We have something new this week; the first Uncommon Conversation! Many of you have mentioned that you'd like to learn more about the wonderful people who make Uncommon what it is. We begin with a terrific conversation between Lisa and Mona, a digital project manager and filmmaker in Vancouver. Mona is a founding member of Uncommon and a constant source of insight.
In an early dispatch, you described yourself as “a lifelong employee with a filmmaking hobby.” How did you discover filmmaking, and what do you love about it?
Mona: The Vancouver Film School had a reduced introductory offer for their new Sound Design program for film. After graduating, I helped some friends with their sound editing and wound up wondering what directing would be like. Fast forward to a feature length documentary (Let Me Be Fictional) about an indie rock band and a comedy (Everything Louder Than Everything Else) that premiered at the Whistler Film Festival. I am hooked on creating a mood, an experience that brings people into the journey of life.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in filmmaking and story-writing?
Mona: Besides the usual challenges of being a female, my biggest challenge is confidence in my ability to create something. This barrier has prevented me from starting projects, but I'm working on it.
If places were characters, which would play the leading roles in your story?
Mona: Alas, it would be Vancouver. I've lived here for all but the first 3 years of my life and it's still interesting and exciting to me. From its diverse ethnic communities and hippie roots to its outdoorsiness and tech industry, Vancouver has multiple personalities to suit almost everyone.
You shared your love of organizational tools, especially Trello, as one of your favorite things few others would understand. Do you have any advice for the hopelessly disorganized among us?
Mona: Break your project into really small tasks that are much more manageable. Once you stop staring at the big, seemingly unattainable goal and instead focus on the tiny task, it can feel more achievable.
What are you most curious about lately?
Mona: I'm returning to my roots as a sound editor and interested in creating downloadable auditory-only narratives that are specific to a particular street.
What's your favorite thing about the internet?
Mona: It provides the opportunity to strengthen real life connections and to explore online connections based on shared interests.
Last week's dispatch asked, What was the last idea you fell in love with?
I manufacture ideas… it's a blessing and a curse. Currently, I'm in love with two ideas. One is a web application, the other a retail store/coffee shop concept. It seems as I get older, I'm able to navigate my ideas better, that is, I'm able to curate the bad from the good in less time. When a good idea takes root, I like to let it marinate in fantasy -- allowing the implausible to find a way to possible. Time matures an idea, and only when it's ready will I begin to create something tangible like a business plan, sketch, model or wireframe. This actuation of the idea is what matters most to me, assessing the efficacy only after my imagination has exhausted the possibilities. Crumpled paper and negative cash flow projections are remnants and icons of the work. Invention is rarely without casualty.
I'm currently going through an internet detox. I'm trying to consume more by exposing myself to LESS. With that in mind, the last idea I've fallen in love with is One Song Per Day. Music lovers are exposed to mountains of new artists each day, and it doesn't ever go away. The pile keeps getting bigger and bigger and frankly it makes many people grow tired of the discovery process. James VanOsdol who runs OSPD provides just one song on any given day that he thinks is worth your time. Sure it's not as comprehensive as other music sites, but there's something very comforting in trusting someone to curate new audio for me.
Letting myself be a little reckless. It didn't come as an intellectual idea, but as a kind of accelerando rising to an irresistible urge this summer to let go. So I packed my bag and went out traveling through a Europe full of kids yearning for youth. Now that I've forgotten most of the loneliness I felt, I remember a marvelous time. Even the loneliness was grand. So I'm ditching timidity for this new love of life, action, experimentation, like Whitman setting off on the open road. It got me a new job in Amsterdam, by the way.
Librarians. Specifically, the idea of going beyond just access to knowledge, towards personalized guidance to the pieces that address specific issues in specific contexts. It could be anything from "What sorts of questions should I ask a prospective roommate in a foreign country?" to "My experimental E. Coli failed to uptake a standard bioluminescent plasmid. Help!". Humanity has generated so much knowledge, and there are wonderful tools to help us search it, but precious few to help us explore it. That's what I want to enable.
The idea that anything I see in a restaurant I could feasibly make at home. Recently, my boyfriend (a musician) and I discussed the notion that the kitchen in my laboratory (as the living room is his). I love it when I make something at home that is more enjoyable that what I have had out at a restaurant. It is so encouraging and builds this skill that is sort of becoming a lost art. It also have given me an idea for potentially creating/writing a book…something on my bucket list.
I've long been of the opinion that ideas are where it's at; that we shouldn't be afraid to have and share ideas, silly and strange and great and terrible. "You can't have good ideas without bad ideas," I've told people in the past, most formally new recruits in a previous job, and informally anyone who'll listen! What you need is people to bounce ideas around with, an open environment where you don't feel you'll be shot down, and -- ah, yes -- ideas.
My last idea was a place where people could post short messages, role-playing, writing dialogues and together creating a short fiction story that everybody else could read.
Imagine all neighborhoods with: 4 community gardens, 3 cowork/costudy hubs, 2 maker spaces, and 1 co-cook super kitchen per 400 homes.
Vipassana, a meditation technique. To know there is such a sanctuary - both physical and metaphysical - I can visit at any time is precious. I love the idea that as long as we keep our mind still and unaffected by external forces, we can be happy. Vipassana also encompasses the idea that charity and compassion are easy to practice through observing simple personal ethical precepts.
Writing a screenplay that would be the follow-up to Sharknado, entitled TURKQUAKE. A movie that would spread my turkey phobia to all!
That failure is not something to be avoided if you want to get anything of deep and lasting value accomplished.
This week, three different looks at the craft of writing.
The power of your writing by Winnie Lim:
It does not matter if nobody reads your writing. The point of writing is self-expression — gathering an audience should be secondary. You cannot connect to other people without connecting first to yourself.
Writers as Architects by Matteo Pericoli:
Great architects build structures that can make us feel enclosed, liberated or suspended. They lead us through space, make us slow down, speed up or stop to contemplate. Great writers, in devising their literary structures, do exactly the same. So what happens when we ask writers to try their hand at architecture?
Working in the Shed by Matt Gemmell:
Dial-up bandwidth, a single phone line, and machines that sometimes struggled with being dragged into the internet age. I owned many such machines, and decided to reacquire a few, just to see how they felt. I wanted the focus, knowing full well that it was because of what those devices were incapable of (or at least what was difficult for them).
What's the title of the film about your life?