Hey, Lovelies!! How has your week been going? It's been a BITTER week here in Texas and I'd have to say I am SO OVER IT!! In today's blog, I am spotlighting a couple of women pioneers who hasn't let COVID stop them from building their dream.
When I was 14, 15, and 16, I looked forward to every December because it meant watching another new Lord of the Rings blockbuster film in theatres. “What does this have to do with women entrepreneurs during the pandemic?!” you kind female readers are asking me. Because I grew up in America, the most classist society of any first-world country, the land of PR-spun lies giving young women false hope, I want you to learn the truth about one’s journey into achieving authentic self-made success.
My admiration of Sir Peter Jackson isn’t only because of his amazing directorial achievements. He inspires me because, of all the people in Hollywood and big business, he is the rare 100% self-made gentleman. When he won a Best Director Oscar for Return of the King, I believed that I, from the part of America most culturally similar to New Zealand, the Midwest, could be standing up there with an Oscar-like him, achieving my wildest career dreams without having the prerequisite surname Coppola.
Want to talk about long-time career dreams? In 2011, I had been to the hospital with horribly low blood pressure from diabetes. Thanks to this, I temporarily had a bad vision that took a short time to come off. The prior year in 2010, I had been drugged and sexually assaulted by someone I knew for work purposes who didn’t like me at all. It was as if one day he thought about trusting female acquaintances who wouldn’t suspect him because he was a successful person. As you can imagine, I don’t to this day tell anyone the full details of what I remember of that and at the time, I could barely admit to myself I had been assaulted. I was apart from one newspaper gig, a sporadic freelance job for a boring political lobbyist publication I hated, and some scattered agency modeling, largely unemployed because of persistent sexual harassment I never gave into to get hired. Setting this all up for you so you understand. In early 2011, I was dealing with that when I became physically sick. It sucked big time. I was really depressed, and soon I began learning about my favorite dude Sir Peter Jackson releasing a motion-capture animated 3D cartoon using the same technology he used creating Gollum. That movie was “The Adventures of Tintin.” With my pretty f***ed up vision that would be good only to go smeared and back again whenever it wanted, I wrote a short-length children’s novel on a super chunky old-fashioned iPad I bought, knowing that novel probably wouldn’t sell at all. That book was “The Big Bad Wolf Strikes It, Rich! Fairy Tale Wall Street Memoirs.” My goal was to have the basis for a movie I could someday make motion capture style at Sir Jackson’s Stone Street Studios in New Zealand. My main character was named in honor of him, Aladdin Todd Jackson. The inside joke, HA-HA. I would compose a score inspired by “Peter and the Wolf.” Get it? The Peter name check from the music and the Jackson name check from the story? Today, I am doing well and have not forgotten my goal. I’m a planner!
I had no idea how I was going to become the great filmmaker-composer I wished to be when I was 12 years old before my dreams were stolen away by a university education leading me nowhere and no solid good luck in the judgmental, sexist “real job” world. All I knew was I was someday going to do it. When I was in my late 20’s, I finally had the guts to say, “I’m sick of this.” I started learning through trial and error about 2D animation. Why animation? Because I want to make animated films forever, and because live-action blockbuster visual effects are themselves 3D animation with people green-screened in.
The average female entrepreneur in America makes it being born into the right celebrity family like Kylie Jenner and any Instagram famous supermodel you see in the press or being financed by a lover or spouse like Tory Burch. Or, she is old money or married into old money. The exception is women who have already made it as entertainment celebrities loaning out their names to perfumes, lingerie, and any product with doing little to none of the work. Hollywood and mainstream business play by the same rules. People in smaller American communities may not have old money, but they follow the same patterns, the majority depending on significant others for financing their dreams. To find a truly self-made woman in America today is like finding a needle in the world’s largest haystack.
