Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coming Home...

This is IT!

Feeling a strange combination of fright and excitement to screen "Fight Like a Girl" at the Shadow Box Film Festival in New York Dec. 6th and 7th!

Seven years of blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of my own money went into the making of the film.  I was fortunate to work with extremely talented people, some of the best in the business.  Also, I managed to get the patience of my husband, and the trust of three other women who really took me inside their lives, while helping me become a better boxer and a better person.  Will be forever grateful to Maureen Shea, Susan Reno and Kimberly Tomes for allowing me in, in such an intimate way.

New York will always be my home.  I literally transitioned from fresh faced kid from Jersey to East Village badass "nineties girl."  I had every "unskilled labor" type of job under the sun there.  From perfume sprayer at Lord and Taylor's to driving a pedicab, to decorating a gay S&M nightclub called PORK in the meat market district, I've experienced far more there than I'm sure I could any other place in the world.

Whenever I see that skyline come into view from my plane window, I instantly feel giddy, proprietary and like I'm home.  Living in LA for five years does not change that feeling at all.  In fact, I think it makes it stronger.

To be screening "Fight Like a Girl" in it's home town after playing several festivals around the country is daunting.  Even though we have gotten great reviews and won some awards, none of that will mean anything to me when we screen it to the New York boxing community.  I want them to feel like I represented them well, told an authentic tale.

It will be the first time the people in the film will be at the screening.  They will be seeing footage of themselves from 7 years ago up until the present: temper tantrums, hilarious bonding experiences, desperation, determination, triumphs, Golden Gloves fights, pro fights and various New York gyms, Gleasons, The Wat, etc.

They will learn intimate details about each other that they may not have known during the time of filming.  They will learn things about me that I never told them: things I don't particularly want them to know, but serve the story and the message of the film.  So, I let those things become a part of the story.

Most importantly, I hope the film inspires those who see it to get past anything that haunts them.  It's not just boxers who fight.  Anyone who struggles with anything should hopefully relate to this film.  If that successfully happens, then I 've done my job.

Shadow Box Film Festival Screenings
Friday, Dec 6th 8pm, or Saturday, Dec 7th at 12pm
333 W 23rd St
For tickets:

or call 800-838-3006

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oh, Miley...

I was trying really hard not to write about Miley Cyrus's performance on the VMA's last night, but I can't seem to get any work done because of my thoughts around it. It doesn't need any more attention then it has already gotten, but I want to get this out of my head.

No, I didn't watch the VMA's because "Breaking Bad" is just too good and more up my alley.  I knew the "shocking" things from the VMA's would show up in my FB feed, on Twitter and in Entertainment news.  And, from years past, we know these things are staged, which make them anti-shocking.

Instead, I clicked on the article links, watched it on YouTube, and yawned.

First of all, there is no comparison to Madonna.  Madonna was mature and self possessed by the time she was doing her "antics" onstage.   I never got the sense she was "trying," serving anyone else, copying what she saw on YouTube, or battling a sweetheart-manufactured-by-Disney image.  She held her own when onstage with another superstar, while Miley just became a prop for Robin Thicke.

Miley Cyrus is 20 years old.  Let's face it; she is a big kid.  Today, kids mature at the pace of a glacier.  Recently, I was at a bar with my husband and a friend.  It was a college bar.  The college girls seemed to think it was funny to twerk in their short shorts in front of the guys and with each other.  Apparently they think they are being rebellious, ironically sexy, or "down with the homegirls" in a tongue-in-cheek way.  At least I hope it is tongue-in-cheek.  The more they did it, the less interesting it was to watch and we eventually stopped looking.

Watching white girls with skinny asses twerk is the equivalent of watching little boys at a Barmitzvah in Long Island pretend to be rappers from the streets.  It's just silly.  Stop it.

Miley was just doing the same thing these college girls were doing, but on a bigger stage.  I'm sure she will look back and be embarrassed because she is making her mistakes on a global level.  The other girls are just making asses of themselves in a local hangout.  Hopefully, no one is Instagraming or videotaping and putting their shit up on YouTube.  But even if they are, there isn't any fame or responsibilities thrust upon them to be "role models" for our young girls.

