This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Secret Spy Stash

You think you’re anonymous there sitting on the bus. You briefly glance up from your Margot Kidder paperback and see me benignly working on a word search. I look focused on finding all the Greek mythology figures that begin with the letter “H.”

Ah, but you’re missing out. I’m a writer and this is my ruse. I’m watching you with your reading glasses, your brown trousers, and those dress socks you've folded neatly to accentuate your boring, brown loafers. I imagine you're a librarian with all the free paperbacks you could ever wish for. I nickname you "Marian The Librarian" in my head and wonder silently why (with all those free books) you look so irritable and unhappy. You see, it's not just today. I see you often on the bus, and you always have the same unfriendly demeanor.

And this, is precisely why I take the bus…in L.A. even though I have a car and ( at least for now, I have money for gas.)

Writers are sly. We eavesdrop, we stare, and we viciously write down details about you and the little conversation you’re having on your cell phone. We take note of what you’re reading, what you’re wearing, and your most interestingly charactery mannerisms.

You think that you’ll never be famous, but we write about you -- well, parts of you, merged along with swirls of color from other people we’ve met along the way… names changed, of course. We fill notebooks with character information and observations-- our secret spy stash for later.

Taking the bus is more than just an eco-friendly journey toward my day job – it’s an encapsulated experience to observe people I’d otherwise never come in contact with --if I limited myself only to the Californian ‘car culture commute.’ ( And yes, I also take the subway)

Writers must go out of their way to experience more than just the celebrity smut-ness and reality-obsessed television and fantasy-land of L.A. All that Hollywoodland sugar takes us further and further away from the plights of ordinary people. And believe it or not, those we deem as “ordinary” actually have the most interesting stories--which is why I pay attention to you, sitting on the bus by yourself…

Someday you might actually smile.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Caffeine Writings

CAFFEINE... It's the jolt that many of us rely on to keep us going. For most writers, myself included, that caffeine addiction is coffee. (Hence the main title of this blog.)

Like most addicts, I know quite a bit about my 'drug of choice.' I've worked in several cafes over the years, including some here in Los Angeles--

I'd say that I'm fluent in 'coffee speak', yet even I cannot understand some of the words in St**buck -speak ( an odd dialect) A Tall is a small? Their caramel latte is everyone else's caramel macchiato. How many times did I have to translate peoples' orders for them so they could get our version of their mass-produced, icky, Starbucks drink. But it doesn't matter...

I don't work in coffee anymore, but I can still make a mean cappucino and pretty much any other cafe drink. The idea of a large-soy-mocha-capp-flat-with-an-extra-shot doesn't faze me. I know the optimum number of seconds for an espresso shot ( in order to get the best crema) and a bunch of other coffee knowledge that I've now deemed fairly useless.

However, since I still consume more than my share of coffee, I thought I'd take a moment to recommend some of my favorite gourmet and specialty coffee makers:

( A locally-produced Omaha coffee brand! Luckily, they offer mail order to L.A.)
( Absolutely incredible selection of every coffee flavor you can imagine!!)
MELITTA BRAND COFFEE ( Available in most grocery stores and fairly inexpensive)

Also, thanks to the GOT MILK? Marketing people, I can pass along a great recipe for the upcoming days of summer.

(Aka "Make your own gourmet iced coffee slushee!")

4 cups skim or 1% milk
2 T. instant espresso or coffee
6 T. brown sugar

Directions: Stir ingredients together until coffee is dissolved. Pour into a 13x9" baking pan. Cover loosely and freeze at least 4 hours. Stir after several hours to break up large, frozen pieces. To Serve, Scrape with a spoon or ice cream scoop.
Yield: 6 cups. Makes 4 services. Per serving: 110 calories, 5 g. protein, 20% calcium.

*For more coffee flavor, I sometimes substitute filter coffee for half of the milk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

As Many Stars As There Are In Heaven

According to, my STARMETER ranking is 225,806 –which might be depressing if A) I actually cared and/or B) I actually knew what this meant.

As it is, all I know is that there are a whole lot of people ahead of me, and even more people behind me. Success means quite a bit of standing in line, which really means that the longer you wait it out, the better your chances are.

That’s why I never pay much attention to the crap-shoot statistics of making it in Hollywood (or the lousy chances of ever getting a movie made.) If I actually allowed myself to believe any of that, I’d lose faith—and faith is what I need most! Lack of faith is what makes dreams wither and die.

