What did you do after you graduated? Were there any problems with actually working in the U.S.?
I started going to auditions. There certainly were problems. I didn’t have a Green Card so I couldn’t get paid. Every job and gig I had, I had to volunteer for them. I did get a lot of work experience out of it but I still had bills to pay. But then, as it happened, a friend took me to a restaurant in LA, owned by a Finnish-German chef, Stefan Richter. I got a job as a hostess but I had to spend all the money I was making to pay the travel expenses: gas is not cheap. So there were days when I had to eat cat food.
Fortunately, the restaurant served as a popular meeting spot for the staff from multiple studios, so I got to serve a lot of big names. After a couple of months, they got to know my face and I made some good contacts. I also came to the conclusion that I wanted to produce. In movie business there’s still a lot of sexism (we all probably remember that the #MeToo movement did indeed resurface from the midst of Hollywood actresses) and I wanted to be taken seriously and have my voice heard. When I was doing the acting gigs as a volunteer, I did have the chance to voice my opinions, but they weren’t taken seriously because of my age and my sex.
To get into producing, I had to get to the right people. They all went to the premiere after-parties, so on those days I fasted to save money for gas, got dressed to the nines, and waited outside the party venues, waiting for someone to leave so I could ask for their entry bracelet. Sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t.
How did you feel about that, eating cat food or not eating at all? Did you have any doubts or desire to quit?
Not really, I never thought coming here and building my career would be easy. Sometimes you just got to make sacrifices and give up the comforts in life. Then again, now that I’ve reached this point in my career, I really love where I am. Of course even now, doing business decisions, basically being a pioneer in my field, it’s rough. The process has been quite hard and painful, but I was able to achieve what I wanted and it is totally worth it. And in the future I can share what I’ve learned and give advice on what gives a profitable outcome and what does not. I encourage people to think outside the box and keep trying until it works out.
You are currently working on crowd-funded theater production here in NYC, is that correct?
Yes, even though I returned to NY with a bunch of contacts, I was still a newbie. Fortunately an acquaintance tipped me about a vacancy for a producer. I got to read the script, written by Broadway multi-talent Dep Kirkland (who also happens to be an ex-lawyer himself) and we decided to make it into a movie, but only after we’d made it into a play first, since the script was originally meant for that purpose. The play is called MsTRIAL, it’s a law-themed drama that was supposed to come out in Los Angeles, but because of conflicting opinions it was scrapped. I started presenting this idea and it caught more wind under its wings than I could’ve imagined. We are cooperating with amazing partners such as Daryl Roth.