Cancer and The Big “O”

Michelle:  While researching The Young Invincibles we noticed that sex and body image issues are unique when it comes to the YA cancer scene. Whether or not settling down or starting a family are in future plans, young adulthood is the socially designated period for “fun sex” (as opposed to “awkward learning sex” or “routine maintenance sex”) and searching for potential (romantic, life, sex) partners. Developmentally and culturally speaking, the 20’s and 30’s are a perpetual open mating season, a time to romp and frolic in fields of love and genitalia while in your “prime.”

Adding cancer to that mix causes some intriguing side effects and one question tops all the other ones. Many YA cancer survivors feel like it’s a betrayal, the body being destroyed just as it’s expected to be at its physical peak. While the loss of a breast or testicle can surely knock sexuality off kilter, the ways people deal with and express themselves when faced with such circumstances are continually amazing. The Scar Project is jaw-droppingly moving and empowering for viewers and participants alike. If you happen to live in the NYC area you should definitely check out the exhibition.

Our friends over at Babeland recently posted on their Facebook:  “Sex Tips for Cancer Survivors.” Get inspiration from erotica and porn if your familiar ways of getting off aren’t working. Be open to new ideas and don’t judge yourself for what you respond to.

Ms. Selin Caka, sex therapist in training, wrote a fantastic post about positive cancer + sex, pointing out that being forced to deal with the physiological implications of cancer can lead to a new found openness about one’s body and sense of sensuality. In a recent chat with her, Caka went on to say, “If someone’s suffering through chemo, or looks in the mirror every day and hates what they see, living in their skin can feel awful. Sex is a great way to remind us how amazing our bodies can make us feel. Even if it’s solo, a good orgasm can change the color of the world for a while, and that can be powerful medicine.” Check out her blog at Chakabox.com.

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The Wild Road to Filmmaking

Michelle:  Behind most indie films you’ll find a unique story of how each one came to be made. Inspiration and a strong will can pave a highly effective road, usually full of bizarre twists and harrowing turns. To the public (and sometimes friends and family!) the filmmaking journey can seem like a series of completely insane and random decisions but, in truth, those crazy choices make perfect sense to the filmmaker.

For example, Robert Rodriguez sold his body to science to fund the making of his debut film El Mariachi, which he later turned into the Antonio Banderas hit Desperado. Creators of the 2008 cult classic The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill and Danny McBride, tried to make it in LA but moved back home to North Carolina where they applied for as many credit cards as they could, promptly maxed them out, then borrowed money from Jody’s brother to complete their film. Risky? Sure. But the payoff was quite worth it.

So, what of the The Young Invincibles? Sarah and Aaron were living and working as actors in New York City when a March meeting lead to a December proposal (fyi – she said yes). Some casual conversations and personal experience turned into a solid idea for a feature film, a story they wanted to tell. The next year was spent working and planning for the wedding while doing research for the film. In an effort to slow things down and focus on the script, Sarah and Aaron left the city that never sleeps for the sleepy little town of Avon, North Carolina. Living off their savings, they spent several months in a house by the beach to write (and rewrite) the script that would become The Young Invincibles.

They decided to stay on the beach for the summer to put together the business and production plan for the film (which you can read about here). To pay the bills, Aaron worked as a wild horse tour guide, a waiter, and a wedding caterer while Sarah also worked catering jobs and founded a wedding cake stand company (check it out here).

In the diverse world of independent films, there isn’t one way to make a movie. There’s no corporate ladder or trade apprenticeship hierarchy to climb until mastery is achieved. Some movie makers attempt to work their way up the entertainment food chain in Hollywood or New York City, while others spend years saving up enough money in the cubical army to finally have the freedom to work on a personal project. But, in the end, every filmmaker must set out on their own movie-making trail, blindly and doggedly following their inspiration no matter where it takes them.

So…What’s Your Film About?

Michelle:  Whether at a high-profile meeting or at a laid back cocktail party, the creators of most art forms are perpetually prompted to describe their idea by likening it to existing, well-known pieces in order to gain legitimacy and respect from their peers. The results usually end up in very absurd territory. Example?

