CAAN-LA Black History Panel

7 02 2018

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position
that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he
has overcome while trying to succeed.”
— Booker T. Washington

One of the great privileges of being part of the Columbia College Chicago National Alumni Board is representing the Board at CAAN events. The CAAN-Los Angeles network has been ably built up and guided by Sarah Schroeder, the West Coast Regional Director for Columbia, and her events are always top notch, well represented by our up-and-coming alumni, and well attended.

Yesterday’s Black History Panel featured our Columbia alumni who are also some of the trailblazers and innovators in Black filmmaking and entertainment: Producer-Director-Writer George Tillman, Jr., who has been the creative force behind some of my favorite movies, including the Barbershop films and Men of Honor; Writer-Director-Actor Kenny Young, the genius behind You Can’t Fight Christmas, Chance, and One Week; Producer-Development Executive Crystal Holt, engineer behind Rebel (BET), and The Swap (Disney Channel); Actress Erica Hubbard, who had pivotal roles in Chicago Med, Let’s Stay Together, and Lincoln Heights; Producer Paul Garnes, who gave us Selma, and Queen Sugar; and on-air personality, Grammy-Nominated Music Producer-Songwriter, and co-founder of Da Internz, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios.

The panel was moderated by some really talented and thoughtful Columbia student moderators: Jocelyn Shelton and Marquise Davion.

20180206_185958.jpg

Gearing up for our CAAN-LA’s Black History Month Alumni Panel with some fabulous filmmakers and student moderators Marquis Davion and Jocelyn Shelton.

George Tillman, Jr. discussed how he got into film, and how the presence of African-American creators and filmmakers has grown since he first came to Hollywood.

Kosine talked about his journey, encouraged the alumni still pursuing their dreams to simply, “Stay in the game,” and urged that, “Black History Month is a great time for African-Americans to be networking with each other,” and to take advantage of this and motivate each other towards excellence.

As an actress, Erica Hubbard discussed the high bar set by the writing and talent she experienced on the “Lincoln Heights” set, and how it is difficult to accept projects that don’t meet that standard.

If Paul Garnes did nothing else, he helped launch director-producer Ava Duvernay to the world. Paul shared his journey in filmmaking, how he met and got started with Ava, and working on Selma with David Oyelowo, and Oprah, as well as Queen Sugar.

Kenny Young talked affectionately about his mentors and the people who helped steer him in his career. He also talked about making determinations. He said at one point that he didn’t want to work a full-time job ever again, and he hasn’t since then. He has found a way to juggle, struggle, and forge ahead on his drive and talent, while still earning a living in Los Angeles.

Crystal Holt gave, what I felt was the most powerful and practical advice. “Drive is something you cannot teach, and that goes further than talent… You have a goal in mind, and you are working toward that plan for your life. Don’t give up on that.”

She also gave some sage advice on contracts and equal pay: “Trust no one! Be contract literate, and read it from front to back before you sign.”

While this old dog gleaned from their practical wisdom, I also enjoyed hearing about the endeavors and adventures of our young alumni; like the delightful Toy Monique, who works for Will Packer Media in their scripted and unscripted television department. Toy is a recent transplant to L.A., having gone through Columbia’s Semester in L.A. program in 2016. She laid the groundwork back then, and came back to Los Angeles as an employee at the place where she interned! What a smart lady—we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her, and very happy to stay in contact via Instagram and LinkedIn.

Screenshot_20180207-070446.png

 

Advertisements




The Little Writing Engine that Could…

1 02 2018

fashion-legs-notebook-working

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

Words of wisdom from a writer I greatly admire.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been doing just that: putting one word, then another word, then a paragraph, then an entire piece. So my resolution to write has so far been flowing like water.

