Okay, it's been way too long since I posted anything and for that I deeply apologize. I realize it's been almost a year and that is completely unforgivable. But here's the thing...the intern graduated (yes, I did my best to stop it, but you can't keep a good woman down!) Oh, and I've actually been working. My dear loyal readers, things have been popping around here. First of all, I've finished a few new scripts. Second, last fall I met up with one of my heroes from long ago. David J. Willett, president of Associated Newspapers, owned the newspapers that I read when I was in high school. He also wrote a column that I read often. He also has produced Detroit television programs. Well, last fall we met and immediately realized that we shared a love of storytelling....I mean we both REALLY LOVE STORYTELLING. We love it so much that if we're not stopped we will literally tell stories for days on end with no food, water, or rest.
So, where did this lead? Well, we decided to become partners--a first for us both. We are now co-executive producers at Three Socks Media, LLC. That means our family has gotten bigger. David brought with him some wonderful people such as Director Brad Graham and former Detroit Free Press Writer, Keith Gave. (In addition, together he and I had lunch with Jane Goodall, an amazing experience! And that's just the start of the adventures we've had.) We've had a wonderful time developing our plans for the company and you're going to be amazed at what we do in 2019 and into 2020.
There are only great things ahead and I promise that I will keep you all updated from this point forward on a more regular basis. I'll start sharing more details over the coming weeks. :-)
Today I was contacted by someone telling me about a young man named Noah who is very eager to be a film maker. Specifically, I believe he is doing animation, which is not quite my area of expertise, but still he is telling stories. There's something truly amazing that happens when a storyteller finds his/her medium and has wonderful people supporting him/her. I remember the very first script I ever wrote. For years I had been telling stories, but I had never created an actual script. Although I knew very little when I started, that didn't stop me from jumping. I had found my medium and although I made my share of mistakes initially, I didn't care. That's what passion does for a person. It drives him/her to keep going no matter what.
Whenever you are tempted to say, "I don't know what to do next" stop. Just stop right there. Take a deep breath, clear your head, and remind yourself that the next step is always there when you are ready. Sometimes you're not actually ready yet, but in most cases you are and that next step is indeed there. Have you ever been looking for a lost item such as a shoe, a pen, or a book and no matter what you just can't see it? Then amazingly the item turns up in a place where you swear you already looked. What happened? Well, you were so convinced the item was lost that you convinced yourself and your mind obliged. I know this may sound crazy, but the next time you "lose" something, sit down for a moment, close your eyes and say, "I know where it is." Then just release it for a moment. Stop being panicked. Stop focusing on the problem. The same is true of film making. You will encounter challenges. You will lose things and you will feel like you've hit a brick wall at times. But the thing is there is a solution. There is a way around a challenge or through it. Stop focusing on the problem.
This week I also spent some time talking to Dov Siemens, yes, the online 2-day workshop Dov Siemens. He is a firm believer in finding solutions and in the power of storytelling. I promote his classes on this website not because I get any financial gain, but because his classes were my solution early in my journey as a film maker. (I have a firm belief that when someone helps you, you need to be grateful and help in return.)
Noah and Dov were both inspirations to me this week, but I'd be remiss if I didn't add one more name to the list of people I worked with this week who shared their passion. John Gerds, the director for ThreeSocks' production of Traunik reached out to me this week as well. If you ever need to talk to someone who has found his medium and is on fire, talk to John. He has passion to spare when it comes to film making. I am truly honored and very thrilled to have had contact with such wonderful people this week. They are this film maker's greatest resource.
Many of you coming to this site are very new to film making while others are the friends and supporters of THREE SOCKS MEDIA. We're on a journey together telling our stories and I want to take a moment to thank two sources that taught me so much: Dov Siemens who teaches the 2-Day Film School, and John Mashni, an entertainment attorney in Lansing, Michigan. It's important to have great resources, folks, and I plan to devote upcoming blogs to just this subject.
But back to the business at hand...
Coming into 2018 we've gotten a bit off focus, so I want to go back to making a movie. First of all, a few tools:
In my last post, I shared my story. Thank you so much for all of you who contacted me regarding how my story touched your life. I am so grateful to have had the chance to share it. Now we get back to film making. I'm fairly new to the film making community, but I have to say how amazing everyone has been. I've really enjoyed meeting people for coffee, brunch, and late night chats. What strikes me about all of these people is their commitment to storytelling and their unique perspectives.