Boy at a Party: You should check out my band sometime. Our sound is a Flaming Lips/Guns and Roses love child that was raised by Ani DiFranco.

Potentially Interested Girl: (giggle) Wow, that sounds…pretty neat actually. Tell me more!

Humans like categorizing. It helps us make sense of the world around us, especially the parts of the world containing different and unfamiliar ideas. While some artists shun this practice for fear of labeling their omg totally original art, it’s a necessary evil in generating any interest or curiosity about a project. The film industry is rife with this sort of quick referencing.

Random Human: So…what’s your film about?

James Cameron: Well, Avatar is kinda like Dances with Wolves in space.

Random Human: Oh, okay. I guess that makes sense…Wait, what?

 

We are not making this shit up. Read all about it here and here.

It’s also been said that Titanic = Romeo and Juliet on a boat. Which goes to show that even after you’ve made two of the highest grossing films in history an artist must still quip cheesy-ass pigeonholing references to make potential audiences, investors, and critics feel just enough familiarity but with its own creative spin.

A couple of other delightful examples:

St. Elmo’s Fire group dynamic meets a Hackers universe = The Social Network.

Monty Python tomfoolery + witty Sherlock Holmes whodunit = Clue.

There are obvious pros and cons to this sort of labeling. Comparisons to glory may give off an inflated sense of ego, but mass recognition referencing undeniably garners a nodding, “Oh, I think I get it” type of reaction. A reaction that hopefully contains the magical mixture of comfortable recognition and show-worthy appeal.

Random Human: So…what’s your film about?

The YI: The Young Invincibles is an independent fictional story (not a documentary!) in Traffic-style storytelling with Reality Bites characters.

Get it? Good. Sound appealing? We sure hope so!

F*ck Cancer and F*cking With Cancer

Michelle: October means mulled wine, spiced cider, piles of golden leaves, and pumpkin flavored…everything! Perhaps you already know that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, but did you know it is also National Family Sex Education month?

Whimsical, refreshing, glycerin & paraben-free!

We bring this up because sex and boobies are two very important things in life that cannot be neglected despite the generally sombering affects of cancer. Organizations such as Save the Ta-Tas bring a provocative and flirty edge to cancer awareness and early detection for young females, reminding gals that having cancer doesn’t mean losing their sexiness and sexuality. Taking it a step further is the wondrous Babeland, a female-owned sex toy shop (based in Seattle!), and the all-natural lubricant developer Squlid. Together they’ve created a tasty Pink Lemonade flavored lube in honor of October awareness/research causes, and also the gentle reminder that getting it on promotes health and wellness! Proceeds go to the Young Survival Coalition.

Next in shaking up awareness: Fuck Cancer. Their mission is explained best on their homepage as “a movement to change the way cancer is perceived and diagnosed in our society, and how cancer survivors perceive themselves. It’s about early detection and treatment. It’s about fighting back and regaining control. It’s about sharing your story and spreading the word.”

The Young Invincibles applaud this mission, and love seeing how the attention to cancer awareness is changing over the last 25 years. We are excited that our film will be adding such vivid dimension to the voice of the young adult cancer community.

 

10 Q&A’s: DanaTina, Designer Extraordinaire

Michelle:  Dana, of DanaTina Graphic Design, is the talented artist who created the teaser poster for The Young Invincibles. This week I had the pleasure of getting to know her professional and fanciful inclinations a little bit better.
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1. How did you become involved with The Young Invincibles, and what made you want to work with a project about young adults with cancer?
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DanaTina: I found the project on an online posting and it immediately caught my attention, especially because it is an independent film.  I love independent movies and am always eager to support their making. After I found out its subject and read the script, I was inspired by this character-driven story; I saw the need to portray the hardships and challenges of life paralleled by cancer. Family experience made me quite sensitive to the movie’s subject as well. To be honest with you the script made me tear up. And that was my sign: THIS is my project!

2. What was the process in creating the teaser poster?

DanaTina: The process from start to end was quite smooth. It is a pleasure working with Sarah and Aaron. They are warm people and are able to express and exemplify their vision. The communication between us was clear and this is something that is valued in any collaboration.

