Bentonville Film Festival

Lez Bomb will premiere at the Bentonville Film Festival the first week in May.

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A few weeks back I had coffee with a mentor. She asked if I could remember being excited about Lez Bomb. Finishing the script, getting funding, attaching cast, shooting the film, finishing the edit, getting accepted into festivals. The opportunity for excitement and the victories along the way are endless. But so are the hurdles. It’s often the hurdles that blind us and prevent celebrating the victories. Then we forget the victories even happened. Our perception becomes blurred by stress, holding on to the negative, instead of celebrating the small wins along the way. This mentor told me she thinks she missed the opportunity to enjoy the big moments as they happened; she was too wrapped up in anxiety.

The conversation with her was a gift, a reminder, to take each step with presence. Otherwise it’ll all blow by and be a mere memory. A memory colored by anxiety instead of gratitude.

I think endlessly of story and our innate ability to script our life’s authentic narrative. As Lez Bomb begins its festival journey, I hope to script the journey grounded in presence. Making the festival run about connecting with people, visiting new places, enjoying new experiences, and telling stories along the way while hearing others. I’d hate to miss this story, because I was too wrapped up in the pressures surrounding the one already filmed.

Intentions

We’re getting ready to show Lez Bomb at festivals.

Holy sh*t, people are going to finally see this thing. 

And with that, fear creeps in. At lighting speed. “I’m fucking terrified.”

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As my teacher so succinctly put, I had/have an intention. And I’ve stuck to it. That’s the grounding root of this tree, reaching far below the unpredictable surface of this industry.

Having a clear intention provides stability when externalities come flying into the equation. Another teacher of mine once said when he teaches a yoga class, after class, when people say “I enjoyed your class,” he always responds in a way that takes it away from himself. “I’m glad you enjoyed class.” There’s a subtle difference, but in putting the enjoyment on the other, (vs. “‘I’m glad you enjoyed my class”) it takes his ego out of the equation. He teaches with intention. Whether or not the students enjoyed the class is outside his control.

We can’t control responses. We can control mindfully taking each step forward with intention. I have to remind myself daily. With the weekend upon us, I encourage one mindful step at a time. Happy walking.

Tree Pose

Swaying in tree pose a few weeks back in yoga class, the teacher said “the standing leg’s your anchor and the bent leg’s just a distraction.” The standing leg provides your roots, your stability. That anchor’s always available, internally. Like in life, all the movement around that anchor’s just a distraction.

A tree is the perfect image for the concept of being grounded. When you think of a tree you imagine the trunk. It’s strong. It’s firmly grounded with roots that reach into the ground and take in the nutrients from it’s surrounding, and discards that which doesn’t serve it. As the tree grows upwards, it’s the leaves and branches that are swayed by the wind and the surrounding chaos of the environment. But the trunk stands firmly in place, unwavering in it’s conviction to be the most authentic version of itself.

Last night in acting class (I continuously study with John Dapolito), John went on an inspired tirade about the importance of staying grounded within your authenticity. Having vision, and leaning into that vision. Being so grounded within a point of view, that the many distractions and the shit-storm of opinions can’t knock you off balance. It requires the flexibility and openness to hear other points of view and learn from the ones that ring true, and discard the rest. It’s when we abandon our authenticity because of fear – fear of not pleasing people, fear of being criticized, fear of not being accepted – that stray from our truth out of fear, will always leave us feeling empty. Because it means we’ve allowed externalities to sway us off balance and away from our most authentic self. It’s impossible to please everyone. But we can always act from a grounded, internal place inspired by truth and authenticity.

It’s that truth and authenticity that gives each of us an interesting point of view, a lens through which we see the world. And it should be celebrated. In sharing those rich points of view we expand our consciousness, empathy, and capacity to enjoy this world in it’s vastness. Like a pride flag in all it’s colors, that spectrum of experience is what makes this world rich in color. On this rainy, snowy, NYC day, remember to stand firmly grounded in your roots, experiences, and authenticity, and remember the wind, sleet, snow, and rain’s just a distraction.

Book I’m reading.

Favorite song of the week.

Video I just finished and love.

