During the past few years, I’ve felt like a desperate filmmaker—like all filmmakers—chasing an ambition. And now, that ambition has been abated and neutralized. In replacement, all I feel is deep profound quietness of knowing that everything real is inside me and everything inside me is real. And it is this reality that settles like jello, not reaching, expanding or desiring more than its reach. Although contentment is considered the death of ambition—it actually offers the ability to pursue life with radiance and grace.
When I finished filming NUNE, I ran into people that I hadn’t seen in a while. More than once, I’ve been told that I seem a lot calmer. I thought this was weird because I felt like I was in a mental state of frenzy and still haven’t gotten out of it. But then they explained to me that I seemed like I wasn’t chasing anything anymore; and that it probably came from a sense of accomplishment. I then wished the calmness persisted because I was still consumed with angst, for NUNE is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more work to do and bigger hurdles to climb.
And then the calmness came again—like an ocean wave that recedes, breaks for a while, carrying with it a quality of desertion and silence. It then creeps forward and unexpectedly envelops you. The calmness has an effulgence of deep characteristics of love—of being held in the firmly in the arms of destiny—and it won’t let go.
It’s one thing to be in love with a project. It’s another thing when it enters your heart and that’s what happened with me and RED AS BLUE. When this happens, an artist feels complete—like you don’t care to go further or bother turning anything into “reality” since the reality becomes “real” inside of you. Yet what makes me push forward is the obligation to a social duty, for no vision is meant for artists to keep to themselves.
There is a flow of mystery that surrounds me when this film moves in my mind. One year, I was walking down an alley and a gust of wind kicked up and a tree above me started to hurl these big yellow leaves. The leaves were circling my face and I had a vision of Kimberly—in the end scene of RED AS BLUE laying down the law to June Lusparian—about what a nobody she is and how she’s doomed to go to hell—forever. In this gust I could feel and see the entire interaction in my head and in my being—and the inspiration was so strong that a few workmen walking past me sense the awe in the atmosphere and one of them commented, “Isn’t Fall amazing?” and this scene in RED AS BLUE happens in the heart of Fall.
I was convinced that the awe projected out of my imagination filled the air to the point where others felt it. I went back to the script and wrote in this amazing visual—of Kimberly and June getting caught up in the gust. It’s romantic and charged with the fiery emotions Kimberly’s been carrying with her—fueled by the chaotic wind.
When I’m contemplating deeply on a story, my life mirrors everything the story is about. I’m lent experiences, situations, dialogues, people whom I would meet, and the characters manifest through strangers. When I lived in NY City, I was sitting in an Italian restaurant on Mott Street and a girl with a Mohawk entered with her father. The two sat across from us and I kept watching her because she exhibited a quality that was so endearing and reminded me of June Lusparian. I saw a whole narrative of her life—just reading everything I imagined about that girl. And it fascinated me that her dad was such a conservative dude, sitting there eating dinner with this punk girl. I captured that image of her in my mind to save for later.
When you come across strangers that mirror or speak to your characters, they are like affirmations and confirmations that your characters are real: and the outer experience add an extra touch and distinct quality that you can use in finessing the script, in casting, and directing the movie.
Sometimes I would go back to a scene and tweak the favorite words a character uses based on my interaction with someone in reality. When I wrote the Beverly, June and the Kimberly character, I sort of had a dispute with my editor, because she kept correcting the spelling of how they speak.
I decided that Beverly says ‘cause, Kimberly says ‘cos, and June says ‘cuz. This was a big deal for me, and it was unnerving to go through the entire script and revert everything back. This was anal of me but I felt the language was imperative to the character’s sociological makeup. The psychology of how a character might say “because” (and how it spells on paper) mirrors their entire being. And if you change this little detail: you change your entire character’s makeup. It’s subtle yet intrinsic and you don’t wanna mess with that.
One year, I ran into a “Beverly” in outer life. It happened in my yoga class. It was during spring break and all these young people happened to be in town. She situated herself in front of me and I got to study every part of—anatomically, LOL. Then she stood up and took off a jacket and of all places, she went to the back of the room and placed it next to me. And after class, she appeared again to put the jacket on.
In NUNE (which is an adaptation of RED AS BLUE), Beverly’s favorite color is blue. I had a blue in my mind—but when I saw the jacket this girl put next to me: the blue she wore was very specific. It wasn’t a cobalt blue or a bright blue but was a deeper blue. It’s so unique that I’d need a swatch to classify it.