I constructed a visual concept around the medical bracelet, an item that all people who have been in a hospital have in common. Although it identifies you, it doesn’t say who you are outside of the hospital.  As many things in graphic design/visual arts, it breaks down to the representation of the common denominator of which all people can understand. Just as a smile is recognized across all cultures to be a sign of joy, so the hospital bracelet understood to be a symbol of medical care in a hospital just as other universal symbols such as gender specification on the bathroom door, or the arrow pointing for safety during a fire, or the crosswalk light that guides us safely through the intersection.

The poster’s execution started with a photo-shoot, which thanks to my model, Ana, turned out fabulous. After the best shot was chosen, it was a question of choosing the right typeface and editing the images digitally so that everything comes together perfectly. Working with Bhati Beads really made the difference in the finishing touches of the poster; it shows the elegance in the bohemian style of facing the seriousness of life head-on with a triumphant attitude. I love the bracelets; they are really fashionable and bring out the spirit of today’s youth. Working with the company was really great, a smooth collaboration, no complaints. 🙂

3. Do you sing in the shower, in the car, or both?

DanaTina: Neither, haha… unless my husbands does and I join him. I do sing when I cook though, and randomly burst into singing while moving around the apartment.

The YI: Funny you should say that. Apparently Sarah has similar singing habits!

4. How did you get into the visual design business?

DanaTina: I was always attracted to visuals. When I was in high school I wanted to go into advertising. I was fascinated by it. But after working with an advertising agency in college, I saw the process of art change into something solely commercial and sales-oriented. I found my passion directing me somewhere else.

Having always created visual presentations for various purposes, I naturally found myself in the field of photography, quite amateurishly, but with great results. For some reason I thought it would be challenging to establish myself solely as a photographer, however I found myself incorporating my photographs into various layouts using different artistic techniques. It was a natural evolution into the realm of what I call broad-spectrum visual design.

5. If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be and why?

DanaTina: hmmm… I have so many favorite fruits… It’s hard. Raspberry: tastes great and is healthy, looks hard but is delicate to the touch, grows wild and independent, it is hard to get rid of, but who would want to anyway? What else… Bears love them!!!

The YI: That’s one of the best answers I’ve ever heard to that question. High Five!

6. Is being an artist in New York difficult or easy?

DanaTina: It is not easy, although easier than other places, probably. People in NYC are open to artistry and they appreciate it. One of the good things about being an artist in NYC is that you have the opportunity to let your individual style flourish.  Plus there is so much inspiration all around you! What is hard about being a graphic artist is the fact that work is sometimes taken for granted and not appreciated at its real value. However, if one is passionate and dedicated, that won’t slow them down; if anything that will make them even more determined.

7. Browsing your website you’ve worked with a wide variety of projects and organizations, which is pretty awesome. Care to tell us a bit more about your work?

DanaTina: Yes, I love variety! I am what I like to call a broad spectrum designer. While others strive to find a niche to be successful, I feel that variety is good for the soul and keeps your skill-set sharp and fresh; experimentation with one mode of working expands one’s understanding of the others, integrating knowledge and unique creativity. Also, it is the nature of freelance work that allows you to expand into new territories  with an vast array of people from all walks of life and cultures.

8. What 5 people, alive or dead, would you want to have over for a dinner party?

DanaTina: My husband, Karl Jung, Paolo Coelho, Buddha, DaVinci.

9. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made, professional or otherwise?

DanaTina: Yes, I knew that would come up in conversation …besides the teaser poster for The Young Invincibles you mean? I think one of my favorites would be “Geisha” –  an illustration I created based on a novel that I love, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I read the book when it first came out and I kept a fond memory of it. The movie made it more popular, I assume. It was a project I worked on with a lot of passion.

10. Do you have a favorite quote?

DanaTina: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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The YI: Awesome, Dana. Thank you so much for sharing your time and answers with us!

DanaTina: Thank you, Michelle! It’s been a pleasure.

