Posts Tagged ‘independent film’

DICHOTOMY: Cutting Into It

Monday, November 13th, 2017

INT. BATHROOM – DAY

Lanky and androgynous with short hair in a slit tank top and sweats, JANE, stares deeply into her eyes in the mirror.

One CLICK and the HUM of hair clippers echo through the room.

She brings the clippers to the top of her head.

Pause.  Deep breath.

Holds up her bangs.

The first cut is the deepest.

She slides the clippers slowly through her hair leaving a line of 1/8-inch fresh fuzz.

My life and my art are often indistinguishable, waxing and waning like the phases of the moon.  On January 1, 2017, I shaved my head.  I shaved my head and I filmed it.

I cut into my hair and I cut into my life.  I felt a need to dissect, to slice, to sever, to cut myself into pieces, mix them up, and then hopefully sew them back together again.

 

I was frustrated with waiting for those strong yet soft, butch lesbian roles. I was tired of competing with large or muscular women and feminine LA model chicks with their hair in pony tails and backwards baseball caps, auditioning for the “butch” role.  Or getting auditions canceled because they decided to go with a name.  Sure, I am grateful to be going in for roles originally written for men and happy to occasionally be seen for the doctor or cop or nurse, who just happens to be gay. I am thrilled to see butch roles increasingly being written and casting directors open to diverse interpretation. However, by the time they are cast and end up on TV, they are often homogenized and feminized or neutralized from what was originally written in order to cast a name actress or model or combine all the diversity into one character or just to placate the other half of the country.

I was tired of feeling insecure and like I was not enough.  I needed to do something bold.  Express myself.  Make something meaningful. Something that cannot be ignored. Challenge myself and society to see me.  And to not be afraid of it.  So, I shaved my head, for my art and for my life.

I made a short film called Dichotomy that I wrote, produced, and starred in.  It is about a butch lesbian who shaves her head, forcing herself into a battle with her masculine and feminine sides in a humorous and twisted journey of self-discovery.  Yeah, okay, pretty autobiographical.

I knew I wanted to title the script, Dichotomy, but I had to do a little research to make sure I was on the right track to fully express what I was feeling.

The word, “dichotomy,” basically means, to cut in two.  It is made up of the Greek root, “Di” or “Dich” meaning two and “Tomy” meaning to cut into.

The first definition of the word, dichotomy, according to Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dichotomy

“1: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities – the Dichotomy between theory and practice; also: the process or practice of making such a division – Dichotomy of the population into two opposed classes.”

The fourth definition is very similar to the first:

“4: something with seemingly contradictory qualities

-it’s a Dichotomy, this opulent Ritz-style luxury in a place that fronts on a boat harbor

—Jean T. Barrett”

Human nature or nurture loves to divide things into dichotomies, black or white, pink or blue, good or bad, positive or negative, gay or straight, masculine or feminine.  Our whole universe is powered by polarities.  The gravity, magnetism, the tides, and the phases of the moon.  Conflict appears to be inherently natural.

Feminine and masculine have been taken over by society to mean dresses or pants, make-up or not, weak or strong, soft or hard, emotional or stoic, long hair or short hair.  In reality we are all made up of feminine and masculine genes, hormones, and DNA that come in as many variations as there are people on this earth.  We use labels to define who we are and yet at the same time our differences can divide us.  If we could get away from our human need for separation, perhaps we could realize we are all the same within our individual dichotomies and really are part of one loving and peaceful universe.

Now, if you look at the definition of the word, feminine. Again, quoting from the sexy Merriam Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminine

“1: female

2: characteristic of or appropriate or unique to women – feminine beauty – a feminine perspective.

3: of, relating to, or constituting the gender that ordinarily includes most words or grammatical forms referring to females – a feminine noun

4: a: being an unstressed and usually additional final syllable after the final complete foot in a line of verse – a feminine ending.

b: of rhyme: having an unstressed final syllable

c: having the final chord occurring on a weak beat – music in feminine cadences.”

I get that words have always had masculine and feminine connotations and in many languages the words actually have sexes.  Although, I never understood why one was masculine and one was feminine.  In French, hair is actually masculine.  A butterfly is masculine but a firefly is feminine.  A cat and even a beaver are masculine? At any rate, good for them for not being entirely stereotypical.

I consider myself a butch, lesbian woman. Although, I only use those terms because it is how society tends to describe me.  I still wear make-up and can be very soft, emotional, and nurturing.  Sure, I like to lift weights and be in control. I have masculine tendencies in the way I dress, the way I carry myself, my sexual preferences, and appearance.  But that does not make me any less feminine by definition.  I am still biologically a woman.  I have no desire to physically change into a man.

