Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Google Alumni Voice: Rebecca Ahn's 2nd Act as a Stunt Actor

I wrote the following article for the Google Alumni Network blog, Alumni Voice. It was published on March 13, 2012, bringing a sense of closure to my 4-year-long Google journey and setting the stage for the exciting new adventure to come.


Some people just aren’t meant to find fulfillment in the corporate world. I know Google can be an incredibly encouraging and satisfying work environment. It just wasn’t for me. And after 4 years of changing roles, and teams, and even departments, trying to achieve the success others told me I should want, I found myself wondering, “am I happy?”

So I began my search for a new career. I created lists upon pages with every insight I could muster into who I am and what I really want, finally culminating in what I called my Occupational Trix. I listed my 10 “must have” work attributes along the top row of a new Google spreadsheet and over 40 possible jobs (regardless of location or skill) down the first column. I then checked the attributes that each job fulfilled and deleted every job that didn’t meet ALL 10 of them until I had my Top 5 careers. But rather than tell you what they were, I’ll tell you what they weren’t.

They weren’t at Google.

So with my manager’s genuine understanding and support, I bid Google farewell and embarked on a brand new occupational adventure.

What happened next was nothing short of magical. One of my Top 5 careers was Film Stuntwork - and while this seemed the most far-fetched, it also resonated the most strongly with me. So you can imagine my excitement when a good friend mentioned she knew someone with a Bay Area stunt crew. I don’t know how to explain it, but somehow something in me knew this was it - this was the one and only path for me.

What followed was a blur of fortune and chance. I met Eric Jacobus, founder and manager of The Stunt People, and began practicing with them. He showed me his latest screenplay that he was preparing to direct, and suddenly I was being offered the female lead part. Then when Eric needed more help producing the film, and learned of my strong theatre and event production background (pre-Google), he asked me to come on board as the film’s producer!

Over the next 10 months, I experienced immeasurable happiness and fulfillment performing in and producing the action-thriller Death Grip, simultaneously developing a deep relationship with Eric, my producing partner, co-star, and eventually also boyfriend.

Even today, as Eric and I build our new production company and prepare to make our next several films together, it all still feels so surreal. In a year’s time, I went from feeling empty and lost to feeling like my life’s dream is coming true. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t get here without a great deal of struggle and self-questioning, or without the courage to leave behind a world of comfort and security, but you’ll never hear me say it wasn’t all completely worth it.

That’s because what’s even greater than knowing the career I want, is knowing who I am and what success means to me. Some people just aren’t meant to find fulfillment in the corporate world - they’re meant to go out into the great unknown and build it themselves instead.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Boring or More Alive?

I know I intended to use this blog for more fictional expression ongoing. But such a wonderful burst of thought and emotion came upon me this evening, and poured out the following sentiments, that I felt an old familiar inclination to share them here. So hope you don't mind this temporary divergence from the fictive freeway I've recently begun accelerating, and enjoy a moment's pause for my real life.


See, I was walking down College Ave in Oakland tonight, and it being around 11pm on a Thursday, it would strike any normal outgoing person to be a prime night for social activity. In fact, as I walked I passed many a fun looking group of persons who seemed to be out and about on their night excursion. And then there I was, walking back to my friend’s apartment (where I was currently crashing), slightly drunk off one beer I drank while waiting for my pizza order for one, now carrying said box of To Go pizza under my arm on my way back. And let me tell you, I’m not the hermit type. You may already know this about me, but if you don’t, let me assure you I am quite the opposite… or at least I used to be.

Thursday nights used to be my excuse to go wild, get in a night of crazy adventure and let really loose before the mad dash at the end of the week. Thursdays were the new Fridays for partiers, and I was no exception. There were specific late night dance events I used to attend on a weekly basis on Thursday nights. People would even come to ask me what was the haps that night, as I was usually in the know.

And now look at me. I’m walking alone at 11pm on a Thursday night, to an apartment where I will be alone, and will eat my newly purchased small deep dish pizza alone, while I madly type out my feelings into a computer. How did I become this?

Have I become boring?

