I am a Supernatural fan that lives within striking distance of Los Angeles. As such, I feel fortunate. The local Supernatural cast members like to create cool opportunities for us to come together. I have attended a book reading by Misha Collins, an album release party by Louden Swain, and a charity walk with Lauren Tom and Osric Chau. I am deeply appreciative. That being said, I don’t drive out to Los Angeles on weeknights. I’m 42 years old and I need my eight hours of sleep. Jesus Christ could show up in Culver City on a Monday doing a water walking demonstration and I’d be like…meh. I’ll watch the livestream. However, last night was an exception. Last night’s was Briana Buckmaster’s first solo show in support of her first album, Begin.
Briana plays Sheriff Donna Hanscum on Supernatural, and is one of the driving forces behind the Wayward AF fan movement. Wayward AF is a movement that encourages fans (women fans in particular have championed the movement) to value themselves, express themselves, and work towards their dreams. So I wanted to be there when Briana made one of her dreams come to life. And it helped that I knew from her Supernatural convention performances that her genre is my jam. So after work, I made the trek from the Inland Empire to The Hotel Café in Hollywood.
Spending the evening with Briana onstage and with my Supernatural family in the audience, turned out to be a great decision. Briana’s voice and stage presence were incredible. The songs were well chosen. The Station Breaks opened for her and accompanied her, and they were on point. The cherry on top? The mood of the crowd was all love.
Let’s start with Briana’s stage presence. If you have never met Briana, here’s the best way I can describe it:
Briana Buckmaster is the kind of woman that reminds you of your lady queerness. She walks into the room, and you’re like…oh right. I’m super queer. Briana has swagger. She has that confident, comfortable in her own skin, grownass woman swagger. Combine that with her huge heart and irreverent sense of humor, and you have a potent combination of outrageously sexy. When my straight sister Michele saw Briana for the first time in real life at a Supernatural convention, she messaged me something like “Holy Lord I’m in love with Briana Buckmaster. Wait am I gay?”
If you only know Briana as Donna Hanscum, it might take you by surprise at first. Donna Hanscum is an endearingly sweet and goofy character, but she was not meant to be sexy. That is evident in her first episode in season 9, called The Purge. When we meet Donna, her confidence has just taken a hit. She is still smarting from being dumped by a boyfriend who was critical of her weight. She runs into the boys at a spa where she is taking part in a weight loss program. Now, Briana is a very thin woman by our mortal standards, but you know, Hollywood. Fast forward to season 13 in the Wayward Sisters episode, the show has let some of that sexy badassery shine through. When Sheriff Hanscum pulls up in her pickup truck to save the day in jeans and a pony tail carrying a cache of weapons, a wink, and a smile, gay women and suddenly introspective straight women everywhere swooned.
But regardless of what you have seen on screen, nothing really prepares you for full strength Briana. She’s a force of nature. That makes her a charismatic stage presence, which is a big part of what makes a live show a success. Her voice is also outstanding. Singing one or two songs sporadically at Supernatural conventions is one thing. Doing an entire set and being able to carry the show is another thing. And Briana, with a little help from her friends, did just that.
Briana has a bluesy voice that is powerful and vulnerable. She calls it a ‘whiskey voice’. Think Alannah Myles crossed with Bonnie Raitt. I’m no Rolling Stone reviewer, but they would probably categorize her as ‘blue eyed soul’.
Briana opened with the scorching, “Do I Move You”, which was originally written and performed by Nina Simone. Bold move. Nina Simone is one of the greatest musical artists of our time, and there is risk inherent in covering someone like that. We’ve all watched those singing competitions where perfectly talented singers try an iconic song by an iconic performer and everyone just feels let down at the end. Briana avoided that pitfall by not trying to copy Nina Simone. She tweaked the song and made it her own. She pulled the straps off of her shoulders to riotous applause, and poured her entire self into a mischievous and spirited version of the song. It was a great choice to warm up the crowd.
From there, the show was consistently engaging and filled with songs that reached out and grabbed you. Better Than That, written by Suzanne Santo, was one of the standouts of the night. It was the kind of song that makes you ache and remember falling in love. During that entire number, the audience was eating out of the palm of Briana’s hand.
Olive Branch, a duet written by and performed with Rob Benedict, was another special one. Rob plays the prophet Chuck / God on Supernatural. He is a musician’s musician, having performed for over twenty years with his indie rock band Louden Swain. He can write, arrange, produce, play multiple instruments, sing his ass off, and perform like a boss. He is the real deal, and Olive Branch is a folksy, catchy as hell song. We were all stomping our feet and having a great time.
Briana did another duet later, but this time with Jason Manns. Jason is a solo artist, member of Station Breaks, and producer of Briana’s album. Briana explained onstage that she had felt the album needed a nineties power ballad duet. And that is what Have a Little Faith in Me was, which means it was a soaring crowd pleaser.
Another noteworthy performance was “How Will I Know”, originally performed by Whitney Houston. Again, when you cover legends like Whitney Houston and Nina Simone, it is critical that you don’t try to copy their arrangements or styles. Briana’s arrangement of “How Will I Know” was a yearning ballad. It was bittersweet and moving, and did its own beautiful thing.
And rounding it all off was the uplifting feeling of being in an audience that is plain old happy to be together. Notable Supernatural family that came out to support Briana included Kim Rhodes, Ruthie O’Connell, Gil McKinney, and Bobo Berens. It was heartwarming to see the friendships that have formed among the cast members. It also felt good that our fandom has played such a critical part in something this special.
I think it is safe to say that Briana’s album was born at Supernatural conventions. Supernatural conventions typically consist of two nights of music: karaoke night on Friday, and a Louden Swain concert on a Saturday. Cast members show up to sing with the fans on Fridays and to sing with Louden Swain on Saturdays. Our riotous support has resulted in several cast members saying that they have recaptured or refocused on their love of music. Also, they get to share their love of music with each other and meet the experienced and generous musicians of Louden Swain. Undoubtedly the enthusiastic fan support of Briana’s singing paired with Rob Benedict/Louden Swain’s generosity of spirit, encouraged Briana to record an album. She started a Kickstarter to support the album and it was funded in twenty hours. It eventually took in over double its original goal of $20k. We all got to accomplish something beautiful together. What is better than that?
The last song featured Briana with Station Breaks singing a rousing rendition of the Beatles ‘Come Together’. People had arms around one another, and were shouting the lyrics together.
So congratulations to Briana on a fantastic album and to Briana and Station Breaks for a damn good show. And congratulations to the Supernatural fandom for helping will something wonderful into existence by sheer enthusiasm and showing up for one another. I know we have a lot more to look forward to from Briana as a singer. I for one, can’t wait. You can buy her album ‘Begin’ on cdbaby, itunes, amazon, and pretty much everywhere else you buy your music. You can find Briana on twitter here.
And to talk fandom with me, join me on my closed Facebook group for Supernatural and Wayward Sister’s fans or catch me on our podcast, Geeky Girls Night In. I’m also on twitter shouting about Supernatural among other geeky stuff.
If you are going to San Diego Comic Con this week, check out my Supernatural fan guide as well.
Supernatural was the reason I went to my first Comic Con. I loved the show dearly but hadn’t yet gotten into the fandom, so much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. My ignorance resulted in one of the more painful failures of my fandom life.
I went down to San Diego on the Saturday, because I only had a badge for Sunday. After a boozy, successful evening bar hopping, I asked a friend when I should get to the convention center for the Sunday panel in Hall H (the largest hall in the convention center). It’s important to note that my friend had only been there as a vendor, not as an attendee. So he replied “I don’t know, an hour before should be fine.” If you’ve been to Comic Con before, I can hear your eyes pop out of your head. Or hear you guffawing. You’re incredulous, I get that.
Well, I thought I’d be extra safe and get there three hours before. I walked down to the convention center and saw that people had spent the night there and that the line stretched further than the eye could see. I decided to try anyway, and was shocked that I actually eventually reached the front of the line. But it was not meant to be. After hours in line, they literally let the person in front of me in and put down the rope right in front of my chest. Which, I knew was a risk. But then something happened that rubbed salt in the wound. As the last person to my left walked inside the hall, I heard them say “what is Supernatural?” That fan was there for the Twilight panel happening in Hall H after Supernatural, but SDCC doesn't clear the hall so unfortunately our fates were intertwined.
I won't lie, gentle reader. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I had gone to a lot of trouble to be there. The line security guy was apologetic. He assured me I could cry if I wanted to. He’d been seeing it go on all day.
I wasn’t going to let that happen to me twice. The following year, I dug in and learned how to master SDCC as a Supernatural fan. What I have learned is that there is no better fandom to belong to during the week of San Diego Comic Con. And if you know what to look for you will crush SDCC and leave with memories to last a lifetime. Here’s why, in no particular order:
7) Swag. Supernatural is a relatively small show. But the fandom is so passionate and committed, it makes an outsized impact. You can see that in the free swag at SDCC. First, the bags you get when you check in are usually designed with art from a limited number of new shows enjoying a big promotional push----and, Supernatural. Understandably, you don’t get to poke through all the bags when you check in. They have something like 150k people checking in. You take the bag you are given. But then you quickly look around and see who has a Supernatural bag that might trade with you. You want to do it soon, because later on, people have all traded and they have the bag they want.