In a few weeks, I'll be holding an auction of movie/TV memorabilia to raise funds for my next three movies. I'm current reaching out to Michigan celebrities for these items, although I may go beyond, and I am looking forward to a really amazing event. Keep checking back for updates.
For now, I want to talk about the idea of labels. Normally, I tell people not to label themselves and I've got a great story about someone I know who has been wearing a label of victim and failure due to being fired from her dream job, but before I tell that story, I want to share a new twist. In his workshops, Dov Siemens (if you don't know him GOOGLE his name because he is definitely well worth knowing) immediately tells students to label themselves as producers, directors, writers, whatever role you plan to play in film making. I loved that idea and when I took his course, I jumped on it right away. The problem was that I didn't actually believe it. It actually took me a few years before I felt like I could claim the title of executive producer and an encounter this past week has made me wonder about that process. You see, I, like many other people, easily adopt negative labels. It's easy to call yourself a failure. A loser. The list goes on and on. But for now as you are working on your film career, I want to challenge you to take a cue from Dov and call yourself something positive and really mean it.
This past week I ran into a woman who had been my supervisor many years ago before I went out onto my own. She hired and trained me at the company. After working with her for almost three years, I heard she had been fired as a part of a "mass blood-letting" by the company. I want to be extremely respectful to her here, so I'm going to be a bit vague and I'm going to use a fake name, but there is a very important lesson to be found in my recent encounter with her and it's been on my mind all week, which is why I am sharing this.
She was let go, and I was promoted. I was not a part of the decision making process, so I never knew very much, but a few days after she was fired I ran into her. To say she was angry would an understatement. She tried to be kind to me, but I also got a sense that her anger rain over onto me. That was fine, though, because I could easily see where she'd be upset. We chatted that day and I shared my dream of going out onto my own and offered to share the resources I was gathering for my big move. She declined. We parted ways.
I hadn't given her much thought until this recent encounter. There was still a tinge of anger obvious in her, and her life had not progressed significantly from where she was when we last spoke. Hearing this sent a chill down my spine. I remember hearing a quote a long time ago that said something to the effect of having problems means you're human, but having the same problems year after year means you've got a full-blown crisis. I'm not saying it as eloquently as the original quote, but the point is the same. (Hey, if you know this quote, please contact me!)
Hearing the tinge of anger and seeing that she hadn't progressed seemed heart breaking to me, but I understand. I've been there. Years ago I read the book "Forgive for Good" and began to work on the art of forgiving myself and others in my life. Pain can hold a person in the same spot for years...even for a lifetime. The irony is that we get angry at someone or something for ruining our lives and then we make a commitment to this vision and live it out. Getting fired is unpleasant, and the actual firing was possibly out of your control, but how you handle it and how you proceed is 100% in your hands.
I've really been thinking about that lesson this past week. Now, I'm not in that woman's shoes and I can't tell her what to do, but if she would hear me, I'd love to tell her that she is amazing and my time working for her made me a better person. I believe she is capable of great things, but you know what? The only person who can make the decision regarding what she is capable of is her. That's true for us all.
Tony Robbins has taken some heat lately for making a statement about not defining yourself as a victim. I see his point. Being a victim is terrible and I would never want to minimize anyone's pain or struggle, but at the same time, I know for a fact that negative labels limit. So, I will leave you here with the words that my favorite writing teacher used to say to me at the end of class: Get the hell out of here. Go and be amazing. (He was a bit rough around the edges! LOL!)
This company is all about telling stories and here's the thing, I can't recall if I've ever told any of you MY story. I have always said that the heart of ThreeSocks Media LLC is stories because they matter and recently a friend told me that to tell a good story, I need to know MY story first. Is that true? I'm not sure, but I do know that I decided it was time to gain some clarity on my story and share it with all of you.
I was born a story teller....oh, and the youngest of seven children. (It was a crazy zoo, but as the youngest I eventually got my own bedroom and in time was able to be an only child in the house...at least for a few years.) Early in my life I gained a fan club at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. I was kind of a big deal there because at 18 months old I stopped breathing and was apparently "technically" dead for a little while. I was originally told 6 minutes, but over the years I heard figures that ranged from 2 minutes to 45. I seem to recall actually hearing a doctor say 6 minutes after he looked at my chart, so that's the number I stick with in my version.
