You Can Be Here.

[this was mostly written on tuesday evening. it took me a while.]

I wouldn’t know how else to write this. To be half-disappointed in myself because I had three drinks with a friend/coworker at our local haunt. But then to know that if I told my friend Dale about my disappointment he would slyly smile and tell me to Ah, fuck off. You’re great. That’s wonderful.

A year ago today, Evan and I were laying on our carpet in our living room, drinking whisky. Trying to sum up the courage to listen to a piece of art. A piece of sound. It was a dedication to our friend Dale. He was on his deathbed. His literal deathbed.

Deathbed. I cannot believe how jovially I used that term before I knew someone—loved someone—who laid their head on a pillow that lived on a deathbed.

We wept. I don’t know if Evan and I said a word to each other that whole night. We just listened. Deeply.

Dale was a friend, mentor, inspiration to both of us. He was a professor of mine. He was one of those people who meant so much to me, but I only filled a small slot in the multi-paged dance card of admirers he had.

We had a few conversations circled around my intense insecurity about being an artist. Or—rather—not being an artist at all. Being a complete imposter. Crying about it as he told me that most people call themselves artists and never make anything. He told me that I was making so much and not calling myself an artist, which wasn’t fair to anyone.

Dale was a huge part of “20/Nothing.” He had mentored us through the project and his hand in everything meant so much to us. We picked him up from his house in the craziest blizzard Missoula had ever seen. We slide all around the roads as we drove to the university. We sat in terrified silence in the studio as we screened “20/Nothing” for him. It finished. We sat in silence. He stared at the blank/finished screen and then said…

– One more time.

We pushed play again.

It finished. He looked at us and said…

– Well, hell. You kids have something here.

All of our insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

He was the first person I texted when we won the PBS POV Award.

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In his own way, he got in that positive jab. Did he invent that? Making fun of someone whilst simultaneously complimenting them to the core?

During all our talk about being an artist or not, I told Dale about how much I wanted to do an art installation one day. He encouraged me, telling me he was always—especially—excited to help with those kinds of projects.

The last day I saw Dale, we did not speak. I just saw him briefly and he nodded at me and I knew something was wrong. He did not look well.

I found out that day he was sick. He was going to die.

I couldn’t stop thinking about our last conversation. I had seen him in the hallway and asked if I could talk with him about something I couldn’t shake. I was in the car with a producer, working on a film, and the producer hit a puppy and it was horrible and it was a nightmare and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Dale told me that I couldn’t shake it because I was a caring person and we should never feel bad for caring. He so readily comforted the fact that we were human and stood up for the goodness in all of us and acknowledged the fucked-up-ness in all of it.

We walked together out to the parking lot and the conversation turned to his frustrations with some parts of his job. His last words to me were paired with a very Dale curtsey,

– They don’t even pay for my parking, Rachel.

Those were the last words. And then he was gone.

Then we were laying on the floor, listening to this piece of sound. This piece of art. Dale’s dance card of loved ones saying goodbye.

 

 

 

………

 

A week later, it was time to name my thesis project for my master’s program. I adamantly insisted on an art installation.

It was a crazy idea I pitched and Frontier Space accepted. They accepted it so much that they insisted it be a First Friday opening.

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My idea was to take out the timers in parking meters and change them to music boxes. I also wanted to recreate parking tickets, rewrite them. Change the things they say to be inviting, encouraging, raw, open. Inviting people in. Talking about all the people that I want to be here. And cover a wall with them. Pink tickets. That was the color they had on campus.

It was the craziest time of my life. Learning a new art form, moving to Bozeman [for a new job], commuting to and fro between Missoula and Bozeman [because of aforementioned new job], starting the new job, trying to keep up with a newly-minted fiancé, finishing my master’s work, and ordering a ton of parking meter and music box pieces from eBay and praying to god it all works out.

Evan Smith was a saint and the most clutch team-member you’d ever want on your squad. He was an incredible tinkerer.

I wrote. Evan tinkered. I helped tinker. Evan welded. My advisor gave constant and solid advice. I spent many a nights in a small, cold space, reflecting, installing.

“You Can Be Here” was born.

I reached out to Dale’s wife to seek her input/approval. She said she could only come by late the night before the show opened. I was terrified.

It was all set up, ready to go, but the meters weren’t placed in their final positions yet.

She walked in the small space at 10:15pm and I held my breath. She looked around and made frank observations and gave honest critiques and advice.

– The meters need to be all in one line, close to the tickets.

And then on…

– You need to get the title of the show and your name printed in vinyl and put up on the wall.

