Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Whoa...all of the late updates.

Hey, remember that one time when I was going to blog every week and talk about TENTS and life was going to be hunky dory? Pardon me a thousand times because the only part of that sentence which has actually come into play EVER this year has been the part about life. And even that fluctuates as often as the amount of water in my water bottle. It's nearly the end of March now. I should mayhaps bring things up to speed.

I released my very first short film during what we called the Day of Learning near the beginning of the semester. Amber wrote an unofficial script, we contacted some actors, and we shot the film in one afternoon/evening. Then I edited and produced it in time to play it on a loop in one of the buildings on campus all day. Beyond the accomplishment of releasing a film, I got the privilege of meeting Steve Taylor (filmmaker, songwriter, musician with connections to Newsboys and such) and he watched my film. Not everyone can say that happened to them on the day they released their first film.

Filming for TENTS plodded along for a while; we mostly shot on the weekends at first. Then post-spring break hit and BAM. 6 hours of filming on a Saturday followed by 3 hours on a Sunday and 2 hours on a Monday night. That didn't happen all the time, I promise...but it happened at least once and guys, we have learned a crap ton about the words "Action!" and "Cut!"

But we cannot ignore the pleasant elephant which has crushed my motivation to write lately, which is the film release schedule. Thursday, March 12, 2015 was my 21st birthday as well as the day that I released the first episode. Since then, it's been a steady process of editing each episode, contacting our incredibly talented composer (Andrew Currier), and getting ready to release each episode. So far, we have two live on the Vimeo channel. The third episode is coming out this Thursday, and then we will take a break for a week to honor Easter break as well as give the editor (me) and the composer a break from thinking about this stuff!

The reception of this series has been unbelievable so far. More than 100 people have watched the two episodes that have been released, and there have been numerous people who have stopped me on campus to ask about TENTS. I've had more than one professor watch the episodes and tell me how much they appreciated them. My production team members have had similar experiences as well. It's amazing what God has done with this project. I would say many more words about it, but most of them would be repetitive.

So what am I learning from all of this? Well, one thing that is not as obvious is that I have learned how to write quickly without sacrificing quality or quantity. That may sound strange, but you have to realize that I am taking four classes that require journals and page-long responses every day. Sophomore Justine would have freaked out...heck, first semester junior Justine would have, too. But this semester has given me a great deal of practice. I've learned how to write 350 words in 15 minutes and get a decent grade for it.

That's not me bragging, that's an observation as well as an affirmation of my major. I am a writing major who can juggle three jobs and 18 credits with a film project riding heavily on my mind. It is possible to be a full-time student and still create good art. I don't have to tell all of you that. But I'll bet there is at least one person out there who needs to hear it.

Here's a fun note to close the broad, vague summary of my life: I will be living in a plex next year! I'm pretty pumped to continue living with Julia, and adding Nicole, Victoria, and Clarissa to the group will complete that satisfaction quite fully. I'll also get to work with most of my roomies at the campus newspaper, which means Plex 21 might take over the world next. So look out, everyone.

Prayer requests.

1. So I don't feel comfortable talking about why at this point, but I have some pretty heavy questions weighing on my mind about next year. Don't worry, I'm not leaving school and joining an indie filmmaking troupe. (But if one ever calls, Julia will have to tie me down to keep me from following them.) However, some circumstances with people here have caused me to wonder about a few decisions that I might want to make before the end of the year.

2. I'm so weary. We have one more day of filming that has eluded us several times due to schedule conflicts, but I desperately want to finish so that I can check that off the list. Filming takes a ton out of you, and wondering how it will go is even worse.

3. I have a couple of friends who are going through some pretty brutal stuff this semester...and I love them too much to just sit back and watch them hurt. So please pray for them...even if you don't pray for the things I'm dealing with right now. They're important people.

Song of the post (wow, it's been a while)...I can FINALLY post songs from Sisters and Brothers by The Vespers because HOORAY the album dropped! So. Here's "We Win," which totally wins in my book...especially this version. I feel as if it it fitting, especially as an encouragement to all of us who are feeling pretty beaten up this semester.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let's get after this.

