Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Warner Bros. And A "SouthLAnd" Pitch Video

After mulling it over for a while, I have come up with some ideas for the "SouthLAnd" pitch videos.  Yes -- videos -- as in plural.

"Why," you may legitimately ask, "do we need multiple pitch videos???"

Because I think we need two -- one for Warner Bros. and one for the Kickstarter campaign.

(Note: I am not going to go into all the legal necessities involved in producing these videos.  I touched on them very briefly in my last couple of posts, and I suppose -- if this actually goes forward -- we will all just deal with them.  Besides, I am no lawyer.)


After doing a bit more research on the "Veronica Mars" movie project, I discovered that Rob Thomas approached Warner Bros. about doing a movie quite a while before the project actually happened.  Apparently, Warner Bros. wasn't interested, and that was that.  It seems to me then, that our first task is to get Warner Bros. interested in going forward with a "SouthLAnd" movie.  And here's where a pitch video would come in quite handy.

What might be included in such a video?

Warner Bros. needs to be assured that there will be a market (which translates into both $$$ and an increase in the studio's prestige) for a "SouthLAnd" movie.  How could we accomplish this goal? -->
     1. The sincere interest of the creator(s)/executive producer(s), cast, and key crew members would need to be expressed.  The studio would probably want to to see a definite willingness to commit to the project by the key players, assuming that the financing/scheduling/all other necessary pieces of the puzzle were to fall into place.
     2. A budget would need to be presented, as accurately as possible.
     3. Data should be presented, comparing the ratings of "Veronica Mars" to the ratings of "SouthLAnd."  The ratings would most likely reflect the potential success of a Kickstarter campaign.  If the numbers for "SouthLAnd" are lower than the numbers for "Veronica Mars" -- which, unfortunately, I think they are -- we would have to discuss how we would make up for this deficit in a fan-based funding drive.  For example, might there be other funding sources?  We could also argue that the "clout" of the major players in "SouthLAnd" has greatly increased since the show's cancellation.  Shawn Hatosy, for instance, has a new show coming out this summer, which will increase his visibility in a huge way.  He is also a big hit on Twitter (for good reason).  Michael Cudlitz is now extraordinarily popular with the extraordinarily large fan-base of "The Walking Dead."  Regina King blows everybody out of the water with her number of Twitter followers and numerous, interesting projects.  And Ben McKenzie has "Gotham" in the works.  The number of existing "SouthLAnd" fans combined with potential new social media connections is enormous.  These things should be emphasized in any pitch to Warner Bros.
     4. The video might also drive home the point that "SouthLAnd" has a very dedicated core fan base, willing to work hard in the effort to get a movie made.  Footage might be included of some of these fans telling about what the show means to them, expressing their passion for it and their desire to see this project happen.
     5. A (gentle) reminder should be included in the pitch of the critical acclaim "SouthLAnd" has always earned.  After all, doesn't the studio wish to garner as much prestige as possible?  There is a compelling argument to be made that the studio would look bold and brave and interested in art for art's sake if it green-lighted this project.  Warner Brothers could be seen as a courageous maverick in the industry for its willingness to go forward with a "SouthLAnd" movie.  And -- frankly -- I don't think this movie would bankrupt them, especially if there were some other significant funding sources (like a Kickstarter campaign).  I may be wrong about this, though.  Maybe studios operate somewhat "on the brink" fiscally.  If so, then our financial data need to be especially solid, to provide reassurance that the project wouldn't be an economic disaster.

Given the assumptions I made about what would need to be included in a pitch video for Warner Bros., there is one further consideration.  This thing could get incredibly long and incredibly boring.  And what comes to mind here is an interview with Ben McKenzie in which he describes how some of the Powers That Be of a project he was auditioning for left the room while he was auditioning.  (That was very lame of them.)  Now, given that Ben is unfailingly interesting -- and that still happened -- I really, really don't want anything like that to come to pass with this pitch video.  That would sink the project before it even left the dock.  So, the pitch would need to be concise, yet chock full of the necessary information.  It would also have to be entertaining.