She kept saying things like…

– Dale must’ve warned you about me, right? How I don’t hold anything back with my critiques.

I assured her I loved every turn, twist, and scenic overlook of this feedback.

We talked about art. About installations. We talked about how art is such an important part of the grieving process. We talked about Dale.

Then she said…

– This is really good. Dale would’ve approved. This needs to travel.

And then my insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

That moment. That late night approval. That love. That was one of my favorite moments ever. It was connected in all the ways you want to exist.

“You Can Be Here” existed.

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The next evening was also up there. So many loved ones, so many strangers, gathered in an alley. They picked up coins. They discovered the meters. They listened to music. They read the tickets. They laughed. They cried.

I was a buzzing part of it all. Dale was a gentle part of it all. It all shined. It all pulsated. It was everything.

It was one of the best times of my life in the saddest and the most joyous and the most connected way.

Thank you.

You can be here.

Please.

 

really looking at ourselves.

I’ve been thinking about this blahg and how it’s funny that I’ll just wait and then spill all of this stuff on you… on the internet… on record… so much just comes out and it leaves everyone involved bewildered.

But that’s how my life is now. I’ll meet a friend for quick coffee and in a flurry of lattes I’ll divulge current fears laced with darkest secrets and pepper in recent comical embarrassments. It’s amazing that these friends are still around. Obviously, I’m insane. In the same vein, thank you for being here.

Tonight I walked to the pub theater again to watch The Skeleton Twins with a few lady friends…

I loved it. The review “heart-crushingly real” resonates. And Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader together in a dramatic comedy? I die. I loved it.

So much so that when I was walking home and realized it was game five of the world series and stopped in a dive bar to watch the rest of the Kansas City slaughter, I had to write about how much I felt The Skeleton Twins. But I didn’t bring my journal, so I had to write on the back of the movie ticket. Don’t worry. Don’t worry I still glued it in…

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Speaking of amazing films that I cannot stop thinking about…

Ida. GO WATCH IDA.

It might be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Every single frame is frame-worthy. It is beautiful.

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Plus it’s about a young religious woman and a drunk aunt… both forces I deeply relate to. It is amazing. You can rent it via Amazon. It comes with my highest recommendation.

Also, I think Lynne Ramsay is becoming my favorite filmmaker…

That link may not work as embedded, because it’s a serious, award-winning, short that is inexplicably on YouTube. So just go here, if it doesn’t work. Do yourself a favor. Trigger warning: I would’ve appreciated knowing that there’s a minor OD scene.

When I was young (I can’t remember how young… 12?… 10?… unclear.), we had this old towel that lived in the cupboard. I believe it was a towel of my grandmothers. It had this amazing vintage pattern on it. It was a pattern that I thought was so beautiful; the kind of pattern the movie stars would wear on the red carpet or for interviews on the Jay Leno show. Here’s the embarrassing admission that my family (or myself) was a Jay Leno fan, instead of David Letterman. (I did have an aunt who pointed this flaw [and many other flaws] out at any opportunity.)

I would sneak that towel into my bedroom and wrap it around me like a dress. It was glamorous. I would then use the full-length mirror in my room as the stage of the Late Night Show. I would be in my make-believe-world pretending that someone wanted to interview me about something on national television. My make-believe fame was hilarious. I was famous for “being a really nice person.” THAT’S what make-believe-famous Rachel was famous for. This is comical for two reasons: 1. I’m not even the nicest person in this room. I’m not the worst asshole in the world, but I am certainly not nice enough to write home about. 2. Even at a young age, I was skeptical about my talents. At age 11, I couldn’t even make up a plausible dream-reason for me to be interviewed.

A few weeks ago, I hung up the phone after talking with PBS about 20/Nothing. I immediately texted my best friend, my mother, and Evan…

“I just got off the phone from talking about a film I made with the people at PBS… so, I think this might be some sort of life-highlight. had to share/brag with my bf, bff, and mom. xxo.”

It’s not Jay Leno and I wasn’t wearing a fancy towel, but it felt like something. It felt like something I had rehearsed for. It felt like something I was dreaming about… even though that dream wasn’t specific. It was surreal.

The interview lives on PBS’ website now: http://www.pbs.org/pov/20nothing/interview.php An excerpt…

POV: How did you come to the last scene in 20/Nothing? Was the plan always for the film to end with a shot of Evan without his eye?

Rachel Stevens: The theme we were given was “Behind the Curtain,” so we knew we were going to have to have Evan take his eye out. People are usually either grossed out or fascinated by this scene; both reactions are a win for the film. I think the last scene in 20/Nothing is what being human is all about. Sometimes really looking at ourselves (or each other) makes us uncomfortable, but there is real beauty in fully embracing the “imperfections” in us.