There is usually also a Comic Con magazine with a Supernatural cover. Entertainment Weekly is good about doing Supernatural covers as well and I've picked that up at the CW booth in the convention. So basically, you can get exclusive Supernatural swag for cheap or free. Well, you stand in lines and do some begging. But no money exchanges hands.
I should also mention my favorite Supernatural merch here. CineQuest is owned by Supernatural fans, and their exclusives are always the best. They know what moments, characters, and relationships mean the most to us. Check out their exclusives ahead of time and visit their booth. They are really friendly and will talk Supernatural with you if they aren’t too swamped. And if you aren’t going to SDCC, you can still snag some good stuff, so check it out. They don't pay me for the plug I just love them.
6) Random Acts. As you may know, we have a Supernatural fan supported nonprofit called Random Acts. Random Acts always has volunteers come down for SDCC. They usually coordinate a donation drive as well as another service oriented activity. They are sometimes on smaller panels about fandom charity, doing us proud. I have worked with Random Acts on several volunteer projects. They are amazing. They work hard for free. And during SDCC they always bring us together. I just love to see their wonderful faces.
5) The big slumber party. I know this one is a matter of personal taste. But I always look forward to camping out overnight for the Sunday Supernatural panel. People look at you like you’re crazy. Or they feel bad for you. Who in their right minds would sit in a line for 27+ hours? Well, for me its part of the fun. I get to see people I talk to online all year but only get to see in person that one time per year. We bring card games, we work on art, we chat about our lives, and we gossip about the show. We organize line buddies so we can go get lunch or check out other panels. Then we all come back to get our wristbands and set up our sleeping bags at night. The weather is temperate and I love to camp anyway, so for me, Saturday night on the grass is a geek slumber party to enjoy.
Also, the cast and crew know we are there for at least 24 hours before the panel, so they often come say hi. I’ve seen Jim Michaels (producer) come over to chat with fans. Jared Padalecki came by one year at 3am after his parties and said hi. And Misha always comes by. He might jog by and give high fives. He might bring us coffee in the morning. He might just pull his happy ass up with a cart stacked with pizzas. You just never know. There are pics of him all over the internet of him visiting the SDCC line. I don't own those pictures, but feel free to share them if you have them!
4) Supernatural family at smaller panels. Supernatural has been on a damn long time. So there are a lot of past and present cast, writers, and crew. Many of them come down for SDCC for new or side projects. So who is your favorite writer? I bet they are signing or have a panel on some other project. I bet you would like that project too. Look at every panel and scan for names. Follow Supernatural family on twitter and sign up for their email lists. That way you don't miss them!
Maybe I’ll do a separate post just for SPNFam appearances! If you’d like that, then let me know in the comments or on twitter. It’s like Supernatural Pokémon. Catch ‘em all.
3) Wayward Cocktails. Jules Wilkinson, who runs the Supernatural Wiki and is a lovely human being, spearheads the annual fan party Wayward Cocktails. We take over a bar in downtown. There are Supernatural decorations, fan art vendors, drink specials, amazing swag, and all your SPNFam. If you work on Supernatural in any capacity, you get in free, so folks who work hard behind the scenes on the show will come and chat with the fans. It's our chance to thank them for their hard work.
Last year at the party, I spotted Bobo Berens (writer), and I went over to say hi and thank him for the great episodes and for being rad. The friend that came with him was a little surprised. He said something to the effect of..wait...you're famous here? These people all know who you are? I was like YES OF COURSE! AND WE LOVE HIM! It was really cute.
The actors of course get a lot of the glory because they literally personify the characters we love. And they absolutely deserve all the love they get. But the words they say? The sets we adore? The amazing props that become objects we cherish? Lots of people work hard on those and don’t always get the feedback from fans since they are behind the scenes. This is a super fun opportunity to meet them and let them know how much their work matters to you. You never know who is going to come, but no matter what, you have a great time with other fans.
2) Misha Collins. There are so many members of our cast that I look at and think ‘gatdamnit we are lucky bastards that this person is a part of our SPNFamily’. I feel that way about Osric, Kim, Lisa, Brianna, Rachel, and many others that have huge hearts and inspire us to do good, celebrate our diversity, and show kindness to one another. Misha Collins is truly one of those people, and he always connects with fans at SDCC. One year he tweeted us to meet him and have a cosplay contest, even though he wasn't even on the panel that year. Last year he did a scavenger hunt on the fly and the goal was to find him in downtown San Diego wherever he was. THAT warrants some detail.
We were in line for Hall H and someone came by with a basket of fortune cookies with the first clue. Of course we had no idea what was happening. He just springs these things on us. To join in the Misha fun, you have to be open minded and willing to drop everything you’re doing. I wasn’t going to miss out, so I took a clue, grabbed a wonderful line buddy and got moving.
The first clue led to us finding someone near The Tick pop up who gave us a task and a clue. So we started doing tasks, documenting them, and bringing them to the next stop which we would figure out via the clues. At every stop there were Supernatural cast members giving us the next clue and task. So we got to meet and talk to Osric, Kim, Brianna, Ruthie, and Alaina. We couldn't take selfies because it would spoil the clues so we kept it under wraps so that each person after us got to walk into a hotel or restaurant and see a cast member or two waiting for them. It was so lovely. And we did tasks like find the ubiquitous Jesus protesters and protest with them, find warriors, find cat costumes, I can’t remember the details but it was a ridiculously amazing ride, and Misha was the end of it with Osric and Kim in the park right across from the convention center. They chatted with us, took pics, and were just generally delightful. Those three, man. They are gems.
The moral of the story is, you can set your watch to it (do people still wear watches?). Misha is going to try to channel our energies for the greater good and build something bigger than ourselves. That’s our Mish. Set notifications for his twitter account.
1) The Panel. The Supernatural teams seem to understand that we go balls to the wall for Supernatural at SDCC, and they reward that with a great panel. They know we sleep outside. They know we wait around the clock. And they take that seriously and let us know we are appreciated. After all, SDCC is the most massive pop culture event of its kind in the world, and Hall H is the monster hall of the con. Not many shows can fill Hall H on their own. But Supernatural is not just any show. Fans do what it takes to show up for Supernatural. And every year we leave on cloud nine after our Sunday panel.
Here’s how it usually goes, based on my 6 years of SPN panels at SDCC.
About an hour before the panel they start letting us in to Hall H. We’ve all slept outside but by then we’ve given each other breaks to go brush our teeth and get breakfast. We’ve packed up our bedrolls and put them away somewhere. We are sleepy but excited. As we walk into the Hall, the staff give us high fives and we cheer. We made it into Hall H! Last year, they also tossed us each a t-shirt commemorating every year Supernatural has had a panel at SDCC. We speed walk through the massive hall to find a seat as close as humanly possible. We take pics of ourselves in front of the screen. We post selfies with our SPNfam. We make sure we get to the bathroom before the panel starts. We walk around saying hi to anyone we didn’t get a chance to see in line.
Then the room gets dark. We see new footage. A preview usually. We see the gag reel. Then we see Rich and Rob, who moderate all the Supernatural panels these days. They bring out Jensen, Jared, a producer or showrunner, and now Misha too. In the past there have been others, but always at minimum, it’s Jensen and Jared. They seem to remain so grateful and excited to be in Hall H. They come in taking footage and trying to look all the way to the back of the hall. And they start the panel which never fails to be uplifting and hilarious. Jensen and Jared are basically brothers. Their chemistry is a beautiful thing to watch and share in. If you have been to a SPN con you know. They finish each other’s sentences, they have perfect comic timing together--they could take their act on the road. They are consummate professionals with the fans -- warm, humble, and sincere, with the occasional gentle ribbing when appropriate. We are so fortunate to have these two guys leading our show. And the fact that the moderators are their close friends adds to the atmosphere of family and friends.
But last year there was more. Before the panel, when the room got dark, the entirety of the massive hall was ringed with screens with a special video presentation for us. It was overwhelming in the best way. And then the band Kansas came out and performed ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’. I put my phone down and just yelled the lyrics with everyone else. I had goosebumps! There were tears!
But even when we don’t get Kansas or t-shirts, we always leave on cloud nine.
That isn’t to say we always agree on everything. We do express our dissent when they do something awful the prior season, like kill off our one LGBT representation and love letter to the fandom Charlie Bradbury in the most disrespectful way possible--but I digress. Without fail, no matter our disagreements, we are always reminded why we are a part of the Supernatural family. We always leave stronger and uplifted. We saw our fandom family. We made new friends. We felt the love and appreciation of our cast and we were able to show our love and appreciation for them. We laughed at the gag reel together. We did something weird because Misha said it’d be a good idea. These are memories we will always treasure.
So if you’re going this year, please come say hi. You've definitely seen enough pics of my face now to find me! 🙂 I’ll be at Wayward Cocktails Thursday. I’ll be in that big ass line up and down the water on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be wearing a Supernatural bag. But I’ll definitely be in Hall H screaming my fool head off. Let’s make some damn memories.
