I’ve got a lot of great people in my life. I’m so damn lucky in that regard. Life has felt a little heavy lately, as it can for everyone from time to time, and I need not look far for a hug or positive words from someone I care about.

I think I’ve been in a cloud because I’ve been completely emerged in writing a new feature script. I’ve had to reach deep on this one to some dark places. It’s also been a lot of fun. This script combines my experiences as a child living on Arabian horse farms (where my mom & dad worked) with a completely fictional narrative. However, there are personal details woven in that’s forced me to explore a more complex side of life. I’m really proud of my first draft. It’s called A Kind of Creature.

There are some potentially exciting things on the horizon for Electric Bleau. We will see how the next few weeks unfold, but a new light might be emerging. My biggest obstacle with finding funding for this film has been the fact that I haven’t directed a feature yet. So while things come together for EB, I’m considering finding a way to make my newest script first. I’m not sure yet what our budget will be (definitely micro-budget range), or how all the pieces will come together, but I think it’s a smart consideration. I think generating activity only leads to more activity. And having experience never hurt anyone. I plan to pursue aggressively.

I’m looking forward to stepping away from my computer this weekend to help finalize Eldon for his first public appearance next weekend at the Georgia Tiny House Festival.  I’ll have paintbrush in hand, finishing up the fine woodwork James has been crafting. It’s a real RV now! You can follow our progress on Facebook or Instagram. We are about to have some epic adventures behind the wheel.

My dream for 2017 is to work hard and adventure harder. I have high expectations for myself in film this year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make forward movement. On the adventure side, I have visions of Eldon in the Northwest. I’d love nothing more than to park him beside a tall snowcapped mountain range, with no one else in sight. Off the radar button, engage!

Last but not least, I had a wonderful birthday! Thanks to everyone who sent me well-wishes. I enjoyed seeing all of them. It’s nice to feel loved.

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Galentine’s Day

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Evening with my girls.

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Producing on my friend Robyn’s short, Nobody’s Darling.

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Eldon stretching his legs.

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James in Savannah ❤

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Our AirBnb room in Savannah.

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Birthday celebrations!

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Crab legs were a special birthday request. Thanks Wendy!

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Special birthday card from Vero.

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Lucy, Owen and Abi throw bread for the geese.

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Rachel and Gabriel.

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Nighttime walk with James & Cilantro in our neighborhood.

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High tea!

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Can I please have this chair?

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James took me on a quick surprise trip to Savannah!

I got a note from The Universe this morning:

Do you ever feel nostalgic for the good old days, Jennifer? Before this life began, when you buzzed with happy talk, walked on happy feet, and loved with happy friends obsessed with one thing and one thing only… the possibilities, the challenges, and the adventures; the scares, the dares, and the comebacks; the glories, the miracles, and the triumphs that would all be made possible once you became Jennifer West?

Well, yeah, I suppose not.

Welcome to the highest heights,
The Universe

I LOVE getting these emails. You can too by signing up here. I’ve been receiving them since December of last year, and I always open the second they arrive in my inbox. They make me think about my value and potential. Most importantly, they make me feel excited about life.

This particular note reminded me of what it feels like to be right out of high school through my early 20’s. The possibilities were grand, and I had a whole life ahead of me to accomplish my dreams. The greatest thrill of all was the unknown.

I still have that, but I see more clearly what happens with specific actions. The unknown appears to be a little more predictable. Sometimes it takes the mystery out of life… but I’ve also learned that I can still be surprised. I think it’s important to remember that the possibilities are never-ending, no matter what age you are. Your life isn’t a template. No one is making you do the same thing every day, or forcing you to make certain decisions. We can sculpt our existence into anything we want, by using the means in which we have access to.

My 38th birthday is next week. I always have existential revelations that accompany turning another year older. 40 is around the corner, and boy, am I ever aware of that. Have I done all I wanted to do by then? What will my 40’s look like? What does it mean to be a 40-something year old woman? I feel getting older is a little bit different from a man’s experience. Though I have fears, I also know that I will define what every life milestone looks like for me. I believe I will excel in my professional life at that time. I want to kick some serious ass. I want to take care of my body, well-being, and soak in all the good stuff like a sponge. I want to create real works of art, especially in film.