I am insanely proud and insanely grateful for this PBS love. This is a dream that came to fruition almost before I knew I wanted it. I couldn’t have done it without an incredibly talented and incredibly supported group of people. Thank you, Sarah, Caitlin, and Tuna. (And [obviously] thank you, Evan… my muse and my rock.)

Have I bragged enough? No? Oh, well, by nothing of my own talent, a photo of me appeared on National Geographic’s website this past week…

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 10.47.04 PMStrong work, Chuck Haney!

I really thought my parents would love this fame. This one’s for y’all!

A couple months ago Evan and I went for a van trip. An overnight that was filled with some of the biggest smiles. We took the Polaroid even though it’s been on the fritz. I took a photo of Evan standing in/next to the van… Evan in his happy place… in his element. The photo didn’t come out how we wanted. It broke. It’s broken. But I. love. this. photo. I’ve been waiting to share it…

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In the error of development, Evan still has a cheshire-cat-esque smile, which is shockingly on-point when compared to a true capture. Do you see the thumbnail crescent smile of his? On the broken film? Amazing. I love it so.

This post was brought to you by listening to Stars’ album “Set Yourself On Fire” twice in a row. And by two weeks worth of listening to this song on repeat and being mildly obsessed with its video…

Y’all take care. Thanks for the ramble.

[the ramble.]

Step 1: Be Unrealistic.

Class was cancelled this morning. After I was already sitting at the coffee shop, flustering to get all the scripts together that I need to read and making note of the loose ends I need to tie up, my three-hour class was cancelled and I have a couple hours to myself at this escape.

So as an homage to the me who sat in countless [countless!] coffee shops in Wyoming and Australia, blahgging away about hopes of love and hopes of success and observations of beauty, I sit and write.

And actually discover and listen to good music…

…instead of embarrassingly [enthusiastically] listening to Top 40 hits whilst working.

The beginning of my last year of grad school has been met with much appreciation and frustration. I am making films. People are excited that I am making films for them. I am making films for Adventure Cycling…

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on set of an Epic Montana shoot. photo by Mick Faherty.

I am making a documentary about some of the most incredible families I’ve ever met. I have a phone call with PBS today. I am meeting tonight to discuss a sequel-ish to my most infamous work.

This is a dream come true. Beyond a dream.

This semester I am taking classes more focused around fiction, narrative. Writing. Creating. I have always wanted to be a writer. Thought that I could write. There are two compliments I hold above all others. They happened within two years from each other, both spoken by men that should not have held as much clout as they did in my life. They both had recently read something that I wrote and looked at me in the eyes and said…

– You are a writer.

And now I sit in front of my computer, ready to compose something more for my Screenwriting class, and I can’t. I don’t feel like a writer when I try to write a screenplay. Sometimes I do get words down. They’re all shit. It’s so frustrating.

And I’m so inspired lately. So insanely inspired by every ounce around me. I want to write/make short films as amazing as this…

The Video Dating Tape of Desmondo Ray, Aged 33 & 3/4 from Steve Baker on Vimeo.

And as badass as this…

Jettison Your Loved Ones from Court 13 on Vimeo.

Even as perfect as this little one…

ASPIRATIONAL from Matthew Frost on Vimeo.

It’ll happen, right? I’ll write something worth making into them movin’ pictures, right? Yes and yes.

I just read the screenplay of Little Miss Sunshine.

It made me love the movie even more, which I didn’t think was possible. Michael Arndt [who wrote the screenplay] is such an encouragement. He put this in the back:

LMS_script_1 LMS_script_2
I love this. I love it so much.

In everything, remember who you are and where you came from and that if you take yourself too seriously, you’ll kill the things you love… but if you don’t take the things you love seriously, you’ll let yourself die.

Since I’m here and we hardly talk anymore, let me show you all the songs that I am loving right now [along with the one from the beginning of this post… which I can’t stop listening to]…

Thanks, Ash!

[so so excited for that album.]

Also, I saw this film last night…

HO-LY HELLLLL. It was dark, intense, awesome, weird, beautiful. I highly recommend it.

I thought I was going to see it by myself. Evan was at the library studying, I thought I’d walk down to the pub theater and see a late movie by myself. [Sidenote: I love Missoula.] I texted Ev, “I’m going to see the 9pm show. see you at home later! xxo.” When I got to the theater, Evan was standing outside, locking up his bike.

– I wanted to hang out with you.