My ability to tell you about my life and my thoughts was temporarily disabled. For more than a month, in fact. And what caused this inability? Laziness. Pure, uninhibited laziness. So, um...sorry.

Caroline (Tyler), Jason (Tom), and Will (Ted) on set.
Day One of filming for TENTS came and went a little before the end of the semester. We braved the chilly weather, our breath fogging up the coffee shop where we were shooting, and created some pretty great memories. Our actors are phenomenal people and I respect all of them to the highest degree. I'm so pumped to work with them again.

With few regrets, we pushed the rest of filming into second semester and plugged through finals. Christmas break came and I made attempts to explain TENTS to people, sometimes successfully. There was that time at the Christmas Eve party when I explained to one of Daddy's cousins that I want to "go into film" and observed the polite, blank stare that I received in response. It's even worse than when I say I'm a writing and rhetoric major. "Uh...that's nice." Guys, I know you don't want to admit that the rhetoric part confuses you...but you really should. It makes my job easier when I explain what I'm studying.

Speaking of rhetoric, I registered for three rhetoric classes to take second semester. As I ordered my books for my six classes, I figured I would be just fine. Then classes began. Wow. That's a lot of studying rhetorical concepts. Thankfully, I am also taking a short fiction writing class and a science fiction and philosophy class. It's been a packed semester so far, but I am loving my classmates and having two solid English professors teach all but one of my classes is truly a privilege.

Some of you may already know this, but one of my stories from Intro to Narrative and Verse got published in a literary journal. (http://scholar.valpo.edu/act/vol2/iss1/34/) I dedicated it to Daddy since it is about my relationship with him. It was a complicated process to submit the piece, which is a great story if you ever want to hear it, but in the end, I was able to put together a hard copy of the original edition and give it to Daddy for Christmas. Hearing him say, "It's very good" and then watching him melt in front of me was far more rewarding than bragging rights or a portfolio piece.

Currently, I am juggling my six classes, Student Activities, RED411, TENTS, two hours in the Writing Center, and duties as a copy editor for the school newspaper. I regularly conclude that I am over-booked, but then I remember how much fun I have doing these things. I am also working with some people on a short film to show at NW's Day of Learning that is coming up next month.

Telling stories. That's what I'll be doing all of this semester. Please be in prayer for the people whose lives will be affected by these stories. I don't know where TENTS is going, I have no clue what this film for DoL will look like when it is finished. It's going to be crazy. This is the time when I just have to depend on Jesus to point me towards the correct stories.

Prayer requests...health. Our schedules are exploding and it IS winter. Stress levels are high and it's only January. Time management. Endurance. Peace about a few different situations.

Video of the post is "Lawdy" by The Vespers. I realize that I post about this band all the time, but Callie and Phoebe Cryar are my spirit animals. Plus, their lyrics are on point.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The contrast is killing me.

What a crazy four weeks. Family visiting here, Thanksgiving Break, writing workshops, deep conversations, a road trip home and back. Wow. My heart is full.

I'll be real with you here--I've been dragging from one day to the next for the past month. It's been a struggle to find motivation for anything, especially writing about not having motivation. But now that I am motivated, let me tell you some of the things on my heart.

I have seen such hatred and sadness and pain this month. It tears me apart. I just want people to see and practice the words of Jesus when He said, "the greatest of these is love." As my heart aches for so many reasons, I constantly remind myself of that command.

I have had conversations recently that reminded me of the different seasons in friendship. It wasn't easy to hear those words...but I know what I heard was true.

I have sat in a classroom full of people who do not know about my Tourette's, begging God to calm my tics down...just for a little longer. In turn, I have sat in a car with a friend who will soon portray my constant companion and received a refreshing curiosity expressed through probing questions. The contrast kills me a little bit inside. The more I speak, the less I can restrain myself from pointing out the pain that I can perceive in others who have not been spoken for yet.