Having been a stripper in the 90's, I didn't find these moves particularly shocking or rebellious.  I'm just surprised these girls are doing it in public FOR FREE.  Yes, I would bend over with my ass out, but it was in the privacy of a strip club and I was getting paid to do it.  In my civilian time, I would never do something in public so lascivious or subservient.  That is work.  It requires dollars at the ready.  I remember  thinking that it was such a stupid, easy way to get money.  I even laughed at myself WHILE I was doing it.  I couldn't imagine it being a cool thing to do at a club where I wanted to meet people or have fun with my friends.  It would feel like I was giving away my power, my dignity.  I would feel like a skank; whereas in a strip club, I felt like a good employee on the assembly line.  Good, honest, work.  But that's me.  Obviously, things have changed.

Not to mention, I am one of those skinny assed white girls.  It would not be a juicy experience for anyone and I am well aware of that.

In short, give the girl a break.  She's a kid trying really hard to be radical and edgy just like every child star before her.  I would be more shocked if she wasn't twerking at the VMA's.

Like the night at the college bar, this behaviour becomes less interesting the more I see it, so I just stop watching and hope a young artist does something real that grabs my attention.

My un-asked for advice to a young artist: Be rebellious by doing something authentic.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mending the Nets

"There is a time to fish and a time to mend the nets."  I got that quote from Kahil Gibran and I always remember it when I am feeling slow, sick, or unproductive.

I am the type of person that always wants to fish - keep producing, creating, and doing.  There is a part of me that believes if I am not doing, creating or learning that I don't deserve to breathe air on the planet.  Harsh?  Yes, but I can't help that thought.  It's a part of me and I have to deal with it when it comes up.

Once again, I have a cold.  For every few months of good health and getting into fighting shape, I seem to get sick, have a depressive episode or get an all encompassing job that won't let me train or rest properly.  It's incredibly frustrating because I never seem to get into good enough shape, or write enough, or do enough promotion for my film.  I am stuck in this heavy fog that won't let me do much of anything.  Perhaps it is God's way of making me slow down.  Or it's just my dharma.

As the years pass, I think I am getting better at accepting these unwanted rest periods, but they are still difficult even when I put them in perspective.  After all, there are people who have REAL problems.

At least I work for myself and can take a nap in the middle of the day or work late into the night if I need to.  Eventually, I always do get better and can get into extremely good shape for a month or two -  before the cold, sickness, or depression hit again.

Last weekend, I was fortunate to work the corner of pro fighter, Gloria Salas.  She is super talented, has tons of drive, heart and athleticism.  For this fight, she told me that because her car was broken down, she couldn't get to the boxing gym.  She trained at an MMA gym near her house and sparred guys who did MMA.  She improved her cardio, but lacked real technical boxing training.

For what she had, she did amazingly well.  She lost in a close decision against a very talented, well trained Maggie Suarez.  She did the best with what she had.

Now, she has to go back to Palm Springs and as I advised her, get her car situation fixed.  That's the start of mending her nets before she can fish again.  Then, she will need to find a boxing gym, a good coach and figure out a way to schedule all this in with her work, her children and her boyfriend.  One stitch at a time.

Each day is a measure of patience.  Each moment is a leap of faith.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"The Belt"

I have finally done it.  I won a World Championship belt.  Major bling.  Okay, it's for the Master's division, 108lb female. And okay, there was no one old enough or small enough for me to fight so I won by "walkover."  As a competitive person, there is a huge part of me that thinks because I didn't fight in that tournament, I didn't actually win the belt.  However, I am trying to see it differently...

I trained for two months at Wildcard for the Desert Showdown.  Wildcard is a real "boxer's" gym.   I trained alongside professionals, world champions, and amateur champions.  It's motivating to hit the speed bag and try to match the rythm of the pro hitting it next to me.  Sparring in front of Freddie Roach is daunting.  I once glanced over when the start bell rang and I saw him looking rather amused, in a good way.  I imagined he liked my swag.

This past training camp was difficult in that I sparred tougher girls than usual.  We went harder than I had been going in a long time and I had to step it up or give up.   I had to drive all the way to Hollywood from the West side four to five times a week.  I had more self doubt than usual.  I expected more from myself because this was going to be my 8th fight so if I didn't get the results right away, I would become extremely frustrated.  I have been a student of boxing for 7 years and learned a lot of different styles.  Some of them suit me and some don't, but I do them anyway for the challenge.

