The Bentonville Experience

We premiered Lez Bomb to two sold out audiences at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival last week. It was an incredible experience. About 20 of my nearest and dearest flew in for the premiere and we all got to celebrate in the charming town of Bentonville. I had no idea what to expect dropping the Lez Bomb in Arkansas, but Bentonville was straight up charming as hell, and at times mystical. The audiences were rowdy with laughter, supportive, and had a ton of questions. I’m pretty sure a handful of them thought they were seeing a french film called “Les Bomb,” but they were pleasantly surprised by our dysfunctional family ensemble comedy, Lez Bomb.

First and foremost – the food! My wife has celiac disease, so we were ecstatic when we discovered The Preacher’s Son, which is a restaurant inside what used to be a church. The ENTIRE menu is gluten free. The food was fantastic. So fantastic in fact, in the week we were there I believe we went a total of 4, some of us 5 times. In the basement of the restaurant is a speakeasy, where I had the chance to drink and chat with Geena Davis. Every bit of my A League of Their Own dreams came true!

Lez Bomb ended up winning the best narrative film jury award, which was an amazing experience in itself. But the entire week – I was overwhelmed with gratitude for meeting many inspiring and passionate people, and getting to share the experience with so many members of the Lez Bomb team, along with family and friends. It felt like a second wedding!

We released a clip of Lez Bomb last week on DEADLINE:

I look forward to sharing more information regarding the film in the near future.

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.

New Year, New Focus

Birthdays and deaths always remind me of the finite life span we have. Perhaps because it was just my birthday, and because I just lost someone, I’ve been focused on how I can make the most of my time. Time’s not a renewable resource, and we never know when our clocks about to run out. Yet we spend a majority of time mentally striving, reaching, wishing, yearning for somewhere other than here.

For longer than I can remember I’ve had rules for myself about career markers and what that meant. “I’ll be happen when [fill in the blank].” But the further into my career, and no matter the marker, that blank continuously changes and I’ve struggled celebrating the small victories along the way. There are things I’ve always wanted to do, but set aside as if I needed the permission of career success to allow me to pursue those dreams that weren’t necessarily tied to financial return. These self created restraints haven’t always been helpful. Yes, they’ve created productivity. But with wins came striving for bigger wins, and I didn’t necessarily take time to sit in a space of gratitude and reward myself with one of those dreams that weren’t directly tied to career.

I’ve slowly been trying to break the cycle of constant striving. Going to India for 3 weeks in December was eye-opening in terms of how difficult it was to experience my surroundings without feeling as though I should work. As I move into the new year, I’m shifting my focus away from career wins being an equation that leads to reward. The rewards are less and less, sometimes nonexistent, the busier I get.

Therefore, I want to restructure my mental rulebook. What I’ve categorized as rewards in the past, might actually be necessary activities that lead to inspiration directly tied to career. After all, I’m a writer. A writer needs experience. Blissful experiences, though seemingly outside the box of “work,” may lead to other work, whether through inspiration, serendipitous meetings, or by the very fact they allow the mind space to marinate on ideas.

With age comes experience and through experience, hopefully wisdom. But wisdom can only be integrated into life by diving into the present, and not missing the present because of incessant striving.

Whether it’s travel, restaurants I’ve always wanted to visit, time to listen and discover new music, diving into esoteric studies, or learning some new activity, I’m hoping to integrate these things I’ve so often pushed aside in the past, into my day-to-day, to allow for the balance between striving, gratitude, growth, and presence.

My three favorite discoveries of the week:

Song: Anything is Possible

Restaurant: Daniel

Spa: Sojo Spa

Meditation & Clouds

A sequence of text messages from friends about “being present” got me thinking how that term’s thrown around often without tangible tools to help one arrive at a state in which you’re actually present and not talking about it.

If we take the “woo woo” out of the conversation and look at the practicality in our everyday lives, meditation’s an invaluable tool. Meditation provides the opportunity to clearly see the thoughts as they pass before the forefront of the mind, creating space to choose which thoughts are entertained. The majority of actions we take are determined by habits, not spontaneity or intellect. By creating space between thoughts, and choosing which thoughts to engage, we’re given time to carefully observe the thought and decide the most informed way to act.

When meditation has come up in conversation, I’ve often seen family, friends, acquaintances have tried it, it didn’t work, so they stopped. Instruction to “clear one’s head” isn’t necessarily useful. And approaching the mat with the expectation to experience something is set up to fail. The best instruction I was given was “go to the mat, practice every day and stop asking so many questions.” While questions are good, they’re often an excuse and procrastination masking itself as a question.

Go to the mat, sit in silence, watch thoughts as they pass. When you’ve found yourself latched to a thought and off on a tangent, return to the breath without judgement. “But what should happen?” Listen, if I told you the directions from my home to the Statue of Liberty – does that mean you wouldn’t go? Or would you go, probably notice different things, and have your own experience? We all arrive places a different route, with experiences shaded by the set of lens through which we perceive.

Playlist I’m currently writing to: Writing Jams.

Coffee drink I’m currently obsessed with: Mushroom Coffee.

Book I’m currently reading: The Obstacle is the Way.

Script Writing Lessons

 

I went off and got married, disappeared on a honeymoon, and haven’t blogged in forever. On the honeymoon, my wife and I had an amazing adventure in Bali. One of the days, we ventured off to visit a healer. Our driver took us to a village where we waited an hour for locals to chat with this healer, until it was finally our turn for a little divine intervention. One of the things he told me that’s chimed in my head since was – I need to make decisions and stick with them, and not get stuck in the chaos of “what ifs” and the crippling tangents our mind is so naturally inclined towards that create stagnation, and prevent action.

I’m in the middle of a rewrite on a script I’m developing with a company. While digesting the notes, I see my main character, my protagonist, doesn’t really know what she’s doing in all the scenes. Yes, the scenes and dialogue are funny. But she doesn’t always have a clear objective. She’s lacking the decisiveness I sometimes struggle with in my own life.

Story structure is a wonderful reminder that we’re all the hero of our own journey, and have the option to choose the narrative we want to tell. The problem is, we often find ourselves reactionary – life happens at us, and then we react, instead of us creating the space for life to happen, giving ourselves a moment to observe, and then actively choosing our next step on the narrative we long to tell. I loved choose-your-own-adventure-books as a child. It’s a mystery why I so often forget to choose my own adventure.

My biggest regret in life would be to be on my death bed and look back at my life as if it were a script and realize my protagonist didn’t always know her objective and didn’t always make clear decisions that would lead her on the journey she wanted to embark upon.

Instead of getting stuck in the stagnation of the world happening around us, lets gently reminder one another that habitually reacting to the chaos doesn’t give us the space and opportunity to give meaning to the chaos, and decisively choose our next step, in a way that helps us actively create the story we’d like to tell on this adventure of life.

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.

A post shared by Jenna Laurenzo (@jennalaurenzo) on

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.