Hey There, Creative!

As with most professions, there are always things as a filmmaker that you wish you'd known earlier. Simple pieces of advice, tricks or tips about your industry that might have helped you get further along than where you are today. Hindsight is 20/20, as "they" say. Well, my goal as a (according to my mom) successful filmmaker is to bestow upon you the advice I wish I had been given when I started out. Something that amounts to what I'd hope is at least 20/40 foresight vision. Here it goes! 

 

1. Be a good person.

I know this comes across as a giant “Duh, Anna” but kindness and empathy are essential qualities to have when you work in an industry that runs off referrals and recommendations from your peers. This goes for everyone - from heads of departments to PAs and interns. I’ve heard horror stories from my assistants about other jobs where a producer or department head is mean or stressfully condescending. I have no tolerance for that – we are all here to do a job together, and everyone’s time and talent should be appreciated. If you are kind, people will want to be around you. So essentially, kindness = more work. Yay!

 

2. Say yes.

During a lunch break on a recent shoot, a group of us were discussing how we got our starts in the industry. The unanimous response was, “We said yes to everything!” I agree with this 100%. Hands down, the absolute best way to learn about filmmaking is to work on set. I jumped on many PA jobs while still in film school, many unpaid so I could understand exactly how a film set worked. Take PA jobs, take internships, take assistant positions, learn how to edit - say yes to as many roles as you can while you are still green!

 

3. Get uncomfortable.

During my PA years, I also volunteered to work in departments I knew less about, like camera – so that I could be well-versed in all aspects of production. I remember having to load actual film in and out of a camera for the first time on set. I was sweating bullets, convinced I was going to ruin the all of the footage these people I barely knew had just worked all day to get. Thankfully everything turned out fine, and I can now say that it is something I have successfully done. Now as a director and art director, I have been told numerous times by producers that they appreciate the fact that I am able to wear so many hats on set. It makes my decision making that much more informed. Also, having multiple skill sets makes it easier to produce your own projects.

 

4. Be on time.

In a world full of traffic jams, subway delays, slow walkers and alarm clocks that mysteriously fail to go off, it is easy to have an excuse for being late. No, it is not going to kill your career if it happens occasionally, but trust me, chronic tardiness is a bad look. It will overshadow your talents and frustrate your peers. By consistently being on time, you are showing your peers that you value their time and that you also value the work you do. It is unfortunately one of those traits that often goes without verbal gratitude, but just know it is definitely appreciated!

 

5. Ask questions.

I still ask questions when I don’t know the answers to things. Chances are, someone around you does know, and by asking and getting an answer, now you do too; best way to learn. I think some people are afraid to do this because they think it makes it look like they don’t know what they are doing. It doesn’t, I promise!

 

6. Stand up for yourself. This one applies mainly to females, but is useful for everyone. If you are a woman working in an industry historically dominated by men, you may sometimes find yourself in the position of having to defend your talents and abilities. It is frustrating that it is 2017 and we are still dealing with this, I know, but discrimination based on gender (or sexuality, or race) still occasionally happens. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something as well as someone else solely because of who you are. We all share a passion for the same art form, and that should lead to inclusion, not exclusion! Some of the most talented cinematographers, directors and grips I know are female, and they are amazing! Do what you love, and people will love you for it

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The Truth About Solo Travel

‘’Not all those who wander are lost.’’ J.R.R. Tolkien

 

So, you've been longing to go on a trip for a while now - to take a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower, go skinny-dipping in the warm Caribbean blue sea, or climb to the top of Machu Picchu and feed a baby llama.  But unfortunately, you have no one to accompany you, and it’s the only thing that is stopping you from going on your worldly adventure.  Your friends can’t afford it.  Your significant other can’t get the time off work.  Or simply put, you don’t know anyone who can commit to a two week, one month, or let alone to a one year backpacking trip through South America. The thought of going alone is out of the question for you – it seems lonely, intimidating, and risky. 

Agreed. Venturing off all on your own, into an unfamiliar place, halfway across the globe, to somewhere where the locals don’t speak your language, could seem scary at first. However, with preparation and some guts, I can guarantee you that there are perks to traveling solo. Big ones!

 

1.     You have more freedom and independence.

If you are an adventure type traveler like me, you will probably have a list full of things you wish to do, see, and eat. Or maybe you are the opposite, and look forward to just relaxing on the beach while drinking margaritas all day, up until the day you have to return home. When you travel solo, you have complete freedom to explore the new city or country you’re in – however you’d like, and according to your own interests. Others that you're traveling with may, or may not, be looking to have the same experiences as you. For example, you know that if you and your boyfriend went on this trip together, you’d probably be guilt-tripped into paragliding, and you’d much would rather do yoga on the beach. Or maybe all your friend wants to do is party, but you really want to take some epic natures hikes. This type of freedom comes down to even the small stuff. Are you looking forward to waking up at 5am to catch the sunrise or sleeping in until noon? Would you rather peruse the street food carts for dinner than dining at a fancy restaurant? Not that you can’t have great experiences when you are traveling with others, but solo travel is definitely something to think about, especially when planning for long term travel.

