This Project is Hand-Made with 100 % Organic Hearts and Souls. HandMadeToMakeADifference™
Dear Ladies + Gentlemen,
We are SO PROUD to share
The HERstory of
Our #Oscars2020 Contender:
In 2012 I set out to make a sustainable, green, upcycled, lgbtqia , interracial love story – an – all- female-crew motion picture —
with — an original, eclectic soundtrack —
much of it to be shot + recorded on a floating film set
and surrounding Venice Beach “hood” near my “AquaCultureZ™ WaterGarden™ feMt0™studi0”
Upon graduating early with a Master’s Degree from NYU, then entering the life of a “working actress” I learned most roles offered to girls + women (except a lucky few) were too often broadcasting degrading messages about us.
I tried to “adjust” a couple of the early roles – to balance ‘ the power in the frame.’ Despite the content of any given dialogue or role, I worked to imbue the character with strength.
I was beginning to get offered somewhat lucrative roles, I was more than willing to work hard – “work my wayup.” The problem with that plan – is summarized by the “MeToo” movement, which is not just about inappropriate sexual innuendo, but psychological abuse leading to agony, resulting in self-doubt.
It’s also anEconomics problem, with roadblocks held in place by threads of racism, sexism , homophobia , climate-ignorance in a gate-keeping culture – when all I wanted was to excel in theprofession to which I’d dedicated myself whole-heartedly.
I’d been warned about this environment by older actors ( not actresses ) but assumed times had changed so I walked blindly into an environment reminiscent of a bygone era that had never updated it’s own “operating system.”
There I was with all this 21st Century software but there was nothing to run it.
How does a professional, work their way up such a slippery ladder? Perhaps economic inequality is sourced in such pathologies?
Until #MeToo became a hashtag – I’ll venture to guess that most women suffered under the weight of judgement by their families, friends and self-criticism about why they hadn’t progressed further despite their talent and drive. The worst part, is not being supported by “sisters” of a sorority I feel could be so comforting – and even worse, navigating a hyper-competitive “pigeons-for-scraps” culture based in scarcity where ideas and intellectual property can be so easily appropriated by those with power, harvested from those without.
I’ll venture to guess we all felt as though it was just happening to us alone. Similar to the “Occupancy Wall Street” awareness – when people realized that getting their degrees and working hard was not enough in an economy rigged for the 1 percent.
Even if I’d been willing to be willing on whatever levels of “consent” – I’d just come from surviving an abusive childhood – literally “rescued” by my passion for acting , dance, arts , learning – and my teachers who saw the talent, had invested their care in that little girl rushing through the streets of Manhattan – from dance class to acting class to anthropologyand science classrooms.
They’d invested their own passion for education – in that little girl – me.
I couldn’t let them down and I couldn’t let down other little girls who might someday see a movie that I was in – and when she sees me in that movie, she sees herself and when she sees herself, I want her to feel strong, not helpless. I want “her” to feel proud of “HERstory.”
After turning down three lucrative roles in a row, especially after bumping into one of the producers I’d turned down at a social event – noticing his “WHO are YOU to turn ME down glare ” –
I sucked it up – GLARED BACK with a smile –
and THAT was the moment I learned :
WHO I AM ? Is a girl who won’t get bullied – ever again.
Who I am – is a girl choosing integrity over expediency – no matter how ambitious I may be.
Ialso understood that it wasn’t “men” – it wasn’t “directors” or “producers” — it was the Culture at large.Certainly I’d run into plenty of women who had internalized misogyny to enact upon sisters and there was plenty of it in every profession. I had to find a way to work in my chosen profession, to which I had already dedicated – so I chose – to literally “be the change I wished to see” as the saying goes.
Having studied anthropology along with intercultural, interdisciplinary performance modalities – I felt uniquely equipped to grapple with these new insights – even though, they’d prove beyond challenging to implement. I’d be needing some miracles and tons of hard work integrating the education + early work experience I’d earned – with the realities of making a movie and album. A tall order.
I had saved up babysitting, lemonade stand, acting gigs and yoga teacher earnings and these were “startup funds” which I partly used to create our first music video “ElectionTrain” made in urgent support for Obama. Then we began pre-pre-production on the feature motion picture :
” I didn’t want to make a film or album that I’d already seen before.
