Happy Year of the Sheep!

Wolves Clouds

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Happy New Year!

THANK YOU for supporting “Rocks In My Pockets”! 2014 was an excellent roller-coaster year but 2015 might be even better! Stay calm and lets ride it together!

Happy New year!

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Merry Winter Solstice!

Digging Sun

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New York Premiere Today!

Today will be partly cloudy, with 40% humidity, wind will blow from North with a West inflection. It will warm up to 30 Celsius (yes, after 20 years in USA I still think in meters and Celsius) with 0 chances of rain.

A fine day to have “Rocks In My Pockets” New York premiere at the IFC Center.

For the last 6 months there has been a never ending scurry to get everything on our to-do-list done: compiling lists of film lovers, mental health connoisseurs and our VIPs, engaging local communities that might be interested to see the film, making 42 paper mache rocks to throw at audience at the end of each screening (each screening gets 3 rocks), selecting original drawings from the film to give away to random audience members, doing interviews, thanking our 800 amazing Kickstarter backers, and of course, getting E&O insurance so that we can have legitimate theatrical screening and making a DCP (Digital Cinema Package, the glorious new screening format that replaced 35 mm prints). If we are lucky, we may get this all done by 4 PM today.

More and more this fine event, the premiere, starts to resemble a wedding. The film is wedding an audience – will she say yes? What if she walks away? Maybe 4 years of dating weren’t enough to convince her?

After four years of tremendous effort the film is finally going to be yours. I hope you’ll say YES and let yourself to be taken for the 88 minute ride. It is funny, although sometimes sad, but it’s also engaging and entertaining. Please say yes!

I don’t want to read reviews, good or bad (so that I don’t get self conscious about what it is what I do) but I was told that “Rocks In My Pockets” got a good review in The New York Times. If you have friends who need convincing, please share the review with them and bring them with you to a screening. If you have a family member with whom you haven’t spoken much lately, please take them along, too – you’ll have a lot to talk about after the film.

If you see the film, please write me a note – here or on Facebook. I made the film for YOU and I would be happy to hear from you.

THANK YOU!

 

 

 

 

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Negatives vs. Positives: An Epic Internal Battle.

You know how hard it is to stay positive when your mind has taken the dark road towards the Land of Bleak.

Recently I went to a women filmmakers gathering where the 25 of us sat around a hibernating bonfire in a Brooklyn backyard garden lit by soft spring evening light. The Ringleader said to go around the circle one by one introducing ourselves:

– State your name, the project you are excited about and something positive that happened to you or your project.

“What a wonderful idea,” – I thought. – ” To focus on positive. So feminine and nice!”

But soon, as women started to state their positives, I realized I had nothing positive to say. Earlier that day a person had called me to tell me for the second time that my voiceover in my film sucks.

– You are not an actress, – she had said. – And your voiceover lacked that soothing quality of a professional actor. It bothered me for the first 15 minutes of the film and although it’s hard for me to do this to you, I have to tell you the truth. You should change the voiceover. Hire a professional actor.

It really hurt.

The thing was that the person was my own mother and we had already had this conversation 5 months ago where she had stated her concerns and I defended my choices. I had thought she understood and was on my side.

The other thing was that my mother doesn’t speak English, so as she watched the film I was murmuring my Latvian translation in her left ear while her right ear was free to catch sounds of my English voiceover rushing ahead. Like a desynchronized Surround 5.1. Hardly the best circumstances to judge someone’s work.

Also, I don’t disagree with her statement. Like most normal people I hate my voice.

At this point I can’t change a lot in the film. The stage of welcoming a feedback is over. Choices, good or wrong, have been made and committed to. Now it’s time for film critics to rip the film apart and ruin my career, while my support group, if I have one, should be stuffing their first aid kits with band-aids and wounds disinfecting alcohol.

– The good news is that I just finished a book,- said a good looking woman in her mid thirties.

– Congratulations! – the envious murmurs went through the circle.

– Well, not writing a book, – the woman added sheepishly. – Reading a book. I know I know – it doesn’t seem like a lot, but with my money work, making a film and taking care of a baby I really hadn’t had time to read, so being able to finish a book feels like an accomplishment. Definitely a positive.

“Wow!” – I thought. “She found time to read a book while raising a child, making a film and having a full time job?! What a super SUPERwoman!”

For the last 4 years I had time to work only on my film and not much else. I get to see my sweetheart only occasionally. All my friends stopped calling me because I never have time for them. I have a pile of 50 unfinished New Yorkers on my kitchen table and reading books, my favorite activity besides sex, has been out of question. Why can’t I find more time like this super woman?

“And it’s amazing that she can see positives in small things. How cool,” – I thought.

The day before a filmmaker friend of mine who had recently finished a live action feature only to encounter a massive wall of festival rejection told me that he spend an hour and half that day staring at a wall.

– What did you feel when you did that? – I asked. Just staring all a wall sounds more fun than anything I had in the last year.

My friend gave me a startled look and faintly smiled. He didn’t answer but I pressed on.