Well, this is enough for today.  Next time, I will discuss what I think should be included in a Kickstarter campaign pitch video.  Thank-you all for your kindness in reading this, because I really don't have any credentials in "showbiz."

I'll again forward this to Deb Craig, Regina King, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Ben McKenzie, Andrea Lynch, Julia Swain, and Kiaya Mangan.

Friday, April 25, 2014

"SouthLAnd" Pitch Video?

This next post was intended to be about a pitch video for a "SouthLAnd" movie.  In many ways, I suppose it could be that.  But, as I studied the book lent to me by my daughter Andrea -- Mark Litwak's "Dealmaking In The Film And Television Industry, From Negotiations To Final Contracts" -- it dawned on me that I was getting quite a bit ahead of myself.

For example, I learned that in order to include footage from the "SouthLAnd" TV show in a pitch video -- something that I really wanted to do -- many permissions would have to be obtained, via legal paperwork, from copyright owners, guilds and unions, every person in a clip, and (if the clip contains music) musicians and those who own the rights to the underlying musical compositions.


Frankly, I learned that there are pretty much a gazillion ways from Sunday to be sued for attempting to put together a pitch video, let alone doing a "SouthLAnd" movie in any sort of indie manner.

But, do not fear, I remain undaunted, because I am stubborn, not just a little bit competitive, and (perhaps) a tad bit crazy.  I also love "SouthLAnd".  And I don't want to let Deb or Stephanie down, because they are dear women who deserve a "SouthLAnd" movie.  I have also realized that Ben McKenzie does, in fact, know something about Kickstarter campaigns (go support his sister-in-law's, please), so I will take his comments about the possibility of such a thing more seriously than I did before.  (Sorry, Ben.  I should never have doubted you.)

So, what do we need in order to begin?

In his book, Mark Litwak explains how most projects are the result of intelligent dealmaking, and he states, "Shrewd dealmakers know how to structure a deal to meet the needs, often unspoken, of all the parties."

In terms of a "SouthLAnd" movie, who might these "parties" be?  A few that I can think of are:
     1.  the fans (if the movie is to be funded using a Kickstarter campaign, the needs of the fans are an essential part of the mix)
     2.  the studio (Warner Bros.)
     3.  the creator(s)/executive producer(s) of the TV show/movie
     4.  the director, cast, and crew
     5.  the talent agents/agencies, such as CAA
     6.  the distributor(s)
     7.  any production company that backs the film in any manner
     8.  possibly TNT, if they still own any of the rights to the show.

If the needs of all interested parties were intelligently met when putting together a deal for a "SouthLAnd" movie, it could lead to a solidly-funded, successful product (the actual film) and future benefits for all those participating (such as future creative opportunities stemming from having a good, versus a bad, reputation).  Wisely meeting the needs of the interested parties would have the added benefit of decreasing the possibility of me (or anybody else) being sued.

What, you may now be wondering, would the "needs of the interested parties" be?  There are, of course, financial needs.  People and institutions will want to make money off of this project.  I don't blame them for this.  This is their livelihood.  And making money off of one project helps to fund other projects down-the-line.  Losing money on this project may rob the interested parties of future creative and professional opportunities.  Although, I have also learned from reading Mark Litwak's book that there are times when a project will be given the green light, even when there is a substantial risk that it won't be a money-maker.  Why is this?  If there is a very good chance that the project will be solid enough creatively to enhance the reputations of those involved with it, those individuals/institutions may be willing to take a financial gamble.  Therefore, the "SouthLAnd" movie project -- if it is in any way fiscally questionable -- will have to inspire enormous creative confidence in the Hollywood "Powers-That-Be" if it is to be given the go-ahead.  I believe it is possible for this to happen.  In fact, I read that TNT's program director chose to keep the series, even when it would have been justified for him to drop it for financial reasons, because he thought it was so outstanding.  If it could be shown that a movie would be just as outstanding, it could perhaps garner the necessary support from all interested parties.