That's what is on my heart, primarily. I want to seek healing for those who cannot find it themselves. If that means making six short films, that is what I shall do. If that means being an outspoken writer and speaker for my disorder, I shall find a way to do it. I cannot close my mouth any longer. There is too much damage to the broken hearts around me to ignore.

Is that a little over dramatic? You might say so. But if Twitter and Facebook users can explode news feeds with advocacy every day of the year, surely I can fill a single blog post with milder words.

I don't remember if I have posted this one before...but "Through Your Eyes" by Jenny and Tyler never fails to break my heart and put it back together again.

Prayer for this week...dead week is beginning. Wow, there is so much to do. That means less than 2 weeks of stress before a new kind of stress begins: Christmas craziness (I mean break, but you know).

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Growing Callouses

It's come to that time in the semester where my words are fewer and fewer. However, things have been tough this week and I currently have more in my head.

The last two days have been a learning experience...about growing callouses. I wish I could say that meant I have been walking more and dealing with physical blisters. But no, I mean figuratively. Because really, when am I not speaking metaphorically about something?

There is a Facebook page being run by someone on campus that posts anonymous confessions and compliments. I'm not going to name it because I don't want to lead any of you there (if you haven't seen it already, that is). Normally, I simply ignore the posts because I have refused to like the page and have no desire to read what is being said. But on Tuesday night, I accidentally stumbled across a post that, to be vague, said very unkind things about my videos. It kinda punched me in the gut. Not because they were being critical--which is fine, I need some perspectives from my audience--but because of the words actually used.

I walked to supper a few minutes later, my head buzzing in the way it does when adrenaline hits. I couldn't really breathe for a while. The cold air shocked me enough to keep me going to the caf, but when I got there, I kinda just stood and stared blankly at things. I talked to people I trusted about it, and then I went to work. Just stuff it down and pretend it didn't happen, right?

Wrong. I went over and spent some time with my former wingmates in their apartment after I got done tutoring, and I couldn't quite shake the pit the size of a volleyball in the bottom of my stomach. When I finally told them about the posts and cried for a while, I temporarily felt somewhat better. I remembered why I always come to these people for comfort and thinking time. They're safe. They're consistent. They're willing to be honest in ways that sting rather than cut.

Yesterday was a process of stuffing it behind all of my other priorities. I had supper with Michael, and we talked about using it as a learning experience to build a tougher skin. I went to bed last night beginning to feel at least a little bit less raw.

Then at lunch today, Amber looked at me and said, "So...you might have started a trend." Crap. Together, we read a post with quite a positive light about RED411...followed by a lengthy post with a thorough, kind critique of my work. This one named me rather than vaguely targeting the editor. While I am not sure how I feel about being named on a page like that one, I appreciate the reason behind it.

I also appreciate the feedback they gave me. Much of it is going to be implemented, actually. Based on this situation, I am working on making some changes to the weekly routine as well as the format of the videos. The suggestions were quite helpful as well as respectful, which did so much for my spirit. So to whoever you are, THANK YOU. You have not gone unheard. Your opinions and ideas have value and I shall work my hardest to improve based on these and other comments.

To the people who stood up for me (specifically Cosmin, Julia, Logan, Amanda, Brianne, Clarissa, and Melody): I am so grateful. To those of you who did not get named but quietly supported me, you are so appreciated.

I do not know who originally said the hurtful things, but to whoever you are: I'm sorry I couldn't please you. I'm trying to improve. It's really, really hard. I'm working three jobs and I'm a full time student. I haven't even had this job a full year. I plead with you to give me grace, if you have any desire to do so. Thank you for helping me learn a lesson, even though it hurt more than you know to go through this.

Prayer requests: People are getting sick, both here and back home. I don't like it when people I care about start to feel icky. TENTS is trying so hard to get moving...it's just taking longer than we wanted, I guess. I'm learning so much, both from Drew and from our recent experimentation. But there is always more to learn.

Lastly. The crap that I just spent quite a while explaining. I'm still hurting. Some people I love are still upset. I'd like to stop being upset and hurt and all of that. Please pray that I learn more than I hurt in this situation.

