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.

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Depression. Personal Stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Negatives vs. Positives: An Epic Internal Battle.

  1. Jud says:

    You ever watch Family Guy? Peter’s father? 🙂



  2. Gail Noonan says:

    Hey Signe,
    Inspirational post and I can’t wait to see the film. Count me in as your cheering section as you go through this difficult postpartum time. Best-Gail

  3. tputter says:

    I have always loved hearing your voice… It is a big reason why I supported your Kickstarter… I wanted to hear more of it. I have always thought that the premise of “Rocks” is great and needed to be made. Darkness can be frightening to people who do not or have not lived in it or who avoid it whenever possible. But without darkness, there cannot be light. It is a big part of the human condition. I am so glad that it is too late to change the voice-over in “Rocks.” The more we can know about life in the darkness, the easier it will be to navigate in it, if or when we ever happen to find ourselves there.

    • Thank you! I do hope you like the film (with the voice) when you finally see it – and you’ll see it soon, hopefully by this Fall. I have been in a pretty dark mood lately (like some people are color blind I can get optimism blind : )) but we do have some goodness lining up. Although, for every goodness there has been at least one or two dog fights, which, in my mind, annuls the good. I’ll write about it more (one of the things I should be grateful about is that am able to write again, it has been so dark). Thank you for your wonderful support!

  4. Jonas says:

    Heck, Signe, I love you. Don’t know myself where my last money went, but let me pay you one month’s rent (it is probably all I can afford), so at least you’ll have 60 days.

    • Jonas, THANK YOU so much for your amazing wonderful offer! But I cant take it – you are a starving artists like myself, and you have to feed a family. Also, I have to find a better/longterm solution to my ongoing how to pay rent problem. I am working on it and maybe one day I’ll offer to pay YOUR rent! THANK YOU so much for your support – your kind loving offer mean so much to me! Thank you!

  5. I think your films are better because you do your own voice-over. These are very personal stories, and using your own voice give them an authenticity that is far more compelling than you could get with even the most talented voice actress. The audience knows they are hearing your voice and seeing your images, so they feel a much greater personal connection to the story.

  6. Signe, I love reading everything you write, and make, you have such deep WISDOM. Like you, I feel that this world is allergic and terrified of the “dark night of the soul” – so much so that- similar to how old age is incarcerated in old age homes, one is allowed his or her own darkness only in the expensive closed off space allocated to it- psychologist office, for instance. Every day existential pain – which is rampant because of the culture (see how successful drug companies are)- is to be hidden. In this same spirit, I think your voice -over gives the film a distinct personality. I think we are too used to the flattening of the individual in voice overs, the way curly haired TV anchors are expected to straiten their hair. It’s a good time to remember what was told to artists like Rod Stuart and Leonard Cohen, when they insisted they could sing what they wrote.

    • Shira, YES I completely agree with you! there would have been nothing wrong with throwing brief summaries of our frustrations into the conversation at that meeting. Swiping the dirt under the bed doesn’t make the dirt go away…
      And thank you for your encouragement regarding the voiceover! Lets see if YOU like it.
      : )
      Thank you!

  7. marilyn wren says:

    check out maybe it would help.

  8. cheres espinosa fernández says:

    Hello Signe, I’m also very happy that it’s too late to change the voice over in your film because I like it very, very much as it is. I really believe that your voice enhances the film, makes the story believable and it just works great. No other voice would do the job!. Yours is just perfect for your film, it makes it genuine and unique.
    Come out of the shadows, you’re a bright soul!!
    I’m sure your future as a film maker it is going to take you right into SUNDANCE or even better so have hope and carry on!
    Big hug!

  9. Gatling says:

    Hey Signe, I just finished translating your movie for a festival in Poland. It’s an amazing piece. I’m always awed when someone is able to express so brilliantly these things I feel, but hardly ever talk about. It was an honor to work on your movie and I hope I did it justice.