How Were We Supposed to Know that Hipsters Were So Flammable – Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Deliver in Blindspotting
Hey geeks! Last night your girl went to an advanced screening of Blindspotting with the Bruin Film Society. Blindspotting is an indie film written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. In Blindspotting, Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.
It will be released July 20 but as a fangirl I lack patience when it comes to seeing my faves. So I braved L.A. traffic from the IE and boy was it worth it. The movie was phenomenal. And after the screening, writer/stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, and brilliant supporting actresses Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones did a lengthy Q & A. After the Q & A they sat on the stage (!) and stayed to talk to fans for over an hour. They were precious. I’ll talk about that experience on the podcast next week but for now, this is my Blindspotting review.
Blindspotting is an ambitious movie. It is about home and loyalty. It portrays people of color raising children, trying to keep their relationships strong, and coping with PTSD, all in environment of gentrification, police violence, and mass incarceration. But at heart it is a buddy comedy centered on fast talking hot head Miles (Rafael Casal) and easy going everyman Collin (Daveed Diggs). It is a nuanced, challenging, yet side splitting buddy comedy. And oh, there is spoken word poetry. Quite a bit of it. All of that sounds pretty hard to pull off. But the crazy thing is that they DO pull it off. The screening audience (myself included) was alternately laughing, gasping, and sitting on the edges of our seats. There were also tears. It is that affecting. The movie's power to affect the viewer, if you are a person of color especially, comes partly from the fact that the characters who inhabit this movie would have been stereotyped or made caricatures by other movies. We don’t often get to see these types of characters in this way – people of color, convicted felons, working class people, women of color, etc. In Blindspotting they deal with trauma but they also dance in the kitchen. They grapple with violence but also clown on each other. Another big part of the impact of this movie comes from the method of layered, gradual storytelling and commitment to authenticity.
First, the authenticity. Every single aspect of the movie feels organic. Every character feels like it was pulled from inside of someone rather than composed on a writing room board. The dialogue is fresh and the jokes feel like jokes your friends would tell, but only if they were as fast on their feet and as funny as Miles and Collin. In the Q & A portion after the screening, Daveed Diggs says he and Rafael drew on their own rhythm and chemistry as lifelong friends. That makes Miles and Collin a joy to watch. The spoken word in the movie is the patter of two childhood friends who have spent years running the streets entertaining each other by just talking shit and making up verses. I was a little worried about potential awkward inexplicable poetry moments. But I literally didn’t even notice the transitions between poetry and non poetry. That is just how Miles and Collin talk. And as the spoken word elements are heightened little by little throughout the movie, you are never taken outside of the story. You just get absorbed early and it is a fantastic ride.
Secondly, part of the organic approach is that the movie never tells you what to think, it just makes you feel for the characters. It shows people living their lives, and then it goes about taking their inner emotional lives seriously. For example, the main friendship of the movie involves two men who love each another (it's platonic, but it's love), but whose friendship is tested by the world and their own trauma. Precious few movies or TV shows portray male friendships in all of their importance and nuance. So that already makes Blindspotting special. According to most pieces of art/entertainment, men aren’t supposed to care about each other that much. They aren’t supposed to need each other that much. In most movies centering male friendships, the audience is encouraged to laugh with them but never allowed to cry with them. That is a classic feature of toxic masculinity. But Blindspotting just blows past all of that and shows brilliantly how these two men need their friendship. That makes the movie great because it rings true.
It would be absurd to pretend that Miles and Collin wouldn’t depend on their friendship for survival. They grew up together. They have helped each other survive absent fathers, life on the streets, and the criminal justice system. So the fact that Collin and Miles have chosen to be family to one another makes complete sense. Some of the best scenes are when Collin is in Miles’s home, playing with his baby Ziggy (Ziggy Baitinger), and bantering affectionately with his partner Ashley (Jamine Cephas-Jones). But Collin and Miles experience life differently because the world treats them differently based on their race. Collin is trying to survive in a world where the color of his skin makes him a target, and his record means one misstep puts him back in jail. Miles wants to champion Collin, but in true family fashion, that often means inhibiting his growth. Also, Miles is a white man who grew up in among people of color, so he feels like he has to continually prove he is extra down. Add that to his deep fear of losing his home (Oakland) to gentrification, and he is always the first one to pop off. But when he starts shit, he is attracting the police, which puts Collin at risk as a Black man with a record. Miles doesn’t think about that at all, which is part of the problem. He’s just being wild trying to defend his home and his best friend. That’s what he thinks, anyway. But he is missing a big part of the picture by refusing to be accountable for the added risk he is bringing into Collin’s life and his own son’s life. This problem unfolds and escalates throughout the movie masterfully. By the time Miles and Collin have it out, covered in blood in a parking lot, you just can’t tear your eyes away. The dialogue, the performances, everything is as compelling as anything you will see on screen.
Also, this approach to telling personal stories is the most impactful way to talk about topics like police murder and mass incarceration. That is because politics are personal. It is the power structure that de-personalizes politics. It is the power structure that tells you politics is something separate you think about only when you turn on CNN or go to the voting booth. This is at best a privileged point of view, and at worse, a calculated strategy to dissuade marginalized people from participating in the political process. In truth, politics is simply what our institutions do to the human spirit. Watching Collin deal with PTSD, Ashley trying to keep her son safe, Val trying to improve her life, and Miles trying desperately to hold all the pieces together with his bare hands – these stories tell us everything we need to know. When we see institutional injustices collide with their lives – Ziggy throwing his hands up and saying ‘don’t’ shoot’ while giggling, Collin walking down the street at night during a particularly heart stopping scene where you are begging the cop car to Please. Just. Keep. Driving. How can you not see that politics are about how the human spirit is at the mercy of our institutions?
Also brilliant is the layered, gradual way in which they introduce you to these characters. You go on a journey that forces you to see their humanity, the good, bad, and ugly, at all times. This plays out to sharp effect with the Collin character as well as with Val and Collin's arc.
Let’s start with Collin. Of course Daveed Diggs is absurdly lovable and he brings that quality to the screen. But it is more than that. The movie is masterful at creating this experience of getting to know Collin at every level so that you never simplify or patronize him. Now. You know from the opening scene that he did time for a felony. At the first part of the movie, you are left to guess as to Collin’s crime. But you are having so much fun with the jokes, the banter, and the streets of Oakland, that you don’t dwell on the question. Also, you feel right away that it can’t be anything too nefarious. When you meet him, the first thing you see is his sense of humor. Then in quick succession, you see his vulnerability around Val and his silliness with Ziggy. You get the idea that he has disappointed Val and made some poor choices, but you know that he is a good person who wants to better himself. While Miles and Collin are moving things in and out of people’s houses, they idly make up rhymes together. These are absolutely brilliant pieces of character development as well. Hearing the rhymes Collin makes with Miles to deal with the boredom tells you that he is a sensitive, clever, thoughtful guy. Then, a little way into the movie, Miles (in true extra af Miles fashion) dismisses Collin’s crime saying ‘how were we supposed to know hipsters were so flammable!?” But as we see through the entire movie, humor is a great way to cope but can also be used to mask truth. So from the jump, you sense that Miles is a hilarious but unreliable narrator. So you know fire is involved but that's about it.
By the time you see the crime Collin has committed, you are already ALL IN on Collin. You love him and want things to turn out for him. The crime isn’t something that changes that. But it does reveal another layer of Collin that surprises you. You also see him momentarily through Val’s eyes and in that instant you understand why she broke up with him. The moment also adds another layer to your understanding of Miles. Like, oooohhhhh he thinks a woman should be completely ok with that. Duly noted, Miles.
By the end of the movie you see Collin for who he is in his entirety and the journey you took in doing so never let you simplify him. It never let you love him for something he wasn’t. A more pedestrian movie would give you the experience of “Some incarcerated men of color are good people.” Blindspotting give you the experience of “all incarcerated men of color are human beings, both good and bad, like Collin and like everyone else”. Y’all. That’s a big difference and it reflects masterful storytelling, and it must be said, storytelling where people of color get to tell their own stories.
And since I have mentioned Val, I have to say that I appreciated how layered the storytelling was for Val and Collin’s relationship. You first meet Val when she and Collin have an icy relationship. He’s almost off parole and he wants to show her that he can improve himself. She has her defenses up. The first introduction you get to any description of Val is Miles complaining about her. He calls her a disloyal bitch in his loud, extra way. He complains about Val not visiting Collin in jail (and presumably dumping him) the way he complains about $10 green drinks, his favorite burger place becoming vegan, and hipsters parking like shit. These are all crimes in Miles’s world.
As a woman, I did not join him in judging her. Calling a woman disloyal is just another way to describe a woman maxing out on your bullshit. But while Miles judges Val, (mostly because he judges the Collin/Val relationship through the lens of family, not romantic partnerships) the movie does not. I was happy about that, because judging a woman for leaving a relationship can become sexist hack bullshit really quickly. But thankfully that doesn't happen. Val is nuanced like everyone else.