Superman, my coach, upped my game, made me hit harder, sit on my punches, had me spar girls who were way bigger than me as well as two nationally ranked 16 year old amateurs.  You think 16 year old girls can't get their fight on?  Try sparring Julie Ladisa or Krysten Juarez, the 106lb and 110lbs national champions.  Little tanks that don't run out of gas vs. my motorbike that putts in bits and spurts and once in a while, pops a wheelie.  The gas tank has gotten smaller with age, but the will is still strong.  At 47, I have been boxing on and off for 7 years.  At 16, they have both been boxing longer and more consistently than I have.  The footwork, shoulder rotations and defensive movements are built into their little bodies.  I still have to tell myself not to hold my breath when punching.

There is a humility that comes with being smaller, older, less athletic, and less talented than a lot of my sparring partners.  I know I have to work harder to get middle of the road results.  To get "great" results, I have to really commit myself and lose myself in the sport.  As a woman who owns her own business, produces corporate videos, is a wife, a mother of two doggies,  manages an MMA fighter, and is marketing a film that is just coming out, I can't lose myself for too long.  I also know that my "great" most likely won't match up with those top girls, but for short bursts of time, I do love having that kind of focus and commitment to the sport.  I get better, stronger and last longer in the ring.  The moments when I execute a move I was working on with my coach are the most rewarding and probably one of the reasons I still do it.

The last two weeks before the tournament, I was driving myself intensely, sparring hard, running, and convincing myself that I could beat any other woman my age, my size in an amateur tournament.  This is not easy to do, when you are clearly not dominating most sparring sessions!

Making weight was tougher this time because I got my period that week.  Hello, three extra pounds I usually don't have to cut.  The morning of the tournament, I had to wake up at 5am, drive two and a half hours, weigh in, and wait to see if I got a fight. Walking past the other boxers on my way to weigh in, I got a lot of looks.

"You're fighting?" a young boxer asked me.

"Yup," I said.

I don't know if people do a double take because I am a woman, I am old, or I am very small.  Maybe all three, but it just makes me walk stronger.  Like I belong there.

After weighing in and waiting around for a while, we discover that the only other "Master" boxer (i.e. older) is 132lbs.  Too big for me to fight.  They only allow an 8lb difference.  I would spend the rest of the day cheering on my teammates and watching the three ring circus that is amateur boxing.  Literally three rings with fights all happening at the same time.

What I really enjoyed seeing was all the little girls putting it out there.  They were as young as 8 years old.  Many of them had ponytails, big pink gloves and skinny little legs.  Each one of them fought with all their might, never backing down and giving it their all.  I kept thinking how this experience will help them later in life with their self esteem.

At the end of the day, Superman talked to the promotor and the officials, told them I won by "walkover" and they gave me a belt.  I was slightly embarrassed and tried to hide it, which is difficult because it is bigger than I am.  Three of my other teammates also won belts.  One also won by walkover but he didn't seem embarrassed at all.  He was proud.  After all, the winning is done by the hours you spend in the gym training and we did that.  I decided to wear the belt more proudly.
I decided my belt represents persistence, hard work, overcoming obstacles, not being afraid to get into the ring with pros or amateur champions.  It's for 7 years of training, the fights I won, the fights I lost, the fights I was robbed, and the sparring with other boxers to prepare them for their fights.

Hell, it's for actually finishing an independent film about the women I admire most; the women who participate in a sport that is unforgiving, not financially rewarding, and does not give due credit to their accomplishments the way  men receive in the same sport.

I'll take that belt and I will wear it proudly.

Monday, May 27, 2013

To Fatigue

We made it through our first few festivals and even got some great reviews and write-ups.  More importantly, people seem to be inspired by the women's stories and I have met more women and girls who, after watching, "Fight Like A Girl" want to try boxing!  I intend to start up some clinics again soon.

Even when you finish a film, the next phase is daunting - how do you get it out there?  Which is the right distributor?  Should I sell DVDs right away?  How can I get more screenings?  More good press?  How can I sell this to television?  What more should I be doing to get it out there? Oh, and....Do I really want people seeing this and judging me?

