retour aux sources

When I first moved home after three years abroad, I bought a red notebook at Target and took it with me to the first writing group meeting with my friend. Red was a bold color, for a bold new start. I had been chomping at the bit for those three years, and now that I was back in LA I was ready to charge ahead as a filmmaker.

And I did. My red notebook holds fragments of all the extraordinary projects I’ve been a part of in the past three years. Just fragments, mind, because I am terrible at documentation: a starstruck account of the time I heated up soup for Margot Robbie (what am I saying, she heated up her own soup; I just sheepishly offered it to her), “I think this offer is a Chris Nolan project?!?!” scribbled in an illegible scrawl for plausible deniability, a shot list for the first personal project I’d ever shot with a crew sprawled across three pages.

The other day, I finished the notebook and immediately flipped to the front to reread my first entry: a litmus test of change. When this book was crisp and empty, I had just come home from one grand adventure. And I had to laugh, because guess what had been circling my thoughts just as I’d turned the last page? Fantasies of another long stay abroad.

Like, say, a year in Taipei.

I took these photos two years ago on my first trip back to Taiwan in eight years. At the time, I didn’t have any real plans, just a strong urge to go. During those two weeks, I wandered around and took photos as I had done in so many European cities, wrangling privately with the fact that Taipei wasn’t showing up the way I wanted it to in my photos.

It wasn’t really showing up the way I’d imagined beyond the camera either.

“It was beautiful. Like one of those game shows – everyone from my childhood popped up one by one. And yet it doesn’t feel like home; it feels like a kind of ancestral land where I’m in love with a culture that doesn’t really exist. My Russia has gone.” – Regina Spektor

Taipei is a city that I know and don’t know, a city built on memories and hearsay, as though the architects had been playing a game of Telephone. Chinese Whispers, as they say.

I’m neither tourist nor native. My knowledge is selective: I know what to do when the gates of hell open and the ghosts come out for the summer, but not when the trash truck pulls up the street blaring its MIDI Für Elise anthem. Which kind of trash goes in which bag? We didn’t cover that in Chinese school. I speak Chinese fluently, but I can’t exactly do linguistic somersaults with it the way I can with English. For someone who relies so heavily on puns, it’s daunting to think I literally won’t have my wits about me. How will people like me if I don’t have my puns? 😭

But I’ll have my camera. My camera has always been my handshake, my antennae, my alchemical formula for turning the strange into the familiar. So I’ll be documenting my year with a series of video diaries. Wrangling publicly with the gap between the Taipei in my head and the one made of smog and concrete, the one where shopkeepers give you the stink eye for taking a pair of shoes a bit too far on a test run, the one where I could walk right past someone who’s known my dad since he was in diapers and be none the wiser.

From trips to the market as the city wakes, to the clicking of a gecko in the rafters, to the steam wafting off a soup dumpling, I want to capture it all.

And I want you to come along for the ride. It’s free, it’ll be weird and wonderful and strange, and someone’s gotta hear those unused puns. And really, you’re getting the better deal out of this. You get all the fun without the humidity or mosquitos. I’m the one walking around like a sumo wrestler to avoid thigh chafe.

Now boarding: Youtube & IGTV

Patisseries Discoveries // Grape Soda Eclair

When one thinks of an éclair, perhaps the most recognizable French pastry and one of France’s greatest legacies, one’s thoughts turn naturally toward that most magical of places, that realm of wonder, that domain where the natural and organic reign supreme: Disneyland.

And so one summer evening, at the end of a long day of eating justified as a “Disneyland Food Tour” (there were spreadsheets involved), I bought a grape soda éclair from the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street.

Inspired by the movie Up, it was slathered in purple frosting and adorned with three chocolate buttons made to resemble soda caps and Wilderness Explorer badges. And that was just the exterior: it was filled with jelly and a peanut butter-flavored crème pâtissière. Not peanut butter, but a cream designed to taste like peanut butter.

Full disclosure: when we were putting together our Food Tour itinerary, we read countless lists and menus to find a balanced mix of the best and strangest foods in the parks. I read the description of the grape soda éclair and I knew I’d have to crack open the ol’ blog for another entry of Patisseries Discoveries.

