my favorite things
Gladiator. When it came out, I thought I said so because it was fresh in my mind. No. Today, still my favorite. Revenge is the best theatrical theme. Timeless. And, the action is great.
Totoro! Read my diary entry about how he lives in my bag at all times.
I can't pick one! No! Never! ;) Too many inspire me! On a personal level, Peter Jackson. He worked at a newspaper wishing he were a filmmaker, had supportive parents, did a lot of his early filmmaking techniques at home, loves King Kong from childhood to present, and, pretty much a lot I relate to when you forget about the different gender and age! Our stories overlap.
The Diary of Anne Frank. Since I first read it, actually. She was a normal teen imprisoned in a world of hatred.
Weight lifting in solitude, elliptical machines, ice skating, roller skating.
Apple, or if online, the iTunes store. Nothing makes me happy like the discounted movies section! Who doesn't love any kind of shopping where you don't have to leave home?
Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Narrowing this down was really tough. I firmly believe a good grilled cheese makes any bad day better.
My least favorite food is probably duck. Most types of soup makes me happy. No, correction! If I ranked meats from best to worst: beef, turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, caviar, deer. I ate deer once in my life when some guys gave me a deer burger at school they proudly cooked and heated for me then and there. They were having a free cookout for classmates. I told them it was delicious and secretly felt like I swallowed straight up lard! As for chicken, I can’t stand it; my medical healthy diet requires chicken salad is one option. Obnoxious, sure, though I’ll take that to pork loins and greasy deer burgers any day.
Cod fish sticks.
Black olives, mushrooms, and because I am from Chicago, extra sauce. A real pizza I ordered, look! Although my honest preference is thicker crust over thin. Deep dish, mmmm. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, I can’t eat as much pizza as I would like.
Carmen's "Habanera," because I love the idea that falling in love is outside of your control.
Top 40 Album
Britney Spears' Blackout. The production was incredible. Danja is one of my favorite producers, as is Timbaland. Blackout paved the way for pop singers everywhere. Before that, everything sounded like the same almost 1980's bubblegum pop stuff. Pharrell Williams is also a producer on the album.
Film Score Composer
I get asked all the time. My answer is, I am unintentionally influenced by the homework assignments I had while putting my own style on them. My music teachers used to assign lots of Russian composers’ work, Beethoven, a bit of Mozart and Bach, huge amounts of scales and chromatic exercises, Richard Wagner, Disney everything, and pretty much every Hans Zimmer and John Williams score ever written. My vocal music teachers assigned traditional songs and Disney works. One teacher had us do Mary Poppins tunes as warmups every single week. Because of this, I look to all these works as beloved and special, very nostalgic. Had I been taught to do Sir Mix-a-Lot every week, you would have me feeling nostalgic over that! Haha. I love modern and current film music so much; it was only natural I would want to do this with my life.
Young people write me all the time asking for tips. This section is for you!
I always get asked if I use self affirmations. I was asked so often that I Googled how to do them in front of a mirror because I was confused on the proper method. Up pops model Ashley Graham with her advice she tells her self daily: "You are bold. You are brilliant. You are beautiful.”
Feeling this didn't apply to me, I came up with: "You love your life. You love yourself. You are exactly the person you wish to be." From there, I'll add on other things pertinent to who I wish to be and/or goals I need to accomplish. Does it work? I hope so! Time will tell!
General Life + Career Tips
• Your brain is a computer. Whether you are a boy or a girl, there is no difference inside. Our brains are powerful! A brain can be slow, and like a computer, you upgrade the software by learning or getting better at a skill with practice.
• Dislike how others see you? Change your image! Do everything your way – clothing, mannerisms, career dreams, and all life decisions – because when you live for others, you will never be happy. The more transparent the real you is, the more people will know who that is, and the better you'll be able to live with yourself. I've been there and done that with people having a false impression of who I am.
• You don’t have to have clothes, hair, makeup, or anything related to your physical appearance that will make you feel uncomfortable simply because many women dress like that. People will try to pressure you into dieting to be “prettier” or dressing “sexier” to look “more attractive.” The right people in your life as employers, friends, and love interests will come to you because of you not being like everyone else. Times exist when it’s cool to wear fun clothes like miniskirts or bandage dresses, like date nights with a special someone, but I have never felt comfortable dressing the way people do on red carpets when I am meeting people whose careers I admire. I want them to notice me. Not my body, not my “flirty”makeup, me, the person inside who is talented, hopefully funny, driven, happy, and outgoing once you get past the tinge of shyness. I might be one in a million within a crowd of “skin is in” ladies, but I will do my best so people like you, younger men and women, don’t have to partake in that attitude to achieve success.