Now that I have addressed -- in a small way -- the needs of the interested "Hollywood" parties, what would be the needs of the fans?  And by "needs," I mean those beyond the necessity of seeing that Cooper lives and Ben hanging off the side of a building dressed in Kevlar and holding a large automatic weapon and Sammy's amazing pecs and Lydia's bad-ass hand-to-hand combat skills.  (Yes.  Those would all be required elements in a "SouthLAnd" movie.  If I have any say in it, anyway.  Which I won't.  Oh, well.)  Seriously, though, the desires of the fans need to be taken into careful consideration in this project, especially if it is a Kickstarter project.  The fans would need to be given satisfaction in how the story-arc and character-arcs are rounded out.  They would probably like it if -- by the end of the movie -- they had some hope for the future for their favorite characters.  Maybe I am a pie-in-the-sky, Pollyanna kind of lady, but this is my opinion.  I will, of course, bow to the wisdom of whomever writes the story, because -- even though the series was often not good for my blood pressure -- it was my all-time favorite show.  And that's saying something.  Another consideration, as far as fan "needs" go, would be rewards in a Kickstarter campaign.  I understand that they are a huge motivator in getting contributions, so they would need to be carefully thought out by those responsible for delivering them.  They would need to be awesome enough to inspire people to open their wallets, yet actually doable (when the rubber hits the road).

A further thing I have learned from Mr. Litwak's book is that, these days, the big "....talent agencies such as CAA....exercise considerable influence in developing and packaging projects."  This, in my highly inexperienced opinion, could be a key in all of this.

Therefore, I (very tentatively) propose the following:

     ***That a package be put together -- by CAA or another similar entity -- which includes funding sources (Warner Bros., fans, any other investors), legal needs (copyright searches, if necessary; rights acquisition, if necessary; all other required permissions; etc.), an agreement with Warner Bros. for production, and contracts with writer(s), director(s), cast, and crew.  ***

                                                    -- OR --

     ***That Warner Bros., together with the creator(s)/executive producer(s) of "SouthLAnd", put together a production package, which would include a Kickstarter element.  This might be the most efficient route, as they have the necessary resources to do so.  They probably own most (or all) of the rights to the show.***

Concerning a pitch video, one could be made which would effectively convince CAA, Warner Bros., and the creator(s)/producer(s) of "SouthLAnd" that this is, indeed, a viable project.  I would be willing to help write and story-board this video, and I know somebody who has expressed interest in shooting it (an actual professional, no less).  In my next post, I will go into more detail about what facts, data, and sentiments such a video would need to express, in order to be convincing.

Again, I apologize for making this presentation via my blog, as I realize it is not the most professional approach.

And, again, I will send copies of this to Deb Craig, Andrea Lynch, Julia Swain, Kiaya Mangan, Regina King, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, and Ben McKenzie.

I do appreciate your time and consideration.

"SouthLAnd" forever. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

"SouthLAnd" Movie Pitch

The idea of a "SouthLAnd" movie has been floated on-and-off since the cancellation of the show last year.  Both the cast and the fans seem to want this project to happen, so I thought I'd put together a little presentation, in order to more fully explore the possibility of such a film.

"What," you may reasonably ask, "are your qualifications for pitching this project?"  None, actually.  My background is this: I hold a bachelor's degree in biology from San Francisco State University.  I earned a teaching credential from the same institution, and I then taught high school for a couple of years before having my own family.  I homeschooled my three children, who have all enjoyed success in college (although, that is more to their credit than mine).  Currently, I am a school sponsor for the Young Storytellers Foundation.  Aside from my family, this organization is my passion, my joy, and my primary commitment.  I fully intend to remain involved with YSF as a school sponsor -- and in any other way in which I can be of help -- for as long as I am able.   "SouthLAnd," though, is the television show which I have most enjoyed in my life.  And I have some time and a few resources -- now that my children are grown -- to dedicate to the worthwhile endeavor of seeing a movie made. 