 
 

2.     Your itinerary is completely up to you.

The only person you have to consider when planning a solo-itinerary is you. When I backpacked from Colombia up to Mexico last year, I began the journey with two girlfriends. The plan was to end our trip together in Mexico, and then from there fly to our hometowns back in the States, just in time to have Christmas dinner with our families.  Well, a few days before we crossed the border, the girls decided they wanted to check out Guatemala as well, which meant cutting our time in Costa Rica down to just two days. I’d heard so many amazing things about the land of the Ticos that I knew a couple of days was definitely not going to be enough. I had big plans to hang out with the sloths and monkeys. So I decided to stay, and the next day my friends got on a bus to Guatemala City. Following their departure, my original plan was to spend two days in Puerto Viejo, a cozy beach town that sits just above the Costa Rican/Panamanian border. However, the Pura Vida vibes kicked in, and I ended up staying a week! Solo travel allowed me to do all of this and more. 

 
 
 
 

3.     You gain more personal growth.

Solo travel forces you to put yourself out there. I can honestly say that traveling without a companion has definitely helped me gain more self-confidence.  If you are traveling alone, you really only have “you, yourself, and I” to depend on, from deciding which Airbnb to stay at, or asking for directions and ordering food. People travel for many different reasons. One reason being to take a break from their everyday routine, and to take some time to reflect. If that is your goal, traveling solo is one of the best ways to achieve this. By being on the road alone, you have so much undistracted time to explore you and your surroundings, without being rushed or waiting around for someone else.  This also helps you to learn a foreign language faster if that is your goal. After every solo trip I take to a Latin country, I swear my Spanish improves each and every time.  When I traveled to Cuba with a friend who was fluent in Spanish, as much as it was convenient to have her there translating for me, I hardly got to practice at all. Think about Julia Roberts’ character in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, do you think her experience of self-discovery would have been the same had she been traveling with someone else? My guess is probably not.

 
 
 
 

4.     You make more friends.

Okay so I know this article is about traveling solo, but unless you’re going to Easter Island or some other super remote destination, you will be engaging with other people at some point, whether it’s other travelers or locals. You are bound to make friends either on a group tour, at a hostel, or asking for information. The same concept applies if you are hanging out at a cafe or bar alone, people will be much more inclined to approach you rather than if you are in a group. In turn, you will be much more open to approaching others as well. One of the biggest perks for me when traveling solo is meeting other people, especially other solo female travelers like myself, from all around the world.  It is awesome to learn about where they come from, and very inspiring to hear their stories. I have made several long-lasting friendships with people from many different places, and can delightfully say that I now have a place to crash in every continent (still working on Antarctica). Had I been traveling with a group, I may not have met some of these adventurers that I can now call my friends. So, the truth is – when you are traveling solo, you are never, ever, really alone.

 
 
 
 
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Travel 101: How to Choose and Book Your Destination

I didn’t always have a desire to travel. When I was younger trying to get by in college with little money, I didn’t understand the reason or meaning of travel when friends talked about it. Five years ago my dad took me to Taiwan, my parents’ native country, I fell in love with the culture and lifestyle there. I loved tasting various foods in each city, observing people’s interactions and listening to conversations. Now that I'm older with a steady job and have traveled to several countries ranging in Asia, South America and Europe, I have certainly caught the wanderlust bug and want to share with you some tips on how to choose your next destination!

1.     Determine Your Budget

Now that you have made the decision to travel, check your finances and figure out how much you can afford for your trip. This will help you determine where to go and for how long.

2.     Choose a destination

When it comes to thinking about where you want to go, how do you get started? For me, I love being outdoors in nature and indulging in food, so the first thing I do is narrow down my research to the places I want to see and food I want to eat. Think about what you’re interested in – is it nature, multi-day treks, the city, the best restaurants in the world, learning about a specific history or a desire to eat a country’s food? I had a friend in college who wanted to study abroad years ago. She spun a globe with her eyes closed and decided that wherever her finger landed, she was going. She did it, Barbados for six months! If you are as adventurous and spontaneous as she is, go for it and spin that globe!

3.     Decide how long you will stay

For some people, choosing and committing to dates is the hardest part of planning travel. I would recommend making it a priority to figure out exactly how many vacation days you are able to take and from there, narrow down the top three to five countries and/or cities that you would like to see.

