I have a new favorite website… REGRETSY.com…. They basically take the most tasteless craft offerings on Etsy and rip them a new buttonhole. I laughed out loud at the above item they found for sale. I’m afraid my sadass yoga bag from a pair of pants will hit their list should I ever try to sell it.
I also appreciated their commentary on this plastic bag holder that looks eerily like a Wilt Chamberlain flaccid penis. Not that I know…
It was a half-assed Halloween. I was a doctor for Halloween (or as I like to say, “My family’s wet dream”). Seeing as that I am a living breathing year-round Halloween, I was so out of ideas on what costume to take on to the point that I contemplated doing what most adult women acting out on their unaddressed daddy issues do….stripping down to my underwear and saying it’s a costume. But even that seemed too exhausting.
It was suggested to me: “Why don’t you wear that crazy cop costume from Cuckoo’s Nest”?
(I almost puked at the thought of having to wear a costume from a show.)
It was also suggested to me: “Put a fake penis in your pants and tell people you are Kristina Wong!”
(Bleh… That’s so obvious…)
So I put on some scrubs and a lab coat. I don’t know why I own such things, but I do.
I am in super turbo mode trying to crank out massive amounts of content in a very short amount of time. I basically am getting my ass handed to me from Nov 10-15 when I’m to crank out 4 different shows in like five days in two cities. I’m still riding the adrenaline from doing five original shows in New York across five days. I feel like I can still output at that level. As exhausted as I am.
Somewhere between all of this I caught this interview with porn starlet Jesse Jane (it was feminist research… I swear…) who describes how she has branded herself and creates a demand through “exclusive” appearances.
I got it all wrong it seems. Unlike Jesse Jane, I don’t do just 6 or 7 contract films a year and then pick 6 or 7 clubs to exclusively appear at to make thousands of thousands of dollars. I’m like running around to every small and large theater across town, dropping my art pants for whoever will show up. And don’t get me started on how insane my gigs are during API Heritage Month… that’s like me trying to set some kind of gang bang record.
Nope. I’ve not been too good at the whole “aura of exclusivity” thing. It’s like, I’m an amateur porn star who makes movies with a crap home camera, then uploads them for free on xtube.
Oh Jesse Jane, the art world has so much to learn from you.
Me and my fellow solo performer D’Lo decided that instead of battling over the scant number of paying university shows for pennies that we would instead combine forces and whore out our talents on the street, then post our efforts on YouTube.
What’s great is that the first part of Part 1 is real raw footage we collected after seeing these girls while driving….
I love that we have this kind of Odd Couple, Bert and Ernie dynamic going…. D’Lo is the straight man. Perhaps it’s an inside joke, but we’re pretty hilarious. Part II….
Brownie points for those who watch Part III
I started outlining about 10 ideas for short films for the two of us to pile upon the mountains of short films already on YouTube. This one took us a month to get together. At this rate, and between our touring schedules, our next film should surface in 2011.
Watch out world! I’m throwing down 62 clams in the month of August to buy my first LA Metro bus pass. I’m thinking I’ll wear it around my neck in a plastic laminated necklace like the abuelitas do and push my granny cart filled with groceries up and down Sunset Blvd. I actually don’t know that I ride the bus enough to warrant owning a bus pass. I have to ride the bus 49 times next month to make the “bus ride buffet” ticket worthwhile but I’m home for a full month (for once) so I thought I’d live it up.
Things are getting super busy here very fast. Summers tend to be “downtime” for me. I’m seeing crazy things happen in my line of work. I was in talks with New World Theater at UMass Amherst to bring Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 2010. Then just a month later, New World Theater had their funding completely cut off by the university! This is pretty ugly as this institution has been around for 30+ years.
I did get a very huge break a few months ago with a MAPFUND grant to develop my new “CAT LADY” show but I haven’t been able to secure a premiere venue or NPN co-commissioner. It’s not that the interest isn’t there, it’s just that every theater on earth is watching their budget. There’s a definite and palpable slowdown in the arts.
