Women have been perceived by television ratings that to achieve success they must compete against each other, tear each other apart, for the greater good of entertainment. But what if that’s not what I want?
Is it possible to join forces with women who are strong in their visions without the threat of competition?
Are women fully capable of raising each other up?
In my case?
Viktoria is a writer, producer, director and through the numerous productions she developed on her resume, I found her not only to be a source of information, she's a source of inspiration. One cup of coffee/tea and several conversations later, it was known to us that our visions could only support possibility, not negativity.
Looking back at the first page of my Los Angeles acting journal (dating back to September 22, 2003), I saw that I was asked: what is my ultimate goal behind my craft?
To create possibility without limitations.
...And this became more relevant than ever the moment Viktoria asked if I was interested in directing two episodes for her web series, FML which is currently streaming on the Revry channel. It was the biggest surprise I’ve had in a very long time. Once I saw her work, a total “dear in headlights” took over me. I knew then and there that the storytelling must be very precise with every shot. It may not be perfect, but it will be honest.
I found myself reflecting on what brought me to want to pursue acting in the first place - I was never driven by a compelling performance of an actor, it was a film director...Alfred Hitchcock. How did he manage to get his visuals to fall into place? Having all of his shots for his storyboard sketched by hand and that’s exactly what I did.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I can’t just mimic the father of my inspiration, my way also had to shine through in order to piece together every vertebrae of the story before it could take the shape of a spine called the storyboard - so I wrote everything down, first.
Then came the visuals:
...Before I knew it the time had come:
Me/Director: Roll camera!
DP: Camera rolling!
Me/Director: Sound speed!
Sound person: Rolling!
Production Assistant: FML Series, scene 2, take 1!
(marker claps in front of the camera)
Everything happened so fast, the only thing I can provide is a list of wisdom I quickly put together for myself while learning on the job:
1. Stay out of the way – If you hire and/or are in the presence of high quality performers, the best thing to do is allow them to do their work. Your job is to be the glue that binds together the producers,
the crew and the actors.
2. Trust is key – Only hire the people you trust, in return always deliver at the time and place you say you will. Doubts are always the last thing you want to have on the table - especially, when you are doing a job that is very time sensitive under a limited budget.
3. Preparation is the map of direction – I was so nervous trying to put together the storyboard, I didn’t quite understand the definition of certain shots and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to work
the digital programs that mapped out the shots for me. So I stuck to my sketches to show the crew exactly what I wanted. We didn’t use all of
them due to our limited amount of space, but it prepared me to figure out how to “cheat the shots" to capture exactly what I was aiming
for just by slightly adjusting the camera angles.
4. I’m not above any job – When I moved to New York, the first union job I received was being a Stand-in on “Gossip Girl”. Guess what I did to quickly help set up the shots while the actors were getting ready? Quite frankly, it felt good to return to my roots on Day 1 of my directorial debut. I didn’t forget where I came from.
Not so smooth...I didn’t sleep, hardly, and the temperature dropped 30 degrees which reminded me every second that I was horrendously underdressed any time we had to step outside.
Which leads me to:
5. Expect the unexpected – I planned and plotted with the strongest objective to tell the story through the eyes of the leading role.
Not only were there schedule restrictions, the lighting was nowhere near as plentiful as it was during Day 1. The space had a lot more restrictions than anticipated and the artificial light kept reflecting off the white board creating beaming halos over every single actor’s close up. I had to rethink what viewpoint I wanted to capture. I know it will fall into place, but this scene will need a lot of care and attention in the editing room.
Me/Director: That's a wrap!
My take away was learning that I love this job! It revolutionized my perspective as a storyteller:
As an actor, we are taught to react, to emote, to have a heighten awareness around us so profound that it makes us vulnerable.
Looking back at my acting history, there were moments where I felt that directors did not take this job requirement into consideration when giving actors feedback, like:
“Move faster! This isn’t about you!”
I knew stepping into the shoes of a director that I wanted to make sure everyone felt emotionally safe to do their job. It was also important for me to communicate in a way of acknowledging all of the hard work that made the production move regardless of delays and mishaps and how much it was greatly appreciated.
I watched Viktoria work tirelessly to capture every ounce of behind-the-scenes footage to make sure everyone had their marketing materials. I watched our production assistant, our gaffer, our sound person, our director of photography, our actors put their guts into every shot.
Directing, for me, is not about being in control, it’s about understanding - and when this understanding is conducted in perfect harmony at every angle of the production, magic happens... Just like when great women rise up and take creative minds with them.
Who would have thought that I could have shifted my awareness into something that involved becoming a film director?
Obviously, Viktoria did. And as I join forces with her and others, I know that my skills will be placed in the position of growth that will rise beyond what I could have ever imagined on my own. Looking at the e-mails and responses from the FML team congratulating me on a job well done, tears stream down my face with deep gratitude - for I am now a storyteller, who could not be in a better place.