Griffith Observatory

First daytime visit to the observatory on parents’ last day of visit. Really nice day, which meant really nice views of the city and the Hollywood sign. 

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Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition 2017 – Second Rounder!

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During the first two quarters in the Screenwriting Professional Program at UCLA last year, I developed and wrote a script that I was pretty proud of. In this drama, a poor single mother gets out of prison for child abuse and sets out to regain custody of her eight-year-old daughter before she’s placed for adoption. I got some really great, constructive feedback from my teacher and fellow classmates and ended up with a first draft that I could work with.

I spent this past summer, rewriting and rewriting this script (I never want to see another colored Post-it again). I sent it out to a few trusted readers who also provided me with useful notes for the next rewrite. Finally, after about twelve rewrites, I got the script to a place where I was happy with it and submitted it to three screenplay competitions. Then, I did two more rewrites.

Because I had no luck with the Nicholl and Bluecat, I was expecting the standard form rejection letter when I opened the email from the Austin Film Festival. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my script had advanced into the Second Round. Although it wasn’t a Semi-finalist, it still placed in the top 20% of screenplays submitted this year. There was also a bunch of information listed about how to buy my discounted conference badge and how to sign up for the panels.

Today, I got the physical letter in the mail and enjoyed the handwritten note at the bottom of it. It’s not much, but it feels good to get some recognition for my writing. I’m also glad that hard work pays off. Thank you, Austin Film Festival for the opportunity. Hope to make it out there one day!

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New Orleans Trip

9/2/17 – 9/6/17

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Lalaurie Mansion

The trip we’ve been talking about since we entered college: Palwasha and I finally made it out to New Orleans for the Labor Day weekend, a much deserved vacation if I may add. And yes, everyone says “y’all” all the time. They are also some of the nicest, most polite people I’ve ever met.

Day 1:

We left bright and early Saturday morning — got to the airport at 6 am. When we stepped out of the airport in Louisiana, the humidity hit us square in the face.

We checked into our hotel, then headed to Cafe at the Square for lunch, where we proceeded to eat way too much. The waiter actually told us at the end that he’s “proud of you two” for finishing our food.

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New Orleans has a very specific smell to it. I can’t tell you what it is, but I definitely noticed it from the get go. It also has a very casual and laid-back kinda vibe; things move slower there than SF or LA for sure.

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After lunch, we explored the French quarter. We didn’t know this, but Labor Day weekend in New Orleans was Decadence, which, according to one shop owner, is “the big gay goodbye to summer.” By that evening, the streets (especially Bourbon St.) were filled with people celebrating the holiday.

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We went into a zombie shop where it was filled with items like voodoo dolls and shrunken heads. The lady who worked there gave us a special invite that would get us into an exclusive club, and all we had to say was, “The zombie sent us.” Sad to say we didn’t check it out as we already had other things to do.

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After checking out various stores in the French Quarter, we eventually made our way to the famous Pat O’Briens where the bartender immediately knew what we were there for: the Hurricane. This classic New Orleans cocktail was extremely sweet and fruity, but we knew we had to try it while we were there.

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The Hurricane

The tavern itself had a great atmosphere. The place was packed because of Decadence. I enjoyed the AC inside.

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Round two was at the Carousel Bar and Lounge, which is located inside the Hotel Monteleone and features a bar that actually turns! (On our last day, we watched Girls Trip, which was filmed right here. More on that later.) After another cocktail, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

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Day 2:

The cool thing about our hotel was that we were served breakfast in our room every morning, as long as we filled out our orders by the previous night. Therefore, we started each morning with fresh croissants, coffee, and orange juice. Perfect way to begin our days.

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On this day, we ate breakfast, then it was onto the shuttle out to Slidell for the swamp tour. It was more humid out there near the swamps (which I didn’t think was possible but it makes total sense). The tour itself was very cool — we got on a boat and a tour guide took us around in the waters. We learned a lot about the Louisiana wildlife.

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The water itself was a muddy brown, which made it scarier to look into because we couldn’t see what was below us the whole time. We saw and fed some wild boars, raccoons, and gators. Who knew they liked hot dogs?

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So many bugs though! When we got back to the hotel that night, I found rows and rows of bug bites on my body. I had only brought sunscreen…didn’t even think about bug spray. Still, the swamp tour was fun and a must-do if you’re ever out in Louisiana. Just don’t forget the bug repellent.