The people who publish those dire statistics are the ones who write screenwriting books. Those statistics exist to encourage people to give up or, more importantly, coerce screenwriters into thinking that they need more screenwriting books to put them at the top of the game. You don’t need more books about writing; you need more writing books – as in books with crisp, blank white pages for you to actually write on. And I do mean write, like with a pen—the old-fashioned way.

To put things into perspective: Have you ever been in a huge line at the grocery store and the person in front of you acts all irritated at the clerk. Finally that person just leaves in a huff. You get to move forward. Then, suddenly…right after that person leaves, another checkout lane opens up and the clerk points to you and says, “I can help the next person over here” and that’s YOU! It’s your big break.

Not that it’s that exciting to jump the line at the grocery store, but my point is that you never know when you might get a ‘break.’ That grumpy person ahead of you missed out. It could’ve been him or her. You might get a break here and there, but you’re still going to have to wait until the time is right and you’ll still have to work.

As odd as it might sound, the luckiest people are the ones who had to struggle to get where they are. As much I hate to admit it, they are the ones that had to wait. Not only is success that much sweeter in the end, but the success is given to them when they are truly ready for it. That means that they are ready to handle it.

So, back to my so-called STARMETER--- The good side, 225,806 isn’t bad when I really think about how many people are actually listed on imdb ---which is about 1.6 million. That’s a huge amount of people standing behind me at the grocery store. (We’re all reading US Weekly, by the way…something that none of us would admit, but I’m being realistic.) This also proves just how ridiculous ( and arbitrary) rankings are to begin with.

I forgot to mention that imdb says that my STARMETER is up 143% from last week. Did I do anything differently? NO. Maybe more yoga than usual…maybe more writing… However, as long as there are projects like the feature film pairing hot chicks with freaky little people ( which is an actual project going into development), I know I have a chance.
In the meantime, I keep moving forward…the line is getting shorter, but it’s still long. I wait patiently. I write to pass the time.

*Starfish pencil drawing by: Gloria Hopkins. Available at*

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Green Filmmaking And Studio Worm Farms

Visiting a country like New Zealand both reconnected me with nature and reminded me of all the beauty there is in the world. I’m a nature girl and not afraid to admit that I’m a passionate tree-hugger. In fact, I joked to the Kiwis that I would need a separate photo album for all the TREES of New Zealand I’d photographed. It seems I took more photos of trees than anything else.

For me, there’s no greater pleasure than traipsing through nature’s playground. When I was about twelve, I read and re-read a book called “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The World.”

I followed every tip and every guideline. I planted lettuce in my backyard, I recycled everything, and to my parent’s chagrin, I even made my own recycled paper (utilizing the family blender.) From then on, smoothies made in that blender always had an extra boost of “pulp”—and we’re not talking pulp of the fruit variety. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the world, but I didn’t fail either. I did my part, and I continue to investigate ways that I can increase my participation in saving the world.

Of course, An Inconvenient Truth showed all the naysayers that environmentalism isn’t dead and tree huggers can, in fact, be cool. One beautiful thing about travel is learning and experiencing the other ways that people approach the world we all share. When I visited South Pacific Pictures, a film production company based in Auckland, New Zealand, I was amazed to hear the Studio Manager, Karen Shaw, mention that they had a “worm farm” right there on the studio lot.

“A worm farm?”, I thought in amazement.

Imagine pitching that idea to Paramount or Universal or any of the major studio lots here in Los Angeles. They’d be more likely to greenlight Waterworld 2: Investigating Mars or something like that. Not only did South Pacific Pictures boast a worm farm, but they were ecologically-conscious every step of the way in their approach toward filmmaking, and they are looking toward becoming a “zero carbon emissions” studio.

I get annoyed on American film sets when I see the amount of waste: aluminum cans thrown in with the craft service garbage, half-full bottles of water left abandoned by crew, protein bar wrappers gone with the wind… Sometimes I collect the recyclable bottles and cans myself, but I can’t save them all and I can’t save the world all by myself.

The point is that if all of us did something, perhaps all of us together could save the world. That means corporations… that means filmmakers…and that means individuals like you and me and the rest of the world.

Like the media, the entertainment industry and filmmaking professionals have the power and the influence to help create change and, in essence, help save the world. Organizations like the Environmental Media Association (EMA),, seeks “to educate people about environmental issues and inspire them into action.” Since 1989, EMA has even pitched environmental storylines to producers and writers of television and film programs to encourage them to touch on environmentalism within entertainment.

New Mexico was recently profiled in The Los Angeles Times as a state on the brink of a filmmaking boom-- boasting various financial incentives and resources for filmmakers in addition to their offers of "homespun New Mexican film friendliness." Apart from all of this, New Mexico has come to my attention for another reason, their Green Filmmaking Initiative – a voluntary program to encourage film and television productions to “Go Green.”