    • THANK YOU! I wish I could record your translation, so that people don’t have to read the intense text and watch the film at the same time. Maybe one day!….
      : )

      • Gatling says:

        That would be very cool, I liked your voiceover in the original. The movie definitely wouldn’t have had the same impact on me with a professional, polished voice actor. Most of my friends know enough English to not need subtitles, so I’ll probably force them to go to the festival and watch and listen.

  10. killersmovie says:

    We here in our little KILLERS movie family love your voice and that special Latvian twist 😉 Please, keep it and we hope things are going good with the whole project! Amazing work, Signe – best of luck from Brussels

  11. holtzermann17 says:

    You have a beautiful voice – and I’m looking forward to catching your first feature film in its UK premier!

  12. Rita Johnson says:

    I haven’t even seen your film — I have to wait five whole days — but already I’m excited. Thanks for your inspiring (and daunting!) “making of” videos; I was paying close attention. By the way, it seems every artist goes through that feeling at the end of their book/movie/whatever, when they believe they will NEVER be able to do that again and they have NO MORE ideas left. And then the well fills up again. It’s probably unavoidable. :- /
    See you in Ottawa, OK?

  13. Luana says:

    Dear Signe, I have just discovered your work at the Anima Festival in Brussels and saw Rocks in my Pockets last night. By far the most honest and heartfelt film in the festival. Studio 5 was full once again, as it was for the short films. Unfortunately you had already left, so I didn’t have the chance to say how much I loved it in person. Luckily I found this blog 🙂 It was very touching and I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing such an intimate story with us. Your voice was perfect for it, touched people to tears in the room. Coming from Eastern Europe as well I can relate with much of the history and spirit of sacrifice, of ”doing the right thing” that was prevalent in your story. Congratulations for making it together with what I heard it was a very small team. I wish you lots of success ahead and good luck with the distribution. I hope to see you again in Brussels next year.
    Your newest fan,

  14. tulkotaja says:

    I saw Rocks in my pocket yesterday, the Latvian version – if this is your voice, Signe, then your mother is completely wrong. Because the voice over is simply great. As ist the rest of the film. Thank you for making it!

  15. Dawn Dreyer says:

    Dear Signe,

    I’m so grateful I clicked my way to this post. I haven’t seen your film yet, I can’t wait to watch it — I just saw it’s available online! Yay!

    I’m also producing/directing an animated documentary about mental illness, that is based in part on my own experiences (mostly with depression).I’ve been working on my project for a long time — since 2007 or so — it’s called “Bipolar Girl Rules the World + Other Stories.” Depression, life, can slow things down. I’m moving along well now, but there were certainly times when it wasn’t so fun when people asked how the project was going.

    Can you believe that a snarky acquaintance sent me an email when your film came out, saying oh, I’m so sorry, someone else had your idea. Too bad she’s first. Please! Like there isn’t enough room for more than one animated film about mental illness. (by a woman. with intergenerational/familial elements. that aspires to be funny, in parts. but it’s different! really!)

    Today I felt so much fear at exposing my artistic work to a wider audience (I need to raise more money to keep us all moving forward, and I’m planning a Kickstarter campaign), and at the idea that my stories and my voice (horrible voice! yes, I should hire an actor to read my words while I still have a chance!) will be out there in the world….I would have happily been annihilated by a bolt of lightning. Poof. But then the shame kicked in, imagining what I will feel like if I don’t get the work out there, and if I disappoint the people who are working with me (and who I have promised to pay), and then get completely derailed and worse worse worse….even worse than the fear part.

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with a bunch of chipper lady filmmakers on May 7, 2014. I’m not so sorry that you wrote the descriptions of the rabbit being struck by a scorpion, or being dragged down the road until you had no skin left, because you made me laugh and not feel so alone and ridiculous.

    I’m just so excited about all the meaty goodness here on your website/blog. I’m going to try to take small-ish bites and chew chew chew and really taste it all. Digest, etc. etc. end food metaphor…now. Thank you, really.


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