My character, Jane wants to reconnect with her innate femininity through androgyny.  Our hair has meaning to us.  Our hair represents who we are and how we see ourselves.  By removing it, cutting into it, shaving it off, Jane removes that social construct to face who she is beneath it.

During the film, my character, Jane has a debate with herself in the bathroom mirror mimicking the Gollum vs. Smeagol scene from the movie, The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers.  Her demonic and strong feminine side tries to suppress her insecure and weak masculine side.  I chose this parody because of the distinct good vs. evil sides plus the added dichotomy of flipping the typical feminine and masculine roles.  Making the feminine side more aggressive and the masculine side more subservient.  In Jane’s world, society keeps telling her to be more feminine but her soul is fighting to express her masculinity ever present within her innate femininity.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

We wants it, we needs it. Must have the femininity.  They stole it from us, sneaky little lesbianses.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

No, no not lesbianses.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

They will make you butch. They will make you shave your head. They will laugh at you.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

Lesbianses are my friends.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

You don’t have any friends.  Nobody likes you.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

I’m not listening.  I’m not listening.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

You’re a girl.  You love pink.  You love dresses.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

No.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

Dyke!

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

Go away.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

Go away?

GOLLUM lets out an Evil LAUGH

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

I hate you.  I hate you.

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

Where would you be without your femininity? I saved us.  It was me.  We got more auditions because of me.

My evil character venomously screams out the word “Dyke” as if it is the worst insult on the planet.  Most people know the term to refer to a lesbian, often in a derogatory fashion, or a dike (American spelling) that refers to a ditch or bank, “to control or confine water.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dike

The British word is actually spelled, “dyke,” like the lesbian term.  Dyke has always had a butch connotation to it. Every day, I am challenged to reconcile my identity as a woman with being a little masculine at the same time. Over the years, lesbians have done a great job reclaiming the word, dyke to just mean, “lesbian.”.  Even the water definition contains a dichotomy.  A “dike” either refers to something hard that forces the water in a different direction or something soft that allows water to collect and pool. Soft or hard, feminine or masculine, even the definition can’t decide.

I often get the question, “Why didn’t you spell the title of the film, “DYKEotomy?”  I considered it because I love some good word play but I really didn’t want to exclude most of the population by focusing with a lesbian lens.  All human beings feel the dichotomy of trying to fit into the categories that society uses to divide us. We are constantly forced into separate groups from the time we are children.  It is no wonder racism, gender discrimination, homophobia, and sexual abuse are so prevalent in this country.

The second definition of dichotomy was a bit of a surprise to me:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dichotomy

“2: the phase of the moon or an inferior planet in which half its disk appears illuminated.”

I have always had an affinity for the moon and I have gone through many phases in my life.  I went from straight to bi to lesbian to bi to lesbian.  I still have days where I feel somewhere in between and when I am not in a relationship it gets even more tricky.  This personal battle with masculinity and femininity has taken place frequently in my head and literally on my head.  In my more feminine days, when I had a long tress of dark hair covering my head and shoulders, the moon had only begun its journey.  A dark shadow hiding my true luminous self beneath. It took years of phases.  I went from long hair to mullet to short hair to longer, short hair to shorter, short hair and finally to baldly go where no woman had gone before. The full moon.

Dark shards of hair fall slowly into the white sink.

She shaves another line.

Jane continues to run the clippers through her hair.

More and more hair drops as she runs her hand over her buzzed head.

She stares long and hard into the mirror.

Her eyes slowly tear up with regret.

Sure, this regret was written in the script but at the same time, I was experiencing these feelings in real time. Not only was I shaving my head on-camera but I was looking directly into the camera as if it was a mirror.  I could not see what I was doing.  There was a lot of apprehension attached to this decision. How we define ourselves sexually and socially can be fraught with struggle, insecurity, and fear of regret.

When I finally did get a chance to see the full, hairless moon it was both shocking and liberating. It did really force myself to focus on who I was beneath the hair.  Fortunately, I have a pretty good shaped head. Physically it felt amazing.  There is nothing like it when you feel the sun caressing your tender scalp for the first time or the tingling sensation of heat escaping through the top of your head, or warm water absorbing into your pate.  I was more afraid of the human reaction.  I was offered a catering job a few days after the initial shave. I didn’t know if I should do it.  It was a small dinner for a Jewish Rabbi. I ended up sending my boss a picture. He thought it looked great and as it turned out, they loved it.  One of the women was extremely complimentary and said she wished she was brave enough to shave her head.  I have been surprised to see how many people focus on my face more with less hair.  I actually get less people calling me “sir.” I like to think they are somehow illuminated by my full moon to see my innate femininity within the androgyny.  I don’t know why that is so important to me?  I don’t think there is anything wrong with appearing or being completely masculine, it is just not who I am.  Occasionally I do get the, “do you have cancer reaction?” but that is mostly from men.  My life has become a bit of a social experiment anyway so I find it all rather fascinating.

