Welcoming the New Year's Challenges
It's time to revel with family, go to the Nutcracker, hike up a mountain, explore a new place, open some presents, read a good book, take in the view, and dance our way into the New Year. As so many people have pointed out 2016 has been a heck of a year and my guess is each year we greet from here on out will be a HECK of a year. Politics, the environment, so much is changing and feels out of our control. However as 2017 rolls around the bend, I want to focus on what IS in my control.
Financial Health - Lately I've been learning a lot about finances and the importance of investing, so in the New Year I'm going to get some investments started. I don't have a whole lot of money lying around, still work full time, but I'd rather start small now and see where it takes me.
Physical Health - I want to adjust my perception of what I need to do to be physically healthy. I want to take long walks every day and then also take exercise classes where the competition motivates me to work harder. Less emphasis on 'needing to work out' more focus on making physical health a part of my every day routine. Walking up stairs, exploring my neighborhood on long walks, taking fun classes etc.
Mental Health - I want to read books about subjects I wouldn't necessarily find exciting, because chances are I have the most to learn in those areas. Also who knows maybe something I read in a book about the Universe might lead to a creative breakthrough.
Spiritual Health - I'm aiming to incorporate meditation into my daily life more. I've started to a little in the past month with some surprising results. I'm realizing meditation is a form of self love, a way to sit still and reflect inwardly while working towards peace of mind.
Emotional Health - I want to keep meeting new people and nurturing the friendships I already have while continuing to spend lots of time with family.
Here's to a great new year of growth and change. What goals do you have for the New Year?
Transitions and New Beginnings
Yesterday was my last day at Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) as I get ready for a new adventure. I did social media and blogging for TFI for about a year. During my time there I got to lead social media workshops for independent filmmakers, lead a blogging workshop for a group of men in prison, follow the careers of TFI alum in the news, and attend filmmaker workshops and entertainment industry panels to cover them for social. It was a tremendous education on how the backend of the independent film world and non profit grant industry works. For more on that see this blog I wrote with some indie filmmaking tips I learned on the job. I'm incredibly thankful I had the opportunity to work at TFI and I'm equally excited to begin my next journey.
I'm not going to divulge where I'm going next just yet because I want to get started before I announce it. However I can say it will be in the tech finance world and it's part of the #FinancialFeminism movement. I'll be learning about investing, doing tons of research, and basically getting educated on how the people with money do it. Going from non profit to #FinTech is a big change and I'm diving in head first. (Read: learning a bunch of financial stuff)
I've also been using the transition period before my new job starts a lot like I use my birthday or the New Year in that I'm taking it as an opportunity to get organized and focused. All those events I just mentioned are marks, a fixed point in time that stands as a motivator for forward motion, and a deadline of sorts, because it promises a new beginning. I'm getting ready for the new change in pace and whatever opportunities it will bring. The list of things I'm motivating myself to do vary widely in ambition and scope, for example:
It's a diverse list but completing each of those things will make me feel really good. That's the point I guess, to feel good. I'm freeing up energy by using energy to complete the tasks I've been putting off.
Last year Jonas Mekas said to me "Energy likes to be used. The more you use it the more it grows." I believe using up too much mental space with stuff-yet-to-be-done, fills up your internal hard drive and then you're reluctant to let more information in. All I want to do is gather more information, feed my curiosity and desire for growth, and expand my horizons, so first I've got to use my energy to make space and also be thankful for all that I am already.
Facing My Fears and Choosing to Act
I have a vivid childhood memory of watching my mother standing in front of her french-door closet, next to an ornately cut mirror that she'd hand-painted with a rim of golden leaves. She grabs an item of clothing that reminds her of an ex-boyfriend out of the closet and pitches it on the ground, gleefully exclaiming 'I want to change my life!' When I was growing up my mother was always clearing out the old to make room for change and livening up our Bronx apartment with touches of grace and beauty. I've been remembering that this weekend as I've been clearing my apartment of old clothes, boxes that have been lying around, and over a years worth of magazines. I too have decided to change my life.
It's been a long time coming but I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I've been creatively stuck for the past few years. I've come up with loads of ideas for projects I want to work on, and I've gone through and created a bunch of them, but I haven't finished them and shared them with the world. I've been holding onto them, keeping them close, buried inside. It's been a long build up for me: a nearly 140 page book of interviews and memoirs that needs edits and rewrites, a solo play that is ready for a fresh round of edits, another solo play that is ready for self-publication, a short film I wrote two years ago and am starting to now get into pre-production, performing in a monologue project for Youtube, an idea for a children's book I started researching and then stopped.
I've recently realized all this incompletion is because I've been afraid. The creative energy that I most want to express I've been using a lot of energy to restrain and repress because I'm scared of what might happen when I share it. I don't like admitting to fear because I'm a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman, but it's real and I want to charge through my resistance to get closer to self-actualization and peace of mind.
We live in a time when it's pretty easy to drum out the noise of our fears. I can tune into one of any number of the TV shows out there, drown it out with music, or turn to things I'm already confident about such as social media. I have done all that a-plenty but what I really want now is to move forward.
Along with de-cluttering and beautifying my home, I'm going to finish these projects I have in limbo, starting with self publishing a solo play I wrote and performed in last year about Jonas Mekas, the 'godfather of avant garde cinema'. I interviewed him and turned that into a 20 minute solo piece called That's How Angels Arranged. I'm excited to share that piece with you soon.
Tomorrow is another chance to make the right choices, the ones that will lead me further into the fear I feel, and closer to getting through to the other side of it. What I fear most is change and the terror of the unknown and yet both are an inescapable part of being human.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” - Anais Nin
This quote is my mantra right now. There's risk either way, whether I stay fearful or whether I take action towards growth. And so much good could come of allowing myself to blossom. So, here goes. I'll keep you updated on my progress.
