I know a lot of people who live very small lives in very small places. The one I actually know the best is me. I’m the woman who was scared to not only leave her home state but also her town until I hit my 40’s. I was scared to fail at everything, including getting from A to B in a car. So I sat, safe, in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.
A divorce thrust me into a new life and I realized if I didn’t take risks that led to failure I was going to disappear off the radar, broke and alone.
My first story has nothing to do with movie making in one sense and everything to do with it in another. So here is my Real Estate licensing story.
Cooper Anderson directed and stars in
her web series, 'The Real page Turner.'
FAILURE #1: I Suck At This!
I’m not a stupid woman. But I have enough learning disabilities to make The Bryn Mawr College Testing Center scratch their heads. They discovered I had everything but dyslexia.
So imagine me in Real Estate classes in 2001 learning sexy content such as “loan to interest ratios” and “riparian rights.” Nothing was sticking. I sucked at it, but I refused to quit.
I took the exam, which most nail on the first try, after months of classes. I failed both the practical and state exam. I told the testing center people, “That was amazing! I’ll be back!” I retook both classes. I failed both parts of the exam again and I, again, thanked the people at the Testing Center with a smile.
I purchased the CD’s and re-listened to both courses. I failed them both again, smiled and said, “See you in a few!” to my now besties at the center.
My compensatory skills finally kicked in and I figured out how to outthink the test. It took me seven tries in all to pass that freaking three-hour exam. This took months of my life.
Two things came out of that experience. The testers got to know me well and asked why on earth I was always so happy when they told me I had failed. I was surprised at my own answer. “I came here to hit a home run and I’m not leaving until I do, no matter how many years it takes.” I had grown a pair!
The other result? I sold 25-30 million dollars a year worth of Real Estate almost right out of the gate. I won awards. I mentored other Realtors. I had a fat bank account and proved I could fail my way to success. I was ready for failure #2. Enter, the film world.
Cooper Anderson on set with cinematographer Toru
Nishikubo, shooting her original comedy pilot, 'Exit Zero.'
FAILURE #2- WTF Is Crafty?
Now that I was Risk Taker Tina I decided twenty years later to not only leave PA for NYC but to take a writers course a few months in. “For fun.”
I was not a writer. I had an English teacher in grade school tell me so and I believed her. But now I didn’t care because I failed a huge test seven times and made a fortune anyway.
On the first day of the writer course, it was announced that we would turn our idea it into a short screenplay and film it. Did I mention I was a Realtor? Was this lady nuts? She also wanted me to play the lead since my screenplay was autobiographical. FML.
Week One: Learn what Final Draft is and write a bad 10-page screenplay.
Week Two: Read the bad version aloud to a group of twenty strangers.
Week Three: Fix the bad version so it’s less crappy but still pretty crappy.
Week Four: Take a three-week break until week five and film it or be mortified before the next class.
I had to figure out how to make a movie in three weeks? “I hate this class!” crossed my mind. I was not having “fun.”
New terms to learn: Crew Up, DOP, Gaffer, AD and every other term I’d never heard of. Remember, I was new to New York. Where was I expected to find these magic people that hold odd titles?
I needed help. I went to my new therapist who happened to be a seasoned actor. I sobbed a bit, but mostly whined. He had connections and in two days I had a crew. My newfound producer left me a message saying, “Better get great crafty for set.” I was ashamed to ask her these basic questions; “WTF is crafty? Who sells crafty? Will I have time to research and then purchase this crafty? Wait. Crafty is food? Ugh. Can we all please talk normal?”
A few days later we all drove from NYC to PA. We filmed my 10 pages at a friend’s house. I played a lead in a short I wrote! We all drove home the same day. I was in bed by 11 p.m.
I went on to turn this idea into a 12-episode web series. No one even knew what a web series was at that time. That was years ago now. It took seven days to film. It’s still in post three years later. It has so many issues. Failure? Nope. It may never see the light of day, but all that experience got me to my next great failure.
Vongai Lyrique Mush stars in 'Patiri in the Promised Land.' Cooper Anderson was inspired
by Vongai's real-life story, and wrote a short film to reflect the young lady's journey to the US.
FAILURE #3: “Oops. Sorry. Action!”
Now I have a big head. I filmed a web-series and know a lot of new terms. I think it’s time to direct. I want more control over what happens to my screenplay on set.
I wrote a short film in a month. I was good at this now and had met some talented people. I had my A-team crew in place and entered a film challenge. I had four days to film and then a week in post before I had to submit.
I had a great idea. I’ll be in it! I’ll be the team leader! I’ll executive produce it (fundraise)! I’ll be the location scout! I’ll co-direct, too!
I was wearing way too many hats. I looked like an idiot in all of them. Locations fell through and actors sat around while I filmed a bus stop for two hours. (In slow motion, don’t ask.) It rained, then was sunny, then rained again, for an outdoor scene, followed by, you guessed it, nightfall and only minutes were supposed to have passed. I couldn’t recall any of my lines and as the director for many of the scenes I could not seem to remember to call “ACTION!”
This sweet little short about an immigrant from Zimbabwe, Patiri In The Promised Land, has been accepted into prestigious film festivals in London, Nice, Cannes Court Métrage, Madrid, Amsterdam, Austria, and I’m still submitting. So far we have attended three of these festivals. I am proud to say it has won both Best Director(s) as well as Best Actor for the male lead and garnered nominations in over fifteen categories, with many more festivals to go. (This was before I got a writing coach. Wait until you see the Exit Zero, my haunted sitcom, already in post!)
What does all this have to do with you? It’s this: You don’t learn by someone else talking to you about it. You learn by doing it. So stop scaring yourself and just do it! And I hope you fail all over the place.
Page Cooper Anderson is a screenwriter, director, producer, and trained stage actress. She is known for her web series, The Real Page Turner (2016), Patiri in the Promised Land (2017), and The Barber Of Seaville (2018), as well as her original sitcom, Exit Zero (2018). She has acted in two of these projects and co-directed two. Page has been featured in Film Magazine and is honored to contribute to the STAGE 32 Blog. Learn more at: www.pagecooperanderson.com or www.Table33productions
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