At the beginning of the year I wrote down future life milestones that I hope to reach, all the way into my 80’s. Guys – life doesn’t end until your dead in the ground. And even then, you still linger around with all those people you’ve touched. I never want to stop making, creating, and living. When I was a child, I knew my 38th year would be a big one. I still think that. This is my time. But I also want to create new goals for myself further down the road. It makes me happy to visualize myself at 85 and what I’ll be doing at that time.

Never stop.

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It’s really hard not to turn this entry into a political post, as that’s what’s weighing the most on my mind this week. We are in scary times, y’all. If what’s happened in the last few days isn’t a sign of what is to come, and it doesn’t terrify you to your core, then I don’t know what will. Gag orders on environmental agencies, climate change information taken down from the government website, the LGBT page stripped as well, press intimidation, lies being presented as alternative truths, women’s rights already compromised, false illegal voting allegations, impending healthcare disaster, religious superiority, race superiority, unqualified cabinet nominees, world isolation… let me know if you need any more reasons to be worried. This spells OPPRESSION. Welcome to the Trump administration.

If you are interested in being a proactive voice of change, here are 99 ways to fight Trump.

Despite all of that, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom since I last wrote. Starting on January 15th, I planned 7 days of epic surprises for James’ 30th birthday week. First on the list was a trip to Banff, Canada. It was surprisingly affordable and stunning in every way. I got the idea from my sister Christy, who was going for my brother-in-law’s birthday the same week. We were able to spend some time with them while we were there, which made it extra special. It was a magical winter wonderland! I hear it’s also a beautiful place to visit in the summer. I highly recommend if you’re the outdoors type.

Next up was a surprise birthday party – which I thought for sure he’d figure out. I told him that I was making a special dinner that night, and to come home at 7 (instead of his usual 6:30) from work. When he came in, I was holding a cake and starting singing Happy Birthday, and then people started coming out of closets, bathrooms, and from outside to join in. He was truly surprised! Last but not least, his mom and dad popped in for his actual birthday day. He had no idea that they would be here. They made a delicious fish fry and lots of poker was played. Happy 30th birthday James!

So how is 2017 going so far? Aside from politics, surprisingly well. I have a lot of hope for what’s to come. Big things are coming our way professionally, and I think Eldon the bus is going to take us on many an adventure. I’m ready to work hard and fully expect to put that energy into worthwhile projects. I’m ready for what the universe is going to bring.

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I LIED!!! Of course there will be one more post before the end of the year… because I live for TJWQ flashbacks and quests.

This post will be extra posi b/c we have a new Run the Jewels record blasting on 10 and I’m in my fuzzy leopard house robe. Cherry on top: I’m officially on the upswing from a super nasty cold.

2016 Flashbacks
1. I was the first-ever person to produce two short projects accepted in the same year at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival.
2. We purchased a school bus named Eldon to convert into an RV.
3. We lost Baby Kitty, a treasured family member for nine years. We rescued Furenze, a frisky and wild-at-heart fur ball.
4. We raised $28,500 for Electric Bleau development funds, which paid for (among other critical items) five original song recordings written by AJ Haynes of the Seratones. Read more and listen here.
5. We served thousands of Sazeracs. No exaggeration. From the Oxford Film Festival (our debut!), Atlanta Film Festival, Chattanooga Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Flyway Film Festival, Bend Film Festival, and last but certainly not least, the Cucalorus Film Festival, many unique experiences were created around our short doc The New Orleans Sazerac.
6. We did our thing. We traveled and explored beyond expectations. Bonnaroo 2016 was another classic year, and possibly our last without Eldon. It’s almost tear-worthy to imagine air conditioning at our favorite music festival. We traveled Oregon from top to bottom, and fell in love. We pranced around France and Amsterdam with help from some great sponsors and dear friends. We also bounced around the Southeast like it was a hot potato.
7. My second nephew was born to my sister Rachel – Gabriel. He is a beautiful and healthy baby boy.

