Fast Forward Friday with Ryan Lonergan

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Writer-Director-Actor Ryan Lonergan. He is best known for the films  Kill the Monsters (2018), The Fall of 1980 (2013) and A Thousand Beautiful Things (2005).

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am currently working on my first novel.  It has been a much lengthier process than writing a screenplay but very rewarding.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

It is not autobiographical but it does deal with many real life experiences I have had and experiences others I know have had. I suppose everything is autobiographical to some degree, but this really delves into things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Too many to list. My favorite book is The House of Mirth  by Edith Wharton. My favorite film is Passion Fish by John Sayles.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

Seeing films and reading books, and watching theatre and television that gets out ahead of my expectations and challenges me by asking complicated questions.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

Several projects. I have a noir that takes place in 1932 in Kansas City, which is where I grew up.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

I’ve had final cut on my films so far.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Shooting more films. 

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Film financing is always complicated, but there are solutions.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I read a lot.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

My concern over current political trends and how they negatively impact the arts.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I mentioned Mirth  and Passion Fish. I would also add Howard’s End, both the novel and Merchant/Ivory adaptation.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Artistically, I would say Robert Altman. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Storytelling

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Persistent

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Photography 

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

I would tell myself what to focus on and what not to worry about because most of the advice I received on those points turned out to be incorrect.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Where I live now in Bushwick but in a bigger apartment. 

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being able to make films and not stress about money.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

See above plus have a family and give back. 

Q: Final Thoughts?

Grateful to be a part of this!

Fast Forward Friday with Jenn Halweil

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed CEO-Story Engineer Jenn Halweil. A former Electrical Engineer, she launched #GoBeyond to elevate stories of women and minorities in science, technology, and the arts. She has been featured in Forbes, Scientific American and Mic.  For further information, visit www.gobeyondlab.in.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I founded an educational media consultancy, #GoBeyond, to create content about women who are doing groundbreaking scientific research. I’ve led content strategy and creation for a number of world renowned brands including Deloitte, World Science Festival and the Geena Davis Institute. As part of this initiative, I directed a 2-min mini-doc called “Woman of Steel”  on the woman who built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

My journey began as an electrical engineer. I was fascinated by how scientific and technological breakthroughs could benefit society. I became passionate about scientifically literate and feminist storytelling, when I found myself to be one of only three women in a 200-person circuits class. This passion transformed into a lifelong pursuit as I found myself to be the only female consultant for various technology startups and one of the few women engineers at America’s largest utility company. This motivated me to become involved in science storytelling, or as I like to call it: story engineering.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

I love the way Andrew Niccol has been able to tackle social issues through brilliant character arcs and narrative storytelling, and incorporate science fiction and technical elements in a way that doesn’t feel esoteric or soapbox driven. Lord of War, Gattaca, The Truman Show, and In Time are some of my favorite films. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched them and the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with friends and family about the really complex challenges that society faces in terms of wealth inequality, surveillance, gene editing and gun regulation as a result. 

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

How to translate complex scientific concepts into a beautifully compelling visual narrative that is easy to understand. I want to help the world fall back in love with science and wonder the way Carl Sagan inspired a generation of engineers. JFK inspired scientific revolution with a speech that galvanized us to go to the moon by reminding us that while science isn’t easy we do it because it brings out the best in us as humans. 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Outside of finding a million women STEM leaders and sharing their fascinating stories and breakthroughs with the billions of people on this planet … Build a massive science lab to study and repair our oceanic ecosystems, design and build water purification systems, build trash islands like those in Singapore that will rival the Maldives as a destination, create parabolic solar farms, and basically learn more about this wild planet we inhabit. Also probably study moons on Jupiter since they have water and we have a better chance of living there long-term than Mars.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Funding. Let’s get real. I’d love to pretend money doesn’t matter but money to be able to help us reach a wider audience would go along way. As would funding for some of our larger scale narrative / documentary feature length projects. As a feminist, I am constantly thinking about what we can do as women to make sure our crews are paid comparable to if a man was leading; and how we could fund-raise the same way as  our male counterparts, who can raise millions out of a garage when they’re young and hungry and have no experience. I don’t need a million dollars right now, but intros to companies like Ford, GE, Merck, Novartis, etc who have women in STEM initiatives so we can amplify the achievements of the women on their teams would be great! Or even intros to the diversity and inclusion and CMO / CTO folks at NBC, FOX, ABC, etc.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Hang out in nature and unplug. 

Q: If  you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Focusing on consistent busy work and small wins instead of working hard to level up impact, audience, and scale of projects. 

