Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Space Between Us

Response to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech calling for wage equality brought attention to the fact that there is division among marginalized groups in our country. I tried to draw a Venn Diagram identifying different marginalized groups. This attempt illustrates the point that we don’t fall into isolated categories, we are a beautiful mess. All of these groups are oppressed and we will all do better when we all do better.

One reason I am working so hard to make “The Private Life of an American Mom” a reality is that it presents some of the universal problems of being marginalized. The characters find unifying solutions and share their struggle. In one way or another, motherhood is something we all can relate to. PLAM characters come from a variety of backgrounds and their truth is that they find strength in their differences. The space between us is the room to for us to grow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle"

Here is an excerpt from “The Private Life of an American Mom.” This scene is the third and final group therapy session. Later in this session and scene Mom, Maria, and Margaret unveil a big reveal about the depths of depression. But for this blog post, let’s look at the classic feminist statement “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” It’s not a predominant part of this scene but the reference is intentional.

I learned more about the history of this aphorism from Gloria Steinem did not originally coin the phrase, but rather an Australian woman, Irina Dunn, in 1970. I referenced this aphorism intentionally to show respect for the feminist movement. Feminism is undoubtedly one of the big issues that characters in “The Private Life of an American Mom” wrestle with.

I even bought a T-shirt from an Etsy shop that makes unique tee designs with reflective printing on the back for bicycle safety! Thanks darkcycleclothing!

Today's quote came from reclusivedreams

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What next?

The script is done; “The Private Life of an American Mom” is good, it has relatable characters and deals with relevant issues… The struggle is to turn the script into a movie. And it’s worth the effort because it takes on important issues: the struggle of motherhood and the marginalization of mental health disorders. I am looking for mental health organizations and associations who would be willing to support this endeavor. But even if a big organization lends their name and support how far will that get toward making this into a movie? I can only try.

While writing I found a lot of insight from the Writer’s Write blog, the source of today’s quotes. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (3)

Monique is a thirty-something black woman. She, like Mom, is the mother of a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old. Do you ever meet someone and just “click”? You feel instant attraction to them, you just know that given a chance you two could share entire conversations with a series of facial expressions. It’s the best thing in the world when that feeling is mutual. Mom and Monique are both strong, smart women who struggle in their role as Moms. Their friendship is immediate, fun, and powerful. One characteristic that Mom and Monique share is that they make decisions based on logic. I used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI) personalities to define, shape, and understand how the main characters would act and what they would say. Monique is an INTJ. She is incredibly smart, driven, and does not tolerate fools. Think Olivia Pope from Scandal, with a few more chinks in her armor - she is a Mom after all. Monique copes with her mental health issues by a means that is all too common. In a lot of ways she is the hero of this story, and provides an object lesson that our weaknesses do not define us and admitting them allows our strengths to shine.

One of my pet peeves that often appears in movies and novels is the impression that the minor characters only exist in reference to the primary character. In rom-com movies there is often the “best-friend” caricature. This role provides some humor and way to discuss the primary character’s struggles. All too often the secondary characters are given no appearance of any interests other than how they serve the primary character. While writing, especially all scenes with Monique, I wanted the audience to have the impression that the story could have just as easily focused on another Mom from the group. I imagined Monique as the star of her own parallel movie and Mom could be her “friend” in that story. Monique is NOT a secondary character in “The Private Life of an American Mom.” I hope audiences leave with the impression that Mom and Monique were co-Main Characters and that their friendship is based on mutual respect and commonalities. Neither is dominant, both are strong, because strong women crave challenge even in their closest relationships.

The name Monique has multiple etymologies: from Greek it means “alone” or “one who advises,” from Latin it means “counselor,” from French it means “madonna” or “wise.” It was perfect for the role of this character. Monique stands alone. She often feels alone, she is not afraid to stand out and she stands up for others. PLAM’s Monique embodies all of these meanings.

A little bit about the Myers-Briggs personality types: this psychological assessment tool was developed by a Mother-daughter team! Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, created this practical application of psychology theory after studying Jung’s work. If you want to learn more about MTBI personality types, these are some of the sites I used for researching the characters in “The Private Life of an American Mom”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (2)

I introduced Mom in my very first blog post, since this whole endeavor is about redefining “Mom” in our modern world. There is no story without a struggle, no victory without a villain. Mom’s struggle is to find her identity in a world that does not value work in the home and yet at the same time requires it of almost every woman who becomes a Mom. Our villain in “The Private Life of an American Mom” is hard to nail down or identify as a single person. The villain is representational, and more often than not, Phil Kronus, the women’s psychiatrist, represents “The Man.”

His name, Phil Kronus, was carefully chosen, and the name comes with an incredibly rich mythology. First the name “Phil,” I loved the play on the sound of the word, similar to “feel” for  a therapist. The contrast is meant to amuse, since Phil Kronus in PLAM is not at all touchy-feely. I hope the audience will forgive him for being a bit straight-laced, because he plays an essential role in the script. He must represent some of the forces that hold women back, while at the same time doing a commendable job helping the group of Moms learn to help themselves and each other. Phil is extremely perceptive, but not sensitive or sweet. In the end, it’s not clear whether this group of struggling moms learns to support each other in spite of or because of his guidance methods.

The name Philip means “lover of horses” or more accurate historically, the leader of the calvary. This meaning leads to the idea that Phil is preparing these women to ride into battle. Aren’t women trapped in a perpetual battle? Or the meaning of Philip could be a reference to the wild woman who won’t accept help in the U2 song “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.” Interestingly, the meaning of the Greek word, philos, which is the root of Philip, means love between equals.