As a person who grew up loving the stories of truly self-made Midwestern icons of the past like Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Madam CJ Walker, Irma S. Rombauer, and too many to name, I learned the real-life way how many successful “self-made” women in the limelight aren’t actually self-made was heartbreaking. Bringing this back full circle to Sir Peter Jackson and my unique story of how I am inspired by him, his 100% self-made story is the farthest from those fake PR fairy tales you find out aren’t real. To understand me and my wildest dreams is understanding him because he is the Hollywood person most relatable to me.
Far removed from Hollywood at a lousy salaried newspaper job, he started making low-budget films slowly but surely and learning about practical effects. Did you know plenty of his early effects were DIY done by and/or designed by him? That all became him starting a visual special effects company famously in a tiny office with a leaking roof. He borrowed money against himself again buying studio lots to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy. With every bit of success, he took out more loans, gambling on a film industry dream that maybe great filmmakers don’t have to be born into Hollywood royalty, or work and live in LA at all. He wasn’t financed by an old-money, the famous spouse he married for work connections, showing up on set with no understanding of the CGI used in his movies. He spent years learning about filmmaking and starting from scratch.
Today, his films’ CGI, makeup, and practical effects are copied by all in Hollywood and London. His little leaky roof effects company now does the special effects for major movies worldwide. Avatar was filmed on those studio lots he went into deep debt for. He revitalized the local Kiwi economy with how New Zealand isn’t a tiny country famous for sheep, it is now a huge booming film destination for current and future blockbuster filmmakers including myself. He has extended into financing local businesses centered around filmmaking. His casts and crews are hired on merit and talent, never the casting couch. The young man reading the news about Steven Spielberg directing Indiana Jones movies similar to Hergé’s Tintin books, a fan of those books himself, found himself approached by Mr. Spielberg to collaborate on “The Adventures of Tintin“ the movie. Yes, that movie’s animation effects were created by that same company from the little leaky roof office!
My career role models are not women whose entire careers rest on selfies and being born in the right circumstances or financed by men. In trying to be like Sir Peter Jackson, I study special effects classes and practice building those skills. Am I set to replace anyone from Jurassic World right now with their mock dinosaur puppets for actors’ visual points? No, but I make one cool cornbread muffin puppet! I have made a clay armadillo with a wire skeleton and sewed my first ever glam blonde wig with synthetic hair you can heat-style. My introduction to the same 3D software used on his King Kong remake and LOTR’a Gollum became a silly short film I made called “Martians Take Belfast!” I am currently learning more about 3D and have always solo animated my 2D work for filmmakers I admire, studio people, and would-be investors to know I really am a responsible person deserving of blockbuster film financing. In 2021, I will release a solo animated 2D feature film called “The Homework’s Revenge: Esther in Wonderland,” a somewhat autobiographical film with lots of lines from the original Alice in Wonderland book. The film music was me being inspired by “What if I made Peer Gynt sound like Studio Ghibli?” At this time, my little indie film score has 1.7 million Spotify streams!
Never pay other people to do the work that you need to be learning how to do yourself. In the future, you need to know how to boss people around when millions of dollars are gifted to you by trusting investors. Can you boss people around well without understanding a thing? No, never!
I hope my first animated feature convinces people to invest in me. After I release it, it is off for me solo animating a second animated film and working on a British children’s series with my friends called “The Adventures of Sir Quackitude” and fundraising for a Scottish-themed animated film, “How Nessie Saved Me.” I am currently fixing up my film and video journalism work to go on Amazon via the film distributor, FilmHub. Somewhere mixed into all of that, I hope a fairy godmother gives me studio money to go film a motion capture movie like Mr. Spielberg and Sir Jackson did on “The Adventures of Tintin.”
A film career is like training to be a Jedi. You don’t get given things by asking. You work proving yourself worthy and gaining skills. Only when your Yoda masters say you are ready are you allowed to become like Luke Skywalker or Rey. I am right now in that Jedi training. This is what most people misunderstand. You don’t ask for things. They will be gifted when you deserve them.
Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus during his work from home pandemic scenario. I want to be that person who is ready for the new world. My goals will not be shelved! If and when movie theatres go extinct, I shall keep sending my work to streaming. Being part of a pandemic doesn’t redefine my life goals!
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film director/film score composer