[Don't] Call Me Beautiful

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of beauty lately. The train of thought probably sprang from reading the caption of a photograph of a boy and a girl that simply said "My beautiful girlfriend!" It meant beautiful in the sense of appearance. It made me sad.

I guess I don't understand the cultural obsession with beauty as it applies to appearance. It's just not the adjective I strive to be above all others. I'd rather strive to be thoughtful or daring or compassionate or creative. Passionate, driven, conflicted, intense. Bold, bright, risky, kind. Interesting, flawed, honest. Intentional. Open. Sure. Confident. Connected.

My energy is finite, I only have so much to give. And I would rather give it to becoming these other things.

I take care of myself. I don't walk around with the intention of looking like a demon or Rasputin. I own lots of lipsticks and I wear them because they're fun and a form of expression and I enjoy it. I dyed and cut my hair yesterday! I find it important to take care of my body—my vessel—and work to fill it with better foods. I like to stretch every night before bed. 

But in the end, being beautiful in the traditional sense is not where I put my energies. It's not a compliment that I find particularly valuable. It's not the adjective where I assign my confidence or efforts.

There's a scene in Short Term 12, one of my favorite favorite films, where a couple is sketching each other. When Grace (Brie Larson) sees the portrait her boyfriend drew of her, she asks, amused, why there are flowers growing out of her head. He tells her it's the thoughts blossoming out of her incredible mind. That she's the weirdest, most beautiful person he's ever met. 

Exactly.

Light is Additive

I spend most of my time thinking about light. It's my favorite part of cinematography, and probably the most difficult thing to master about it. And it's also a symbol for goodness. Which is something I ponder in my heart constantly. Additive color is a concept that I use quite a bit and today I realized it's a metaphor for something that's been weighing on my mind over the past few weeks. 

Additive color deals with light. If you combine the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) of light, it yields white light. In subtractive color (which deals with pigments and inks) the primary colors combined yield black. (I'm looking at this symbolically, where light is hope/faith/goodness and darkness is prejudice/hate/violence.) More on this later.

One of my favorite things about myself (in spite of my many unattractive flaws, which I won't delineate right now) is that I love to love things, and I'm very open about it. As a small child I was obsessed with Bonanza (pretty sure I discovered it on TV Land at a hotel and life was never the same) and I wasn't even five when I specifically asked for Celine Dion: All the Way... A Decade of Song for Christmas. I still have that CD—it was a defining memento of my childhood and I'll treasure it forever. 

More recently, I often share my love of Roger Deakins, Reed Morano, and Bradford Young—it's such common knowledge that people even made birthday cards/memes featuring them for my last few birthdays. Law & Order is something that's also a constant for me (see photo below; I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve), and I've been gushing a lot about The Night Of, Kate McKinnon, my sisters, trying new foods, sneaking Orange Julius into the movie theatre, listening to true crime podcasts that are creating a space for women to talk about their anxieties, and going on road trips.

The last few months have been a delight as a filmmaker—so many incredible films have been released in such a short time and it's been an absolute joy to experience. Some of my favorites (in no particular order!) were ArrivalNocturnal AnimalsMoonlight, La La Land, and Loving. For me the top two of those were Moonlight and La La Land

I think they're representative of what is going on in our world right now. La La Land is a love letter to classic musicals and provided a lot of joy to audiences in a time of conflict and despair. And Moonlight used the language of film to boldly and beautifully tell a story that has been perpetually pushed to the margins and create a space to open hearts and promote empathy and love. I'm glad that Moonlight won Best Picture at the Academy Awards! I wanted it to, not to mention that it was beyond deserved and the implications of it winning are so joyful. Love is love and it will pave the way for more marginalized stories at the table.

And that brings me to the idea that light is additive. Over the last few weeks, people have aggressively criticized me to my face for openly adoring La La Land so much. I've openly shared how much it means to me quite a bit. It was released a few weeks after I decided to move to LA when I graduated, not to mention Singin' in the Rain is the first film I remember seeing, and the cinematography spoke to my soul (the colors, the movement, the old Hollywood long shots) in a way that words can't. I love it! And I share that! And the goodness of La La Land in no way negates the goodness of Moonlight. Light is additive and there's no finite quantity of goodness. It begets itself. 

This year for me the Academy Awards was the perfect example of light being additive. The goodness of each of these projects doesn't take away from each other. They lifted each other and no doubt they inspired other people to create more light themselves. 

It's vulnerable to love something. To open yourself up to it, to connect with it, and share that connection with other people. And unless it's harmful with its ideas, motives, or implications*, I'm not going to criticize you or shame you for loving something. You can love what you love. Like what you like! I have afforded myself the ability to welcome the light (from many different and diverse sources) that speaks to me and it has lifted me up, made me better, happier, and more compassionate and whole.

The goodness of one thing doesn't diminish the goodness of another. It's additive. And that's my favorite thing about light.

*an essential caveat

Year 21

Today is my last day as a 21 year old. This year I:

  • DP'd my first feature
  • Lived in London
  • Decided I wanted to work at a rental house
  • Kept chopping off my hair and couldn't grow out my bangs
  • Shot a lot of film on my Yashica Mat 124g
  • Had a bed bigger than a twin (yay!!!)
  • Bought a car
  • Filed my own taxes
  • Switched from Canon to Sony
  • Saw La La Land 10+ times
  • Cried every time Ava DuVernay posted #inclusivecrew Instagrams
  • Made everyone I know watch Short Term 12
  • Learned how to bake my own bread
  • Held my ground
  • Bought lights!!! And more importantly neon gels
  • Decided my favorite favorite place is the White Cliffs of Dover
  • Found myself

On Fraulein Maria Not Becoming a Nun

I've had this post as a draft for about a month. Only there was no text or the following video, only the title. I've been thinking a lot about faith and the role that plays in defining us, and how sometimes we don't fit quite right the way we think we should. 

I was reminded of The Sound of Music. Maria desired so sincerely to become a nun, but it wasn't the right thing for her. When she fell in love and wanted to be married, the nuns welcomed her back to the Abbey with open arms and held her wedding there! That symbolism has meant so much to me lately.

I still didn't have the words to write about it, and then as I was watching the SAG awards the other night, Mahershala Ali said them for me. 

Dad's Doughnuts

Dad's!!!! One of my favorite places. When I say that I'll have hippo cookies instead of a wedding cake, I'm not kidding.

One of my favorite memories of family vacation growing up was when we rented a house on Balboa Island for a week. I also love passing the Shanghai Pine Garden (only a few blocks from Dad's!), knowing my parents had an engagement dinner there.

Portra 400, Yashica Mat 124g

Cabrillo National Monument

 

The Cabrillo National Monument was gorgeous! I didn't get to check out the tide pools (no parking available and the roads are so narrow and winding that they don't allow pedestrians!) but the scenic view was a sight to behold. I think my favorite part of the day was teaching Liz what a fresnel lens is—the type of lens used in the lighthouse to make the beams of light harder and wider—I know these things! I'm a director of photography, also known as a lighting nerd.

Portra 400, Yashica Mat 124g

P.S. my favorite shot is Liz with the binoculars!