But it’s important to me to tell real stories about what goes on for young women. I don’t have it all figured out. Sometimes I make bad decisions and fall on my face. Other times I make good decisions, so I want to take people on that journey because I know that music can really help - JoJo
Okay, I’m crazy. I drove 10 hours to my favorite city, Seattle, WA, to meet someone who has not only been a musical inspiration, but an academic one as well. I wrote an Entertainment Business paper about her, and even wrote about her in my sophomore year of high school on music and sexuality. I didn’t know what I was going to expect, or if I was just going to break down and fangirl. What I got out of the concert was more introspection into myself as a filmmaker, artist, and how all of us are just struggling to share our stories, no matter how famous you are or used to be.
I bought meet and greet tickets to see a musician favorite of mine, JoJo, and her companion, Leah LaBelle. Yes, that JoJo whose “Leave (Get Out)” became the anthem of heartbroken junior high schoolers everywhere. Now, I confess - I discovered her closer to The High Road era, when I was 14 and finally discovering what it meant to like a boy. Plus I was fascinated by someone who was just over a year older than me, who seemed to have so much poise and success, while I was stuck in middle of nowhere Montana.
What many people don’t know, even many casual fans, is that she has been locked in a legal battle with her record label, Blackground Records. She hasn’t released an album in 7 years (1/3 of my life time, and just over that for the 22 year old performer). This struggle has caused her to discover her own as an artist, through her 2010 mixtape, Can’t Take That Away From Me, her haunting remix of Drake’s Marvin’s Room (Can’t Do Better), and my favorite, her recent release Agapé this past December (best post-21-run present ever).
I thought I was going to fangirl. I thought I was going to melt down and freak out at the thought of meeting this incredibly strong musician who has been battered by an industry that, by all means, should be expecting her with open arms.
What I discovered is that Leah, Jojo, their backing band, and many young artists, are just like us. We are trying to tell stories. We are trying to share our voice in the hopes that someone will understand and share the experience with us.
It takes a village to create a performance, to create a film, to create an experience. I was fascinated watching the backup singers and Leah/JoJo interact, by watching the sound guy and guitar player keeping a careful eye on the performers, and by their videographer moving stealthily across the stage, keeping her presence hidden. I don’t know why this concert more than others - whether it was the intimate atmosphere of The Crocodile and being right up on the stage, or the fact that I’ve followed JoJo’s career for 7 years.
After singing a beautiful rendition of “Don’t You Worry Child,” Leah LaBelle took a candid moment to talk about how we forget that song “is not all about the EMD and the dancing,” and that is what a career is like. It takes work, belief, and patience to reach out for what you want out of life (which, coupled with her voice and stage presence, completely exceeded my expectations of her).
What touched me more than any of their songs, was seeing Leah hold the microphone close to her heart, her lips in a smile and eyes lit up with tears as the crowd screamed back their enthusiasm and support. What touched me more than what felt like JoJo singing the bridge of “Boy Without A Heart” right at me, was seeing her backup singers brought to tears and hugging each other during an emotional “Never Say Goodbye.”
The love and support each and every person on that stage had for each other is something that you don’t get in the big arenas with sold out crowds, their images projected on the jumbotron. Or maybe you do, but I’ve never been to a performance where it’s that apparent outside of local bands in dingy bars hoping to connect to somebody in the audience.
Even waiting in line for the meet and greet, I watched the stage be torn down while we were waiting for JoJo and Leah to come out. I was beyond exhausted, not relating to those who were obviously shaking from the thought of meeting their idol. And I remember thinking, “Why do I feel so different from them? Is it because I’m alone right now?”
No, it’s because I’m in a collaborative art, in a technology based art, just like them. For that experience of two hours, it takes the exhaustion of a tireless crew to set up and tear down. Maybe it’s that understanding that caused me to feel set apart from everyone else.
Should I be funny? Should I be honest? JoJo wouldn’t remember me - she’s meeting forty other people, greeting them with a hug and a smile, picture, and an autograph.
While my mother fumbled with my phone trying to get the camera to work, I mentioned to JoJo that I wrote a paper on her. Looking back at me with what seemed like shock, all she said was “on Blackground?”
I glanced behind at the line. “Yeah, but I don’t want to hold up the line, there’s still…”
She grabbed my arm, and looked right into my eyes. “No, I want to hear more about this. Where did you go to school? This was your thesis?” Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but in that moment, all I felt were two artists connecting on a level that was more than fan and popstar.
After hurriedly explaining that, no, it wasn’t my thesis, but an analysis of an artist’s career, we pushed ourselves together for our photo op, with them even inviting my mom in who only came along for the ride. I rushed myself out, even as I wanted to go thank the manager for being so patient in taking everyone’s pictures.
The long ride back to Montana offered more introspection than I’ve ever felt after a concert. Don’t get me wrong - I looked up in awe and wonder as they both kneeled down on the stage near me, as I screamed along with JoJo at “‘Cause I’m a self made woman and someone’s gonna treat me better with you do,” feeling like she was bearing right into my soul.
And yet, her and Leah both connected with me as young women artists who have seen the highs and lows of the industry. As someone who is just starting out of college in the shrewd realm of entertainment, it was so refreshing seeing veteran artists that are my age going through so much of life just for two hours on stage.
Her interview with Idolator about Agapé sums up not just the album, but this concert experience with her and Leah.
