Director’s Statement – The Sirens

When I was a student in film school, my writings always focused around my personal experiences. My professors suggested I get out of my comfort zone. Write something with no creative restrictions. I sucked up all the anxiety, and boom! I created a story of a girl gang of assassins whose job is to kill abusive husbands. From an early age, I always felt interested in girls’ coming of age stories, especially when the girls came from a different background from myself. Growing up in the fifth largest city in the United States with the unique opportunity to attend an all girls high school, my perspective on how women actually interact which is a direct counter from how most forms of media depict female dynamics.  My life has been shaped by the strong women. My short is a thank you to all of them.

The Sirens is a response to the many subliminal messages that women should not stand up to men. My studies in film school focused greatly on this genre of films in college, especially Quentin Tarantino and the rise of comic book films, I found that the women characters lacked depth, lines of dialogue suggesting submissiveness, and messages to women on how they “should” be. Personally, I’m sick of watching these films defining strong female leads. Films like Kill Bill, although it is cinematically beautiful, has tons of subtext surrounding rape and abuse. Harvey Weinsten was the executive producer after all. People love Kill Bill, but why? Why do we as a culture have to love a film that underlines women pitting against each other for the love of a toxic man? I want The Sirens to have a cult following much like Charlie’s Angels or the Powerpuff Girls with the aesthetics of Ghostworld and Death Proof. Much like assassin movies prior, I plan on using wide frames with 50-85mm lens. I would love the color palette to be vivid within dark settings.

As a novice filmmaker, I present these toxic behaviors to engage in a conversation on how as a society can we stop glorifying these traits. This film sheds a light on how this generation of women view domestic violence and abusive behavior in relationships. Tons of films show the depiction of slapping a woman or harming a woman without understand that showing those actions with justification enables the behavior. Creating a film is creating a fantasy. When you look into a filmmaker’s visions of fantasy and see abusive behavior, it sends the message that it is okay to act this way. The Sirens are here to tell everyone it is NOT. It is not okay to be violent towards ANYONE, especially someone who partakes in a romantic relationship with you. The Sirens is a retaliation film against an abusive male gaze. Although there is violence in the film, the girls do not encourage others to be like them. Each one fights an internal battle regarding their relationship with men. It is important that The Sirens show their young female audience what is not okay in a relationship. As a director, I hope that the audience will make an effort after watching the film to bring awareness to helping victims and abusers. Abusers need help, too!

I expects there to be a strong emotional impact from the audience. The girl gang dynamic will make people laugh like they are with their own friends. If people cry, they empathize with the excruciating pain caused by violence. My hopes for the audience’s response is to become aware of how great of an issue domestic violence is and how it effects everyone. This is not just a woman’s issues. The filmmaker encourages the men/boys in the audience to become aware of this toxic behavior and finds way to bring awareness to it from their perspective. As the writer and director, I encourage awareness and forgiveness–to a degree, because situations vary– for abusers. The issue cannot be solved by winded debate but psychological understanding leading to living and depicting healthy relationships. 

Check out the link below to get a better understanding of the image!

Lookbook: https://pin.it/7vojyubc7pk7sr

A Girl in a Swirl

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, learning to forget her scars.

Her right eye has a little scratch in the deep retina.

It’s from rubbing too rough.

So, she was born into this world with scars. A Good thing this, she is a fighter.

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, learning to forget her scars.

Recess on the playground. Well, the playground was a parking lot. Kids were born to stay in one place playing along with each other. Forming a circle.

The girl peered on desperately dreaming of one day playing along in the circle. Little did she know.

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, learning to forget her scars.

Now the girl enters her teens. She has all the requirements for a blossom. She digs scratches not her skin. Creating scars.

Girl studies the lines imbedded in her palms. Why can she not understand their patters?

The girl stands in the center of the circle. Once children, now teens surround her, dancing in chains. They point their pointers and giggle. The giggles send sinister vibrations into the girl’s scars and lines.

One member of the circle sa-shes in closer, her demons hum “If you fall, I will catch you. No matter what.”

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, learning to forget her scars.

Through the gaga promenade, sun radiates. The gate, where the girl once stood looking into this very spot, collapses.

A voice orates me to get out. Nerves keep the girl still from the call.

Then, she takes a fall.

No one caught her.

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, learning to forget her scars.

Cracks in the ground provide support to the teary teen.

The dancers through rocks and kick her tummy. Scars run deeper into the skin.

Sun sets. Moon shines a motherly light onto her.