Practically Titanic

I’m always looking for a story. My next script. What do I want to throw myself into for the next undefined amount of time? I’ve been thinking about Semester at Sea, and the semester I spent circumnavigating the globe. World travel aside, my semester on a ship was formative because the ship near capsized. Yes, near capsized. The weather channel even did an episode of Storm Stories on it. It was terrifying, I thought I was going to die, and choosing to spend months writing a script about the experience only to have to pitch it, followed by it being criticized (although some constructive), and developed, is masochistic on so many levels. Yet, I can’t get the idea out of my head. This sums up so much of the drama in my early 20s.

The amount of time it takes to get a script written, then hopefully taken from script to screen is seemingly limitless. It’s as vast as the ocean in which my ship near capsized. And in this business, every project’s near capsizing, always. Usually an idea takes hold of my consciousness and haunts me until I put it on page. And despite the chance of  capsizing, I might get back on this ship…metaphorically speaking.

When I tell the story about our ship being in the middle of the North Pacific, during winter, surrounded by 40 foot swells, freezing water, 116 mile per hour winds, and then getting pummeled by a 50-60 foot wave, it’s a crowd-pleaser. When I’ve met agents, managers, producers, development executives, whomever – in a scenario where it’s a meet-and-greet that feels like an hour of oversharing in which I’m trying to sound like it’s the first time I’ve ever revealed these inner secrets, stories, spilling the depths of my soul to make that personal connection, I like to casually drop in, “Oh, yeah, that one time I almost died.” It never fails, “WHY DON’T YOU WRITE ABOUT THAT?!”

So here I am, finally surrendering to the fact it may be my next script. Though, I want to approach it from a comedic angle. We’ve all seen Titanic. And our ship didn’t actually capsize. But the unfolding shit-show between the mayday signal and finally making it to safety 12 hours later is chalk full of comedy. Going through 12 hours fearing death, your mind goes through all the emotions. ALL OF ‘EM. At some point my mind surrendered, and there was nothing to do but laugh. “This is how I’m going to die?” I was also legitimately pissed it was nothing like Titanic. No romance. Nada. I was assigned to a guy named Brian, to hold on to me as the ship was thrust from side to side. He came up to my waist. I should have been holding on to him. AND, no one knew I was gay. I was going to die, and I hadn’t come out yet. It was my hell. Maybe it’s the coming out story we’ve yet to see.

As terrifying the experience, it was the fear of death that created the panic and anxiety. Once I surrendered to the fact I had zero control, I was enveloped by peace. I’ve tried to remember that peace when life spirals out of control. We can’t control everything. I still struggle with that in my day-to-day. But I remember being hit by that giant wave, and it reminds me to surrender to the present moment, despite the surrounding chaos, and keep focused within that presence to make the best possible decisions moment-to-moment. Because that’s all we can do.

Maybe this moment’s about writing the comedic rendition of this. “Practically Titanic?” I’ll leave it here while I marinate on the idea further.

Book I’m reading.

Favorite recipe of the week.

Favorite song of the week.

Girl Night Stand

Girl Night Stand

The internet has been a crazy landscape these past two weeks for one of my projects. About a week ago we released my short film GIRL NIGHT STAND on After Ellen and had some incredible feedback. Everyone loves an awkward one night stand. Sexuality aside, those confusing emotions are universal. It’s the universality I’m interested in exploring. At the core, we’re all humans trying our best. And through comedy, an audience can be united in laughter.

After another featured article on Bustle, and then getting featured on Elle.be, I have to say – I’m just floored.  I’m beside myself with gratitude for the amazing support I’ve received from complete strangers helping and encouraging my feature Lez Bomb and the Lez Bomb team’s endeavor to get the film made.

Girl Night Stand from Jenna Laurenzo on Vimeo.

As most things in my life – this adventure started in a yoga class. I was deeply conflicted about directing Lez Bomb. Instead of focusing on my breathing and my practice on the mat, I was mentally going back and forth about whether or not I should direct the feature. I had gone through many conversations with potential directors, and there was always some reason that got in the way. I finally had to ask myself – should I just direct the piece myself? I had written and produced so much content in the past, and I had directed before.  But a feature?! My feature.  That’s scary.