That makes me a miracle...that and the fact that my parents were in their 40's with very little privacy, quite frankly makes my conception and birth outright Ripley's Believe It or Not material. Then, as I said, I had some health problems and during an emergency room visit just outright stopped breathing. (I've had some "unique" experiences throughout my life and a psychic once told me it was due to my death experience....I kid you not a woman came running up to me in a restaurant to tell me this news randomly. Somewhat scary since I hadn't even been talking to her when she felt moved to yell this out. Scared my lunch companion, but what the hell.)
I went on to totally amaze the doctors at Beaumont as I made a miraculous recovery years later, and then despite initial predictions that I wouldn't live to be an adult and I certainly would never have a "normal" life, I got a clean bill of health at age 14 and never looked back. Okay, I should probably add that I haven't had a "normal" life, but that's what miracles are all about and I'm fine with that. LOL! I have lived a healthy life and that's what really matters.
My story gets hazy for awhile, however, because though I started out my professional life strong and focused, doubt brought me to my knees and took me way off course. Though I love both of my parents, it took me many years to be able to say the following line: I am the daughter of a man with mental illness, a man who fought off paranoid delusions and his family all paid the price for them. My siblings paid a higher price than me, since I was the youngest and was able to be sheltered by them, but it ultimately drove a wedge between us all.
I'm not complaining. It made me who I am and I'm really proud of myself. However, I honestly cannot remember a time when I was a kid that a trip to the local Kmart wasn't a traumatic thing. You see, my father believed that someone from his early adulthood was after him and, in fact, Dad thought this guy had a poisonous spray that he used on our family. So, my father always made at least one of my brothers stand watch at the car and if while we were shopping, my father felt like he was being sprayed, we had to drop everything and run out to the car and leave. I remember once picking out a pink Easter dress that had to be dropped so we could run and when we returned it was nowhere to be seen.
But, nonetheless, I made it. My siblings made it as well. We all survived and went on to lead pretty good lives and all of us are fairly sane....knock on wood. LOL! But one profound effect it had on me was that I was very big into playing it safe and not drawing attention to myself. My career has had many stellar high points, but until recently, I was always fairly eager to get out of the spotlight and thus turn down a promotion, give someone else the chance to lead a project, etc. I worked as an English teacher much of my life all the while writing. A few years ago my daughters asked why I didn't do anything with my writing and initially I replied that it was due to not having Hollywood contacts. I said, "The deck is stacked against people like me." Then it hit me. That was my father's favorite line...it was his WHY when people suggested he get a better job so that he could support his family, it was his go-to for how he and my mom ended up in a bad neighborhood with little to show for it all.
So here's the thing: I have come to realize that the deck is stacked the way you stack it. Yes, there are some things out of our control, but we always have control over our mindset and how we approach the world. My father had an illness, which was out of his control, but the option to take meds or ignore them were his. So were other things like his decision not to allow other people to help our family.
I am a miracle. I survived my father. I survived a heart valve problem. The heart problem was supposedly a death sentence. Yet here I sit with a Ph.D., two children, and a very full career. I don't define myself by my early illness or my father anymore. Nor do I define myself by fears and the belief that things are stacked against me. The rough times only made me realize and appreciate the incredible nature of my life. This is my story...I am a miracle.
My current plan is to make five movies. They're going to be great, and if you're reading this blog, it means you're a part of this whole process and I thank you. The deck is not stacked against us, but we do have an adventure ahead of us. Are you ready?
Getting funding for a movie or accomplishing any major life goal for that matter, can be challenging at times and even overwhelming. We begin with great excitement and then we lose steam. Doubt finds its way into our lives and when challenges come up, it's easy to mistake them for signs that we need to quit. In fact, I was raised to believe that when things become challenging God is telling you to back down or find a new direction. I no longer believe this. Life is an adventure and it's in our hands how we decide to pursue it. Challenges make us stronger. They define us and show us what we can truly accomplish. They are not an end, but a beginning.
