Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So I Was Interviewed...

The ever so talented Cindy Rodriguez asked if I would do an interview for a blog based on my production of LINKED. Sure, not a problem. But I must add that being on the opposite end of an interview is a new experience for me. How do you think I did? (Click on the photo below to be directed to the interview.) Thanks again to Cindy for supporting and promoting :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Tremulous Relationship with Creativity

I've been a fiction writer for as long as I can remember. I think it started when my babysitter/aunt would take me on day trips to the park and then have me write about the experience when I returned. Those short descriptions morphed into full on 25 page manuscripts by the time I was 11, and then 100+ pages when I was 17. There was only one consistent problem; I could never finish anything I started. I had all these great ideas that would include starting and end points, but it was the middle that befuddled me. It was the middle that would haunt me.

That's probably why writing "LINKED" made me hyperventilate.

In its first stages LINKED was just a short film thought up by my friend Pablo and I. Once we filmed it though, it took on a life of its own. People thought it was a webseries and wanted to see more. So, I did what I've always done; started writing with no clear path as to where I was headed. I think I had a short moment where I lived the parallel life of a "Lost" writer. Further turbulence came with the loss of Pablo who had to move away from the project in order to focus on his new engagement and other pieces of his life. Without a director or camera, the project seemed finished without having really started. I was about to forget the whole thing when Jona (Jaime's long time friend and talented horror director) showed interest.

It wasn't until late summer, maybe even September, that I was able to meet with him and chat in person. I told him my beginning, my end, and the flurries of middledom that had no clear landing spots. And he helped. He helped me rule out the things that didn't make sense, that didn't fit the plot, and pull together the things that did. By the end of the meeting I had a storyboard going and all I needed to do was write the dialogue.

I transferred all my bootleg Word doc/scripts to a real script writing program and prepared my own crash course on how to write scripts properly. Over the course of 2 days I pumped out the remaining 8 episodes equalling about 80-85 pages, with little corrections and "What if Gabe said this" moments from Jaime which were very helpful. My friend Henry jumped in to edit tweaks in the first few episodes and entirely edit the last few. It was all coming together to look like an actual series. So finally, we're ready to complete filming. The only problem? It was November and we'd started this project last May. Weather was entirely different and against us in every way. But we filmed.

We cranked out back to back filming days in the first weekend, and another full weekend which just passed. We have one more day to go until I can say the filming portion is finally over. Maybe if I weren't involved as a writer, director, producer and actress it wouldn't be so draining. But, as I look over my amazing crew, I see that it's not just me that is ready to gladly crawl under a rock and sleep for at least a week. We've been busting our asses and from the footage I've seen thus far, it's been well worth it. My production team has been amazing and my actors have fully grown into their characters (to the point where we all keep confusing our real names for character names when talking to and about each other.) It's been quite the experience.

Now that it's almost reached it's point of conclusion, I've also realized it's made me aware of what I'm capable of. Will I pursue a career in any of the several hats I wore during this production? Not so sure, I do like my steady paycheck. But what I do know, is that I can if I wanted to. And maybe that's all I needed to learn....

Mucho thanks to Jona, Henry and Jerry (my clutch AD!) for all the time and effort you've dedicated.
Special thanks to Pablo, for his early involvement and pushing me to get this idea out of my head.
Mike, Jose, Cortes, Paul, Ariobin, Bryan, Amanda, my mom, Claudette, Danny and Frankie for helping bring my characters to life and sticking around on set to support when you could have gone home.
To everyone who keeps watching, commenting and supporting the series.

And a very incredible amount of thanks to Jaime. Besides the fact that you are the star of this show, you have stood by me and believed in me since day one and have fully committed yourself no matter how tired you got. Like Lynn says... "I owe you." ;)

Below are some videos. To my email subscribers, you'll have to go to my actual blog to see the vids (http://www.laurenjrivera.com/). The first was taken after I crashed on day 3 of filming and apparently woke everyone up from my snoring. Very funny, Jona. Very funny.

Uploaded by jona81680

And if you haven't caught up with LINKED yet, here are Episodes 1 & 2... Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Popping My Live Performance Cherry

As we all know, I wear many hats. When it comes to Room 28 though, I've stuck mainly to management, promotion and the occasional video cameo. Last night however, that all changed.

Orphans International and Capicu! came together to raise funds for Orphans International Dominican Republic branch at La Pregunta Arts Cafe by way of a variety show. I arrived a little early to the event, which would be masterfully emceed by Papo Swiggity and Divine. After me, arrived Mike and then Jaime. They retreated downstairs to the green room to run over the skit they'd be peforming with Jerry. As the show was close to starting I made my way downstairs and found Jaime and Mike looking worried. It turned out Jerry was stuck in New Jersey and the closest he could come to making it was maybe an hour into the show. We all looked at each other for a moment and then I checked out the script. They were going to redo a skit called Hooters Waiter, but without their third person it wasn't going to fly. Jaime was looking at me right in the eye and I knew what he was thinking without asking it.
"You want me to do it?" I asked.
"Would you?"