• Have a list of things you love about yourself and achievements you didn’t think you could do. Read it whenever you have a bad day.
• Work on your skills every day in subtle ways. Because I do music and film, I listen to music daily and watch a film every evening. Reading about these industries is a must. Your mind needs to be running on that train of thought on a regular basis. Imagine it like training for a marathon. You can’t show up and expect to win with a little practice.
• Don’t let others’ negativity make you feel inadequate.
• When you cry, remember every tear shed is a win for bad people in your life.
• Study what you actually like if you go to a four year college. if you feel a four year college isn’t for you, it probably isn’t! I look back and think about how I would have preferred going to a culinary school, film school, animation school, special FX school, or really any non-liberal arts, four year education. Nothing was wrong with my university itself. It was a matter of, “This isn’t right for me.” I could have taken professional level journalism classes on my own to prove I was serious about journalism at the same time I studied something else. Of course, you will have to be strong and argue with teachers and your parents about it. Don’t let them boss you around. Them making decisions for your future is your misery, not theirs!
• Never deny what your real goals are. When I was all the way up to my 20's, sometimes I felt I had to hide my real career aspirations or my real personality because in the past, people were unsupportive. My own teachers were sometimes mean about it. You will feel terrible faking it.
• Never give up. When you do, you let the bad people win.
• If you don't believe in yourself, no one will.
• Have a website you frequently update. Be as active as possible on social media and online via any platform. If you don’t tell the world who you are, the world decides for you. I am so public online because I was tired of false assumptions made about my character, lifestyle, personality and entire self, half the time stereotypes assigned to me because I happen to be born female. You don’t have to be pursuing my same career goals to show the world your beautiful personality. Example: a scientist could have a website talking about life at the lab, with photos and funny chemistry humor abound.
• Beware if, as a model or actor/actress, someone demands you cannot have someone else in the room. Never go to someone’s apartment/house nor hotel room for work reasons. Know that sexual abuse/assault doesn’t have to happen in a private office or home: very often, it happens to young people in public settings because nobody cares or notices to stop it from happening. Understand that the kinds of people who will do something to you are more likely going to be people you are surprised by whom you have known for months to years and may have never expressed an interest in you.
• Advice geared towards men and women: never starve yourself down to fit into clothes. Make the clothes fit you! The reason you have a muffin top, unflattering look or unflattering attire generally is the clothes are awful. Don’t be afraid to size up to make something work, or skip that item altogether. If it makes you feel bad, cut out the tag like old film stars did on set. My personal rule is, “If it needs shapewear, a strapless bra, or special underwear, I am not wearing it.” Too many people either have poor body confidence or starve themselves down because they are working with the wrong clothing.
• Look in the other gender’s clothing section! Guys I meet tell me they do this at times. I do it myself. Much of women’s clothing is constructed to emphasize a curvy figure shape. When you already have a curvy figure, the cut looks really sausage-like and is uncomfortable. When I wear men’s workout clothes or certain men’s items, they look tailor cut for me as women’s clothes are intended! Mix and match gendered items to your heart’s desire.
• Never say mean things about yourself on social media or when meeting others. A friend of mine used to say, “Half of what we joke about is true.” He called these things “half jokes.” I meet many people online and in person. Too many women tell me they are terrible actresses or “unattractive.” “Why do people hire me?” Too many men tell me they are untalented, ugly or stupid. You really mean what you are saying a little bit when you say these things. People who can hire you are going to see the second half of the joke, the negativity you mistakenly accept as your truth, and say, “Maybe he/she is right. We won’t hire this person.” When you make negative half jokes about yourself, you reinforce negative beliefs you should not have directly to yourself, creating a worse cycle. Don’t write on social media, “Hey! Here I am studying acting again because I suck.” People will believe you do—and you will never become good at it because you believe you can’t change.
• Nothing is wrong with being cheesy. Half of me inside is the cheesiest person you will ever meet. Find me in the aisle below the Swiss cheese! People will try to change you. They will tell you how you have to change your personality and hobbies to be attractive to others as a friend, prospective date or company employee. Someone who doesn’t value you for who you are isn’t worth your time. Enough people exist in the world, so much so, you will find the right people in work and life. Don’t change who you are—find a way to make being yourself marketable for work!