So I’ve decided that rather than wail and flail in panic, I’m going to use the money that I had set aside for a car to invest in a new computer and a video camera. And I’m thinking of turning part of the living room in my new Silverlake House into a set that I can shoot different shows in. I’m long overdue for a tech upgrade, I’ve been using the same laptop for five years! And it’s really hot and slow. So look out world, not only will this lady be rocking a bus pass but also a video blog!
I will admit that I’ve been looking at ads for cars. It’s really tempting to buy one. To be able to get to West LA in one hour as opposed to two. These ads are misleading though… this “Cash for Clunkers” thing is so dumb. How is it a 5 year old car can qualify as a clunker but my Mercedes that caught on fire on the 405 couldn’t? Bleh, forget it.
Quite a few of my creative friends are complaining about going broke this summer and I’ve mentioned several times in my blogs how it’s hard to not get sucked into poverty mentality when the news and all your friends are dragging the sky down around you. I find myself having days where I’m like, “Oh god! It’s over! I give up!”
I’m losing sympathy for my friends going who complain of being broke. Their standards of broke are “first world broke.” I have a friend who is a sex worker and says she’s having “survival sex” for money and yet owns a laptop, cell phone, and car. I have another friend who owes me $500 and he’s had months to pay me back, and he calls me from his cell phone to tell me he has run off to New York City (for a vacation).
If you are broke, suck it up, grow up, and deal with it. Because nobody with an IPhone is a victim of anything.
People keep asking me for help with getting money to do their art. The requests were at first flattering because it really felt as if they regard me as successful. But now theses requests have become kind of irritating, like I’m some kind of magic fairy that can say three things to make things happen. If you go way back into my very first blogs, you’ll know, I’ve been at this game for YEARS and only started to make a full time living at it in the last four years. And if you know me well enough, you know it was REALLY REALLY UGLY when I was first at this.
I see people I haven’t seen in a while and the first thing they say is, “Hi Kristina! Can you help me get grant money?”
(“Yeah. Nice to see you too.”)
Is there a sign on my head that says: “My name is Kristina Wong and I can show you how easy it is to get money because I have nothing better to do?” I mean I try to be supportive of people but I feel like that generosity gets taken advantage of.
People asking me to lead them to “magic grant money” irritates me one three levels:
First, I spend 20 hours (if not more) a week doing work related to generating income for my art (that is not my actual art) and most people aren’t willing to put up the BS of arts admin. Even when I’ve taken the time to explain to people how it all works, they either don’t apply for the grant that I just walked them through or ask me to repeat the information to them as if the explanation will become somehow easier. My biggest pet peeve is when they ask me to send copies of my grants so they can play mad libs with them, as if we weren’t doing completely different projects.
Second, I probably make the same amount as many of my artist friends “who are always broke”– the difference is that I manage my finances differently. A lot of my broke friends would not be broke if they just learned to not spend money on stuff they don’t need or buy so much stuff on credit. So it’s not that I have more money than other people, I just allocate my money differently when I get it.
And third, there is no “magic grant money.” Like any other thing that’s earned in this world. Money for your art is also earned, not thrown around to random people like a sweepstakes prize.
So my artist friends going broke but texting away on your iphone… do you need a bail out? Here it is!
NINE Cash for Clunkers Tips for Creatives going Broke who keep asking me to help them with money:
1. Run Away If you can’t get a job and your career is not going anywhere, sublet your place, give up your apartment, sell your things, and run off to an artist’s retreat where you can live for free. Unfortunately, most of them don’t pay you to be there or accommodate kids. If you can’t get into an artist’s retreat, move in with your parents and be their “loser” 30-something kid who writes screenplays in the basement. Nobody will judge you if they can’t see you! Yay! You just freed up $400-1000 a month in rent!