Part of the experiment was to see how the new look affected my acting career. I did grow it out to a shorter buzz instead of the full on bald.  Maybe I am selling out but maybe that is just part of where I am at right now?  I was hoping it would give me a bit more distinctiveness, to push me forward into a new category. After all, I was partially inspired by Charlize Theron in the movie, Mad Max. I did book a couple of awesome, TV acting jobs this year, but unfortunately, they both ended up on the cutting room floor.  When these things happen or things get slow or I get lonely, the doubt and insecurity creep back in.  I look in the mirror and I see the monster lurking in the shadows.  My face looks long, or my wrinkles more prominent or my head makes me look like an alien.  This was part of how I got the idea for the film in the first place.  I really do talk to myself and make monster faces in the mirror.  It is when I see the humor and the humanity in it all that it snaps me back into the light.

Pulling it together, Jane fishes in a drawer and pulls out some mascara and begins applying it.

The brush slips marking her upper and lower lids black.

Frustrated she draws black lines all over her face.

Realizing how ridiculous she looks her mood begins to lighten as she makes faces in the mirror.

She rubs her head and GROWLS.

She scrunches up her face and hunches her shoulders.

The sun comes out again and I realize it is all part of the process.  By shaving my head, I may have cut myself out of a few of those more feminine roles, that I never got anyway.  However, I am suddenly getting called in and cast as the villain, creature, bad ass, prisoner, crunchy granola type, feminist, and cult member.  Way more fun! I am also beginning to realize that it is okay to face the dark side of the moon, to acknowledge it, and then let it go.

No matter what length my hair is or whether I am more feminine or masculine or butch or femme or whatever, it is constantly changing.  The light side comes back around in no time.  The phases of the moon are consistent and yet fluid like sexuality and life can be.   No matter what you do it will always wax and wane.  Ever consistent in its inconsistency.

Finally, we get to the third definition of dichotomy:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dichotomy

“3: a: BIFURCATION; especially: repeated bifurcation (as of a plant’s stem)

b: a system of branching in which the main axis forks repeatedly into two branches.

c: branching of an ancestral line into two equal diverging branches.”

It is through confronting the dichotomies within us that we truly branch out and grow.Our bodies, our organs, our lives are created by dividing cells. Is it even possible to remove division when it is such a part of our biology?  Society can be cruel but it can also lead us to introspection, activism, and change.  Without the election of President Trump, would we have had so many people and even corporations banding together and protesting against discrimination and sexual harassment? Not to mention, a huge increase in women, younger people, and diverse candidates running for office?  Division can be polarizing but it also creates action and further growth.  I am grateful to have my two opposing sides.  They give me the drive to create and to fight for what I believe.                                              

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

Leave now and never come back!

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

No.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

Leave now and never come back!

JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM

Grrrrrrr….

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL

Leave now and never come back.

Pause. She looks around.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL (CONT’D)

We told her to go away and away she goes.

She spins and dances around the bathroom.

JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL (CONT’D)

Gone, gone, gone.  Jane is free.

She takes a moment and washes the black off and dries her face with a towel.

Long stare into the mirror.

JANE

Free.

Big smile.

In my short film, Dichotomy, Jane eventually drives away the dichotomy within herself to see the light within.  She finds peace and freedom in being the woman she is. It takes Jane about 11 minutes to complete her introspective journey. Dichotomy is based on my feature film script, I.D. In I.D., butch lesbian, actress Jane loses her I.D. card, searches for a sexy, identity thief, helps her gay roommate, Mike make a documentary on gender stereotypes, cracks an identity theft ring, and finds love and her identity, in about an hour and a half.  It is a gender-bending comedy of errors that takes Jane’s journey across New York City. For me, this journey has taken my whole life. I am still fighting and doubting and struggling every day to just feel somewhat comfortable as the butch yet innately feminine woman that I am.

I stare deeply into my eyes in the mirror.  Time to shave my head again.  Every four days to maintain a good buzz.  It is kind of like a rebirth, a reflection. Collect the pieces and sew them back together again. Every time I question my choice it reaffirms my path.

Dichotomy premiered at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs and NewFest in New York City.  Two of the best LGBTQ festivals in the world.  It is a film that can apply to anyone and everyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin or unable to conform to societal expectations. I would like to see Dichotomy get into some “straight” or mainstream festivals and become more accessible through worldwide distribution. I would like to see my feature script, I.D. made into a movie and I would like to continue to promote the representation of butch lesbians in mainstream media. I want people to see themselves reflected in my mirror.