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I love how Yayoi Kusama used geometric repetition and reflective materials to explore the concept of infinity visually. It’s a brilliant reminder that we’re all made of the same stuff and when we look at one another we’re staring the universe directly in the eyes. 

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Sally Ride. I feel a strong kinship with this woman in the sense that she was a scientist and explorer but couldn’t be seen for who she was because her calling card became tokenism. Her actual STEM contributions were always secondary to her achievement of being a female astronaut in a male dominated field. It’s a shame because what we should celebrate her for is: the fact that she single-handedy identified the causes of both the Challenger and Columbia explosions; she built the satellite architecture in space that enables our modern communication systems; she was the driving force behind NASA’s focus in studying our oceans and natural climate, Mars, and the upcoming female led moonwalk; and she was a brilliant educator and advocate for young women to be respected and represented in STEM.

Reading her biography is what inspired me to form #GoBeyond, so much so that our early promo video features a modified version of a speech she used to give at science fairs for young girls. The speech always began, “What would you do if gravity wasn’t holding you down?” Visually, the video traces the transmission of information from a group of girls, around the world via satellite, finally landing in space where it is received by an astronaut, to highlight Sally’s contributions to communication, feminism and beyond. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Breaking the binary stereotype of gender or the idea that a woman who builds, engineers, designs or creates something technical is behaving in a masculine way. It’s not scientifically accurate for two reasons:

If we look at chromosomes and hormones there are more than two genders. We just create a bimodal distribution with two peaks when we plot these because it’s easier visually and also its based on historically sexist social systems influencing the science towards creating a very dangerous oversimplification.

In reality women have been HUGE drivers of scientific and technological innovation. Every modern industrial revolution has been tied to women rapidly joining the workforce but up until 100 years ago, women could not own property, vote, or establish legal individual personhood and so they did not receive the proper credit for their work. 

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

I don’t think there is a singular word that could describe me although a few ex business partners and lovers could probably have some choice words. I guess that would make me ‘ineffable’? (I think this joke plays better when read out loud). 

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Coffee, binge watching TED talks and reading Wikipedia pages until I’ve lost entire days. 

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

That bucket list you set out for yourself  – you’ll do it all by 30 except purchase a movie and record store and combine them because movie rental houses and records won’t be a thing anymore. So dream bigger. Put stuff on that list that’s so ludicrous you can’t help but cross it off the list because trying it will be such an insanely fun challenge. 

Q: Where would you most like to live?

One-hundred years in the future where ~ 50% of our world leaders, scientists and creators are women. Our oceans, rainforests, and nature preserves have been protected under a universal climate agreement. We have global electric mag-lev transportation systems, universal basic income and AI / robotic systems that do most of our task oriented jobs. And we’ve established life on Mars and are building towards expeditions on Jupiter’s moons. 

Q: What is your idea of success?

People love that woowoo of happiness, focusing on yourself, learning you can’t control the world and can only control how you respond to it, but F*** that. Change the world. This world has been changed millions of times over for us to bring it to where it is today. So dream of a better model than the one that we have today and chase it into existence even if you have to fight, claw, and start a revolution. 

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being surrounded by men and women who respect each other as equal contributors and work hard to discover how to create things that have never been done before and leave the world better than we found it. 

Q: Final Thoughts?

I hope not. Hopefully I’ve got a few more good decades in me before it comes to that!

Fast Forward Friday with Amy Hagan

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Los Angles based, actress-comedian-fitness enthusiast Amy Hagan.  She fell in love with acting at a young age while doing Missoula Children’s Theatre. She has performed improv at various places around LA and stand up at The Comedy Store. She recently qualified for the Boston Marathon, did her first Strongman competition and is now training for her first triathlon. She is currently working on YouTube videos, and fitness shoots and commercials. Check out her fitness work on Instagram @amyhaganfitnessmodel.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am currently doing a lot of YouTube stuff. I have two channels with friends and one on my own. Coffee Meets Chicks is one I do with my friend Ashley and we talk about different coffee shops in the LA area. The other one I have with my friend Hannah is called Tammy & Candy, we are sisters who are complete opposites who are forced by our mom to make a YouTube channel together. I play a cat obsessed, crossfit lover. The channel I do on my own is just random videos I put together, either about my own life or a random spoof commercial. 

