Ipad mini, NBC and my first ever script.

I have just spent a delicious week locked up in the house with my gorgeous little Babygirl (known as Saskia to everyone else) for lazy mornings snuggled up in bed, she with Charlie and Lola, and me with one of Rupert Everett’s amusing autobiographies, kindly smuggled by a new European contact.  The weather has been unseasonably cold, which means like a good English summer and perfect for skulking around indoors wearing my cosy cashmere cardy over normal Cuba attire.

Although I have been chastising myself for my inactivity and all the things I should have been doing in this beautiful and fascinating island, sometimes we Mums just have to bed down again with the infants.  Another international party in the house tonight so I will re-launch myself like an ageing rock star.

After 3 exciting weeks out of the house I have returned to Havana life slightly jaded, not helped by the disappearance of 2 of the more genuine people in my life, one escaped to New York and the other to Paris.  I suddenly felt as though I was doomed to return to a social life of po-faced mothers and gossiping diplomats.  Which is entirely untrue, as I know plenty of lovely mothers and diplomats and I just need to be reminded of all the wonderful bohemians and down to earth people in my life and get them all together again.

I have also been fretting over what appears to be an in-growing eyebrow hair problem, which does not abate and is disproportionately painful.   I am rather embarrassed that my first visit to the doctor’s here in Havana will be for this slightly ridiculous ailment.

Many weeks have passed by without me clocking in and I have many heady tales to tell so not sure where to begin.  Off the island, Chavez died (big shit for Cuba) and we got a new Argentinian Pope.  On the island the new Cuba battles on trying to grow in a graceful and dignified manner and not always being allowed.  The film school remains an exciting hotbed of passing talent and interesting worldly friends with a background scenery of one of the best soap operas you could wish for ….. eat your heart out Eastenders and new Dallas.

I managed to make it through my workshop, although the odds and gods were against me, way too many things going on around me.  Old friends rocking up, new dear friends disappearing, children on holiday, grumpy nanny not stepping up, my chef gone slightly loopy and dressing like a hooker, my car broke down and we had no parts to fix it.  I got food poisoning at the end of the first week and the film school doctors finally got their hands on me, injecting me in the butt cheek and putting me on a drip for 3 hours with me pathetically saying … I want to go home, and then giving in finally when I remembered I had the first series of Breaking Bad on my laptop.

So somehow, throughout all this, I got to write a script and Paul was a wonderful teacher and mentor.  A laid back Californian scriptwriter, with many other talents and a thoroughly nice guy.  This course was very practical and although I did not have much time for writing my homework in the end, I did finish a script outline and fudged together a first draft for a short film.  I did however, get a really good sense of how to pull one together and still have to get that Final Draft scriptwriting software I was sniffing around for the whole of the second week.  Maybe when I do my rewrite I will share it with you right here on my blog ………  I expect you can’t wait!

My house has now become more technical although we still don’t have broadband, ADSL, wifi or anything else of this century we are now the proud owners of an X-Box (guiltily purchased for neglected nippers in Guadalajara) and an Ipad mini, that I didn’t even know existed.  But there is a story behind that …

We had a visit from our new American buddies from Morgan’s Creek (not Dawson’s!) and NBC and some other production houses.  David, Kim, his wife and Kia arrived 2 and a half hours late to our house.  We were all quite pissed off, Rafa and I and two other friends working at the school who shall be named S & S.   It was Sunday and I was starting my workshop the next day and wanted to get the children and myself to bed early.  When they arrived I shot from the hip along the lines of …… if there is one thing I expect from you Americans it is to be on time (years of living in Latin America have made me appreciate this punctuality).  They apologised and took it all with good grace and proceeded to charm us all evening, and we had a lot of fun.

The previously planned seaside sundowner drinks were reduced to us looking into the black of the Mexican gulf listening to the waves crashing, but we made it out to the local newish Sushi restaurant around the corner and then back home for more drinks and chat.  At one point I could see Rafa’s face looking slightly concerned and the warning bells sounded as I lightly skipped to his side like a gazelle on too much Cava to see what was going on.  He was refusing to accept their very generous gift of the aforementioned Ipad mini.  I did some verbal shin kicking and reluctantly Rafa received this wonderful present that even has his name engraved on it.  I on the other hand was getting on with everybody so well I would have felt justified in receiving a couple of cars from whoever at this stage, and Kim did manage to give me a pair of cool reading glasses which the (grown up) boys later confiscated from me for bad hinatera behaviour.  I got them back the next day and now don’t know how I lived without them, as you do in the material world.

Kim had confessed to me at dinner that his mother’s cousin was Meyer Lansky, shady character numero uno of pre revolution Cuban gangsters.  His mother had been very ashamed of this side of the family and refused to talk about the old mobster, merely spitting under her breath…… He was a killer.  It just all seemed too weird and wonderful that here I was nearly 60 years later sitting not far from Lansky’s old empire and planned Vegas of El Caribe talking to his second cousin.  Gotta be a script in there somewhere.  Maybe I’ll write it for NBC and make them loads of money ……. on my new iPad mini of course!

So the iPad sat on Rafa’s desk snarling at us with its sleek cool new world look until Rafa brought it home and the boys got their hands on it and that was that …. No going back.


Next stop Guadalajara and Mexico City.


