For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-director-producer Danijela Stajnfeld. After earning her MFA from the Academy of Film and Theater at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia, Danijela achieved critical and commercial acclaim in film, television and theater in her country.
The Hole, her directorial debut, premiered at The New Filmmakers Film Festival NY 2016 and has been presented at Women Behind the Camera screening series in Los Angeles. Hold Me Right is an especially important project for Danijela, as she draws on her personal experiences and activism to create this documentary film, with the hope of inspiring social change. For more information, visit http://www.holdmerightfilm.com/
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I am currently working on a documentary, Hold Me Right, which explores the aftermath of sexual assault through interviews with all of those who are affected by these crimes. This includes survivors, perpetrators and the wrongfully accused. The production is currently in the final stages of principal photography and we are preparing to work on a promotional crowd-funding campaign in order to begin post-production.
We have also recently partnered up with Glam4Good, an amazing organization that uses style and fashion to promote positivity and inspire positive self-esteem. I’m very excited about future collaborations between Glam4Good and Hold Me Right.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
After experiencing the effects of sexual assault firsthand, I was able to understand the complicated aftermath of the initial crime. I understand both the trauma of the initial crime and the second trauma faced when forced to be judged and silenced by a culture that does not provide support to its survivors. This second traumatization is an often ignored narrative and one that I believe can and will be heard through the final product of this film.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
Lauren Greenfield, the director of Princess of Versaille, certainly inspires me and my work on this documentary. Kitty Green, the director of Ukraine Is Not A Brothel, has also influenced my work, significantly.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
The motivation behind my artistic endeavors is my constant desire to create and tell stories, through multiple outlets. I am both an actress and a filmmaker because I need to be, it is my passion.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I’m currently developing a mockumentary called Stasya, which is a comedic take on an Eastern European woman who has just moved to America and dreams of becoming the most desirable trophy wife.
I’m also developing Public Service Asses, an Instagram movement with sexist images accompanied by anti-sexist statements.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
It was a personal experience that inspired me to make this film. So, of course, I came into this with my own perspective. However, over time, I have been able to take a step back and develop an outlook that goes beyond my personal experience. I think that this is a sign that I am living in my vision, in this film, rather than in my own head.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
To my understanding, there are no unbreakable barriers when one has a true calling and I believe this is mine.
Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
I always feel that there are not enough hours in a day.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Creating comes naturally to me because it is what I love to do and, because of that, I am always connected to my creative self. In fact, I am often overwhelmed by the number of projects I want to take on.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
I wish that I could let go of my tendency to be impatient. I want things to be completed immediately and, when they take too long, I sometimes get frustrated with the project – and myself.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
It’s very hard to answer that question. There are so many creations that I draw from and am inspired by. My answer changes with the moment. Right now, the work of Sally Mann comes to mind. I particularly love her piece At Twelve.Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
I had a chance to be celebrated and recognized as an actress, back home in Serbia. I didn’t find anything appealing about it. Thinking about how my work is received is not something that I consider.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Coffee and cigarettes.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Your parents fears are not yours to be fearful of.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
New York City. It was my home before it was my home.
Q: What is your idea of success?
The moment that you succeed is the moment you are done. Success, to me, exists to reveal and inspire new challenges.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
“If you pursue happiness, you are an ordinary person. If happiness pursues you, you are an extraordinary person. Do not chase happiness; let it chase you.” Petar Dunov.
Q: Final Thoughts?
Don’t take things too seriously.