Coincidence

Life is kind of a series of coincidences. I’ve lived through many of coincidences, and I’ve reflected on them a lot but there’s one that just blew me away.I mean it’s something significant when just days before you officially change your concentration to something, one of your role models breaks the news they’re pursuing it too.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve always kind of separated my interests from career to the point where I don’t actively search out people to idolize with my same exact goals in my career because I don’t want my story to be me trying to be a carbon copy of them. I am my own person under a realm of influence by the people I look up to and interact with. My want to go to ‘film school’ was that I already knew I wanted to create media within the cinematic elements, not because I idolized anyone.

So like let’s fast forward here to my first year of college, and I’m in this TV program because around sophomore year of highschool I realized I don’t want to make movies, I want to make TV. My sort of goal for TV has always been a way to bring stories to screen that made my classmates feel represented. I will always have a young white woman to represent me, I’ve found several. But I had started to realize my friends didn’t watch TV as much as me because they felt disconnected as POC, or lgbtq+ members and so on. Anyway so that’s why I’m in TV. I also, not to brag, have a real skill in it and have had background training starting from a highschool level ( I was broadcast director & won a few film festivals). I made sure to get into a TV program versus a film program because I knew that the specifics would benefit me, but I originally was in a editing concentration. I love editing but my school combined it with a lot of graphic and visual design, which I have played with and learned I don’t enjoy. So time came around and I changed my concentration this year. I had been planning for months. Then the news broke.

 “It took 13 years, but Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo will boldly follow in several of her co-stars’ footsteps when she directs an episode of the ABC medical drama this spring, TVLine has learned.”
Hold up…you’re telling me I changed my concentration just before I learned Ellen Pompeo, someone whom I’ve looked up to for a few years now, and have always dreamed of seeing what her production company does…actually became a director which is what I changed my concentration to?
I changed from an editing concentration to directing/producing concentration.
My mind was made up before I my appointment time with my counselor, so the actual timing is officially after Ellen’s announcement. I was stunned. As a creative person who over analyzes, seeing someone you look up to or idolize and seeing how their creative mind works is honestly a fever dream. There is nothing better than the rush that comes when trying to analyze someone’s work, that you feel so connected to. I’ve never met Ellen, probably never will; but the life that comes from interviews, and from social media influences how I view her work obviously. Fast forward to now and I got to screen the episode at Paley Fest (side note here, many people met the cast at Paley, my seats were in the balcony and security did not allow anyone from those seats down to orchestra where the cast was signing and taking selfies).  I already talked about the episode and it’s meaningful impact to me last post, how I watched with my mother, so I’m going to talk more about directing here.
First off its a beautiful episode and I don’t only want Ellen to continue to direct Grey’s Anatomy, but this only made me more excited for her production company. Not many people know but Ellen has her own production company, Calamity Jane and she’s bought the rights to multiple movies and mini series. As a media person myself I’m so excited to see her career develop, and I think that’s what made me so excited about all of this. I’m very young and going to college for my dreams, but I see that my dreams can come true at any age. I could discuss more but I’ll just mention here about Ellen’s career, that it didn’t start until she was in her 30’s as an actress that when she moved beyond the Law&Order guest star phase into her first movie role, Moonlight Mile. Quickly after that she was cast in Grey’s Anatomy after Shonda Rhimes suggested to Betsy Beers, “Can we get someone like the girl from Moonlight Mile?” to which Betsy replied they could actually get that girl.
For an actress 30 is considered by majority of Hollywood to be too old, and Ellen felt the backlash of that by being cast as a mother, girlfriend, and love interest in several of her other films. She saw that Meredith Grey was more than the idea of someone’s lover, and a very complex character which is why she’s played her for over 13 years now. So Ellen broke that boundary on TV in 2004 when Grey’s first aired but she didn’t stop there. We can’t mention her directing without talking about the numbers. The number of women directors.
I don’t have numbers for television, and I think they are slightly more than the numbers I have for film alone but the statistic that I go to the most is that there’s only 13% of directors that are women.
13%
Shondaland has made progress with this number for years, for example co-star Chandra Wilson, has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy herself, as has Debbie Allen who helped coach Ellen Pompeo on her journey to directing. But the reason for me that Ellen’s episode is such a big deal is because she’s much more visible by viewers, known for this role she plays,  and the influence of this one episode is so great. Because it tells her fans, it tells these young girls, that you can do more. Besides acting Ellen’s always been an activist as well, and really put forward the notion that celebrities are real people. It is so easy to knock away all of her big fancy things because she’s very down to earth in the outlets she uses to interact with people. So that combined with directing is basically a show stopper.
There will probably never be a clear way for me to express the joy I feel knowing someone I adore so much, I can sympathize with in terms of struggles job wise but this is me trying.
This is an open letter to Ellen saying you did amazing, you have such a talent you probably had no idea you had, thank you for listening to Debbie when she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thank you for documenting it over social media, thank you for being so open at Paley Fest about your process, the vulnerability of your story being told, the personal touch that needed to be shared. Thank you for giving a young aspiring director like me hope, and thank you for breaking barriers.
Love Danielle, a TV student with a directing producing concentration.
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Sunshine

I want to open this with a foreword, I had the privilege of being a member of the 2017 Paley Fest event featuring the Grey’s Anatomy cast yesterday afternoon. During this event they streamed 13×18, due to air in two weeks, and Ellen Pompeo’s directorial debut. I will try my hardest not to spoil the episode in this post but the overall theme of what was discussed and viewed hit very close to home for me and as such I will be mentioning that. This is your warning now.