Scripts, Saskia and Selfishness

Lots of important decisions to make this weekend and I am feeling as though I have two voices in my head …….. One says you deserve time to yourself to do your own thing, and the world is full of working Mums who happily leave their children in other’s care.  And the other one which is saying, oh my little baby girl is only 2 and needs her mummy.  Also she is the only one of my children who tries to speak Spanish to me.  The only way is to spend more time with her reading books and chatting, and also get her brothers to speak more English to her as her day to day world is completely Cuban.  On top of everything she is rather a joy to be with right now, talking talking talking and very affectionate.  Lots of cuddles and kisses and I love you Mummy.

I have been trying to do script workshops at the film school and it is not always easy to find ones that fit into my schedule and that I feel able to do.  Right now I am getting ready to start a course on “Short film theory and practice: creating characters, scenes and sequences” with Paul Duran from LA.  But I am in a bit of turmoil.  I am very lucky to have a nanny, who is both honest and a very nice person, but she is still not taking charge of my 3 children with enough energy or commitment.  She doesn’t work too many hours as most of the time I am here except the 2 days a week when I go to the film school.  Anyway, the idea being that she will learn from me and I will be more free to work in the future when she can step up. I know I am probably just being neurotic about leaving them.

So our yearly trip to Guadalajara is looming and I am thinking how can I do a 2 week workshop and then hop on a plane to Guadalajara for 4 nights, am I crazy?  I know that the guilt is not helped by the fact that I do not feel convinced by the nanny.  I must have faith.  When I am not around I think she will step up!

Teachers´party in the house tonight for 80.  Leaving party for our good friend Miguel who is sadly off to New York and a possy from the US (Morgan’s Creek etc.) arriving for drinks on Sunday night and I should be calmly preparing everything for my 2 weeks of going back to school.  Like what the hell am I going to write a script about????


Myths and Reality ….. in Cuba

I had an adventure last week.  I escaped from my domestic life as a mother and wife of the director of the film school and became a student again.  And reading over my last few posts.  I think I really needed it!!

I had for some time wanted to do a scriptwriting workshop at the film school but had not found the time or the confidence.  I was very nervous about it.   Rafa was away in Margarita when the workshop began, so I had only my usual chutzpa to rely on.  On the Sunday night before, the children all finally in bed, I looked for a little notebook and pen.  Am I really going to do this? I thought.  Was I being audacious to try to do this course with the boys on holiday?  Will the other students accept me?  Will they think what the hell is the wife of the director doing here and henceforth to complain?  And maybe they would have been in their rights to do that.  Abusing my role as I am.  Aprovechando, as we say in español.  No matter what, I thought this was meant to be, for whatever reason.  And there speaks the great believer in serendipity that you know me to be!  Anyway, like my own hero, my call to adventure was too strong to refuse.

The morning came and I managed to drop Saskia off at her circulo.  Left the boys hanging out with Rey the custodio until their private teacher arrived and headed off down the straight road to San Antonio.

I made it to the school on time and found the head of the script department who showed me to the room.  Will I still have anything interesting or intellectual to add after so many years of childcare and food foraging … what could I bring to the table?

I was lucky enough that, for my first adventure into academic life at the film school, I had Ruth Goldberg as my teacher.  A New Yorker whose serenity hides a cutting and mischievous intellect and who gently encouraged all of us to slowly open up and share our thoughts and opinions.  Also, I think I was supposed to meet Ruth, she was the perfect mentor for my week stepping out of my ordinary life.

We talked about the structure of the Myth, of Joseph Campbell and the Hero with a thousand faces, adventures beyond the ordinary.  What is the myth we are living and what does it mean to us as people and writers?

We talked about our favourite films and why they appealed to us.  How our hero can be a country or a city.  What turns a myth into a tragedy?  How we all have our inner journeys and outer jouneys.  Where Freud and Jung came into it all. And it all made wonderful perfect sense to me.

By day two I began to think I was a myth junky.  I began to see myths everywhere!  Cuba is a myth, the revolution is a myth.  The myth of Cuba has already put me through a few tests and I still love it.

What about my relationships?  The myth of love at first sight.  Did I cheat the course of tragedy?  And what of my journeys?  What will become of my journey away from my homeland?  Will I ever return?  Or have I gone too far?  (Back to the Unbearable Lightness of Being again).  What does the rest of my life have in store for me?  I know I always wanted to step out of the ordinary world and that I found it hard to refuse adventures but will there come a time that I need to find my road back so I can resurrect myself as a new person in my old world? huh

Then how does all this relate to me as a writer?  How can I create my stories and my characters?  How can I bring things to life as a writer?  What kind of writer do I want to be?  I know I love telling stories and maybe sometimes making people laugh or think or perhaps feel a little bit uncomfortable.  Yes I like to take people on a journey out of the ordinary.

On Saturday night Wichy, my favourite Cuban DJ played at the film school, it was a perfect end to a wonderful week, as I remembered the journeys DJs have taken me on and wished writing was as easy as dancing.

And as I sit here now looking out at the sea all clear and calm after the storm the children back at school and the house empty I am trying to organize all the stories I have running through my head.

Thank you EICTV, all the script students of the second year for accepting me so graciously, and most of all to Ruth for inspiring me and helping me to remember all the things I knew and all the things I want to know.

Film Check

All the films I got to watch last week ….

Winter’s Bone

El Espiritu de la Colmena


5 Obstructions


The Exorcist

Pilot of Breaking Bad (TV series)