Turning Pain Into Poetry

By Working Actress - 11/24/2014

elena8Friday was kind of a wild day.  A busy day of invoicing, conference calls, marketing myself, accepting bookings, declining bookings and I had the full intention of ending the day with my screening at Disney Studios followed by going out for a lovely meal.  During the week my union hall invited me to a foundation event.  SAG Foundation is great.  They offer tons of free events throughout the year (screenings, speakers, classes and more.)  This one was to meet Tim Robbins and Petra Costa after viewing her documentary Elena.  It was at lunch time so I thought “sure, why not?”  A nice mid day break on a Friday.

I read a brief synopsis of the film and thought it was right up my alley.  A woman leaves Brazil to start a career as an actress in NYC.  Yay!  Sounds cool.  About 15 minutes into the film I suddenly realized that I had no idea what this film was about. I didn’t know it was going to be so sad and depressing.  My first instinct was to leave.  I felt I had no business being there.  My family and I are still struggling over the loss of Sarah and it seems sometimes like the pain is getting worse rather than better.  We all have good days and bad days but I think the holidays will always bring the pain to the forefront.

For some reason I stayed and watched the entire film.  It was so hard to not burst out crying but somehow I held it together.  When Petra and Tim came out and sat down to chat with us I found out why I stayed.  Petra spoke of the pain of losing her sister and as she spoke you could see how she was healing through telling her story.  The documentary was not your traditional documentary.  It was told with VHS footage from the 80’s, cassette recordings, news clippings, and her own narration and re-enactments.  She went thru 3 DPs, 3 editors, and many other crew members because the piece took so long to finish.  All of them made a significant contribution to the piece and she ended up with the story she wanted to tell.  She was a delightful young woman.

NOVOS Elena no palco _25I3026Tim’s story was equally as moving.  He met Petra at a film festival in Belgium and she handed him a DVD of the film which he actually watched when he returned to LA and then signed on as Executive Producer.  He said he is handed a lot of DVD’s but for some reason he decided to watch this one.  He said he wouldn’t describe it as a documentary…….but a poem.  They both chatted about filmmaking, rejection, the hardships of this acting life.  We are all so creative, have so many stories to tell, and we often get tripped up by real life.  We run out of money, someone in our family gets sick, or we lack support from family and friends.  A multitude of issues can pop up and it was interesting to hear Tim talk about those challenges.  We always think that movie stars have it made and we forget that they are dealing with personal issues as well.  He said that for him the most difficult part of filmmaking is the casting process.  Because he is an actor too so he knows how much time and effort actors put into the audition process (we get coached, study the script for hours, read the entire screenplay, select clothing, arrange babysitters, drive for miles, sit in waiting rooms, and then wait.)  We are told to forget the minute we walk out the door, but who can do that?  It is much easier said than done.  Tim said it is so painful to see soooo many talented people come thru for one role.  Only one person is going to book it and that hurts him.

They both spoke of finding the purpose of the film to drive the filmmaking process.  Petra’s purpose was to not only heal herself but to get a message out to so many people who were suffering from depression.  It made me think of my own short film I really want to make.  I got off to a good start this Fall (revised the screenplay, Ryan made my trailer,) but real life got in the way and I got side tracked.  I fully intend to get it done in 2015 and get it into the film festival circuit.  I wrote this film for Sarah.  She was to play my daughter.  The day I wrote it was significant in finding my purpose.  She had just beat that first tumor but was feeling extremely sad because she couldn’t start college.  The doctor felt it was too much too soon.  So, while her friends were all starting their Freshman year, some going out of state, Sarah had no plans other than getting strong after undergoing treatment.  We had a long chat about that and it broke my heart to see her so sad. The minute I got home I wrote this screenplay.  I took it to her the next day and she was over the top excited.  She always wanted to act, model, and do voice over.  This was something she could certainly look forward to and she was thrilled.  As we all know she got another tumor and the film did not happen that year.  In fact I put everything away with no intention of ever shooting it.  Earlier this year a close friend suggested I take it back out and shoot it in Sarah’s honor.  I struggled with how to get started.  I actually don’t know a lot about filmmaking.  I know a lot about acting…..but filmmaking is a whole other world. Tim’s advice helped me see how to mesh the two worlds.  It is all about being very focused, and being passionate about your story.  I was suddenly filled with hope. I feel confident that I can put together a strong supportive team and get this film done for Sarah.

After such a heavy emotional day it was kind of nice to drive over to the Disney Studios in Burbank, park in Zorro, and walk down Donald Duck Lane to get to the screening room.  But I did go to sleep with visions of making this film, honoring Sarah, and turning my pain into poetry.

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