2017 Quests
1. THE 217 QUEST. I am not going to fully define what this quest is publicly, as it’s highly personal and an internal passage. However, I will be posting a photo a day on my Instagram of things that make me happy throughout the year. 2017 is very special to me.
2. I want to make Electric Bleau. After the latest pass of the script, I know it’s time. Everything is in place, we just need the funding. Bring it!
3. I want to partake in an esteemed lab to further my creative development.
4. I want to finish another feature-length script and package it.
5. I want to shadow a great director or two on their own projects.
6. I want to create The City Cocktail with James.
7. I want to explore the US in Eldon with James & Cilantro.
8. I want to be healthy, happy and strong.
9. I want to accomplish a physical goal of my choosing. Pick it, train for it, and focus on it. I think a sprint triathlon would be wonderful.
10. Write in a daily, private journal.

That’s it!

2016 was the fifth anniversary of The Jen West Quest. This is my 973rd post, and overall I’ve had 402,187 views and almost 38,000 visitors. That’s a lot of blogging, and a lot of people paying attention. I will hit 1,000 posts in 2017. I should plan something special for the occasion!

I’ve gone back through past end-of-year posts to see that some of my quests/hopes never were never realized. I also see that most of my best flashbacks/highlights could have never been predicted. Things rarely go according to plan, which is the most exciting thing of all.

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It’s hard to commit to new initiatives in December. I’ve had a few false starts in attempts to start something before the January resolutions. 2017 is a big year for me. For someone as obsessed with numbers as myself, having a year with every lucky number you have is a big deal. My birthday is February 17, thus the 217. When I see that number out in the universe, I take it as a direct sign. Magical thinking at it’s best. But if there was ever a way to communicate with myself from the future, that’s a guaranteed direct line to my attention.

My focus isn’t so much on my exact birthday next year – 2/17/2017 – as compared to the whole year itself. I want big things. So much so, that I want to start on these items early. But I’ve decided that I should probably try to take a chill pill for most of December. I did pull the trigger on my #217quest though six days ago, which is a multi-level challenge to bring greater happiness to my life in 2017.

Level one is a photo a day on Instagram of something that brought happiness to my day. I think this will be all I fully take on through the rest of the year. Level 2 will be to incorporate more creative writing into my daily life, perhaps one hour a day with the option to do more if I’m on a roll. This will help me accomplish my next feature-length script, plus another revision of Electric Bleau. Both are very important goals to me. I’d like to start this before the end of the year after easing into it.

There are two remaining levels: Level 3 will be health focused – bringing exercise back into my life and also healthy eating habits. Level 4 is financial security. This could happen at any point in the 217 Quest. I want 2017 to be a profitable year in my creative pursuits, and with that I want to eradicate debt while forming a nest egg.

Looking at all of these goals at once is a little overwhelming, but as a step-by-step process it’s not so bad. I started an online private journal on Penzu a few weeks ago to help keep myself in line with these desires.

I’d like to go through 2017 a little more financially secure, on track with career goals, all while appreciating my body and savoring good health. I also want to recognize all that is already wonderful in my life by having a daily Instagram moment of reflection.

2016 was a mixed bag. In my personal and professional life, things were more than great. James and I went on so many trips and celebrated big accomplishments. We bought a bus to start an RV conversion that we plan to finish early next year. We got to go to the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase with TWO projects. Seeds were planted for some of our biggest career projects hopefully to come in the next year. There were sad moments too – the loss of a beloved cat that was like a best friend, the election, and general overwhelm when things were just too much (which was more often than I’d like). Overall though, it was a lovely 365 days and I’m grateful for them.

I may not write again in 2016. I want a short to-do list as I focus on myself for the rest of the year. But, you’ll be hearing a lot from me in 2017… that’s a guarantee. Sometimes a little hibernation is required before jumping in with all that you have.

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Furenza is majestic.

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Sometimes a girl’s night is all you need, and a badass view of the city.

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Cilantro adventures around the city.

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Dorito and daddy time.

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How is this dog so cute?

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My nephew Owen’s 3rd birthday.

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Cilantro on a chilly walk in Atlanta.