After all, we all have destinies. Some lead revolutions, others put their kids through school. Still others accidentally invent the frisbee, or wrong a child in such a way that that child then grows up to change the world out of spite. Mine, apparently, is to encounter terrible pastries and relive them through the writing process, then inflict them on the unassuming masses.

“Here’s your receipt. I’ll go ahead and grab that eclair for you,” the cast member says. He slides it across the mottled countertop and I cannot stop the grin from spreading across my face because one of the chocolate buttons…is smeared.

The éclair had traveled maybe two feet from the display case into my waiting hands, and it was already smeared. There were maybe half a dozen other éclairs in that display case, each more flawless than the next. And yet!

But hold on. That didn’t mean it was necessarily going to be disgusting. Never judge a book by its cover, never judge a dog by its mange, and never, never, never judge a Deal or No Deal briefcase by how much the beautiful woman holding it is waggling her eyebrows!

I waited for my friends to come back from the restroom before biting into it. Because this is not amateur hour, okay? This is not just some woman with a need for attention and a disregard for the actual amount of her disposable income. We at Patisseries Discoveries hold ourselves to a certain standard, a certain gastronomic rigor.

It’s this rigor that permits me to say that the grape soda éclair…was unequivocally and indubitably bad. Guys, it was bad.

The choux pastry felt undercooked. And I know éclairs are not typically warmed up but in this instance the chilled gloop of the peanut butter and jelly-flavored creme felt like an unintended oversight. It didn’t quite taste like peanut butter, and even less so like jelly. It might have been better filled with real pb&j? And the purple frosting, which I assume made up the grape soda part of the éclair, just tasted cold.

As I chewed through this congealing mass, I could only retrace every decision I’d ever made that had led me here, seated at the yellow patio of the Jolly Holiday Bakery, watching the sun set over Sleeping Beauty’s castle, eating something with the texture of unhardened concrete.

I’ve loved eclairs in the past. I also have a running catalogue of monstrosities that I have yet to share. And as far as Disneyland food goes, I loved the Monte Cristo, and the lemon soft serve/blueberry slush delight that is the Pixar Pier Parfait, and I continue to be amused by the Matterhorn Macaroon. It’s a unique environment that facilitates really inventive culinary design, and I’m all for that.

But even now, over a week later and miles away from Disneyland’s shrill juvenile symphony, I think of this éclair and I can taste a phantom cold lumpiness, and it triggers my acid reflux, and I am filled with gratitude over the fact that I never have to eat it again, until I remember that I was the one who put it on that spreadsheet in the first place, cackling all the while, and that my encounter with it, like the boule noire, like the scatological Paris-Brest, like the smashed nid d’oeufs, is entirely my own damn fault.

2017 Year in Review

If 2016 was a dumpster fire, 2017 is when the fire leapt its bounds and took down the neighboring building, parking lot, and raccoon hovel in its wake. And yet, on a personal level, it’s been a pretty fulfilling year.

I was involved in some exciting projects and did a ridiculous amount of traveling. This year broke me, straightened me out, and sent me back off the runway. Here’s to 2018 flying even further off its coattails.

And now, all the blood and tears condensed into bullet points:

  • Finished up on Dunkirk and moved onto a new feature. I spent a year working with film prints on some of the last machines out there, clanking greasy old things literally cobbled together from found scraps. So when does my film cred card come in? Or will film bros still cluck at me for falling asleep during The Godfather?


  • Infringed upon the Parisian hospitality of V and A (not Victoria and Albert, although I will not comment on whether there is any resemblance) for a month. A month!!! This visit was long overdue and balm for the soul after a year of intensity. I don’t even say things like “balm for the soul,” that’s how balmy it was. I’m being told now that “balmy” means pleasantly warm, and it wasn’t; it was way too warm, unpleasantly warm. I’m so ready to go back.


  • Spent a crazy week in Sedona. Crazy in Sedona is more horse alchemy and vortex-hunting than hitting the clubs…but that’s arguably a more interesting type of crazy anyway.


  • Two weeks in New York and I only saw like, three rats. False advertising! I always want to skip the touristy parts and dive straight into “we have always lived in the brownstone,” but S was a great host (5 stars for the impeccably clean apartment, 2 stars for lack of fun facts). From foraging in Central Park to watching a 3-hour long modern dance piece, we made many bad life decisions that turned out to be so, so good.