My yoga teacher asked us all to grab two blocks and then asked us to kick up into handstand on the blocks.  I found myself afraid of kicking up.  But why? We were against the wall. Then I realized I didn’t want to fall – in front of who? The teacher? The class? “Oh my God, I’m afraid of falling! I’m afraid of failing!” I kicked up into handstand on those two blocks – successfully. I just sucked it up and mustered up the courage – who the hell cares if I fall?! And that’s how I decided to direct my feature. And short. I realized I was the only one holding myself back.

Thankfully I found two blocks, a handstand, and a little boost of courage. I’m terrified of directing an entire feature.  But sometimes we just need to confront fears – especially when they are self created, and kick upside down to gain new perspective.

#Hiking and #handstand. Happy fall day. @aineod8

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Reflective Run

Definitely the happiest runner at the #NYCHalfMarathon Go @jennalaurenzo !

A photo posted by Aine O’ Dwyer (@aineod8) on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:11am PDT

It’s March! How did that happen? I’m going to write about running again…

After the Philadelphia half marathon, my fiancé entered us into the lottery for NYC’s half marathon.  Well, I got picked. Solo. Running through Times Square was an amazing experience. The lights, the cheering people – it’s all a bundle of inspiration that ignites the spirit to push further.  I hope to do a full marathon one day.

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With the solo time I was able to go into deep reflection over the past year.   January marked the ten year anniversary of wave day:

I can’t help celebrating life recalling that memory.  While the experience was scary, I wouldn’t trade having faced fear head on.  The reality is, we create so much drama for ourselves.  But having been on a ship that near capsized, it helps keep the “drama” in perspective.  Thank you Semester at Sea for teaching me what “high stakes” really means.  I try to keep life grounded, and bring the high stakes to my writing.  It’s a worthwhile challenge.

Within the year I got engaged, bought a condo, met Radhanath Swami a handful of times, studied with my yoga teacher, lived in a LA for a few months, developed a stint of Alopecia (what?!), grew that hair back, blamed LA for the hair loss, got over that, wrote a ton, and ran two half marathons with a lot to reflect on.  The second of which I never stopped running.  Those neon pink shoes kept a continuous pace pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles.  It was a personal victory.  As all trial, tribulation, success and triumph should be.  We all have our own mountain to climb.  Fulfillment lies in the ability to bring our personal peak performance inspired by experiences and people who teach us along the way.

#NYCHalfMarathon inspiration from @aineod8 #SavasanaTime.

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I couldn’t help but smile through the race.  Gratitude inspired each step.  It’s been a hell of a year and I knew pancakes awaited me after the finish line.

Searching for X (another year…)

I realized it’s been a year since I started writing this blog.  Oct. 10th 2010 was the first entry.  I remember standing at work, writing the entry.  I was working in a restaurant, so I was definitely not supposed to be online, let alone “blogging.”  “Costume Hunting,” was the name of the entry.  Here I am, a year later, and it’s that time of year again.

Ironically, I left that restaurant 6 months ago, and now find myself back there once a week.  In some ways, nothing has changed.

In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.

I hit “submit” with an overwhelming sense of fear.  “Find your voice,” “TRUST your voice,” have been what people have told me the past few years.  I’ve heard it in acting class, yoga class, life, etc.  “Find your own way to express light,” was my favorite wording.  How do you illuminate truth? What does that even mean?  My preoccupation with these questions mirrors my preoccupation with the concept of “story” and the power in telling stories.  We’re all living a story with the power to learn its lesson and the power to re-write the twists and turns.

Life offers us countless challenges to purify the soul.  It’s a battle, learning how to face situations without jumping to an emotional response.  But those challenges are gifts, without which we’d never grow and evolve.

An acupuncturist once told me to look over my days, each night.  See the day and how it played out, and ask yourself, “Have I gotten closer to myself or further from myself, today?”

Here I am a year later, and it’s Halloween season.  The difference is, I’ve been spending the last few days looking for someone else’s costume (oh the joys of part time, personal assistant gigs).  I haven’t been thinking of my own potential costume, or any ways to mask myself.

I’ve put my “voice” out there a number of ways this past year through song, a number of projects, a web series, and all the ways in which life required me to speak.   I could only attempt to have the best intention behind all.

Perhaps, I’ve gotten a little closer to myself this past year?  It’s a constant trek up the mountain, but with each step we have the choice to get a little closer.