Sorry. This isn’t about my film because nothing has really progressed from the last post, but instead here is some background on myself as an artist.
Part I: In the Name of Love
I hate explaining how I fell in love with filmmaking. It makes me sound shallow. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this post I have to rehash the superiorly unremarkable way I discovered my life’s passion.
I always loved watching television and movies. I had really bad separation anxiety when I was young, and switching on the TV was the only consistent way for my babysitter to keep me distracted from crying for my mom. It embarrasses me to remember how high maintenance I was, but maybe all that television was actually useful in setting me in the pursuit of filmmaking.
From a young age, I was also very interested in writing stories. I wrote my first book when I was six. It was about five pages, each with an illustration of a bunny doing a physical activity. The same sentence, “That bunny is funny,” was the only thing written on each page. I titled this masterpiece “Funny Bunny.” My parents were so proud.I continued writing stories for my dad. He pretended he liked them. They were all terrible. But slowly, they got less terrible.
Anyway, this brings me back to the spark that started it all – my great romance with film. Strangely enough, it did start out with a real life romance. At least, it started with a real life romance made up in my preteen head. I was twelve years old, in seventh grade and had fallen madly in love with the six-pack wielding, vaguely-latino, eighth grade heartthrob –– Hottie McHottie II (of course this isn’t his real name, but for privacy purposes, I think it’s best to not identify him). I thought he was the coolest. In hindsight, he probably thought I was a freaky stalker chick, but what can I say – the heart wants what the heart wants.
At my tiny Catholic K through eight, the seventh grade class has to put on a dinner for the eighth graders –– sort of like a happy send off or a classy good riddance. Each year one of the parents of a seventh grader has to put together a slideshow for the departing class. My mom volunteered to do it, but she was lazy and handed the duty to me. I gladly took the responsibility in hopes of impressing Hottie McHottie II. If he saw how creative I was, he would surely love me back.
At first, doing the slideshow was kind of a drag. I had to look at a bunch of pictures of people I did not care about (except for Hottie McHottie II of course) and I had to learn how to use a new computer software, which was a pain as I am far from a tech whiz. But once I got the hang of iMovie and started compiling the best photos, I began to really enjoy the project. When it was finished, I was proud of the work. I had not planned on getting any self-satisfaction from the project; my goal had only always been about Hottie McHottie II.
When the slideshow showed at the dinner, many of the parents who attended were impressed. I never did find out if Hottie McHottie II liked it. Sometimes I still wonder what he thought of me. But the moment the slideshow ended, I knew that I wanted to make movies – the cooler, more popular sibling of slideshows –– something that combined my old love of storytelling and my new love of visual image compilation.
I soon realized that Hottie McHottie II was a douche, but my love for filmmaking remained. Even though he is gross, I will always be thankful for Hottie McHottie II because if it was not for him, I would not have made the slideshow and would not have found film.
Getting into high school was a whole other battle.
I finally knew what I wanted to do, but I did not know what to do with my new passion. My parents bought me a camcorder, but I assumed I was doomed to the far too familiar reality of Catholic High School. I was not sporty, so I was pretty positive I would end up with the theatre nerds. And to clarify, the Venn diagram of Catholic school theatre nerds and not cute boys would be a circle – or at least very close to one.
I had wanted to go to SOTA ever since I saw “Guys and Dolls,” performed in the early 2000s. When I told people that was where I wanted to go, everyone –– including my parents –– discouraged me. They thought I was an academic, and perhaps I am, but that still was not a reason to push me to a school I had no interest in attending. My history teacher thought that Lowell was a perfect fit for me, to which I always replied “The school stinks. Literally. And they aren’t all as smart as they think they are.” You can probably tell how my Lowell shadow day went.
Then my mom read an article saying that SOTA was one of the top schools in the district, rivaling stinky Lowell in academic prowess. She let me apply.
I started my application for the Creative Writing department. At the time, I did not realize there was such a thing as the Media department, so I assumed creative writing was the best path to take on my filmmaking journey. I thought that I could take what I would learn from writing stories and translate it into my screenplays. I shadowed CW and it was okay.
The next week my mom told me that there was a Media department that focused on filmmaking. I immediately decided to change my application. When I really thought about it, there was no way I would have been able to sit at a table and write day in and day out. I shudder at the thought.
I shadowed again, except this time, for Media. I was put into Joe’s editing class with the freshman. I knew that I had found my place. Although editing is not my favorite aspect of filmmaking, everything was perfect. Joe loved scifi. The conversations were funny. The kids were nice. Diego was cute.
So I quickly put together my portfolio and auditioned. I was so nervous that I could not stop shaking. I wanted to get in so bad. I hated my other options. I hated “regular” school.
