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Festive Creative

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How will you be spending this holiday season? Feeling festive, feeding stress, or being creative? The holidays can bring up a multitude of different emotions for people. If you find that you get the holiday blues, then consider turning it around into creative fodder. Los Angeles is an amazing place to experience holiday magic (compensation for the downside to our lack of seasons), particularly because of the creative juices flowing within our city gates. For all its downsides, nowhere else in the world have I seen creativity flourish the way it does in Los Angeles.

Leaving all religious elements aside, L.A. comes alive with creativity from October to January. It’s as if all the art directors, set designers, and various artists spread the gifts of their wild imaginations for everyone to enjoy. From the epic ice sculptures Queen Mary’s CHILL to the Grove’s holiday lights, to the soapy snow that falls at Disneyland after the tear-jerking holiday fireworks, there is no shortage of Hollywood magic and inspiration. Perhaps your writer’s block or director’s wall can be surmounted with an evening trip to the free Balboa Island Christmas Boat Parade or by listening to RuPaul’s new Christmas album Slay Belles. Whatever it is, there is something in the air every season, and I love it (although I know it’s not for everyone).

Holiday films often pinpoint the nostalgia and longing of the season so perfectly. I was verklepmt as I re-watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Thanksgiving with my husband, because John Hughes nails the emotion of the season. Now (with my primary stress being too busy at work), as an adult, you can experience these movies on a whole different level. Nobody comes as close to John Hughes in hitting these somewhat cheesy, yet nonetheless resonant emotional notes these days, and I miss it. Pixar films are an exception. Other favorites include Scrooged (reflection), A Christmas Story (nostalgia), A Charlie Brown Christmas (for your inner depressive child).

Another way to make the most of the holidays is to give to others. Volunteer your time and energy to those who truly are in need. Charitable giving, especially in person, is the best way to feel gratitude and gain perspective. Struggling Angeleno artists may feel the burn of the holidays, either financially or otherwise. They may also be too busy to care thanks to extended holiday shifts at their day jobs. Maybe they are much farther from attaining their dreams than they anticipated. Maybe they’d like to afford a little more than what they have. The holidays can be hard that way. People have strong memories attached to the season, both positive and negative, that either weigh on us or lift us up. Loneliness and poverty are enhanced. The antidote is converting the negative energy elsewhere and re-writing the script for yourself. Doing something nice for other people is often the best medicine for the soul. Whether it’s entertaining, hosting a beautiful holiday get together (where your creative skills can really shine), or volunteering at a soup kitchen, there’s magic to be found by practicing kindness and redirecting your focus on helping others. As a teenager, I always got a little depressed when Valentine’s Day came around because my expectations were so high. The solution? Bring a bouquet of flowers to school and give all the flowers away. It worked miracles.

Maintaining holiday traditions is especially important for me as I see my daughter grown through the years. I try to guard her from holiday stress and focus on making memories. We plan ahead to see our loved ones and don’t mind the travel. She is encouraged to make homemade presents that come from the heart. We look forward to opening boxes of holiday decorations every year, and transforming our little home into a festive wonderland. Vince Guaraldi music plays while hot chocolate simmers on the stove. The twinkle of candle and Christmas tree lights as the temperature drops to a chilling 62 degrees goes into the memory bank with a warm glow. I don’t have a fireplace, but the balsam-scented candle burning goes a long way. Soon, the smell of baking cookies and apple strudel will fill the air. We make the most of our realities, and we can create our own magic. It feels special, it feels creative, and even though there is no snow outside, it feels like home.

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Michelle Kantor

About Michelle Kantor

Michelle Kantor co-founded Cinefemme, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization for women directors, while studying at San Francisco State University. She is the youngest daughter of political refugees who fled Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960's, and is currently producing two films about her family's historic escape from behind the Iron Curtain: RED STAR, a feature documentary following her father's return on the 50th anniversary of his escape, and THE REBEL, a narrative feature film screenplay written by Michelle, based on their lives. She also directs performance art videos for painter Tara Savelo, former Haus of Gaga member and writes the blog www.ultra-luxurious.com. Michelle's body of work includes short films, experimental narratives, documentaries, and live work for circus performers at San Francisco's Teatro Zinzanni. Her music video "Highway To Yodel-Ay-Hee-Huuu," starring America's Got Talent's Manuela Horn, won Best Music Video at LA Femme Film Festival in 2014. Her production credits include work for HBO, FYI, The History Channel, Sony, Universal, and NASA. An advocate for epilepsy, her groundbreaking film "Bettina in the Fog" won the Thunen Award by the Illuminating Engineers Society. Michelle's other distinctions include the Goldfarb Award for Best Student Film and funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for Cinefemme. She holds an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University and BFA in Film Production from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Michelle is a certified paralegal, mother, writer and artist. An active member of the female filmmaking community, Michelle belongs to WIF, AWD and Film Fatales.