– Did you feel inside a pain so immense that it paralyzed your Soul like a rabbit struck by a scorpion’s toxic stinger, a pain so unbearable that it prevented your wonderful lungs from taking a smooth breath so that you either gulped the air down like a drowning person or stopped breathing completely?

– Yes, – he said. – How did you know?

I know because I am a Master of Self Pity that am able to project on others.

The introduction in the circle was coming closer to me and I was getting frantic. What are the positives I could share with these upbeat, chirpy women? Although they are filmmakers they seem so sunny as if they never encountered the pain of filmmaker’s postpartum depression with their project near the end, the pain of rejection and uncertainty of their filmmaking future. They shared their successes that went from microscopic (- I combed my hair today!) to gigantic (- Meryl Streep agreed to be in my new film!) and each painfully reminded me of Facebook boasting posts, and of a social media popularity game that I could never win because I am unable to post anything that would connect with wide variety of people, oh that stinging recognition of truth that my work never goes viral because it’s either too bizarre or not bizarre enough.

I guess the good news are that I paid my rent a few days ago, so I won’t be homeless for the next 30 days. But I had to borrow money to pay that rent and I dont know how to return it or where the next rent will come from. 30 days will be over in a blink of an eye.

– Hi. My name is Signe Baumane, I am finishing my first animated feature “Rocks In My Pockets”, a funny film about depression.

Wow, that does sound a lot like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

And now – the positives.

– Maybe you know this feeling or not, but at the end of my project I feel like the Mob had kidnapped me, tied by my feet to the rear bumper of a race car and drove on dirt roads and highways the whole night. I have no skin left and have internal bleeding.

– Positives! – shouted the Ringleader who just started an extremely successful festival run for her amazing feature so she had not a bit of sympathy for losers like me. – State what’s positive in your life right now!

– Well … I guess a good thing is that this is rock bottom so what worse can happen. From this point things can only get slightly better.

Women cheered, it’s a support group after all, and continued on to share their positives. I felt deeply alone surrounded by complete darkness on a road that I was not sure was even a road.

Why do people make films on their own and go through this suffering? Why such taste for self-punishment?

But, like the pain of childbirth is notoriously forgettable, I hope the pain of making the film with be forgotten, too, and soon I’ll conceive another one in one joyful hour of pure fun and self abandon. Can’t wait.

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Bi-Polar at Work.

Bill Plympton called me the other day and asked if I was interested to make a music video and before he could even finish his sentence I said YES YES YES feeling a surge of manic energy rush through my body and brain. The heavy lid that for months was keeping me in the cold coffin of being depressed and unfocussed slid off and I was was let out to fly. Yippee!

All of sudden everything was amplified. A minute idea seemed like a gigantic one. Everything was exciting and everything had to be made right now, on the spot.

I cranked out the storyboards in super intense 3 hours and presented them to Bill. I do know that with a mind on fire like this I need a reality check. Bill liked the boards and approved. Reality, check.

Next step – animating.

Animating requires a strange kind of focus – on one hand you have to look under your fast moving hands to make sure lines flip with each other. On the other hand, you can’t think too much about what you are doing, because over-thinking kills life and art, so you must think of something else. Which in my case forms a flow of obsessive, highly emotional thoughts about politics (- Why the hell Chris Christy fucked it up like this!?), friends (- Is Pat still my friend if he snubs my emails?!), Facebook (- Chris Robinson posted a grumpy comment to my post!) and film festivals (-They hate me they hate me they hate me and my film!).

The faster the thoughts run, the faster my hands move. It’s a miracle the paper doesn’t get thorn to shreds in the process or doesn’t set on fire.

At some point the walls start to hum then start to vibrate. It’s annoying, so I stop, get up and touch them. They vibrate or not? Not sure. The vibration stop.

I sit back at my light box and walls start humming again. Fuck. It’s annoying. But the annoyance fuels me with a manic speed. I discover can block out the vibration if I match it with rhythm of my work. The irritation gets pushed to the edge of my consciousness. Papers flip faster and faster.

Then music starts to play. A beautiful, gentle piano. For 2 seconds. I barely catch it. The moment I raise my head, it’s gone.

I get up, walk to the door and pop my head into the hallway. No way anyone is playing piano in this warehouse. Carpenters drill holes in they furniture projects and lay smelly layers of varnish on surfaces.

I sit back at my work table. The piano plays again. All right, let the music be. I won’t ask where it’s coming from.

It stops.

At the end of the day I have 2 huge piles of drawings – one on the floor, sketches and tries. The other on the table – final animation. One minute. In one day. Done.

I wake up at 2 AM. Everything is vibrating – walls, my body, my thoughts. From this maddening vibration a sense of urgency emerges. The world might end in 5  minutes. I need to scan all the drawings right now otherwise I will never see the results of my work.

I jump of of bed and walk to the scanner. The room is ice cold. I open the scanner’s mouth and place a drawing in it. The scanner blinks and says in a high pitch voice:

– Why are you making me work in the middle of the night? There is tomorrow, trust me.