All the scars will fade in the light, mother moon promises. It is time to rise with the sin.

While the circle rests, the girl tiptoes passing all the whirlwind.She understands the wheel of fortune and the change.

At the fallen gate, the girl takes a one last look back then runs.

Once there was a girl, a girl in a swirl, who learned to heal her scars. The girl become a divine woman.

A very personal post

I finally feel comfortable discussing this special topic on my blog. I am sorry I have been a little inconsistent with posting. From here on out, I will try to post a full blog post once a week and a few shorter pieces throughout the week. Anyway, I want to share my experience with mental illness. 

At the wonderful yet naive age of 17, I had extremely low self-esteem. My weight depressed me. I felt like I did not have any real friends. I felt nervous about college. These are all extremely common themes that run through girls in high school. On February 8th, I had the brilliant idea to cut myself. Will the release of blood relieve the internal pain? Will this physical act justify all the pain I suffer in my head? Soon after making a few pathetic, and I really mean pathetic, cuts, I instantly knew this was not the answer. Self inflicting pain may have appealed to me, because other people who suffered from depression did it. Unfortunately, Tumblr had, still has, a large community of people who romanticize cutting. I wanted to feel connected to others like me through this action, but it did not feel good. I felt dirty. I was ashamed that I thought this was the answer. 

A month or two passes. There was this event run through my high school’s brother school that put parents and students in groups to discuss depression and anxiety. I rose my hand to share my story. I admitted to a group of random people that I cut myself recently. Looking back, I was really brave. I know people might have thought I was doing it for attention. Fun fact, yeah I was. There’s nothing wrong for people asking for some attention regarding the need for help! After our discussion, I had a few people approach me. Truthfully, I do not have a vivid memory of this due to my hysterics during it. A teacher in our group contacted my mom, which made me embarrassed. I was already embarrassed that I did something so stupid and meaningless, now I have to tell my mom. At the time, I was meeting the school counselor to talk through some of these things. It was not fulfilling. It was not a reflection of her, but rather her technique did not match my healing process. That is okay! Back to my mom, she asked me if I wanted to see a therapist. What choice did I really have?

My first therapy session. I enter a small office space on the 17th floor of a medical building in the middle of Center City. (Philadelphia, of course!) Her office window looks out to skyscrapers, making therapy almost an aesthetic experience for me. My mom came to the session on her lunch break. “See you next week.” I showed up next week. I opened up to the healing process. Learning to talk about things with someone who has no connections to the people you know in your life felt relieving. I could tell my therapist anything. I stopped going to the school counselor, because I no longer needed that. I had my sacred place with a window looking out at all the possibilities. I understood that the healing process was not a quick fix. I broke down almost every week, pretty much like clockwork. Thank God for therapy during my senior year of high school. I did not get into the colleges I dreamed of or got the SAT score I needed. However, therapy allowed me to see the positives in my situation. My therapist watched me get into Temple University with the desire to write. She emphasized how college will introduce me to new people and opportunities that will shape me into my true self. 

I learned that my anxiety about making friends and desiring to fit into some sort of community followed me to college. Commuting to school made it hard for me to make friends. I would make myself so depressed over something so trivial as going out. Looking back, it was a ridiculous worry. But, I felt like I was missing out on an experience I deserved to have. In my therapy sessions, I would focus on what was wrong instead of what was right. It took a lot of discussions with my therapist on the positives going on in my life. Once I said “Yeah, look around at all the good things happening. You are going to school to study film and you love all your classes.” I felt like my recovery process was at a stand still. I was only getting so far with my talk therapy. The questioned I dreaded the most came up. “Do you want to try medication?” My therapist compared anxiety and depression to diabetes, which is a great analogy. Some people are born with these things, but other develop them over time. But, you would never tell someone who needed insulin that it was not going to work or they didn’t need it. You only have control over yourself, and what you need for your recovery is your business. After some thought, I said why not. I’m going to try medication. I went to the appointment with the psychiatrist who prescribed me Lexapro. I was on 10 milligrams for about a month, then got bumped up to 20. I felt like it was working. My mood was improving. I no longer spent my time focusing on my emotional turmoil and took steps towards personal growth.