I was aware that most noted ‘counter-culture’ revolutions in media had previously involved an examination but also ultimate glorification of violence + what is sometimes described as ‘toxic masculinity.’
The film prologue introduces my storytelling concepts which I’ve been referring to, as : “orgasmic” instead of “phallic.” I’m positing that my liquid, fluid, music-based, “orgasmic” storytelling journey to tell the “love-is-love-triangle-story” of eVe, Lila + Doctor Goddard – can exist in harmony with the more normative “phallic” cinematic storytelling styles most cultures expect in a narrative movie. While other directors have experimented with dabbling in it – I feel my movie, while working within the constraints of a modest budget, fully explores this type of storytelling, not with outer special effects, but with inner ones.
The movie draws us “under” and “into” the deep end of the pool, the pond, the ocean as if vacillating between conscious + unconscious time-space dimensions but always flowing like water (orgasmic) instead of rocketing into space (phallic) as “eVe” describes from “inside the closet.”
While I’m proud to say my film was made “like a girl” as that popular hashtag proudly proclaims – I’m almost tempted to ask the audience to consider my innovative storytelling “as if” this were directed by one of several guy filmmakers who’ve experimented this way, but with larger budgets but perhaps a bit less insight about the female nature of this “orgasmic” storytelling style which, in my work, seeks to flow poetic, liquid, music.
It is, in fact, I guarantee you, a different type of “orgasm.”
As my movie does include a theme + dedication to victims of violence against the LGBTQ community, women, black individuals + communities, indigenous individuals + communities … and … AND : our oceans, our mother Earth, wildlife – especially Sea-Life (most feminine) – I did portray an act of violence, but I was cognizant of telling the story of the movie in a manner I described onscreen as ‘orgasmic’ existing alongside most storytelling which is often “phallic.”
I posit that both ‘orgasmic’ + ‘phallic’ storytelling can ( and must ) exist inter-dependently in our Arts + Culture.
I found myself having to not only “shatter glass ceilings” + “break sound-barriers” – but I also had to “break” some storytelling / cinematic / music ‘ rules ‘ – in order to tell my ‘love-triangle’ ‘love-is-love – story’ : AUTHENTICALLY.
This wasn’t going to be structured like other movies – this “herstory” neededsomething from me + “she” is composed of the twin-Tao-yin-yang characters : “eVe” + “Lila.” “She” wrote herself, directed herself.
An all female, openly LGBTQIA crew in 2013 was VERY NEW (still rare) – if we were not ‘the first’ – we are definitely among the veryfirst –
Eyes widened whenever I floated the idea. Also pushback – pushed back — on a variety of levels.Sigh.
Some men “mansplained” – my idea was discriminatory. Others proudly displayed their self-hatred through open sexism, racism, homophobia, climate-denying biases, which was – briefly surprising but eventually – worthless, because hate, though ‘loud’ – is such a drab, useless – one way ticket.
Recently, I became aware of a “mini-genre” to which my “eVe” belongs – and by that I mean – movies which explore the internalized concepts of various religious “eves” – in the context of secular, colloquial (notbiblical)culture.
As my Master’s degree incorporated both Anthropology+ Performance Arts – I tend to “study” culture – even while I’m creating it.
I’ve noticed + personally experienced – the regulations + limitations placed on HER-stories – the ” ‘slut-shaming” of “eVe” ‘ – which has : palpable, real-life consequence for most women, girls, feminine males + wildlife(especially Sea-Life , most feminine) —with it’s victims buried deep in the roots of most cultures.
When looking “in the closet” of any given Culture – if we venture to explore past the climate-denial, past homophobia and racism – we’ll find misogyny – hiding – way – WAY … at the back of that closet – where most of us, even women, are unaware of the insidious odor seeping deep :
Those espousing hateful views towards people – or environmental conservancy – often cite economics + productivity as excuses for exclusionary actions. In fact, hate, exclusion + climate denial are completely – un-productivefor society + for the planet.
It’s pure economics if one needs that sort of excuse. Discriminatory, hateful, wasteful energy create nothing except toxins + problems .
We already have a surplus of those.
This planet needs solutions that heal our problems. More than ever I believe education + quality communication skills are the universal “solvent” whereby wecan dissolve + detoxify globalcultures from such maladies.