A short film I acted in, DAYDREAMING by Eren Gulfidan, is screening at Lid Off Film Festival in Kansas this weekend. It's a surrealist narrative about a woman (played by me) who flees from her office and finds refuge in her unconscious. I had a blast making the film, we traveled by van - true indie film style - to shoot scenes on a beach, in a grassy field, and a motel. We even shot some scenes on the subway - first time I've done that - and I had to learn how to juggle balls for those. I have since become pretty good at juggling (!) and practice on my own. Check out the teaser for the film below!
Daydreaming Teaser from Eren Gulfidan on Vimeo.
I first met the director Eren years ago at an audition I got through Backstage, for a web series called Red Notice, a re-imagining of Dante's Inferno starring two women. I booked the job, and we've continued working together ever since. Currently we have a couple of projects in development and it's exciting to see this short film making the festival circuit now. Stay tuned for updates and more opportunities to see the film!
As an actor I favor playing characters who are leaders, powerful people who are sensual, intelligent, and independently minded. In the 5 years I've been freelancing as an actor I've only come across a handful of roles that meet that description. I'm grateful for the times I've gotten to play such characters, but I want to create more opportunities for myself and other female actors to tell stimulating narratives. I'm interested in taking on more of a leadership role in the generation of creative content, moving my creativity further up the production chain, and well before the audition room.
To help further that interest, for the past year I've been doing social media & writing the blog at Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), a non profit that empowers storytellers with funding for their independent films, teaches film to public school students in NYC, and facilitates film screenings in prisons. Working at TFI I've been able to observe the independent filmmaking world, films produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system, and have learned a ton to guide me in my pursuit of greater roles for women.
The following are 10 observations I've made about independent filmmaking in the past year along with lessons learned from them. In no particular order of importance.
While these observations and lessons learned happened during the last year while I was doing social media for TFI, they in no way are meant to reflect the views and opinions of TFI.
Social Media for Actors
I'm damn good at social media, and I love it. What does that mean? After graduating NYU, Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Theatre I immediately began developing my social media presence. I read LOADS of books and took LOTS of free seminars and basically surrounded myself with all things social media. I began developing a robust following that to date includes over 17,900 Twitter followers and 45,000 Facebook followers, + I'm verified on Facebook. That puts me at a combined social following of over 50,000. I've since gone on to take on various social media clients, both non profit, creative individuals, and corporate entities. Which has been a really cool, life-changing side benefit, but my initial impulse for engaging with social media was the understanding of how important it is for an acting career. Emphasis on career.
You'll hear people talking about how social media is good for actors, or it's bad for actors, etc... but who cares? Let's be real, it's not as good for you as green vegetables and it's not worse than a drinking habit. Social media is a language, and if you chose not to learn it that's completely your prerogative. No judgement here. Hey, if you get rich and famous maybe you can hire someone to do it for you, but it is a lot more rewarding to learn how to do it yourself.
'But why is social media important for an actor's career?' I'm so glad you asked. For starters many producers, directors, and writers have a presence on social media not to mention casting directors, agents, and fellow actors. That's BIG because it's a limitless resource for you to keep tabs on everyone, interact with what they're sharing and become an advocate for those artists you want to one day work with. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, why not let those people whose work you respect know how much you dig them?
On that note, while the number of followers you have can be impressive to people, know that at it's core social media is not about that kind of bling, it's about connecting and creating a digital community by clearly establishing your voice & engaging with other people and organizations on the social platforms you use.
By the way, if you hate a certain social platform don't use it. For the longest time I only focused on my Twitter and Facebook because I couldn't handle Instagram and wasn't excited about it yet. Now Instagram is my favorite one out of all three! Don't pressure yourself to 'master social media' right away. Play around, have fun, explore, and figure out what the heck you're doing on there to begin with.
I'm still developing my acting career, and I'll be updating my blog with my acting and writing adventures, as well as social media tips. To stay in the know about what I'm up to + get social media mentoring subscribe to my mailing list below.
It's 2016! I'm looking back over the past year and feeling grateful for a lot. One incredibly fortunate thing that happened to me in 2015 is a photo shoot with Joel Marsh Garland. You might know him as a member of the Orange is the New Black cast, but he is also an AMAZING photographer.
I met Joel when I was in college doing a reading series called hotINK at Strasberg, NYU. A professor of mine Lorca Peress organized the reading series so that professional actors came and acted in readings with us students. The idea was to help us meet people working in the industry. They eventually shut the program down due to I don't know, university politics? But it worked it's magic and I got to meet Joel Marsh Garland.
He and I stayed in touch through social media over the years, and one day we ran into each other at an audition. Since graduating I've gotten into a bit of modeling and since Joel and I stayed in touch via social media he knew about my modeling. He told me he was beginning to explore photography and asked, would I like to shoot with him? I said yes.
I knew we came away with some great shots but I didn't realize until long after the shoot, when I was in front of another persons camera, the gift Joel had given me. During our shoot he asked me questions, got me telling stories, and really listened to what I was saying. He opened me up, in a really good way. To the point where now when I'm in front of another camera I feel a freedom I'd not felt before. Shooting with Joel, I learned to expose my heart, let it shine through my eyes, and talk to the camera with my body.
So one of the things I'm truly grateful for in 2015 is that Joel Marsh Garland wanted to shoot photos with me and that I said yes. I'm also grateful for the hotINK reading series from years ago, and it's true what they say folks, stay in touch with people you've worked with. You never know how your paths will cross again or how you can help each other.
Thank you, Joel!!
I am an advocate for gender parity in the entertainment world and write, act, and produce with a mind to facilitate that change.