The decision to produce Season Three was one of the hardest creative decisions in my life. Outside of the financial commitment, I knew that if I were to produce, write, direct, and act in a third season, it would call upon me to take my artistic vision with a one-shot series, this unique love story about an older woman and a younger man, to a whole new level – – and completely across the board. And that, I knew, would be very challenging – artistically, spiritually, and professionally. I knew it would ask of me things that I wasn’t quite ready for, but would be, when faced with them. Such is the way of the universe when showing us the way to grow!
As you probably know before reading this, I am the sole writer for “Conversations in L.A.” The main thing I have to say about that is – it’s really hard work. But fortunately, I love the characters I’m creating and the writing is always something I look forward to. In fact, most of the episodes in Season Three got on the page very quickly, rushing right out of me like water passing through a dam.
The reason it was like this is, I think, because there’s something incredibly strong about this story that keeps me pulled in so passionately. And while I have felt very passionate about many projects in my past, this one might be the very first time where I’ve felt that I myself have been called to be artistically stretched, and in a challenging/painful/satisfying kind of way.
Now in terms of my process – – I’ll just say that I don’t overly analyze the thoughts I have about my characters and what it is I’m going to write once I decide to sit down and bring pages to life. What I like to do when I write is just let it all come, and when it comes, once the inspiration strikes, I’m off to the races and there’s no stopping me.
However, it’s that period of time before writing, my pre-writing phase (a large percentage of my life), that’s the most fascinating period of time for me – and that, I have analyzed.
My pre-writing phase is basically who I am as a woman and artist. It’s where my creativity simmers, and I selectively nurture that creativity by leading a simple life where everything about it, more-or-less, supports my creativity. I believe this is the key ingredient to doing great work and the ingredient that gave me the space I needed to give birth to Season Three.
So what kind of simple life do I lead? Well, I love the ocean. I love to walk – could walk forever and ever and ever. I love to daydream. I love to do yoga. I love to read. I love to talk on the phone or get together with my small circle of family and friends. I love to be inspired by watching films, television, documentaries, the news, autobiographies. I love to sit and think about ideas, about whatever strikes my fancy really. And I like quiet. The quiet refreshes me. The quiet allows my mind to expand.
When I maintain this kind of connection to myself and the world, the actual amount of time that I spend writing isn’t that much because just about everything is written in my mind before I sit at the computer.
The Season Three story is not at all just a story about an older woman who’s menopausal and having a mid-life crisis while now being married to Gus Borrero, a much younger, Hispanic man. It’s a story about overcoming obstacles, reinventing yourself, and becoming who you’re meant to be – often shedding the past – while sharing your life with another person.
The relationship between Michelle and Gus is a relationship that is up against all odds, however it has loyalty and commitment going for it – a rarity these days given social media and all the temptations that affords. Yet loyalty and commitment doesn’t mean Michelle and Gus’ marriage is sans conflict. No. They still grapple with their age difference, the complexities of being in love, being intimate, being honest, and whether or not to share or hide their issues that always have a way of surfacing and being noticed by the other, issues that always ask…for better or for worse, will this relationship take us to the highest of heights or will it drag us down to the lowest of depths and kill us both?
And this, I believe, is the eternal question we all ask ourselves and why we need to tune in to stories about love in the first place. We never seem to get enough! We seek out the understanding of love everywhere! And the more complicated the love story, the more impossible it is – the more we want to understand it.
Knowing this makes my job easy with the story I’ve created because Michelle and Gus – an older woman with a younger man – – now that is a complex story. It’s instantly ingrained with challenges. Two different generations doing something that still isn’t considered the norm today, that’s still viewed as odd and sometimes not right! And deeper than that, these same two people meeting each other on an equal playing field and choosing to work through their dark secrets because they believe their love for one another can surpass all hindrances.
And that right there is what “Conversations in L.A.” is really all about, and you, the viewers, get to witness that, experience it, learn from it, think about it, and hopefully be so moved by it, you’ll remember it for the rest of your lives.
So far I can say that the experiences of Seasons One and Two are why Season Three is great – possibly a masterpiece, and I say this very humbly. Seasons One and Two taught me so much about this style, and while each season has had their own unique struggles, it’s the new struggles we faced this season that actually helped my team and I to expand and grow, personally and artistically.
Each episode we have done from the very beginning of this series has been a stepping stone where new things have been learned – layers on top of layers on top of layers of skills we’ve all acquired that keep adding up. This has freed us all! We’ve been there and done this-and-that, and now we can focus on more, on better-and-bigger things – – the icing on the cake.
For starters, the better-and-bigger things I focused more on was the complex blocking and camera direction. The more complex the blocking, the more interesting the camera direction. The more interesting the camera direction, the more I knew viewers will feel like they’re really being there with the characters – in rooms, or parks, or streets, or cars, and hallways. And the more viewers feel like they’re there, submerged in the world I created, the deeper the actors work would be with the long, one-shot takes. And if the actors’ work deepens, then the story will have an even stronger impact.
And isn’t that the goal with any piece of art? To make such an impact that even if viewers have seen and heard something remotely similar – it still affects them like no other?
Hm. All I can say is that maybe one of these days I’ll write a book about all the lessons I’ve learned about being a leader, but for now, I’ll leave you with the quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
~ Anne Marie Cummings
Creator, Writer, and Director of CONVERSATIONS IN L.A.