– surviving independently, indigenous + sustainable – like an endangered species ( along with all other endangered species wildlife, Sea-Life, and the working class / middle class in every economy ) – on gasps of oxygen –
Just after graduating at an impossibly early age, having been skipped several grades, earned scholarships to pay my own tuition- with a Master’sDegree but no high school diploma – i stepped out into the “real world” only to discover that the “ISMs” I had believed to be “anachronISMs” – from history books – racism, sexism, homophobia , climate denial – the “male gaze” – the “white gaze ” + other “gazes” – were still alive and finding their way back , insidiously, into our world consciousness, our current histories + HERstories.
The HERstory that we are living now – became a source of great worry to me. I had survived an abusive childhood + I know abuse when I see it.
Abuse of Power exhibited all the tell-tale signatures of Domestic Abuse, Child-Abuse — AND – Environmental Abuse — on a larger scale. The ‘family’ is ‘humanity’and as my family of origin was never a safe place to be — I had already adopted “Humanity” as the family with whom I “belong.”
As a person born of vastly varied, multi-cultural heritages – I could see early on – that “tribalism” was a way to keep walls between people. Which is why I was a “global citizen” before that became a hashtag.
‘Born on the water,’ I’ve always felt – my “true heritage” – is water.
The two debating characters in my movie – “eVe” and “Doctor Goddard – are never – in the same room.
They are separated by “walls” – through which they “debate” – but their ultimate “union” is a form of “healing” … a little miracle.
Large Partof the purpose forthose Project – was my dedication to Sustainability + Green Practices.
My alarm at what’s happening to our planet – especiallyto our waters, ocean life, wildlife –all of which endanger human life + civilization, led me to take my own tiny climate- actionsvery early on.
In high school – I had designed a “SurFShackLoft™feMt0™studi0™h20 “ to be handbuilt very frugally – from biodegradable + upcycled materials.
Miraculously, this loft was built very economically – butequallyimportant – was combining that Sustainability Ethos – with my aesthetics + methodologies developed from early background in dance+theater – to create my signature style along with SustainableFilmSets™.
An added touch of sweetness came when i had asked my local farmers to donate lemons, avocados, kale and flowers, along with other produce – to the creation of our GardenOfeVe™ film set — and they were THRILLED to do so.
As I planned for the movie, I realized that while I don’t consider myself a “designer” – my script – born from story + music (the lyrics are written into my scripts) — but also from methodology + aesthetics, had already designed both sets + costumes.
I hadn’t intended to do this. It just created itself.
We built an “indoor garden” that looked as though a proverbial metaphorical “eVe” embodied by a contemporary – “surfer-chick-student-burlesque-dancer eVe” – had left somewhere in a hurry + quickly planted her own indoor ” victory garden” – out of survival.
This wasn’t fully autobiographical but it metaphorically mirrored my childhood.
Hard as it was to convey – not wanting to sound grandiose – I just knew in the heart of that little girl who survived with the aid of her dedication toward the arts + teachers encouraging her talent – that little girl (me) – her eyes – were witnessing – what ‘eVe’ in my movie refers to – as ‘an ancient grief’ – her precious ‘global family’ – was falling victim to ancient abuse.
In addition to a ” Coming Out ” this movie, this music is intended as a “Coming In From The Cold.”
All through the making of this project, I found myself fighting to save my studio and home in Venice Beach from the severe gentrification and homelessness growing all around me.
It was a familiar fight – against an unjust encroachment from abuse of power. Many times I found myself staying up all night figuring out legal documents, in order to fight back against Trump-style developers – while during the day – working to keep the project going.
A familiar struggle, reminiscent of a childhood framed with terror but propelled by hope and love. A childhood and adult-hood experienced by many less fortunate than myself.
It can heal everything.
I learned that early in life.
It’s odd, like me, earning a Masters’ degree (NYU) with no high-school diploma, having been skipped several grades directly into University. Odd – like me. My fellow students in the Masters’ program were already professors in other countries who had done all they could, to come to America, to study at NYU. I was a kid with no high school diploma – and they were grown-up professors. Odd, like me. I often think about them now, back in their countries and what they must think of America now.
Having survived an abusive childhood – I was dedicated to the arts and grateful for the “shelter” I could find in my deep love / passion for the arts and my teachers, who’d encouraged my work.
Dance was my first love – along with her twin – music. Then I discovered their sisters – theater and cinema. Along with the support of my teachers, these ladies “saved my life.”