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

The inspiration behind Coffee Meets Chicks is we always loved going to coffee shops to work on acting stuff so we thought we should make a channel about the pluses and minuses of all the different ones in the area. Wanted to turn something we love (coffee shops and acting) into something that might go somewhere. The inspiration behind Tammy & Candy was Hannah and I love acting and wanted to try and gain a following doing something fun and we both enjoy. My own channel came out of just wanting to have fun and be in front of the camera, I love making people laugh. I get lots of good feedback from my Instagram videos so I figured YouTube videos would be a longer form of those. 

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

As someone who loves comedy, Amy Poehler is a big inspiration to me. She can always make me laugh in any role she plays. Recently another actor who has inspired me is Timothee Chalamet, I love his dedication to the characters he plays and how he can really transform himself and put himself into the role. Same goes with Eddie Redmayne.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist? 

When I see a great comedy show or a movie that makes me feel something inside, or even just an actor who really got it right in my acting class. That inspires me. When I see those things it reminds me why I am doing this and why I love it so much. 

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I am very into fitness as well. I think acting and fitness can go hand in hand. I was in a fitness commercial where I played a crossfit athlete. I recently just put together my fitness reel, which showcases me doing strongman, crossfit, gymnastics, and running. I am currently training for a triathlon and the Boston Marathon in 2020. 

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

When I am not wanting to do anything else in that current moment, I am present and focused. 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I would be acting in a comedy TV show as one of the starring roles. That or doing sketch comedy and making a living out of it. 

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Just getting in the door. I can’t book the big roles without being seen. 

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Doing YouTube stuff helps, also listening to audio books from actors I like, that motivates me. Being in acting class helps a lot and going to comedy shows. My favorite are Groundlings and UCB. 

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Overthinking, I just need to be bold and go for it. No choice in acting is wrong necessarily but not making a choice won’t get you anywhere. 

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

My favorite thing I have done is a short film called Butterflies & Guppies, I had so much fun and it is the type of role that really showcased me. 

But the art I love is something that takes control of my mind and gets me focused and not thinking about other things. Watching dance, a great movie or a comedy show can do that for me. 

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

There are so many wonderful people who have influenced this world. But if I am going based on acting the first time I felt affected by an actor passing away was Heath Ledger. He was so different in every role he played, I never saw him as the same character. He really knew how to transform himself and be real. He was an inspiration to many. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

That’s a very tough question. Based on acting I would love to be known for the person who always made people laugh and someone everyone enjoyed being around because I was always honest and genuine. In the fitness world I would love to be celebrated for being the underdog who comes out of nowhere and wins races/competitions. Showing people that anything is possible with the right mindset and dedication. 

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Authentic or Independent, I know it was supposed to be just one …

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I don’t feel guilty but I love the CW shows, most people would think it’s a guilty pleasure though.  One Tree Hill is my all time favorite and now Riverdale

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Stick with learning Spanish, you will want to know how to speak two languages later in life. It will help you communicate with so many people and help book you more jobs. Also, focus on giving everything you got to athletics and acting, get a head start for later in life. Don’t place your focus on all these small activities that don’t really matter and are taking your time. 

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I am from Oregon originally so if I could make a living with acting in Oregon I would choose to live in Portland, OR. Best state ever I believe and super nice people. 

Q: What is your idea of success?

I define success as when you fall you don’t take that as a failure but a growth opportunity, you learn how you can do better next time. Being successful is learning from your mistakes. Having a positive, go-getter attitude and staying motivated and determined when the going gets tough is the key to success as an artist or athlete, or really in life … Because in the acting world you will definitely lose a lot more than you will win so keeping your head up is huge!

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Doing something you love and being around people who support you each day. 

Q:  Thoughts?

Making a bold choice by getting out of your comfort zone to make a living out of something you love is very life changing. I have learned a lot by living away from my home state. I learn so much each day mainly because I allow myself to feel uncomfortable by trying something new and meeting new people. LA has opened my mind to new ways of thinking. I am excited to see what happens next in my acting career and in the fitness world. So much more to see and accomplish, I can’t wait!