4.     How many places would you like to visit?

Based on your budget and the length of time you plan to getaway, you can plan how many places you would like to see. Some people enjoy being on the go and seeing multiple countries in one trip. After trying both, I realized I personally enjoy getting to know one country, the languages and dialects, trying foods in different regions, and seeing what each city has to offer. One of my favorite trips to date has been Peru. I spent 18 days there and was able to see its extremely diverse geography, from the capital city by the coast and the mountains of Cuzco to the Amazon rainforest and desert sand dunes in Ica.

5.     Purchasing your flights, hotels and packages

I suggest booking flights and hotels three to six months out. Consider travel deals or packages to save money and time, or if you are willing to put in the time to research, you can book everything separately and still be able to save some money. Websites such as Kayak.com, Expedia.com and Travelocity.com offer bigger discounts to those who bundle their travel arrangements into one package; however, the downside to it is that you do not always get to choose the airline, the hotel, what time you fly out, or how long your layover is. I personally enjoy researching the cities and countries I plan to visit. It gives me an opportunity to be in complete control of which airlines I want to fly with at specific times and how long my layover will be – whether it is a few hours or a whole day. 

 

Now the hard part – the waiting game! It is the best feeling to have something to look forward to, especially when you are visiting some place new.

The meaning of travel is different for everyone. For some, it is crossing a destination off a bucket list. For me, it is about immersing myself in another country’s culture through learning the basics of the language to eating the local foods. Every experience can be a life changing one if you want it to be, and… if you let it be.

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Creative Outlets for a Happier Life

As we grow into adulthood, our lives become filled with responsibilities, meeting expectations and maintaining our day-to-day routines. It is no wonder that many of us experience constant stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with our quality of life. Working in the legal field is a prime example of a profession where many individuals work insane hours to meet the billable hour requirements. Lawyers, like other professionals, take their work home with them and experience many sleepless nights.

Research shows that when we primarily focus on just the things we “have” to do, or “should” be doing, whether at work or home, we feel drained, unmotivated, stuck, and lack zest for life. In addition to the overall discontentment with life, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to many types of diseases and illnesses, such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and fibromyalgia to name a few.

With this realization, many psychologists, researchers, and coaches have emphasized the need to balance our work with our personal life in order to feel contentment. There are many tips out there for how to feel reenergized and balance our need for fun and productivity. However, from my personal experience, as well as working with my clients, I have found that a great way to bring spark and enthusiasm back into our lives is through a creative outlet.

 

Can you think of a time in your childhood when you were writing an interesting story, drawing a pretty picture, even playing a sport or instrument? How did it feel to be engaged in such an activity? Generally, when we are engaged in a type of creative expression that we enjoy, time tends to stand still as we pour our hearts into our creation. The feeling of time standing still, or being “in the zone” is such an exhilarating feeling, not to mention completely freeing.

I grew up playing the piano and from middle school through college, I sang in various choirs. The feeling of being on stage, and singing a melody on pitch and in harmony was such an ecstatic experience. I could play the piano and sing for hours at a time, without even thinking about taking a break. Even when I rehearsed alone, a sense of joy overwhelmed me when I allowed myself to succumb and be enthralled by the melody.

After college, I figured it was time to get into the “real world,” which meant pursuing a career, building security and working a stable job. I stopped singing and most of the time I didn’t even have the energy to sing. As I found myself regularly unhappy, unmotivated and borderline depressed. I desperately sought ways to improve the quality of my life. What my heart kept yearning for was that feeling of euphoria that I felt every time I sang, even off-stage. That was when I committed to making changes in my life.

Aside from the fact that I began to pursue my real passion in life by helping people heal, I decided to hire a vocal coach once a month for singing lessons. The goal wasn’t to become a professional singer. Rather, I needed to have a creative outlet that would allow me to switch from “doing” to “being,” i.e. being a creator of music and a vessel for melody to pour through me.

 

All too often, many of us get so caught up in the need to mark things off our “to-do” lists, that we do not engage our creativity enough.    

Everyone has some type of creative expression. An article in Psychology Today mentions how creating something and changing inner states into outer productions, acts as a mood enhancer as well as a natural antidepressant. Having an artsy or playful side helps to alleviate feelings of frustration, anger, depression, and anxiety because of the natural healing advantage creative outlets have on our overall well-being. This has a lot to do with feel good neurotransmitters that our brain releases when participating in such activities.

Anything that allows you to create and innovate, especially with your hands, relieves stress, has a grounding effect, and promotes mental clarity. Best of all, creative outlets have also been proven to increase and renew brain functions! Most of us engage our critical thinking side all day long, but studies have shown that creative outlets promote the development of new neurons because different parts of the brain are being nurtured.

 

With all of this in mind, I have included some suggestions for how we can incorporate more creativity in our daily hustles while adding to our quality of life.

One suggestion is to incorporate more of the things we enjoyed doing as kids. What activity made you feel as though you couldn’t get enough? Whatever that may have been for you, try to dedicate an hour a day of doing just that. If an hour is too long, even 30 minutes can do wonders.

