Archives for category: Work

 It is hot! 105 in Albuquerque yesterday, with the same expected today. And, after such a cool, rainy spring, I think we are all in shock, though June is usually the month where it reaches triple digits for a week or two, so we really shouldn’t be. Today I plan to make mint sun tea, write a short story, meet a friend at the pool, and be grateful that for the first time in over a decade, I am not outside, working on a film set in this heat! 

Producers love to shoot in New Mexico in the summer; long days full of amazing skies, desert vistas stretching for miles, 16 hours before you lose the light.  Pouring water over my head, wrapping a wet bandana around my neck, reapplying sunscreen again and again, holding the wool coats and petticoats of actors too hot to wear them, lugging garment bags up a mountain or into a canyon, eating bananas for the potassium, waiting for the sun to go down, trying to drink even half as much water as I should. 

Early in my career, I wore skirts and light blouses, but after ruining too many, switched to shorts and tee shirts, but after getting too much sun, switched to high tech UV fabric clothing that I rinse out each night, same outfit day after day, no skin showing. Only when the director goes down with heat stroke, do people slow and drink a Gatorade. 

I think of my dad, building a house out in the country. Watermelon for lunch, gallons of water sweated out, like a cleanse, year after year working through the summer. And of all the farm workers, road crews, and walking mail deliverers, working in the heat. My grandmother would meet her mailman at the door with a glass of lemonade. 

And six months from now, I might be writing the same post for cold. Bitter  and biting. Seems unimaginable now. 

Stay cool out there!

  
I’ve been off for almost a month and, besides attending the writing class I signed up for, feel that I’ve done very little of what I set out to accomplish with this time.  I haven’t consistently gone to yoga or organized my studio or sat in my studio and made a bunch of stuff like I’d planned. 

But, what I have done is begin to calm down, get still, and just be. I bought a hammock and a stack of books, which I devour by the week. It reminds me of the summer between 7th and 8th grade when I sat on the front porch rationing pages of “Gone with the Wind” until finally it had to end, at which point I simply started it again. Somewhere along the way, reading went from necessity to luxury in my life and this summer I plan to reverse that trend.  

After living on the adrenaline high of a film set for months, it can be difficult to see how being is just as important as doing, if not more so. One month into my “self funded sebattical” and I’m only beginning to unwind. I look at the titles that caught my eye in the bookstore and I see a theme- stillness.  It is where we find the answers and the inspiration.  The answer being that our only job is to be our most authentic selves and that once we understand that, all else will fall into place. I like what these ladies are saying. 

In addition to reading, I’ve been gardening, cooking, and meditating; all things that are quickly ignored and forgotten when life gets crazy and chaotic, but which do more for my health than all of the supplements, acupuncturists, and massages combined. 

As I lie here wondering how to make a living from reading, swinging, writing, creating, traveling, and imagining, I realize that’s not for me to figure out. All I need is to keep doing the things I enjoy, make time and space for them, and trust that the next little clue will appear if I’m still enough to notice. 

I am sitting outside of a coffee shop in Albuquerque and a movie happens to be shooting across the street. Men in workbelts scurry around and I had to park around the corner because the street is full of “no parking due to filming” and “businesses are open” signs. And all I feel is relief. Relief that after sitting here for half an hour I can leave and go about my day. A day that didn’t start with an alarm and will end whenever I get tired and feel like going to bed. I’ve been off for just under two weeks and am only now starting to feel rested as the insomnia that dominated my last show begins to subside. 

I have a list of things I hope to accomplish during this self funded sabbatical, not the least of which is beginning to try to figure out a new way to make a living that doesn’t wreak havoc on my nervous system. Yikes! Whether it ends up taking over my film career or simply gives me more of a purpose and income in between film jobs, I don’t know. But, I do know that as I get older, the lifestyle that goes along with the film industry seems less and less sustainable for me.

I’ve signed up for writing classes and jewelry classes, I revamped my long neglected Etsy site, fresastudio.etsy.com, and am trying to stop thinking of such things as just hobbies, incapable of possibly supporting me. What if I gave them half of the hours I give my film career in a given week? Chances are they’d flourish. 

