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Surviving Cinema - Welcome to 2011

Happy New Year, friends.  I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve.  Farewell 2010.  Welcome to 2011.

Here at the dawn of the year, my attitudes, priorities, and overall mood feel very different compared to past Januaries.  Seems like since 2005 I've gone into each new year with supercharged enthusiasm, all fired up and ready to kick ass.  On December 31st, 2010, I felt none of this electricity. 

Each year, after an eager and jubilant New Year's Eve mood, I experienced twelve months of disappointment and setbacks.  Sometimes the setbacks were due to good ol' fashioned bad decisions.  Each decision I make represents a risk, and though my decisions are always well-researched and strategic, sometimes I make the wrong call.  Other setbacks were due to forces beyond my control - specifically the incompetence and/or dishonesty of people I've aligned myself with (yes, as shocking as it may seem, the film industry is not populated by saints).  And still more setbacks in the past few years were, plain and simple, the fault of this economy, which has caused great misery for millions of Americans.  In fact, when I think about how much harm has come to me due to this recession, I feel I've been pretty lucky.  Most people have been negatively impacted by it much, much worse than I have.

But I'm not here to kill your New Year's buzz and talk about all the shit I've dealt with over the past decade.  That's not the point here.  The point is how different things are this January.  But hold that thought…

First off, I had a lot of fun over the holidays.  I had dinner with longtime friend Keith Clark, who I had not seen in person for many years.  Back in the early/mid 90's, Keith worked on my first movie, Savage Harvest.  Shortly after that, he moved to LA, where he became a successful documentary producer/editor.  Keith is a great friend, it was awesome catching up with him, and the service at Pueblo Solis Mexican restaurant was much, much better than it was when we last ate there seven years ago.  (We decided that if the service sucked this time, we'd give them one more chance in another seven years - and if they ain't got their shit together by then, we ain't ever goin' back.)

I also got to hang out with actor, screenwriter, and ardent b-movie enthusiast Eric Spudic, another friend who I had not seen in person for years.  Eric was in Savage Harvest 2: October Blood with me, and he's acted in or written the screenplay for more than thirty films since his career began in 2001.  Eric is a fun guy, an awesome friend, and a great person to work with.  He watched our recently-completed film Ratline while he was here, and he seemed to love it.  He said it had more than enough boobies in it, but not enough fart jokes.

On the night of New Year's Eve, star of Ratline and close friend Emily Haack took me out on the town.  We hung out with another friend, Lupe Sanchez who has pitched in and helped out on multiple Wicked Pixel Cinema adventures, including Ratline.  We met up with Lupe at St. Louis's Way Out Club, where I got to visit with Bob and Sherri, the club's owners.  The Way Out Club has been very supportive of our filmmaking ventures since we first met Bob and Sherri back around 1995 when we were prepping for Ice From The Sun.

From Way Out, Emily and I travelled to the Crack Fox downtown.  There we rung in the new year with good ol' fashioned blaring, dirty punk rock by Jason And The Punknecks.  After the midnight countdown and champagne toast, The Trip Daddys took the stage and delivered the first tunes to hit our ears in 2011.  The Trip Daddys and their fast, loud, and energetic rockabilly/punk music have become a St. Louis institution.  And their music is featured in my film Ice From The Sun, I'm proud to say.  As the Crack Fox was shutting down for the night, I got to talk for a while with Dennis Williams, drummer for The Trip Daddys (and Emily's hubby), which was nice because Dennis is as cool of a dude as he is an excellent drummer.  Side note: Dennis provided percussion tracks to Gus Stevenson's Ratline music score.

So, all in all, my holiday season was pretty enjoyable.  But how is this new year different than the recent others?  In what way has my outlook, attitude, and enthusiasm for the next 12 months changed?

Okay, the last few years have been rough.  Really rough.  Especially 2010.  At this time, however, I have more career opportunities and more options in front of me than I've ever had in my life.  I'm on a better path now - and I've surrounded myself with better people.  If there was ever a New Year's hyper-enthusiastic rush of euphoria to be had, it would be most appropriate right now.  But I am electing to proceed with caution.  I don't want to run flailing into this new territory, celebrating before I achieve the first objective.  Instead, I am advancing slowly and carefully - keeping a keen eye out for snipers and land mines.

Maybe age brings such caution.  Or maybe getting sucker-punched so often trains you to look more carefully for hands closed into fists.  Well, here comes the new year.  I'm advancing.  I'm working with better people.  I'm taking better care of myself.  I am refusing failure.  And I'm punching back. 

You are welcome to join me.  Let's do this.
Thanks for reading.

-Eric Stanze