Facts (Part III): Friends, Family, Health, and Considering Cancer

Michelle:  Part of being a young adult is the freedom for so many recreational activities, healthy and otherwise. I happen to live in Seattle, where summers arrive late but are gloriously sunny, warm, and lush. From July to late September there’s no trace of the dreary skies and constant piss-mist-drizzle (aka mizzle) most people associate with Seattle. Free time is spent with friends: hiking, camping, playing drunken badminton, going out to a free outdoor music festivals, enjoying ourselves and each other.

It's all fun and games until you find precancerous cells on your cervix

If my best friend became constantly drained and sickly after a few weeks of beach volley ball during the day and heavy drinking and dancing at night, would I think for even a moment that she might have cancer? Probably not.

Consider Cancer.

Did you know that despite a patient with textbook symptoms, many doctors don’t even consider cancer in young adults?

Nah, no way a strong, nubile 19-year-old could have lymphoma. Fatigue and night sweats with an occasional fever? Probably nothing. And besides, those tests will cost a pretty penny.

For most physicians cancer is damn near unthinkable for a 22-year-old, so by the time cancer is diagnosed the disease is often at stage 3 or 4… Shit, if only the doctor had bothered to run a few more tests a while back.

So, What Can I Do?

Don’t skimp out on annual physical exams. If colon or cervical cancer runs in your family, don’t be afraid to get your nethers checked by a professional. Encourage your sisters, cousins, and girlfriends to get yearly pap smears. Also, fellas shouldn’t be shy about helping his lady with breast examinations!

Most of all: Justifying spending the money for something that’s “probably nothing”  would definitely be worth it, especially if an early-stage disease is found. If you or a loved one have persisting health problems, urge that a doctor run more tests. You can afford to be careful when it comes to health.

The Business of Art

Sarah: As we switch gears from the writing to the production of The Young Invincibles we are quickly realizing how much of a business the film world really is. I mean, it is called film business for a reason, isn’t it? And so, as we embark on this phase of the journey, we have been mapping out our plan for production, funding, marketing and distribution. I think we have a solid little outline which we have aptly named “The Diabolical Plan” and which we will keep under wraps for now. We can’t give away all our secrets to success just yet now can we? But, interestingly enough, one of our biggest hurdles so far has been one of a moral dilemma. Is our artistic integrity or our professional success more important?

Our initial motivation in starting this project was our desire to express ourselves creatively and feel a sense of empowerment by using our artistic voices. Due to personal experiences, we discovered the material for our story and it inspired us to take that leap and create a platform for expression that is truly our own. It has been wonderful to use our creative skills and find our voice. The possibility of affecting others through our work is almost an addictive experience. And, the idea that we might actually be able to help others by telling this story is extremely rewarding.

Now, as we work on turning our words on a page into a living piece of art, we find ourselves faced with the reality that we must put on our business hats and enter the world of consumerism. The film must attain some level of success if our hopes of sharing our vision is to be realized. This means we have to aim high and play with the big boys in the film industry. We have to market ourselves and the movie and show that we can produce. There is some level of scheming and manipulation involved that feels a bit cold and calculating. If anything, it does not feel artistic. And, it is an uncomfortable adjustment for us to make.

Whether it is society or our own judging natures, there is this image we hold in our minds of what it means to be an artist. A real artist is one who starves and suffers if they are truly talented. Picasso, Warhol, Chagall, Dali, and Pollock come to mind. And, making money through your art? Well, that seems like some sort of betrayal. As if we would be selling out somehow. However, there is also this voice inside of me that says in order to be considered a “professional artist” you must earn a living through your work. Otherwise, you are just an “aspiring artist.” I myself have experienced what it is like to struggle and, let me tell you, while I have learned a lot through my journey, it is not very glamorous.

Ultimately, I want to continue doing my art for as long as I possibly can and I want to be seen as a professional. So, that means I must attain some level of success. And that will only happen if people see my work. Somehow I have to learn how to combine my artistic abilities with the business of art so that they co-exist and work off of each other seamlessly. And, any moral issues I struggle with in the process? Well, I hope that is just a part of growing as an artist. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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