No, no that’s impossible. I chose this life on purpose to avoid the boring, to escape the uneventful routine my life had become. Working at a corporate desk job, I had found such lack of creative stimulation and freedom, that I’d turned into a machine of boredom and stagnation. Sure I had a great social life then, but that’s because I only had that to look forward to upon leaving the office each day. I had to party harder than my brain suffered everyday. It was like playing eternal catch-up, and I never quite did.

So I made the leap. I left the world of comfort and security, which had its motivations for a spicy social life, but no life besides. And I’ve arrived here, where my day-to-day work and life are one and the same, and more invigorating and exciting than I could have ever dreamed. True by the time the social hour rolls around, having spent all day exchanging emails with lawyers and insurance agents, reading and negotiating contracts, defining and redefining marketing goals and analyzing distribution platforms, it’s understandable that I’d be pretty burned out. It’s honestly quite acceptable that at that point, all I want to do is get a nice juicy deep dish pizza to myself, curl up with my computer, and type out all the non-work related thoughts that have been bouncing around patiently in my head all day. It’s forgivable that I’d prefer to give my brain a break, rather than force it into interactions with strangers, and often fruitless attempts to extract meaningful and worthwhile conversation from them.

So perhaps it is quite a natural ending to my day to sit here typing away, having spend the bulk of my day expressing more creative passion, and experiencing more autonomy, than most people garner from their entire career. Perhaps it is not that I’ve now become boring, but rather the opposite. Perhaps now I am actually more alive than ever.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flash Black: A New Story

As pre-production ramps up on my exciting new indie action film, Death Grip, the little wheels inside my writer's brain have launched into high gear. The result? I've begun writing a new script of my own! The goal is to eventually turn this into another action screenplay, for a potential future The Stunt People project.

But for now, it's just an idea in the earliest infancy of development. As it matures, I will share bits of it here for your amusement and my assessment (in the best attempt at screenplay format I can manage on this blog). So now to kick it off, here is the opening scene of...

by Rebecca Ahn


The sound of a gun cocks.

A VOICE from the darkness: 'Any last words?'

A black sack is pulled off of BRYNA BLACK's head and the scene slowly comes into focus. Bryna sits in the middle of a small dark room on a dingy metal chair, her hands tied behind her back. The rest of the room is empty, except for one hanging lightbulb shining straight down into her face, making her squint. Through the light's bright beam, she can barely see the outline of a dark figure in a long cloak and top hat. As Bryna stares at the figure, her face adjusts to the light, and her features settle into an indifferent expression.

BRYNA: 'Nothing clever comes to mind.'

MAN IN TOP HAT: 'That's a first. Nothing you want to be remembered by?'

Bryna cocks her head to the side, looking away from the light to scan the empty darkness around her.

BRYNA: 'There's nothing here I want to remember. So why should it remember me?'

MAN IN TOP HAT: 'Interesting choice of words. I'll just count those then, shall I?'

The figure in the top hat turns and nods to someone next to Bryna, off screen. A fist comes flying in from the side (off camera) and punches Bryna across the face. She whips her head back from the impact and spits blood at her unseen attacker.

MAN IN TOP HAT: 'Tsk, tsk, tsk. You're going to have to learn how to play nice.'

Bryna's expression gives way to her brewing anger. (CLOSEUP - Bryna's Face) Her nostrils flare and her eyes open so wide they seem to swallow all the light coming from the one blinding bulb. Her breath quickens and her pulse races madly, so loud the beating seems to fill the room with its ominous rhythm. Her body knows the end is near, and is trying to squeeze every last heartbeat of life into the time it has left.

(BACK TO SCENE) The man in the top hat laughs, then turns to walk out of the room. He pauses at the door and turns back to Bryna.

MAN IN TOP HAT: 'Oh, and give my regards to your sister.'

He closes the door behind him, its square of darkness slowly growing larger, pressing the outside light into a smaller and smaller sliver. The door is so heavy that when it finally shuts completely, it echoes a loud thud around the small room that causes the one remaining lightbulb to start swinging.

Bryna's anger has doubled now, and her fierce features are lit up like fire each time the bulb swings past her face. She sits there stewing under the swaying light for a second or two. Then suddenly, the swinging light clicks off, and the looming darkness swallows up the rest of the small room. Nothing can be seen, and the only sounds are the pounding of Bryna's thumping pulse and her heavy breaths. Bryna is alone.