  • Hopped aboard Artists at Play as producing assistant. I came home from my interview thinking, “Oh no, I really like these people,” and then proceeded to fling myself into a pit of despair every day until they offered me the job. And I have not been disappointed. I will stumble home bone tired at 9pm, join our Google Hangout, and then be too hyped to fall asleep. They’re an awesome group of people making American theater more inclusive.


  • “Kat will you be my DP?” Words to strike fear into my heart. I said yes to Tiny Laughs because I am a compulsive joiner, but I’m so glad I did. I thought I was stepping up to a plate that was way too high, but it turns out I was up to the task. In these few weeks I caught the cinematography bug pretty bad. I also got to meet an amazing ragtag cast and crew. After that many sleep-deprived hours together, I’d like to think we’re friends. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together, and whether we delivered on those small lols.

Black White & Read All Over // 2017 Roundup

If nothing else, this year has been pretty enriching on a personal level: I’ve come across so much great storytelling in all forms. The ratio of consumption to appreciation hasn’t been this high since childhood, when it felt like everything I read shook my world. (Like that one book about bees that I read to calm myself down after waking up from a nightmare, where there were two guy bees and a girl bee and one of the guy bees dies when he successfully mates with the queen. Just to be clear, the bees were in the book, not my nightmare.)

Here are some of the books and movies I loved this year. Let me know what you loved reading and watching! …Even if it was just one exquisitely crafted tweet.


BWR Books

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
I can’t stop screaming about this book. It is trope-y in all the best ways. It’s about a thief in Cairo who accidentally summons a djinn warrior and discovers her connections to the world of the djinn. There’s magic, palace intrigue, blood purity politics…you will feel all the feels of a slow burn fanfiction, and you will have to wait just as long for an update too. The sequel comes out next year. 😭

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
I read most of this in bed, then looked up as soon as I was finished and screeched at my sister about how amazing it was. She was like, “Shut up I’m trying to do my homework.” I was like, “Put your homework down and read this criss-crossing intergenerational saga of a North Dakotan town marked by colonial scar tissue.” (Not to be mistaken for colonic scar tissue, which I would not read…probably.)

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
I’ve never admired someone named Moist before. Just one of the ways this book has changed my life. This is a book in which a man keeps falling upwards, Forrest Gump-ing his way through life, and you can’t even be mad about it. If Moist Von Lipwig gave a TED talk, I’d…well, I’d probably still not watch it. Those talks are so long.

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
I clutched this book to my chest all summer and filled pages of my notebook with quotes. Murch has almost overwhelming insight into music, psychology, language, literature…I just kept going, “WHAT???” every five minutes. It was very embarrassing for my friend, who had only wanted some company at the cafe while she studied for exams.


Artwork by James Jean

The Shape of Water
My favorite movie this year, no question. It’s a simple and exquisite story told with immense artistic prowess and love for the medium. GDT gave a two-hour masterclass after our screening and all the practical effects, tricks, and illusions that went into this movie…ahhhh that’s the good stuff! That’s why I got into all this in the first place.

Saiorse Ronan and director Greta Gerwig. (Merie Wallace / A24)

Lady Bird
I watched this after one of my first days at Fox, peeling down the road to the Landmark to catch a showing. It’s the equivalent of first discovering Joan Didion in high school and finding out that young women have longed to leave the suburbs for as long as there have been suburbs. This is one for the girlhood canon.

On the set of Cléo de 5 à 7. Queen Agnès directing center frame.

The Great Beauty / Cléo de 5 à 7
In The Great Beauty, an Italian man is sad. We are with his sadness for a long, long time. Some would say, too long. But it’s a beautiful, poignant, and funny sadness. I’d like to romanticize a woman’s sadness in this wild, eccentric, indulgent, and precisely choreographed sort of way. Agnès Varda did just that in Cléo de 5 à 7, maybe the only French New Wave film I haven’t had to lie about loving. Here was a woman, living and breathing 55 years before my time, and yet living and breathing as I do. (She too is sad in a European city. Make a double feature out of it.)

Cate Blanchett performs various artistic or political manifestos as 13 different characters. It’s I’m Not There but better. That is to say, if I’m Not There was only the Cate Blanchett part, the only part that I can remember anyway.

