. To evolve and change is to be human. But to appreciate and become aware, those are invaluable acquired skills.

A drawing I did of James this week.

A drawing I did of James this week.

Biking with Vero. Nothing like catching some wind as the sun goes down.

Biking with Vero. Nothing like catching some wind as the sun goes down.

So many things to write about today! First, it was a lovely weekend in Atlanta. We didn’t do anything too terribly exciting, just hung around the house and did some work to spruce it up a bit. It’s nice to get things in order… I’m a firm believer that if your energy is off at home, then it will send other things off course in your life. Right now I have two places I call home – Birmingham and Atlanta. I feel like I am getting the best of both worlds at the moment, which I have no complaints about. It’s actually kind of cool that they are only 2 hours apart from each other.  Sometimes I don’t even feel like James and I have a long distance relationship, maybe it’s because it is all we’ve ever known. I just feel really lucky to have him in my life, even if I don’t get to see him every day. I know one day that will get to change though, and it will be the beginning of a new chapter.

Speaking of James, he has already given me back notes on my feature script! I feel really good about his reactions to it as a whole, in fact, he didn’t have much criticism at all. I chose him to read it first for several reasons, the main one being that I knew he would give honest feedback. So to get such a positive review really made me happy. He did have several suggestions that would give it more meat, and I’m already knee-deep in incorporating those ideas. I plan to pass off the second draft to my friends Charles and Carrie Beth Buchanan tomorrow, and have a solid third draft by next week.

Yesterday I got to meet an accidental hero of mine – Erika Napoletano (Redhead Writing). My friends Jonathan and Shelby heard her speak at a New Orleans conference in January, and they came back raving about her. I already knew so much about Erika without even hearing a word from her mouth. It just so happened that yesterday I volunteered at Y’all Connect, here in Birmingham, and she happened to be one of the main speakers. Once I finished my early morning shift, I quickly went up two flights of stairs to listen to her first talk. I luckily caught the intro, where she explained a big motivating factor in her passion for life – the loss of her true love.  It made me cry to hear her talk about the beauty he brought into her life, only to leave it so fast. But don’t get me wrong… this chick isn’t about the sweet and sappy. She drops the f-bomb about every other word and preaches about the power of being unpopular.  You should really check her out, and if she’s ever speaking near you… make it a point to go and see her. She is hero status for me because she is not afraid of being 100% Erika, even if you don’t like it.

This week Bubble will have an official website! Thank you Dan & James for making that a reality. The film itself is almost done as well… so close we can touch it. We also have some fun ideas for the Four x Productions blog, which I’m excited to kick off later today. We are going to feature different people from our cast and crew on Bubble, because each of them is fascinating in their own way. They all shared very specific gifts to make this project a reality. Check back later today to see the first post!

Today’s post is already on the long side… but I didn’t want to end it without first throwing out a mention to my friend David Graves. This guy is super inspiring, especially if you love running like I do. Further Faster Forever named him athlete of the week, which you can read about here. You should also check out his blog, he is always sharing inspirational stories. A few years back he made some significant life changes that were against the odds. I am so proud of him for the person he has become today. Check him out!

When you least expect it...

When you least expect it…

The cafe at Freshfully is now open!

The cafe at Freshfully is now open!

Y'all Connect! Photo with Erika Napoletano (Redhead Writing) and my friends Javacia & Tanya.

Y’all Connect! Photo with Erika Napoletano (Redhead Writing) and my friends Javacia & Tanya.

Birmingham's Best Blog 2011

Birmingham's Best Blog Finalist 2012

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 252 other followers

The Jen West Quest Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 252 other followers