Stay tuned for the next installment of Flash Black!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trousdale: A Short Story

Inspiration hit this morning, and concluded in the following concoction, the first fictional installment I would now like to share with you here. It is a short tale of woe, written purely from my mind's eye, and displayed in all its gloomy glory below. And so with that, I give you the troubled tale of:

Does he know how crazy it really feels to be crazy? Three nights here and I fear the pain growing in his eyes has still known little of this. He stares at me from down that long sterile hallway... 
Even as far away as he is, I can still see the whites of his eyes boring into these brown ones of mine. What must he have been through to look like that, and stare like that? He has this look about him as if having already lived the grim lives of at least 30 desolate men, and yet still only carries an age of no more than 7 and 20. 
I'd long ago given up on my own fight against this beast, and I've accepted my fate in this shiny white hell, but one so young as he should not yet have to be forced into such reality. There is so much more he has yet to live before he can truly say he can go no further; so many more sleepless nights, tossing and turning in torment; so many more relationships to ruin with trepidatious thoughts; to see the worlds in his mind crumble, and high hopes shatter from this pitiable plight. 
I know his story. I lived it once. I lived it fully, and now am paying the price. But he is not yet reached the checkout counter of this tale. He has not yet earned the right to sit back in a barred room, breathe deep and repeat that he'd sure done his best.
No, that time for him has not yet come, as it has for so many others of us. We are the forgotten ones, the ones for which there is no more hope in people's hearts, or support in their wallets. 
 But Trousdale, he must go on living to the end of it, until he can find no more reason to rise from his bed each day, and no more sympathy in the eyes of the ones he loves. I know he is not there yet, for I can see it in the way he looks at me, dissecting me with this gaze. I think he is trying to compare myself to him, imagine how he might someday reach where I am, and that is never a healthy practice. He should not be surrounded by such examples that plant infectious ideas in his head. He is in danger of fancying himself much worse than he yet has become, and that would cripple his ability to live out the rest of the sound days he is still so blessed with.
They signed his dispatch papers this morning, and yet he still just sits there, all day at the end of that hallway, staring. I want to go to him, tell him to get on with his life, leave this forsaken place, but I am in no state to move or motivate.
The others have no better luck, having too seen it all and lost the drive to inspire. We still do our best, mind you. But in a place like this, one must accept the sad state of this truth that cannot be cured, and learn to go about your days here as if they were your last and at the same time have already slipped away.
If you are reading this and have no inclination of what write, then feel yourself fortunate and I urge you to think on this no further. It is not a subject of interest to the undisturbed, and not one worth unraveling.
But if you do happen to share sight of this sense, then allow me to conclude by wishing you my dearest heart's desire that you find balance, and hope to never see you walking these halls, staring blankly at me from the other end of this hallway.
It may be too late for him, for Trousdale - though only so soon begun - but that does not have to be for you as well. I have lived in both worlds and seen it all. And I can assure you, given the choice again, I would not take post here, no matter how much they are paying me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's a Fictional Life

Lately, I've been noticing my own increasing hesitation to write on this blog, and subsequently longer delay between posts. It made me stop and think: why might I be feeling this way? I don't think it's for lack of content - I still have plenty to say about my journey's progress - nor do I think it's for lack of wanting to share it with you all.

So what is it then?

Perhaps, I thought, it goes beyond the content itself, and beyond the concerns for the audience or the writer... perhaps it's something even simpler and broader than that.

Now as with all truly intriguing questions into oneself, it took a great deal of introspection for me to answer these above. But the truth was ultimately found out, to my great relief, and here's what I found.

I realized that I don't actually enjoy writing non-fiction... any of it. I don't enjoy writing about the humdrum details of real life, be it mine or someone else's. Yes, true I did find it very valuable to post to this blog early on in my journey. But the motivation there was much more about using writing as a means to process my recent growth, to get it all out of me into something more concrete, and less about having a record of it for others to absorb.

In light of this, I have now in retrospect considered that posting such personal thoughts on a public online blog was perhaps not the best choice. Given the purpose I've realized this self-non-fictional type of writing serves me, the posting of it anywhere but where I alone can read it seems superfluous now. It now seems rather silly to have shared it with so many other people, when really the value of the writing itself was merely only in the act of writing it, and thus loses its appeal and importance once written.