Eat Drink Man Woman
All Taiwanese-American filmmakers (all five of us) have a soft spot for Ang Lee. He’s the reason your dad’s like, okay maybe this won’t be a total train wreck, and drives you downtown to your first set job on your birthday. I’ve been looking for his earlier work for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. EDMW is about three sisters in 1990s Taipei. Naturally, I loved it: for the parallels of the three sisters, for a fully-fleshed depiction of Asian women with desires and angers, for a glimpse of a Taipei that I was a part of but cannot recall. But mostly, for the ships and the PLOT TWISTS oh my GOD-

Children of Men
I finally caught a screening of this at MoMa in New York. It was preceded by Kempinski, an inventive sci-fi short out of Mali that blew me away. While I was reeling from that, Children of Men swooped in and was like BAM. CINEMA. Love when a movie is so clearly at home in its form and also makes all the humanity inside you resonate. (Oh my god and then there were two silent films playing in the museum basement afterward: one was about the life cycle of a hot dog and the other was about this guy Josh who fakes his suicide and goes on vacation because his wife isn’t into him…the early 1900s were wild.)

Patisseries Discoveries // Kouign-amann

Like a trite Christmas tale, it began with a second glance through a shop window. I had just walked out of Pirates of the Caribbean with some friends and we were looking for a kebab or a bar. Whatever would keep us out for a while longer, because that’s what youths do. And there was this shop, one of those “delicacies of France” establishments – all sleek and black and kind of intimidating, and in the window were pastries I had never seen before.

I call this series Patisseries Discoveries, but let’s face it – few of these pastries are completely new to me. We’ve all seen éclairs and macarons and tarts and mille-feuilles and opéras and religieuses and mont blancs, at least in pictures. It’s mainly been about putting taste to names.

But these were new, and I was so excited to finally actually discover something. Believe it or not, this experiment was not created to present a series of increasingly unfortunate pastries. (I just can’t tear myself away from a good train wreck and you’ve all been dragged along for the ride.) At last, here was something where there used to be nothing. Just when the world starts feeling small…

I couldn’t figure them out at first. Turns out there was nothing to figure out. Butter and sugar make for pastry magic. Simple. Fool-proof. A double whammy of sweet and umami that hammers out dopamine in truckloads.

So for those like me who were not aware, I had just come across kouign-amann. Created in the 1860s in the town of Douarnenez, they’re a Breton dessert made by folding butter and sugar into layers of dough, similar to puff pastry. The butter makes it nice and puffy, and the sugar caramelizes into a rich, chewy crust.

The name comes from Breton words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann).

Traditionally it comes as a large cake rather than individual cupcake-sized pastries. My new chosen cause of death: foolhardy ingestion of a large kouign-amann.

And they come in different flavors too. I got an original and another in salted caramel. Truckloads and truckloads of dopamine. A five-lane collision of dopamine. I don’t know what else to say. You just can’t go wrong with butter and sugar. See also: the Canadian butter tart.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Paris Diaries // 01

Funny how one can fully intend on documenting all the things one does in Paris, yet only find the motivation to write about misshapen pastries. I’m about two weeks into my stay in Paris and I’ve been dutifully taking photos as I go. Something must be done with them. So – bullet points it is.

  • Seeing the six tapestries of La Dame et la licorne at the Musée de Cluny. One of those works of art that is even more impressive in person – we call that the anti-Mona Lisa (oh shit shots fired what’s she gonna do stab me with her eyebrows).

  • Obligatory traipse up the stairs of Shakespeare and Co. It’s cliché, but I bought A Moveable Feast there last time I was there and it changed my life in a Wal-Mart parking lot on New Year’s Eve. Hemingway is the Worst but A Moveable Feast was the right thing at the right time. I read a bit of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in the upstairs reading room. Spent another afternoon reading a beaten volume on Norwegian history. Found a note from a Kaleido writer on the bulletin board. Left clumsy notes of my own above the typewriter. And those are all my Shakespeare and Co. stories.
  • Lining up for Mulholland Drive with no inclination as to what you’re about to see, then walking home with no inclination as to what you’ve just seen.

  • The classiest scratch ‘n’ sniff of all, Le Grand Musée du Parfum, for an introduction to a sense that I find far removed from the cerebral, making for an evocative experience that transported me from Europe in the days of the plague (whooo plaaaague) to modern perfume labs. I smelled so many smells, you guys.