How you express yourself personally, sexually, or socially does not make you more masculine or feminine it just makes you more human.

I look at my daily calendar and notice there are little symbols that indicate the phase of the moon every month underneath the day of the year.  I never noticed that before.

The full moon shines through my window.  She follows me everywhere.  I feel her light and love shining on my freshly shaved head, guiding my life, and absorbing into my soul. Her shadow, her radiance, her masculine and feminine, her magnetic pull toward love, give me the strength to continue my journey to challenge society and find peace within myself.

Exploring life through art. Let Everything Sexy Be I Am Naked.

Magnetism And A Long Black Tar Road Paved With Good Intentions

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

She slides her cold fingers under an unsuspecting belt inserting a hot magnet of our lesbian kiss.

The bass pulses through my chest as the sun beats down on my shoulder as my heart explodes with the colors of the magnetic unity of the Gay Pride Festival.

This year like every year, my first thoughts of venturing out to the Gay Pride Festival tended to be negative: the heat, the crowd, the aching feet, the lost texts, the lost friends, the smells of debauchery.  I often forget the positive magnetic electricity of unbridled freedom of expression, of camaraderie, of love.  One of my recent personal goals has been to become one with that positive flow of energy without taking things personally to avoid being sucked down the vacuum of fear and negativity when facing the challenges life has to offer.

A year and a half ago I was cast as the lead in a gritty independent feature film called Lot Lizard.  Since then the film changed directors twice, filmed for a couple of weeks, got funding, lost funding, almost got major funding, got post production taken care of, did some more filming a year later, lost post production, got post production funding, lost post production funding, etc, etc, etc.  Oh and changed titles twice.  The film is now called, Black Tar Road.  Anyway you get the idea.

Amber Dawn Lee, the writer, executive producer, and co-starring actress, finally decided it was time to get this film finished and she couldn’t do it by herself.  She wanted me to come on as, dare I say it, PRODUCER.  I had put so much time and effort already into this film, so kicking and screaming, I finally succumbed.  I was doing it anyway. 

We had no money, neither of us wanted to be a producer, and to make matters worse our working styles and personalities are completely different.  Her creative inspiration comes in waves and spurts and her brain is in ten places at once.  I think linearly and organized and like to focus on one thing at a time.  We have had our disagreements.

So now here we are at the West Hollywood Gay Pride Festival with 95% of the film shot.  We are handing out refrigerator magnets on the staircase landing of a packed PYT, the pride lesbian club of choice, of our Black Tar Road poster.  We are hoping the magnet with our hot lesbian kiss will get us a few more likes on our Facebook page.

The magnets were my idea and on the spot, Amber, came up with the inspiration of inserting them into the unsuspecting lesbian cleavage, pocket, or pants. They loved it.

Once Amber and I learned to stop taking things personally, we were able to stop fighting and start focusing our attitudes in a positive direction. We have begun to understand and accept that we think differently and have come to realize that our differences are actually an asset.  Opposites do attract if you allow each other to be their own person.  Our good intensions have started magnetically attracting people to our film production. We found directors and crew to donate their time and people to donate amazing locations. Due to our hardships we were forced to adapt and create a better film.

I have also found it is important to not wallow in the why this happened or why that happened and move forward into the now.  All of the people who offered money or promises that were lost along the way of making this film started with their own original good intensions.  They contributed or did what they could.  It is not personal.  It is just something that happened.  The more I am able to be grateful and find the love the happier I am, the more inspired I become, and the harder I work.

 

This film and myself are both works in progress and we have a long journey yet to go.   Amber and I are still learning and making mistakes but trying to do them with a spring in our step and love in our hearts.  We have enlisted interns and volunteers and are organizing and logging endless amounts of footage, putting together trailers, coming up with promotional ideas, and getting ready to start a fundraising campaign for editing and postproduction.

 

Our independent feature film, Black Tar Road, is a junkie love story between two women, a truck stop prostitute and a trucker, two lost souls, who battle their addictions and their ties to the local drug dealer, to find love in the middle of nowhere.  Charlie is addicted to heroin and Heather is addicted to speed and they become magnetically attracted and addicted to each other.  They learn to accept each other for who they are.  I play the character of Heather, who eventually finds faith through finding the love within herself.  Through playing this character and the ups and downs of producing this film I found faith in the love within myself. I am feeling that gay pride, that camaraderie, and that love that unites every one of us.  The magnetic flow is unstoppable on this long Black Tar Road paved with good intentions.