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We got back to the city around late afternoon and headed to the Copper Monkey Grill for beer and jambalaya. The bartender, who I think is also the owner, was a nice lady who said she was from Los Angeles but loved being in New Orleans. The food itself was typical bar food level of food.

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After this, we went to Jackson Park, looked at some street art, and got a view of the Cathedral at sundown. We also sat on the docks at the Mississippi River and watched tourists take pictures.

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Cathedral and Andrew Jackson statue
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The Mississippi

A highlight of the trip for me personally was our stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets and cafe au laite. The pastries were fresh and delicious. I could definitely see why they were world-famous. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected — we managed to snag a table as soon as we walked in. Yep, the coffee is as good as you’ve heard it is.

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That night ended with souvenir shopping for our friends and families, and then a lot of Food Network back at the hotel.

Day 3:

A couple years ago, I was super obsessed with American Horror Story (though after Freak Show, I stopped watching). So of course, the one thing we had to do while in New Orleans it the AHS: Coven walking tour. The tour itself was very informational. Our guide, Bea, knew how to separate facts from fiction and even took us into St. Louis Cemetery #1 to visit the tombs of Marie Laveau and Marie Lalaurie.

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Doing the witches’ walk

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Because it was a holiday, we were the only ones on the tour, which meant we also got the full treatment. We visited the Lalaurie Mansion, which seems to be the highlight of the tour. Bea talked in detail about what was exaggerated on the show for entertainment purposes, and I also learned that voodoo is a religion that was primarily used for keeping medical records. Movies are to thank for its negative stigma.

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BBQ Chicken Po’Boy

After the tour, we got lunch at Killer Po’boys, and yes this sandwich was killer. I was again in luck because Zapp’s potato chips were everywhere whereas in California, only select places had them in stock.

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After lunch, we went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, where we were the only adults without kids. The exhibits were cool (I hadn’t been to an aquarium since I was a kid) and we even got to pet the stingrays. We also watched a fantastic documentary about predators in their awesome 3-D movie theater.

We thought we would spend three hours in the aquarium, but we were out in about an hour. After another quick stop at Cafe du Monde for coffee, we headed to Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, a tiki bar that served the best green beans I’ve ever had in my life, no joke. There, I had a very strong mai tai because we had some time to kill before the Haunted History Tour that night.

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The Haunted History Tour is probably the one I was most excited for when we booked this trip — if you know me, I love horror movies and I tell a pretty good ghost story or two. And where better than to take this tour than in one of the most haunted cities in America? Well…the stories were embellished af. Way over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed learning about New Orleans’ history, which I find fascinating all by itself. And the tour guide was a really good storyteller. However, it was pretty clear that this was a tourist money grab and I wasn’t sure by the end what was fact and what was fiction. I’m glad I did it once in my life though.

The tour ended around 10 pm, then Palwasha and I went back to Pat O’Briens where I definitely got a bit drunk. We had a lot of fun though (shout out to Ashton the bartender) and were sent drinks by a Polish guy visiting the States and his cousin. We got back to the hotel after 1 in the morning, showered, then crashed super hard.

Day 4:

Our last full day here. I did a tarot card reading in the morning, which I’ve always wanted to try. The folks over at Glass Magick were hospitable and kind. However, I left more of a skeptic than I was before this trip. Perhaps the ghost tour had something to do with this…

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After the reading, we went down to the Garden District, which had a completely different vibe from the French Quarter. This neighborhood reeked of affluence. The architecture is beautiful and there were way fewer tourists. We got lunch at Red Dog Diner, then went to District Donuts because you know I can’t pass up a good donut.

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Blueberry Cheesecake and Pineapple Upside Down

After our dessert, we visited the Buckner Mansion on Jackson. The mansion was filmed for all the exterior shots of the witches’ academy in Coven as well.