  • Having your lazy afternoon at the Champ de Mars interrupted by a the rehearsal of a huge ass Russian festival feat. football players dancing in unison with batons, a woman singing just off key, and a short film about world peace with music from the Jurassic Park soundtrack, not to mention “Johnny” from “Ireland” who wants to know what drinks you like and if you like to drink and do you want to have some drinks with him

  • A voyeuristic wander through the 14è and finding architectural details, communal gardens, shops full of old knick knacks…
  • Jardins at the Grand Palais – an exhibition on the evolution of gardens with surprise wooden sculptures by Yoshihiro Suda in the corners, sun prints by Anna Atkins, moody photographs by Yann Monel, and more 17th century garden plans than my 10 yo wannabe architect heart could take. Also two meticulously collected piles of pollen. Art.

  • Morning people-watch at a café, dipping a flaky croissant into a hot chocolate, playing that old game, tourist or local?
  • Accidentally walking 3km toward the Bois de Vincennes along La Coulée Verte, an old rail line transformed into a very long trail.
  • Picnics, dinners, and drinks that mean nothing and everything at the same time. Minutia that build up into an era of one’s life…nostalgia eats this shit up.
  • One dead pigeon is unfortunate, two is a sign from the maker.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean followed by kebab + fries + Samouraï sauce in the dingy upstairs seating area of a narrow little shop…followed by drinks in a stony alcove of a bar that you’d never want to see in daylight, while a guy and a girl switch off playing guitar in the corner to no one in particular and 80s music blasts in the main part of the bar where normal people are sitting.

  • Being caught off guard by All That Jazz and its efficient cinematography, unexpected depth, and rhythmic interwoven editing. I may have enjoyed the cutting room scenes too much – seeing a KEM, 35mm benches, and synchronizers in their glory days is like seeing a college photo of your grandfather.

  • Disneyland Paris where dreams come true and little girls wear pink embroidered shirts that say time has no meaning here. Where you can stroll through an exaggerated version of Hollywood on your vacation from Hollywood and then be shrunken down into a land made of toys and then take a picture with Dingo or Tic et Tac (Goofy and Chip & Dale, respectively – isn’t language beautiful).
  • Summer nights in the northern hemisphere where the sun doesn’t set until it’s nearly midnight, and you wonder where the day’s gone.

Stay tuned for a long weekend in Aix-en-Provence, and whatever else I wake up with the urge to do. There are no plans, time has no meaning here, and that’s the best anyone could ask for.

Patisseries Discoveries // La Boule Noire

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, we stopped at a neighboring boulangerie for a treat after lunch. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed at all the intricate designs behind the glass. A mille-feuille turned literally on its head. A perfectly balanced religieuse. A spray of color on a crumbly fruit tart.

“…What is that.”

Now you know me, friends. I will always be drawn to the…avant-garde pâtisseries in the shop. Consider me the patron saint of the smashed, the lumpy, and the ill-conceived. My blessing is a good jostle in an open-faced box and my benediction smeared chocolate on the inside of a paper wrapper.

It could only be described as a lump of moldy coal. It was a boule noire and Reader, I bought it.

Normally, I like to provide a bit of history and cultural context to my pâtisseries, if only to make up for a lack of description or opinion. This time I can only say: do not Google “boule noire.” Don’t do it. Do not.

We brought it home and cut it open with silent reverence. And like the nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we could not look away. The knife kept catching on something inside and the chocolate…scales? that coated the exterior began to melt under my touch.

Our faces melted off and the boule noire sucked them in before snapping shut, taking our identifiable features and our personas with it. In fact, I am writing to you now as la Boule Noire. At last.

All kidding aside, it was méringue. It was filled with méringue, like the world’s most disappointing Pokeball. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to eat an apple-sized méringue, which is essentially whipped egg whites and sugar. It gets old fast. This one smelled kind of eggy, not in a fun brunch-y way but in a oh, that is a bird womb kind of way.

As far as I can tell, there is no precedent for what this pâtissier(e) dreamed up one day: a ball of méringue the size of an apple, covered in chocolate cream with a coating of tiny chocolate flakes and a dusting of sugar.