As the movie unfolds it becomes clear that Val wants better for Collin because she still loves him. And the chemistry between Val and Collin is off the chain. The scene where she is braiding his hair and he looks up at her? Oh Lord. *fans self * And afterward when he goes in for a hug and she shuts her eyes while he is holding her like “goddamnit motherfucker why do I love this so much”. I mean. Their chemistry is freakin fire and she is so relatable. I’m a school nerd and so I’m also going to relate hard to a girl doing her flashcards trying to better herself. Another way the movie shows that it does not judge Val is that the other women do not judge Val. Collin’s mom loves Val. And Ashley is very clear that any distance between her and Val is because of a very perfuntory consession to Miles's focus on loyalty. An Ashley line I loved was “ I didn’t cross the picket line, shit I’m just following her on social media.” These women have made different choices but they do not judge one another. And you get the feeling that they care about each other a lot.
With time you see that neither Val nor Miles are perfect in what they expect from Collin. And you understand that it was never about Collin making a choice between Val or Miles expectations. It was always about Miles choosing himself. And oh god do you want him to choose himself. CHOOSE YOURSELF, COLLIN.
Look, I’m a passionate person. Latina + fangirl is a potent combo. But its also a damn good movie that touches on so many themes that matter to me.
Last thing I want to say is that this movie depicted PTSD in an incredibly honest way. As someone who suffers from PTSD I appreciate that. And on the podcast we are going to do an entire ep about media that gets the depiction of mental health right and I’ll definitely be talking about Blindspotting. I'll also give my first-hand account of meeting the amazing cast, and I’ll read a list of names Miles calls white hipster gentrifying his neighborhood. It’s good shit.
So yeah, do I need to spell it out? Go see Blindspotting when it comes out. Release date: July 20, 2018 (USA)
LGBTQ Art and Entertainment Saves Lives.
During Pride Month, Let’s Promote the Hell Out of It.
Hashtags: #agayaday and #pridemonth
All over the world, LGBTQ people are treated as second class citizens at best, and as criminals at worst. Gay relationships are criminalized in 72 different countries, with some penalties including death.
Even in “enlightened” communities, LGBTQ people and relationships are marginalized and treated as less than or just gross. ‘Gay’ is used as an insult. A same sex kiss on TV is considered more scandalous than an opposite sex kiss. LGBTQ fans who ‘ship same sex TV characters together are often mocked and silenced. There are literal entire political movements dedicated to ensuring the continued second class legal status of LGBTQ relationships. Young people grow up hearing these anti-gay messages all day every day. This literal constant onslaught of dehumanizing and debasing treatment can cause depression and even suicide. LGBTQ youth across the country are isolated and suffer in silence.
So LBGTQ youth need solidarity and the world needs changing.
One of the most powerful, miraculous, methods of bringing solidarity and strength to LGBTQ people everywhere is art and entertainment. And in the process of helping LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ art also changes the world by humanizing LGBTQ people to the larger population. In sum, we should be supporting it. We should be supporting each other.
Tweet/insta/fb/whatevers one recommendation for LGBTQ positive art/entertainment per day during pride month June 2018 -- TV, comics, books, art prints, podcasts, movies, youtubers, anything!!! Let’s vote with our money for art by LGBTQ folks, and/or art with positive LGBTQ representation.
Have fun promoting your underrated LGBTQ faves, you'll make Captain Holt so proud.
Use hashtags #pridemonth and #agayaday
See you on social media, y'all.
Matthew Currie-Holmes, writer/director of Buckout Road, did an AMA for Earpers in the DomSquad Facebook group on May 31, 2018. He thoughtfully answered an avalanche of questions about Buckout Road, Dominique, and indie filmmaking. Earpers ask great questions, so there is a lot of wonderful behind the scenes info as well as advice for creative types who want to be in the movie biz. Also, he told us how Dom's audition for Buckout Road went!
For smidge of background, DomSquad is a group of Dominique Provost-Chalkley fans who promote Dom’s projects. Anyone can join, just look us up on Facebook. We do meetups, screenings, and twitter campaigns to promote Dom’s projects. That’s how we met Matthew! Here we are with Matthew at the Hollywood Screening. Dom even ‘grammed us!
When we met Matthew, he really clicked with DomSquad, agreed to join our Facebook group, and the rest is AMA history. I edited the following transcript for clarity/grammar, and I omitted names of our members because it is a closed group so privacy is part of the deal. So here is how it went! Matthew posted the following photo (hell yeah) and we dove right in!
Let’s do this #DomSquad excited to chat!!
Q. There tends to be a fair amount of sexism and misogyny in horror movies but Buckout road seems to avoid that. Was that a conscious, purposeful decision? (ok, this was my question, sue me I'm always thinking with my feminist brain ha!)
A. You’re absolutely right there is a ton of misogyny in genre films and I think it’s important that we not only address it but change it. I’m the father of a daughter and if I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be and then show her that women are basically sacrificial lambs just to follow the trope, what kind of example of my setting?
Q. I’m not being specific because I don’t want to spoil people. But there was a lot to like about the movie as a woman.
A. Thank you so much for saying that. And for noticing. It’s hard for me to answer this question without spoiling but in my fairytale movie the princess saves the prince.
Q. Are there any other folktales you would love to bring to screen?
A. Great question I have a few scripts that I’ve written that are loosely based on folktales but I think the one that I would love to see done right is bloody Mary 666.
Q. You recently tweeted that you would like to do some more acting. What role would you most like to play and one you wouldn’t
A. I think I’m just nostalgic for acting, I loved being on stage and performing and I loved engaging with other actors. I love what actors do. I think as I get older the roles that I would like to play would be kind of fucked up characters with fucked up pasts. There’s no real specific role that I’d like of course I would love to do true west and there’s some John Patrick Shanley pieces that always make me happy. I’m not sure that there’s a role that I wouldn’t take, the only problem I have with acting is the pursuit of the job Ha ha ha.
Q. How many actors did you actually audition for the roles - a large number or were you able to narrow your options pretty quickly?
A. I had three sets of auditions one was the initial call for every role except the priest the cop and Aaron and Dr. Powell. Every other role in the movie was up for grabs. I saw probably 15 people per role and when I did my callbacks we narrowed it down to three people per role.
Q. Did you write Buckout Road with Evan Ross and Danny Glover in mind?
A. Evan and Danny were attached before I was. I had to audition for directing!
A. Right now we are in the process of getting distribution there will be announcement soon I promise. Don’t forget to follow @BuckoutRoad on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest!
The next Buckout Road Screening is at the Niagara Falls Comic Con on Friday June 1st at 6pm. Get tickets here: https://tix.extremetix.com/webtix/3798
Q. Will any film stills be released?
A. If you want to see some cool film stills check out the IMDb page at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4847454/
(Note: That is where DomSquad member Laura Harley pulled the movie still for this cool fan art)
Q. What made you choose this urban legend to make a movie about? And what made you decide that Dom would be one of its stars?
A. There are actually over 13 urban legend surrounding buckout Road. Obviously we couldn’t film all of them so I did an amalgam of three or four legends and mashed them into one. Dominique had been recommended to me by a friend who had directed her in an episode of Murdoch mysteries. I asked her agent if she would audition and she came in and absolutely crushed it. Both myself and the casting director and my producer knew the second she walked in the room that she had the part. She was really something special! (RRL note: we agree!)
Q. What would you say was the most difficult part of creating this movie overall?
A. For me the most difficult part of making this movie was whenever we shot at night we couldn’t do a pick up because the sun was our ultimate clock. Once the sun came up the day was over and there is nothing we can do about it. We were on such a tight schedule that every location we shot had to be wrapped out at the end of that day. So you can imagine during the night shoots if we didn’t get what we were supposed to we were kind of fucked.There were often times during night shoots that I either had to scrap what I had intended to shoot or reconfigure my shooting schedule
Q. Did you use any specialist lighting? Some places where remote how did you get your equipment to location?
A. We had BIG trucks carry our lights to remote locations.
Q. When you write for a film do you have the season or time off in your mind too?
A. Sometimes it’s set specific, and the time of year is a character of the film. Film shot in winter use the weather as a plot device. I prefer to write most of my things in the summer because I hate the cold. That said if someone offered me an obscene amount of money to shoot something that I had written for summer and the only time we could shoot it is in the winter, well then I would pull up my snow pants and get to work.
Q. How do you start your your plots for a movie? How do you turn the story into a script?
A. That’s a great question. I have a very strict process of how I like to work. The first thing I do is write five pages of gobbledygook. Just crazy bullshit that doesn’t make any sense. Then I turn that into a beat sheet. Mapping out all of the major plot points and beads in the film, not the minor ones just the big ones. Then I create back stories for every character even though nine times out of 10 you never see it (that’s from years of acting). Then I create a log line and a two page synopsis. Once I have all these things I write a 10 to 20 page treatment. Once I finished my treatment I start writing my script and filling in the blanks with dialogue, action, etc. Finally once I’m finished a draft of a screenplay where I think there is no way in the world I can possibly write anymore about this particular subject, I send it out to get notes and then the rewriting begins.