We went inside, bought tickets, and went to get a glass of wine. Some dear friends [another couple] were there, going to the same movie. We hugged. We sat with them. We all laughed at the humorous parts together. We all clutched our significant other during the [weirdly, yet highly] suspenseful parts together.

Afterwards, we stood outside the theater and talked about different theories and getting input from each other to try and clarify all the mindfucks. [there were a lot… this movie is awesome.]

It was a wondrous, unexpected/much-needed, double-date.

So that’s where I am. Sitting in a coffee shop, blahgging, actively encouraging inspiration, hoping that I can find talent by drinking from this glowing latte mug…

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I want more mornings like this.

[i want more time here.]

A Love Letter. Re: 20/Nothing.

Dear All,

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about 20/Nothing on this here blahg.

The whole International Documentary Challenge was an insane, amazing experience.

workingon20nothing
Through one of Missoula’s craziest blizzards, Sarah Meismer, Caitlin Hofmeister, Josef “Tuna” Metesh, and myself spent five days making a film we love about a guy we love: Evan Smith. We had 20/Nothing.

Then our film was named a finalist. We were beyond ecstatic. Sarah, Tuna, and I were lucky enough* to be able to go to Toronto to watch 20/Nothing on the big screen at the Hot Docs International Film Festival.

After watching all of the amazing films, we stood up on stage, aside so many other incredible filmmakers as they announced awards for this whole competition. We won “Best Experimental Film.” And then we won PBS P.O.V. Award.

I was shocked.

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We were excited.

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We came back to Missoula. We were on cloud nine. But we still couldn’t show anyone this film we love.

Now we can. Now it’s in a competition on The Audience Awards website.

Before the competition started, I was not excited about this film I love going head-to-head in basically a who-has-more-friends-on-Facebook-contest.

But now? I want to win. Why? Two reasons:

• I want to win this competition in the same vein that I want to win scholarships, Scrabble, soccer, and that one cheesecake eating contest I entered. I work hard. I care hard. I put my all into a lot of things. And I want to win. It’s not the reason I play, enter, make, or eat… but it’s there.

• I am insanely proud of 20/Nothing. I want to put another laurel under this film’s belt.

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So I’m asking you to vote for 20/Nothing. There is only one day left to do so. Today. Sunday.

But more importantly than that, I’m asking you to watch 20/Nothing.

And Maikaru.

And Nobody Loves Joel Romeo.

And Bruise Ballet.

And Hoofer.

I want you to see these films. (They’re short! They won’t be online for much longer!)

I want you to be inspired by them. I want you to know these subjects. These films.

I was beyond inspired by these films/filmmakers. We all celebrated in Toronto after the premieres and I got to meet and toast to a lot of the amazing directors and filmmakers. I met Amanda Harryman (the director of Maikaru… our toughest competition) and forced my business card upon her.

– Please contact me. I love your work. I want to ask you all kinds of questions.

When she emailed me a couple weeks later, asking me what questions I had, I kind of went blank. How do you ask someone, “How do I be like you?” ?

I admire her so and would be absolutely excited for her and the Maikaru crew if they win this competition.

I win sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t. People think I’m on a winning streak, but I don’t think people realize how much I put myself out there and how many times I really, really do not succeed.

I was rejected from five graduate programs before getting into the University of Montana.

I have had projects/films completely flop. I have been insanely embarrassed by my ambition.

I didn’t even win that cheesecake eating competition. And that one hurt.

But I have learned so much and have lived so much through this whole process. And that’s the winning. That’s why we all do things like this. The experience. The people.

I am so excited to have met Amanda and many of the other filmmakers. I have become like family with my crew and love them so.

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And YOU. ALL OF YOU. My friends and family who have been so patient with all of this craziness. One of my dearest friends told me the other day, “I have to be honest… I’m a little sick of 20/Nothing.”

I know! Gosh. Seriously. I haven’t had a real conversation with many of you in years and then I’m bombarding you with “VOTE FOR MY FILM” nonsense… and then you do it. Wow.

My family has rallied. My friends have gone above and beyond. My professors have supported me beyond belief. You all have been incredible.

*There is no way we could’ve gotten to Toronto without the love and support from you all. We did a campaign to raise money and so many lovely people were so generous. THANK YOU.

I wouldn’t have known this kind of support without making 20/Nothing. I’m almost in tears. Struggling at every step to do something you love is one thing. Doing something you love and then having your community, your tribe, support you at every step is another. Having both of those things hand-in-hand throughout this whole process has been a whirlwind of a dream come true.

THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you, family: Mom, Dad, Ry, and Sarah.

