I’m still here

 

Weekend harassment on FB by someone I’m sure friended me because I write about being bipolar. He is now blocked.

It is difficult for me to reject other mentally ill. But if I set any kind of example, consider this: I did not survive suicidality, mania and depression, hold down dayjobs for 45 years and make all that art  by being codependent and enabling. 

20 years before I even knew what manic depression was, it was clear to me that if you know you’re a train wreck waiting to happen, it is a bad idea to be on the same track with another train wreck waiting to happen. 

Unfortunately, that limits my ability to make commitments, but.I’m.still.here. 

Still, VOICE series

Blogging a movie: The Blue Lady, shooting Elizabeth this week

 

Still, THE BLUE LADY, the slave Elizabeth

I understand my character Elizabeth exactly, though I could never be like her. There are people who are never the boss, never the owner, never the money, who nevertheless are what “status quo” depends on. They are the people who really believe that it’s possible – in spite of human limitations and weakness and laziness and cowardice and complacency with it all on top of that – who really believe that it’s not only possible but absolutely necessary to go through the same motions in the same order every day. These are the people we call the salt of the earth. Elizabeth probably also would be called “stoic.” It’s no wonder that having put so much effort and energy into the skill of maintaining the artifice of order, she has no idea of what has really gone on in that house. 

I don’t know whether I’ve ever mentioned it before, but part of my reference for the backstory of this movie is what my parents told me about the household of the man who molested me when I was five; and how even though he was too afraid of my mother to go through with raping me, he regularly raped all five of his daughters and his wife knew it and felt helpless to leave or do anything about it. I will never forget the look in my mother’s eye when she described how the wife slept next to him every night knowing what she knew; and one morning she woke up and he was dead, having died peacefully in his sleep. 

Life isn’t fair and neither should Art be. Film at 11. 

on how to get from point A to point B.

sylviatoystlouis:

Beautifully wrought.

Originally posted on Pupcaked:

I made a sauce of roasted acorn squash and caramelized onions and thyme and tossed it with pasta and sprinkled the top with roasted cauliflower and grated parmesan cheese. The whole thing came together into one pot, the way I like it. I’ve rarely been ever able to manage dealing with more than one pot. Unless it’s brunch, in which case, I take special pleasure with ensuring that the waffles are golden and warm enough to melt the butter at the same time that the coffee is full of steam and the bacon is still sizzling and foamed with fat. The harmony of all of that, on a Sunday morning, early afternoon, is divine, isn’t it? And the eggs! It’s electric.

eggs-pupcaked

Which makes me fiddle at the question of timing and how often I become obsessed by a linear order to things. I am so easily distracted from the present…

View original 381 more words

Blogging a Movie: In Production

For several years, I have been using improvisation to create movies. I was a playwright and actor for almost 20 years. When I started turning on the camera and monologuing instead of nose to the grindstone writing, re-writing and memorizing, I felt so free that I thought I never would have anything to do with a script again.

But as I continued my adventure in improvising on camera, I found myself editing and reworking more and more. Composing is re-composing is composing for a person who has had the habits of professionalism drilled into her head by years of practice.

I turned my improvisation of THE BLUE LADY into a screenplay that I began shooting this week. I am surprised that even off-book, I am enjoying the process of production as much as I enjoyed story development. Because I am greenscreening most of the scenes and because most of the scenes are split-screen because I play all three characters, I have been walking through and or rehearsing my shoots to make sure the framing will work. Creating the sets for the movie has been a real treat.

This design, which I am still tweaking, is for the doorway to Master Henry’s sickroom, where Elizabeth spends a good part of her day. The room is on the sunny side of the house, a prelude to the fires of hell where it is likely that Master Henry’s “illness of evil” is taking him.

Because I am playing all three characters in THE BLUE LADY and only one character drives a scene at a time, I have to block the movement and action of the character who drives the scene in order to know how to make the other characters interact with her – i.e., look in the right direction. So that I can shoot the rest of Missy’s part in the movie, I did this walkthrough as Elizabeth’s character.

When I first started doing split-screen greenscreen, I thought it was the most difficult thing that I’d ever done and the worst Idea that I ever had. Beyond the basics, the most important thing is to know where all the characters are supposed to be so that they don’t upstage or block each other from view, and also, that they all stay in frame. It’s not rocket science: if it’s not supposed to be matted out, it has to be inside the frame.

In THE BLUE LADY, the master of the house is in the last hours of life, dying in pain and terror. He is off-screen, but often heard screaming delusionally. His room is upstairs and there are half-scenes with other members of the household going to his room.
I saw how to set up the shot when I was in the middle of other things and so, I shot impulsively in flow state and this is not the highest tech. By the time I was set up and ready, I had already decided to set the staircase with red backdrop cloth, not Chroma green. But this is the look that I’ve been wanting and I am very excited that with appropriate lighting and a directional microphone in the hallway, this will be what I’ve been seeing inside my head for months.

Pressure

I have been conscious of stress ever since I was a kid when they used to call it “pressure.” It took years for my therapists to educate me to call “pressure” “stress,” instead. 
 
