The 2016 Joy Jar

At the end of 2015, I found the “joy jar” project online in a few different places. It sounded pretty cheesy; the kind of obnoxious thing that makes you groan. And I mean uncontrollably groan aloud, so others can hear you.

But I was in a season of my life where things had been so stressful for so long, I needed a way out. I needed a path back to the more joyful version of myself, and was willing to throw anything at the problem. So I was was willing to try this little project – even though I was seriously cynical. Boy, was I wrong about it.

I’m writing this on New Year’s Day 2017, cuddled up on the couch. Derek and I just had a big breakfast. Moments ago, we finished going through the 2016 jar of joys. And, I’ve gotta say, I’m totally humbled by it.

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2016 Year in Review

Each year I hope to publish a “year in review” post.

Since I’ve been blogging for more than a decade, the ritual has helped me see and appreciate what happens in only 12 months. It also helps me share my journey, gratitude for everyone’s support, and the challenges I’ve faced along the way. No overnight successes here, for sure. Sharing these things are really important to me. The year in review is incredibly powerful stuff.

Without further ado, here’s a look at my 2016.

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Why I started practicing gratitude

“Practice gratitude” is a thing I kept hearing about and reading online in a lot of my groups. I was a total skeptic because it sounded pretty dumb, to be blunt about it. Which is why I kept reading, to discover out why on earth it was getting repeated everywhere.

The phrase basically means focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t have right now. It’s a way of being present, instead of wishing you were down the road a bit: more successful, happier, skinnier, or finally feeling peace. You could also call it counting your blessings.

The name doesn’t really matter that much. It’s the mindset work that counts. It’s a shift in perspective.

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When you’re ready to run

Everything is a phase.

Or a season, rather.

Once upon a time, there was a season of my life where all I did was dream about a life in film. I didn’t know what that meant or where it would take me, but it was always in the back of my mind. I would fantasize about it, not knowing where to start or how to make it happen. I started to crawl towards that dream with everything I had.

Then, one day it happened.

I started making my own movies – without leaving my family, friends, or beloved home. What followed was a season of hard work, confusion, frustration, and lots of struggle. Every step of the way was really difficult, however, some really beautiful things were born during those dark days. I continued to painfully walk towards that dream with everything I had.

Then, one day things started to run a little smoother.

What followed as a season of growing, gaining momentum, and feeling optimistic about the future. Although doors continued to shut in my face and harsh criticism came from many directions, a small group of really supportive people continued to believe in me and this gigantic dream. I started to pick up speed, walking in and among the dream with everything I had.

Then, one day I was in my stride.

I don’t know when it happened. But I finally felt like I had what I had needed for so long: clarity, experience, mistakes-a-plenty, an artistic voice, a way to make things happen. I began feverishly learning where to go next.

Now, I’m ready to run.

Look out, 2017, because I’m comin’ atcha.

2017 Meredith College Documentary Film Festival

Meredith College is hosting its fourth annual documentary film festival on Sunday, January 22nd. It’s free and open to the public.

Not only will I be there for the whole fest to watch movies, I’m also screening part of my upcoming film Good Thing (newly titled), featuring Meredith College professor Shannon Johnstone and her photography project Landfill Dogs.

The new documentary is a feature-length film – a work-in-progress – which will hopefully be finished in 2017 and released in 2018.

Shannon Johnstone was the subject of my smartphone documentary in 2013. I’m now making a feature-length film, which will hopefully be released in 2018.

We released the trailer for the upcoming film in November 2016. If you missed the announcement, you’ll find it here.

On the blog recently, I also shared a little background on how a documentary gets funded (here) and why I’m applying for fiscal sponsorship (here). I also shared details on a dream team I hope to build, including a development director, impact producer, and an outreach team.

It would be so lovely to have familiar faces in the crowd! Please join us! Get more information about the festival at meredith.edu.

What story are you uniquely qualified to tell?

What story am I uniquely qualified to tell?

This is a question I keep asking myself – especially as I hone my voice as an artist, and the political climate intensifies.

What does it really mean? Well, there are topics I’ve wanted to explore for a long time. But I want to be cognizant of how I show up in the world as a straight, Southern, white woman.

They say “write what you know” after all, right? It doesn’t mean you can’t cover certain things.Nicholas Sparks writes women well, even though he’s not a lady. Think about what you know and are great at doing, and do more of that.

What topics am I intimately familiar with, and could explore in a way that no one else might? What experiences have I had that have led to a unique perspective? What perspective may I shed that would add to the conversations?

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Chef’s Table is a fantastic example of an intimate look at artistic voice, as seen through chefs all over the world.

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A game I like to play called, “What if?”

You probably already know I’m obsessed with fight scenes featuring women.

Last year I did a whole heap of research on it. This was in preparation for a new short scripted film I wanted to make titled AK. 

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We shot the film AK in February 2016.

We’re submitting it to film festivals, and hope to screen it a bunch in 2017. Stay tuned for more info on the movie. Sign up for email updates using the form on the blog, while you’re at it.

My crew on the set of "AK" in February 2016.
My crew on the set of “AK” in February 2016.

Quench the thirst or not?

I thought that making a movie with a fight scene would satisfy my curiosity.

In other words, I thought making one might quench that thirst but quite the opposite has happened. I’m even more curious about shooting action sequences now.

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