Those of you not familiar with this project, feel free to check out my past blogs on the subject here.
Tonight Awkward Embraces screened at the first Big Screen/Little Screen event in Los Angeles. This event has had quite a lot of success in New York, and is now expanding to Boston, Taiwan and beyond. I was incredibly honored to be included in this inaugural event. I would be screening with content creators that I admire greatly, such as Mark Gantt and Yuri Baranovsky, and was looking forward to an opportunity to meet them in person.
Of course, as you fellow SA sufferers know, I was also incredibly nervous. Especially since the event included a Q&A. As per my usual with events like this, I stalked the RSVP list daily. The numbers went from 5 to 125 over time, and I recognized two of them. TWO. TWO FAMILIAR FACES OH DEAR GOD.
Luckily, SDCC distracted me quite a bit from the obsessive worry. I know I originally planned on blogging about my SDCC experience, but I haven’t really had time to properly process it, yet, so pardon me while I skip ahead.
The only issue with this phase of the Great Social Anxiety Experiment, is that Con kept me too busy to get started on my workbook exercises. So, again, I was entering a stressful situation without the magic tools that supposedly reside within the book buried under paperwork on my desk. sigh
So. Let’s break this down.
Screening an episode of my baby in front of a crowd is always nerve wracking, because I never know if they will like it. Having an extensive theatre background, I know that no audience is the same. You can perform the same show in the same way for two separate audiences and have VASTLY different reactions. I fully expect to someday screen my show in front of a crowd that just doesn’t get it, and I’m always nervous that THIS screening will be the one.
I was going to have to stand up, introduce the show, wait while they watched it, then stand up AGAIN and answer questions.
There were several people I knew of whom I respected greatly, and want to consider me a colleague. Meaning, if I make an ass of myself, or they don’t like the show, I’ve made a horrible impression.
Only two of the attendees on the RSVP list had recognizable names to me.
Cue the freak out in 3…2…1…AHHHHH!
So the nervous dread started as soon as Monday. I got home from Con late Sunday night, crashed, and woke up Monday thinking “Oh god. The screening. What will I wear? How many people are coming?” Over 100 people at that time. ACK!
My good friend Alan Kistler was crashing on my couch from New York Tuesday and Wednesday. He’s a very good guy, and super supportive. He pep talked me a bit, and we watched classic Doctor Who together, which helped.
Distracting yourself prior to a stressful event is very important. At least it is for me. As a movie/television junkie, that’s my best distraction. The more you dwell on the upcoming event, the worse you’ll feel. Prepare yourself as best you can, after that do what you can to keep your mind off it.
Finally, the day came. Luckily, it was a busy one. But then it came time to get ready. I wore the “Khaleesi” t-shirt I bought at Comic Con, my red heels, and the blue “Live Long and Prosper” wristband my friend Chris (and Awkward Embraces webmaster extraordinaire) got me at SDCC. I felt as empowered as I could.
While driving to the event, I sang in the car. Now, this may seem silly, but when you sing, you are unconsciously taking deep breaths and letting it out slowly so you can get through the phrases of the song. Also, I was concentrating on remembering the words, so I wasn’t thinking as much.
That didn’t stop the clenching stomach, heart flutters or dry mouth, but it did manage them a bit. Each stressful event seems to bring it’s own random irrational fear. This particular event spawned a concern that I would choke. Like, literally choke. You know how, sometimes, you suck some saliva down the wrong pipe and suddenly you’re hacking, spitting and heaving for ten minutes trying to breathe? Yeah, I became convinced that would happen while I was talking in front of all these people.
I got there and finally met Paul Kontonis, who runs the event. SUCH a nice guy. We’ve talked online quite a bit and he has always been very supportive of the show. We chatted a bit, but he was busy running things so I moved away to give him space to do his thing. Luckily the director of Awkward Embraces, Adam Finmann, was there. We ended up standing in a room by ourselves talking for a bit. Then I said “We really should mingle” so he and I moved into the main room and stood at the back talking to each other. Ridiculous. We laughed about how ridiculous we were. THEN, I saw a friend! Jonathan Nail was talking to Paul, so I went up and talked to him. After a bit, a LOT more people I knew than I originally expected showed up. This was great, it really relieved a lot of stress. I just caught up with people and chatted. I felt WAY awkward until my very good friends Robb and Tanya showed up and I latched onto them like they were the human embodiment of a life preserver.