Video of the post...Jake Holman is a recent discovery of mine (or rather, recent obsession), and this track "ARAQACAD" is short but wonderful. I love it. I am haunted by it. I have found comfort in it this week. I hope you like it.

God loves me, and God's love will always be enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Anxiously wait for it, sleep on it, stress out about it, pray about it.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Why haven't I written in the last couple of weeks? The honest answer is that I kept forgetting on the weekends, and I simply do not have the motivation to catch up on the weekdays. The preferred answer is that TENTS has begun to consume my life in a beautiful way. Yeah, let's actually talk about that for a bit.

After stressful days of planning and emailing and promoting, our team left for fall break. I stayed on campus with my two favorite Colorado Abby friends, and together we managed to be royally unproductive and watch lots of Narnia. Not a bad way to live for 3 or 4 days--sleep, eat, sleep, watch movies, sleep, eat. Perfect, actually.

But the highlight of break was the trip to Iowa City for the annual dance gala at the University of Iowa on Sunday. I traveled in a van full of RUSH dance choreographers and lighting designers, mainly because I would be bored if I stayed behind. The event and the day were fun; however, my favorite part of the trip was the five-hour drive home. Abby and I talked to our professor (and driver) about TENTS and Tourette's for the majority of the drive. I would describe the conversation in more detail...but much of it just feels more special as an untold story to be remembered through how I apply the things we discussed.

It humbled me to describe Tourette's to someone who barely knows me. The typical "what does it make you do?" question was rephrased to "what does that mean for you and your life?" Funny how a differently worded sentence gives a fresh perspective on a question that never gets any more enjoyable to answer.

I went to bed that night with a head full of ideas and questions about how to make TENTS better. Then on Wednesday, the first day back from break, we held auditions for the film project and 31 people tried out. God's greatness blew me away. Although 5 hours of sitting in a hot room was not my favorite thing, I loved watching people play improv games and stretch themselves.

This post is scattered and vague. Sorry. My life is crazy and stressful, making my thought processes disorganized.

OKAY. Prayer requests (dang, it has been a while!) for the following week. TENTS auditions and callbacks have come and gone, but now we have to begin scheduling and filming. Everyone on our team is swamped with work and projects...and stress. I'm waiting to find out whether I have heart problems or merely stress manifesting itself into dizziness and rapid heart rates.

Song of the post...because this week, I actually have an idea for one. "The Precipice" by The Classic Crime ends with an a cappella chorus that haunts my heart for hours afterwards.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Busy, anxious, happy days.

I remember a day during my freshman year when someone I respected (at the time) told me that she didn't think I should talk so much about personal things on my blog. Her words hit me pretty hard. For a long time, I could hear her voice running through the back of my mind every time I updated this blog. It wasn't until early this summer--nearly two years later--that I realized her opinion really did not matter. At all. While her thoughts may have been important to me at the time that they were expressed, I eventually walked away from our friendship hurt and broken...all because of things connected to that very conversation. Ever since then, my journey has been partially (though more cautiously) traceable through these posts.

Why am I telling that story? It came to mind as I processed what to talk about this week. The past week has been a blur full of busy, anxious, happy days. One of these does not seem to belong, but trust me. It fits.

We put another piece of the TENTS project puzzle into place when we set audition dates and times (to be announced in the next 24 hours, actually). The final details of our project proposal are being finalized tonight and then we can move towards actually promoting this crazy thing. Again, if you haven't checked out TENTS, you should definitely like the Facebook page and keep an eye on what we are doing this year.

As for schoolwork, tutoring, Beacon, and RED411 business, it was an overwhelming yet rewarding week. I love working with Michael on video projects, and he has been able to accompany me during filming much more frequently so far this year. I love having him to support me, even when he is rather distracting to my actors...and to me. Copy editing has also proven to be far more enjoyable than I had originally expected it to be. I take joy in working with fellow writers and sometimes I even get to help someone out with a few AP style book questions (if that doesn't make sense, don't worry about it).