That being said, here are some of the primary considerations (at least, to my rather uneducated mind) concerning what would be necessary for a "SouthLAnd" film project to come to fruition.  I am sure this is in no way complete.  I also apologize, as I realize it is rather unprofessional to present these ideas on my blog.  It seems, though, to be to be the most effective means at my disposal for communicating with the necessary individuals.  I also hope that I shall not be too long-winded.

I have based these ideas on the following sources:
     a.  the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter project,
     b.  Deke Simon's book, "Film and Video Budgets" (Copyright 2010), and
     c.  the wonderful advice and direction of Andrea Lynch, Kiaya Mangan, and Julia Swain -- film students and budding film-makers.

So, here we go -->

CONSIDERATION #1:  Who owns the rights to "SouthLAnd"?

     This is probably the key question in even beginning to plan a "SouthLAnd" movie.  Who owns the rights to the show?  Is it the creator(s)/executive producer(s)?  Is it the studio (Warner Bros.)?  Is it the network (TNT)?  Is it some combination of these?  It seems to me that it would be ideal for the person or entity that owns the rights to spearhead a Kickstarter project, if that was the route chosen to secure the necessary funding.  To use as an example the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter, it was run by the creator of the show -- Rob Thomas.  Attaching his name to the project and committing to it were probably essential elements in the success of the fundraising effort. 

CONSIDERATION #2:  What is the goal of the project?

     To use again the example of the "Veronica Mars" film project, Rob Thomas explained that he wanted the audience to be satisfied with the conclusion of the story in a way that the final season did not manage to accomplish.  He stated, "I wanted to go down swinging on this series."  To me, this aptly sums up the desires of those involved with the "SouthLAnd" series.  The creators, producers, and cast have all expressed sentiments similar to these.  And, to me, this is an admirable goal -- one which I would be willing to support with my time, effort, and resources.

CONSIDERATION #3:  Costs and Funding

     Looking again at the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign, the goal was to raise $2,000,000.  The amount that was actually raised amounted to $5,702,153 -- with the number of backers being 91,585.

     In providing an example of a feature film budget, Deke Simon, in his book, "Film and Video Budgets," allows for a price tag of $5,000,000. 

     Therefore, it does seem that a budget in the millions is not an unreasonable estimate for the cost of a "SouthLAnd" movie.  I know that the show was done on the frugal side, but "frugal" in Hollywood is probably not the same as "frugal" in my little household in San Diego County.  Doing a film "on the cheap" may well require a budget of at least $2,000,000.

     Lest this seem an incredibly large amount of money, there are many costs that would need to be covered:
          a.  Above-The-Line Costs -- such as, expenses for story rights (if that needs to happen), script development, and costs associated with paying producers, directors, cast members, and associated staff.
          b. Below-The-Line Costs, or all those expenses associated with actual production and post-production -- such as, production staff, extra talent, sound stage, production design, set construction, set operations, special effects, set dressing, wardrobe, make-up and hair, electrical, camera, sound, transportation, location expenses, editing, optical/visual effects, music, post-production sound, titles and graphics, insurance, publicity and marketing.
          c.  There are also taxes and union expenses to be taken into consideration.

     All in all, then, even a movie done with an eye to careful cost-control is still a very expensive undertaking.  And doing it too cheaply may sacrifice quality and safety, both of which are out-of-the-question to me.

     In thinking about the budgetary considerations, I did like Ben McKenzie's idea of having the story revolve around a specific situation, into which the whole cast is drawn.  This would minimize the number of locations required and reduce the need for sound stage use and set construction (although, some would most likely be necessary). 

CONSIDERATION #4:  Looking More Carefully At A Kickstarter Campaign

     As I have said, the individual/entity running a Kickstarter campaign for a "SouthLAnd" movie should own the rights to the show.  This would be necessary legally, unless that person/entity gave permission to another person/entity to run the campaign.  There is also the possibility of the rights being purchased by another party, but that could be prohibitively expensive and may jeopardize the chances of the movie being a commercial success, as the fans may question whether or not the new owner of the rights would give them the kind of story they had all come to expect from their favorite TV show.