2. Get someone to burn you a bootleg copy of The Secret and watch it over and over again until you sound possessed. I am critical of The Secret (ie “The Unofficial Orientation Video for New Angelinos”) because it does place much too much emphasis on material wealth. But hey, it’s Metaphysics for Dummies! There is a critical third step to the process of the Secret that people often forget– ACTION. So stop complaining that nobody sent you $100 after you watched The Secret and start taking action. (And taking action does asking me to lead you through the short cut to money. Because I only know the long route.)
3. Sell your car and get a bus pass. If you really need money that badly, get over your “I need my car” bullshit and get rid of your car. Cancel your insurance. Cancel your AAA membership. Cancel your gym membership (because the city streets just turned into your gym). Yay! You just freed up $500 a month plus whatever you got for your car.
4. Find something less expensive to replace your drug habit. Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Why do broke people still have money for pot? Here’s a suggestion of how to get high instead. Put on a Bob Marley cd, then run around really fast backwards in the hot sun without water, then try to recite poetry, then get a friend to say “whoa, that’s brilliant” at every line. Yay! You just freed up $50-300 a month.
5. Don’t be a bottom feeder. If you ever done movie background work, you’ve probably met “background lifers.” The people who only talk about doing extra work and getting more extra work, and yet, still think this will lead to something bigger. If you get too obsessed with the stones lining the walkway, you’ll never get to see the inside of the house. Sometimes the “hunting and gathering” way of the artist life prevents us from thinking about the big picture. So think from the top down. Think beyond survival.
6. Drop your $$$ scene study class and take creative classes at TeAda Camp instead. I’m teaching and am a student in at TeAda’s summer camp for adults that’s super affordable for creative people who want to expand their skillset on a budget. You can take classes in movement, voice, acting, improv, yoga and writing for as low as $10 a class. They are drop-in classes so you don’t have to commit to months and months of training. The classes are cheap as hell and a good alternative to that overpriced overhyped stuff offered all over LA. Yay! You just freed up $200-400 a month (depending on what pyramid scheme acting school you were previously enrolled in.)
7. Kick the deadbeat to the curb. (Several times in the head if necessary.) Are you in a shitty relationship and giving the guy/girl money/ free rent/ food on top of it? Say good- bye! This one is especially for my creative lady friends who are with men who can’t take care of themselves and freeload off your generosity. You deserve a partner who can take care of him or herself and therefore, can support you when you need it. You are not a rescuer. You are not a social worker. You will find better. I’ve kicked a few deadbeats to the curb myself and never looked back. Yay! You’ve just freed up 200 lbs of dead weight!
8. Manage your money between several different checking accounts. If you are an artist working for yourself, the worst financial thing you can do is pile up all your income into one checking account. You should not pay your rent and your director out of the same account. You should not deposit your big grant check in the same account that you pay for food. I recommend two accounts– a business account and personal account. And have two separate credit cards for business and personal expenses.
Figure out what your personal budget is each month to live. This amount should be your salary and every month write yourself a check from the business account to the personal account in this amount. Even if this means you have several checking accounts with a $0 balance, you will at least get into the habit of managing your money and treating the work you do as a professional.
Ideally, you should have several accounts. (This is something I am still trying to organize in my own life.) You should have a business account, a personal account, an education account (for paying for things to further your learning and growth), a splurge account, an investments fund. There are other methods for breaking these accounts up. When you get money, get in the habit of dividing money in each of these accounts. Yay! You are saving towards retirement!
9. Stop buying shit. Use the library, wear things twice, make new things out of old things. Make presents for your friends. Our economy is a mess and we’re told to save money by not buying things, but the only way the economy will move is if we buy things. What gives? Run away from the need to buy stuff that can be borrowed, bartered or made! I was going to buy a VHS to DVD converter to convert my analog archives to 0′s and 1′s but found out there was one I could use at the SAG Foundation for free. Yay! I just saved $150!
Presents I made for my friends’ kids.
