Thinking about Story … again

I have been thinking about ¡Story! and how/what to write about it for months. Today my brain finally formulated concrete, latch-on-to-able state-able concepts that can represent both my beliefs about story and basic principles that I practice every day in my work as a filmmaker.

My first epiphany was about moments. Stories are a series of moments – defined 1., as “a very brief period of time,” and 2. as “importance.” In other words, the beginnings, middles and ends of stories, as well as the plot points and, of course, the details, are all moments. This epiphany was so unburdening and such an “Aha” or “Eureka” personal event. But my next epiphany was jarring and almost shocking: Is story about what I want to express to other people and engage them in, regardless of whether I believe they will be easily engaged and understand (without any difficulty) what it is that I’m showing on the screen?; or is it about expressing events (real or fictional) in my own voice (from my own point of view) in a manner in which both the subtext and my intention in telling the story is accessible to other people.

Obviously, there have been a lot of writers who told stories that they themselves wanted to tell regardless of whether those stories would be understood, would resonate with the writers’ contemporaries. On the other hand, there have been storytellers like one of my bipolar peers whose real name probably was not Jeff, who live as if the world was inside their heads; and who either aren’t concerned with being understood or who presume any stories that they tell will be understood by everyone because the world is inside their heads.

And then, on the other hand (or, probably, one of a number of other hands) there are storytellers who tell stories that everyone knows already – and that’s exactly what they want to hear; as well as storytellers who tell stories based on archetypes with which all of us are familiar, even if those stories arc or resolve in unexpected ways or have unpredictably disturbing endings.

I care how people feel. But I find it difficult to care what other people think. Opinion, even when formed on an emotional foundation, is not emotion. And there is a grayscale of skewing along which each of us forms opinions. The more limited our direct experience in – or even, interest in or engagement by – one or another sphere of human endeavor, the more skewed our opinion (and point of view) is likely to be.

As a storyteller I try to create archetypal characters with whom any other human can empathize. The environments I create for those characters, however, are skewed. I place archetypes alone in minimal landscapes with limited, stripped down references to society.

As a storyteller, I am interested in the individual’s experience of his/her own existence regardless of society.


My writhing wall of angsty 15-second arthouse clips on Instagram


Excellent resource, Instagram, where a self-distributing indie filmmaker can set up a quick but not dirty wall of 15-second teasers.

VOICE, a performance art web series: Volume 2

Relieved and happy that storylines for the next 5 episodes of VOICE (Episodes 9-13) just came to me this morning after two months of storyteller’s block. I never would have thought it would be serendipitous to suddenly, after almost 20 years, vividly remember my most painful years of living with Bipolar Disorder 1.

VOICE, Volume 2

  • Episode 9: Vacancy. (August, 2016)
  • Episode 10: A Honeymoon with Herself. (September, 2016)
  • Episode 11: Dumped. (October, 2016)
  • Episode 12: Phobia. (November, 2016)
  • Episode 13: Stranded. (December, 2016)


VOICE, a performance art web series (20 second teaser)

“VOICE” is a comedic, science fiction horror fantasy. Psyche Lyssa Echo Smith has entered therapy to “fix herself” so her estranged husband will come back home. All three characters want the same thing – control of Psyche, who is the Self – without having to share with the others. The conflict intensifies when Echo, the psychotic voice, discovers her personal star and pursues it into outer space. VOICE Parts 1 to 3 are available on Amazon. A new episode is released by the first of each month.

My Theatre Notices

I was reviewed as a sculptor, playwright, actor and performance artist, and now as a filmmaker. Nothing ever made “it all seem worth it” as did receiving notices as an actor & performer.


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Fragment: I always wake up with anxiety on Sunday morning

I always wake up with anxiety on Sunday morning. The feeling I have this Sunday morning is grief that I will die one day.

I am not depressed and I am not having suicidal thoughts. It simply seems that the empty well of the beginning of the week must be filled up with something unpleasant as some sort of reality check.

That is, having done so much of what I damn well pleased until it was no longer defiance, rebellion, and struggle born from rage, but instead became my life, love, and labor, having done that – and rarely experiencing misery anymore – my grief about my death merely helps keep me grounded and hardheaded.

The day I retired


Killer Jane’s Murder Book: Getaway Experiment 2

Killer Jane’s Murder Book: Getaway Experiment 2 from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

Pre-production story development video. A woman repeatedly dreams that she has committed homicide. The dreams usually begin with her getaway and amnesia about who she killed and why.

Heredity, love and fascination (as well as 10 years of making movies and video art) have led me to the concept for my next performance art video project, a series of 5-minute and sub-5-minute movies about a woman who keeps dreaming that she’s murdered someone. Each movie will be about a different crime, as the woman’s crimes and victims are always different, and often she is someone else committing the dreams. She is worried about the dreams and as part of trying to figure out why she has them, she begins collecting clippings, photos, witness statements and other items that might be in a “murder book”: “In law enforcement parlance, the term murder book refers to the case file of a murder investigation. Typically, murder books include crime scene photographs and sketches, autopsy and forensic reports, transcripts of investigators’ notes and witness interviews.” (Wikipedia)