Q. Do you have specific people you trust to proof your scripts and give you notes?
A. I do. I have screenwriters who are friends of mine who have graciously donated their time many many times to read my shit. I in exchange read their fantastic screenplays.Once I get notes back from my fellow screenwriters I send it out to get coverage from a screen writing company. If you’re looking for someone to read your work there are really great companies out there that can help you and that aren’t very expensive. The first hat comes to mind is called Dan Rosen reads. He’s a fantastic screenwriter and a great filmmaker and he just started a company reading scripts for people. His notes are amazing. There are other companies that are use as well because, I tend to have a lot of typos in my scripts so I need to professionals to clean them up for me.
Q. How do you select your crew? Is this a different process to auditions?
A. As far as crew is concerned, The majority of the hiring is done by the production manager. I select my cinematographer, my editor, and my production designer. Because I was somewhat unfamiliar with some of the great crew that was available to me in Ontario, where we filmed, I had to rely on our production manager to fill in the blanks. She did a great job and we had a fantastic crew. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if I didn’t have an amazing crew. They made me look great and I am deeply indebted to every single person on that film said who gave 110%. It was a very tough shoot and not one person complained. I would work with the vast majority of the crew I had again in a heartbeat.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring indie film directors just starting out?
A. This is the New World order and the rules that used to apply don’t anymore so if you want to make a movie just start filming. Grab your phone, grab a Canon rebel, and start shooting. I really do believe that the best school is practice. I have a saying: never be the smartest guy in the room. If you’re a director surround yourself with an amazing cinematographer and amazing sound person, And make a movie. Then hire an amazing editor and have her cut it for you. Just as long as every person that you hire or asked to do the job is better than you at it
Q. Besides being able to scare people based on their belief in folktales, is there anything specific about bringing folktales to life, or the horror genre in general that speaks to you?
A. I absolutely adore horror. I find that it is just drama with higher stakes. Being scared and coming through a fear tunnel is what reminds us that were really alive. I think that people have been scared of the unknown for as long as there have been people and posing questions on film that don’t necessarily give answers but reinforce those fears is what makes life worth living in my humble opinion. We are creatures who love to tell stories and we love to solve mysteries and to feel like we’ve experienced something. I find horror is a ultimate surviving of a folktale. And it’s what you can’t see that’s more scary than what you do. That’s why the shark doesn’t appear until the third act JAWS.
Q. How do you raise funds for a film project? And how do you keep to a budget? (I understand this may not be answered)
A. Hahaha, this is an AMA so by the laws of the universe I have to answer, but I do have to be judicious as well. I make most of my movies in Canada and I have amazing producers who are able to access some of the benefits Canada has to offer like tax credits and film funds. The rest of the budget is raised by the caliber of cast, and the amount of territories that the film sells in. For example if we sell to a UK distributor for $100,000 we can take that promise to the bank and get a loan for the amount and all of that is how the budget is compiled.As far as how I keep to a strict budget, once again I just have amazing people who keep me on track and tell me under no uncertain terms what I can and cannot do Based on the money we have. It’s my job to be as creative as possible within the limitations.
Q. Is Canada your location of choice because of funding/tax credit considerations or more because of your connections there?
A. I am a Canadian citizen so I can access some of the tax credits by my birthright. Plus, I love shooting in Canada. Canada has the best people, best crews, and great actors. And that’s where my family is.
Q. What qualities or roles can Dom play that the world hasn’t seen yet?
A. Dom has an incredible control of her emotional faculties and I think she has a really wonderful mischievous character inside her as well. But more importantly she is so unbelievably dedicated to her craft that I’m sure she can do just about anything. I would love to see her get super angry and I think that she would make a kick ass bad guy! I think she has incredible range and if given the opportunity she could add and an enormous amount of complexity to someone perceived as evil.
Q. Directing really requires a broad knowledge of all aspects of filmmaking. What aspects of directing do you love the most and which challenge you the most?
A. I love working with actors and I really love the editing process. The most challenging part is getting the shot, lining up the shot. There’s always an element where everyone on set is holding their breath to make sure we get it. But that’s where a fantastic crew comes in
Q. Do you find it easier or more difficult to direct a screenplay that you wrote.
A. I prefer directing things that I’ve written because I already had a picture in my mind when I wrote it. That’s not to say that the picture that I had in my mind is the only version that I shoot. Part of being a director is the ability to take the best decision and put it on the screen. A lot of great ideas that made it in the final cut of the film weren’t mine to begin with but we’re better than what I had so we shot it. You have to put your ego aside and do what’s best for the film even if that means someone else had a better idea than you did. The cool thing is it says directed by Matthew Currie Holmes so I get the credit, haha.
Q. Have you ever had an experience in which an actor was really difficult to work with or had a really contrary interpretation of the character than you imagined? If so, how did you work it out?
A. What makes a good artist is their dedication to their craft. A great actor will interpret the material they’re given in a number of ways. To me the only reason someone would be perceived as “difficult “ is because they don’t feel they are being heard. Ultimately I have the final say on set as far as what I want my performers to do. My job is to be open their interpretation because even though I have an idea in my head they might do something that I didn’t see coming and I need to be receptive to that. I’ve been lucky in that all the actors that I’ve worked with have been professional and courteous so I can honestly say it was very little drama on the set. That being said, there are always contrary opinions but nothing can’t be worked out.
Conclusion: Hey everybody thank you so much for asking me all your amazing questions I hope I was able to give a little bit of insight into the process and I didn’t look like too much of a fool.I’m really humbled by This engagement. Hope you all have fantastic day or night wherever you are in the world. I will leave you with this. I spoke to Dom just before got on here and asked if she had any messages for you she wanted to let you all know that you’re all amazing and that season three of Wynonna Earp is going to be EPIC!!! Happy #TransDayOfVisibilty MCH out!
For more DomSquad fun:
Terran (our one and only nb Earper prince) did a vlog on the Buckout Road Screening Earper meetup with Matthew, if you want some behind the scenes fun check it out! https://youtu.be/ADRImLFxNEE
As a dyed in the wool geek, I want a lot of things. I want Bae Doona to have her own series as a Batman-esque dark avenger with a complicated past but instead of Alfred she has a super sexy wife who builds all of her tech. I want John Barrowman to guest on Supernatural, and flirt so outrageously with Castiel that Dean Winchester finally confesses his true feelings for his angel.
And I really really want Root and Shaw from Person of Interest to get their own show. Or movie!
You’re sensing a pattern. Super gay. But in my defense, we need more quality LGBT content. We also need Root and Shaw, no matter their sexual orientation. Even in the crowded field of quality shows, a Root and Shaw spinoff would be a stand out among stand outs. The characters are nuanced and magnetic. The actors are incredible. The themes of government surveillance, data security, global spy networks, and terrorism are more relevant every day. The themes of found family and underdogs fighting the odds are inspiring and relatable. The format has the potential for action sequences that would make you stand up off the couch. And the chemistry between those two -- holy lord. Grab your fans, your glass of water, whatever you need because you’re going to be parched.
Root and Shaw are two characters from the late great CBS tv drama Person of Interest. If you have seen the Person of Interest all the way until the end, I can hear the question mark above your head. Don’t worry. It’s tv. We can fix it.
And if you haven’t seen the show, here is the premise. Person of Interest is based in NYC after the attacks on the twin towers. After 9/11 (in the show, though this is #tooreal) the American government hires a tech genius to build them an artificial intelligence to predict acts of terror. There is nothing supernatural about it. People who are going to commit acts of terror do certain things. They buy burner cell phones, open bank accounts, visit sketchy websites, etc. Add in video cameras everywhere, and ‘The Machine’ (the AI entity the government builds) can predict any premeditated acts of murder.
Harold Finch, the genius who builds the machine for the CIA, quickly realizes something disturbing. The machine doesn’t distinguish between terror murder, and regular ol murdery murder. But the CIA has neither the interest nor the resources to do anything about the run of the mill impending murders. So, the information on the regular murders are destroyed at the end of every day, leaving people to die when they could have been saved. At some point, Harold can’t live with himself so he recruits a deadpan, laconic, former special forces badass named John Reese. Harold does the tech genius bit, John does the stalking/rescuing. Their unlikely friendship (more than friendship?subtext?) is a source of sheer enjoyment. Detective Carter, their friend on the force (perfection that is Taraji P Henson) helps them from the NYPD side of things. There’s also Lionel, but he’s a bit of a wild card.
In the first season, the show is more like ‘case of the week’. But befitting the rich, complex topics of AI, spying, data security, rogue government agencies, and international intrigue, things become complicated fast.
Enter Root. Root is a hacker at Harold’s level of genius. She is interested in Harold’s Machine. But while Harold has a deep sense of caution regarding the machine he built -- he tries hard to keep it from getting too much information that could be catastrophic in the wrong hands--Root is in love with the machine. She abhors the evil that humans inflict upon one another (she calls terrible people ‘bad code’) and she sees The Machine as the answer to the problem of us (people). She adores Harold for creating the machine but is totally perplexed and even outraged as to why he doesn’t trust his creation. Looking around at humanity, it is hard to argue with her many salient points. But it is easy to argue with her methods and doubt her values. In theory she is disgusted by evil. But she does terrible things in service to the machine. It begs the question: for Root, is the machine a path to good? Or is the machine (instead of humans) the good? Because those are two very different things, and one is incredibly sinister if you happen to value humanity.