• Use free moments at school or work to learn about the profession you want to be in! Hang by yourself at the library or a quiet place Googling or checking out books.
• Don’t be ashamed of making mistakes when getting good at your craft. You learn from mistakes.
• When you get a bad feeling about working with someone, run far away! Your gut instinct is right.
• When people make fun of you, don’t reduce yourself to their level. Let them be the ones with malicious gossip and cruelty. People will not think much of you and won’t see it as a form of getting back at mean people. Rather, they will see you as being that low of a human being! Don’t get involved in other people’s drama. And, there’s always that block button. People are always going to make up stories about you. Or, if female, you will deal with accusations of you always wanting someone’s boyfriend/husband. Your outfits will never be right, or let me guess, I supposedly “wore that outfit to meet someone.” I have been slut shamed thousands of times in life, big and small, and I don’t joke about the word “thousands.” I have been slut shamed over clothing in a very covered up look with a super long skirt and a second skirt underneath it. What hope do I, or you, have avoiding slut shaming when they do it to us in covered up looks? As for gossip, if it is written online, you should seek ways to get it removed. For word of mouth, avoid those people altogether. You don’t want to give them any more material they can twist into saying “the girl who likes my boyfriend said this confronting me the other day. She’s, like, so weird and still likes him.” Act like they don’t exist, and the only “material” they will have is old hat hearsay people are sick of listening to. You are the wiser, mature person in the matter. Cut off all ties to people friends with the gossiper(s) involved because they too might be making fun of you behind your back and spreading lies.
How do I...?
Tips for the millions of People Asking Me the Same Questions
"How do I become a film director?"
A) Be an actor or actress. Become popular or at least somewhat famous. Write a movie. Get funding to make your movie from an indie studio.
B) Write a movie. Make an indie film using your own budgeting and whatever you can get. Show this movie at film festivals. Repeat this until someone at a film festival picks up your movie for distribution. Do that again and again until you become popular and seem to know what you are doing enough for a studio to trust you. A studio then hires you to be a mainstream movie director.
C) Write a movie. Make an indie film using your own budgeting and whatever you can get. Show this movie on any home media service like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. For greater exposure, get thee on a streaming service like Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix. Do that again and again until you become popular and seem to know what you are doing enough for a studio to trust you. A studio then hires you to be a mainstream movie director.
"How do I become a screenwriter?"
A) Make your own movie. Write it. Direct it.
B) Get an agent. Have that agent submit the script the proper way. If not, the studio or filmmaker will either ignore you or throw away your idea for legal purposes. Sell the script to the studio.
Never approach the nearest filmmaker or studio person, be it a famous person or someone up and coming in Hollywood, and mention your "amazing film idea." Don't shove a script at that person. Do not approach him or her on social media. In the Midwest, some people might use very proper grammar and say, "Ain't gonna happen." Don't think you will be the first to change that. Your unsolicited script idea is like the word "fetch" in Mean Girls. These people get asked about "my great film idea" and "my amazing screenplay" all day long from the moment they leave home to logging onto social media back at home.
“How do I become an actor/actress?”
Nothing matters for credits unless it’s on IMDb. People want to see lots of them, so get going! Socialize, study acting, network and do all you can to get IMDb credits. Join SAG-AFTRA. Never stop working at it. The day you slack is a day someone could have cast you at that audition, or by attending that industry function where you could have met the right casting director. Don’t worry about changing your look to be cast as “the right roles.” Whoever wants to work with you can use hair/makeup/wardrobe/CGI to change your look. Apart from getting in better shape, I would advise everyone pursuing acting and/or modeling to never diet restrictively for work because all you will do is ruin/worsen your health and look like everyone else. You will be cast because you don’t look like everyone else.
“How do I start a successful writing-based website?”
Write stuff. On a website. I can’t guarantee it will become successful overnight. Fate plays a role in that. How do you define success? You can have a widely read website that does not pull in big money like someone else’s because he/she might be getting paid sponsorships whereas all you have is ads running. Does success mean people are reading it and hiring you in your profession, or that you make loads of money monthly from marketing to your readers over the content? The choice is yours.
"How do I become a film score composer?"
You should probably have learned how to play music before embarking on this journey. Once you've taken a childhood's worth of music lessons, or made up for it somehow with music knowledge attained through experience, follow these steps below.