But it’s still “pressure” that has always had a strong physical effect on me. It feels like: 
 

• like something pressing on my chest and restricting my movement; or
• like something pushing against my forehead holding me back; or
• like something squeezing my insides and paralyzing me; or
• like something holding my muscles in a long, silent ache.

 
Once I learned the modern word for pressure, I realized it does not come from the outside nearly as powerfully as it does from the inside. And the longer I pursued what I wanted out of life no matter what anybody said and no matter how impossible the voice of pragmatism told me it would be to attain it, the more I became aware of when and how I do it to myself. 
 
In 2001, I had to be hospitalized because I couldn’t control my suicidal thoughts. It was clear to me as I recovered that the constant internal pressure that I was in the habit of keeping myself under would continue to lay traps – worse and worse traps – as I got older if I didn’t let up on the pressure. 
 
I mean it, I really got it. I did not learn this in the hospital – I learned it because I never wanted to have to go back.
 
Now that I am almost a month into retirement and am getting into the habit of not having somebody else’s deadline to meet every day, I realize that “de-stressing” must have been a gradual and continuing process for  a habit for me. And that if I had not been workBlogpost draft – still working on it. 
 
Epiphany. I have been conscious of stress ever since I was a kid when they used to call it pressure. It took years for my therapists to educate me to call “pressure” “stress,” instead. But it’s still pressure and it’s power has always had a strong physical effect on me – like something pressing on my chest and restricting my movement; like something pushing against my forehead holding me back; like something squeezing my insides and paralyzing me; like something holding my muscles in a long silent ache.
 
Once I learned the modern word for pressure, I realized it does not come from the outside nearly as powerfully as it does from the inside. And the longer I pursued what I wanted out of life no matter what anybody said or how impossible the pragmatist in me told me it was going to be to attain it, the more I became aware of when and how I do it to myself. In 2001, I had to be hospitalized because I couldn’t control my suicidal thoughts. It was clear to me as I recovered that the constant internal pressure that I was in the habit of keeping myself under would continue to lay traps, worse and worse traps, as I got older if I didn’t let up. 
 
I mean it, I really got it. I did not learn this in the hospital – I learned it because I never wanted to have to go back.
 
Now that I am almost a month into retirement and am getting into the habit of not having somebody else’s deadline to meet every day, I realize that “de-stressing” must have been a habit of mine for quite a long time without my being aware of it. I realize that if I had not been working on managing my own stress since I got out of the hospital 15 years ago, I would still be tight as a rubber band and probably go to dayjob until the day I died because – because of whatever was always so damned urgent. Something was always urgent. 
 
Everything is urgent and nothing is. I am thinking about this while I wait for the image to appear on my brain that will show me how to stage the area right outside the room where one of the characters in THE BLUE LADY (my current project) is dying. This area outside his sickroom is where his caregiver spends a good part of her day. While I wait for the image to emerge, I go online and check my stats and look for something cool that one of my FB friends hopefully has posted, and watch “Cries and Whispers” (one of the inspirations for my movie) in half hour increments. Suddenly, I am acutely aware that something extremely unpleasant is missing. That is, I am not waiting for any news about my work to arrive in my artist’s Gmail inbox. What a load off my mind that has been for probably 7 or 8 months, NOT waiting for a curator or judge or selection committee to get back to me.
 
I will have to enter THE BLUE LADY in some qualifying competition in order for it to have an IMDb page for the sake of better visibility on Amazon (where I will upload it as soon as it’s done); but I have no intention of shopping it around – that makes me feel like something evil is squeezing my insides. 
 
I have been curated since I was in my twenties. I think that’s enough of that for me. I have been selling art since I was in my thirties. So, for a long time, I have been in the habit of understanding that most people don’t care about my work, some people really hate it and just enough people really like it. That’s my expectations, that’s realistic, and that’s no pressure.
 

THE BLUE LADY, Outtake


‘running out,’ Available Soon on Amazon Instant Video

Stills Album, 'running out'

Stills from a movie in progress by Michael Lewis & Sylvia Toy. This is a movie that opens with a woman planning to kill herself. As the story unfolds, however, suicidality itself looms as the central character. The director is Michael Lewis. The producer is Sylviatoyindustries. Michael Lewis and Sylvia Toy (aka Nena St. Louis) are married collaborators. We are only interested in projects that take us – and our audience – to the edge. The movie was inspired by the approximately 2 1/2 hours my mother stayed on the phone with me the night I called her from Minneapolis to tell her that I was going to drown myself. By the end of the call, the suicidal thoughts were gone and I was alive – mad at my mother and life, but alive.

Blogging a Movie: THE BLUE LADY begins

Production Shots - The Blue Lady by sylviatoyindustries

Production Shots – The Blue Lady by sylviatoyindustries

For the sake of continuity in the production of this project, I am shooting dress rehearsals of element. I set up a bird’s-eye camera to help me stay ahead of issues like the microphone cord showing, the wrong prop or set piece in the wrong place, my wig on backwards, etc. Details, details. This is the very beginning shot.