All We Have is Time: A Personal Blog Piece in the Time of COVID-19
At the start of 2020, I felt a great sense of determination. I had my last feature film (Vendetta Games) on its way for a worldwide release in the spring, a new web series that my cousin and I had been planning for nearly 3 years, and I was looking forward to new business opportunities to help grow my career. Through it all, my number one priority for the year was to get my long-in-development western project, American Gunslingers, finally rolling in front of cameras. But when life throws you curve balls, boy do they suck.
In the months leading to this current moment, I was tackling so much at once just to get the wheels moving on this specific project. There were the back and forth meetings with my producer in Westchester and Connecticut. Interviewing potential crew members that would bring value to the project and be serious team players. The project even pushed me to not only take martial arts classes but also to work with a personal trainer friend to improve my diet and exercise habits. Even as I was keeping busy and working hard, sometimes I felt like it was not enough.
If there is anything that frustrates me about starting new film projects, it’s when people have dollar signs on their mind. I for one believe everyone should be compensated for their work. But when some people cannot level with your goals and decide to ask for more than what you can ideally provide, things gets difficult. Since the start of this project, I’ve had potential producers who offered up their support and interest with the talk of finding investors. Those same producers only amounted to just talk, no transparency, and too much miscommunication. Working alone on such a huge undertaking only aggravated me more. To put it this way: Asking for and raising money is never fun.
Within the first two months of the year, it was all work and little social life. Between Gunslingers and my cousin’s web series, I had no time for anything else. I had been so burned by the dating scene in the past year that I refused to touch a dating app ever again. Then there were people coming out of the blue expressing interest in working with me on their film and video project ideas only to amount to no follow ups, more miscommunication, or underhanded decision-making on their part that left me embarrassed. Just when I thought things could not get anymore stressful, I get hit with the one-two punch: A health scare and a car accident.
For anyone reading this blog piece, rest assured the health issue was not related to COVID-19 and that is all I will say on the matter. But the car accident was a personal turning point for me. Long story short, on the way to my trainer’s gym in Brooklyn, a guy who was not slowing down on Prospect Expressway rear-ended me at a stop light. Though the damage was not as bad as I thought at the time, I totally lost my cool with this impaired driver who claimed he had worked a 26-hour shift at work. For someone with their girl and their dog in the car, he should have been resting at home instead of putting me and other drivers at risk.
Fortunately, the issue was resolved amicably without violence or lawsuits. But this incident left me feeling like I had no care left in the world. Does renting the best camera for picture resolution matter for my next project? Do I care about what cologne I use in the morning? Do I have to take temporary rejection personally and professionally to heart? Do I even give a damn what people say and think about me at 36? Everything became so superficial to me because I realized how everything could be lost in an instant and nothing else mattered.
In the backdrop of my struggles was the Coronavirus pandemic. Most people I know took it as a joke in the beginning with the Corona beer memes and telling friends at dinner you are getting over a cold and it’s not corona related. I kept my determination in focus to get my new projects moving by specific dates in the spring. Even backup plans were being considered. Then the news coverage intensified as the pandemic got worse. At a certain point in March, I had to make a judgement call. For as much as I wanted to keep moving forward with the projects, life was too precious to be reckless in the middle of a crisis. Everything went on pause from that point on and I quarantined with family outside my home state of New York.
I left town on March 17. It is now April 26 as of this writing. This has been my life in the past month: Aside from occasional neighborhood walks, I have only left the house I am quarantined in just once since I arrived. The 24 news networks only add more aggravation and fear to an already grim situation. Therefore, I try to keep my mind off it by using what I have within my means. I do not have Final Draft to write scripts. So, I write out treatments for future scripts in Microsoft Word. I am catching up on movies and TV shows both old and new. Some I might write reviews about in the future. Without my gym trainer and a weight room, I use the treadmill and exercise bike in my basement as well as other calisthenic exercises to lose weight. At night, I read a bit. Most recently, I started on The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Every now and then, I catch up with my friends on FaceTime or Zoom just so there is still a connection to those I care about back at home.
Even with the time that still needs to pass before some semblance of “normal” returns, I am keeping the American Gunslingers project active. Reconceiving it as a series instead of a feature film, I launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark to raise startup funds for the production until the May 9th deadline. While there is still a chance of investors coming in at the right time, I see this effort to keep me enthusiastic about making it whether the campaign succeeds or not.
Film projects aside, this quarantine has given me a great deal of perspective about my life and the world around me. There is the obvious appreciation for doctors and essential workers that we have taken for granted for so long. But then there is this sense of looking back at how far my life has gone since I was a small child who just wanted to have fun with toys, movies, and video games. I think about my successes as well as my failures. There were family members and friends who I’ve lost over time including a childhood friend who was a big part of my life and passed suddenly on New Year’s Eve. I worry about my parents getting older, my cousins who I try to stay close to while they raise their families, and quite honestly the state of the world as it is. I wonder about my career going forward, making a serious living, and how long before I come across the right romance with a woman I can have life chemistry with. Sometimes, it is everything all at once because every day reminds me of how blessed I am to be alive even when the world seems to be in despair. Yet, my heart aches for every loss of life. Especially when it is happening to people close to me.
This piece is coming straight from my own true thoughts and feelings. I do not mean to sound self-centered if that’s the way it comes off to people who care to read this. I want things to get better and see families get through this struggle. For those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic, my thoughts and my sympathies are with you. I cannot say how I plan on taking further steps in my career when crisis comes to pass; however, I will say that these are the days when we are reminded to stop fearing and start living and creating.