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The Highlands with my parents.

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Scaly Mountain.

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Atlanta Film Fatales Chapter.

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A row to represent each year of our lives together.

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Teacakes! Photo by my mom @jamiejean916 on Instagram.

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Photo by Josh Self of the Ellis Christmas Party (mom’s side)

It’s been almost six weeks since my last post, which is very unusual for me. A lot has happened since then so I’ll try to summarize it all up the best I can.

We lost our sweet Baby Kitty, who I’ve had for the last nine years of my life. She was one of my best friends and a dedicated companion. She loved me with all her little heart, and I loved her with all of mine. I hope I gave her the life that she deserved, as she filled mine with joy.

A few weeks after BK’s passing, we decided to adopt another baby into the family from the Atlanta Humane Society. Her name is Furenza, and she’s a wild loving spirit. She came down with some shelter funk almost immediately but she’s close to being well again. She fits in well and I’m happy to have a full house again.

We’ve been traveling a TON. I’m actually writing this from the road as we head back from the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, NC. As always, it was a one of a kind experience. You just can’t replicate what happens at that festival anywhere else. It’s a creative landmine. James runs the Cuctails program of which there were 12 events this year in two days, including a secret speakeasy and a filmmaker cocktail competition. I also screened Daggers, an original song/music video for my upcoming feature film Electric Bleau. Since I last wrote we’ve also been to The New Orleans Film Festival, Bend Film Festival in Oregon and Flyway Film Festival in Wisconsin. We unfortunately had to miss Indie Memphis due to unforeseen circumstances, but we heard the screening of Daggers went great.

Even though we were surrounded by love and excitement this past weekend, it did feel like we were in a bubble of sorts away from reality. The drive up was very somber as the election happened the night before. We felt so heavy and concerned. Erica Anderson from Seed&Spark and I ended up putting together a small group while at Cucalorus as a safe space for people to talk about the election. It was super helpful and therapeutic. I left with some new friends and a plan of action. It’s going to be a scary four years, especially with the team Trump is surrounding himself with. With all of that being said, I still have tremendous hope and will continue to stand up for what I believe in. I value acceptance, tolerance, and freedom to be who you are. I’m not going to live each day wishing that these four years would fly by… instead I’m going to wake up and do what I can, while focusing on myself and those that I love. I have a life to live. I have statements to make. Fights to fight. The show must go on.

As we near Thanksgiving, I have many things to be thankful for. A promising career, beautiful family, the most amazing friends, a comfortable home, three sweet furbabies, and projects/goals that make me feel alive. 2017 will be a year of climbing to the tallest peaks, both internally and externally. I have a lot to explore within myself. My favorite future game given to me this year (from Erica) was that my film projects would follow close behind the path that I blaze towards self discovery. What I give to myself will be rewarded with a clearer path to my dreams. I’ll take it.

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Baby Kitty

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Baby Kitty

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Furenza, our newest family member.

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I know sometimes my blog paints a picture of rainbows, sunshine, and eternal optimism. Some people probably wonder how can things be that good, all of the time? Well, if you look deep enough into my blog, you will certainly see times where things weren’t as shiny. In fact, it was downright dark and grim. Even now, there are struggles and obstacles. But if I’m being completely honest, things are really, really wonderful too. I also believe that what you put out into the universe comes back in some way, and the energy you create is literally the only fuel moving you forward. That includes what you put out in social media.

On another, completely random note… WTAF is going on with the astrological signs shifting? I’m gonna need Susan Miller to chime in on this one (and if she has already I’d love the link). I adore astrology, I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m still an aquarius by definition of the new dates, but it literally shifted the charts by almost a month. Geez Louise.

I’m now finished with that feature film that I was learning on with my friend Molly, and I find myself with an open calendar again. I’ve been making a list of goals and timelines therein, which makes me all giddy inside. I’m back to graphic design and writing freelance again as my source of income. I’m also balls deep into Electric Bleau stuffs, which has never ceased to be the case. In the beginning we were told it would take time and tremendous energy to see full funding happen, and boy they weren’t kidding. However, with some major elbow grease and persistence, things are happening. Wheels are turning. She is coming to life. And I’m never going to give up. I also believe that once we have this first feature film under our belts, funding for future projects will be somewhat easier… as long as we prove ourselves to be capable. Which I have zero doubts about.