My mother had a life change as we transitioned from the 90’s to the 2000s. She had been working at a hospital in the bay area, on night shifts forever. That didn’t change when I was born either. Due to this she missed a lot of pop culture television, for example she didn’t get to watch Friends. She only watched whatever was on in the hospital offices at the time. In 2001, when I was 3 or 4, we moved and then she decided to become a stay at home mom while being a paid “nanny” close personal friends. My mother was taking care of up to 5 kids at once, when only 3 were her own. Throughout this time tv was obviously an educational tool as we grew up.

Let’s talk about how my passion for TV developed from this, since I am a TV major after all. We had a Tivo I remember, and what I would do before elementary school is as I got ready and ate breakfast- this was before I had developed my craving to watch broadcast news-I would watch as much as I could of something we had taped. I also did this with DVDs. I would watch until I finished my breakfast and then got ready, and watched a little bit more because my mom needed to wait for the 2 other kids to be dropped off at our house for carpool. It was a routine of mine, and my mom never found it to be an issue. I mean I was watching children’s programs after all.

My mom was always constantly encouraging me, and watching with me, and taking me to movies too. I have the luck of having a birthday in May, right before summer. Which is when a lot of children’s movies come out, so of course those were my birthday celebrations. Movies! And what’s really special about this is I kind of view it as her making up for the time she didn’t have to enjoy these things before. I’m also very blessed because I’m the only daughter she has. I’m also the youngest. We ‘baby sat’ a little girl as well, but that ended by the time I was about ten. Strangely, although I had become almost a sort of older sister to the little girl we watched over, I still never viewed myself as one.

Now bring this into middle school and suddenly my mom and I could enjoy the same TV shows. I’d say as early as 6th grade I was watching “real” TV with her because, not to be arrogant but I’m always told I’m far more mature for my age than I should be. I’m an old soul, I would watch I Love Lucy with my mom on weekends when I was younger. I didn’t mind that it was in black and white. I had a love for crime dramas as well, simply because I could figure out killer pretty quickly. I started to use TV to boost my curiosity about the world. But thing was I never watched it without my mom. It wasn’t some sort of parental guidance at all, but we clearly enjoyed the same programs, and discussing them.

Summer before freshman year of highschool I remember doing my first real binge watch with my mom. And of course it was the most perfect series to choose from…

We watched Gilmore Girls.

I remember we had gone to the library one day, and I was looking around the CD selection because I had realized I could rip the CDs and put them onto my IPod Shuffle which meant I didn’t have to buy so many songs. I also really liked early 2000s soft rock music, from the likes of Snow Patrol, Five For Fighting, The Fray and so on. My mom was looking at the DVD rack. It had so many options on it. Dawsons Creek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-files, ER, I’m sure Grey’s Anatomy was there, and Gilmore Girls! We started renting season after season from the library. It was great because my mom came home from work around 3-4 pm, she would make dinner, and then afterwards we would curl up in her bed and just BINGE.

The impact of watching a show with such a strong mother and daughter plot with your own mother is something I truly can’t explain. I felt such a strong connection to Rory Gilmore, because I was not in highschool yet but I had this feeling I would be like her when I was. (That turned out to be true and not true at the same time).Both active readers, dreamers, passion for journalism…so on. The wit and humor of the show was something my own mother and I also shared. That made my year once we completed all 7 seasons. I also felt very accomplished.

I mentioned this in a previous blog post but another notable series my mother and I binged together was Grey’s Anatomy. Which she had always watched. She started with the pilot and stopped after the season 8 finale, which was when she returned to working at a hospital. When I said I wanted to start it she decided it would be fun to rewatch. And it was fun having her beside me watching how I reacted to what she had seen years ago. I remember as we reached season 2, she kept teasing me because she knew the scene with the bulletin board and the panties would happen. Just the guessing game of who, what, why, and when was fun. And again Grey’s in a separate sense is about motherhood as well.

Gilmore Girls is known for it’s portrayal of Rory and Lorelai’s relationship, but also has Lorelai’s strained relationship with her own mother. There is a contrast there. Grey’s has a multitude of contrasts with the motherhood relationships. Watching with my own mother, who adamantly tells me to not put her in a home, and to let her go because she doesn’t want to suffer. While we watch Meredith deal with Ellis in a care home. It’s all this circle. Ironically enough my mom had just started a job where she works with Alzheimer patients as we started the show, which is why she tells me she doesn’t want a care home. She deals with these patients every day.