     A Kickstarter campaign is also not worry-free.  Kickstarter charges a fee of 5% of all funds raised.  The funds raised are also considered to be taxable income.  And if the project should fail, those who run the campaign are actually legally liable.  There is also the issue of rewards for backers, something that project funders have come to expect from Kickstarter campaigns.  These can be problematic.  Rob Thomas explains that, as rewards, the "Veronica Mars" project gave out 40 Associate Producer credits.  These people were flown to LA to see a rough cut of the film and were invited to provide notes.  "The Producers Guild did not approve, " Mr. Thomas states.  This intrepid man also tells the tale of having to arrange 5000 autographed movie posters for backers.  "It's been a 3-day assignment for us, with nine boxes at Kristen's house and 10 boxes at actor Ryan Hansen's house."  Other rewards offered to the "Veronica Mars" backers included actual walk-on roles, and even a speaking part for the top backer (if I recall correctly).  You may be thinking that this type of reward system is unnecessary, but I beg to differ.  Those who run Kickstarter have explained that the amount of funding secured for a project is, more often than not, influenced by the types of rewards offered to backers.

     A Kickstarter campaign usually requires a pitch video, as well -- another cost to be considered before any fan-based funding is even secured.

     I don't mean to sound excessively negative here.  It's just that an examination of these issues underscores -- at least for me -- the complexity of this endeavor and that the person spearheading the campaign should most preferably be the creator/executive producer of the show.  Legally, he/she would be the best choice and would bring the reputation/name recognition necessary for such a large undertaking.

CONSIDERATION #5:  Selling This Idea To Warner Bros.

     I have gathered -- also from studying the "Veronica Mars" campaign -- that somebody with heavy influence would be required to sell the project "hard" (Chris Chulak's word) at Warner Bros.  Because, after all, it is the studio which has all the actual "stuff" that would be required for an actual production.  I would, of course, be happy to walk the halls of the great WB, pitch video in hand, talking to people.  Somehow, though, I don't think that would work out so well.  "Who let that crazy homeschooling mom in?" people would be asking each other, probably resulting in my being tossed out of the building by security.  Assuming, though, that I had actual permission to enter the halls of that famed studio, I don't know if anyone would listen to me much.  So, somebody of greater importance would need to step up.  It's not that I wouldn't enjoy talking to people, selling the idea of a "SouthLAnd" movie.  That would be great fun for me.  And I do live relatively close to LA, which is an advantage.

CONSIDERATION #6:  How would the final product reach its target audience?

     If this were to be a TV movie, how would it be aired?  Would TNT pick it up?  Could a distribution deal be done with Netflix?  Or would the best avenue of distribution be DVD and VOD?  What are the legal/financial issues surrounding each of these distribution methods?

CONSIDERATION #7:  Other Funding Options

     There are, of course, other funding options besides a Kickstarter campaign.  I have read that often film projects, these days, are financed using a variety of sources -- such as a combination of "investor money, state tax credits, loans, and advance sales of.... distribution rights." (Source for this quote is unknown.  I wrote it down from my reading, but forgot to note the source.)  It may be worthwhile to investigate such a funding mechanism for a "SouthLAnd" movie project.  Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign could be part of the total mix.  The advantages to this method would be that the diversification minimizes the risk for any one entity and would probably increase the amount of money that could be raised.

     Another possible idea is to bring UCLA MFA students into the mix.  Perhaps a "SouthLAnd" movie could be incorporated into a project or projects for them.  This could help control costs, as well as provide opportunities for the up-and-coming generation of filmmakers.  Julia Swain is currently a student in this program (her emphasis is cinematography), so perhaps she could provide some input as to the feasability of this option.