I was called down to the Media room. I waited in Scott’s classroom for about five minutes, listening to some jarring jazz, scared shitless. When Scott called me into the dark middle room where Joe and Salome were waiting, I took out my portfolio and they watched the first movie I had ever made. I remember that I was the last audition of the day and that they told me they were exhausted. I felt bad. I left that room unsure of how it went. I hoped they liked me.
I guess they liked me enough because a few weeks later my acceptance letter came in the mail. I remember my sister and I danced down the street on our way to the Saint Philip Crabfest the afternoon we found out we both got into SOTA. Anya Hirota: Musical Theatre Star. Maya Hirota: Filmmaker Extraordinaire.
A still from my first real production, “Love, Sam.”
Part II: I Hate Acne and I Hate Work
The first day of high school I walked into Scott’s classroom and had so many ideas. I had so many stories in my head it made me dizzy. I just wanted to learn as fast as I could so I could follow my dream to become the best filmmaker I could be – and maybe even receive an Oscar while I was at it. I still feel the same way. Now that I’m at the end of my high school career, I have a resurgence of creativity, of promise and hope for my future, but somewhere in between the beginning and the end I lost my drive.
I guess it is wrong of me to say that I lost my drive because I never stopped wanting to be the best that I could be, wanting to make movies, wanting to get an Oscar. I lost the constant ideas, but the dizziness stayed. I was not making up any stories anymore. I had trouble choosing an idea and pursuing it. I was unsure. So instead of feeling like my brain was going to explode out of creativity, it felt like it was going to explode out of stress.
It is hard for me to explain why exactly I went into this funk because I don’t even fully understand it. I continued to produce good work, landing the closing spot for Media Nite twice in a row, but I just didn’t feel great. I cried a lot. It might have just been hormonal. But I always feel odd about trivializing my problems to hormones. I know my body can be whacky, but I’d like to think that there is something more to a depression.
But if I had to boil it down to what it really was – I had bad skin and bad ideas. I feel revitalized again. I have so many things I want to pursue. The world of opportunity feels open again and I’m ready to do something great. I don’t know what exactly changed in me, but I feel like I did when I was a new freshman. The world is my oyster and I’m ready to shuck.
Although the middle was bumpy, I still learned so much in my high school years. I grew so much as an artist and am so much more skilled in writing, directing, and editing. High school has been enlightening in more ways than just academically. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity of going to an arts school. I met people who are so much like me, yet different enough to teach me things that I would have never discovered on my own.
It’s hard to write about high school from an artistic standpoint because all I can say is that I grew a lot. I feel comfortable in my style and in my tastes now.
Thank you SOTA. Sometimes I hated you, but most of the time you were pretty okay.
A still from my first semester Sophomore Year production, “Things That Happen.”
Part III: I Would Like to Thank the Academy
The future is daunting. I’m a senior in high school and I still don’t know where I want to go to college. I know what I ultimately want, but I don’t know what is the best and fastest route there.
I want to make movies. I want to write and direct. I want to make films that are beautiful and intelligent and entertaining. I want to be able to hire people to do the jobs that I don’t want to do myself. I want people to want to work with me. I want to be proud of my work and proud of what I have done with my life.
Every year I watch the Academy Awards with my dad. Since I was a little girl, after the award ceremony is over, before I jump into the shower, I look into the mirror and imagine I am giving my acceptance speech. I know that I should not have to rely on winning awards to feel validated in my work, and I don’t, but a girl can dream. Part of me wants an Oscar so bad because it’s something that I have always wanted. I feel that if I receive one, I would somehow be inspiring my younger self. I’m pretty sentimental.
I know that I will change my mind on many things in my life. I used to want five children. Now, that seems like a nightmare. Even though I have the ability to change my hopes and dreams, I hope I do not change my mind on my filmmaking dreams. I hope I’ll hold onto the passion and still have plenty of stories to tell when I’m eighty. It scares me to think that I could end up giving up on my dream and go into something that I absolutely hate. It scares me to think that going into something I hate now, would actually be going into something that I actually like in the future. I cannot imagine myself as an accountant, but what if I end up loving accounting? For the sake of myself at present, I hope not. It would be like my older self betraying my younger self.
I want to be a successful filmmaker so badly. I want to be able to continue bringing stories that start out as nothing but electricity in my brain to real life – well, as real life as a film can be. It feels strange writing about my desires for the future. It feels like I’m begging for it to happen. Maybe I am.
Writing about being an artist feels unnatural. I cannot really explain where my ideas come from. I am an artist – I just am. And that is probably the most pretentious sounding thing I have ever written. I just grossed myself out.
A still from my latest production, “Happy Birthdays.”
Until next time,
Mo the Celluloid Being
Words and Photos by Maya Hirota