Monday, 25 February 2013

Stories from everywhere

Today's blog post calls for some shameless self-promotion.

Over the past year or so, I have managed to produce, direct, and write an 11-minute documentary of interviews with my parents about their experience in the Khmer Rouge regime. (Side note: I would have loved to have gone to Cambodia for the project, but I was told it was monsoon season, and um, hello, I ain't rich.) It turned out pretty decent, I think.

After nearly completing it, I sent an email to the Winnipeg Film Group over at Cinematheque, informing them of my project and if they were interested in it to contact me. It was a long shot, and I didn't think they'd respond at such short notice. Their website states that in order to screen something I had to send it a year in advance. I halfheartedly clicked the "send" button, not expecting a reply for a while. Or ever, to be honest.

In the meantime, I scoured the Internet for film festivals to which I would submit. I found several that piqued my interest. The Reel Asian Film Festival, for one, seemed it would be receptive of my documentary on a Cambodian genocide. However, submissions weren't being accepted until March. Onto the next.

The Vancouver International Film Festival also seemed appealing to me. I emailed the contact person - who later told me that I wasn't eligible to participate, being from out of Vancouver and all. Phooey.

And the Female Eye Film Festival cost too much money to enter. ($100 just to submit an application? No way.)

I settled for only the Canada International Film Festival. They were still accepting submissions and it cost only $25 to enter. Not bad.

A week or so later, I received an interesting email.

Jaimz Asmundson from the Winnipeg Film Group wrote, "Hi Cindy, Is your film finished? Could you drop it off this week?"

My clumsy fingers fumbled over the keyboard; in my excitement, I managed to write back, "I will have a final copy for you on Friday."

I have never spent so many hours inside an edit suite at one time. I burned my video onto a DVD, and the next day I gave it to Jaimz at Cinematheque. He didn't give me any indication he was going to screen it any time soon. He promised to watch it and contact me afterwards.

Not even a day later, he emailed me to tell me he wanted to put my documentary in the Gimme Some Truth Documentary Film Festival on March 17. Of course I obliged. It was an absolute honour to be placed in the Stories from New Canadians category among other filmmakers who I was sure had more skill than myself.

Gimme Some Truth is a four-day long festival from March 14 to 17. My own documentary, Stories from Cambodia, is screening on March 17 at 4 p.m. at Cinematheque, 100 Arthur Street. I'd love to see you there.

For more information, visit the Gimme Some Truth website.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The means, but to what end