Then the event began. The other people screening were SO GOOD. SO good. I stood there thinking “Really? Are we really included in this group? Holy CRAP. Are we as good as they are? Do we belong here? WHAT IF THEY DON’T LAUGH?” I was shaking from head to foot. And we were the last to screen. Which, actually, is great. It’s always good to be last, because you’re fresh on everyone’s minds. But I also had to wait for an hour or so before going up. Seeing all these successful, articulate, cool people talk before me was KILLER. I stood there obsessing over how I would introduce the show. I wrote a little intro script for myself in my head and memorized it.
One little thing, you’ll notice a lot of the time I have a hair band wrapped around my thumb. You’ll also notice I never wear my hair up (my ears stick out). That hair band is what I like to call a “Fidget Device”. I twist it, pull it, take it off, put it on another thumb, put it back on the original thumb. Hours worth of nervous energy can be expended on that little thing. It really helps me. No idea why, but it does.
The Fidget Device got quite a workout.
Finally, it was almost time. I moved up to the front. My mouth was so dry, I wasn’t sure I would be able to speak. My hands were trembling. I was sure I would choke on my own saliva. Then I remembered I had no saliva and wondered if my voice would work at all. I wasn’t sure my legs could hold me up. Would I say the right thing? Would I trip and fall? Would people like the episode? What if I should have picked a better episode? What if they don’t get it? What if, what if, what if….
I introduced the show. I did not make an ass of myself. The script I prepared mentally really helped. It was actually good to have time to prepare it.
Then the screening. Guys, they laughed! They loved it! I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to be in a room with people watching something you poured heart and soul into and be able to experience their enjoyment of it. I’ve screened AE before, but usually in front of fans and friends. This time I knew that the majority of the audience had no prior experience of it. It was an incredible experience to actually watch people come to the show for the first time and see them enjoy it. I felt so good.
Then the Q&A came and I felt much more confident. They liked the show! Even if I said something stupid, they still liked the show, right? I’d won half the battle.
The Q&A went great. They were asking me about my work. And my work is my life. So it was actually really easy to answer questions about something I’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into for two years.
Afterward there was mingling. I didn’t even have to walk up to any strangers, they came up to me. Gosh that’s awesome! It’s so much easier that way! And knowing the screening went well, I was actually able to go up to a couple of people I wanted to meet and talk to them. The laughter during the screening wrapped around me like a cloak of awesome, and my confidence was actually present in the company of strangers. Is that what it’s like to be normal? How strange. It was an amazing feeling to just walk up to the guy creating the Teen Wolf web content and introduce myself with no fear. It’s like I was a pod person! (The Teen Wolf web extras are super cool, by the way. They’re doing a great job.)
Not that I was perfect. I was sweating like crazy during the mingling after, and kept wondering if my makeup was running. I would evaluate the Sweat Ratio of the people talking to me and wonder if they could see how sweaty I was. No one seemed as sweaty as me. I was sure this meant I was losing credibility. Or if they were even listening to what I was saying, or just watching me sweat. Rationally, I’m sure it was fine. That didn’t stop me from missing whole sentences of conversation from worrying about it, though.
Other than sweat, the entire event was a great success. I met people I’ve wanted to meet for so long, and I even got brave enough to ask someone I really respect for some advice. He was super nice, and I’m looking forward to having a chat with him.
I have to say, each time I tackle these tasks that seem SO insurmountable, I come out feeling like I’m the King of the World. I feel invincible, like nothing can stop me. As a person who spends a lot of her life terrified of innocuous things, that’s an incredible feeling. I really hope you all are considering joining me on this journey. There is no better feeling than going into battle against your biggest fears, and coming out on top. You can do it too!!
When I started this, my mom e-mailed me and said “Eleanor Roosevelt said that you must do that thing that frightens you the most.” I carry that quote with me every day for inspiration.
As always, thank you for all the support and for reading. I tweeted about being nervous, and so many people responded with support. It really helped. Thank you all so much! I really couldn’t do this without you.