In case you’re not cognizant of my latest writings, I thought I’d talk about what I’ve been up to…

My latest features at Communities Digital News focus on what I do best: commenting on the union of popular culture and politics. It’s Oscar season, and the movie The Post is up for Best Picture, probably due to the film’s tortured attempt to connect the Republican administration of 1972 to the Republican administration of 2017. Read my review of the film and my take on this comparison at The Post: Katharine Graham’s feminist manifesto fails as propaganda.

The March for Life and The Women’s March occurred during the same weekend. One is a pro-life civil rights event that has spanned 45 years, the other a two-year old progressive-leaning affair that masquerades as a women’s right manifesto, but appears to merely be a rant against the current Republican administration. Seems to be a common theme. I compare and contrast them at The March for Life vs. the Women’s March: Which will stand the test of time?

The best reflection of one’s skill and worth as a writer is when you are invited to write by people you admire. In the short space of 2018, I have had two invitations to do just that! An up and coming millennial entrepreneur asked me to write a press release for a project that involves the marriage of clothing, art, and hip hop music, that was launched the week of the Grammys.

The beautiful CEO of Habibi Bath and Body has asked me to contribute to her LOVE SERIES throughout the month of February. I am working on sharing tips on self-care, and how to truly nourish and appreciate the skin that you are in!

Stay tuned for those links in a future post.





2018: New Year, New Soul

7 01 2018

pexels-photo-285173

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton is one of my favorite Christian theologians/thinkers. Like C.S. Lewis, he is less highbrow, and more akin to Christianity in work clothes. As intellectual as people say that I am, I relate to hands-on and sweat of the brow as much as I relate to the theoretical. But I digress…

I never share the resolutions that I make, but feel the need to put down them down online. Who knows, it may do wonders to make me more accountable:

  1. Read more books, and actually finish them. Like most of my friends, I have stacks of books waiting to be read. I started three books before 2017 (that is how pathetic I am), but never finished them. I need to complete them and track my completion of books. I used to read a book a week—it would be a good challenge to get back to that. Here are the books I need to complete: 1. Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. 2. Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. 3. The Curse of Conservatism by Coleman G. Luck.
  2. Meditate more. It does wonders, but I need to set a consistent rhythm. Some changes are afoot in my schedule that will help that, so no more excuses.
  3. Up the home and studio practice. It was really abysmal in 2017. No excuses—I feel so much better when I practice at home, and I need to connect with my own studios and other studios in a greater way.
  4.  Write again. This dried up considerably in 2016, and died a slow death in 2017. The question is, how to feebly pick up the pen again? This blog post, and another article on my Communities Digital News page are a feeble beginning. Which leads me to…
  5. Ditch the perfectionism. I think Voltaire said it best: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I can create the perfect project, article, meal, etc. but because I only have the materials to achieve “good”, I ditch the entire thing. Time to stop that; if I am not paralyzed by perfection, it will go a long way to my getting words on the page.
  6. Find ways to increase the voice: musically in particular, vocationally in general. Maybe unburying and dusting off the piano? Right now it is surrounded by boxes (long story for another blog post). Maybe taking another Kahmelson & Kahmelson class? Actually signing up for those songwriting expos I get invited to? The possibilities are endless, but I need to take action on just one.




50 Days to 50 Years: Day 30, Evo and Captain Fantastic with Christy Bell

2 07 2016

“Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends,
never lose a chance to make them.”
— Francesco Guicciardini

20160702_180117

I cannot believe I am already 30 days away from the official Big 5-0. What a delightful time it has been to pursue, as Steely Dan so eloquently put it, “Reelin’ in the Years”.

And what is it with Captains? It seems to be a trend in this 50-year challenge, at least when it comes to movies. From “Captain America” with longtime friend Sarah Beach, to “Captain Fantastic” with new friend Christy Bell. While I didn’t enjoy “Captain Fantastic” as much as “Captain America: Civil War”, the company and the food was just as rich.