I recently had an extremely empowering situation that was all about challenge. A local charity asked if I would participate in a "Dancing with the Stars" type of show. Now, right up front I want to tell you that I've never danced. I did not take ballet lessons as a child nor did I ever engage in any type of lessons--formal or informal. The charity asked for my help and I agreed. This involved my first ever dance lessons all geared towards a competition that would involve competing against people who have had lessons and some who had even competed in this event previously. There reached a point where I felt overwhelmed. There I was stomping about with two left feet while this very graceful (and I might add extremely patient) dance instructor walked my partner and I though steps that I just couldn't get to move from my brain into my feet. I wanted to quit. Actually, I wanted to scream, tear up something, scream some more, AND THEN QUIT. But I didn't. After a few more weeks, things began to feel better and I saw progress. Then last Saturday I competed. I didn't go home with a trophy, but I got a standing ovation, and I went home with a sense of achievement. I had learned a dance, performed it in front of a group, and most important of all, I had pushed past the challenges.
During the past few months I've put a few projects on hold because I'd reach that point of feeling overwhelmed. To be quite honest, I'd reverted to my old mindset of God closing the door. But at the height of my frustration about the dance competition I had a flashback to turning point earlier in my career. I had been walking down a hallway about to turn a corner when I heard two colleagues talking. They were just around the corner and couldn't see me when one said, "Lynne has so much going for her. Why doesn't take charge and really do something for this project?" The other person replied, "She doesn't have it in her." That was a defining moment for me back then and I continue to use it now. The truth is that we all have what we need inside of us, but we let doubt get into our heads and we stop.
Are you going to stop? Am I going to stop? NO. The music is playing, the dance floor is ready, and if we just let ourselves free, we can dance with the best of them. So, it's okay if you're overwhelmed. It's not okay to stop because of it.
My dear readers, that means all of my projects are back on the table.
Welcome to 2018!!!!!!! So, what projects do you have planned? Did you make any new resolutions or find any clarity as the dust settled on January 1 (or for some of us January 2)?
I do not make resolutions. I find that they just get in the way of actually making my life better. Why? Because every day we should be accepting challenges, making healthy decisions, and being the best version of ourselves. A resolution often feels to me like I'm broken and need to be fixed. Also, when I did used to make resolutions, they were always so huge that no human could ever reach them, and thus I felt broken again.
Now when I wake up each day, I make a very short to-do list and deliberately plan out my day. My decision is to be deliberate about today and every day. It doesn't have to be January 1. I recommend you consider this yourself. Keep to-do lists show and deliberate actions constant. For me, it's a matter of not sleeping my way through my life anymore.
So, as we start this new year, I am still committed to the principles of Three Socks Media, LLC such as storytelling and making the world a better place. Part of that means this website is going to be devoted a bit more to helping others. We had a marvelous year in 2017--learned a lot, met great people, and gained more clarity. Last year was magnificent. That's why this website is moving more and more towards helping others find their way as storytellers and building community.
I receive lots of emails from people and messages on LinkedIn, but I'd like to see our discussions move to this blog so that the community and the learning goes from two people via email to a whole community. Not that you can't continue to contact us--PLEASE DO. I've loved meeting so many people over the years and I hope this only increases in 2018, but here's the thing: you've got a dream and at times you may feel isolated while trying to pursue this dream. But you're not alone.
Let's commit together to an amazing new year. Keep coming back for articles and resources. We've never been so energized!!! IT'S GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR!!!!!!!
Are you interested in making a movie? Or maybe you just want to be a part of the process...try something new...be an extra. I want to give you some practical guidance, especially if you're in the midwest and want to get started. Step 1 is a good story. As you know Three Socks Media is all about stories, so I want to start here. Whether you're a script writer or a director, the project always starts with a good story. Now we've all seen movies where the storyline was basically nonexistent. In fact, if you're familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (either the 90's version or the recent reboot) you know that the world is full of movies with no story lines. How did that happen? There are a few things that could have been at play here:
So what's a good storyline? Well, from a writing standpoint, I was once told that to create a great story you put your grandpa up a tree and then throw rocks at him. A bit harsh I know, but the point being that you need something to be happening to someone the audience cares enough about to root for during the movie.
