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In which I come out of the depression closet

First, if you have not read the brilliant Rob Roberge’s essay, Crazy, go do that. I’m going to keep promoting it until everyone does.

Last days of crowdfunding to cover the post-production costs: an extra day of shooting and those crew members, insurance, camera rental, editing, color correcting, titles, score, film festival entry fees, etc. You may have noticed I have fallen down on the job a bit. Robin WilliamsThings like getting rear-ended and having to deal with reams of paperwork took up way too much time. Gah! Back to my point…. The anniversary of Robin Williams’ suicide is coming up in a week. Last year, it changed my life. I have been in and out of therapy most of my life. Turns out I have dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder. So you see THE GREEN BENCH isn’t just some bit a fiction I wrote. It isn’t only about other people. I have a stake in this. Given the statistics, we all do really. I’m writing a memoir about it, particularly about its origins, but more on that another time.

Heather Gordon Young has a good piece about Cecil the Lion and her brother Jimmy’s mental struggles and why not only do we need to reduce stigma, but why we need all of us, including those of us who struggle with mental illness and depression. We grow poorer when we lose people like Jimmy or Robin Williams to suicide. I will say this much now about my own depression: I used the same reasoning Robin Williams did – I would never do anything to harm myself once I had children. I have two. He had three. And it didn’t matter. That woke me up and I went to a psychiatrist for the first time. I’m a textbook case. I told her what was going on and she read it right back to me out of the DSM. 2 of the 6 need to be present for diagnosis:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness

I had all 6 including poor appetite, insomnia, and both poor concentration and difficulty making decisions. I thought that was me, but what a difference with an anti-depressant. Old obsessions melted away, I can sleep, I rarely skip meals any more, I don’t always feel hopeless and when it hits, I can fight it off and have healthy self-esteem for the first time.

If you want to celebrate my coming out of the mental illness closet, help us get to $12,000 by Thursday. Your donation is tax deductible. We have a ways to go, but I know there is a patron out there somewhere, an angel who will help this project get out to the festivals, then into the hands of the mental health community. Let’s stop the stigma.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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2 minutes with Keene McRae on set

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Crowdfunding Phase 2 for The Green Bench

Have been busy lately working on a non-fiction book, adapting the short film, The Green Bench, into a feature, so lots of writing. Also, we are collecting for post-production costs, including additional photography, color correction, musical score, editing and so on. You can go to this link to contribute: http://igg.me/at/greenbench/x/9140860

This film is one of the best things I’ve done on many levels, the first of which are all the stories I have been privy to. Just about everyone knows someone who’s affected by mental illness. Not all of the stories are sad. Some are great, but too many of the great ones stay hidden for fear of job loss, etc. It’s time to change that and we hope this little film helps in that regard. We will be making it available to mental health organizations for free after we finish the festival circuit. Some festivals have rules about the film being shown in other venues, which is why we need to wait.

 IndieGoGo DONATION PAGE (TAX DEDUCTIBLE!)

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Gale Harold and Keene McRae with director, Jim Likens

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Adaptation – UPDATED

green bench_billing blockLast year, I worked on the screenplay for the short film version of The Green Bench. Unlike novels, screenplays are intended to be a group effort. Lots of people bring their abilities and you won’t be happy if you are not flexible. The major plot points and themes, yes, fight for those. However, if you’re fortunate, actors will breathe life into your characters in new ways, chemistry happens between a group of actors that you cannot plan for, the camera crew lights and frames according to their expertise, the director has his or her creative vision, and so on. The director’s creative vision may align with yours and they will still bring new ideas and shading to scenes and to the work as a whole. All of the cast and crew names are on a film for very good reasons.

As with short stories, short films are all about distilling down to the essential elements. Short stories done well are more difficult than novels – in longer works, you might be able to pause to explore or add in another point of view. There is no room for that in short forms. When we got a script that was ready to shoot, it turned out to be an absolute joy on set. Everyone was upbeat and professional. Whenever a crew assembles, sometimes the family is functional and sometimes not. This time it was. There were a handful of smaller parts I wrote with friends in mind and they delivered flawlessly. It’s rare to have that voice in your head be the same one on set and it was pure joy to experience.