If you are still with me at this point, I would like to thank you for your kind attention.  I will use Twitter to get copies of this presentation to Regina King, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Ben McKenzie, Deb Craig, Andrea Lynch, Kiaya Mangan, Julia Swain, and Kim Sherrell.  Who knows?  Maybe we can actually do this thing.  It would be pretty awesome.

I hope I have not insulted anyone's intelligence here.  I am aware that many of you reading this already know these things.  It is simply my goal to set everything out for the consideration of all those who might be involved in a fundraising effort.





Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Tape In The Hair

My mom used to do this. You know. Put tape in her hair.

"But, WHY?" you may reasonably ask.

It was her main hairstyling method, and I'm beginning to think there might be something to it.

Let me explain.

My mom sported a short hairstyle from the time she hit her mid-30's until the last day of her life. We used to call it a pixie.  It was parted pretty much in the middle, was short all the way around, and there were bangs.  I remember thinking of it as a "boy's haircut" when I was a kid.  To be fair, though, it was more feminine than that.  Except for the times when she got a bit carried away with the scissors.  Like I got a bit carried away with the eyebrow tweezers just a few minutes ago (but, never mind about that).

Anyway, my mom would wash her short pixie-style hair, comb it into the desired shape, and then apply scotch tape all over her head to hold it in place while it dried.  She would place a long piece of tape across the bangs, to hold them flat to her forehead.  She would apply pieces of tape on either side of the part.  She would also put several pieces of tape of varying lengths all along the back and sides of her head.  And she would leave all this tape in place for several hours, until her hair was good and dry.  Finally, she would peel off the tape and comb her hair -- ready for the day, at last (or at least the afternoon).

When I was growing up, I found all this to be unnerving.  It all took SO long and looked (in my mind) ridiculous.  My mom was very pretty, and to see her walking around with all this tape in her hair every morning annoyed me.  (Yes.  Daughters -- especially adolescent daughters -- can be quite exasperating and judgmental.)  "Why," I would think to myself, "doesn't she just blow-dry her hair?" -- Or -- "Would it really look that bad if she let it air dry without the damn tape?" -- Or -- "She should just let it get longer, so it wouldn't stick out at odd angles if it dried without the tape." I would have this little dialogue with myself at least several times a month, exasperating and judgmental adolescent daughter that I was.  I did complain about it to her every once-in-a-while, but that wasn't very well received, as I recall.  So -- mostly -- I just talked to myself about it, wondering why my mother had to do this weird thing.


Now, I'm thinking it wasn't such a bad idea.  I'm thinking of even taking up this idea myself. 


Because I have rather thick, wavy hair and -- depending on the weather -- it sometimes dries, as my daughter Bridget describes it, "looking like a triangle sticking out of" my head.  Why couldn't I just blow-dry it?  Because my hair tends to be rather dry, and blow-drying it causes many split ends.  It also ends up looking funny, because I really have no talent with a blow-dryer.  I could use moose, but that doesn't feel good to me.  Bridget tells me that I should just let it air dry into curls and then not comb it -- the combing it is what makes it stick out like a big, fluffy triangle -- but, that doesn't feel good to me, either.  I like the feeling of the air circulating through my hair.  I like to feel it move.  Yes, this is all rather odd, but that's the way it is. 

A few days ago, though, I remembered about the scotch tape.  I could probably employ the scotch tape so that my hair wouldn't turn into a triangle.  Perhaps, if I let it dry with the tape on, it would be tame enough so that, when I combed it, it would stay reasonably un-triangle-like.  I don't know.  But, I'm tempted to try it.

I wonder what my kids would say. ;-)


I just realized that I used the wrong form of "moose" up there, but it's making me laugh so hard that I'm leaving it. Ha!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Thursday Memories

I was born in 1963, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the heart of what many would consider to be "liberal Catholic land."  For example, I was a teenager before I realized that "Blowin' In The Wind" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" were not originally written as official Mass music.  And the homily at my youngest sister's First Communion dealt with the complexity of moral decision-making.  Specifically, it addressed the topic of French kissing.  I found this quite fascinating and asked my parents straight-away -- as soon as we got home -- what French kissing was.  My father rolled his eyes.  My mom explained.  She was pretty forward-thinking.  My father was pretty forward-thinking, too, but he left certain subjects to my mom.

