Serious Shorts

Creating/blogging movies scene by scene is a better exercise for me as a storyteller than I ever experienced in any of the ten years of playwriting classes and workshops I took. It was a real milestone for me to begin to make complete stories that were less than 20 minutes long. In fact, the closest that I came to working like I am working now were the times when my acting tutor, Luis Oropeza, was working on his solo play about Lorca, “Blood Poet” and when he was preparing for his role in the play, “Kiss of the Spiderwoman.”

Turning my lesson into a masterclass, Luis would get up on his feet and go into character. As the character, he would talk about the story and dig deeper into subtext. Luis did not memorize easily, but he so fluidly gave life to character that sometimes when I was supposed to be giving him lines, I became so absorbed in his character that I forgot I had the script in my hands.

My characters often transport me after I have been living with them for a while; and one of them, Missy the Slave Mistress in THE BLUE LADY, began rewriting not only her backstory, but the whole movie as her character developed in the same compelling way that I was sometimes convinced Luis’ paraphrasing was truer than what was on the page.

I have been fortunate to work with some talented dramaturge-directors on my solo theater pieces, who, once I began to get up on my feet with one of my solo plays in rehearsal, would tell me, “You have to turn off your writer now.” I wonder if my plays would have been better if every time I sat down to write, I had been inside my pivotal character’s skin.

My portfolio of “Serious Shorts.”



Still, Kabuki Geisha (2012)

The Sheer Joy of Creating vs The Biz



Last week, I realized that my greenscreening skills have outclassed my setup. Fortunately, I have been doing this long enough (and already had a wall in my kitchen painted Chroma green), that I know how not to spend a fortune when I upgrade my tech. As I tweak my new setup, I remember the first two movies that I shot in the kitchen, TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) and Lucy the First Human.

I am trying to be businesslike about getting my work out there, and as my first art dealer told me, there is a point at which your work has to be for sale. I get that, I do. But what about sharing the joy you got from making it, i.e., showing the work and dialoguing about it? The strength and grounding I got making TYFTB and Lucy completely by myself, not to mention the fun I had, make me feel like I owe them to be seen.

As I made them scene by scene and blogged them, I met other artists who have helped me tremendously, that I wouldn’t have met if the scenes had been “private” or viewable only via password. It is a sin not to show work that you know gave other people joy – once you put the work out into the world, having created is something nobody can take away from you and by the same token, what other people take away from it (good or bad) is something that you can’t and shouldn’t try to take away from.

I have decided to reduce the prices of TYFTB and Lucy for online downloading (which allows people to watch stuff at their own speed) and take the locks of them on Vimeo and YouTube.

Lucy the First Human is on Indie Reign at

TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) is on Indie Reign at

The Vimeo TYFTB Album is at
The Vimeo Lucy Album is at

Thanks for watching!

Kitchen Scenes Studio: Greenscreen kit test

I finally figured out the mystery of why I can shoot myself so close to greenscreen in my living room and have re-created the light situation in my kitchen, which is half-painted Chroma green. It’s not magic – it’s science.

1. The micro-climate in my San Francisco neighborhood (Hayes Valley) is sunnier on average.
2. My living room window is almost wide as the 12′ x 15′ room itself. The window is along the longer side of the room.
3. Though it is a northern exposure, the buildings on my block are all three stories or less and painted light colors, so there is all-round, even brightness in the room, in large part because it is so shallow.
4. The light shines on the big window and the window reflects evenly onto the whole room, turning the walls and the ceiling into diffusers.
5. This creates a lighting situation for shooting where there is even lighting on both actor and greenscreen, as well as minimal shadows.

The kitchen is square, 15′ x 15′. I bought a worklight set up (2 halogen lamps on an adjustable stand) at my favorite hardware store for about 45 USD. I bought a reflector kit with a 40″ x 60″ reflector and a stand that is adjustable up to 79″. I will need sandbags, but, other than that, I can now green screen 24/7 in my kitchen.

I put this test vid out into the Universe, hoping someone else finds it encouraging.

Touching reality vs. Creating metaphor

kabuki geisha

Still, Kabuki Geisha (2012)

I have felt so strange lately that I thought I might getting dementia. But I think I feel strange because I’m touching reality instead of merely creating metaphors. I am living on the edge of my life without worrying about falling off. I recognize that this is the edge because I have been here before – but only during psychosis. Art made while psychotic doesn’t count in my rule book because it lacks the commitment and engagement of conscious intent.

I know I have made some good work before now – I am a realist and I also have no need to deny the past. But I never thought my mind would make it to the place of dancing fearlessly on the edge. This is marvelous and I am grateful.

I owe. I owe

Production Update

Sylviatoyindustries: Current Projects

1. The Blue Lady (location scouting).
2. 2226.
4. Dermalian.

In a sense, I have been working on 2226 all my life. It’s not just write-what-I-know because my Dayjob has mostly been in the legal field for 35 years. In the backstory of 2226 are all the expectations and sacrifices of the parents and the coddling by the teachers who raise people who become lawyers. The year that I spent in law school felt like a year spent as an orchid with a bunch of other orchids being cultivated for market in a hothouse.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the law as much as anyone. But the dancing elephant that has been in my life since my first drawing on the wall of the living room (you know, the one with the big Picasso tattooed on his ass?), that elephant never cared about my father’s dreams for me or getting special treatment throughout grade school or about my junior high history teacher telling the class that I was the only good student or about getting the best score on The National French Exam or about being a National Achievement Scholar. All that tattooed beatnik of an elephant ever cared about was when I went to New York or Paris or Italy to study art.

My father’s dreams didn’t have a prayer against that tattooed beatnik of an elephant. And neither does my now dead intent to produce a movie about lawyers. But I need to finish the story of 2226 – I definitely need the catharsis of that by the time I apply for Social Security. And I will. Slowly but surely. And if it’s not too much of a pain in the ass, I will try to sell the screenplay.

But the truth is that VOICE is going to be the most important thing in my life for quite a long time. And in the meantime, that tattooed beatnik of an elephant went out and found a damned interesting protagonist (a rebel with a hopeless cause) and has been prancing around the apartment with him on its back, and conspiring with my husband to make another Sci Fi movie in our kitchen.

That tattooed beatnik of an elephant has gotten what he wanted every time.

- Sylvia Toy