I recently stumbled upon a letter (and response) that confirmed (and yet somehow soothed) my fears. Someone wrote in,
Dear Cary, 
I spent the last four and a half years studying print journalism in college and watching vacantly as the newspaper/magazine industry crumbled before my eyes. The decline never bothered me. I always figured I had what it takes to get a job even in an extremely competitive market: Before I ever graduated, I had completed four internships at newspapers, magazines and a Web site, published almost a hundred clips (including longer, high-quality pieces), and left a good impression with everyone I worked with. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and I knew that I wanted to write for a living. 
Now, six months after graduating, my parents still pay my cellphone bill and I am working full-time making ice cream. I make a couple hundred bucks here and there freelancing for a magazine I interned at, but otherwise my “freelance” career, as well as my journalism career, is dead in the water. I find myself despondent and unable to send out any more cover letters, and I can’t find the time or motivation to research a story idea enough to send it to an editor because I assume he or she will simply reject my half-baked idea. I’m panicking, but I fear failure so much that I can’t even get started. Freelancing seems to be my best option career-wise, but I can’t summon the willpower and enthusiasm to do it. Plus, I lost my license to a DUI conviction (that got me fired from one of those newspaper internships), which has immobilized me and left me unable to relocate to a new job until October. The DUI also contributes to my job-hunting anxiety. 
What I see is that my passion for journalism and writing is waning. Working full-time has taught me that work is work and play is play, and that I need to maximize the efficiency of my hours I spend at work in order to maximize how much I can play outside of work. I am looking into jobs in other fields that pay better. Is it healthier to stick it out working at an ice cream store and desperately try to make it as a writer, or should I pursue a career where financial security is more realistic? 
Scared Journalist
And Cary* replied,
Dear Scared Journalist,  
If you are a true journalist, the world is going to kick your ass. If you are a true journalist, you are supposed to be having a hard time. This is how the world makes writers. It kicks their ass long enough that they start finally telling the truth. They just finally give up and start bleating out little truthlets. 
We have applied and applied and applied for jobs and gotten nothing, and then things have been dropped at our feet that we were not sure we wanted but which we accepted because there was nothing else available. We have applied and applied and applied for jobs and been rejected and been forced therefore to work in unsuitable occupations that surprisingly led us to good fortune. We have kept our heads down and crawled forward like G.I.s in Korea. We have alternately railed at the system and begged it for favors and received the same infuriating coolness and indifference either way. We have ranted and we have started movements and we have tried to infiltrate the ranks of journalism as poets and insurrectionists. We have attempted to better our public relations skills. We have tried to network and join organizations. We have bought drinks at bars frequented by journalists and have praised works we detested. We have tried to detect trends and written queries suggesting feature stories about such trends. We have tried to develop specialties and gained immense knowledge of the inconsequential. We have interviewed celebrities and resold the interviews to numerous publications, each paying less than the one before in a vector of diminishment resembling our own entropic trajectory toward death. We have entertained the notion of getting into TV. We have wondered why the best quit or get fired and the mediocre persevere. We have wondered how mediocre we must be if we are still employed. We wonder why so many brilliant writers remain unheard, and why we ourselves were not thrown out long ago. We wonder why we don’t have a six-months cash reserve. We wonder who will save us from our own foolishness. We wonder if maybe there is a God who is quietly taking care of us. We take note of our increasing store of mediocre ideas such as that one. [...] We peruse brochures for MBA programs at prestigious East Coast universities. We think about the exponential growth of creative writing programs. Maybe our skills could be useful in detective work. Maybe we could start our own newsletter. Maybe someone will call today about our résumé.
And then, with the irony that cloaks us against utter nihilism, we think, if only we were living in more interesting times! And that is the confounding thing about it, isn’t it? That we stand on the nodal point of a great, creaking, crunching change in historical direction, at the beginning of cataclysmic planetary collapse, at the dying of civilization, at the rising of new empires, at our own meltdown, as a million stories bloom out of the earth like wildflowers in the spring and we think, gee, uh, if only there were some good stories to tell. [...]
Yeah. That’s the ultimate irony, no? That in the midst of remarkable and unprecedented change, in the midst of the greatest stories to happen all century, we are paralyzed by some changes in the delivery system. Well, we do know, as McLuhan taught us, it is not just the delivery system; paper itself is a kind of message; it tells us that information is permanent, whereas the Net tells us that information is in motion. So the print journalism curriculum may have taught, incorrectly — because it is  taught by ox-cart drivers — that information is permanent, not that it is in motion, and you may well be struggling to throw off that teaching, as perhaps you must if you are to tweet your way to victory. We must ask: If information is in motion, does that make it more or less true? That depends on whether you believe the world is in motion. Obviously the world is in motion. So information must be in motion as well.
So that’s where we’re at. That’s how we are, me included. We stand paralyzed before the fire, like animals watching their habitats burn. I can see what’s happening but am also somewhat paralyzed, doing an essentially 19th-century thing in this 21st century medium. I can scarcely figure out how to download the MP3 of my band from 1983 — but believe me, when I get it together next week, I’ll sell it to you for $1.50 a pop and maybe make enough to pay my cellphone bill.
It’s a weird world but it’s interesting and fun. Fuck the little stuff. Don’t worry about your career. Find a story and write about it, and stay off the streets if you’re drunk.
Right now I'm finishing up the last lap of my academic career in CreComm. The next logical step is to find a job. I'm afraid of ending up like Scared Journalist who apparently took the education but doesn't have an employer to show off to. But the statistics speak for themselves - CreComms are notorious for landing jobs straight out of and occasionally during school. That's one thing I'm (heavily) relying on.

And besides, how could you not find a job in this world? There's one of me and a zillion opportunities out there. I've never been scared of not finding a job. That is, until I started considering it.

To distract myself from these unholy thoughts, I'm going to take Cary's advice. To find a story and write about it. Just keep writing, Cindy, just keep writing.

* I included only excerpts because the answer itself was way too long. Click the link I provided if you want the response in full. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Uptight(s) about yoga pants and leggings

"Leggings and yoga pants banned," I murmured to myself, eyes slowly moving across my computer screen.

I'm reading an article on the Winnipeg Free Press about a high school's decision to ban their students from wearing yoga pants, leggings, or tights.

I frowned, looking down on my own pair of comfortable lululemon yoga pants. Good thing I graduated from high school five years ago, I thought, wiping the sweat off my brow.

Yoga pants, leggings, and tights are not new to the scene. In high school (that would be 2005-2008), every second teenage girl was rocking a pair of the aforementioned. At first, the form-fitting alternative to pants frightened me - almost as much as when skinny jeans arrived to the forefront of every retail store - but now they've grown on me (the yoga pants, not the skinny jeans).

I can begin to understand why St. Boniface Diocesan High School banned these articles of clothing. Tights, for example, are tricky. This is only my opinion, but I agree that they are in no way a substitute for pants; the thin material resembles a more pantyhose-like garment. There's even a website dedicated to the cause. Read the manifesto; even if you don't agree with their mission, it's quite entertaining.

To me, I don't think this is news. Dress codes (and bans) are frequent in adolescence - and I think they always will be. In the '90s, platform shoes were supposedly sent from hell a la Spice Girls.

I felt like this could have been a news story which focused on shaming the bad teenage girls for choosing such scantily clad clothes, but I applaud Gabrielle Giroday for interviewing a retailer, a representative from a school board, someone who has been through a similar situation in the past, and someone who could be affected by this decision now. That made this a well-balanced story - it covered all the bases on a topic which apparently doesn't cover enough skin.