I am very grateful for a career that gives me the time to explore other options and has been such an interesting one for over a decade. But, at the moment, my studio is calling and I’m going to go see what I find there. I’ll let you know. 

  

I’m having one of those moments. Sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of wine, the back door open on an April evening, and another job coming to an end. Willie Nelson is singing. 

I couldn’t have asked to be part of a more fantastic costume department  for the past several months. It was one of those rare groups, full of humor and talent, that made the most mundane or stressful of situations seem somehow not so bad. It was a department that earned complete respect from the rest of the crew early on and maintained it throughout. 

Aside from the fact that it was a physically difficult show for me, complete with the flu and a classic case of insomnia, it also reminded me that it really is the people who keep me coming back, movie after movie. There is an adventurous, creative, problem solving, non conformist, gypsy, irreverent attitude that I love about film crews, but costume departments in particular. Maybe it’s something about being the first in and last out, pinning and counting dirty socks, or seeing famous people in their underwear, but whatever it is, it’s unavoidably funny when you really think about it. Or if you haven’t slept more than four hours in months. 

I will miss this group. But will enjoy my sleep and time off. And I will welcome the idea that goodbye usually just means “see you on another one,  somewhere.”

  

Making the best of my 4 hour drive home, I took I-10 East from Deming, instead of the usual Highway 26 towards Hatch. I’d heard about a sweet little village just south of Las Cruces called La Mesilla and decided it was the perfect place to stop for coffee, huevos rancheros at Cafe Mesilla, and a quick walk around the plaza. Passing the building which originally housed the capital of Arizona and New Mexico, and where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang, I was struck by the history that had taken place in this village I’d only briefly heard of. It was the perfect way to end my most recent crazy job in the desert of southwest New Mexico.

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Sometimes you are on location in Manhattan. Or Austin. And, sometimes, you are working on location in the desert south of Lordsburg, New Mexico.

I do not want to leave my house today. As I pack my suitcase, yoga mat, humidifier, bag of food, pillow, winter gear, dust gear, shoes, tea, and scented candle into the car, I am reminded of how frequently this used to be my life. For years, I worked and lived between states, spending months on location, in hotel rooms, everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.

And then, it just stopped working for me. Leaving my house and the small routines I’d finally managed to make mine, became almost physically painful. The idea of living in a hotel room, dependent on catering, microwaved soup, instant oatmeal, and coffee made in the bathroom, was unappealing on every level. So, I stopped. I began to accept jobs based on whether the movie was in town or not. And that single decision has done wonders for my health, sleep, well being, and life.

Recently I received a call for a month long, out of town job in Southern New Mexico and, because it was with a supervisor I liked, accepted. And, for the past month, I have counted the days until I could be back home. My days consist of waking at 2:30 am, getting in a van, working until the sun goes down, stumbling from the van to the shower to the bed and doing it all over again the next day. Friends and family’s calls go unanswered, mail piles up, and my life is put in hold.

For the same amount of time that I’ve been choosing to work at home, I’ve also been practicing living in the present. It is the combination that seems to account for a happiness I can’t remember feeling at any other point in my life. I have been in the flow, in the right place at the right time, happily observing the world around me and all that it has to give.

So, it is with some annoyance that I find myself incapable of maintaining this practice while working on location. I recently awoke in my hotel room around midnight. I was hungry and, as I stood eating a slice of cheese by the mini fridge, steam from the humidifier wafted by my face. My sleep mask was pushed up on my forehead and the only light came from the nightlight on the hairdryer. At that moment I was completely present and aware of how strange my life was. And, though happy to be present, also knew it wasn’t a situation I cared to keep repeating.

Driving south on I-25, I go through a town called Truth or Consequences and smile. It seems that if you know the truth and ignore it, the consequences are guaranteed to follow close behind. My truth at the moment is that home is where I want to be and I’m glad that it took only a short job to remind me of that fact.