Root is an enigmatic, layered character played with intellectual ferocity by Amy Acker. And when Root gets hooked into the machine and starts following her intel, the combination of woman/machine is exhilarating. The machine knows when a murder is going to occur, so Root finds a way to pipe The Machine’s ‘feed’ into her ear. The Machine is practically all-seeing, and gets Root out of seemingly unsolvable situations. I will never ever tire of watching Root step into a crowded hallway on orders of The Machine. As bullets fly around her, Root walks in a perfectly straight line, face serene, pulling triggers on the guns in both of her hands. Her trust that the machine will keep her safe is unshakable. She is taking down murderers and terrorists left and right all while feeding intel back to Harold. She tries not to kill people because Harold is quite fond of humans, and she is now part of his Machine team. But she herself is a damn machine.
Now let’s talk about Shaw. She is another fascinating, exciting character. Shaw works for the Other side of The Machine -- the main feed that predicts terror and sends data directly to the CIA. Shaw is essentially a CIA assassin. She took the job because she is good at it. Shaw has never felt emotions the way other people do. Flashbacks show her standing next to a car crash as a child, being completely unphased by the death of her parents. She creeps out an adult there to help her, who is expecting a human emotional reaction from the child. That’s the story of Shaw’s life. It’s why she doesn’t succeed as a doctor. She literally disturbs her patients with her inappropriate emotional responses and lack of affect. So she ends up doing a job that would torture others, because it simply doesn’t bother her: assassin. But while Sameen Shaw may not feel the same way others do, she does value things. She values loyalty. She values honesty. And when her partner is slaughtered by the CIA she is unwilling to accept it. And because of who she is, she has very little compunction about cutting a swath of violence to punish her bosses. She doesn’t angst over it. She doesn’t worry. She doesn’t fear them. She just does what she needs to do to teach them not to fuck with her.
Being on the outs with her bosses, she reluctantly becomes a part of John and Harold’s crew. It takes a whole lot of convincing. She’s not really into their mission. She isn’t a hero. But what else is she going to do? Where else will she fit in? She’s their “petite Persian sociopath” and boy does she up their game. Shaw has skills. She is brutal, decisive, resourceful, and punctual. (Ms. Shaw may be violent and uncommunicative, but she is never tardy! -- Harold Finch) And she shares an enthusiastic love of melodramatic violence -- think rocket launchers in broad daylight--with the laconic John Reese. Root dubs Reese and Shaw “The Mayhem Twins” and their partnership is truly delightful. Shaw has a sardonic nickname for Reese for every day of the week, with Root jumping in on the fun.
Sarah Shahi’s interpretation of Sameen Shaw is a constant delight. She inhabits her with such complete comfort that you feel Sameen Shaw is real. She plays Shaw’s sociopathy (of course whether she is strictly a sociopath is arguable) with incredibly subtlety and even humor. Shaw is completely unaware of how she comes across to other people. She is so disconnected from social norms. She is the awkwardest little turtle for a woman who could kill you with her bare hands. Maybe even hand. She doesn’t need much to kill you. And Shaw kickboxing the shit out of someone while wearing a ball gown is my entire sexual orientation. Just so you know.
When Shaw and Root first meet, I was not a fan of their romantic pairing. I already wanted to protect Shaw, and Root tortures her for information in their first scene together. Relationships shouldn’t start with torture, don’t @ me. However, Shaw is a little different than your average woman. She also tortures and kills and this is just another day at work for her. But they are not off to a good start. They seem at opposite ends of the spectrum. Root vibrates with ideals. In the beginning, those ideals are dysfunctional and misanthropic, but they fill her and spill out onto everyone around her. Root’s eyes brim wonder when she talks to Harold about The Machine. She can picture a better world and she will stop at nothing to make it happen. These type of emotions don’t necessarily bother Shaw, but the expectation that she should be able to respond in kind, does bother her. Shaw would like to back away from your grand dreams so she can get back to her sandwich. Her sandwich doesn’t expect her to respond with an appropriate emotional affect.
Shaw never expected anything from the world, so how could she have dreams for its destiny? She loves food. She loves the dog (Bear, the former combat dog that only responds to Dutch commands) and she does her job. Other than that, she’d like to be left alone. But her new job with the Machine’s squad starts to change her. She experiences the gratitude of people whose lives she saves. At first she finds it incredibly off putting. But at one point the gratitude of a child pierces her abject inability to empathize. It’s like a lighthouse piercing fog. It’s not complete, but it is something. It gets her attention. She starts to grasp what she is doing for people, and it reveals possibilities for who she could be in the world. Also, the acceptance of her new rag-tag weirdo family starts to work on her psyche. She starts noticing that no one cares that she’s a bit off. No one cares that she is emotionally stunted. They have her back. They show up for her time after time after time. And when she shows up for them they are grateful. Which she has a hard time accepting. Her life is transactional. She’s not sure what do do with feelings. But she notices them, and she understands that she now has a family. It is a loyal, badass family that would do anything for her. She can trust them with her life. And after the betrayals she has endured, that means something to her. In fact, it affects her profoundly. She isn’t capable of verbally acknowledging her appreciation of them. But before she herself notices it, she would lay down her life for them.
And Root starts falling in love with her. Of course she does. And in true Root style, she gushes out her feelings. Root is unfiltered. She is raw. She feels from the top of her head down to her toes, whether that is wrath, rage, disgust, or love of Sameen Shaw.
Shaw resists. Of course she does. Accepting Root’s feelings requires her to respond to them. And she doesn’t know how to do that.
But Root sees something in her. She sees Shaw’s beating heart and she knows Shaw has zero idea what to do with it or how to reach out. So Root all but shouts from the rooftops that she is willing to do all the work. Root will find and meet her where she is. Root will jump off the cliff with no net and all Shaw has to do is open her arms. Shaw starts to find inches of courage. Even a silence or a ‘maybe’ instead of a no. But you can see her defenses start to slide down. Root and Shaw are both socially inept in their own ways. Root too raw, Shaw too withdrawn. So for them, connecting consists of many false starts and awkward pauses. But boy oh boy when they get there. These two women, with their scars and trauma and tenacity, who belong to this little weirdo family and share a mission to keep the world free, these two women have chemistry that just explodes. It is a slow burn that flows to lava.
But all of these amazing developments? They happen in the last season! They are cut so short when there is so much more story to tell. Person of Interest may have come to a close but Root and Shaw were just getting started. Root started out a woman who felt self righteous enough to kidnap and torture in service of her mission, with no thought to the damage she was doing. During her time with Finches Team Machine, learns to protect humanity, in spite of its glaring flaws. Shaw evolves from someone utterly detached, to someone with family that she could trust and die for. But there was so much more to learn. And their back-stories!!! Why was Shaw the way she was? How did Root become Root? We saw snippets but not nearly enough. Person of Interest was about Harold Finch and John Reese for the most part. I loved getting to know them. But what about Root and Shaw, characters even more unique and unpredictable than Finch and Reese?
Beyond their characters, their relationship with each other is rich and complicated. Their respective approaches to humanity and the world (good, bad, violence, freedom, privacy) contrast in a way that there is immense potential for exploration. Their respective skills in espionage, hand to hand combat, enhanced interrogation, and mission strategy represent untapped excitement and plotlines. Their deep love for one another coupled with their emotional limitations is also rich terrain.
And come on, you can’t tell me that you don’t want to see these two women on your screen again.
In the mean time, Amy Acker is on The Gifted on Fox and Sarah Shahi is on Reverie on NBC.
The post-convention blues are real, my friends. They can range from the blah’s, to the blues, to full-on depression. There are some very good reasons for that. In our everyday lives, we may feel marginalized or isolated. There are few people we can connect with about the things that light our fires. We may even live in places hostile to our skin color, gender expression, or sexual orientation. When we go to conventions we find Our People.
I will illustrate why it matters to find Your People in a series of Stock Photo Comics. (I can’t draw so this is my solution). Your People do not side eye you for:
Sexual orientation/gender identity...Particular combo of ethnicity and interests...Or we just found people we could bond with over the stuff that matters to us...Not saying conventions are perfect places where every human being is a rainbow farting unicorn. NOPE NO WAY NOT EVEN A LITTLE. But we do find Our People there. We go from isolated minority to a sea of people who GET us. It makes sense that coming back to our own realities at home can be a jarring experience. So the important questions is: how can you minimize the impact of that loss? Because I want you to be happy, my fangirl/boy/non binary darling!
Integrate your passions into your everyday life. First things first. Are you filling your everyday life with reminders of your passion and joy? If you are, DO IT EVEN MORE.
Think of how you played in your childhood.
The things that matter to us in our fandoms today, flow from the imagination, play, and whimsy of our childhoods. Whether our childhoods were lovely, traumatic, or all points in between, we just got on with doing what we loved. We connected without shame to the things that filled our spirits with joy. That could have been faeries, dragons, spaceships, robots, quests, magic, monsters, it could have been anything. But to a one, our worlds of imagination offered us comfort, solace, hope, inspiration, and freedom. Then we grew up, and became disconnected. FUCK THAT. It’s time to reconnect. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you play? What did you imagine? What did you read? What do you love now that fills you with those same feelings?
