Hello and happy May Day! I wanted to share some news as my regular blogging has taken a back seat in deference to navigating the super tough time in this global pandemic, taking classes and skill building, and sharing my valuable attention with close family and friends that've needed support.
Currently, I'm actively seeking an agent/representation so I can swing for the stars in Hollywood. During the pandemic, I was cast via digital audition/Zoom in a short film, "They Don't Leave" which is about generational trauma starring three incredible women directed by Caz McGovern. We're in pre-production and rehearsal for filming June 2022. In autumn 2022, I'll finish up with pick up shots and acting as Queen Gertrude in an epic independent Montana film version of "Hamlet." I'm also .kicking. ass in my AudioBook class where I'm learning to be an audiobook narrator so I can expand where I'm sharing my acting talents.
So much is going on in the world still too. As you read this, feel a warm hug of encouragement coming right through my words and through the screen to you. The Earth ride has been bumpy and so rough; many parts of our world are struggling terribly, people are still not safe in their rights, and some are literally fighting for their freedom. God Bless the Ukraine. Keeping things moving along, doing my best with excellence, grace, fortitude, and fierce love is how I'm managing to stay focused and sharing everything I can. Collectively we're doing it too - - it's slow work deepening our consciousness and becoming better.
Spring is creeping in at turtle pacing in here. I've already been up on the mountain getting my trail legs warmed up for summer biking and hiking and also taking pictures as usual. The quote on my photo has been ringing the bells in my soul and heart lately - - especially when it comes to owning my greatness in my very unique journey. Come on over and socialize out on social media and share respectfully with me there! Let's keep moving. Big loves xo
Update May 27, 2022
PS - the primary election is the U.S. is occurring until June 6, 2022. Our nation needs leaders; not thoughts and prayers! VOTE. Truly observe what the person stands for, do your own research, and vote for people who have the insight, foresight to put better policies into action that protect our rights, safety of our children, and our freedom.
Rewind time to...mid-March 2020 - what were you doing? I’d won a Best Supporting Actress award for the film "Wuthering Heights" at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in California. Joyfully, I accepted the award and shared a speech for artistic recognition with gracious accolades for my film team, family, and friends. For more than a decade I've championed my film acting heroine’s journey; the acknowledgement was well-earned for artistry and persevering.
When the hoopla of winning an award dies down, you're left with you and your trophy… then what? On the heels of this award win was fast escalating news about our entire world being in epic trouble. With the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 quickly becoming a global pandemic, any award winning honeymoon heroine feels got dumped quickly as the plane wheels squealed to a halt on the airport runway at home. I charged off to the grocery market to purchase some essential home items as Shelter in Place notices went up around the world.
Toilet paper was nowhere to be found, along with many necessities, due to mass panic purchasing by hordes of people who, like me, were terrified about the effects of a worldwide crisis. I'd gone from a glowing award winning actress … to the stark reality I needed to hunker down at home for an unknown amount of time without some real basic necessities. I’d hoped to have a celebration with friends and family. Instead, being considered essential personnel at my regular job, I masked up and collected every bottle of hand sanitizer at home to arm myself with light sabers of cleaners against these microscopic health invaders. Like a lost cork in the ocean and with dinner plate sized eyes of fear, I bobbed up and out between work and home stepping outside of that circuit for needed supplies and sanity giving walks close to home.
No one could predict how the coming days, weeks, or months were going to go. I sensibly set the award aside. I assisted a friend with videos for her small yoga business to go online, helped handle a serious family crisis, dropped supplies to a couple of people that were sick, and quickly re-sorted life to prioritize only basic needs. With my head spinning out for some sense of safety, I revisited a long list of at home chores.
Chasing unsanctioned activities of dust bunnies in long forgotten room corners, decluttering closets, deep cleaning cupboards, garage, and anything I could get my hands on combated full body panic and my apocalyptic imagination. As I’d pass my award, I'd glance at it wondering how to... or even should I, share more than a Facebook post about this awesome achievement. Other times as I passed it, I'd gush happy exhilaration and then the air would be sucker punched out of me by my army general survival brain hoarsely barking orders in my head where my focus should be so we could be ready for anything.
I felt like a human cannonball launched forcefully into a girdle of reality one size too small making me reckon with many parts of myself. There was no way out but to deal with thoughts and feelings squeezing in on me about many things. Besides the pandemic and becoming ready for what I feared was total world collapse, I kept thinking about my accomplishment too and felt a sad sinking feeling I wasn’t doing right by myself. What does winning an award for my artistic endeavors mean? And even more, does it mean anything to receive an acting award in a pandemic? If so, what?