Yakira Chambers and DS

Yakira Chambers and DS on set

Now I am working to expand that short work into a longer one. Oh boy! After all that distillation, now it is time to broaden, develop and enlarge. I’ve had the great good fortune to get to know poet Brendan Constantine and he gave me notes as only a poet can on the short version. Poets look at the small, the minute. If you’ve never asked a poet to give you notes, do. It’s a whole new world! Things I would never have thought of and, perhaps counterintuitively, gave me a few jumping off points to expand the work. For example, is there anyone else in one particular scene that is not referenced who would logically be in the background? Who else is impacted by Evan’s illness? I saw right away that his best friend needs to be a part of the larger story. What is more interesting to explore, before or after? In this case, after is where all the drama lives. I don’t yet know if I will pull it off successfully, but it’s stretching me in unexpected ways and the unexpected journey is the most fun and satisfying.

UPDATE: Kate Maruyama is thinking about short vs long as well and was kind enough to mention me in her post along with Heather Luby and Matthew Salesses

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Heather Luby, Kate Maruyama, Matthew Salesses

 

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I cannot tell you his name

North KoreaYears ago, I read an account from a man interviewed anonymously who escaped North Korea with the help of Christians and he spoke about the guilt he felt for surviving. This poured out in response and while the starvation may have eased in recent years, in the light of Kim Jong-Un reviving the recruitment of “pleasure squads” to serve him and the continued persecution of Christians there, the news of Garissa and so on, it seemed time to repost on this Passover/Easter weekend. I don’t claim to be a poet, but this is my small nod to National Poetry Month.

Can one man make a difference?

I cannot tell you his name, only that he went into North Korea in winter

He cried at the bitter cold conditions and gave them clothing

I cannot tell you his name when they began the interrogation

but the name of his savior is Jesus.

Can one man make a difference?

His crime against the People’s Republic of North Korea

Was to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The desperate and starving saw a ray of hope

The sick and the dying saw the face of God

He told them the names of the great I AM:

Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide)

Jehovah-rapha (the Lord who heals)

Jehovah-ra-ah (the Lord my shepherd)

He cannot tell you the name of the man arrested for stealing

beaten until he begged for death

Released. And then arrested again

Rationed to morning beatings with thick bats

Rationed until his diarrhea became uncontrollable

Rationed to eating dirty rags used to clean toilets, until he died.

Can one man make a difference?

I cannot tell you his name

when they arrested him again.

Only that he had hope, he had the Word

He had been to the mountain of spices

54 more days knowing kicks and blows of judo experts

54 more days knowing the living corpses around him

54 more days knowing the young woman sentenced

to 3 years for 1 Bible.

I cannot tell you the name of the man

beaten and twisted and starved in the bitter cold

until he could not stand

I can tell you he did not renounce his God.

Do not throw the word torture around like a beach ball

Do not use the word torture when you mean interrogation

When you mean inconvenient

When you mean insensitive

Can one man make a difference?

He will tell you Jesus did and the Christians who paid his debt

But he cannot tell you their names

He will tell you they bought his freedom

He will tell you he would have died to save their money

I cannot tell you his name

Only of his apology for using that money to return alive

and his gratitude to be alive to share the love of Christ

as an enemy of the state of North Korea.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Will you sit down?

I don’t care if Fincher actually said this or not. It sounds true and right now, it is true. (Language, you’ve been warned)

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I have not met David Fincher (yet), but I have had lunch with his good friend, Eric Roth, and I learned a lot from him. Mostly about attitude and moving forward.

No one hands you your work, whether it’s a film, a play, a novel, a painting, whatever. No one hands it to you. A writer friend just posted on FB: hundreds of pages written over several years and now the revising starts. It’s a hard long slog most of the time with no control over how it will be received. You put the paint on canvas, words on the page, create digital sound and images and take the leap.

Right now, we are in the home stretch in pre-production for the short film. There are days when I figure we might as well have made it a feature! And perhaps that is still to come. For a short story, every word counts, For a short film, every word and every person, as well. It’s a lot of coordinating and clashing and scheduling and opinions and herding of cats. But we’re getting there. There comes a point when the story will be written or shot or published or acted, when momentum takes over and you keep going no matter what others say or what you’ve (up until now) thought your limits were. Fear and doubt take a back seat. And no one, but no one, can tell you to sit down or shut up.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

What I’ve been up to

Sorry, it’s been too long since I’ve posted. Been consumed with pre-production and crowdfunding for The Green Bench. Here’s our video on why we care. Huge thanks to the family members willing to talk on camera as well as Sharon Dunas, former head of NAMI Westside and Dr. Stephen Marder, a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia.

Please watch, share, donate. Thank you. All of us working on the film are passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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