I met Christy through a mutual friend Cheryl Leutjen. Cheryl ran a networking Meetup for Work at Homers, and also participated in my Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup. She knew Christy was in transition, and recommended Christy check out my group. Christy did, and she was a wonderful addition. When she was able to attend, she brought great insight and her wicked smarts to every discussion. Between Cheryl’s Meetups and mine, Christy and I struck up a friendship, and even though both Meetups are now dissolved, we still stay in touch. A couple of years ago Lynn and I spent Christmas Day with her, catching two movies in the theater, and having Dim Sum and Chinese after. It was among one of the best Christmases we have spent.

Christy is erudite and a great conversationalist, but she is also a keen listener. I also love her smile and her laugh, and the glint of mischief in her eyes. I suspect had we met in our 20s or 30s, when we were both less “tempered”, we would have gotten into a good deal of trouble. Heck, we may have a chance to do that in our 50s, given the right timing and circumstance!

So when I invited her to be a part of the 50 Days to 50 Years challenge, she was delighted to carve out the time. Among Christy’s many talents as a writer, chef, and organizational whiz, she is an actress and a member of SAG-Aftra. So free screenings at the DGA are a part of her membership. She also treated me to pizza, either before or after, at a little WeHo bistro called Evo.

Christy is a vegetarian, so we ordered a Artichoke-Spinach-Parmesan pizza on a Whole Grain Crust to share. It was extremely tasty, and the sauce was sublime! Christy had an Amber Ale, which looked great and refreshing, but not really my cup of tea, or, er, alcohol.

Christy paid me a very high compliment: she said that I was really gifted at the career-reinvention stuff and I should find a way to start it up again at my new church. We talked a bit about that, the workshop I recently conducted at Elizabeth House, and what was going on in our current jobs, career searches, and housing situations. Then we stepped across the street to the DGA to bask in the cinematic wonder of Viggo Mortensen. He really is an incredible actor, and made this film about extremes, consequences, and choices watchable.

After the screening, we repaired to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to discuss what we liked and didn’t like about the film, and I capped off our glorious meal with a Salted Pistachio Ice Blended, something I hadn’t partook of in a long time. It was quite refreshing, but not as refreshing as the kindness, generosity, and support of Ms. Christy Bell.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 31, Tea and Company for Jana’s Birthday

1 07 2016

“Female friendships that work are relationships
in which women help each other to belong to themselves.”
— Louise Bernikow

20160701_114321

Day 31 started off with high tea at the Four Seasons Tea Room in Sierra Madre. Jana Benson invited me and some of her other friends to celebrate her birthday. A few of the women are a part of our Women’s Bible Study small group, and others I knew from the Women’s Coffee—so I was right at home, even if high tea is a foreign concept.

I think I have been to three in my entire 50 years: one for another birthday party eons ago, the two other times were for bridal showers. Girly-girl I am not, and tea parties are the quintessential girly-girl thing to do. As a little girl I brewed coffee in a real percolator and played writer. I know, big surprise….

But it was a delightful afternoon, and Jana is always the consummate hostess. The tea selections were Mandarin Spice, Royal Wedding, and Mayfair Afternoon—each table ordered one of each; our table chose the Mayfair Afternoon, which was a delicious blend of strawberry, mint, and lemon. Sooo good. The sandwich selections were Banana Bread with Cream Cheese; Cucumber and Dill; Tomato, Basil, and Butter: Chicken Salad; and Egg Salad.

But the biggest foodie highlight were the freshly baked—I mean piping hot out of the oven—scones. With Devonshire clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam, they were simply divine. I could have eaten about four more, but that would have required additional ordering. I’ll do that next time.

