It's a Girl (and an Update) #PansFilm

I know it's been very quiet around here for the last several months and you will see why on Monday, May 1st (three days from now!) when, with the help of my incredible team, I will be launching our Kickstarter campaign for my first film, (and fifth child) PANS. Creating, planning and curating a crowdfunding campaign is an immense amount of work and I haven't been able to get to much else in the last few weeks months. There was also that whole spontaneous OH-I-GUESS-WE'RE-MOVING-NOW thing which... you know...  life is kind of an EVERYTHING MUST HAPPEN AT ONCE proposition. That said, I wanted to repost something I wrote and published here back in January, for those of you who missed it and also just because it just feels right to do so. 

Big love to all and thank you for your support and patience as I continue to navigate all of the things. Also, please come back Monday and support our PANS campaign! Oh, and please follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well! Thank you, thank you in advance!
Ten years ago I started a script. Or, wait…it wasn't a script at first. It was a novel, actually. Ten years ago I started a novel.

Archer was a toddler and I had just finished my second unpublished book and was determined three times would be the charm. I was a force of fiction-writing nature in those days, determined to write one novel a year, which I did, until I gave birth to my first child. I kept writing, of course, hundreds of thousands of words a year… but most of those words ended up here, on this website.

Still, I was determined to write fiction. I was still young and had an unflinching amount of chutzpah when it came to rejection. Each rejection was a branch, I told myself. And I couldn't get to the top of thee tree without branches. So I climbed. And I climbed. And I kept climbing.

The original title of my third novel was Wendy and the Lost—a modern take on Peter Pan but from Wendy's POV. The book was my first for a "YA audience," although I never saw it as such. Adults do not suddenly grow out of reading stories. Old readers need young heroines, too.

I had spent much of my childhood LOVING Peter and the lost boys while despising Wendy and Tinker Bell, who were depicted in the book, as well as the Disney adaptation, as overly protective/maternal-to-a-fault/wet blanket (Wendy) and jealous/vindictive/mean spirited/mean girl (Tinker Bell).

In Peter’s world, as well as in my learned experience, boys were curious adventure-seekers who slouched and got dirty and had all kinds of fun being irresponsible and boyish. They were allowed to do stupid shit a la boys will be boys. They were curfew-less mischief-makers, digging their tools into trees and their heels onto gas pedals. They crashed into each other with their bodies and everyone applauded.

Over the years I drew parallels between the story of Peter Pan and my own adolescence. I grew up, in the way Wendys do, and in doing so realized there was much more to this story—to MY story—but also to hers… that in so many ways, Peter Pan represented what was lacking in fairy tales and bedtime stories and ALL WORKS OF ART WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND CONCEIVED BY MEN. There was another story, here—about a girl—whose narrative was never included in the book.

I read Barrie's Peter Pan several times through the years, always looking for a Wendy I couldn’t find. It became clear to me that while Wendy was intended to be the heroine all along—the protagonist—she remained practically invisible. Ubiquitous, yes, but also unnecessary—a girl transported into a world of boys only to be used as a sort of tool for contrast. Wendy's practicality and realism gave Peter and the boys that much more appeal. As for Wendy, we never got a chance to see, or even realize, her magic.

I found myself in many situations where I realized I was the same. I was living my story within the pages of other people's manuscripts and taking care of people who never bothered to ask me about my day. I said YES instead of NO to appease the stories of others, at the risk of losing my own.

I came to this and about 787897 other realizations when outlining the book.  I began drawing more and more parallels between the story of Peter Pan and the stories of almost every woman I knew -- girls who wanted to get lost in Neverland, too.

After an early draft of Wendy and the Lost, it became clear to me that this wasn't a book—this was a movie. I was already feeling frustrated by the lack of female driven films and stories told realistically for young people when my first daughter, Fable, was born. Fable’s birth turned me in a completely different direction as a mother and woman, thrusting me full-on into a creative and political femaissance.