Alone with my dreams, walking the pavement of NYC streets, afraid to go home on the subway until
late at night, I learned my craft comforted by the shelter of dance classes with Broadway Pros, art house cinema screens, and haunting legacy of timeless masterpieces echoing from the halls of every Manhattan museum and library.
My teachers were angels + allies in my “dreams come true” and thanks to them, and to my love – I won scholarships, was skipped grades and offered a scholarship to NYU where I earned my Masters’ Degree at a very young age.
One of my report cards described me as a “runaway imagination” and of course, I imagined my imagination running away and I myself became a “runaway with a scholarship.”
I caught a wave + scraped together my “half a shoestring” budget, built my tiny “green” grassroots, up-cycled, recycled, mostly “off the grid” floating film + music Tiny SurfLoft On The Water in Venice Beach, hand-picked my team + went to work !
I had saved up lemonade-stand, babysitting, yoga teacher + acting gig earnings and my hand-built studio and methodologies as a matter of following a course I had set, upon navigating my way from graduating with a Master’s Degree at an impossibly young age. There was a virtual drummer playing an indigenous soundtrack to my life and — I was listening and following the steps. The ocean was an important core for me and I had dedicated my artistry toward creating my own style of “AquaCulture.“
“HandMade 2 Make A Difference with ToyBoxTechnology ™ ”
Riding the subways alone at too young an age, doing all I could not to go home – I found myself “living at” all my dance classes in private studios on additional dance scholarships, then “living at” the museums and libraries of NYC – kept me busy, along with part-time babysitting and other jobs to pay for anythingscholarships didn’t cover.
So … I just … – never had time – to explore / learn about my own sexuality.
By the time I did learn about it – I was married to my much older male partner, and then BOOM – one day – I FELL — in love with a girl.
It felt CRAZY –
But it was also – BEYOND GREAT !
The LOVE I had for dance, and the arts – had now come full circle into bloom.
I was blooming.
My amazing male partner – reflected this too. He said – you are more YOU now.
I had a lot of figuring out to do.
First — I had to figure out – WHY – did I feel as though I was SUPPOSED to be upset?
I DID agonize about –
feel GUILTY about it —
but I HAD to ask – WHY?
That’s when it came to me – the title of one of the soundtrack songs + a work of art I released with the project :
“We Don’t Fall in Love, We Rise ™”
Little did I know how many times I would repeat that to myself + others.
We had a lot of figuring out to do. Luckily – I was and am still – married to an amazing human being.
Well, of course – I was growing up – growing into Me.
Along with this personal growth, came my awareness of what was happening in the 21st Century world at large.
My personal anguish into ecstasy and my growing deep concerns for the future of Humanity / Mother Earth as an “Endangered Species” became so agonizing – that my only way to deal with anxieties about what I saw happening to this planet in the 21st Century while I was literally “blooming” personally – was to speak up and speak out – doing what I do best.
Suddenly I KNEW that there were people who were experiencing the same “awakenings” about their sexuality but who were living in repressive cultures – and I wanted to reach out to them – to hear THEIR stories – and tell them it would be ok – share my experiences with them – when I first began visualizing this project in 2010.
So many of my posts regarding this project were aimed at persons who lived in other ( more repressive ) cultures and dictatorships.
And here we are, ladies and gentlemen.
Here – we – are.
A ” Coming Out ” and a “Coming In From The Cold.”
I hoped to release a “healing balm” for the “global family” – at the intersections of LGBTQIA communities and my growing concerns for inter-related social justice crises such as – reproductive rights / women’s rights, violence against LGBTQ and female communities, Indigenous People’s and Black Lives Matter and Climate Change / endangered species.
As intended – this movie, soundtrack and everything my feMt0™studi0 has been working on since inception in 2012 has already reached selected but passionate audiences from Los Angeles to Lagos, Uganda to Agra, Mali, to Manhattan —
My wish after graduating – was to create an international – inter-disciplinary – multi-gender – mixed orientation team – in order to reach domestic + global audiences, without the “Over-Lords” of corporate media, stifling the creativity my teachers had encouraged in me.
Much to my surprise – I got a bit of that wish with the limited releases of this project and my first Youtube music video “Election Train” leading up to the movie. I had taken some time from the creation of the movie – to make the music video in order to support Obama’s re-election.