The safe thing was let it sit on the shelf and be quiet but it wouldn't. It was vibrating with wild tribal delightful energy.
As I shoved this glorious award win down inside myself, an unrelenting primal drumbeat began pounding at my head. I hunkered down in a self-dug foxhole in my mind guarding my award winning feeling like a secret crush so no one could expose and shame me for having that feeling. I felt like covering it up like a wart I had on my finger in 5th grade. An award is not a wart, but it felt like one to me since winning it occurred in a time where lives & global safety were at stake.
I Googled for guidance on how to handle winning and found sports and lottery win references. Some articles had terse cautionary information about not making it your identity; others had very mixed feeling messages. I found articles about success mindset, psychology of a winner, and a process to get to a win but nothing about integration of the energy and feelings that come .after. winning... and nothing about how to do that in a pandemic. How do you hold onto a winning feeling so it becomes part of your inner landscape of words in a healthy, progressive, thoughtful way and more importantly, why? In asking people, I got a few decent bite sized ideas or a return of surprised words I was struggling with this.
Hoping for insight, I flipped the subject over and tried a different approach. I Googled coming in next to or in last place or not placing at all (losing); there was plenty to read but nothing felt good in my gut. I’ve flopped at things and been near to or in last place many times… being in next-to-last or in absolute last place, remaining unnoticed, and even giving away credit for my work were self-dismissive mindsets I’d lived by. I’d convinced myself being "less than" was the way to be. I started experiencing piercing headaches as the metal clanking and pressure of battling words in my mind made me aware of how hard I was keeping that mindset part of my identity. These warring thoughts also gave me the kind of threatening juicy noisy stomach cramps you dread. Considering the shortage of toilet paper in the world, that was not good.
As the sniping of the nasty COVID-19 virus in the world worsened, my dark sense of humor sent the Darth Vader Imperial March theme music thundering through my head leaving me to wonder if there was hope anywhere in any of this. My mind registered the whisper of a 911 energy pinging alarm sound inside myself to pay attention… This is important. My heart kept telling me owning yourself no matter what's going on is also important as it plants purposeful, helpful seeds in my life now and for the future. With barely scraping by exhaustion from heavy mental and emotional loads and seeking answers along with holding the fort down at home, I finally sent myself into the sweet arms of Mother Nature. I needed to find some sort of center, get my face .out. of the news, and stop cleaning every God blessed thing in sight.
In getting to my favorite mountain again and taking a long time to observe the weather moving in a surprising realization wiggled into my awareness like a puppy dog’s nose nuzzling into your arm when you’re busy and it wants to play with you. Because of the pandemic, I was at a complete stop from my usual high speed way of doing life. I was able to see and feel my ugly stitched together poor self-concept plus bad quality self-talk; I felt it vividly in my body, heart, and head. No clear answers came through on what to do or what to think though.
The situation around the world grew more darkly grave with the horror of George Floyd’s death escalating and unleashing civil unrest that spread globally. What I thought was important about myself evaporated out of my awareness as this tragedy wrecked us everywhere and called us to action; the world needed all of us.
With resolute refocused energy I opened up my heart more and rolled up my sleeves for a long game as what became clear was that our "normal" world was collapsing. I got active for a culture of people that’s endured centuries of abuse by marching in Black Lives Matter, deepened my understanding, amplified voices, held space for and had vulnerable conversations. I was on a couple dozen Zoom introductions as Hollywood’s barriers came crashing down. I donated to the Actor’s Fund, Breonna Taylor’s justice, and stayed the course with regular commitments. I completed a digital course "Book More TV" learning to pivot into digital auditions in a rapidly changing film industry. I helped with details of a family member’s move in the middle of last year and took care of my brother before, during, and after surgery. At times, I was ugly crying, laughing, dealing with holy terror anxiety, laying on the floor at several points buried in blankets, I stepped-up care of my mental, physical, and emotional health and helped friends and family with the same. I headed up a huge office move at my day job as co-workers were handling deep crises. I turned a small area in my garage into a performance space to give my inner artist a gym and home, read books, wrote poetry, completed several classes in the Masterclass Online series, increased my photography skills taking nature pictures, filmed and edited a one-minute short film, focused on deepening my craft of acting & mindset, kept up with and supported my films in post-production, submitted five digital auditions, filmed on a closed set for a virtual play festival, remained a solid constant at work, patronized local businesses to support my community, snowboarded, Zoomed birthdays and a couple of auditions, was accepted and shared talent as a guest artist at my local college, began activist emailing, grieved several deaths with dear friends and so many other things...