Fable became my muse.
My first draft of "Wendy and the Lost" (which was essentially about high schools kids and drug use) was atrocious and I hated every minute I spent writing it. I knew it sucked from page one, but for whatever reason, I kept on writing, kept on sucking, kept on despising everything about every word.

This is a first draft, I told myself. JUST. KEEP. WRITING. GO, GO GOGOGOGO!!!

So I did.

I wrote a second draft after that. And a third after that, polishing my piece of shit as best I could.

Then, after much hand-wringing and tears, I scrapped the entire draft (and months of work) and started from scratch. Same name. Same story. This time, though, "Wendy" wasn't just any high school student, she was THE KICKER ON THE SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM!

I spent months on this new version of my story. I stalked high school football playing girls on twitter—became obsessed with female athletes who competed against boys and men, and once again, wrote a very mediocre draft. I spent about a year with this version before once again scrapping and starting fresh— this time with a new title and a new (and also OLD) direction. This time, I would do what I had always done best: write a story inspired by MY experience.

And so, ten drafts and almost three years later, I started again.

New draft.

Page one.

Fade in...

Sometimes it takes a minute or an hour or a year or ten years to realize what you really, truly want to write about. It happens to me when I sit down to write a post. every. single. time. Most posts start out in completely different directions before I realize they are actually about something else. I've sat down to write about marriage only to end up writing about potty training. I've sat down to write about the politics of preschool etiquette only to realize halfway through I am actually writing about my own insecurity in large groups. Some posts take me months to finish. Hell, I have posts in drafts I started years ago.

Writing is a transportation vehicle, and sometimes when we least expect it, we end up in a field we could have only arrived at had we taken a Mack truck to get there.

This is what happened to me. I knew I had something important to say. I knew I had a personal story to tell. I knew Peter Pan was how I wanted to tell it. But it took many years and many failed drafts before I recognized what, when, why and how... 

When I met Linda, my now producer, mentor, guide and friend, Archer was in kindergarten. I was working on my newest draft of PANS, and over coffee mentioned it to her in passing. It was a mess, I explained, but it was getting somewhere...

I told her about Wendy's many incarnations and that in this new draft I was taking a far more daring approach to the character, basing her, instead, on me and my experience as a (gulp) teenage girl.

In short, I pitched her my movie. And in doing realized I had something. 

I've said this to Linda before, but I want to say it here, too. Sometimes we cannot see ourselves through our own mirrors—sometimes it takes meeting someone to say, "here, look this way..."

Linda heard me that afternoon and because of that, I was able to keep writing. And while it would take me another five years of rewrites to get PANS into its current state, Linda was there for all of it. She still is.  Her voice—Field of Dreams style—perpetually hums in my ear when I feel overwhelmed by the scope of what we're doing and what still needs to be done. "If you write this, we will make it. Just keep writing. Keep pitching. Keep meeting. Keep keeping."

“Do you want to direct this yourself?” she asked.

Without hesitation I said yes.


Two summers ago, on my 34th birthday, we had our first pre-pre-production meeting. The script was done (I’m laughing because it has been rewritten AT LEAST ten more times since then) and with it, my first glimpse of the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. Months later, I met with our now casting director, and by January of last year, we were casting. 
I took a picture that day of the empty chair before our first actor came to read for the starring role (Wynne/Wendy), and on the way home, I cried. I had never experienced anything like that before. One by one, INCREDIBLY talented teenage girls came into the casting room and became a character I had conceived. They dressed like her. They walked like her. They spoke her truth as if it were their own.
At first, I tried to cover my scared-shitlessness with a false sense of “I got this,” but over the course of the first round of auditions, it became clear that separating my professional self from my personal self was not an option. And so I just went with it. My voice cracked. My hands shook. My sweat… was everywhere.

I recognized my inexperience, fully acknowledging that these young women, some as young as 14, had far more experience than I did at castings.

And yet, I had 34 years of experience being myself and, in that moment, and every moment that has come next – in rooms where I have been a novice amongst old pros – that’s what has mattered.

