Awkward & Weirder & Better: My Web Series Filming Diary

What follows are actual excerpts from my actual diary over the past two months while filming my web series- Awkward & Weirder & Better. I hope you enjoy this look into a very anxious writer/director's brain.

March 4th, 2018

I’m in love with the idea of sinking into a yoga pose, and settling into the pain. I never felt that about normal weightlifting. When someone told me that they enjoyed the soreness after a good workout, I smiled outwardly and inwardly thought to myself “what the fuck?” Now I get it. I’ll settle into a particularly difficult pose and be amazed at how I can actually relax into it. In fact, I’m a little obsessed with the notion that we are ever adaptable, flexible, capable of settling into anything anywhere. 

When something hurts, when a pose brings up emotion, I find myself wondering “what am I supposed to be learning here?” What I’ve been learning lately is: I can do this. I can breathe through the pain long enough to sink into it and find that it doesn’t hurt anymore.

This idea has come up a lot for me lately, especially as I’m in my final semester of my Bachelor’s degree, working on my digital capstone project. This final project has been a long time coming. Since I finished a draft of my novel in September, I’ve been writing, re-writing, revising and re-revising a script for a short web series based on a piece of my novel. The idea is to tell a complete story in web series format without telling the entire story from the book. Sitting here, fifth (I think? I’ve lost count…) draft in hand, I feel like I’m finally close to being ready to start filming. Since this novel is based on real experiences with trauma, anxiety, and depression in my own life, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that this is not going to be an easy process. I’m going to have to excavate pieces of myself that I thought I had long buried. What I’ve learned is that it lives a lot closer to the surface than I realized. 

I’m amazed at how easy it has been to tap into 2013, 2014, 2015, as though they just happened. Those feelings sit on the surface of my skin, ready to be poked and bleed out at any moment. As I moved through this pre-production process and have tried and tried to find the right cast, I realized the ugly truth. I can’t cast this lead role. I can’t give it to someone else, because she is me, and I am her. Of course she is me, because this whole story is based on my life, so my life is her life. I have to do it. This was a realization that I took my time sinking into, just like the toughest poses in yoga. But after watching someone read who just wasn’t right for this role, and then sitting down in front of the camera with one of my creative besties and doing it myself….I figured out what I am supposed to be learning here. I’m supposed to learn to trust myself more. I was reluctant to do it myself because 1) I wanted to protect myself. Not trigger or re-traumatize myself. Telling this story is hard enough, without literally having to role-play the deepest, darkest feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life. 2) I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I am no Jennifer Lawrence. I wanted to direct this thing, and guide my actors to make this the best possible production it could be. But that’s just not in the cards. I am meant to do this, and after doing that initial read through, that became so much clearer to me. Not only am I meant to, but I CAN.  

I haven’t realized how good I have it, because I’m afraid it’s all going to fall apart. It can. Always. Anything can happen at any time. But living in fear doesn’t change that. Now, that’s easier said than done. But I’m saying it in the hopes that it commits me to it. I’m trying to remain present, because living in fear isn’t living presently. It’s living in fear of the past, and of the future. I’m there, not here. And I wanna be here, because here is really nice. 

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March 14th, 2018

I feel like I'm coming back to myself. I'm reading lots again (just in a different way). I'm making videos again, and watching movies. But there are a lot of pieces, new pieces, that I gained last year while I was lost. Yoga, meditation, eating well. I have come back to myself, with new elements in tow. I am a jigsaw puzzle of myself, a road map of where I have been and where I am going. I'm nostalgic for a lot of it, weirdly, but I'm grateful too. Nostalgic for the quiet creativity. Grateful that I don't have to do it alone anymore. 

Sunday we start filming. I feel like I am on the edge of a precipice in the same way I did in 2015, wanting desperately for Eli to love me. I feel it again. On the edge, split open, vulnerability pouring out. Letting it. 

Truth be told, I know the nerves will fade the second we start filming. Everything is lining up. We have a solid plan. It is going to get done. Yet I still have not fully come to terms with what I am doing. I'm not sure I will until it's over. A lot of feelings have been coming up, along with a lot of tears. Feelings of inadequacy, and of immense gratitude that I get to tell this story with a team of warriors behind me. I don't have the precise words for it, but it's like I'm not alone in this story anymore. 

March 19th, 2018

Yesterday was our first day of filming. It didn't go perfectly, and I didn't die. I'm still here. We learned that we need rehearsals. But we got a full scene done, and we made plans for rehearsal this Saturday night and a boss filming day Sunday. They were all really nice and encouraging, and told me I was the only one who thought we'd get all the coffee shop scenes done in one day. We have plenty of time, and we have a great game plan. Nevertheless, my brain freaked out and spiraled this morning. Work got me out of it, surprisingly. 

I am looking forward to this process, to creating and having fun with my friends. That's what I need to remind myself of whenever I spiral. This. Is. Fun. Because it is, in the moment. It is only after that the inner critic in my brain tries to convince me that it wasn't. I love that I get to do this. As self conscious and afraid of inconveniencing the world as I get, this is an amazing experience that I'm so lucky to have as my final school assignment.

March 22nd, 2018

I will fight anyone who tries to say that doing this is easy. This morning my mom said to me, "but it's fun!" And, sure, she's right. It is fun. But it is far from easy. I spent the morning doing boring, menial work that sometimes directors just need to do. I texted SO MANY PEOPLE. Can you come this day? Can you text me your address? Can we film here on this day? I emailed my professor-- oh hey dude, this is what I've been up to. I put everything into the calendar. Google Calendar owns my soul now. I highlighted and bracketed scripts: what we will film this Sunday, what we completed last week. When I got to work, I talked to my co-worker and co-director about it all. Is this a good idea? How do you feel about that? Don't get me wrong, it is awesome that I can get all of these things done over the course of a normal workday. It's pretty dope that I can be at work, doing my job, and also making progress on this project. But it just means that by the end of the day, I am BEAT. I don't want to text a single person. I don't want to talk to anyone but Eli. 

