Eulogy for my Clairebear

Clairebear

Claire

My secret crush on this girl started when I was invited to New York for the announcement of a new film school in the Middle East, in Jordan, to create a generation of world class Arab filmmakers.  The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts.  Claire Naber was the person tasked with putting this project together and she was the organizer of the event where his majesty King Abdullah would introduce the school.  I walked through the doors and saw her smile radiating like sunshine filling the entire conference room.  She welcomed me as if I’d known her my whole life.  Instantly everything in my world flipped upside down.  I knew nothing about this girl, but I wanted to be next to her for the rest of my life.  After the event, we had lunch with the group and laughed like children, then went our separate ways back to our lives.  I lived in Los Angeles, she lived in Jordan, and nothing happened.  Cut to-

Sundance Film Festival – 2008.  I see her again as we premier my first film.  I couldn’t let her go this time.  Every time I saw her, I felt this unstoppable universal force pulling me towards her.  She gave the best hugs in the world.  She was filled with life, laughter, and love.  She was the most beautiful girl on the planet, but she had no idea.  She was just Claire.  A radiant angel walking among us humans.  I had to somehow trap her into my life and steal her away, all for myself.  My angel.  Cut to–

Christmas 2008 – She said yes.  Apparently, many people had tried to capture this human angel with their attempts, but she’d always run away.  Somehow, I was lucky.  My scheme worked.  I had conned her into thinking that I’m worthy of her love.  We got married in 2009, in this church, and created memories together, laughing at the smallest things, traveling, writing, playing with our dogs, and making movies.  We worked hard to build our dream life of creativity. 

Claire and Amin Santorini

Throughout our relationship, Claire’s greatest two passions were writing and building the film school, RSICA.  She was the mother behind RSICA from day one when Samer Mouasher asked her to build a film school in Aqaba.  He was right.  She was the lady for the job.  Claire spent tireless hours, night and day, planning out the year, the brand identity of the school, finding the actual building, interviewing students, hiring faculty from USC, working with the staff putting out fires, and she never asked for recognition.  Just as she was the muse behind the scenes inspiring me with my films, she was the mother behind the scenes at RSICA.  Today, a whole generation of Arab filmmakers exist across the Middle East because of the love Claire poured into RSCIA.  

In the past week, I received hundreds of messages from people who knew Claire and were affected by her presence in their life.  She made everyone feel special, and she cared more about everyone else’s comfort and happiness than hers.  That quality and her infectious laugh made her this human angel.  I’ve been lucky to have her in my life.  

One of Claire’s favorite jokes was “You plan and plan and plan, then God laughs and says, ‘that’s nice, now let me show you how it’s going to be.’  Three and a half years, she battled, and she never lost her sense of humor.    We had soul crushing defeats every time we realized that the cancer came back, but somehow Claire managed to rise up and fight with her optimistic spirit.  She managed to find hope even when the doctors said the chances were grim.  She kept on fighting with her leadership and a sense of humor that inspired us and rallied our whole family of friends around her in the fight. And because of her incredible mother, Donna, who moved in with us in Los Angeles, and took care of her night and day.   

Life is a roller coaster filled with ups and downs.  My journey with my Claire taught me a lot in the past six years.  I’ll try to boil it down to a few gems.  So I’ll leave you with this: 

Live in the moment and laugh at the absurdity of life.
Look forward to things you love.  Do not dwell on the negative.  
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and drink it with your friends and the people you love.
Live to love, because without love, there is no reason to live.
Connect with the life around you.  Don’t live in isolation.
Geek out on the things you love.
There’s room in your heart for so much love.  The more you give, the more you have to give.  That was what made Claire so special.  
Last but not least, be kind.  Be kind to everyone.  The strangers you meet, the friends around you, and the family that loves you.

This video is something I made for our One Year anniversary. It gives you a glimpse of how lucky I was to have had this much love in my life.

CLaire Flowers

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Strangely In Love

Well it’s time I get back to updating my blog again, as I am happy to announce that we’ve completed production on my third feature film, Strangely In Love, starring the wonderful and amazing Jemuel Morris, Michelle Lang, Sean Carrigan, and Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction). This also happens to be my first American feature film.


 

This film is my take on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ultimate unrequited love novella, White Nights.  Most people associate Dostoevsky with dark brooding characters (Taxi Driver, Fight Club, and The Machinist to name a few films inspired by his books).  I wanted to take a different approach by blending Dostoevsky’s painfully beautiful story with Chaplinesque naivety and romanticism to make a modern fairytale-like comedy set in Los Angeles. 

So here is the first image we’re releasing as we now dive into post production.  From everything we have assembled now, I can promise that this is going to be a beautiful and heartfelt film about love, innocence, and rejection.  For all the guys who’ve been ignored by someone you loved, this is your film.  For all the ladies who’ve been left in the dust, this is your movie too.  And with that, I leave you with this synopsis.

 

A romantic comedy take on Dostoevsky’s White Nights, Strangely In Love is a modern-day fairytale set in the city. Fyo, a naive ignored man-boy, falls in love with the only person who recognizes his existence, Nastenka, a hot-headed blind girl who’s ready to hang herself from a tree while waiting for her lover, Steve, to return from Africa, where he’s gone off to save the children. Fyo will do anything to stay around Nastenka, even if it means helping her win back her dream lover. Chaplin meets Dostoevsky in this most delicious tale of unrequited love.

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Irons in the Fire

Just a quick blog since this seems to be the theme of everything I’ve learned in the last twelve years of my life (first in telecom sales, then in film). Every movie completed is a miracle, and it seems that you can’t expect to put all your eggs in one basket and have instant results. To survive in the film business, to make a living doing this, you have to put in 200% into it. 100 to create the product, and 100 to create the work so you can create the product. Meaning, you have to put just as much energy into making opportunities that don’t exist (like a magician creating an illusion of something out of nothing) as you do in making that illusion into a reality on celluloid. Making films requires living in the clouds, creating dreams built on delusional hopes that you have to fully believe in before any possibility of their realization. Only once you’ve convinced yourself of the reality of these manifestations, do they have a shot at an opportunity of becoming something. And then you also have to have a foot grounded hard into the earth so you can identify the real opportunity when chance comes by your side, so you can jump on its back and not let go until you’ve turned your dream into a reality. And in order to do that and not lose your sanity, you have to keep yourself busy putting new irons in the fire and increasing the chances that one will come to fruition, and when it does, you pour your soul into making it the best film you can so that you can increase the chance and decrease the risk for your investors in the next film.