Junior year was a downward spiral that stunted all of my efforts for the past three years. I had the brilliant idea that I needed to move out of my house to live on campus. I fought my parents on this discussion. “Mom, you have no idea how much I miss! I’m going to pay for it anyway. Why do you care?” She was looking out for me, and I resisted. I moved into a crappy off-campus apartment. My roommates were awful. I spent a lot of time with friends. Do not get me wrong, school still was first. I still went to my classes and did my homework. I wish I put some more effort into my studies at the time, but you live and you learn. By February/March, I moved back to my parents’ house. If someone told me that the apartment I lived in was cursed or something, I believe it. Haha. Anyway, I was not consistent with taking my medication during my time living alone. So, when I got home and started taking Lexapro regularly, something weird happened. The medication had a slow effect in the opposite direction of recovery. 

I started talking about disappearing. Let’s be clear, I was not suicidal in the stereotypical sense. I would say in therapy that I wish I could just disappear and it wouldn’t matter, because no one really cared anyway. Telling myself this negative sentence over and over pushed me over the edge. At work, which is the most embarrassing place to have this, I had full blown anxiety attack. I went up to my friend telling her “You hate me. You always hated me. Stop pretending.” I cried on the back of the host stand whaling that I just wanted to die. My parents were called, of course. They could not keep a hysterical hostess greeting customers, so I was sent home and did not go back to work for a couple days. I called my therapist right away about what happened. After the wave of panic came the wave of embarrassment. Realizing how ridiculous I seemed, I felt even worse. Where am I going to go now?

My therapist said “Maybe, we need to change your medication.” A lot of times, being on antidepressants is a trial and error process. You can plateau on a medication and then develop the reversed effects like I did. So, then I started Cymbalta. I started to feel really good. Senior year commenced, and I worried less about all those stupid social pressures. I went to school, hung out with my friends who I’ve known since I was a child, and worked. I decided soon into senior year that I wanted to do the study away program in LA over the summer. Finally, I felt some positive growth towards my mental illness. I began to put my needs over the needs of others. I practiced working on self control. The future was bright. 

Sure, the move to Los Angeles was riddled with anxiety. Instead of falling into my old habits of negative thinking, I started thinking more positively about my choices. I finally understand what is best for me and my future. I have had a lot of setbacks during the last 8 months that effected my mental health, but my strength to do better and get better refuses to let me stay down for long.

I wanted to share my story with others, because often times, we feel invalidated for our mental illness due to all the people who have it worse than you. I am so exhausted of people undermining mental illness. A lot of times, depression and anxiety are genetic. You cannot control your genes! The only thing you have control over is yourself–especially your actions. Do you think that I do not feel more depressed and anxious because I know people have it worse than me but I still have all this negativity racing through my brain? Of course! Again, I do not have control over others, just myself. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes me to worry to the point of obsession then get sad enough to feel numb. I am no longer ashamed of my problems, and I work every single day to recover. I accept myself, and that is all that matters. My road to full recovery maybe never end, but that is okay. I love that I am a sensitive being! I have to just learn how to channel my anxiety into my writing or work for personal success. Honestly, I have cried a lot trying to write this blog. My tears come from a place of happiness and acceptance. I just hope people reading this can recognize in themselves how they treat others. Instead of being skeptical of your friends suffering, just be gentle. Let me be clear, your friends who suffer from anxiety and depression almost never want to talk about it. Lots of my friends and acquaintances always say “You can talk to me about what you are going through! I’m here!” I know it is so ironic I’m here posting on the internet my feelings, I feel  as though me talking to people who have not been in my circle for years is just unnecessary. My closest friends know who they are, because I cry on their shoulders a lot. Anyway, when people who suffer from anxiety, depression, etc. do have the courage to open up to you, just listen. Most people with mental illness just want to be heard and validated. 

Hi, my name is Sabrina, and I have general anxiety disorder and major depression. My illness does not define me. I work everyday to improve my mental health. 

If anyone wants to reach out to me about their mental health and want some guidance towards recovery, my email/dms/every way you can connect are always opened. Just be patient with my response. Okay, I am finished with rambling about myself. 

Enjoy a list of tv shows/movies that do a great job capturing mental illness!

BoJack Horseman (I know you are all SHOCKED by this) “Stupid piece of shit” is the best episode that shows what it is like to have a mental illness. 

Maniac- the limited series on Netflix with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Inside Out

Good Will Hunting

Forrest Gump

Girl, Interrupted

Parks and Recreation- specifically the one where Ben makes the claymation

Thanks again for reading! Love all of you guys!

 

Writer’s Block

Hey guys! Welcome back to yet another shit post by yours truly. Haha! How are you doing? I hope my readers had a wonderful new year and their January will bring in lots of positivity towards new, healthy habits. There will be a “Super Moon. Wolf Moon” Full Moon on January 20th, so look out for that energy! Between that and the eclipses going on, the cosmic energy is very present. I know it is in my life right now. Currently, I am developing two feature films while researching grants for my short “The Sirens.” If anyone has any grants that they think I should apply for, send me a message! Please and Thank You!