A) Become a film score composer's minion. Too bad for you! Everyone graduating from music school either wants to teach music or be a film score composer's minion. Good luck getting a job. It's doable but hard! Work your way up as a minion. This may or may not work out for you due to the many former composers' minions also competing against you. Wait around forever for lightning to strike. It's probably not going to. It could. Probably, it won't. Being honest.
B) Make a movie. Hire yourself to be a composer for the film score. Rinse and repeat.
C) Have your friend make a movie. Bribe your friend with free pizza for life or whatever it takes. Have your friend hire you to be a composer for his or her movie's film score. Rinse and repeat.
D) Be at least moderately successful as a music producer, rapper, hip hop mogul, or rocker. Have a director hire you because he or she thinks you are cool and probably know what you're doing. Rinse and repeat.
"How do I record orchestral music as a composer?"
A) Find students excited to help you. Pay them in pizza, gift cards, or some form of compensation. Be nice to them. Use either a full orchestra made up of students or layer instruments over each other for a fuller sound, an old trick used in pop music.
B) Compose music on your computer using a fake orchestra. Preferably, an instrument pack you made yourself using the nice students from point A so your work sounds real.
C) A combination of A and B.
D) Hire a more expensive city orchestra or studio orchestra. Pay up. Give them awesome sheet music.
“How do I record my own music at home as a producer/singer/rapper?”
Buy a professional microphone. A good producer can make a cheaper microphone sound good. Don’t go too cheap: buy something at least $150 USD.
Seal off the door at the bottom with pillows or those cute long pillow animals used to block drafts. Ensure you have total silence, or as much as possible. You can edit out some exterior noise afterwards if you hear a slight breeze outside you can’t control, or city traffic.
Hone in your production skills learning things like singing/rapping your own backing vocals. Use yourself as a guinea pig learning how to produce different styles and with assorted effects! Focus on giving people cool production no amount of music education or money spent on fancy instrument packs can buy. Build a solid catalog of work people can find on streaming websites. I argue, production itself and uniqueness will take you farther than copying what is popular. Producers, and people hiring film score composers, want to work with versatile people who might have a specific sound but are capable of doing everything. You should be good enough where an artist walks in demanding you come up with a song inspired by some genre and/or a filmmaker demands, “I want a score influenced by East Asian historical sounds but modern.” Never limit your creativity because it will limit your career.
"How do I animate my own movies?"
A) Go to animation school. Learn how.
B) Don't go to animation school. Learn on your own. Sit down and draw on paper and using your computer until you get good enough. Animate your own movies. Learn more as you get better at it enough to improve on your style. Obsess over every animated film possible. Watch lots of Bob Ross. The will to learn can overcome any obstacles!
C) Don't learn animation at all. Hire an expensive professional animation staff. Steve Jobs did it with Toy Story, as does just about every mainstream filmmaker getting into animated films.
"Do I have to be a specific age to make a movie?"
No! You can be 16 or 83. Get started! The sooner, the better. You will take much longer making your first movie or two than anticipated.
"Why should I befriend people in Hollywood/London/Sydney entertainment when nobody is going to finance my movie (or insert career goal here)?"
Because, as I wrote in a first grade homework assignment, friends are good. When you embark on a career path with end goals that aren't "normal" to people or often, are viewed as setbacks because you won't be earning huge income for some time until you make it, you deal with people who don't understand. The only ones who will relate to you are people at every step of this crazy career path. People who are A-list and those who won't be A-list for another fifteen years. A life without friends is terrible. The longer you clam up, the worse you feel. Making friends won't happen overnight; some friends won't be but lunch buddies you eat with every six months. Some are the unexpected lifelong BFFs you read about in old stories.
And, a special someone may be waiting for you whom you meet because of career stuff. Maybe he/she won't be "in the industry," or if he/she is, not famous. He/she could be that restauranteur you meet catering the party. A behind the scenes film person. A flower shop assistant delivering flowers to the director. Life happens. You need to be there when it does, or this whole career stuff will never make you happy on its own.
The answer to the second half of this very common question I get is, people will help you. They won't overnight. Do you like it when a doctor's office reminds you once per month to book an appointment? No, you don't need any help. You know when to return to the dentist. And being asked to help strangers is exactly that feeling intensified. Someone of power will help you when he/she determines he/she wants to help your career. You never ask that person. Becoming successful is like training as a Jedi, or a ninja or karate champion, for those who like martial arts films. Your master will find you. You may have more than one great master. But you'll be helped by your master. and when he/she feels you are ready to chop a block of brick metaphorically in your career, he/she will help you get to that black belt. You don't ask. It comes to you–and you earn it!