I am REALLY WISHING that with an acknowledgement from YOU — that this project can TRAVEL FARTHER – and reach MANY MORE people who might be comforted by it’s message of acceptance and LOVE IS LOVE – along with being entertained by the work itself.
Creating high quality cinema and music – was of utmost importance along with the “message” of the story. Excellence and Craft is a must.
Lovers of Movies + Music as well as – Free-speech a Free-Press, Journalism + uh – Basic Freedoms of Democracy might do the Culture + the Planet ( ourselves ) a favor – if we simply support an authentic indie artisanal “maker” like myself and my team.
I’m not against big budget films – I often love them!
And – I’d like to find more opportunities to work in them as an actress – because the current system is one big roadblock.
Often , I liken my signature artisan-made process to “farm to table” + “Aquaculture.”
There’s a scene in Billy Wilder’s movie “Sabrina” where Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina , having been to the Sorbonne – is able to cobble together a feast – from just a few eggs + crackers + milk … – THAT’S my aesthetics …
Yes I’m mixing metaphors when I say I’m allowing the “AquaCulturalZ™ Oyster-Pearls to “vine-ripen” + then when we release a project – I aim to “nourish” through “pictures words music in motion ™” encouraging Audiences to :
” and though she be but little, she is fierce ” – (Shakespeare )
this quote is invoked in one of my favorite true-life stories about the great ” seabiscuit ” – a story warming my heart from the very beginning of this journey with my own movie – Tiny Budgets + tiny teams – uphill climbs – hopes + dreams –
‘ She KNOWS she’s the Dark Horse here – but darkness she doesn’t fear
My process is based on my methodologies in my book ‘The Declaration Of IndiePenDance™’ where I explore my film-making+music-making approach – I call it c.lili™ ‘s CynAesthetiX™ and it includes a variety of innovations in cinematic+music aesthetics.
As a young actress who’s taken the time to respect the history / HERstory of my craft – from the craftspersons’ perspective – I know that ‘innovation’ rests upon the past + is a bridge to the future.
With My Sisters – For My Sisters : in my recent writings and explorations about feminism — I am finding it crucial for us to find out – not so much why men hurt women – but instead, why some women – hurt women –
including the fact that often, we women, hurt ourselves, it’s a vicious cycle – and by hurting our sisters, we are expressing our self hatred …
I explored this – but it was not until VERY recently that I fully understood the depth of how these incidents shape us from childhood, into our teenage years, school experiences and then –
importantly, as we enter the professional world and encounter the competitive forces from our sisters, which often lead women to do unspeakable things – things they write about and rail against as #feminists – but which they do to each other, sometimes unconsciously …
As we know, our work as feminists – and feminism can be fragile, as the world is often cruel to women who speak out, we often need each other — a form of Stockholm-Syndrome style bond out of necessity … so now the “famous feminists” can become the new bullies, having internalized the misogyny — perpetuating the predatory abuse of power — which is why I don’t often avail myself of friendships that are based in “need” or which arise out of hardships like global misogyny …
But there is a bond among us sisters and I always hold a wishful hope that women / girls I encounter will understand the need for true friendship, genuine caring, listening to each other — behaving towards our sisters in ways we wish to be treated … Unfortunately though, I’m going to say it here, and elsewhere – we often miss that mark.
I’m sorry to have to say it, sorrier to have experienced it, but damnit – we need to do better with each other. “Mean Girl Culture Cool” is often invoked when women / girls are acting all “empowered” – but of course that’s just stupid and self-defeating. We must do better.
Sisters – we really must. I offer the project below – which is the first in a trilogy on the subject. This project was a gift I made with my sisters, for my sisters all over the world. We might have been the first AllFemaleCrew as a production team – but we were certainly among the very first ever and I am certain we were a catalyst.
The Project is not easy to pigeonhole – and that’s true to form. I never wanted to make a movie I’ve already seen anywhere else.
One could describe this movie as :
A meditation on ‘male-gaze’ – ‘white-gaze’ – ‘mens-wear’ + other ‘ISMs’….
I offer it up and hope it reaches both Sisters and Brothers too –
Together – we really must GirlTheWorld™ – this is why I made this project – I believe this is how “we shall over-come” our challenges – the ISMS – racism, sexism, homophobia and including climate denial.