Thank you, team: Tuna, Sarah, Caitlin, and Evan.

Thank you, Evan’s family… so many people I haven’t even met! All supporting!

Thank you, Evan’s friends.

(Sidenote: I was so afraid of the reception that 20/Nothing would have with Evan’s friends and family. You love a person so much and you want to do his story justice, but what if his family hates it? What if his closest friends think it’s dumb? Thank you so much for all of your kind words. It has meant the world to me that so many of you love it. Each time I look at a vote and have to ask, “Evan, who’s this person?” and he answers, “Oh, that’s my friend from childhood.” or “Oh, that’s my cousin’s wife.” or something along those lines, my heart bursts with joy. Thank you so much.)

Thank you, amazing friends at Adventure Cycling.

Thank you, University of Montana Media Arts lovelies.

Thank you, friends back in Texas.

Thank you, Missoula community.

Thank you, Jackson community.

Thank you, dear friends who I love so damn much.

Thank you, people I’ve met once, but know I want to have in my life more because they are so inspiring.

Thank you, Doc Challenge.

Thank you, Audience Awards.

Thank you, Hot Docs.

Thank you Amanda. Good luck!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you all.

I adore all of you.

All the Love,
Rachel.

only now.

Man. It’s 1:30 in the morning and here I am blahgging.

After a semester of going crazy and going places and going far, I have to look back and evaluate.

But I can’t. I know I want more of that. More making films. More clicking with crews. More winning. More bike rides with besties. More laughing. More jumping high-fives. More documentaries. More learning. More running. More. More!

That’s as far as my evaluating goes.

What does a full load of school + a full load of work + relationships + functioning as a human being equal? Well, at the end of it all, it looks like rewatching a lot of Girls…

and Orange is the New Black…

I’m so brain-dead. So comically mindless. What does it look like?

I can hardly picture next week, but then I see this profile on Folk Fibers, and for twenty minutes, I’m obsessed with getting married and only registering for one damn thing. A Folk Fibers quilt.

Front-Page-Calafornia_1024x1024 flying-geese-front-page_1024x1024What does it look like?

It looks like, weirdly, wanting to bake something… real bad. But when it’s game time and it’s a friend’s birthday, you buy boxed brownies and fly on the fact that the wish-a-saurus is gonna seal the deal.

What does it look like?

It looks old. I was looking back at some silly Photobooth selfies [selvies?] of Ev and myself and found this of me…

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smile-lines? freckles galore? scars? How old am I?

I feel like this woman [wo-man] is a hot 40-year-old. But, hell, she’s just about to turn 29! Do I need more experiences? Or should I slow down? Either way, I’m ten years behind. Don’t I look like this little girl‘s mom?

[p.s. I have had a hair cut since then that I almost regret… that day my hair was close to my favorite ever.]

Speaking of getting older… birthdays. Someday I will have a birthday party that only consists of Lip Synch competitions.

The ones that happen on Jimmy Fallon. And I will be as amazing as Emma Stone…

What does it look like? Playing the moment at 6:07 of that video over and over and over, cuz it makes me so damn happy.

This is my life. After all the working and traveling, my mindless video watching puts a smile on my 40-year-old face whilst I day-dream about quilts.

I don’t know if I would change anything… because I don’t know how I would. I know I should get to sleep earlier, but after school, work, baking the box cake, and beating everyone in scrabble… where is the time to faux-reflect? Only in the wee hours. Only now.

Right now.

[and they stay there.]

men I’m mildly obsessed with right now…

I try really hard not to be too obsessed with Ira Glass. I mean, how unoriginal? But I keep catching myself using the phrase, “Do you listen to This American Life?” in conversations with friends and strangers alike.

And then he made a cameo in this awesome video of this awesome song by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down:

[this is also amazing.]

And then I go for a run and listen to the amazingly compelling story of Dr. Gilmer. It was so interesting that when I finished my run, the story wasn’t done yet, so I sat on the steps of our home listening intently to the rest of it… like I was too scared to stop it for even a second, because that would be too risky.

And then after beating myself up because one of my pieces didn’t make it into a local art show, I find this video/quote:

Ira Glass makes me want to do it all and make a podcast… which I just might do.

And it just might be crap for years…

…but then it might be kinda good. And then it’s all worth it.

Also, I’m obsessed with Zachary Smith. No, not my bearded manfriend’s brother [though, yes, Zach, I’m also obsessed with you].

This guy…

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I want to do more hand-lettering and I want it to be as good as Zachary Smith’s.

And I love these guys…

And I’m actually obsessed with John Richards.

[much manly love to you.]