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Well, I haven’t been blogging enough lately for it to become a slog, that’s for sure! After what has turned out to be a very busy summer, I am finding my unemployed sea legs once again. And returning to the thing no one pays me to do; blogging, walking, cooking, making, and traveling.

Sitting in my favorite Albuquerque coffee shop (Zendo) this morning, I read the NY Times article, “When Blogging Becomes a Slog,” about a group of young design bloggers who are already feeling the effects of turning their passion into a profession. It eventually became a grind, they forgot about the joy component, and are now somewhat burnt out.

The article reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some fellow costumers. They were talking about how best to move up through the ranks of the department, in the hopes of eventually reaching the end goal of becoming costume designers. I commented that about six years ago I stopped looking to the film industry to be my creative outlet and instead let it become simply my job and the way I pay for the things that do fulfill me creatively. I had no interest in moving up and accepted that it was what it was for me; a job, with plenty of pros and cons.

I think there was a period of time when I would not have said that out loud, feeling somehow guilty that my job wasn’t my end all be all. Or that I was settling by not merging money with creativity and passion. I have endless hobbies, I have two different “business” cards for businesses that make me almost no money and yet, it works for me. I think it is a lucky few who figure out how to rely upon a passion to sustain them financially without it eventually becoming a grind and, well… a job.

At the moment, I’m enjoying one of the pros of my odd profession; a chunk of time off to do with as I please. Stay tuned!

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Yesterday was a funny day. My hobbies, the things I do for fun, to keep my brain and creativity working and flowing, came home to roost.

Last year I took almost six months off from my job as a costumer. During that time I took several creative writing classes and began submitting work to various journals and publications. Yesterday I received a copy of the 2014 Santa Fe Literary Review and I am proud to have a story among the pages.

As I was flipping through the book, my phone buzzed to tell me that I had sold an apron on my Etsy site, fresastudio.etsy.com. I started this site years ago, as a way to justify my love of fabric and vintage table linens, but it has been sorely neglected for the past couple of years. It always shocks me when I sell something.

Sitting near me was an Italian dictionary and my guidebook to Amsterdam. Travel and the study of languages were favorite hobbies until, at some point in the past decade, I allowed them to take a backseat. In October I will be able to use both books when I cross the pond for the first time in four years.

It occurred to me that, for almost a decade, I allowed my film career to eclipse any unrelated interests as my life became a cycle of jobs and recovery. Upon realizing this last year, I counterbalanced by taking too many months off; too much time with too little structure. This year has been more balanced, with consistent, but short, jobs, most in town rather than on the road, and some free time to continue writing, making, exploring, and learning.

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Last night I came home after a particularly difficult six day workweek and collapsed on my couch. Scrolling through Facebook, I was struck by the two categories of posts I saw. On one side were friends writing about summer vacations, weddings, and the daily happenings in their lives. On the other were my film industry colleagues and friends. These posts relayed the tragic news that a driver on one show had fallen asleep at the wheel after an excessively long day and been killed in a car accident. Another friend spoke of the wife he hasn’t seen in his three months on the road. And another ranted about having just worked an 85 hour week with less than 36 hours off until he had to do it all again, “the film industry chews you up and spits you out,” he wrote.

After working an 80 hour week myself, in a canyon of white sand, wrapped head to toe in UV graded clothing, in temperatures over 100 F, I had to ask myself why? Why do this?

When I began working in the industry, just before my 24th birthday, I had a recently acquired Bachelor’s Degree and no plan to speak of. The Industry seemed exotic and I quickly found myself the member of not one but two IATSE Locals, complete with a pension, dental, and the ego boost that came when acquaintances learned that I worked on movies and around famous people. I liked the excitement, I enjoyed working in different cities, and I quickly became accustomed to the money I earned through excessive overtime.

But, I also began to lose touch with friends, mail went unopened, and my already developed insomnia worsened. I went months on a diet of caffeine and adrenaline, driving when I was too tired to safely be behind the wheel. I used being “on location” as the perfect excuse to postpone dealing with things that adults have to deal with, be those break ups or home repairs or any number of other unpleasant matters.