Anyway, I wanted to discuss a prominent issue I face when writing. Writer’s Block. This is probably the infamous problem among all of us writers. Constantly questioning the worth of your writing that leads you to distract yourself from reaching your page goal. I had so much writer’s block during my time studying screenwriting in college. A part of me wants to blame the class structures for not enabling the writers to explore ideas BEFORE writing. Ultimately, my work falls back to reflect me as a writer. That is why, I plan to write my ideas with full speed and prepare myself for these writer’s block.

Writer’s Block happens. Life happens, and a lot of times, life has a negative pull on our creativity. Family drama can pull your focus on your relationships and away from your project. It is okay! I find that addressing all the dramatics around me before going in to write helps my focus. I choose to journal about all the exterior problems pulling focus from my writing, even though that it does not always stop the distractions. Besides that, it is important for me to address forgiving yourself when you encounter Writer’s Block. All of our favorite writers and other artists have had moments where they felt stuck. So, what comes next after addressing the Writer’s Block?

Well, I have a few ways of breaking out of the block!

  1. Writing Warm Up. Just like when you go into the gym, it is important to warm up! Writers have a tendency to put so much pressure on their writing, that they only focus on the pressure and not the work. I suggest writing in your journal/notepad for five minutes before actually writing. This five minutes does not have to be structured! You can make lists, write something that would come out of a sad 15 year old poet, etc. Taking a few minutes to align your mind to write really aids the process.
  2. Track your thoughts. What I mean by this is write down all your thoughts into your journal, on a piece a paper, notepad, etc. The key to this is having no judgment! Just write your thoughts. I learned this technique in my Creative Writing class from my senior year of high school. The assignment was to write 5 pages, it had to be physical paper, of your thoughts with point of you with the opposite gender. The beauty of this was realizing that your thoughts do not have a gender and a good writer has to learn to write characters unlike themselves. I found the universal meaning in the assignment, which is why I am choosing to share it! If any of you writers reading this think this maybe a weird technique, just try it out. You’ll learn something about yourself.
  3. Listen to Music while Writing. Through much trial and error, I found that writing with classical or jazz music in the background really helps me focus on the words I need to get out. I find a lot of times that listening to music with heavy emphasize on lyrics distracts me from my writing. Although sometimes I do need to listen to specific music to get thinking of a time period, I notice that my concentration is not strong.
  4. Block Out Time to Write. It’s not so simple these days to be completely distraction free. With cellphones and the constant notifications from all these apps, it is SO easy to check your phone while writing. You check your phone, and keep checking, until three hours have passed while you fell into the instagram trap of constant scrolling and refreshing. Yup, been there. Put that phone on Do Not Disturb for that hour or two you want to focus on your writing. I think putting a timer on for the amount of time you want to block out helps. Not only does the ring of the timer release a sense of accomplishment, you can then allow yourself to take a break from writing. Leading me into my next point.
  5. Schedule time to write and time for breaks. Once you figure out your schedule that allows you to block out a set amount of time a day or week to write, it is important to include breaks into the writing sessions! Your brain can only focus on one thing for so long before getting burned out a little. Breaks allow you to check your phone, eat something, call a loved one, etc. Taking yourself in and out of your work time really gives you a sense of control in a completely good way that with practice will aid your writing potential.
  6. Work on More Than One Project. Of course, our lives as writers does not always allow us to write projects solely based on ourselves. Lots of times, we work with others to collaborate on their writing projects or work at a job that does not enable our creative writing to actually work. That’s why I suggest having a few ideas to develop during your writing time. I work better having a couple of choices. Everyone is different and another writer can disagree by stating that focusing on one project until its completion is more productive.
  7. Reward Yourself! Whenever I experience writer’s block, I tend to indulge in activities like shopping or watching tv. I urge myself every time I have a block to write, then do these things. Yes, I know it is so much easier said than do. But, no one is going to write your story for you the way you want it written. I promise the reward you give yourself after putting all your energy into writing, even if it’s just a page, will feel so much better opposed to use the reward as a distraction.

I hope these tips are helpful to my fellow writers. These tips for Writer’s Block are not exclusive to writing, so indulge in them if you feel blocked in your work.

Over all, highlight moving forward every time you encounter Writer’s Block, because wallowing in all the words that you did not write waste more of your time not writing.