There! Now stop asking me to help you get money. Or at least have a real conversation with me before you ask. I just helped you get lots of money. If you need more help, I’ll be at the bus stop waiting for you to give me a ride to the next big thing!
If you known me for a while, you know that sometimes I’ll have blogs (like my last one) that end with me saying fatalistic things like: “I’m joining a cult!,” then there is silence for a few days, and then the next entry will be something frivolous about a new haircut or something. With no mention of my previous freak out.
Anyway, I keep forgetting that these six weeks of relatively unstructured time in Los Angeles is for me to write, administrate, and do all those things that I need to do to keep working and make creative work. The trap is that unstructured time often gets wasted with freaking out about the meaning of life. The first few days back have been hard because I feel like when I get back to LA after long trips, especially in this economy, its like I’m trying to jump into some double dutch ropes that are moving too fast or not at all.
Lately, the city has felt really quiet. Like a long continuation of what it felt like over Christmas break. Is it just me? There’s nothing really interesting going on as far as I can tell. It’s gotten so uneventful here that my friend invited me to a picnic in the Valley in two weeks and I was like, “YES! I’m coming!!!”
Mike, the director and editor or our concert film reminded me that there is plenty of work left to do before I freak out and backpack across the country for eight years. And we’re getting an editing schedule going so we can finish our wonderful Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Concert film. (Which is looking pretty marvelous I might say.) I’m also making a goal to apply for more grants and residencies and maybe pick up my novel again after having put it down after my residency in Florida last summer. Also, crank out a few spec scripts.
And so, I’m back on the saddle. I was panicked a bit the other night when I blogged about working on an organic farm– something that I have been seriously considering if our economy collapses and art is obliterated in its wake. I found myself going through the community college course catalog looking for classes to keep me busy. For half a second I thought about taking a fabric basket making course. I wanted to take this tap dance class but alas, the carless life makes it impossible to get down there. (Anyone want to take this tap class in Culver City with me for five weeks? It starts tomorrow and is only $50!)
I often feel like a senior citizen in these stretches of unstructured time in Los Angeles. Like when I come home from touring, I have this semi “retirement savings” to live on while I enjoy the view and find things to keep my occupied so I don’t let my mind wander too much. It’s also a huge contrast from life on the road where I’m the belle of the ball in the cities I visit and integral to their culture. Here, I sometimes wonder if people even know or care that I’m back.
(I’m back! Where’s my party!!!)
I signed up for a one day class in March to learn to make sushi. This was my drastic gesture to deal with the quiet. I was going to take an cross stitch class on Friday, but it’s $60. That’s a lot of dough when I can pretty much teach myself to do cross stitch. Yes, teach myself… cross stitch. I’m going to cross stitch portraits of me and my cat.
Oh god, what’s happening?
I guess this is what people start to do at my age when they are unmarried with no kids… they start taking classes at the Learning Annex and play chess with homeless people on the beach.
It keeps happening lately, especially now, in this economy, when I return to Los Angeles for a long stretch of time. But especially lately, now that Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is done and there are new shows to be made.
I am left atop an empty pocket of air. Wondering, what am I to do with this time on earth.
Yes, the meaning of life question.
I don’t know what there is in this city anymore. I’ve been here a long long time. And I accomplished what a huge life goal was… to make a good living as an artist… doing art that would allow me to travel and was work that I could feel was meaningful and mine.
This question was partially sparked by my friend who just came by and said, “I have no family here, no partner, just a job, shouldn’t I just move home and be with my family?”
And I was like: “Should I be doing the same thing?” Because actually… I’m in the same boat. If anything, I don’t have a job here… technically. As with everyone in LA, I’m a freelancer, and right now, everyone is more “free” than “lancing.”
We are all floating in this space of “is the sky falling?” and what will happen next in this great big blur called the recession?
I’m thinking of doing something drastic. Like living off the grid like this guy I met in Alaska is. Or teaching English abroad. Or working on organic farms in Europe.