Now for the really good stuff: in Greek Mythology Cronus, or Kronus - and later, Saturn by the Romans, was the last Titan. The twelve Titans were the children of primordial gods, Gaia (the earth) and Uranus (the heavens). Uranus banished all twelve of the Titans that Gaia bore him to Tartarus, or the bowels of the earth inside Gaia. Gaia was furious at him and asked her children for help, only Cronus, the youngest, volunteered. She gave him an adamantine sickle forged within her depths. Cronus hid while Gaia seduced Uranus, then Cronus severed Uranus’ genitals and took the throne with his wife Rhea. Then commenced a “Golden Age” of peace and prosperity on the earth. But power corrupts, and Cronus feared being overthrown by his children. So Cronus swallowed his children until Rhea hid Zeus from him. And the cycle repeats: Zeus overthrew his parents…

It is interesting to note the gender roles going back to ancient Greece, circa 180 BC. (The library of Apollodorus). The interesting symbology of this myth is that the son of the earth overthrew his oppressive father with the help of his mother. Then once again the male deity oppressed his children, and once again the female devised the plan and freed her children, but the replacement male deity is given all the credit. Anyone notice a pattern here? Phil Kronus is the son of a mother, and yet I think he recognizes that he is part of the system that oppresses women. To break the repeating cycle of history, it must be women this time who wield the weapon.

The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn - fresco by Giorgio Vasari & Cristofano Gherardi c. 1560.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Writing and Hope

There is so much self-doubt in writing. It is such a difficult job to measure success. Too many days, even when I was productive, I still felt it was a waste of time. I never produced anything or measured any results there was never any satisfaction of a job well done, because, well, the words can always be better. I was always wondering what would happen even when I did finish it. (Hmm still wondering that.) Writing is difficult because there is no validation for your work other than the words you put down, and even if you like them, you still have doubts that anyone else will…  Knowing that other successful screenwriters struggled with self-doubt is somehow encouraging.

On one of the days that I was particularly discouraged, I discovered this pin about Sylvester Stallone. It gave me hope, and I did finish the screenplay. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Private Life of an American Mom - Characters (1)

Jocelyn Hughes says to “Treat all your secondary characters like they think the book’s about them.” In the case of “The Private Life of an American Mom” the story IS about the secondary characters just as much as the main characters. The story follows Mom, but in group therapy and as events unfold: it becomes clearer and clearer that Mom’s issues are faced by all Moms. One of the morals of this story is that motherhood supercedes racial, gender, and even individual identity, for better or worse. So “The Private Life of an American Mom” is about secondary characters; it is about all Moms. One reason PLAM needs to make it to the big screen is that most women and parents will find pieces of their story as they watch it unfold.

This script has a very small cast of characters, only 14 speaking parts. Another reason this screenplay is a low risk, low cost production. Here is the list of characters in “The Private Life of an American Mom." I'll introduce most of them later and give some background on personality and name etiology.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut & the Shape of PLAM

In “The Private Life of an American Mom,” aka PLAM, Mom experiences a lot of ups and downs. Most Moms would probably agree that their mood can go up and down quite a bit in one day. Toddlers are genius at pushing their parents’ limits. Hopefully audiences of “The Private Life of an American Mom” will enjoy the plot roller coaster and smile at its similarity to the parental mood swings throughout any given day with children.

Kurt Vonnegut delivered a beautiful 4 minute talk about the shapes of story lines. I applied his plot analysis to Mom’s experiences in PLAM, and graphed it, see pic below. It hits some of the key elements of the most popular story lines that Vonnegut identifies.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Unexpected Difficulties of Mamahood & an Unexpected Birth

Like many Moms, I struggle with motherhood. Some days I really need a shower and I resent that my basic hygiene comes only after feeding, cleaning, clothing, and even entertaining my children. These articles indicate that I am not alone in this.

The idea for a screenplay started kicking around in my head when I was in the middle of some miserable toddler and baby years. My family has had some bad luck in terms of health and life changes, so things were pretty intense for a few years. When we could finally afford to put the girls in preschool, I started writing. I had to get this story down and out of my head. I wrote “The Private Life of an American Mom” in a couple of months and I was happy with it. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I was glad to be done with it. I was even more glad that all my misery had been channelled positively into a story that would have broad appeal and challenge cultural norms.

I thought that I would write it and hopefully sell it to someone maybe have enough to start a college fund for each child. I learned it is not so easy to sell a script or even get an agent. And PLAM’s beta readers loved the story, they felt it was their story. More than one person told me I should give up trying to get back into the workforce and pursue making this story into a movie. That’s crazy, and easy for them to say. So my difficulties with motherhood unexpectedly birthed the screenplay “The Private Life of an American Mom.”  And now, here I am, crazy because just like my other babies it doesn’t let me sleep and I’m scared as hell...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Introducing: The Private Life of an American Mom

Mom is the central character’s name. It is almost a paradox that she is the central character because her life is about putting everyone else in her family first. Her name is Mom because she has lost herself in being Mom. Her name is Mom because she is not one woman she is every mother in America, every Mom who has struggled with motherhood. She is every Mom who has ever felt overwhelmingly frustrated with her children. She is every woman who has ever felt that America propagates the myths that being a mom is blissful joy and that being a mom is the highest calling for a woman. I love being a mom. I love my children. But I’m calling society out on the lies about motherhood because I love myself first. What if we as Moms used our power as the bedrock of society to change society’s predominant myths about women and motherhood? It won’t cure our culture of sexism, but telling the story “The Private Life of an American Mom” is a start.