I am using the past tense because I like to think that in the past year, I’ve done some difficult and good course correction. I decided to choose my jobs based on if they were in town, if they weren’t too long, and if I liked the people I would be working with. But, even taking all of that into account, over the past month I’ve spent most of my days in ski goggles to keep out the blowing dust, I’ve worked several 18 hour days, and driven when I shouldn’t have.

How to turn the fantasies of owning a small hotel or being a writer/traveler/blogger/creative into reality? How to let go of the fear that keeps me coming back to films for more, hoping that maybe, maybe this time, it will be different. But, it is what it is. It’s an industry that uses its perceived glamor to remind the crew there’s a line of people who would kill to replace them. Almost twelve years in, I see the young starry eyed 24 year olds and it seems like another lifetime that I was one of them.

And yet, after all of that, I know I was not meant for a 9-5 existence. I would crumble at a desk. Finding some type of balance between the two seems to be my current universe-sent task. In the meantime, I will try to work as safely as possible, to be grateful that I’m employed, to continue paying off debt, to keep my eyes open for new opportunities, to save money, and to be kind to my fellow crew members who look as tired and hot as I am.

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Quantum Physics, Japanese Culture, and nuclear power are three of the topics that keep popping up in my life lately. Strange! But, also fascinating as I think it’s a good sign whenever similar themes appear repeatedly.

I recently read the books “A Tale For The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki and “The Woman at Otowi Crossing,” by Frank Waters. And then, for Mother’s Day, my mom wanted to go see the original Godzilla, from 1954.

But, let me back up.

Knowing nothing about it, I bought “A Tale For The Time Being” because I liked its cover. And, as I was reading it, I began working part time on the WGN TV show “Manhattan,” which is based on the Manhattan Project. The book tells the story of two women, Ruth in the Pacific Northwest and Nao in Japan, whose lives are intertwined when Ruth finds Nao’s diary washed up on the beach, sometime after the 2011 Tsunami and nuclear disaster that followed. Without giving too much away, it broaches topics from Buddhism to Quantum Physics and shows how truly interconnected time and lives can be.

While working on “Manhattan,” I became fascinated with this top secret project, which took place in my backyard, literally changing the world forever. Los Alamos is a strange place and one that I’ve taken for granted for most of my life here. Situated less than an hour from both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, it is still home to Los Alamos National Labs, for which it became famous after developing the atomic bomb, used in Japan, to end WWII. As a child I knew it only for its outdoor ice rink, which was always a fun winter field trip. It is a town of gated entrances, official looking blue signs, and the highest per capita income in the country. It was only after watching actors portray scientists and hearing scripted lines spoken, that I realized I wanted to know more about this part of my state and its history.

Frank Waters novel, “The Woman At Otowi Crossing,” is “based on the real life of Edith Warner, who ran a tea room at Otowi Crossing, just below Los Alamos…” Like Ozeki’s book, it also deals with the interconnectedness of cultures and time.

As I was finishing Waters’ novel, Mother’s Day was approaching and I asked my mom what she would like to do. “Go see the original Godzilla in the theater,” she replied. The author George R.R. Martin, a local Santa Fean, recently bought and reopened the local art house cinema and Godzilla was that weekend’s treat. Having never seen it, I went in with all kinds of preconceived notions; B movie, monster movie, bad special effects, etc. I really knew nothing about it. Made in 1954, less than a decade after the bombs fell on Japan, it tells the story of a nuclear monster from the sea, terrorizing the Japanese public. Nothing will kill it. But, when a scientist comes up with a terrible solution, one that will stop Godzilla but could end life as we know it, the movie asks the question “when does the end justify the means and at what point are the means too horrible to justify?”

I was shocked by how great of a movie it was and was surprised by the questions it posed. It fit right into my theme.

I am now reading “American Prometheus- The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. I’m not sure why I’m being drawn to these topics, but for whatever reason I am.

Next up: Quantum Physics For Dummies!

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