I realize now the decision to start this online blog may not have been made for the best reasons, fueled more by a hope of gaining others' acceptance and recognition than of giving others a window into themselves (as previously mentioned). Perhaps it was a selfish decision to create this blog, and share all my self-indulgent scribblings with all of you.

Perhaps it was... but then, here we are anyway.

And here I am, realizing my dislike for non-fictional writing style. Yes, we are going back to that now.

You see, coupled with that new realization is also the understanding that I quite enjoy writing fiction instead. I love creating stories in my head about the people I see, the names I hear, or the characters I encounter. I love testing my imagination when presented the opportunity to take a story and just run with it. And most of all, I love the freedom in writing fiction to be original and really say something worth reading that hasn't yet existed in its entirety in reality.

I think I even often imagine my own life as if it were a fictional story, dreaming up scenarios and events that haven't happened (and likely never will happen) that seem far more significant and exciting than the real thing. Whatever that may say about an inability to face my own truth is besides the point - at least for the purpose of this post - and the bottom line here is that I simply prefer creating and writing fiction from within rather than recording and retelling the non-fiction around me.

Oh, and I can't tell you how glad I am to have uncovered this. I keep saying how much I need to develop my own voice as a writer, if I want to progress in that adventure. And here is indisputable proof that I am moving forward, slowly narrowing down what kind of writing I want to pursue, what I have to say in that style, and how I want to say it.

So the question now remains, what to do with this blog? Now that I've made this discovery, it would seem inappropriate to continue using it as originally intended. However, I feel it would be a shame to abandon the whole practice altogether.

My thought here is then to maybe shift the focus of this blog ever so slightly to allow for a greater deal of fiction in my posts. Perhaps I could use this as a means to practice that developing voice as a fiction writer, and share with you all the fruits of my labor there for further review and feedback.

After all, there are Passages to all matters of life, real or imaginary, and likewise benefit to writing about all of them. So the Writes of Passage title of this blog would still absolutely apply to the fictional writing I would now begin to post.

It also continues to speak to the Passage I am exploring of becoming a better writer, and the necessary writings that must demonstrate such growth. So it's almost as if the blog title now has a double meaning, and therefore even stronger significance. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

It's a fictional life I dream of - dream of living, and (better yet) dream of writing. And I look forward to sharing more of that vision with you all as we continue through all such Passages of our lives.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Art + Function

I am a very passionate person. Ask anyone who knows me, and good chances are they'd say the same thing too. It's something I've been proud to say I am for as long as I can remember.

Yet throughout this recent self-explorative journey, I have been attempting to take that inner 'passion' and figure out what I really want to be doing with myself. I guess I figured that since I'm such a passionate person, it would be easy to alight on my next productive path befitting such. But as you can expect, that has turned out to be a much harder question to answer than I anticipated.

For starters, and funnily enough, I found that I don't even really know what I am passionate about. I honestly don't think I have ever know. My whole life, I've just been passionate about everything, and nothing at the same time. And as a result, I've been sort of good at everything, and really good at nothing in particular. I wanted to be everything, because I never knew (or tried to figure out) what one thing I actually wanted to be or be doing.

Instead, I have developed too wide a range of interests that attract my attention and energy. Even the job I just recently left was working in a field I could say I find interesting.

Each time my boss and I would sit down to brainstorm and strategize, I would get very passionate about each topic in discussion. Each initiative brought out the passion in me, whether about revolutionizing the K-12 education space, or developing engineering research at the university level, or addressing the organizational issues underlying our own management system... I would become engrossed in all of it.

Then beyond my former work, there are even more areas that warrant my passion. As an Economics major in college, I fell in love with economic international development, particularly the challenges facing each corner and community within the massively diverse, corrupt and complicated continent of Africa.

After college, I found the subject of psychology more and more interesting (as will happen) as I began exploring my own mental and emotional hurdles. I felt a particular partiality for how the psychology of a professional group can shape its productivity, as I witnessed and tested first hand at my old job.

Beyond academics, I love being active and outdoors, lifting weights and working up a good sweat. And I feel no greater thrill than when I'm pushing my physical limits, and bringing out the fighter in me.