I connected very personally to Meredith Grey emotionally throughout the course of the series even if I did not have the same circumstances in my life. Of course my mom and I have fought, there’s a lot of things I still don’t tell her but I do have the option to and I suppose this weekend really taught me that I should take advantage of that.

My mom and I loved binging Grey’s so much, and even if we’ve not enjoyed the current seasons so much, we decided to go to Paley Fest together this past weekend. I’m only back from college for a week, because I’m that kid that didn’t go to a local californian college for TV. I attached to the Grey’s cast very closely, and have followed through being a pretty big fan of them because of my attraction to TV. I love to research, I’m a highly curious person. I spent middle school researching everything I could about the Harry Potter Film series, because I wanted to know how they did everything. Same with Grey’s, I researched everything. Then I like to analyze, and I find things that parallel between actors and stories, or what techniques used for scenes and so on.

At Paley Fest my mother and I sat side by side and watched 13×18. Which if you don’t know, is based on Maggie Pierce’s adoptive mother. It’s about their relationship as the nature of her breast cancer changes. It’s a beautiful episode, and was directed by leading lady, Ellen Pompeo. I could spend an entire page talking about the importance to the industry that Ellen directed her own episode, she joins the 13% of Women Directors in Hollywood, and is pushing to break boundaries. People still have the notion that actresses are simply pretty faces, but Ellen Pompeo is a pretty face with a compassionate soul, wisdom beyond her years, insightful mind, and amazing heart. But we need to cut to the chase here. Some background information that Ellen has mentioned in previous interviews is that her own mother died of a prescription drug overdose when she was about 4, almost 5.

As a viewer who thoroughly analyzes everything insanely, I had read this and I was immediately struck because I was like, the Meredith and Ellis storyline in GA is so strong, and you’d think that for an actress to portray that sense of anger and frustration, they had to know what fighting with your mom feels like. But in fact its the opposite. 13×18 has a voiceover about a note Ellis left for Meredith that was incomplete. The sense of being lost in what your mother wants for you, or wants to let you know is seen through the episode, and I can only assume that brings back to Ellen’s loss of a mother. I really don’t want to spoil the episode for anyone but I am so glad I watched this episode with my mother. I wouldn’t trade it for anything to know she’s right beside me.

Another moment that stood out for me and personally touched me was when the q&a started for the episode. It was emotional, almost everyone had wet eyes. Kelly McCreary was crying during her section of the panel. And again Ellen directly addresses the loss of her mother while discussing her direction of the episode. One particular scene, which I as a TV major adored so much because of the use of color theory and emotion conveyed through the simple set design, Ellen explained that she used yellows and oranges to represent sunshine. She associates sunshine with every mother and that warmth you get from the sun, is a mothers warmth.Obviously this painted a picture to me of Ellen seeing her own mother reflected in the warmth of the sun rays. It was very moving to watch, listen to, and feel with my own mother beside me.

The whole idea is that you have only so many moments and to live life the best you can, without worrying too far ahead and loose what’s in front of you. Living my life to the fullest is a little drab, but its warm and cozy curled up binge watching television with my mother. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Photo Mar 19, 12 22 50 PM

Actors are not their characters except when they are

You know the phrase. You know that actors are simply acting as their characters. Nothing more nothing less. Actors well they act. It’s simply their profession. This phrase is very handy in dealing with actors who are playing villainous roles and not quite the most amazing human beings. You write off what they’re doing as a character and make sure that crazy internet stalkers can distinguish them as a real person.

Acting is a real and true profession one of which I respect with my whole heart and it is actors that have had a great and profound influence on my life. But that’s just it right there. Actors have influenced me, and so have their characters. I think we need to discuss that while actors are not their entire characters, in situations such as TV especially, an actor is our first experience of a character.

What I mean by this is obviously characters are the sum of their writing but each actor has their own flare and style, yes? So you take that style and apply it to a character and thus you get what culture perceives as what character was written. Little bits and pieces of an actor are sprinkled through out each character. Which is why I really don’t like to ‘separate’ them so much more as fluently understand who the writer wanted portrayed and what really comes through in an actor. I don’t believe seeing portions of themselves in a character is bad acting because I think some people can only play a role if they’ve experienced a said feeling.

It’s fun to see an actor’s quirks and how they bring those to the table, or nevertheless hid them from the table. I believe in strong characters coming from strong actors. Or if they haven’t been in that emotional situation then they can empathize with it and that’s what’s very important. Empathy.

Empathy is a wonderful thing and I don’t think we have as much of it as we once did. Empathy towards actors is also important. I don’t want to go on too long about it but we have to treat actors as they are. Human. That’s simply it and have empathy for them despite their lifestyle. Behind every ‘rich’ person there is a person who’s dedicated to their craft and we should treat with respect as we would a coworker or friend.

Sometimes actors can be their characters, they can feel them so deeply and be so moved that they sign on for that very reason. Are they always exactly their characters? No. And don’t expect them to be throwing every ounce of themselves behind someone who’s a polar opposite on them. Just simply watch and see, let them show you who they are and who they play. Sometimes its not what you expect.