My first piece of advice to anyone who wants to write scripts is to create character people will love. If your audience is going to give up an hour and a after to three hours for your story, they need a reason to invest. And after that, they need to see things developing. Whether you choose to have a positive adventure or a negative one for your characters, they need to have an adventure. And finally, the ending should always create a "Oh wow!" moment for your audience. Maybe you give a happy ending or maybe you give a sad one, either way, take your audience's breath away whenever possible.
Now when it comes to endings, I'm a bit old school. I think the writer owes something to the audience, a kind of THANK YOU for watching. That means giving the audience some kind of satisfaction, and yes, that means I didn't like the ending of LaLaLand. There was great talent in that movie, but if I'm giving up my time, the writer needs to give me some satisfaction at the end.
What do you think?
Do you feel stuck right now? Believe it or not the answer may already be right in front of you. A friend of mine who has been trying to produce his first movie for more than a year recently came to me and said he was giving up. Nothing was working and he was sure that he was now doomed to a life of failure. Maybe he just didn't have talent? Maybe the cards were just stacked against him, and life just doesn't work out for the little guy? Those are both easy defaults. They are the royal announcements for an upcoming pity party of magnificent proportions. I've thrown a few of those parties myself.
But do they really help us? Is hitting bottom like this just the world's way of showing us what no-talent, meaningless people we are in this huge unfriendly universe? I don't think so. I am very confident that my friend has talent and that he can succeed. As of this very moment, in fact, he is back on track and moving along just fine.
So what happened? He let go. What? HE LET GO! After completely melting down, he came to the realization that he had been trying to force everything to happen on his timetable in the way he envisioned it. Once he melted down and the smoke cleared, he remembered something. A year ago a trusted friend had given him some advice, advice which was now very relevant and useful. At the time he had received it, however, he didn't give it a second thought. At that point he was polite enough, but the the suggestion was immediately buried under the "I know what I'm doing" myths bouncing around his head.
Financial and motivational guru Harv T. Eker often says that the words "I know that" comprise the most dangerous sentence in the universe. Why? Because once we are convinced that we know something, we are more likely to close our minds to new ideas. After all, if we already know everything on the subject, why explore other possibilities?
My friend's meltdown brought him to a place of being willing to say, "I may NOT know something." He then remembered the advice he had previously been given, and began exploring it. Then he discovered real solutions to his problems. He's still a bit sore about the fact that he had this information a year ago and didn't make use of it, but at least he is now moving.
As you all know I have had some roadblocks to my production and I've been very open about them because I want to help others and writing about them helps me. Not too long ago I sat with my trusted advisor, John Mashni, and after taking a deep breath admitted that I had been saying "I know that" for far too long when I obviously was missing something. I was ready to see things from a new perspective and I sit here today a little better person and certainly a better producer because of it.
Are you sitting there saying, "I'm stuck! Why aren't there any answers or solutions to my situation?" Well, maybe the answers are actually right in front of you, but you need to let go and be open to seeing them. Yes, you can argue with me that you are trying to see them, and they just aren't there. If you can't see them, you aren't ready for them. But take heart. They are there and you WILL find them. I did.
-In previous blog posts I have noted that while the moving making process is amazing, there are many challenges. One of the challenges is that sometimes a person has to make tough decisions. This is true in all of life. Things get rough. People say things. Obstacles arise. Sometimes we find ourselves as the only one to stand up for this dream. It's in those moments that the true hero inside of us can rise up. It's then that we really learn who we are and why we are here.
When making a movie, sometimes that means welcoming new people on board and sometimes it means moving forward after saying goodbye. People come into our lives for a reason and every single person is a blessing in some way, even those who do not feel it at the time. We need to appreciate that. We also need to appreciate that sometimes very wonderful people need to leave our projects. But at the same time, we need to always keep our dream alive. It depends on us. We are the advocate.
So the real point of what I am thinking about here is that while working on your project you may need to make a tough decision involving real people with real feelings and real value. Be compassionate. Be brave. Your inner-hero will come through for you, so go with your gut, keep moving, and see every experience as one that can make you and your project better. Don't fear making these decisions because your project needs you to be the hero of the story.
Remember three things: you are amazing, your project deserves life, and it's a great ride, but it can get a bit bumpy.
Lynne M. Smelser is an executive producer and scriptwriter. For more than 20 years she has been an active writer who has won many national awards. She also holds a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University.