Fast Forward Friday with Janet Grillo

download For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director-producer Janet Grillo. She is an award winning, critically acclaimed filmmaker, Emmy Award winning producer, former Senior VP of Production/East Coast at New Line Cinema, and Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Her most recent feature Jack of the Red Hearts won the Grand Jury prize at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival, promoting gender balance and diversity. It was seen by one million people on LIFETIME and is currently available for digital streaming, VOD and DVD. To learn more about Janet and her work, click here.

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

Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not say. Maybe it’s superstitious of me and maybe it’s about creative privacy. But while something is gestational, I’m protective of its fragility and would rather not publicize it.

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

Lisa Cholodenko is a contemporary, American filmmaker I much admire and am inspired by. I revere Billy Wilder; his versatility and craft discipline­­ the way he explored all dimensions of what it means to be human. Even his gossamer romps hold the space for darker truth. They are NOT mutually exclusive! His work resonates with wit and humanity. The same is true for Cholodenko. Nothing is made palatable – ­­it just IS palatable. Because it’s accepted as who we are, what we are and thus can be laughed about, as well as gasped at.

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

I’m lucky to teach full time at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Undergrad Film/TV Program. My students motivate and inspire me­­ – it’s a virtuous circle. As I teach, I learn. Being in the classroom with these brilliant, ambitious, passionate and optimistic young artists is like going to the storytelling gym for a rigorous workout.

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

It happened this week … I was taking my dogs for a hike upstate, where I have a weekend “sanity’”house, and am spending the summer. I had spent the morning writing a draft of a script on which I’m collaborating with an esteemed peer (who’s also a delightful woman). I looked out on the Hudson, saw an egret on the shore and deeply appreciated the amazing balance I’ve been blessedly able to achieve; between NYC (working at NYU, constantly stimulated by students and colleagues) and Upstate (work and renewal). I flashed to a fantasy/dream/goal/vision I had when a college student of what my life would be like as an adult ­­and realized I am now living it.

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

I actually think this would be it. Writing and directing stories where I explore what it means to be human. Functioning independently and with full sovereignty. I’m very lucky … and deeply grateful.

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

My own neurosis … oh, and the overarching sexism/misogyny of the Industrial Entertainment Complex. Yes, that.

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

Spend time alone!

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


Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Oh gosh … I don’t have a favorite! Too many to recount. What kind of art? What medium? Overwhelmed by the possibilities … lately I’ve been obsessed by Hamilton.

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

Eleanor Roosevelt.

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

Compassion and putting it into action; rising to the occasion of my disabled child’s needs.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Key and Peele … It’s my happy place. But I don’t feel guilty about it. So does that count?

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


Q: Where would you most like to live?

I’d love to live Upstate full time.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being happy.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Reality minus expectations.

Q: Final Thoughts?

 Thanks for the chance to share these ramblings!   


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