"It’s really just inviting you into my world, if you want to check it out. I totally took the freedom that I have in my current situation and let out everything that I was thinking. I was able to get some things off my chest. It’s not a heavy album — it’s really just me at 21, almost 22, going through life and keeping it all the way real as much as I can."
In this business, that’s all we can do - strive to be our best, be real as we can, and never forget that we all struggle for our voices to be heard.
can we just have a little talky talk for a second about the beautiful crumbling effect they’ve added to the font? it’s a metaphor, it’s slowly begun to erode away because the show is. everything is unraveling and shifting, and all of the characters we all grown with and the ones we love to hate and hate to love will change with it.
nothing will be the same after next season. strap in, people.
It’s English film director, producer and cultural icon Alfred Hitchcock's birthday today. He died in 1980, though his movies continue to be some of the most influential in film history.
His most famous films include Psycho, Dial M for Murder, The Birds and Rear Window. Sounds like a good reason to have a Hitchcock movie marathon…
image via dailydoseofhorror
"Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, 'Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!' I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”
— Whoopi Goldberg
Everyone, please take a moment to watch this video and click through on the link. My dear friend, Sasha Joseph Neulinger, is coming out to share his story on the traumatic experience of being abused by not just one, but three separate family members. This film will follow his experiences from birth, through the abuse, the court system, and finally his recovery through making this film.
I am grateful to have been brought on as production coordinator to tell this incredible story.
A note from the director himself:
This film needs to be made NOW. Anything helps - sharing, donating, whatever you can give. Let’s start a national conversation on how to prevent child sexual abuse.
"If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent VanGogh
I want to bring attention to a program that I hold very dear to my heart, and if I was in a position to ever be on Hollywood Game Night, this is the non-profit I would give every single penny to ensure the continuation.
The Share Your Voice Foundation is a non-profit who provide “provide empowering opportunities for people to find, believe in, and share their own voice through the transformative process of the arts.”
I was lucky enough to become the first participant during their trial year. This program changed my life - not only as a storyteller, but as a person. This camp is the reason why I am so passionate about humanist/activist causes, and why “sharing your voice” is the through line in my films, and my drive for being an artist.
This year, I was blessed to be able to come full circle as a guest educator for this camp in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana. While I have checked in with the camp every so often, college and jobs have inhibited me from jumping in head-first. Even then, I was only able to be there for two days.
In those two days, I have seen the participants share their voice, their talents, their fears, dreams, wishes, hopes, life stories, pain, and creativity. In those two days, I have been more moved and excited by the creative process than I have been since Celebrating Einstein, even more so now because this is coming from teens, many of whom are not encouraged by their home life to pursue the arts. Some of the teens come from broken homes, have had run ins with drugs and the law, and some don’t even have any role models to look up to.
This Positive Service Announcement (PSA) was created by these incredible teenagers. They had two hours to pitch, write, design, and shoot the PSA with guidance from the camp counselors. It was incredible to hear the strength of their ideas, and how they came up with solutions for problems in such a short amount of time.
This PSA came about from a girls’ experience with a friend who suffered from body dysmorphia - and she was only 13. Hearing the story was heartbreaking, but watching the teens come together to create a positive message was nothing short of inspiring. This is a problem that many of us - myself included - face in our society, and these kids are able to dismantle what create a body image and turn it into a positive message.
Did we have time to go over coverage? Did we have time to go over sight lines? No. But it doesn’t matter - what matters is that they came together and created a project entirely on their own.
Not only that, but this program helps break the teens out of their shells. The first day, one of the girls couldn’t bring herself to jump in the middle of a circle during a call and response exercise. The next day, she jumped in with no hesitation and a grin on her face.
THIS is why I am so passionate about this program. Watching the creative process, no matter how talented, is something we need to cherish. We need to realize that not everyone has the chance to share their voice, and when they do, the results are powerful, staggering, raw, and real.
A surprising lesson I’ve learned is how important paying education forward is. If it wasn’t for the guidance of some incredible professors and mentors the past few years (including the co-founders of SYVF, Jennifer Johnson-Bell and Karen Borger), I would not be in the position I am today. As grateful as I am for my job, my boyfriend, my friends, and the beautiful place I live in, I am most grateful for having the opportunity to give back what was taught to me. I cannot imagine living life without paying what I’ve learned forward, in hopes that someone takes it with a grain of salt, and grows more into their life.
I wrote a note of my experiences with this camp a few years back, some of which still applies to how I approach life today.
"Hiding who you are is detrimental, withholding your voice is devastating. Just don’t hold back. Everybody has a voice to share.
#RebeccaFarm shaped me in so many ways, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to document it last year.get behind fighting #breastcancer with #haltcanceratx! #equestrian #film #horses
Senior thesis #short #film online @vimeo. Check it. Vimeo.com/vnaive/littleprincess “A picture is worth a thousand words, but do those words ring true?” #photography #picture #voyeurism #abuse #montanastate
Film Noir (from the French meaning Black Film) is a genre of cinema that emerged during the early 1940s and continued until the late 1950s. It is characterised by it’s distintive stylisation of cinematography and it’s focus on crime, mystery and sex. Taking many cues from early German expressionism, Film Noir offered an immersive thematic experience that was very different to that of other contemporary melodramas. Several techniques and plot devices came to define the genre, including voiceovers, the inventive use of light and shadow, the protagonist’s need to seek out some truth, and the famed ‘femme fatale’ figure.