When To Give Up On Someone?/The Magic of Filming

MeMeSode #3 brings up so many issues for me.  Have you ever felt so broken by someone’s actions, that, in an instant, you decided to give up on the relationship and never talk to that person again? Well, I experienced that feeling of despair as we were filming MeMeSode 3.  I probably should get therapy about it:)

By the time we got to filming MeMeSode #3, I understood the magic of filming and how every angle, shot, shadow, and sound bite had to be divinely combined and connected to create magic.  I’d learn how meticulous and difficult it was to get it oh so right.  I’d forgiven myself for ever thinking or saying that filming was an easy process. It is not. It’s hard as hell.

But it’s also, ridiculously, dog gone magical.  I’m now a sponge and soaking up all I can about the craft of filming.  Now, I love watching movies and studying the shots and the cinematography.  Filming these MemeSodes made me dance and laugh and feel like I was twelve years old. I want to feel that way again.

I ran around the fountain that you see in the yard of the set, SHOUTN!   My ideal set would have  music piped into every square foot of the place.  I really do understand why some, after succeeding in Hollywood, build tall brick walls around themselves to keep others out.  I understand that it’s human nature to hold on for  dear life to something so sweet and so magical as filming.

But, for us believers, we understand that His grace, abundance and provision are ever-flowing and infinite and that walls are NEVER necessary.   That we’re in this thing called life together so we’d all better make the best of it.  That we’ll be rewarded when we collaborate, have fun, dance, and sing, together. If any network executive or agent reading this note is in agreement with a sister, feel free to reach out:), haha.

I digress. Back to MeMeSode # 3.

MeMeSode # 3 reminded me of the frailty of the human spirit, how quickly darkness can over come us, and how quickly our minds and body can become tired.  It reminded me that words matter and that the circumstances in which they’re said can change everything! 

Because I’m mature, I know all of this stuff, but MeMeSode #3 was a great refresher course. MeMeSode #3 was supposed to explore, in a light-hearted way,  the dichotomy of race and the complexities of racial disharmony through the relationship between the white protestor and the black protestor. 

After Professor Thorn insists that the protestors meet with University officials, Angela, the black protestor, was to turn to George, the white protestor, and say, “It’s Time to Stop Trusting White Folks.” And he was to respond with a funny-ass stare that would have made you fall out of your seat. That’s the way I planned it.

Well…  What happen, instead, was the actor portraying the white protestor had an emergency, and suddenly, without warning, he left the set.  I begged him not to leave.  I was devastated.  I had to revise and re-think the entire scene in a matter of minutes, literally minutes.  I wanted to fall apart.

For a second, I decided to just quit.  For two seconds, I saw all of my hard work slipping away before my very eyes.  I decided that there was no way for us to finish the shoot.  But I knew that stopping wasn’t an option.  Filming is expensive, and this story was filmed in one day, which everybody and their Mama told me I couldn’t do and that I shouldn’t try. I had to carry on no matter what.

I should have taken the line out after the white protestor left.  But, instead, for a moment, while trying to decide what to do, I felt this profound hopelessness and despair.  I felt sad.  None of the cast and crew knew what I was experiencing.  I went in the bathroom to recover from the anxiety I was feeling.  The dizziness.  And in that meditative moment, while I pulled myself together, I thought about where we are as a country: #45, Charlottesville, white supremacy rising again, hate crimes on the increase.

And I thought about the hopefulness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the hopefulness of my Mama in the sixties, and my sunny side up disposition in the seventies, always dressing like Laura on Dick Van Dyke, and the disappointment and heartbreak that I felt in 2017.  I stayed in bed all day on November 9th, 2017 with the covers pulled over my head. I felt disoriented and out of balance, out of bounds, for months!

In a flash of a moment, while filming MeMeSode # 3, I made a creative, split second decision. I decided to sink all of my heartbreak into that one line:

It’s Time to Stop Trusting White Folks.”