This was the blue that Beverly is meant to wear. I went home and rewrote the scene about Beverly’s blue sweater. That experience had shown me that Beverly doesn’t wear a monogrammed sweater (as in the 80s)—but a sports jacket—like a windbreaker. I went through the script and altered this detail because it was clear to me that Beverly should exude an aspect of the girl I saw in class: since life rewrote that part for me.
The most amazing thing about seeing that girl was her anatomy. It gave me an idea of what Beverly’s physique should look like; and this girl in my yoga class was very athletic, much taller and bigger boned than the Beverly I imagined in my story. These mental images are what give me an exact idea of the directorial vision—so that when I begin to cast, I’d have a sense of what to look for.
Most of how I write involves transcribing what goes on inside me. That’s the difference between a visionary writer and creative writer. I don’t really “create” because creativity exerts mental energy. To write from a profound visionary level: you just listen to what goes on and record it. The visionary writer usually has a far-reaching scope of the future.
In the NUNE adaptation of RED AS BLUE, Kimberly is scaled down for the short film. But in RB, she’s on a warpath. She represents the social consciousness of her milieu and it’s her way or the highway. Her character runs from being artificial to beautifully deranged and damaged—more damaged than June. So it goes that the person who would get her the most—would be June. And that is why Kimberly hates her. She hates herself.
My vision of Kimberly (Beverly’s best friend) is exquisitely clear. Secretly, she is the star in this story because she is a fierce antagonist. They say in good screenwriting that your antagonist should be as strong as your protagonist. To me, when an antagonist is that strong—they consume the story and inadvertently take on a “lead” role in a film despite being a supporting character. RED AS BLUE is written in an unorthodox way because we have two protagonists and one antagonist in a love triangle. There are lots of triangle themes in this story, not to mention pyramid symbols.
I’m at a point of crisis with the RED AS BLUE novel, which was supposed to be done earlier this year. The problem is that it’s an illustrated novel, which means I am dependent on other artists to finish it.
Over two years, I had gone through two different artists and invested a great deal of energy, time, and money. Both artists fell through and it’s daunting because the novel is written—but the artwork is not. With the first project, we had gone finished three chapters worth and with the last artist, he finished 50% of the drawings in rough. The remaining is an uphill battle where I have to end it because I’m not getting the quality attention and commitment the novel deserves.
Writing and moviemaking are no different in the sense that they’re collaborative. People think that writing is a solitary thing and for the most part it is—but it really isn’t. Many writers struggle to find a good editor, and not just one but several for different facets of the writing. The time it takes for someone to adapt to your ideas, your characters and their worlds is very time consuming. And if you lose that editor—you have to start over. In this way, depending on the scope, collaborating is like a marriage and divorce is painful, especially when you find yourself held hostage or trapped in codependency.
I thought of releasing the novel without the artwork but it won’t be the same. The book form is my love letter to the youth; it was intended to be a graphical novel. The youth today don’t read. They’re visual. And that’s what I wanted this book to be.
The spirit of the story is strong enough for me to keep forging—because it has power. This power is fueled by magic, unrelenting like the force of nature—knowing how to plow its way toward some form of completion. It is a genesis.
Some artists wait for a “muse” to invade them in order to be inspired to create—and this is what it’s like. The muse is a life-energy, considered a gift, and doesn’t come when you want it to. So when you’re filled with it and driven by it, you have no other choice but to keep going—or else that muse will go elsewhere. If you’re a perfect vehicle for it, it becomes an inner commitment; a marriage to your work.
They say that the word “genius” has its origin from the word “genie” or spirit and that when you have genius, you’re literally “possessed.” The root word for genie is “Jinn” which in Arabic means “hidden.” I do not like this idea of being possessed or used by something. And if I were, would it be by angels or demons?
When June, Beverly, and Kimberly move through me—
I feel possessed by love and being sickly in love is the only worthy type of possession.
In childhood, we have companions that our parents deem to be our “imagination.” But this imagination is exactly what is missing to have a life of true inner fulfillment, creativity, harmony and calm. This companionship is what makes a writer’s life worthwhile. For this reason I pick my topics carefully: because it may lead to either healing or psychosis. It is not uncommon for writers to commit suicide due to the demons they’ve made a pact with.
For me, the characters in RED AS BLUE are my companions. They have a genesis and life-story they want to tell, and because of that, all my life experiences no longer look like an accident. Everything I’ve been through has been designed to serve the angels.