It was sprinkling when we were walking to the mansion, but when we got there the rain really started to fall. Plus, the school across the street was just getting out so traffic was horrible along the street. We quickly called an Uber and got back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

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Whenever we take a trip, Palwasha and I always do one fancy restaurant. This time around, Galatoire’s was it. We got dressed up because the restaurant has a very strict dress code, then got there a few minutes before our reservation. We were seated right away. Because it was a Tuesday evening, the place wasn’t as packed as I heard it can usually get. The inside itself was really fancy and old fashioned. All the ladies were wearing dresses and all the men had on coats. I had the most amazing filet mignon, some wine, and bread pudding for dessert. Unfortunately, the couple sitting behind us argued and fought for the entire dinner. Interestingly, we were the only non-white patrons there that night. Shout out to Rushell for being an awesome waitress!

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Instead of going out to the French Quarter bars yet again, we decided to spend our last night here watching Girls Trip. We went back to the hotel to change into more comfy clothes, then walked to the theater, which was on the top floor of a shopping mall. They also served us right there in the theater, so we ordered more wine. The movie wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it was fun. Plus, it was filmed in New Orleans so recognizing the places shown in the movie was cool.

Day 5:

We got up early in the morning and headed to the airport, which featured an extremely slow and almost inefficient pass through security. I missed the city already, which rarely happens. Usually, I’m psyched to get back home. I loved the live jazz music playing 24/7 in the streets and bars. I loved the local folks’ Southern accents and their overuse of the word “y’all.” I didn’t particularly like the vomit in the streets but I guess that’s just part of the city’s character, ha. I wouldn’t be surprised if I went back to New Orleans one day. Hopefully, it’ll be sooner than I think.

The Last Client: Final Shoot

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August 26-27, 2017

Well, we finished it. In the most trying two days of this project, our crew pulled together to film the final two episodes of The Last Client. After eight months of preparations for this weekend, we all reunited at the Trianon Theater in San Jose to wrap up Sam Weston’s story on the web series. Although there were definitely moments of hardship, moments that tested our patience and limits, I’m proud to say that we managed to get everything we needed in order to cut a great finale to this show.

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Our day started bright and early on Saturday morning. Crew was up at 6 am and we all met at the theater at 10 to set up equipment. While I discussed the schedules with the cast over the phone, a couple crew members did a coffee run (much needed), and then it was into the theater to start rehearsals and set up for our first shot of the day.

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Jon, our first AD, kept us to a pretty tight schedule all day, which was a blessing and a curse because we didn’t realize just how much there was to shoot. As always, our actors were pro and their passions for their characters showed up on camera.

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The first day came to and end around 5 pm, and we actually wrapped a bit early. We all got some much needed rest that evening because we knew the next day would be extremely difficult (spoilers if I say why though!).

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Sunday morning started off at The Patio Bar. Becca and Terry were kind enough to let us film there again. We actually had a few of the bar patrons sit in as extras and it was clear they were super excited to be a part of it. It also helped that they were all fans of the show.

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This scene went smoothly, almost too smoothly, because we wrapped this location an hour early! The crew got lunch together, then headed over to the Trianon again. We got tangled up a bit as a church service was exiting when we arrived, but eventually we got everyone settled and set up for the day.

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Somehow, we ended up way ahead of schedule after we shot the first scene of the day before the actors’ call time. But pride before the fall… We took way too long filming the climax (we weren’t properly prepared for the sheer magnitude of shooting something like this) and things took a sharp left turn from there. It took us a few hours to get back on track, and by then we were behind schedule and completely fucked.

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Somehow somehow somehow we pulled it together as a team (cast and crew combined) and finished up only an hour later than expected wrap. Many thanks to Arturo from the theater staff who graciously allowed us that extra hour. I was definitely running on fumes for those last couple scenes, but at the end of the day, we got what we needed.Camera.JPG

After the cast was wrapped and our Make Up Artist was removing all the hair/make up, we circled up as a crew and closed this chapter out on a positive note. We left the theater after midnight that night and somehow made our ways back home.

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Everyone poured their hearts and souls into this project from the beginning and I can’t be prouder of this talented group of people who was just as determined to tell this story to the fullest extent as I was. We were all exhausted by the end of the weekend (I couldn’t do simple math by then), but this shoot proved we were all up to the challenge and pulled it off greater than I ever expected we would. I’m extremely thankful to my cast and crew; I couldn’t have asked for better people to go through this journey with!

626 Night Market

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I finally made it to the 626 Night Market in Arcadia tonight. Kenn and I made it when we still had some sun left and although it was hot, it was perfect for the ice cream we got. It wasn’t as crowded as I was warned it would be, but there were still a lot of people and I’m sure as the night went on, more people came in. I also didn’t realize how popular takoyaki was becoming because those stalls always had the longest lines.

