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.
So do you know what/where Truanik is? It might surprise you to know that Traunik, the location and name of the film we are currently making, is an actual place located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It is a very small place, in fact, the Marquette Monthly calls it a "dot on the map, a blip on the radar, a blink in the road." So how did it come to be the center of my very first movie?
I grew up in Michigan and despite hating winter, I overall love the state and all of its natural beauty. As a kid I experienced typically one of two vacation spots--my grandmother's home in Arkansas or Mackinaw Island. I loved both, but Mackinaw and the area to the north was always a great place for me to feel relaxed and have fun with my family. To this day, it is my favorite vacation destination.
When the Michigan economy began struggling in 2002 and onward, I too felt the pinch. So when it came vacation time, I went with my default: northern Michigan. One can spend as much or as little money as one would like when traveling in northern Michigan and still have the most amazing vacation. Its beauty if beyond compare and with little more than a tent and some food, a traveler can see spectacular sunsets and serene surroundings.
Traunik was selected for my story because it is about as small of a town as one can find, but with wonderful people and beauty all around. Also, Traunik can be a bit challenging to reach which adds to the humor of my main characters plight. I don't want to spoil the ending of my movie, but let's say that ultimately, I hope the beauty of Michigan is one of the main stars of the movie! (Oh, and a few of my favorite actors as well!)
For the new and independent film maker, this is a constant and nagging question. How is your financing coming along? During the past year as I have been working with the money people to get my project going, I have in effect learned the wisdom of Thomas Edison who once said, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I've said before in my posts that making a movie (especially for someone new to the field) is about not giving up....ever. While I have not kept count, I can appreciate the statement regarding finding 10,000 ways that won't work.
I know that there are many people who read this blog who have never made a movie, but would like to do so. Therefore, I want to share a bit about the "ways that won't work" or rather, how to find the way that will so that you can be successful:
THIS IS THE LAST OF THREE BLOG POSTS BY GUEST BLOGGER, JOHN GERDS. JOHN IS A SEASONED PROFESSIONAL IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
Life on set, any set, can be very challenging. There are a dozen different factors coming together with the people and the workload. When it comes to the people, there is such as a wide range of experience from newbies to those who have been around forever. Also, there are different temperaments and perspectives represented by these people. The workload speaks for itself. The hours are hard, and just all around the work never seems to end. But for some reason, when I do a comedy it all seems to go away the moment I shout “ACTION!” When we start filming and actors start performing it just turns into a ball of laughs. We try and follow the script, but when an actor really gets into the comedy they tend to go off script a lot which usually makes for a better scene. We have a ton of bloopers (out takes) that are usually funnier then the scene we pick. Traunik has a great feel to it and with the right combination of crew and actors like we have the situation is ripe with opportunities to get carried away and have fun. I already expect lots of bloopers that we can share at the end of the movie. This makes the whole experience amazing and it creates a wonderful sense of community because laughter melts the stress and once it’s gone we’re just having fun.
I have been a storyteller since I could first talk. My father was an avid storyteller and I can remember Saturday afternoons where he and I would sit in the yard and he would tell me stories. Being ablet to have the spark of an idea and then develop it into something much greater that can be shared with others is the most amazing experience.
This has been my driving force my entire life: storytelling. For the early part of my career it came through my role as a journalist and then later as an educator. Even while I was working on my dissertation and my fellow students bemoaned not having a moment to spare, I was sneaking off to learn how to write scripts in every moment I could get free. I actually completed my first script the same week I completed my dissertation. I was so proud that week....and it was at that moment as I first look at both completed documents that I knew I was never going to be a fulltime academic again.
I am so excited to share my characters and stories with all of you as we plan out five movies that will be produced by Three Socks Media, LLC.
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.