Then make a list of those things. That’s your to do list of life, my friends. Take the items on that list and let them inspire you to:
- Start a creative project. That could be designing a cosplay, writing a fanfic, making a piece of art, shooting a video, or recreating props. Some Supernatural fans have literally spent months fixing up Impalas to look like Dean Winchester’s Baby, and then they get to drive around in them every day! Bottom line, be the originator of your own badass life content. It creates a consistent thread in your life of imagination and creation.
- Don’t assume that no one near you can relate. Maybe not in your town or school or home. But check meetup.com, check social media, ask on your own profiles to be connected to folks who live in your vicinity. Visit your local comic book shop and look at the flyers they have up. You never know.
- Organize a local meetup for your community with a theme. Even if they live a few hours away, you might be surprised. They could be feeling the way you are and would welcome a day trip out to you. It can be as simple as a TV-watch party for Buffy with vampire themed drinks. It could be meeting at a local diner in Winchester and bringing your con photo op binders to swap stories. It can be a Wynonna Earp cosplay photoshoot near a dive bar that kinda looks like Shorty’s. I know it can be intimidating to plan events. What if no one shows up? But here’s the thing. What they do and it is fucking amazing? Plus, having it on the calendar will make you feel like you haven’t been dropped off into the deep end.
- Stay connected with your con family through binge watching together on Skype or rabb.it. Lots of folks have remote watch parties. I have not used rabb.it. but I have used Skype and google hangouts. You just say one, two, three, HIT PLAY and then watch together.
- Put fan art or merch everywhere at work or home. Looking at it will reconnect you with the things that matter to you. Whether it’s the love and acceptance of Sense8 or the optimism and sense of possibility in Star Trek, you will always have reminders. You can get mugs, candles, art prints, cutting boards, calendars, the fandom options are endless.
- Be creative with your style. Represent your fandom wherever you go. You can find low key fandom items to wear at work. You can also play with your hairstyle. Hell, tattoos are always an option. Rock it.
- Start planning your next convention. Buying those tickets, planning your photo op poses, or deciding what you want your fave to autograph will give you something to look forward to.
- Bring headphones to work or school if possible. Listen to fandom podcasts, audiobooks, or music associated with the things you love. Even if you are only listening on your commute, that is something.
- Start projects online with your fandom. In fact you can choose a fandom based on its level of activity and creative energy. For example, if you are a Misha Collins fan, you ALWAYS have a project to work on, whether it is doing a bizarre scavenger hunt, raising money for a refugee family, or creating a piece of art with a group.
- Make time for yourself to enjoy your favorite shows/books/movies. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling in time to do that stuff, even if you are a parent. (I’m talking to myself now.)
- Write fan letters or art and send them to the people who are making a difference to you. The time and love you put into that will be time you spend thinking positive thoughts of gratitude.
Make your life better in general.
Sometimes it is MORE jarring to return home because we hate our jobs, our partners are not supportive, or our families look down on us. Tackle those issues according to your level of emotional energy and your financial situation.
- If someone is being actively homophobic or racist at work, report it if possible.
- Start building the groundwork to leave your job, or to move somewhere better.
- If your partner or family belittles your interests, it’s time to have some come to Jesus talks and good healthy boundary setting sessions.
I know this is a whole lot easier said than done because I’ve had to do a whole shitton of it. I have had good therapists help me through it. And the impact on my level of happiness was incredibly positive.
Look ahead to next time.
Prevention is worth a whole lot more than cure. Being exhausted and actually sick with con crud when you get back just compounds the misery.
- Make sure you bring hand sanitizer to the con and wash your hands often while you are there.
- Make sure you eat and take care of yourself at the con.
- If you have anything you swear by like vitamin C or emergen-c, bring it to the con.
- If you DO have the option, make sure you ask for a recovery day off work ahead of time. You will need to rest, and you will thank yourself for the brilliant planning.
Lean into it.
Will having a cry make you feel better? It’s ok to do that! Share your pain with other fans. Let yourself feel it. As long as you are taking care of yourself and you try not to wallow toooooo long, honoring your feelings is a good thing.
Make sure that if you actually have full blown depression that you get treatment from a health care professional.
Know the symptoms of depression. Here is a handy reference list from the Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
If things seem like they are slipping deeper from blue to depressed, get professional medical treatment. When in doubt, get professional medical treatment. (sensing a pattern?) Again, I know this is easier said than done. I say this as someone who has survived 25 years of major depressive disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders that have resulted in no fewer than five hospitalizations. Many of those years were spent with no health insurance, which, as an American, sucks donkey balls. I say this only so you know that I get it. I have called upon many different resources in my life – teaching hospitals, local universities, public health departments, free support groups at local nonprofits, I have tried and used it all. When I couldn’t afford it I’d call and tell them. They often came up with ways to help me. The important thing is that you don’t wait for it to get better on its own. I’ve done that and I’ve suffered for it. So I know for a fact that depression compounds upon itself. Depression is terrifying and traumatic, and having a full blown episode itself causes damage. The longer you wait, the worse the long term impact will be on your health.
So. Ask for help. If someone says no they can’t or won’t help, ask someone else. If a treatment doesn’t work, try another one. Keep doing that until you get the treatment that works. It is horrible and unjust that that you have to fight so hard for your own life, but your life is worth fighting for. I have been happy and symptom free for several years and I rate being non depressed a 15/10. I highly recommend.
And keep doing what you love.
In the end, attending conventions is worth the pain of coming back home, especially if you are taking good care of yourself in between cons, making space for joy, and if your life is nice to come home to! If you have any other advice for weathering the post-convention blues, please put it below in the comments!
And as a bonus for reading the entire article, enjoy a picture of babby 19 year old Rebekah after her first fan convention. It was the 1995 Star Trek Grand Slam convention in Pasadena and I was just a tad excited for the first female star ship captain. Can you tell? Once a nerdy feminist, always a nerdy feminist. At the convention, besides asking Kate Mulgrew to sign everything but my face, I got a 'Q' poster (you can see part of it in my hand) signed by the man himself, John de Lancie for my uberfan younger sister Michele. I also remember swooning over Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes in person. (Troi and Riker, my first 'ship). Great memories! I can't wait to go out and make some more. See you at the con!
Blackwelder 2164 is a rollicking, sci-fi adventure, with a brilliantly drawn, lovable (and reprehensible) cast of characters. It is set in a time where warring countries on Earth have been forced to unite in the face of an alien threat. Blackwelder refers to Spencer Blackwelder, a disciplined, sharp shooting sergeant in the Allied Earth Forces.
The book starts off with a bang and keeps up a steady pace throughout. In the first chapter, the reader is dropped right in the middle of action, as Blackwelder’s squadron from the warship AES Barack has been sent to check out an abandoned alien craft. The mission does not go as planned and the stakes are life or death. In the second chapter, the reader learns that Blackwelder’s personal life has not gone to plan either, and he is grappling with a painful decision with no easy solution in sight.
By the end of the second chapter, I was already rooting for Blackwelder. He is clearly a good man and a great soldier. However, he has made choices in his personal life that have led to heartbreak and put his cherished friendships in jeopardy. He has fallen in love with one of his best friends. Due to the small detail of his friend being engaged, paired with the homophobia of his commanding officer, he feels completely trapped and miserably guilty. He decides to essentially run from his problems and requests to be transferred to a remote planet called Triton. Triton is a planet likely to be the target of a first wave of alien attacks, and the soldiers there are woefully unprepared.
Blackwelder’s request is granted and he takes up the responsibility of training soldiers on Triton. He quickly finds out there are many more layers to this war than he had imagined. As a top soldier on a prized warship, he was shielded from most rumors and secrets. But on Triton, he begins to see complexity to the war. Perhaps earth wasn’t so blameless and perhaps an insurgent terrorist group posed more of a threat than he previously thought. Moreover, a suspicious sabotage leads to a terrifying malfunction in the training arena. As the mysteries pile on, and the stakes rise and rise in the face of an alien invasion, Blackwelder meets a man (a badass, gorgeous, well-connected ambassador with a heart of gold) who helps him move on much more quickly than he thought possible. Triton is just full of surprises.
Blackwelder 2164 delivers heart stopping sci-fi space battles, government intrigue, spies, action, humor, and feels. Also, bonus sexy scenes and romance! I also appreciated that this is a story about a gay man of color, written by a gay man of color. When people write protagonists that reflect themselves, there is an easy authenticity that makes the story more absorbing. In fact, all the characters reflect respect for a diverse spectrum of cultures. And I was delighted as I kept meeting women characters who were written with love and style. A book set in the military with a male protagonist could easily fall into the trap of forgetting women soldiers exist or tokenizing them. But this book has women soldiers and they are written with character, personality, and depth. It is sad how refreshing it is to read a genre book that actually acknowledges that earth is a diverse place.
I highly recommend Blackwelder 2164 for your 2018 reading list. It's a fast, fun, intriguing read. In fact, I hope it gets a sequel. Blackwelder 2164 does end with a resolution to the first battle, so thankfully no cliff-hanger. But earth’s scheming and secrets that Blackwelder uncovered would make a fantastic act 2.