Then there's the artist in me, who wants to capture the beauty I see in everything around me. Whatever the medium - be it a camera, pen and paper, etc - I revel in packaging the world's wonders, virtues and vices for others to consciously consume.

Expanding on that, the writer in me is fascinated with words, and how the choice of them can change how a vision or opinion is received and understood. I am drawn to the challenge of capturing the true essence of a thing in seemingly too simple words, and then how both individuals and communities alike can be inspired and matured by their content.s

I love the way my art and writing have already inspired people, and am encouraged by the possibility to further touch the hearts and lives of others through such. It speaks to my love of storytelling, and the joy I get out of taking someone along on a journey with me.

But here comes the rub. Though all of these here foretold (and many more I've omitted) may be passions of mine, I am still uncertain of what next professional direction to take based on them. Naturally, I can't pursue all of these at once, nor would I wish to. But to simply just pick one and run with it would be to miss the whole point of this exercise, and what I'm trying to accomplish at this juncture in my life. No, the goal now is rather to find where within my 'passion' I will feel the greatest reward for my work, and would like to contribute productively to the betterment of society.

So first things first: I need to start by identifying the core values common within each of these passions, and within my core self. And with the help of some very near and dear friends and family, I have finally taken to whittling this list down to two core elements that I truly feel must be at the center of whatever work I take on next.

In short, I must feel that what I am doing is artistic and creative, and also that it has a functional purpose in society. I do love art for art's sake, but that alone would not give me the satisfaction of practical impact I am looking for. That said, I have also worked in many fields of functional value in the past, and felt they lacked a fundamental element of the arts that I need in my work.

So Art and Function it is - that's what it comes down to for me.

Now how that manifests into a career is still beyond me. But armed with this new narrowed knowledge, I can continue my journey onward and upward with increased confidence that I will soon find the right next occupational adventure for me. I've only just begun, so it would be foolish to be discouraged by any lack of progress thus far, and far wiser to instead look to tomorrow with bright eyes.

So forward I will journey on, into the heart of me. And if you care to join, I'd be pleased to have you travel with me, and share in such experiences as the merging of Art + Function may forge.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The No-Plan Plan

Forgive me Father, for I have gone astray. It has been three weeks since my last confession. The first was spent obsessing and stressing over my final week of work, and then the subsequent two weeks in even deeper anguish, as I stumbled painfully between bed and couch in a flu-induced zombie-like state.

But while this recent detour may not have been the most productive per se, it did at least give me the space to think. And think I did, as think was all I was able to do, with my less-than-able body.

So I thought about life, my life, and this crazy new lifestyle I am crazy enough to explore. I thought about how I’m going against everything comfortable and stable I ever knew or was taught to value. I thought about how I’ve always had every moment of my life planned out. I’m talking about having a one year, five year, and even ten year plan in mind at all times. At every turn, I always knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted it to get me in the future.

And now here I am, in such terrifyingly unfamiliar territory, and I find I no longer have those same plans handy. I honestly have no idea what I will want to be doing, or where I will want it to get me. And for the first time in my life, I’m actually really excited about that fact.

Oh sure, I do have a sort of ‘plan’. Many of you have heard it already. I’m going to simultaneously pursue two new career ventures in writing and stuntwork, but with more flexibility and autonomy, to allow me to fully explore my true passions!

You see, with such massive a change, I naturally had countless inquiries from friends, family, and former coworkers about where I’m going next. And I had to have some sort of answer. I couldn’t very well just say ‘You know, I have no idea, but I’m sure as hell going to have fun finding out!’ No, I had to tell them something. So I came up with a plan that at least sounds like I have an idea of what the hell I’m doing.

Don’t get me wrong, this plan is for real… or at least, as real as I’m capable of at this point. But no matter how nice and neat a plan I draw up, there’s no way I can definitively say right now what I’m going to discover on this new adventure, or where that’s going to end up taking me. All I can say for the time being is all I’ve realized so far, the passions I’ve identified to pursue right now, and then we’ll just have to see where it goes from there.

So that’s the plan I’m sticking to… which I guess isn’t really much of a plan at all. I’m stepping out into the wide unknown with nothing but a no-plan plan in my back pocket, and a fierce desire for adventure and understanding in my heart. Nothing more than that, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.