I don't think it's a coincidence that I have stepped up my boxing training .  Decided to train at Wildcard twice a week and spar three times a week.  Work on my weaknesses as a boxer and as a person.  I suppose other sports do that, but for me, boxing is so concrete.  Because it is just you vs. Yes, that other person is in the ring with you, and may even be more athletic, in better shape, more talented, etc, but how you deal with it is what creates the fighter within you.  I am always reminded of this whenever I decide to up my training and mix it up in the ring.  I am forced to be patient with myself even if I am getting hit with shots I don't think I should be getting hit with.  It's just more room for improvement.  Developing that kind of mentality is difficult but a must for anyone who wants to be good at anything where they put themselves out there.   Every time you start over, you have to be humble, take your lumps and as you go, build your skill and confidence.

Boxing, acting, singing, being a comedian, a dancer, an artist, a writer or a filmmaker means that you are going to put yourself out there for judgement by expressing yourself in the art that you choose.  How much can you listen and get better and how much is it that the critic just doesn't understand your voice or your style?  How much does it even matter?

As I am actually starting to take a liking to yoga (shocker), I did a very gentle class last night and marveled at how foreign it was to me.  We used blocks if we weren't flexible enough to reach poses and were told not to push ourselves too hard.  Be gentle with ourselves.  Such a foreign concept for someone like me.  I was just pushing myself hard in the morning sparring because I want to be able to go more rounds without gassing out.  When we build muscle and in cardio, we work ourselves to fatigue.  That is the only way to get better.  But, that's not always the thing our body or mind needs.  I am reminded of that as I am gently stretching my hip flexers and letting go of the thought that it's just not enough.  Other people are more flexible.  Other people's poses look better.  It doesn't matter anymore because I am practicing being gentle with myself and improving at my own pace.

If only we could learn to do that until fatigue.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Coming Out

"I'm coming out.  I want the world to know.  Want to let it show..."

FINALLY- "Fight Like A Girl" got into some festivals.  They may not be the ones I dreamed of, but they are the ones it is meant to screen in.  It has been 7 years since I started making this film and  shitloads have happened during that time:

* I overcame severe PTSD symptoms I had during sparring
* I bond with pretty much every woman who fights who isn't closed off
*My business is growing stronger and I am getting more confident in asking what I am worth
* Even when I am not in "fight shape," I am in good shape.  Sick shape for a woman of my years (hate adding that, but it's the damn truth!)
* My confidence as a person has grown - I know I can take a beating and keep going.
* My skill level has improved 100% from when I first started.  I don't have to take that beating I used to!  In fact, I am completely embarrassed by the way I box in the film and sad in a way that people will probably think that that is the way I box.  But, the movie is not about my ego.  It's about helping others who have been through things.  Hopefully, helping them find their strength through their own struggles.

The idea of people seeing this film terrifies me.  I reveal so much of myself.  Things that I am not exactly proud say the least.  Okay, things I absolutely hate about myself.

I also reveal the vulnerabilities of the women who trusted me to be in this film.  I pray they like how they are portrayed.  Their faith in me was unconditional and I want to honor them.

I also tell some truths that I am afraid may have personal repercussions.  But they are my truths and if I didn't tell them, I would be holding back - lying, in a way.

I am afraid people will say the film is self-indulgent, I am a pussy, I suck at boxing, I am fat and ugly, I am old, my shooting sucks and that I am a sucky filmmaker.  There, I said it before you did.

Those thoughts and feelings kept me from truly wanting to get this film out into the world, but the film is not about me.  I knew this when I made it.  I know I am not the only one who feels the way I do even  when I am in my darkest times.  I know other female fighters who have suffered terrible abuse; way worse than I did.  There are women and men who suffer terribly from depression and other mental illnesses that are just now being acknowledged as illnesses that deserve treatment instead of judgement.  As much as each as us has been through and as much punishment each of us has taken, we have found a way to continue on, even if it's one second at a time.  Fuck one day at a time.  One second at a time.

Once, a friend brought to my attention the real reason I was making "Fight Like A Girl," the original intention, I was able to have a breakthrough.   Yes, I do want this out in the world.  And at the end of the day, I don't care what you think of me.  After all, my favorite public people have tweeters viscerally spewing hate into their feeds.  It's just going to happen.

 The fact is, in private screenings, I have seen the film inspire people.  I have seen people cry.  It is not a perfect film and I won't make excuses for it.  But, I won't apologize for it either.  It's just something I had to do.

I am looking forward to hearing what like-minded people have to say as well as some who just won't get it at all.

I'm letting it go.  I'm coming out.