 

Fast Forward Friday with Tara Atashgah

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Iranian writer-director Tara Atashgah who lives in Los Angeles  Her awards include Best Student Female Director from the DGA, a Student Emmy and an Oscar-qualifying award from the Cleveland International Film Festival. Tara was one of six writers honored by the WGA for the 2018 Feature Writers Access Project. With the same screenplay, Under an Olive Tree, she was also a finalist at the 2015 NBC-Universal Emerging Writers Fellowship. To learn more visit www.taraatashgah.com.
Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.
Two things and I’m equally excited about both. 
I’m re-writing my feature screenplay Under an Olive Tree, which is an ensemble story set in Israel and Palestine about hatred, love, revenge and peace. It’s inspired by true events and similar to the movie Babel. It recently received a recognition from the Inclusion and Equity department of the WGA, which got me excited and back to writing new drafts.  
I’ve also been writing a spec TV pilot and bible called Affinity with another writer, Amanda Azarian. We’ve been working on it for more than a year now and are close to crossing the finish line. Woot Woot. Our story is a fantasy, drama, mystery about two estranged sisters who suddenly inherit a special power that forces them to work together and discover the truth about an “accident” that split their family apart. It’s really good and I’m not being biased. It’s a show I’d watch and would get hooked on. We’ve arced two seasons and have an origin story thought out for season three. I know writers normally focus on just the pilot script and a bible, but we just couldn’t stop writing. 
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
The inspiration behind my feature script Under an Olive Tree was the story of Ismail Khatib. He’s a Palestinian father whose 13 year-old son was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier. Instead of seeking revenge, Ismail donates his son’s organs to Israeli kids in need of transplants. Wow …  It gets me every time. I was so moved by this that I started writing a fictional story inspired by Ismail’s decision. I wanted to share both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side. So in my ensemble story set in the heat of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Ismail and the soldier are only two of the four protagonists. Our antagonist is the news, the politics, the propaganda, and the separation wall that is being built between Israeli and Palestinian territories. There are different storylines happening parallel to one another and at the end, you see that everyone is in pursuit of the same thing… peace. 
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
There are a few, but I’d like to mention one. Bahman Ghobadi, a Kurdish Iranian director who grew up in a small town with no special advantages or opportunities and ended up being one of the greatest directors of our time in my opinion. He’s created A Time For Drunken Horses and Turtles Can Fly, both extremely emotional films about Kurdish struggles, diaspora and survival; starring non-actors and shot on location. His films, his style and his portrayal of Kurdish lives is groundbreaking. Seeing Iranian filmmakers struggle with government censorships and limitations, and yet finding creative ways to tell a story is very inspiring. As an Iranian director and a half Kurdish gal myself, I’m very proud and inspired by Mr. Ghobadi’s work. 
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  
The most cliche answer and my forever source of inspiration, people’s life stories.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I’m teaming up with my brother Orod, who is an exceptional writer with a ton of great ideas. We are in the early stages of writing a psychological thriller together , and that’s all I’m aloud to say about that.  I’m also slowly editing two short films that I directed last year. One is an Iranian short film about a little Afghan girl and the other is an experimental, fashion, artsy, sexy film that I can’t wait to edit. It’s beautifully shot by my favorite cinematographer, Daniel Rink, who also happens to be the love of my life. 
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
Nothing grand, everyday activities. Waking up in a household of filmmakers, sitting at my desk writing or editing while someone else is working on a shot list or watching a movie or is on their way to set.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Mmm, I’d still be making films. I don’t mind the barriers though, I feel like conflicts and barriers have only made me stronger. It’s good to have them and fail 50 times and finally succeed when you do.  
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Needing food and sleep. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to leave my desk to make food or to go to bed.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I watch films, docs, interviews, read biographies etc …  I’m also very nosy. I love learning about everybody’s drama and business. I like people watching and imagining life stories for strangers. I’m very observant of people’s behaviors and reactions and create entire character spines off of why he/she blinked. My mind is always creating stories. I’ve been like this for as long as can I remember. So I don’t really have to do much to “stay connected” with my creativity, I’m stuck with it. 
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Honestly nothing. I tend to say and do whatever I want without holding myself back. But holding yourself back isn’t necessarily bad. It’s human nature and an internal instinct. Sometimes I look back at the things I’ve done and I’m like, wow that was a little too “brave.” Finding a balance is good. 
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
A copy of an original painting from my great-uncle. My Dad’s dad and his uncles were artists and silversmiths. My Dad loved one of his uncle’s paintings so much that he had another Iranian painter, recreate it. It’s a pointillist style painting which is when you use small dots to paint an image. It’s of 5 men dressed in traditional Persian clothes and hats, sitting around a rug making kabobs and eating it. There’s a small dog close to the barbecue watching them.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
My mom and Oprah Winfrey. 
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
I don’t want to be known or celebrated for it, but ending juvenile executions has been one of my lifelong goals and a legacy I’d like to leave behind. I mean death penalty is a barbaric enough act, but executing juveniles for WHATEVER crime they’ve committed, is just unacceptable. Unfortunately there are governments that still allow it! When I first heard about this I was so shocked and angry that I had to make a film about it. The short film is called For The Birds it is my portrayal of the last 15 minutes of Atefeh Sahaleh’s life; she was a 16 year-old Iranian girl who was publicly hanged. The film screened at film festivals around the word and won several awards. But ultimately I’d like to post it online and have a campaign against juvenile executions to go with it. I’d like to do what Participant Media does, screen the film, inspire audiences and invite them to partake in positive change. 
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Determined.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
A Harry Potter movie marathon. I’ve only done it twice and dream about doing it again and again. The first time was after I wrapped a short film that I had worked on for a year nonstop all day everyday, so I rewarded myself. The second time was the day after my 31st birthday, which was a 1920s themed party. Whomever was drunk enough to pass out on the couch, stayed there for another day. We ate leftover food and cake, and binged watched all the HP movies.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
I’d say YES to saying NO – 15 years ago I was trying to convince my Mom to let me go to America by myself to become a filmmaker. I said “no” to staying in Cyprus (the country) to study Graphic Design which was the “closest” major to film … umm nooo! Of course as you could imagine, my mother had reservations about letting her 17 year-old, rebel, daydreamer of a daughter fly to Hollywood. But being the amazing person she was, she trusted me, believed in me and eventually shipped me off. 
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Santa Barbara. Funny story, so after I found my film school in California, I flew from Tehran to LA to SB. I stayed at a motel that night, woke up the next morning and was just blown away by how beautiful SB is. I was so excited to be living there and I called my Admissions Rep “Hi I’m here in Santa Barbara, which campus do I meet you at?” She said “oh, the six campuses in Santa Barbara are for our Photography students. Our only Film campus, is actually in Ventura” …  So then I moved away from SB and have been wanting to return there ever since. 
Q: What is your idea of success?
Getting to a point where you could raise your glass to your mistakes and failures and recognize that they led you to your achievements. Also being able to laugh at your embarrassing career moments. Those are my ideas of success and I hope it happens to me because I can’t wait to make fun of myself for a few awkward moments. Cheers. 
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Becoming an established writer and director. Bridging cultural gaps and impacting the lives of my audiences with my films. Moving into a house similar to my childhood home; big pool and a BBQ. Eventually creating a family with my cinematographer boyfriend (Honey, you’re stuck with me) and raising smart kids who will care about our planet and the people in it. Continue filmmaking even as a mom. Always writing, always directing and pushing myself to make better and better projects. 
Q: Final Thoughts?
Yes, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately. Don’t compare yourself with another filmmaker and copy them just because they’ve had success with something. Everyone has a different route to success. Just because this person got into Sundance with a VR short or that person made a feature for a thousand bucks in their mom’s backyard, doesn’t mean that you have to switch to VR or make a low budget film at your mom’s; or both… a low budget VR feature at your mom’s. Just stay focused on YOUR work. What’s the goal? Picture it and then make your way back to today. What steps do you need to take in order to achieve that goal is what I think we should do. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Don’t waste your time thinking about other people unless they inspire you.