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Even though I wanted to try everything, I knew I could only eat a few things before my stomach gave up. I made sure to get my ice cream in first because ice cream is love. I also tried the Kobe beef yakisoba and and a meh Thai milk tea. We explored the other stalls and the Art Walk before heading out.

Labor Day Weekend is the last one of the season, so if you haven’t gone already, I suggest you do!

Trejo’s Tacos

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This week on Regina’s Epic Taco Saga, I went to Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea to finally see if these tacos were worth the hype.

Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: I need to try the rest of their food.

Parking was a bit tricky but we found street parking a block away. Lines weren’t too bad, considering it was a Friday. Will definitely be back for more.

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Beef brisket (front) and steak asada (back)

What To Do When The Airline Cancels Your Flight

I just spent a harrowing seven hours at the airport due to a weird system outage at Oakland Airport. I should have known something was wrong when I stepped through the sliding glass doors and saw dozens and dozens of people queuing at the Southwest kiosks. I mean, nowadays, everyone uses mobile boarding passes, right?

So I get through security fine, but then find out that my flight has been delayed ten minutes. Okay, not bad. I caught up on some emails at the gate. Twenty minutes later, I find out my flight’s been delayed an hour. Okay, still not too bad. I’ll land in Los Angeles before dinner.

By this time, I’ve heard countless announcements about the Southwest computer and phone systems being down. Not unusual, stuff happens. Then, someone makes an announcement that everyone with mobile boarding passes should immediately see an agent to switch out to a paper one. I do that, no problem.

Our plane lands, passengers deboard. Gate agents make the announcement to start lining up for our flight out to Burbank. We do. Then, the horrible announcement happens: the flight is canceled.

And just like that, there are a hundred of us stranded, wandering the gate area like lost sheep. There’s a plane leaving right now but only A-listers will get those spots. I sigh and shake my head.

Here’s the good news: I made it onto another flight that was departing in the next twenty minutes. I got extremely lucky. I landed in LAX at 6 o’clock and made it back home to the Valley around 7:30.

So here’s what to do if the airline cancels your flight (or at least what worked for me):

  1. Immediately get on the phone with customer service. Everyone bolted to get in line for the desks. Don’t get me wrong — you should too. However, the gate agents were only servicing A-list passengers at that time. So get in line but be on the phone with the airline’s customer service as well. Double your chances of being helped.
  2. Explain the situation, but don’t complain or use profanity. My flight’s cancellation was in no way Southwest’s fault. Their systems have been down all day and they were backed up with delays as it was. As calmly as possible, explain what has happened with your reservation, then ask to either rebook onto a later flight or to get a refund.
  3. Listen to other representatives as they make announcements; act quickly. I got super lucky because another Southwest representative came by as I was in line and on the phone. He explained that those of us who were okay with landing at another airport should follow him immediately, but he could only take six. Because I knew the gate agents were only servicing A-listers at that moment, I was the second person to follow him to another gate where he printed new boarding passes for a flight that was leaving in twenty minutes to LAX.
  4. Twitter, Twitter, Twitter! As I waited to board the flight to LAX, I finally got through to customer service on the phone. The lady told me since I had been rebooked onto another flight, there was nothing else she could do for me. I hung up, got on Twitter right away, and tweeted at the airline. Surprise! I got an reply back almost immediately. Ten minutes waiting in line, almost thirty minutes on the phone, but a few minutes on Twitter and I got everything squared away. Although they weren’t able to refund me because I was rerouted to LAX, they sent me a travel voucher for my next flight with Southwest. Just with one simple tweet, I was able to get a lot more out of it than I did with the other two methods.

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If all else fails, book a hotel for the night, clear your head, and make new plans. The airline should be pretty accommodating with this. Of course, there’s a certain level of stress everyone is feeling in these kinds of situations, but if you’re polite and understanding, it seems to work out for both parties involved. Sometimes, it really isn’t the airline’s fault that the flight got canceled. Either way, make sure to look up your rights as a passenger, which should be available online for every major airline.

Lastly, remember to make the appropriate arrangements for transportation once you land, picking up checked baggage, etc. Although we can’t always prepare for every circumstance, it helps to have a backup plan or two when traveling.