The big "dun dun dunnnnn" behind this is that I'd never done a live stage performance before and I really don't go around promoting myself as an actress outside of the small cameos I've made. I looked over my boys whose stomachs were clearly tied in knots and said, "Ok. I'll do it. But we need to rehearse the shit out of this RIGHT NOW."

And so we did. For the next 30 minutes we ran the skit over and over until finally we all thought, This is actually going to work!

We returned to the cafe to hear the likes of Homeboy Sandman who just happens to be on my friend Sucio's label (High Water Music) and whose flow caught my interest immediately. It was after HS that our group was introduced and Jaime approached the stage to help the audience transition to comedy with his stand up. He did his thing (as he always does) and segued into our skit.

Was I nervous?


Until I got to the stage that is. Once I was up there seated across from Jaime, all nervousness flew out the window and I just went with it, which isn't hard at all when a) you know your boyfriend's comedic timing like the back of your hand and b) Mike shows up in short shorts and my main job is to act like there is nothing more I want than his package. I had lines and they were delivered well, we heard the crowd laugh uproariously and when it was all over we each received congrats and praise... even me; the little one that never did stage before. Now I know what Jaime means when he talks about the high he gets from performing live. I'm hoping to find a clip of the video to share soon, will post when I do.

Interesting night. A new task under the belt. Who knew.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just a Year Ago

Life was different.

I could care less about politics and had never exercised my right to vote. I never felt like my opinion mattered, things would just roll on as they always had. I watched my country fall apart under the leadership of a clueless man which only seemed to strengthen my belief because really, if my (our) opinion did matter would he have ever made it into a 2nd term? It all just seemed so... pointless.

And then the tide changed directions suddenly and out of nowhere. A black man and a woman were battling it out for the Democratic nomination for President. This is getting interesting, I thought to myself. I began to watch, I began to learn, I began to become... invested. Jon Stewart and Bill Maher were now heading two of my newest TV show favorites (sure, they aren't on MSNBC but baby steps for me, please.) I found myself in the middle of discussions I never thought I'd have, debating issues and policies. And then, to my surprise, it became even bigger than it already was.

Obama won the Democratic nomination and he was pitted against McCain, who I will say is a very honorable man, but who made a ridiculous choice for his running mate. Immediately, I was scared. It was so obvious to me that having someone like Palin so close to the most powerful seat in the nation was ludicrous, but I wondered, was America ready to overlook the lines of race and elect a black President even if they knew how terrible a President she would be should anything happen to McCain? I'm a 3rd generation American of Puerto Rican decent (which is actually a part of America anyway, but we won't get into that right now) and even I have experienced my share of racism. I was nowhere near convinced that the people of my country could overpower this.

It came down to the last weeks before election day where I bit my nails continuously as I monitored various polls. Democrats were sure of a victory, but I felt caution - 90% of anything I've ever wanted, I didn't get because (I feared) I wanted it too badly. Just wait until the eve of November 4th you guys, just wait and then celebrate! And then November 4th came.

I live in New York, so yeah, in essence my vote didn't "matter" because Obama was going to win NY regardless of how I voted. But it DID matter. It mattered because I was a part of an incredible wave of participation this country has never seen before. It mattered because I felt my heart beating through my chest as I entered the polling area. It mattered because it was about time I learned how to work a poll booth (and let me tell you, all those little levers are confusing. I pulled a monitor aside and asked her, "Can you please just show me how to vote for Obama?" With a smile, she obliged.) It mattered because if he won I could say I was a part of it. It mattered because...because it just DOES.

As I worked around my house, busying myself with anything that had nothing to do with watching election specials on TV, I started to lose control. I switched on the tube. Obama was leading but there was a gap of less than 75. I kept it together, we still hadn't won YET. I spoke to my friend Jerry on the phone, "I'll believe it when I see it" he said. I was with him 100%.

And then we saw it.

The West coast polls closed and Obama soared well past 270. I shouted incoherent noises and told Jerry I had to call him back. And when we hung up, and I sat down on my couch, I put my head in my hands and cried.

This wasn't just a battle to get a man into the White House. This had been a battle to show each and every one of us that change IS happening. Change in our ability to ignore race and respect capability and human quality. Change in the way my generation rocked the SHIT out of this vote (pardon my French, I needed it for the emphasis.) Change in the way we view opportunity. Change in the way we feel our voices are heard. Change. Change....Change.

For the first time in my life, I care about this country. I care what happens. I care to participate....

I leave you with this quote, I'm not sure who said it, but I feel it says it all...

“Rosa sat, so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. Obama is running, so our children can fly.”

and so now, we can say they can...