Fast Forward Friday with Meredith Edwards

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, I am thrilled to interview the uber-talented and extraordinary director Meredith Edwards whom I’ve had the honor and delight to work with in bringing Bite Me, to the world.  Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her, premiered at Cinequest in March, and was just awarded Best Feature Film at the Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival. The film will be released both theatrically and digitally on May 6th through the Joyful Vampire Tour of America.Her first feature film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, took home 12 awards on the film festival circuit, including five Best Pictures and Best Director. To learn more, visit www.meredithedwards.com.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

The second narrative feature I directed, Bite Me, a romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her, is starting a three month theatrical tour across the US in May after premiering at Cinequest in March. I’m excited that the world finally gets to see this wacky, heart-warming film. I just made a huge move from NY to LA, so now that I’m officially settled in, I’m back in my creative cave. I’m focused on writing at the moment, which has been really fun. I’m developing a television series called My Twelve about 12 women who’ve been chosen by God(dess) to heal the world. I just finished writing the pilot. I’m also in the midst of creating an online course, The Conscious Creative Incubator,  for artists to create and complete their projects in a conscious way. Conscious living is very important to me.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

Across all projects, the inspiration is always because I truly believe in the message or mission that it serves. For Bite Me, it’s about bringing all of us together, that as much as we think we’re different or outside of one another, we all just want to be loved for who we really are. For My Twelve, it’s to empower us to heal ourselves, first, if we want to heal the world, and to trust our inner guidance, that God(dess) lives within all of us. My online course is to inspire artists to fulfill their creative purpose by pursuing (and completing!) their passion projects. I believe we are all meant to live the highest possible creative manifestation of ourselves in this lifetime. Imagine if everyone on earth was doing that; imagine how different the world would be!

