A Very Bad Time


These last few weeks have been pretty awful. I am broke and homeless. Time I should be spending working on promoting my film – my only asset, my life’s work – has instead been consumed salvaging what I can from my apartment, bagging things in ziplocs, laundry laundry laundry, carrying stuff up and down and back and forth, throwing things out, calling exterminators, calling the landlord, calling friends, sleeping on a sofa, not sleeping on a sofa, taking showers and immediately changing into more ziploc-ed clothes, more laundry, wiping salvaged computer parts down with alcohol, weeping, talking to other tenants in my now-former building, confronting debt, canceling accounts, checking messages, begging for help, watching red bumps grow on my hands and arms (I have a delayed reaction to bed bug bites; it takes 9 days for the red welts to really blossom, then they linger a long time), reading bedbugger.com, reading craigslist housing ads, weeping some more, et cetera.

As you may have gathered from my previous post, Sita is still costing me a small fortune I don’t have, and is generating no income. It’s hard to be patient when you’re homeless, broke and desperate, but since I legally can’t even give the film away, I have no other option. Money is still possible. Breathe, breathe.

All My Posessions
above: everything I own, sealed in ziploc bags

Luckily my friend Ken has taken in me and my beloved cat Bruno for the time being.

Ken and the City
above: my good friends Ken and New York City

I’m extremely grateful for his kindness; I’d be a total wreck without it. Bruno seems pretty dang happy here with Ken’s extraordinarily adorable cats Sweetpea and Peanut. Since Ken lives in the West Village, I can supplement my antidepressant regimen with gelato. And for the next few days I can sleep in another friend’s apartment while he is out of town, on a real flat bed, which means no neck pain. Yay!

Bakin' Postcards
above: I baked my “Sita” promo postcards to kill any hidden bed bugs, which can’t withstand temperatures over 130 degrees.

And New York remains beautiful in spite of itself. Here are some pix I took at Hudson River Greenway, after Ken persuaded me to stop weeping and go for a walk:



above: I’m ready for the river, the shivery river, the river that goes down to the sea / wanna drown my trouble, and leave just a bubble, to indicate what used to be me

It is bizarre to have the film seemingly doing so well at festivals, while my life feels like it is collapsing around me. I remind myself I’m only losing stuff – my furniture, my books, my posters, my rent deposit – and money is just an illusion. It’s just the material world, and I am not a material girl. I am happy Sita is winning awards and going to festivals. I just didn’t imagine a life in which this occurred to look like this.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

15 thoughts on “A Very Bad Time”

  1. I have an apartment available for rent — huge space, $500 a month, no bugs, cats allowed, close to an art school, theater, etc. …could be discounted for someone out of town a lot… a childfree artist who’s always working on projects would be the ideal renter…

    The drawback is that it’s in Cleveland (OTOH hey, cost of living is cheaper)

  2. i was thinking about this nina – i wish there was some way you could really sell sita merchandise at the festivals…it takes a bit of investment i know, but i think people would be majorly into purchasing sita t-shirts and mugs (and such) on the spot…not like on a website that they just might hear about…just my $.02

  3. “Sita” has a cafe press store already. My profit margin is very very low there, and cafe press’s prices are exorbitant, but here you go:

    Can’t legally give “Sita” away without first purchasing electronic distribution rights to the song compositions.

    Right now I can’t afford to make merch, either in money or in time. I know it’s a relatively small investment in the former, but I am flat broke from the film. And the bedbug/homelessness thing has taken away my time. I’m about to leave on another festival tour (it’s so ironic! sounds like the high life, but I’ll be touring even more this Fall simply because I can’t afford an apartment!) and I don’t think I can make merch on the road… I’ll try though if an opportunity comes up.

    I am currently producing a professionally authored (less crashy) limited edition festival screener DVD, and I can sell extras at festivals, but I won’t have those for a few weeks.

  4. Years ago I went through some tough times. A friend gave me the best advice (well, it’s more like a good observation): No matter how bad things get, everything always changes.

    I’ve always enjoyed your work–from the Nina’s Adventures comic strip to your animated films. Sita deserves to succeed–from all I’ve seen, it looks like a wonderful movie.

    As for licensing issues, have you looked into Creative Commons? Unfortunately, it won’t take care of the soundtrack issues (music licenses), but it may be a good starting point. Here’s a web link:


    Please take care!

  5. Sorry to hear things are not going well, despite your success in festivals. Elke and Tom from Germany are thinking of you and wish that your luck will eventually turn material, too.

  6. I have been following Sita since I happened upon it a few years back and as an artist I was amazed at your unwavering efforts and dedication to make it at all costs. Now instead of enjoying the gravy your struggles go on.

    Having read the blog of all the troubles now to distribute it and earn well-deserved payment I wonder where our society in the west is really heading.

    Maybe in 1928 a man with a little mouse character followed his dream and became very successful – as he deserved for his efforts – but it really seems to me that now in our state of “evolution” those making money and ESPECIALLY good money are not working and the people who are working – and not just the artists – are poor.

    Something somewhere is really wrong.

    When I win a jackpot your are first on my list Nina!

  7. I happened upon your short animation “the stork” while surfing for child-free stuff. Awesome. So I found your blog.
    I really hope better things are in store for you. I can tell you are a pragmatic person and I admire your work and your perspective on things. I feel like helping you achieve. Best of wishes.

    The Rev Barking Nonsequitur.

  8. Oh my God, Nina, this is terrible. I thought things were going so well with the film!
    If you want to stay in the Toronto area for a while since you have your new passport, let me know (though my cat Gizmo doesn’t get along well with other cats.)

  9. Dammit, I can’t make a donation through your Paypal account because they won’t take my American credit card with a Canadian address. Is there some way I can mail you something? Please write and let me know?

  10. Nina, your blog is gripping stuff. I have a critical deadline for a few days so I will just paste in my notes on finding your blog — they close with an outreach idea for you. More in followup if you’re interested >

    http://the-redpill.blogspot.com/2008/08/eco-dollar-future-global-currency.html > An interesting “comprehensive” analysis of the evolving meaning of money > compare & contrast with “money is the flow of energy” point of view … The writer is Indian, living in France, male, 26. Since he thinks sincerely that nuclear will contribute + going forward, ask him for his summary of the state of nuclear waste management globally.
    http://www.ninapaley.com/bio.html > interesting cartoonist, animator and writer > don’t miss her BIO > quite amazing “life & spirit of the artist in the moment” communication > got this link via a detailed correspondence about her innovative Sitayama video[s] and the underlying Ramayana traditions with the writer above > Nina should probably do something on her own blog with that valuable correspondence – I find I prefer accompanying text summaries with substantive videos, do not want to rely entirely on video to “get it” – as on Sun Valley Online > attractive blog pages for her style > she should know Art Spiegelman, author of Maaus, the comic book about the holocaust, whose wife is art director at The New Yorker magazine > both New Yorkers > Nina writes really well, could write for TNY about her Sitayama creation saga.

  11. Oh, dear. Sent you some $$$. The bedbugs are… harsh. Don’t discard your things, though – winter is coming. Leave them triply sealed, then leave them outside for a month. Your mileage may vary but a week of subzero will kill them.

    Looking forward to the Sita video, best wishes!

  12. Hi Nina, I’m a starving student so I’m not much help, but if you hit S.F. for a festival, I can put you up in my place. I tend to stay at my girlfriends’. We’ve met, endless years ago, when you were in S.F.

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