– Sabrina Shits

 

 

About “The Sirens” and a BONUS film challenge

Hey, everyone! Thank you all for coming back to read more! 

Update on my last post. I found a studio apartment where I will be living alone! I am very excited to have the opportunity to live on my own. Like every other girl, I would love to get married and have kids. So, having the next couple years on my own will be so cool! I will definitely write a whole post about moving into your own place once I’m done decorating. 

Anyway, I wanted to discuss where I am at with making my directorial debut. About three years ago, I wrote a short film called “The Sirens.” It is about a girl gang who are hired by women to kill abusive husbands/partner. Originally, the script centered around the character, Arielle, who is the laidback leader of the trio. The rewriting and failed attempts to get the project into pre-production allowed me to rethinking the project as a whole. Instead of focusing on Arielle, I wanted to expand the short film into a series of short films. Essentially, Celeste and Margo will get their own short (the other girls in The Sirens). Also, there will be an over arching conflict that connects the series. The project deserves to be a series, rather a limited series. Since I am trying to portray abuse which is a LARGE problem, I think it is fitting that there are a few examples of it. 

As of now, Arielle’s and Margo’s introductions–the first two films in the series– have been written. I think Margo’s needs a little more finessing, but solid. I am writing Celeste’s introduction. 

Ideally, I would like to enter pre-production for the introductions by May. I keep trying to recruit people for the project, but life seems to get into the way. The timing was wrong for me to try to plan shooting right after my summer program. 

I kept feeling disappointed with myself for not having everything in order to make these films! I love the idea. People who I explain the project to always sound really excited about the idea. In addition to needing to sort out my life, I had a lot of self-doubt about my creativity. In college, I chose to go down the screenwriting track opposed to the directing. My heart wanted me to still make this film or something while I was studying, but I never made the time for it. I came to the realization that the only person actually in the way of me going through with this idea is..me.

There is no doubt that this will be an uphill battle. HOWEVER, I am ready to climb! Anyone who wants to be a part of this project, you know how to get in contact. 

Since you stuck with my post, I am going to treat you guys to my edition of the 10 day film challenge circling instagram! Reminder of the rules, there is no explanation and no order. Just an image from the film. Of course, these 10 film stills come from “The Sirens” Lookbook. 

1) Death Proof tumblr_nmcshj3ULB1sboxlio3_1280.jpg

2) Her 40074910_10211478047936378_19929030505529344_o

3) The Neon Demon The-Neon-Demon-Jesse-the-neon-demon-40305692-1897-1286

4) The Great Beauty 39937450_10211473159214163_7698861167367684096_o

5) City of Women 39997295_10211478058096632_6978327876013654016_o

6) Sunset Boulevard 40136566_10211494033856016_6648480138642063360_o

7) Goodfellas 40125368_10211494046976344_3933625465389973504_o

8) Little Miss Sunshine 40104955_10211494054256526_6127580084007075840_o

9) Blue Velvet 40139907_10211494065336803_262933431095132160_o

10) Good Will Hunting 39934459_10211473224935806_1818821746803867648_n

Welcome to My Introduction

I find it appropriate to post a little bit about myself and my objective for this whole thing. My name, for those of you who have not realized it yet, is Sabrina. I am a screenwriter, producer, photographer, and now a blogger. Originally from Philadelphia, I recently moved to Los Angeles, which will be the topic of my first official post. Keep an eye out on Monday for that. For those who love astrology as much as me, I am a Libra Sun, Pisces Rising, and Aries Moon. I am writing a series of short films under the title of “The Sirens” with hopes of entering film production by April or May of 2019. Additionally to writing that, I am writing my first real feature length film.

What I want this blog to focus on is mainly my love for cinema combined with personal things occurring in my life. Everyone has three sides to them. One part is what the world sees. Second part is what their loved ones see. Lastly, the third side of everyone is the side they seem themselves. In this crazy world, it is impossible to be defined by one term exclusively. I want my blog to focus on the many sides to my life from career, personal relationships, travel, and everything else in between.

One may ask, why “Sabrina Shits?”

Well, our lives are so busy. It feels like there is never enough time in the day to relax and read. I want to change that. This blog is perfect to read while one uses the bathroom. Particularly when they have to go number two. My “shitposting” is your “shitreading.” I think I am funny, sometimes.

Thank you for taking the time to read this introduction. Please hit that like button if you as excited as me for this!  I hope to have you back reading on Monday for my first official post.

Sincerely, Sabrina