I met with Antonio (Tony) Manriquez at the Borders cafe in Sherman Oaks last week. Tony directed his first feature film at the ripe age of 14 and landed in Sundance with his fellow student moviemakers.
I like Tony a ton. At the age of 28, he wears a cloak of worldliness that continually surprises me. In contrast to his jaded edginess, he possesses a passion for everything and anything to do with moviemaking that is truly scrumptious. I love his unabashed nerdiness when discussing the history and theory of film. Tony teaches moviemaking to Los Angeles high school kids and Final Cut Pro to adults. That’s how I met him. I was taking a Photoshop course at the North Hollywood Adult Learning Center and he was teaching the editing course right afterwards. I edged my way into his world and he agreed to be interviewed for my blog.
Unexpectedly, after sharing our lives over blended iced coffee on the breezy second story patio of Borders, Tony looked at me with his deep, dark, earnest eyes (he’s so adorable) and said, “Anne, I think you shouldn’t write about me this time. You’ve been writing about everyone else lately. I think it’s time you write about you.” ‘Me? I do write about me… Don’t I?’ He persisted. “Well, I noticed that in your blogs you never talk about your future, about your own ambitions. You don’t even talk about your accomplishments. I kinda want to hear that stuff.”
First, I didn’t realize anybody besides my best friend was actually reading my blogs. Second, well… yes, Tony was onto something. I hadn’t been writing about my future because I hadn’t believed that I had a future. Oh, sure, I thought I’d live to see another sunny L.A. day, I just didn’t think I’d ever make another movie or do anything of artistic significance. All my ambition and confidence had evaporated into a gray haze masquerading as my mind. Or, as one friend recently described: A “torpor” had taken over my brain.
“So, write about that,” Tony nudged me as he sipped his blended concoction, his eyes swimming in compassion. “People will relate.” I smiled vaguely. ‘You think so?’ He nodded. ‘Okay, fine. I’ll do me this time and we’ll do you next, okay?’ He seemed awfully pleased with himself, as if he’d done some damned good deed. I wondered if I look as smug when I’m endowing people with my wisdom and sagacity. I hope not.
All week I’ve been wondering how the hell I’m going to write this one. Isn’t discussing one’s own depression still taboo to some extent? Will I be judged? Will this endanger my chances of running that major motion picture studio promised me by various psychics and oracles? (Will admitting that I listen to psychics and oracles accomplish the same?) Do I really want to share the dark corners and dusty rooms of my illness? Oh dear, will Tom Cruise write me a letter reminding me there is no such thing as illness? Or an e-mail?!?!? I probably shouldn’t open that can of worms.
And isn’t depression passé? Shouldn’t I come up with something juicier? Drug addiction? Alcoholism? They never seem to go out of style. Others have been so much more eloquent in describing the malady than I could possibly be. William Styron did a brilliant job of painting a picture of the swampy side of the mind in his book, Darkness Visible and Sylvia Plath nailed chemical hopelessness with a vengeance and gassed her sad self to prove the seriousness of it all.
For all who have never visited that hell on earth, these are good authors for an introduction to the brimstone and icy fires of self-hate that inhabit that mental prison. If you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, that is…
Since last spring, I had been in that murky hell on earth—feeling incapable of functioning like a normal human being, let alone of ever being happy. And through this daily ache, I somehow managed to write a handful of comedic blogs for MM. I’m still astounded. What is it in our brains that allows us to inhabit multiple perspectives at a time? Don’t you find that fascinating?
The first episode hit when I was a freshman at Stanford. The kids in my dorm pretty much avoided me once I became a vampire/zombie. Even my Hawaiian roommate jumped ship. (I’m sure she was afraid to find my body dangling from a rope… ) The school didn’t really know what to do with me. I hope that in the ensuing 20-something years, we’ve had a little more consciousness raising around depression. I truly hope.
That experience led me to write my first screenplay, Blue Joy. It’s about a young woman, ascending from a suicide attempt, who meets a reclusive dying poet and, by inspiring him to embrace life, reconnects to her own. Now that my “eternally optimistic” outlook has blossomed once again, I’m ready to dive back into Blue Joy. On the upside, since I’ve waited so long, Don Cheadle will finally be the right age to play the lead! Hallelujah! Don, are you out there?
My new pal, Tony, has been out of the film game for a long time now. And I was getting worried about my extended absence. The years between 14 and 28 must seem like an eon for him. Half his life, to be exact. He seems to believe his opportunity has passed and he’s just slogging through as a teacher, nary a hope of ever making a film again.
Tony, after a rather critical, though insightful, review of my movie, Red is the Color of, mentioned how much he loved the use of 8mm footage at the end. I was, as usual, pleased as punch. “I did it all by myself!” It was, I’ll admit, the most deeply satisfying leg of my film journey. My photographer and moviemaker souls merged and I was in total control—just Irina, my lead actress, and Jodi, my co-producer, and me, running through the streets of New York and slopes of Central Park, shooting luscious 8mm film with an old world camera that made me feel like a true artist. Funny what a piece of equipment can do.
Days later I had a flash of creativity. I e-mailed Tony. ‘Hey! Wanna make an 8mm film based on my poem, The Tiger and the Dragon? I’ll ask Irina to recite it.’ Tony, now a huge fan of Irina Björklund (star of my movie), agreed. Now we just need to find some cash…
Maybe Tony and I will inspire each other to get back on the court: Back to the dream, the art, the adventure (and the heartache) of making movies. Yeah, it sounds corny, but coming from someone with my past, I think it sounds a little like a miracle.
Still optimistically yours,
p.s. Read on for my poem, The Tiger and the Dragon. It’s the only poem I’ve ever fully channeled. It’s a testament to our brain’s ability to create more than we hold in our waking mind; our ability to access a universal realm and funnel it through our art. To contact me about this or any of my blogs, please write to . I’d love to hear from you. If there’s anybody out there…
THE TIGER AND THE DRAGON
The Tiger and the Dragon
kissed their past goodbye.
They set aside their anger,
and swore to squelch their pride.
The Dragon poured sweet ointment
upon the Tiger’s wounds.
The Tiger licked the ancient tears
away beneath the Moon.
The Moon stared down, amazed,
at enemies once torn
by greed, revenge and jealousy,
now Healers, each reborn.
“What took you by the tail
and swung you out to die?
What God has plucked the hate
from your Eternal Eye?”
The Moon, with curious brow,
sent messages to each,
but the Tiger and the Dragon
had fallen fast asleep.
And in their Dreams, united,
they danced upon the Sea,
they formed a Holy Circle,
They visited each Being
upon the crust of Earth,
then swam beneath the ocean’s tide
to creatures of First Birth.
They sang a song of Beauty,
a prophecy to all,
that Heaven was upon us
if we but heard its call.
They uttered not in Hebrew,
in Arabic, nor New World.
Their language was the Oyster,
their message was the Pearl.
The Tiger and the Dragon
now dance upon my head.
They laugh at all my misery,
they’ll cry when I am dead.
They tease me to the brink of joy,
then waltz upon my pride,
embracing and forgiving,
they will not let me hide.
The Tiger and the Dragon,
they bleed for all to see
that Love destroys Illusion
and slays Duality.
by Anne Norda