You will have more fun in Star Wars: The Last Jedi than you knew was humanly possible. There are scenes so striking, innovative, and flat out magical that you will nearly fall out of your seat. You will gape. You will cheer. You just might cry.
Megafans will debate for years about character arcs, continuity, and whether porgs are adorable or nah. But what cannot be denied is that The Last Jedi is visually stunning, massively entertaining, and almost never takes the predictable route.
This crop of Star Wars movies has the unenviable task of pulling off the near impossible: honor the past while creating the future. Change is hard. Launching the next generation of heroes and making space for them is crucial, but honoring the deep love that fans have for the original heroes is equally as important. The Last Jedi did both.
Our beloved heroes, Luke and Leia, are still leading the rebellion and bringing hope to the galaxy. They still know how to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. Our iconic villain, Darth Vader, still casts a looming shadow even in his absence. Yet it is clear that the power of the force is not owned by anyone or anything. The Jedi religion is not shackled to any physical place. Good and evil are choices, not destiny, and we all get to make choices, no matter our family tree.
The Last Jedi also succeeds making the Star Wars universe more nuanced and complex, even while delivering crowd-pleasing scene after crowd-pleasing scene. In The Last Jedi, heroes can make mistakes. Legends can have crises of faith. Things that are shiny can be grotesque upon closer inspection. And the girl who fixes the pipes can have a hero inside of her you just haven’t met yet.
The plotlines are equally innovative. There are numerous times I thought I knew what was coming, and The Last Jedi surprised me.
A forty year old franchise that can still surprise you is pulling off something special.
At its heart, Star Wars is an epic, timeless story. Truly valuable stories are living, breathing things that we pass down to our children and grandchildren. When we hoard them and encase them in carbonite, they become more suited for museum display. The surprises and innovations of The Last Jedi ensured that Star Wars is a story that will inspire generations to come.
Still dubious? Stand in my sensible-yet-attractive middle-aged pumps for a second. Let’s go on a journey to 1999. Picture being an overjoyed young adult camping out for a Star Wars prequel--the first in fifteen years. Imagine squeezing into a movie theater with breathless anticipation. The projector turns on and The Phantom Menace appears on the screen. Imagine a void where the soul and charm of Star Wars was supposed to be. Picture acting so wooden you want to feel something but you just don’t. Then you see Jar-Jar Binks. Yikes. What you are picturing is the experience of being fed an aggressively mediocre sci-fi movie dressed in a Star Wars suit. If you didn’t experience that, count your blessings.
I was born the year before Star Wars premiered. I have lived long enough to see great Star Wars movies being made again. These movies have introduced wildly endearing new heroes like Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose. They are movies packed with talented people acting their asses off, and with chemistry that sparks off of the screen.
You don’t even have to imagine that last part. Just go see The Last Jedi, and experience it for yourself.
When you fall in love with a television show, you cannot predict its longevity in the pop culture consciousness. Its lifespan depends on the next generation. What parts of your pop culture will resonate with them and thus persevere? That matters to nerds like me. But no one can predict what the next generation holds on to.
As I enter my forties, I’m starting to see answers in the teenagers around me. My son’s friend showed up for a party wearing a Nirvana shirt. I made a mental note. Nirvana made the cut. One day last June, I picked up my nephew from high school. He got into my car and realized Biggie’s Juicy was playing.
“Auntie, how are you gonna be playing Biggie on Tupac’s birthday?”
Touché, young man. Touché. But for every Biggie and Tupac, a hundred more artists I love have been relegated to the dustbin of pop culture history. The same is true of TV shows. My love of Star Trek has been richly rewarded. Star Trek is a juggernaut of merchandise, spinoffs, movies, and documentaries. That means the fandom regenerates like a time traveling alien with two hearts. I get to connect with others who understand what that show and those characters mean to me. Other shows I am devoted to haven't endured in the same way. But one incredibly pleasant surprise has been the staying power of the little cult show that could: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could fill a novel with the reasons I love Buffy.
Buffy was a hero. She had a heart as big as a the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes she suffered. Sometimes she gave up. She even fucked up. It didn’t diminish her or her value. It didn’t change what she was capable of. And she always found a reserve of hope. The humanist values, the family you choose, it all hit me where I lived. And guess what? The people who understood and loved Buffy, understood me. Buffy ended, but has remained an important part of my life.
Twenty years later, I watch Buffy. I read Buffy. I buy Buffy fanart. I make friends because of Buffy. Buffy still determines what new shows I will watch. I follow writers from Buffy-and its spinoff Angel-throughout their careers, because I know they tell stories that resonate with me. That is how I found Supernatural, which is where I continue to connect with people around Buffy. In my Supernatural fan group on Facebook, we maintain photo albums of every Buffy alum that has appeared on Supernatural. We have a files section that lists Buffy/Supernatural crossover fan fiction. Buffy fans created our own subculture within the Supernatural fandom where we connect with people who love the same stories and characters that we do.
Then I discovered Wynonna Earp, and the ante was upped. I watched Wynonna Earp because of an article where the creator of the television show, Emily Andras, talked about her Buffy influences. So I gave the show a try. I immediately saw Buffy’s –and Supernatural's’--fingerprints everywhere. But Wynonna Earp progresses beyond Buffy and Supernatural in a few important aspects. One is LGBT representation. A main character (not a dead side character) is in a same sex relationship. That relationship is complex, three dimensional, and fully recognized. The cast embraces their opportunity to represent LGBT characters in a positive light, and attends LGBT fan conventions. (Raises eyebrows across the room at my SPNFamily) Secondly, Wynonna Earp reflects a more modern and evolved understanding of feminism. Wynonna is not shamed or punished for her sexual choices by anyone. The men in her life fully understand that they do not own her, even when they are attracted to her. (Sit down, Xander) The male characters--such as the love of my life, Deputy Marshall Xavier Dolls--are fully formed, secure badasses in their own rights and are not threatened by her strength and fire. In fact they thrive on it. So hey, add in all the kicking demon ass, rollicking fight scenes, hilarious one liners, and fabulous cast, and I was all in on Wynonna Earp. I followed/joined/signed up for everything Wynonna Earp fan related. I found a creative, inclusive, welcoming community.
But it got even better, and even Buffy-ier. A few Wynonna Earp fans (called Earpers) launched a #BuffyEarpers initiative. I assumed it was just a hashtag with some clever, adorable accompanying fan art. But #BuffyEarpers is an initiative by Buffy fans within the Earper community where they share their love of Buffy with each other, and with the uninitiated. It has art, merchandise, watch parties, social media accounts, live tweets, and a podcast. Throw all of those ingredients into a bowl and pour in a heaping helping of pure fangirl (and boy and nonbinary) love and devotion. I listened to the premiere episode of the BuffyEarper podcast last week. The episode opened with the Buffy theme song and I found myself in tears. It dawned on me that some part of this initiative involved Buffy fans in my generation sharing the show with a younger generation. I find that touching. I have zero time or energy for people who slag off the younger generation. Secondly, that means my show offers something of value to the next generation, who will bring even more creative energy and connection to the community. I don’t ever have to say goodbye to my fandom.
Just to put this in perspective to the younger ones, in the 80’s and early 90’s, when something was over, it was over. Did your family move to a different state? You aren’t ever seeing those friends again. I hope you said goodbye. Did you lose a phone number? A recipe? Google doesn’t exist, bitch, it’s over. That set of encyclopedias isn’t gonna help you. The same with shows. When your shows were over. They were OVER. And you didn’t have a fandom to sustain you because you didn’t have the internet. If your siblings or hometown friends didn’t like a show, tough titties. If they thought drawing blueprints of the Starship Enterprise and learning Klingon was fucking weird, or that wanting to be called Galadriel was childish, well you were up shit creek without a paddle. You got to be the social leper reading dragon books in the back of the bus. (Ahem.) So it wasn’t just that your show that was gone. Your point of connection was gone. Your validation that you were not alone disappeared. Buffy was just on that cusp where the fans and creators were pioneering online communities and fan meetups. But I didn’t have a computer. How was I gonna afford that? I wasn’t Scrooge McDuck.
But of course, things changed. Remember those long lost childhood friends? THEY. ALL. FOUND. YOU. ON. FACEBOOK. Oh, hey Devin from 2nd grade, you still exist. Laptops became common. Starbucks, your local library, and maybe your entire city got Wi-Fi. We used the internet to build entire communities along fandoms instead of along geography. Frankly, the latter leaves much to be desired when you are a kid that doesn't quite fit in the box. New generations of fans were born and found each other. Comic Con became a worldwide sensation. And the best part? Some of the things you loved the most, but thought you had to say goodbye to, just. Kept. Coming back. And in that moment, listening to the #BuffyEarper podcast, I realized that even though Buffy may not be the massive phenomenon of a Star Trek or Star Wars, she isn’t going anywhere. Not only is my generation of fans still devoted to the little show that could, we are sharing it with the next generation of fans, who are falling in love too. And they are breathing new life into the fandom. We are going to be here, regardless of whether there are remakes, reboots, and regardless of whether they turn out to be any good. Given the uncommon resilience of Buffy herself, I suppose it is fitting.
Buffy Lives, indeed.