New Mexico will help productions with things such as establishing recycling programs, utilizing organic products and environmentally-friendly building materials, and donating unwanted items to local schools and other charity organizations. Currently, there’s no mention of worms crawling around in compost at the New Mexico Film Office, BUT through education and encouragement, and with the offer of even more incentives for green productions, New Mexico is leading the way toward more eco-friendly filmmaking. That’s something I’d like to see from more film commissions, production companies, studios, and filmmakers!

*The content of this post was recently published on the Los Angeles Edition of BrooWaha at:
*ABOVE PHOTO taken by Kendra Liedle -- "Trees of Pauanui" ( New Zealand )

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sometimes stopping is the most important part of the journey...

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to travel, especially internationally. It’s just the getting there that can sometimes test my patience. Like flying to New Zealand, with a HUGE 747 -- I’m in a plane that’s traveling what, 950 miles per hour (??), and it still takes nearly 14 hours to get there from Los Angeles! Mostly, I was flying over ocean which just points out how much ocean there really is! It’s unimaginable!!

Fourteen hours on a plane is no cup of tea, but Air New Zealand made it as comfortable as humanly possible and, in fact, did offer tea ( and complimentary wine!) I’d dare to say that it was one of my best airline experiences to date.

Even saying that, however, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was very excited to get OFF the plane. I think I speak for all airline passengers when I say that. No matter how comfortable your airline passage has been, you can’t wait to get off the damn plane! Maybe that’s why everyone jumps out of their seat simultaneously once the plane touches down and the pilot turns the seatbelt sign off.

One of the pluses to international flights on Air New Zealand was their amazing entertainment system! Every seat had a TV screen and a detachable remote control embedded into the arm rest. With the touch of a button, one could choose from a mega-load of music options (entire CDs), TV shows, and tons of movies from all genres. Flip the remote control over and it becomes a game controller so you can play games ( like Tetris!) on the plane and even create personal play lists from the music selections. The sophistication of airline entertainment amazed me to such a degree that I killed off at least an hour of my flight time playing Tetris and deciding which movie I wanted to watch.

On the way back from New Zealand, I was dismayed thinking that all the discoveries of my trip were now over…until I came across the film, SNOW CAKE. It started off quirky – right up my alley. An enthusiastic, ragamuffin of a girl named Vivienne Freeman, succeeds in bumming a ride with the depressed and recently released ex-con, Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman). It sounded like the beginnings of a typical Lifetime "abduction movie", BUT I stuck with it...

At first glance, it seemed rather unlikely that these two would get together, but the film has a way of pulling you in... Just about the time that Alex seems to warm up to Vivienne’s sometimes annoying friendliness… something drastic happens.

Alex’s guilt forces him to track down Vivienne’s mother to apologize. At first, Linda Freeman ( Sigourney Weaver) seems to have a very detached reaction to the loss of her daughter. However, one look closer and it’s discovered that there’s something special about Linda. She is a highly-functioning autistic woman with an amazing enthusiasm for life. In the truest sense, it was Vivienne who was her mother's caretaker as much as she was a daughter and friend.

Snow Cake explores the ensuing friendship that develops between Linda and Alex as they prepare to formally say goodbye to Vivienne, the vivacious girl who touched them both. It’s a film that is as much about life as it is about death.

Through Linda, Alex rediscovers the wonderment of life and nature in its most basic forms. Linda is not looking for apologies nor is she giving them. She’s just herself and that’s all she needs to be. Snow Cake teaches us that forgiveness is far more powerful an emotion to achieve than anger and even when faced with tragedy, we all have the capacity to move forward in our own lives.

Above: Linda and Alex play Scrabble ( another one of my favorite games ), but they play by Linda's rules which means you can use made-up outlandish words - as long as you can use the word in a sentence. Yes, Balderdash meets Scrabble... why didn't I think of that?

Linda Freeman: Have you ever had an orgasm, Alex?
Alex Hughes: It has been known.
Linda Freeman: It sounds like an inferior version of what I feel when I have a mouthful of snow.
[shoves some into her mouth]

Directed By: Marc Evans
Written By: Angela Pell
Cast: Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Hampshire
Release date: April 27, 2007

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Stumbling Back To Reality

New Zealand is now only in my memory and the reality of "real life" has come back. I had a magnificent and amazing adventure on my trip! For complete coverage of Kendra's Crazy Capers in Kiwi land, please visit my travel blog

I've recently updated all the entries and posted photos ( more to come...) Enjoy!