We all have dreams, sir/madame. I dream of becoming soluble in water. Doesn’t mean we have to follow through. But I will grant you this: innovation is the lifeblood of society. And one day we may all be flocking to Paris for a boule noire and wearing clay versions of it as earrings and misspelling it macaroon- ahem. I get ahead of myself.

For now the boule noire is a hidden treasure somewhere in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, to be found when you least expect it, and you’ll ask yourself, I wonder what’s inside that lumpy black ball thing? And the answer, if you give your heart and 2,90€ to it:

It’s méringue. It’s all méringue.

Patisseries Discoveries // Tea at Mariage Frères

Like a woman who’s just found out she’s dying of cancer and has inherited millions from a previously unknown aunt in a single text, I’ve booked a month-long stay in Paris. And so, by popular demand (and by popular I mean one person mentioned it in passing), I’m bringing back Patisseries Discoveries – a thinly veiled excuse to eat every pastry in sight. Long time fans and train wreck enthusiasts may recall the turd-like Paris-Brest from Reims or the smashed “eggs nest” Easter special.

To its credit, Paris did not disappoint. Not that I went out seeking more misshapen pastries. No, I went to the Mariage Frères, which is as classy as you can get. It’s on all the Paris guides, right next to Angelina and Monoprix.

There, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, we sipped on Paris-Kyoto tea, infused with yuzu and vanilla, from dainty porcelain teacups and mirrored teapots. Dappled sunlight danced across a row of serene white orchids at the window. Colonial caricatures hung on warm yellow walls next to immaculate rows of black tea containers. It was all very nice.

And then our chariot of cakes arrived. That is what it was called, and no, there were no horses involved. Yes, I know.

We decided on a matcha and framboise financier and and a madeleine glacée with yuzu and rose. Both were delicious, although the financier was a little gritty for my taste. Some dislike matcha for its earthiness, but the grittiness here came from the texture itself rather than any of the flavoring. A tart burst of raspberry at the center gave me something to remember it by. Overall, it was alright.

I may be biased, however, as my favorite financiers were the ones Victoria made in Montreal and even though she put in the usual flour, sugar, etc., pesky shit like friendship and laughter managed to get in and taint the batch. So the Mariage Frères never really had a chance.

But the madeleine. Oh, the madeleine.

The yuzu and rose complemented each other perfectly. The flavors were natural, subtle yet strong enough to be memorable. Such a shame it looked like a three-year-old pimple.

I thought I’d taken some nice photos. It was only when reviewing them that I realized the madeleine lurked in the back like a chewed up peach pit (also an apt description of me at social gatherings).

But there’s a reason people keep going back to Mariage Frères. As far as ambiance goes, quality, and interesting tea-based designs, they hit it out of the park. You don’t need me to tell you that. And madeleines and financiers are some of my favorite desserts. They’ve got a simple elegance that rarely disappoints.

Still, it seems no matter where I go, be it an expensive teahouse or a Carrefour, the least photogenic pastry will find its way into my hands. It’s the world’s greatest love story.

Black White & Read All Over // 03

Been a while, but a productive while hammering away at stories and scripts. Between those projects and the day job, these roundups are the one thing I can toss together. That’s not to say they’re thrown together last minute – these are all articles that have stayed with me over the week. The same way a cat keeps a dead bird behind the shed for a few days before laying it on your pillow.

I don’t have cats, but if all my metaphors came from personal experience 75% of them would involve elaborate coffee orders…okay, take two: the same way your assistant keeps your skinny coconut milk cappuccino* with two pumps of kale inside her fraying faux-leather purse for a few days before handing it to you.

Moving on. It’s pouring all weekend in LA – perfect weather for reading in bed. And if it’s sunny where you are – why go outside anyway? Condition your body for the end times.

Illustration by Katie Fricas

The Trash Heap Has Spoken by Carmen Maria Machado

Unapologetic fat women embrace the philosophy of displacement. They manifest the audacity of space-taking. They cleave the very air. This is not just fatness of the body, it is fatness of the mind. If you have a fat body, you take up room by default. If you have a fat mind, you choose to take up room.

A Chronicle of My Attempts to Live an Integrated Life as a Mother, Wife and Filmmaker by So Yong Kim

I wish there was a “How to … ” booklet on how to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a filmmaker – and do it all with ease and a smile. What I’ve learned is that all those things come with the messiness of life’s emotions, grit and kid stains.