For those who helped make Little Cabbage possible a few years back, you can now watch it online! This is exciting for us, as it’s had a great festival run (including winning an award at one of our fav fests). If you could watch it, and give it a little heart on Vimeo, I’d be forever grateful. We also sent out a big Four x update via email yesterday, which you can view in your browser here.

Next week we are heading to the Bend Film Festival and then the following weekend to the New Orleans Film Festival, all for The New Orleans Sazerac. We basically had to pay for the flights to and from, then everything else is mostly covered (housing provided by both fests, and usually you can find free food easily). I’m lucky that I can do my job from the road, and James’ work is pretty flexible as well. So our Instagrams are about to basically blow up your feeds starting on 10/6.

A few things before I go:
-You can always read my Electric Bleau updates on the S&S blog. They go up about once a month.
-Have you liked the Electric Bleau FB page? If not, that would be a very helpful thing for us. I try to keep content fresh and flowing.
-Keep following Eldon the Bus’s progress! We are taking him on his first camping trip this weekend. He isn’t done yet, but close enough. Plus, the weather is going to be glorious.

Last note: Just know that when October 1 hits and all of the Roku/Netflix/Amazon Prime branding and programming goes into Halloween mode, that I will be dancing in my living room in pure joy.

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Daggers, the first original song for Electric Bleau, is kicking ass and taking names.

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Shadowing director Molly Coffee on the upcoming season of Fear Haus.

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Happy Birthday JamieJean916!

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Fall is on the way, I can feel it in my bones! James and I went to a corn maze opening this past Saturday, and there was almost no one there. We got a private hayride and over five miles of corn mazes all to ourselves. Besides not wearing the appropriate footwear, it was a lot of fun. (Note: Sandals are not a good choice for freshly tilled ground.) 🙂

I love fall festivals, Halloween happenings, and the general spirit of football returning. I do not watch football myself, but it just feels right to see it playing on TVs everywhere we go. Everyone has an extra kick in their step as the promise of cooler weather becomes the real thing. Bring it on.

I’ve been working on a film for the past 5 weeks or so assisting my friend Molly Coffee in the art department on a project similar in size to what Electric Bleau will be. It’s been a great learning experience on many fronts. There will be a S&S post coming out soon documenting all that I’ve learned, so stay tuned for more insights.

Speaking of Electric Bleau, big steps are still being taken with forward momentum. We just finalized our PPM with Stacey Davis, which has been passed off to a few select parties/entities. Send all the posi vibes!! Our hopes are to film next spring.

The New Orleans Sazerac continues its run this fall at the New Orleans Film Festival in Louisiana and BendFilm Festival in Oregon, and hopefully a few more. We will also be making our way up to Cucalorus in November as James is heading up the Cuctails program again for the second year! It was at Cucalorus last year where we first debuted The New Orleans Sazerac as a secret screening.

In case you’re not following our bus project, you are missing out on some big things! The Eldon just got his official Georgia registration as an RV + tag. We got to stage the inside to make him look like a real home. He isn’t done quite yet, but we are getting closer and closer. You can follow him on Instagram or on the official website.

I’m hopeful that the second half of this year will hold a lot of positive career and personal milestones. The first half of 2016 has been kind. I feel like the older I get, the faster things seem to fly by. I want to be intentional in my day-to-day appreciation of small moments, of the process. I already shared on FB this week, but in case you missed there is a great article by Stacey London out on Refinery29 that you must read about women and age. It applies to everyone, really. I’m only 37, but I find that I already relate to a lot of her insights. It’s a refreshing read for those of you might find some inspiration out of it.

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A few months ago I realized something pretty awesome – that I made my first short film, Piece of Cake, ten years ago. 2006 was the year that I decided that I would write and direct my own project, after years of helping others execute their own in various capacities.