Our parish was on the small side -- in both building size and number of members -- and I feel that I was blessed by this.  Most of the parishioners considered each other to be friends, and we were all well-acquainted with the pastor and associate pastors.  The atmosphere was very warm and intimate.  The smaller size of our parish also allowed for many wonderful social occasions that felt more like family gatherings than official church functions.

One of these social occasions was the annual potluck dinner that was held in the church hall after the Holy Thursday Mass.  Right after the altar was stripped and the Holy Eucharist was moved to the Altar of Repose (in the sacristy behind the main altar), we all proceeded to the church hall for this meal.  It was great fun!  Everybody was in a festive spirit.  There were casseroles (which I adored) and salads of all types (including of jell-o, which I also adored).  There was punch and coffee and many kinds of desserts -- cakes and cookies and pies.  My favorite part was to make my way around the food tables after everybody was done eating, and busy chatting, and help myself to the radishes that nobody ate.  There were always MANY radishes.  And I ate them all.  I still love radishes.  And I still get them all, because nobody in my family cares for them.

Now, some of you may look at all this with a disapproving eye.  Because -- as all good, traditional Catholics know -- after the Holy Eucharist is moved to the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday, everybody is supposed to be solemn and crowd into the room in front of the Holy Eucharist and pray.  The last thing there is supposed to be is a PARTY, for Heaven's sake!!!

Well, frankly, the Holy Thursday shenanigans at the progressive parish where I grew up turned out to be one of the very best things for the preservation of my faith over time.  Because -- sometimes -- I just get fed up and want to throw in the towel.  And when I do get fed up, I am always drawn to the following memory:

Every year, after polishing off the radishes, while everybody else was chatting up a storm, I would wander over to the Altar of Repose in the sacristy behind the main altar.  It would just be me -- all by my lonesome.  I began doing this when I was probably about 7 or 8 years old.  I had been well-instructed (by my progressive Catholic nun teacher, nonetheless) in the Church's theology of the Eucharist, and I believed (and I still do believe) in the Real Presence.  The Altar of Repose was always quite lovely.  There were candles and Easter lilies and lovely altar cloths.  There was a little kneeler in front of the whole thing.  The room was dark, except for the candlelight.  And I would kneel down, the sweet smell of the lilies filling the room.  And I would just be quiet and think about how Jesus was there right in front of me and how cool that was.  I would think about how He loved me and how we were just hanging out together.  Just Him and me.  And I would just feel calm.  And -- believe me -- I was not a calm little kid.  I was always sort of anxious.  My mom was seriously ill when I was fairly young, my dad had some significant work issues (that did work out over time, but were quite stressful when they were occurring), there was alcoholism amongst some of my extended family members, and certain people in my life could be rather fiery in their temperaments.  I also hated school.  As much as I loved my progressive nun teacher, I hated school.  Especially math.  So, just being quiet with Jesus in the candlelight and feeling calm inside was quite something.  I felt incredible peace -- maybe Divine peace.  I don't know.  All I know is I just knelt there and felt like Jesus was my friend, that He was on my side, that He would stick with me, no matter what.

So, when I get all fed up with what I see going on nowadays -- with the "holy" people bashing the "not holy enough" people, with all the judging, with the massive failings of the Church hierarchy -- and I want to just give up on the whole "formal religion" thing, I remember the times I spent with Jesus on Holy Thursday.  And I know -- I know for sure -- that no matter what, no matter how much I fall and fail and doubt, that He won't leave, that He won't look at me harshly, because He gets it.  He really does.  He gets all of us.  And He won't leave us alone.  This I know.  I know it for sure.  I know it because I learned it directly from Him on those Holy Thursdays spent all alone in front of the Altar of Repose.  After eating all the radishes.

Pax Christi.