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Oh, I have so many, but most of them are spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson (who is running for President! #Marianne2020). They changed my life. Wow, tears come to my eyes just thinking about it, WHEW! They are earth angels. They are living their creative purpose in a way that I aspire to live mine. As far as directors, my favorites are Baz Luhrmann and Darren Aronofsky. When I watch their films, I’m totally strapped in and taken on a ride through a whole new world that’s beautiful and magical and disturbing and heartbreaking. It’s thick and invasive and colorful and painful and awesome. Their films course through my blood and my bones, they levitate and transcend my trite human experience into something more. They are true visionaries. I want to make films like that! Escaping through film and music is such a beautiful privilege. It is truly therapeutic and has the ability to change someone’s life and an entire culture.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

My life! Haha. It’s like one of my favorite quotes by Anton Chekhov, “If you want to work on your art, work on your life.” That is so true. I think what’s so delicious and therapeutic about art is that you get to pour all your human woes into it. But, ultimately, I’m just trying to live out my creative purpose and give back the best way I know how. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I think we’re all here for. I think making art is part of that mission for me. And also empowering others to find theirs.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

It’s something you have to be really mindful of, otherwise it will pass you by. I work really hard on trying to remain as present as possible during the creative process so that I can really see, hear and experience my surroundings. As a director, especially, you have to have all arms, eyes, noses, ears, mouths on deck, because things are moving at lightning speed and you’re in charge of molding it in the best direction for the mission of the project. So, when I’m present enough to feel the creative flow happening all around and within me is when I know I’m living in my vision. But, also, simply when I’m enjoying what I’m doing. It should always involve joy, otherwise, what’s the point?

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I bet a lot of people say, “I would just be doing what I’m doing!” and while that’s partly true for me, if I’m honest, I’d have my own television network! I’d also have all the resources, time, talent and money to create the narrative feature that’s been in my heart for years, but needs big resources. I’d also be sitting across from Oprah on Super Soul Sunday talking about the aforementioned.

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Time. It’s always time. I never seem to have enough time. But, I’m a very careful, detail-oriented, perfectionist. I can always find some way to make it better. I’ve been this way since I was a kid, it’s just part of my nature. Though, over the last several years I’ve made a conscious effort to work on these qualities and expand my comfort zones, and I’m way more flexible than I used to be! This is why I actually really love and need time limits, constrictions and deadlines, otherwise, I’d never turn anything in. I’ve realized having people on my team who are masters of time and efficiency is key for me.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I have a very stable spiritual practice that keeps me connected to my creative self. (I believe these things are one in the same, spirituality and creativity.) This includes, but is not limited to, meditation every day, yoga, journaling, using creative visualization to activate my imagination, and listening to lots and lots of music which is my most transcendent, favorite thing.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

The root is always fear. And fear rears its head in many ways, but it always comes back to fear. Though, I think fear can be useful because it often points you in the direction you’re meant to go. The hard part is establishing a healthy relationship with your fear, so that you can work with it rather than letting it control you.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Helping others find and live out their creative purpose. Or, an impactful film, show or network that influenced a culture to be more conscious, awake and connected with themselves and each other.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Inspired.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Wine. Also, cheese, and chips and salt. I don’t know why all my guilty things go in my mouth, what’s that about? I prefer listening to books on Audible than reading with my eyes. Is that something to be guilty about? I don’t just prefer it, I downright love listening to books and podcasts. I love to doodle, draw, and take notes while I listen. I guess I’m an aural learner? Oh, car service.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Oh, bless. I would just give myself a hug and look into my eyes and say, I’m so proud of you. I love you. You’re gonna be great. Have fun! (I like to say these same things to myself now at 33, haha.)

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I’m proud to say I am living exactly where I want to be! I am living in my dream home right on the beach. Literally, the door to my building opens to the sand. I remember before moving to LA coming across this place and thinking it was so out of reach, just a fantasy, and now I wake up here every day. I am so grateful. Also, Bali. It’s by far my most favorite place on the earth (that I’ve been to).

Q: What is your idea of success?

Fulfilling your creative purpose here on earth. You know if you are because you will feel fulfilled, alive, joyful, and at peace.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Laughing, sunshine, presence.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Great questions, thank you! It was a transformative experience just answering these.