For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning actor-producer Nancy Nagrant. She founded Amenone Productions in 2014 to generate work for film, television, and theater with an emphasis on the female protagonist. Anemone’s films have played at festivals such as: LA Shorts, St. Louis, and Reel Sisters. They have been official selections in 24 festivals thus far, and have garnered eight awards from 17 nominations. To learn more, visit her website.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I’m currently working on a project tentatively titled American Girlhood. It explores the subtle and not-so-subtle lessons girls learn as they come of age in American society. From “be content with what you get” to “be careful what you wear,” American Girlhood aims to create “shared memories” of growing up that all women can relate to.
I’m collaborating with a friend from college. She and I used to collaborate on theater projects a lot back at university and also when she lived here in NYC. It’s been a while, and this is our first film project and it’s exciting to be back working with her. We’ve known each other for a long time, and know each other pretty well. It’s nice to collaborate with someone like that because you have such a refined short-hand.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
She and I met in Chicago in 2019 to see another college friend in a show. She mentioned she had this idea for some sort of creative project, maybe a film, but she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. She went on to share a story from her early-teenage past. It was all so clear to me, almost as if it had happened to me. We talked a lot about the impact it had on her, and I then shared a story from my early-teenage past. Each of these stories was so vivid and visceral. We knew what it looked like and felt like, without having to have had the *exact* same experience. We knew it was subject matter ripe for exploration.
Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?
I’ve had a couple of big revelations during the last year. I had COVID back in mid-March 2020 right as the massive wave hit NYC. It was a really frightening time on so many levels. I’m very lucky that I had a minor case that didn’t require me to go to the hospital. That said, my recovery took a long time. I suffered from headaches and brain fog for over a year, and still haven’t fully recovered my sense of smell. My not being able to work as I normally do really threw me for a loop.
I’m lucky to have a group of smart women to talk to on a regular basis. An important discovery I’ve had is about following my heart vs letting my mind take charge. “The mind is a wonderful servant but terrible master.” Yeah, I’m thinking about that on a very deep level. For most of my life I’ve really let my brain take charge, as opposed to letting my heart lead. My busy, loud, bully of a mind had been running rampant, and I had lost contact with what my heart was saying.
The last month or so my life has gotten busy again, and all of a sudden I’ve fallen into that same hamster wheel — putting out fires, and working on tasks for others at the expense of what is actually important to me. I’m sure that’s relatable to a lot of folks out there. I just recently listened to my 22-year-old niece talk about this very thing, and it broke my heart a little. It’s very seductive — “being productive” — and so many of us place such high importance on it, but ultimately it just makes us miserable.
So my intention for life is to get very quiet, listen for what my heart has to say, and let that lead the way. That is my role in this moment.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
I am most interested in experiencing work that puts females at the center of the action. I’ve seen more than my fair share of art from a male point of view. I’m all about the female gaze. That goes across the art world, but let’s specifically talk about film and TV creators.
I’m especially excited when I see something on screen that feels like it’s lifted from my life, but that I’ve never seen portrayed before. It’s so profound and inspiring. That’s the work I’m most excited to watch, not to mention create.
Here are creators who have given me that experience: Lena Dunham, Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Shonda Rhimes, Jane Campion, Reese Witherspoon, Joey Soloway.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Connection and collaboration.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I have two short films out on the circuit right now. Miracle Baby, which I co-produced and also starred in, is a 19-minute psychological thriller about power and revenge within a troubled marriage. Incurable, which I co-produced, is a nine-minute serious rom-com about love, rejection, and an overactive imagination. I am so proud of both of them. They both premiered in 2020, which was less than ideal obviously, but I just returned from the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival that happened in person, which was absolutely thrilling.
I have also been brought on to help produce, and potentially act in, a new television series called Kangaroo Flat. It’s a half-hour magical-realism dramedy set in 1960s rural Australia and present-day NYC about finding your place in this world.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
As an actor it happens when I get lost in what I’m doing and forget that I’m performing — in fact I’m not really performing anymore, I’m just living. As a producer it happens when I anticipate and solve problems — taking care of the people and the project. Oh and when I’m on my way to set — I tend to feel very at peace and empowered in those moments.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Developing and executive producing work that features women behind and in front of the camera. And of course, I’d have to star in some of it!
Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Not being clear enough in my vision. Not having a mentor.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I’ve been practicing Vedic Meditation 20 minutes twice a day for eight years. It’s been a huge game-changer in my life.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Trying to make myself fit into what I think someone may want as opposed to just being my authentic self.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
I love wandering around a museum, discovering new things along with old favorites. I’m not sure I have a favorite piece of art though. The Winged Victoryof Samothrace at the Louvre takes my breath away. I’ve recently discovered Lee Bontecou’s sculptures, and they give me all the emotions.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
I admire Meryl Streep very much. Her talent is an inspiration, and she’s just so classy. Confident, kind, present.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Broadening our story-telling spectrum by driving forward stories that feature female protagonists, and uplifting and championing female and other under-represented humans as I do.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Grounded. Empathetic. Fierce.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
I love sleeping in. I also watch an awful lot of TV, the “guiltiest” of which is competition reality shows — RuPaul’s Drag Race, Top Chef, Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
I’d probably share the lesson about letting the heart be the master and the mind be the servant. Beyond that I’d say prioritize self-care: meditate, floss, wear sunscreen.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
I really do love living in NYC. But I would like to live where I could see a body of water. I’d like to be able to witness something that large and impressive on a daily basis. To be able to observe its cycles. I think it would be very educational and inspirational.
Q: What is your idea of success?
A balanced life.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Living in the present moment.
Q: Final Thoughts?
Thank you for inviting me to do this, and for these thought-provoking questions.