Something that I found interesting about this week was that while my Tourette's calmed down considerably, my anxiety has been bouncing up and down almost daily. What a strange sensation it is when your body goes through an attack and you simply lie there, taking it in such a casual manner that it frightens you more than the attack itself. My roommate has been a champ throughout the entire ordeal...not many people have had to sit with me through multiple attacks in a week's time.

"But Justine," you might protest, "you said there were happy days this week!" And you would be correct.

As busy and stressed and anxious as I have been, one extended happy moment came when Natalie called Michael and I on Friday to say that she got the part of Belle in "The Carol," a Christian adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" that my church has done multiple times. Both of my parents also have roles (Bob Cratchit and Mature Belle), but I was most excited about my sister finally getting the role that she has been wishing to play for most of her life. God willing, I'll be at one of those performances in December and that will be the day that I can say "That's my sister!" when she finishes her solo at the end of her time on stage. And that will be a grand night.

Prayer stuff...because in case you haven't realized it, that is a pretty huge need. Of course, there is the TENTS project--please pray for actors. We kinda need them. :) The anxiety crap needs to stop happening. So there's that. Also, there is a possible internship thing (which I shall not go into detail about at this point) that I need to consider, as much as it tears me apart to consider anything besides camp for next summer.

Pretty sure I've had this song of the post before...but it fits. Really, really well. So it's back. "Slow Down" by Mike Mains and The Branches is one of my top five songs of 2014, but the acoustic version really hits me in the feels, if we're going to use totally nontechnical language.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Are you really living by not doing it?"

Whoa, hey. Guess who is pretty late at updating around here? Sorry about that. Things got rather busy last weekend and then I forgot to post this weekend.

Life has been a whirlwind of class, meetings, video editing, and planning for TENTS--oh, and I did some homework and slept a bit as well. In all seriousness, sometimes I wonder how I actually accomplish everything without getting at least one late grade on an assignment. On the bright side, I have no time to procrastinate, so I suppose that is a good thing, right?

Our production team!
If you had told me a month ago that the TENTS project would have support from multiple faculty members, I would have been baffled by your creative thinking. Yet here we are at the end of September with a tentative release date, a project proposal, production team publicity shots, and a social media page with a quickly growing number of subscribers (https://www.facebook.com/tentstogether). There are two printed copies of the script; we have a tentative date for auditions; we have plans to design posters early in October.

We have an assistant director! That may not sound like a big deal, but we have been praying for an additional member to our team in order to effectively get this project running smoothly, and last week we were finally able to confirm everyone's roles and bring more people onto the team. We also have two faculty advisers, which means our conversations with Northwestern leadership will be supported and assisted. God is so good.

On Friday night, our team got together and talked for three hours about where we want to take the project. During that meeting, I realized yet again just how crazy this idea really is...but I also realized that it is actually happening. By this time next year, six short films will have premiered online and been released on Northwestern's campus. That's pretty crazy awesome. I have no idea where God is taking this thing, but I do know one thing: at this time last year, I thought I was going to be a copy editor and I was becoming friends with 80% of the people on this team.

That's the craziest part. Besides Michael, I barely knew or had not even met any of the other team members until September or October of sophomore year. Now we're about to kick off the biggest independent project that Northwestern has seen in a long time...or maybe the biggest ever. Funny how God works.

Next week I shall be back to thinking about what life has been teaching me day by day, but for now I'd just like to ask you to do two things.

The first thing is to like our Facebook page. Most likely, if you are reading this, you are already friends with me on FB. If you haven't connected to "Tents: Something Built Together," please do so. The wider our presence gets, the more people we can reach when these films are finished.

The second thing is to pray for us. Pray really hard. We're just now seeing ways that God is moving this project in the right direction, but we don't want TENTS to be limited to what we can see. Our team needs unity in order to function. Auditions are after fall break, but there is so much to do before then. We all have jobs and busy schedules and other commitments and--gasp!--other relationships to maintain.

Rather than finding a song of the post this week, I am leaving you with a quote from one of my film maker heroes, Olan Rogers:

"There will be people that will say you can't make a living out of something you love to do. But are you really living by not doing it?"

God loves me, and God's love is enough.