Arguing with a scanner all of sudden seems like too much of an effort and I go back to bed.

 

A color sample of work in progress music video:

Tarzan try

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Accident

When I got on the bike I knew something terrible was going to happen. The vague premonition that I had every time I got on the bike this time was amplified by specific somatic nervousness. The man I was living with had been evasive lately. To gain his attention few days ago I told him I wanted to break up. He just smiled, put on a coat, walked out the door and hadn’t been back since. The mutual push and pull that had lasted for years, the routine reciprocated manipulations were’t working anymore. Was it over?
It was a frightening thought. What was outside the structure that this verged on abuse relationship provided me with? I had no other friends but him.
I rode the bike carefully, weaving through the Saturday shopping fever traffic and stupefied by a weekend pedestrians who absentmindedly ventured into the bike’s path.
But riding slowly is not quite an option for  competitive person like me. In the distance I saw the green light turn red and saw an opportunity to cover 2 more blocks before the light went red on me. I picked up speed.
Just then a cab pulled by the sidewalk leaving a space for me to pass between it and the parked cars. I aimed to pass when the passenger door opened right in front of me.
The bike hit the door and I ascended into the air.
Briefly released from the pull of gravity I looked to the ground. The dark gray asphalt looked hard and unwelcoming.
– If I fall, I’ll break my neck or 76 other bones, – I thought.
I pulled out my cheap cellphone, flipped it open and pressed “send”.
It connected right away.
– Terminal 5. Give your report, – a mechanical but still feminine voice said.
– New York. Broadway, – I said fast, trying to be efficient. – While riding a bike I hit taxi door. In the air.  Distance: 8 meters.
– Report accepted. Connecting you now.
Elevator music version of Beatles “Let It Be” filled the pause.
Then music stopped. I was connected.
– What is going to happen? – I shouted into the cellphone.
My anxiety just like my flight trajectory was reaching it’s peak.
For a long while I heard nothing but wind. In fact, 734 winds because my cell phone’s small screen indicated that’s how many connections I was on right now.
Then the last digit changed to 735.
– Kiev. Boryspilska street, – a mature man’s voice said urgently. – Construction site icy, no safety harness. About 20 meters to go.
– Kiev, anything to soften your fall? – a cracking voice of a man or a woman said with a neutral expression of resignation.
– I fear for the worst. Heading towards a pile of bricks, – Kiev said.
– Brother, I am in Bangladesh, – a male voice came in. – A construction site accident, just covered 73 meters, 3 more to go. Going towards a parked cement truck. You are not alone, is all I wanted to say. You are not alone, brother.
A mumble of many voices came in as a confirmation:
– You are not alone.
– You are not alone.
– You are not alone.
The number changed from 735 to 734 then to 733.
Then back up to 735.
– Vietnam. Lao Sai. Crossing a rope bridge in high wind. The bridge flipped. 23 meters to cover.
– How old are you, Vietnam? You sound awful young.
– A year and half.
A murmur of horror.
– Water will soften your fall.
– River is shallow with rocky bottom. Water too fast.
A murmur of hasted prayers.
But I had my own pressing need. I wanted to live.
– Hey, – I said. – Sorry for butting in. 6 meters to go for me, any suggestions?
– New York, chill. Only 6 meters? You may only break couple of bones.
– I have no insurance. I’ll be left rotting on a sidewalk. I might as well be dead if I break a couple of bones.
– Your mother has a third cousin in Ohio. Ask her
The number changed to 736.
– Bordeaux. Roe Boulan. I slipped on a bathroom floor with nothing to catch my fall. I am 87 and one meter for me is like 68 meters for the 20 year old. I fear for the worst.
I switched lines.
– Emma! – I shouted into the receiver.
– Emma speaking, – a distant voice said with suspicion.
– I am falling, 4 meters to go. save me!
– What do you want me to do?- the voice said grumpily. – Catch you? I am in Ohio, you dumb nit.
– Tell me what to do.
– Can’t you just slow down your fall?
– I can’t!
– Then I don’t know what to tell you. Wait. My first husband was an alcoholic, he fell many times when he was drunk, but never broke a smallest bone. A doctor in a hospital once told me that when drunks fall their muscles are relaxed because of the booze. A normal person always tenses her muscles at fall. Try to relax, sweetheart. Have a drink or something.
– OK.
I got off her line.
– She told me to relax! – I shouted into the other line.
An approving murmur:
– Relax.
– Relax.
– Relax.
Without closing my eyes I imagined sipping from a glass of wine. I felt my body accelerating towards the pull of asphalt and thought of landing on a soft mattress of hay and flowers.
Then I hit the ground, rather, the ground hit me with a brick fist. The phone disconnected.
I stayed on the ground for a few seconds, then moved one limb after another, as a test. Nothing seemed to be broken. I got up and looked at the taxi.
After navigating my fall and gravity I was back to navigating social interactions.
I speed dialed another number and started to approach the cab.

 

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