Even now, when I hear it, it makes me pause. It makes my heart stop for just a second.   I’m filled with dread when I hear that line, and I think it’s a line that we should all discuss: Black people, white people, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and more. That line is in the short, and when it’s uttered on the big screen, the air is sucked out of the room.  We will get past this difficult moment by being open and talking to each other, and we shouldn’t run from feelings of despair and hopelessness.  We should run towards them, which is what I did this past weekend.

This past weekend, the Out-of-Bounds play, a militant version inspired by James Baldwin, was read at an amazing theater in Los Angeles.  The audience was entirely white, which I was anxious about.  But sitting in the back row of the theater, I felt a chill, as I realized that others were able to share my heartbreak and that heartbreak is colorblind.

After the reading, when it was my time to speak, I couldn’t help myself.  I cried.  I cried because I had poured a life-time of sorrow of being judged by the color of my skin into the play, and to a smaller scale, into the film project.  Out of Bounds the film is funny as heck because People of Color have always used laughter as a means of survival.  I’m quite good at that:).

In the play, though, I give myself permission.  Theater is my sanctuary.  I give myself room and permission to breathe.  You will always find me in a little black box.  I also poured the sorrow of losing my Mom to cancer after she fought it for 34 years of my life into the play. I shared our, my Mom’s and my, fierceness and ability to laugh and have fun despite facing tragedy. It’s all in the play.

The reading was an amazing experience.  It was the first time I heard the words.  At the end of the reading, there was a lightness in the room. Finally, I exhaled.  The piece brought us closer to our true hearts and to each other, I believe. I was hugging every body I could get my arms wrapped around. One amazing actor, who is also an acting coach, gave me a hug that warmed me for the rest of the day.   An older white actress, came up to me and confided that she used to help the Black Panthers with their morning breakfast food program in San Francisco.

On a good day, that line is a ridiculous proposition, an absolutely insane line to utter.  I was at the women’s march with two of my white sisters on Sunday.  Had my creative mind not been so tired, had I not been in a moment of despair, I would have created a great comedic line for another actor to cover the fear and despair that I was experiencing at the moment.  But, this blogpost was needed.  God works through circumstances when we least expect it, and he needed me to explain this moment. 

When I’m prayed up and rested and in a Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” moment, I understand how ridiculous the comment is. But fatigue is also the reality of living with racism for decades and feeling, absolutely, exhausted with all that’s going on at this time.  So, I decided to let the line stay to represent the fatigue of the struggle. For both whites and blacks, there is fatigue, and that’s okay.

But, now, I’ll put on my Mama’s hat for a second and weigh in, right here and now.

WE ARE NEVER TO GIVE UP ON EACH OTHER!

We are to continue talking and fighting and making art and making movies and making songs and teaching and working and playing and governing and protesting and loving and hating, together!  Because, we’re brothers and sisters, and brothers and sisters argue and fight, sometimes.

Skin color is a silly red herring.  It’s the least defining part of a man or a woman, and I feel sorry for people who don’t understand this and haven’t had the joy of loving someone who doesn’t look, anything, like them.  It’s a wonderful experience!

We’re all children of God, and we have to love each other, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

Martin Luther King, Jr, left us wise instructions on this, and we should heed his directive.

Thank you for reading this post.  I love you. Now run over to MeMeSode #3 and catch Angela and George protesting.  And Dr. Thorn handling them like us black women handle a situation:)! It’s under OOBTV/MeMeSode #3

Have a fabulous Tuesday. I’ll catch you next week.

MeMe Kelly

One thought on “When To Give Up On Someone?/The Magic of Filming

  1. Many of my relationship meltdowns are chronicled in my memoir, “FROM DUNBAR TO DESTINY; One Woman’s Journey Through Desegregation and Beyond”. Much of what happened at UCLA shaped my destiny, and my lifelong determination to make a difference for poor, minority children in public schools. Failure is instructive. It’s what you do with what you learn that matters.

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