Death is the Curator by Lauren Wilford

Every artistic act is an act of consumption, in the same way that you cannot enjoy your fruit without destroying it. You don’t contemplate an apple and say ‘Oh, Apple, how beautiful are thee,’ you know? You eat the apple, you crush the apple, you consume it and there—for a moment—you have the apple in you. And it’s the same with art. It’s an act of consumption, an act of arrangement, and you are posing an object that is a pinned butterfly. But it is the only moment where you can absorb the butterfly, you know? Otherwise it is life. And I think life and art meet in that little moment, in that moment of consumption.

Dyers at Work. Bartholomaeus Anglicus and Jean Corbechon, Le Livres des propriétés des choses, manuscript copied & painted in Brussels, 1482 

The Red of Painters by Michel Pastoureau

It was believed to come not from a plant resin but from the blood of a dragon, gored by its mortal enemy, the elephant. According to medieval bestiaries, which followed Pliny and the ancient authors here, the inside of the dragon’s body was filled with blood and fire; after a fierce struggle, when the elephant had punctured the dragon’s belly with its tusks, out flowed a thick, foul, red liquid, from which was made a pigment used to paint all the shades of red considered evil.

Miyazaki Meets Kurosawa

He’s nothing but a blur on each of those frames. . .and you can’t really see his face either. Only when you play back the film do you actually see Mifune in combat. That’s how fast he’s moving.

Barry Jenkins: “Where I come from, people just don’t have the means to make a film’ by Adam Woodward

I love how movies make the world seem like a very small place. I was talking to a reporter the other day about the use of ‘Caetano Veloso’ in Moonlight. That’s an homage to Wong Kar-wai and Happy Together – a very overt homage I must say, but I wanted to be upfront and honest about how there’s this filmmaker working in Asia whose cinema I love and here I have my characters in inner city Miami and the emotions they feel are the same. Totally the same. These people will never ever meet and yet through this art, through cinema we can show how much alike they are. They’re a world apart but they’re so so close. That’s what I love about movies.

The Mothers by Doreen St. Felix

Regardless of which side of the Atlantic a daughter ended up on, she knows about yams; she’s likely heard whispers about Oshun, the coy idol of fertility, and other goddesses.

*Coconut milk does not foam enough to make a proper cappuccino, a fact that the baristas at Starbucks never fail to tell me each time I order one. Sorry guys, but the boss orders what she orders.

And How Does That Make You Feel

Been thinking a lot about La La Land and the merit of how a movie makes you feel. Putting aside theory and craft to focus on the collision between creator and audience, the moment of impact in a dark room.

Like was it a good ride? Did it stir up feelings that reality can’t muster? Did it illuminate something about human nature (although my experimental side wonders if we could center a movie about anything other than people)? I’m talking about the emotional aspect of film, the oft-cited catharsis of theater. There’s a quote from Herzog, “Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.”

I watched Arrival and La La Land in one night. And while Arrival was the more intellectual of the two, La La Land is the one I can’t stop thinking about. There’s something to that that transcends technicalities and cerebral showmanship. I finished the movie feeling like I’d run a mile and also lived a whole other life.

I’d be content if I could get someone to feel the same way about one of my stories, because that’s what we’re ultimately chasing as filmmakers. We’re just poking people and watching them jump. Yes, even the ones who are pushing the boundaries of the craft. If we didn’t care how people felt during our movies, there’d be no boundaries. And there’d be no point.

Then I saw the new musical Amélie at the Ahmanson. The suspension of disbelief required is high. The most grounded part of it were the relationships between characters. Some will say it wasn’t whimsical enough, others too much so, but I wasn’t bothered. As Amélie gave into her attraction to Nino, I remember making a conscious decision not to resist their earnest love story. Like La La Land, Amélie was about all the feels. And there is a simple power to that when the audience surrenders to it.

Because for me there is a right way to consume stories. It’s sitting down and giving yourself over to the journey. I see a movie like a wave – you have to do some work to stay on it, but you can’t redirect its path. You can only surf along, trusting the tide to bring it to shore.

I want to earn that trust from my audience. More and more I don’t think I’ll find it through dazzling intelligence or flashy techniques or the ~aesthetic~. I’m still searching for the answer, knowing full well there isn’t one. And therein lies the catnip.