March 25th, 2018

This morning Amanda and Monica came over for filming. We got all of the home scenes shot beautifully. I'm really happy with our progress, and it was a lot of fun. We ended up postponing Peaks, which I now feel was a good idea as we did not have the extras we needed, nor the Chris to help Alt Margaux go smoothly. Eli and I went for a nice walk this afternoon, cried over Parks & Rec, and spent more time together than we anticipated. I'm nervous for this very full week of meetings and rehearsals ahead. I hope it all goes well and doesn't wipe me out. I'm currently trying to chill out about having every single scene perfectly scheduled. I have this one, and next week. Things come together and make more sense on set anyway. It will all fall into place, and what I need to do most is stay present and focus on the task at hand. One day at a time...said no anxious Fran ever.

March 30th, 2018

Tonight we had a rehearsal with Emily and I. It went really well. We ran through our lines and prepped everything. I feel really good about getting everything done tomorrow. I think we'll get it done quickly.

April 1st, 2018

Yesterday was a very good and very a lot day. Filming began at 3, and we somehow managed to get everything done by 6:45. It all went so smoothly, and we actually got really amazing shots. It wasn't an uphill battle at all, just so fun and easy. 

April 6th, 2018

Tonight was pure magic. We got all of the dreamy scenes done. It was so spooky and fun. They are some of the most visually stunning we've gotten so far. We also did a few mini photoshoots because my makeup looked awesome. We realized I can set up boring bedroom shots alone, so I'll probably do that tomorrow. There is a lot to do. Do those shots. Import clips. Instagram promote? Re-film update video and reveal cast. It feels like we are really flying forward into post-production territory. I'm trying to savor what I'm in. The moment, the dreaminess of it. There is fake blood caked in my hair. I am covered in calming lotion. My apartment is a mess. It is way past my bedtime. Yet I'm grateful for this process, and for this progress.

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April 9th, 2018

Yesterday was huge. We filmed the therapy scene downtown from 11-1:30, but I got there at 10:30 to set up. It was so hard to do that take again and again, literally hyperventilating every time. I felt like I was going to pass out a few times. I'm so proud of the work we did, though. Then we went to Peaks and only got one half of the remaining scenes done, but again- quality over quantity. I was absolutely wrecked last night. Just so physically and emotionally exhausted. But Eli made me go home early and take a bath, which helped. I didn't have the most restful night's sleep, but I am encouraged by the plan I made this morning for the remainder of filming. Without (hopefully) being too ambitious, the plan is to finish up the exterior shots at my house with Monica & Eli Sunday morning, before heading out to Peaks again to shoot the final scene. I will also shoot a few smaller night-time scenes on my own in my room at some point. Then, when Chris returns from vacation we'll film the opening car dream scene. In the meantime, I'll be editing. I'm trying to remain calm about not having the most energy for work. This project is taking a lot out of me, and getting some of my best work, and I need to be taking care of myself throughout. This team has been amazing. I'm so glad to have them by my side. No one has complained about us not having it all done yet, and even more incredibly no one has complained about me thinking we'd have it all done by now. 

April 13th, 2018

Tonight I finally got to spend so much dang time editing! Hoping a little break will inspire me to come back tomorrow and figure it out. After Eli left tonight I filmed a few alone scenes in my room, and they turned out so incredibly. This thing is actually going to be so beautiful. I'm so grateful and inspired. Trying not to do too much all at once, and wear myself down. Trying to rest, too. 

April 16th, 2018

Yesterday was our final full day of shooting. It was like the stars aligned for the single purpose of giving us the perfect shooting day. We got it all done in record time, and they turned out to be some of our best acting/shots yet. I felt very relieved by the end. Then Eli and I drank champagne and finished Parks & Rec. I got a splitting headache and had to take a bath in order to go to sleep. 

April 23rd, 2018

This weekend was really nice. Friday night Monica and I drank wine and edited. Saturday Eli and I ran errands and took a nap. Yesterday I deep cleaned the apartment, changed my sheets, gathered laundry. Then we went out and bought all sorts of new plants and flowers. The apartment feels alive, and mine, again. Last night we got the final car accident shots. Despite police, despite the quickly fading light, it felt really calm to me. Chris did a beautiful job, and we were done by 8. Now all that's left is to finish editing!

April 28th, 2018

I finished school yesterday. That doesn't feel real. I didn't quite process it, because immediately after sending it in (I had a little meltdown first) I went in to work, then from there went and walked in a fashion show randomly? The next afternoon I did a library program, and it wasn't until after that I realized. I'm done. I've been so consumed by it for so long that I kind of...had a hard time letting it go when I realized that. What is my identity? Transitioning from student to... artist? creative? adult? is going to be weird, and I need to give myself space for that. I don't know how to NOT be doing stuff all the time. I constantly invent reasons to be busy, and then mourn my lack of "relaxation time." I want to stop doing that. I want to learn how to flow, be in the moment and enjoy them. That's what I'm doing after college. I have goals, yes. But I need to learn how to fucking be again. I'm excited to transition with Eli, through every stage of life, to the people we are meant to become and the people beyond that and all of the versions in between. Right now, I'm sitting in my apartment. I'm cleaning it. I'm nurturing it, nurturing myself, tending to myself. I'm waiting to see what blooms, what evolves. I welcome it. But don't rush me.

-Fran