Of course, what is tea without biscuits? I’m not sure how the Brits coined the term biscuits for cookies, but whatevs; the Dulce de Leche mini slices, Lemon Bars, and Shortbread Cookies lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar were way delish. With several spots of tea, I found myself quite full, so it was probably a good idea I didn’t have any more scones, as I would have had to be rolled out the door.  20160701_123349

And I very well would come back, so perhaps I have more girly-girl in me than I thought. Imagine that…

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 42, Captain America and Japanese Buffet with Sarah Lucy Beach

20 06 2016

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” — C.S. Lewis

20160620_161740

Sarah Lucy Beach is another longtime friend since the early 1990s. We met in an entertainment industry fellowship called Premise, and immediately struck up a bond over our love of writing, movies, and conversation. That bond was assisted by the fact that I did not own a car my first 10 years in Los Angeles, so Sarah was often my constant chauffeur to and from Premise meetings and other places and events. Like many of my Los Angeles’ friends, she has spent more than a few Thanksgivings and Christmases with me—we even spent one Christmas Eve at Disneyland, which was quite a treat! No lines or crowds, and a fireworks display that was the perfect entree into Christmas Day.

We also took a road trip together from Los Angeles to Colorado, with some stops in between. Unfortunately, Sarah’s car had troubles along the way, and it started out stressful, but ended up being a beautiful trip. We look back on that time now and laugh, but it wasn’t quite a laughing matter then; our friendship weathered it and we have some fond memories and pictures to look back on.

My early years in Los Angeles were chaotic, and I was often in financial and logistical straits. Sarah was always there for me, whether with assistance for a meal, an escape from a toxic living situation, or a movie. After hearing about one precarious situation with yet another bad roommate, she said, “If you are facing the street, then you are welcome to my couch.” I took her up on it, and stayed on her couch for six months.

Sarah has recently gone through some hard trials of her own the last few years. Because Lynn and I were fresh off some hardships of our own, we were not able to offer a couch, but we could give our prayers and whatever practical help was available.

I am thankful that Sarah’s life is on the upswing from those dark years, and that she was available to help me ring in my “50 Days to 50 Years”. We had a great time catching up, and as is indicative of our times together, we took in a movie: Captain America: Civil War, then had lunch at Hopkaido Japanese buffet. Thanks to the record-breaking Los Angeles heat (111 degrees where we were), we were quite content to marinate in conversation and enjoy Hopkaido’s air conditioning long after we had finished eating.

But then, as lifelong friends, we never need an excuse to do that….

 

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 44, Education and Reinvention

18 06 2016

CAAN Board 2015

“To be changed by ideas was pure pleasure. But to learn ideas that ran counter to values and beliefs learned at home was to place oneself at risk, to enter the danger zone. Home was the place where I was forced to conform to someone else’s image of who and what I should be. School was the place where I could forget that self and, through ideas, reinvent myself.” ― Bell Hooks

In 2015, I was elected as a member-at-large for my college’s national alumni board. My masters degree is from another “name” university, but my heart and loyalty will always be with Columbia College Chicago, where I received my undergraduate degree.

The bond is strong for a number of reasons; primarily because the tools and experiences I received at Columbia are ones that I use over and over again to increase my personal currency and vocational knowledge across all the industries in which I interact.

From Columbia I gained huge lessons on finding my unique voice, sharpening and honing all my skills, and pursuing my craft with authenticity. As I move forward in years, I understand more and more what a really phenomenal education it was on many levels. As part of my board role, I have had the opportunity to share this with prospective students and with other alumni, and it has been a joy.

Which is why I am looking forward to CAAN Connect, a speed pitching event for the Columbia Los Angeles alumni. Entertainment industry executives volunteer their time to hear Columbia alumni present their projects, and many have gotten help, work, and representation through this forum.

I have attended two CAAN Connects, one as an alumni pitching a project, and the other as an alumni volunteer helping others. This time will be a hybrid of both: representing the alumni board and helping the attending alumni, and also getting the opportunity to pitch As the Girl Turns to two of the executives who specialize in representing influencers and brands. Over the last eight years I have skirted the edges of both arenas, and my desire is to cement myself and take my influence and brand to the next level.

So today has been preparing my biography, projects, and pitch materials to present in a few days, and it has been satisfying seeing the big picture representation of my body of work. I hope I can translate that satisfaction effectively into my speed pitch.

20160618_221847








%d bloggers like this: