Hats. Each one worn has the potential to change the next path we take, the way our lives might go. This weekend, as I showed my first short film, Stealing Zen, at the Durango Independent Film Festival, I donned my screenwriter and actress hats with other incredibly talented and lovely filmmakers, producers, performers, and creators. Without yet knowing how much of an impact spending this time in the company of such high quality and inspired people will have on my life, I feel changed again, a theme that continues to run through the current of my recent days and months.
Full of surprises, this week's bonus "buzz" competition has shown me a lot, including the value and enjoyment of the first short film I've written, Stealing Zen, directed by Liz Manashil. I'm not the only one who loves it! I've had strangers tell me it was the best thing they've seen in a while and although of course everyone's taste differs, I feel extremely grateful to be able to share it unexpectedly so soon.
Yes, I would love to win this competition. If everyone magically went to http://indi.com/8xd4b, registered, favorited it, and shared it right now, I would be thrilled to get it up to 3rd place and make sure Danny Elfman sees it so it has a better chance of being screened at the LA Film Fest. That would be huge!
Even better? The fact that everyone who wants to see it now has a chance, at least until May 27 at 8pm. So, if you want to check it out, please do, at http://indi.com/8xd4b. If you also share it, great. If you don't, I'm honored that we're in the top 10 films out of the 155 submitted to this great Indi challenge... and so grateful for the amazing team of people who made it with me.
Directed by Liz Manashil
Director of Photography Katie Walker
Cast: Abigail Wright, Christine Weatherup, Kara Morgan, and Sean Wright
Editor: James Blythe
Sound: Emma Louise
Sound Editor: Curtis Fritsch
One of the great joys in my life is regularly having the opportunity to do completely irregular things. This week? No exception. Although I could easily write about the incredibly singular acting class by Josh Pais that infuses me with energy and life each week, or about the chance to sing two completely different programs at Carnegie Hall in one week (last night's involved a Japanese benefit concert), I'd like to focus now on just this one concert - tomorrow night's.
With so many friends in the chorus, orchestra, and soloists, I can't wait to contribute to the performance of Elgar's The Apostles. An extraordinary work of great beauty and rarity, everyone in the hall will hear the luscious harmonies and experience even the sound of a shofar in the orchestra. I'd even dare to call our conductor Leon Botstein a friend in many ways, as he's been a great friend of the arts and artists for most of his life. Because of him and his passion for uncovering these rare gems, I get to perform, present, and experience these incredible pieces I otherwise probably would never have even heard.
Tonight, I feel full of gratitude, and I imagine that sensation will multiply exponentially at tomorrow's event, and hopefully for many years as I continue to create great art. Living life as an artist is generally as complicated as one might imagine, yet these moments sparkle as the highlights and reminders of why I do it. I also live this life in this way so others can enjoy the fruits of our labors - which I highly recommend you do tomorrow night, if you can.
Image by Darin Kim
As I sit on the NYC subway, my eyes heavy from jetlag and a red-eye flight, I can't help but reflect on the month I just spent away from home in Los Angeles. Before moving here to New York City, I had actually intended to move there to pursue a career acting in film and television. My car packed and ready to go, I answered the phone call from Donald Palumbo, the chorus master at The Metropolitan Opera, agreed to begin singing with the extra chorus, and moved here instead. It was quite a coup.
Since then, New York City has become my home, its subways my dear acquaintance, and its people my family. I have amazing performance opportunities in opera, classical singing, church and temple singing, musical theatre, puppetry, film and tv, and I love it here. Still, winter and seasonal depression make a trip to Los Angeles rather appealing, and I've been wanting to try it out for years. So I did.
With the help of some dear friends and amazing artists, I wrote my first short film, using a competition and Danny Elfman's soundtrack as inspiration (yes, I got to use Danny Elfman's music!). Bread and Butter's Liz Manashil directed, and it stars me, Christine Weatherup, and Kara Morgan. We even managed to feature Sean Wright as my ex-fiance and before you ask, no, there's actually no relation. It's about a woman who, spurned by her ex-fiance, decides the only way to gain control of her life is by sneaking into his house (with her sister) to steal back her lucky rock (stromatolite!). A nosy neighbor joins in the hunt, and one birthday cake is harmed in the making of this film. I'm biased, but I think our film Stealing Zen is great fun.
What a process! Even for a five-minute short, the amount of collaboration and hard work made me so grateful to create with such talented, respectful, and dedicated people. I'm humbled by the all of the talented cast and crew who worked with us. After what felt like a surprisingly short month, our editor James Dunovan sent us the final product, and poof! It's off to the competition for judging. Fingers crossed, please!
Aside from the short film, I had several auditions for opera, theatre, concerts, and film. Attending SAG-AFTRA workshops and connecting with casting directors became part of my weekly routine, one I intend to maintain here in NYC as well. I met with friends and experts, worked on branding, sang for a sing along group in Newport Beach, tried new restaurants, ate cake by the ocean, tasted wine, connected with family, and even met two young cousins in person for the first time.
Comparisons ensued, of course, between the two cities, and I have to say they are both differently wonderful. They each have their conveniences, weather, sights, and "vibes." I'll be the first to admit I missed my freedom to jaywalk but definitely not the darkness of winter. In the end, both NYC and LA have excitement, beauty and, I learned, incredible friends and people I can truly call family. I'm so grateful to have spent so much time there, and not just because I'm not seasonally depressed this year.
Perhaps most importantly, I felt the precious sense of presence that comes from knowing I only had one month in a place. Not just any place, but a city in which I could continue to build relationships, work on my career, and imagine myself returning. It was palpable - and a priceless lesson on the importance of using my limited hours on earth. So look out NYC and my newly expanded world, because I have brought that presence and intensified sense of purpose back with me, and I intend to use it.
In fact, this month, hypnotist and opera singer Nicholas Pallesen surprised me with just how much he could say that I needed to hear. So much that I made two episodes to accommodate its duration. You should really check them out. I expect this series to continue for quite some time. Before you think I've figured it all out and want to bestow positivity on the world, I want to come clean.