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For the first weeks, we flew high and chased a dream. Costs went up. What the hell? I was so excited I was averaging about four hours of sleep. Shot lists, camera choices, locations, wardrobe! Why not go for it?  I put my pedal to the metal.


The stakes were high. If we could make a stunning pitch trailer, i.e. a 2-6 minute proof-of-concept film, production companies and investors would come knocking. Sounds quixotic? Maybe, but it happens. Just the year before, I’d landed a contract to fully fund my adapted screenplay. (The contract’s demise is yet another story.)


A film, even a short pitch trailer, needs ongoing collaborative convos and decisions about theme, character, dialog, color, music, audio, structure, transitions, motifs, edits — and did I mention budgets? Central to all these communications, though, is to make sure everyone involved shares the same vision, or to paraphrase Sidney Lumet, make sure everyone is making the same movie! 


After two months, hours of footage and weeks of Zoom meetings, it was clear we weren’t getting close to what I wanted. A producer brought on midstream told me, “Making a movie is like painting a mural, but making a trailer is  getting everyone involved to paint that same mural on a grain of rice.”


Our ultimate product? One possible investor said, “There’s no there, there.” We got some expensive and exquisite moody paint swatches on that tiny grain of rice, but no clear representation of my Crashing America road story.


The ancient Greek stoics believed failure was dependent on its frame. After taking huge risks, they advise that no matter the outcome, reframe it as a triumph. The project had been nothing if not risky As a novelist turned film producer, I had traveled light years from any previous comfort zone. 


Failure teaches. Experts (and I’ve loaded up on their podcasts) say disappointing outcomes lead to better choices in the future. One of my beloved friends reminded me that a firefighter walking into a smoking building can’t know on her first day what she’ll know in twenty years. And, wincing a little, I thought . . . well, guess my experience was a lot cheaper than film school. 


I’m still hoping to get my screenplay made into an indie feature. But in the meantime, I’m developing a script for a short film. My new screenplay alchemizes some of my most crushing and thrilling moments. It’s an intergenerational story about the high-stakes movie world filled with ruthless ambition, passion and heartbreak.  With each draft, it’s getting a little darker; but to my surprise, I think, ultimately, a love letter. 


Maybe I even have finally stumbled on the magic powers embedded in failure — best described in an old rap song’s lyrics that my young but wise meditation teacher, Upasaka Upali, quoted to me, “If life gives you lemons, paint that sh**t gold.”


Here’s a six-minute comic film explaining the crazy process of trying to make a proof-of-concept trailer.

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