I’ve told the story before on here, but it all happened when I noticed a screenwriting class offered by Elizabeth Hunter (then Elizabeth Bradley) at WorkPlay in Birmingham, AL. I was a little hesitant in my abilities as a writer, but a few words from Elizabeth made me confident enough to give it a go. I ended the course with the screenplay for Piece of Cake, which I then went on to make with my friend Alison Britt (producer & star).

It was an ambitious first project. We hired Mo Rocca to play a lead role, and we raised a good bit of money to make the film (through old-fashioned methods, as Kickstarter formed a few years later). We mailed letters, wrote emails, scheduled face-to-face meetings, and had fundraising events. Those were different times, and in the not-so-distant past.

We made the film in the best way we knew how, and we were proud of the end piece. It’s no where near my best work, but it was my starting point. I was a professional wedding videographer at the time, so a lot of the script was based on things in my then current life. Also a fun fact – my sister Rachel played one of the bridesmaids! 🙂

I ultimately don’t show it in my director’s reel nor my portfolio of work. Mostly because it doesn’t align with what I consider my style/voice to be now, plus let’s be honest, I was a real newbie at writing/directing. But I’m still very proud of it, and wouldn’t trade the experiences or lessons for anything. I tracked down some NPR interviews from that time that you can listen to here, and I’ve got some old photos from MySpace which are now on FB (aka they are teeny tiny in size). I wish I had taken better care to keep track of all the making-of and press bits. There was also an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary made by the wonderful Rebecca Sansom, but I can’t for the life of me find it. I’ll keep digging.

This is an appropriate week to reminisce about this special anniversary, as the 18th Annual Sidewalk Film Festival starts this Thursday. It was here that Piece of Cake first premiered at the Alabama Theater, and won the Audience Choice Award. I plan to do a silent cheers to mark the occasion. I look forward to seeing what the next 10 years will bring!

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I can honestly say that I was never familiar with the phrase “good in a room” until we started developing Electric Bleau. But since that time, it’s a concept that’s taken over my brain. “Good in a room” means a lot of things – your ability to pitch well, managing perception, down to being invited into the room in the first place. The room can be anywhere a critical conversation is taking place about your project – a restaurant, an office, a boardroom, or even an unexpected scenario like sitting next to a stranger on a plane. If you find yourself pitching your project to an individual who can make things happen, then you’ve found yourself in the room.

I’ve heard that Kevin Spacey started off his film career being good in a room. His friends would take him to big meetings and he would help sell the concept. This led to him finding great opportunities as an actor, of course, which is how most of us know him today. I think that’s really interesting.

Am I good in a room? I’m no Kevin Spacey, but I think I’m decent. I’m definitely getting better with practice. After having lunch with a good friend in the industry earlier this week, he said something that stuck with me – every good filmmaker knows first and foremost that it’s all a business. Is that disheartening for all of the creatives out there? I don’t think so. And he is right. If you don’t understand the business side – why people make certain decisions, why it’s important to take steps in a certain order (in a multitude of areas), why being told “no” is just a part of the process, then you probably aren’t cut out to make it. It’s not easy out there, that’s for sure. That’s also why success is so sweet when it strikes.

Things are moving along with Electric Bleau. Not to disclose too much (I have a S&S blog update coming out soon with more details) but some avenues are opening up. Most of the things on legal side are still a learning curve for me, but luckily we have wonder-woman Stacey Davis on our side. I’m so grateful for her. I will share that S&S link once it’s live.

This weekend I’m going to spend a lot of time writing – Electric Bleau updates and on another feature that we are lining up. After watching Stranger Things, which filled me and so many others with all kinds of excitement, I can say that I’m officially tempted by the idea of creating a series. I might play around with that soon too. Stranger Things was also a huge validation on the public’s interest in content inspired by the 80’s. Electric Bleau is also set in that same era, and in line with some creative thoughts that we’ve developed. It’s also pretty cool that the series was shot in Atlanta. Goes to show that you don’t need to be in LA to create successful content.

Last but not least – we shot a music video for the Seratones! It’s in post right now with the fantastic team at Moonshine. Stay tuned for that to be completed in the next month or so.

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