Also, if you have children, spend some time playing games, cooking, baking, or gardening with them. Whether you spend time together playing with toys or encouraging them to join you with chores around the house, children are naturally joyful, and their happiness is contagious. It will also bring out your inner child and make even mundane tasks feel fun. Not to mention, your children will love the extra quality time that they will have with you too.

Dedicating some time to honor your creative side is an act of self-love. The key is to express your creative side without any judgments and to allow yourself to be fully present in the activity!

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How to Balance Being a Parent and Living a Fit Lifestyle

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Once you become a parent – your time, interests and responsibilities begin to shift from taking care of yourself to caring for another life as well. It can be a difficult transition to adjust your lifestyle, to adapt to this new responsibility, and usually – fitness takes the backseat. That is totally understandable. No matter what ages your children are, your routine is bound to face many setbacks and changes, that’s life. If we are not changing, we are not growing; sometimes you just have to roll with it. Being a wife and a mother to 3 toddlers, I managed to lose 80 lbs. and through this process, I have learned a lot. This is simply a list of the top 5 strategies that I use to maintain a fitness regimen:

 

1. Set realistic expectations:

First, recognize your starting point. If you are unsure, or just starting out, one way you can take note of your fitness level is to walk/run outside, or hit the gym; notice how long it takes you to get winded, or tired. After having two babies and getting minimal exercise throughout my pregnancies, I got the urge to begin exercising again! I started by going on morning walks and doing yoga. This was helpful so that I could get my body used to moving regularly.  I noticed progress and felt happier, healthier, and more confident. Eventually after giving birth to my 3rd child, I joined a gym to participate in group classes. Now, 3 years later, that is all I do in the gym. I even enjoy doing two classes back-to-back when given the opportunity.

It was a gradual process with little baby steps. Making slight changes over time make a lasting difference! So, do not get discouraged if you feel like you are too far from where you want to be, and don’t rush. With effort and patience, you will one day be surprised at how far you have come. As a parent, your time is dedicated to shaping that little life, or lives, that you and your partner created. Try not to worry about having limited time. Just take note of where you are, get started, and watch yourself progress!

2. Eat a balanced diet:

When you eat properly, your body will respond with increased energy and mental clarity. Also, it will make exercising easier! Avoid eating out and enjoy using your kitchen. Not only will this save you money, but your kids will enjoy the comfort of a home, and home-cooked meal. This will bring you tons of positive energy. You will find more confidence in knowing the food you are putting in your body is good for you and your family. Also, as a little bonus, you will find confidence in your ability to create. Giving your body proper fuel will motivate you to move more and enjoy the moments you get to veer off and treat yourself!

3. Play with your children:

I know. It sounds too simple, because it is! Get up and run, jump, dance and play outside with them. Take them to the park and don’t just sit there on your phone. Get up and PLAY. Sure, it’s a great work out, but more importantly, your kids will be filled with joy to have their favorite person in the world playing with them. The joy it brings you and your kids will motivate and inspire you. This will keep you on track because not only are you moving your body, but you are nourishing your spirit and building a relationship with your kids. It feels good.  If your kids are at the age where they are too cool to play with their parents, invite them to jog or walk with you instead. There is always a way!

4. Challenge yourself:

Once you get into a groove, recognize it is important to continually learn and try new things. Having a routine is important, but monotony is detrimental to growth. Apply this mentality to your fitness regimen and mix it up! You may feel uncomfortable at first, but the results are beneficial. One way to look at it is to avoid solely focusing on your long-term goal. Set up mini challenges through the process and you will find motivation in accomplishing them. You will also be reminded why you started this journey. Plus, as a parent, your time is limited and your daily life tends to be hectic and busy. Making small goals for yourself can help limit any anxiety or worry that you may endure. So, when setting these challenges, it is a good idea to make sure it is something manageable for you. A few ideas are waking up early for the gym 3 days a week for a month, a 30-day yoga challenge, or going on a walk every day after dinner as a family. Pick something, set a reasonable time frame, and commit to completing it.

5. REST!

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, listen to your body. Being a parent requires many demands. Without proper rest, you have a greater chance of facing the feeling of burn out. Pushing yourself too much can send your results back, so be aware of that. After some time, you will have a better understanding of the signals your body is sending you when it needs to rest. The weeks can be filled with work and household obligations, the weekends are often packed with play, travel, and family time. Giving your body adequate rest will make it easier for your immune system to keep up with your fitness lifestyle and parenting responsibilities.

 

I hope this list will help any parent who may be finding it difficult to keep up with a fitness routine, or get started. Eat healthy, keep learning and move your body – it’s all about balance. By implementing these strategies, you will notice changes. Each positive change you make for yourself, the better off you and your loved ones will be. Just remember to be patient and enjoy the process!

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