And so I let myself cry when I felt moved to cry. I became emotionally involved with every aspect of every moment. I made it personal, got attached, hugged everyone, and realized my strength as a director was my strength as a mother—that in the same way I wrote PANS for my teenage past, I was directing as a mother, present—that this project, more than anything I had ever creatively done, allowed me to be both my THEN and NOW selves. The mother and the child.

Over the course of the next several months, I spent Friday mornings with my casting team, reading young women and young men for the parts we would eventually cast. I watched audition tapes from actors from all over the world. I fell in love with MANY performers and performances -- mainly teenage girls and young women who blew me away with their REAL. 

I have more respect for teenage girls and young women now than I ever did before—for young actors who get a bad rap, specifically young female actors who in my experience have been INCREDIBLE and brilliant and warm and REAL and collaborative —every. single. one. 

I am floored and in awe by the support of women in this business, as well as three incredible men who joined our team last year as producers, KNOWING and RESPECTING and HELPING me realize my goal of an inclusive, female-centric crew—turning Neverland on its ass in order to recreate a better, more lasting land that includes EVERyone


It feels strange and also scary to finally publish this post.  Outside of close friends and family, I have kept this project mostly to myself—folded up in my back pocket for the better part of a decade. Meanwhile, I have spent thousands of hours on this project. Hell, THOUSANDS OF DAYS. But I’m ready. I’m exited. And I’m proud of the work I have done. 

There are times – like this one right now – when you find yourself at the top of your tree with ten years of branches below you and realize, holy shit, I'm really getting somewhere... look at this view, man! LOOK AT THIS VIEW! Which is what I’m allowing myself to do – today – with this post.

Over the years, there have been many times when I’ve thought, “what the fuck am I even doing?” There have been times when people have asked me the same thing. There have been multiple occasions of people trying to talk me out of directing my own movie…

“Why don’t you just sell the script and work on something else?”

“You’re still working on the Peter Pan thing? Don’t you want to sell it and start something new?”

… But that was never an option. I had spent too many years raising this project not to see her into adulthood…

Pans was my fifth child.

Pans IS my fifth child. A child I have raised and loved and learned A THOUSAND THINGS from.
Which is why I’m writing this post – to introduce you, finally, to this project, which has lived with me for as long as I’ve kept this blog… I have honed characters, re-written plot lines, redesigned characters based on conversations I have had with you… and I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful to have a community of women who challenge and open me up – who make me feel safe, even fearless…

Thank you.

Thank you for helping me build a platform from which to share and speak and exist truthfully and explicitly, not just as a mother, but as a woman – ever-evolving, changing, fucking up, making it work, trying my best to fight forward, love deeply, speak my truth. Thank you for supporting me and each other; I am a better mother, a better writer, a better woman because of you.

And from here on out, I will be including you in this new mothering journey (and yes, it feels very much like a very long, very drawn out labor.) Because this project isn’t just for me -- it’s for my girls. It’s for my friends and family, sisters, strangers, you. It’s for every young woman who has ever been made to feel less than because of her Wendyness It's for survivors of sexual assault, most importantly teenaged survivors and those currently in the throes of adolescence. 

Pans is about strength and solidarity, vulnerability and dissent -- it's about speaking up and SAYING NO with ACTION and ART. It's about RESISTANCE and VOICE and what it means to stand with each other in solidarity. It's about young women who realize their power and raise themselves. It's about creating SISTERHOOD within the brotherhood.

It's about lost boys FOUND GIRLS. 

Will it be an uphill battle from here? Hell fucking yes. As I type this, we continue to climb what is now an enormous, branch-filled, treacherous-ass tree.

We still need a pretty massive sum of money to get us into production. (Yes, there will be crowdfunding campaign. Soon. Very soon. More on that in a few days.) And after that, there will be MANY MORE BRANCHES before we get to the top.

And yet…here we are...
First day of casting, January 2016
Here I am—exhausted, excited, scared shitless and, yes, I'm going to say it, REALLY fucking proud.

I'm making a movie. 

It's called PANSAnd it's a girl.