Back to time now… mid-March 2021. The world’s emerging slowly to greet each other in person and in activities. We're making it. Our lives will never be like they were (HUGE understatement). I’ve seen whole hearted compassion grow with awareness of each other’s wounds where badges of busyness and flags of indifference were once proudly flown high. Beauty’s begun returning to our relating to each other along with the appreciation of physical presence of others. Frantic life paces turned up-side-down are registering more gratitude. For me, I’ve had some clear space now to bring into more focus the last twelve months.
When your name's called for something you’d only hoped for, I experienced a full body deep moving realization I’d done something powerful. All eyes were on me. Pretending not to see, witness, and validate your incredible talent(s) or even hide from it, no matter what rages on in the world, damages yourself and others by keeping your inner narrative in a powerless state rather than an empowered one.
In that special moment of achievement, I accepted the incredible synergy of grace wrapping around me with people witnessing me... imparting joy and faith to all of us to stay in the game! The award represented physical evidence of self-empowerment I hadn’t considered up until this point or given myself credit for my artistic work. There’s celebration and a responsibility to such a win.
Winning isn’t a narrative naturally imparted to a lot of us. Losing seems to be the narrative we absorb from the outside in and somehow that narrative has a ready automatic string of disempowered words from fouled up meanings we’ve taken from events and people in life. Winning does not have qualifying statements in it. It celebrates fully and completely the soul place the achievement comes from and the robust discipline needed to create it, accept, and receive it. I'm humbled and grateful for some dear close-up people in my life that offered a solid unified uplifted voice in support of me whilst I figured this out. We made moves every day to handle whatever microscopic to epic sized obstacles life hurled at us together and together we are collectively creating better narratives inside ourselves and outside ourselves.
Without being aware, I’d taken the empowered feeling, decided what winning meant to me, acted on it, and put it to work in life this past year. Because of the huge crises in the world at large and in my life, I heard loud and clear an internal microphone check. That deep listening and hearing that inner fire alarm bell gave me a gift of recognizing the most life-giving line of conversation can be affected in yourself… which blesses you into your growth and inspires you AND others into their empowerment too.
I’m consciously giving winning meaning now. Winning means the heroine isn’t away at distant places winning awards or conquering dragons - but bravely stepping up to ownership of a line of choices she makes to deal with and share her dark and light and talents right where she is. Where your light is - is your heart. your values, your work ethic, where you can be seen in all your glory. Where your dark is - is what makes you real, human, gritty, passionate, and whole. Bringing the two parts together, stopping the warring self-talk and adopting better words and meanings to yourself, allows a bigness of space inside yourself for the brilliant use of your talent and gives you self-acceptance.
I give lavish public and private praise and gratitude to everyone I work with and to those who support me. However, I wasn’t able or willing to take praise and gratitude inside myself for my accomplishments as I misjudged my ambitions as bad and, at times, I’ve felt embarrassed to shine my light about my talents. Other times, I felt because I am a woman, I shouldn’t have or desire warm accolades, recognition, and credit for what I’ve done. At this point I can now begin to choose to believe differently and also begin telling myself a story to support these better beliefs. I am important in my journey and deserve recognition and credit! Winning, along with praise and accolades for it, won’t become part of my identity but rather winning the best supporting actress award is becoming a valuable part of my heroine’s journey of honoring my dedication to the artistic craft as I kept showing up for myself, for the film, and for my castmates.
Winning the award is evidence I showed up excellently for myself + my film mates. Perhaps this is covered somewhere in detail, but thankfully, it wasn't anywhere I could find outside myself no matter what I Googled or who I asked. The humbling grace of quarantining, Shelter in Place, and also helping others around me during this pandemic made me go to the one place I kept skipping over for guidance, myself.
Can you survive winning? Hells yes! You are meant to thrive with it. Prepare yourself to roll into a better inner narrative that’ll light the way into your future and join me in up-leveling beliefs about yourself to evolve with it! Our BEST hope is inside each of us changing our self-concept and self-narrative to a better one that imprints clearly empowered sureness of energy and language that lets us know: I can do this and I am important in this journey!
Finally, a year later I feel I can say with much love and gushing with my whole heart, and my eyes full of hot sloppy happy tears… (cue opening music for Star Wars music in my head since I love it so much!)
Dad, mom, family, and friends, I won the Best Supporting Actress Award.
I .am. an award winning actress!
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As I finished this today, my heart breaks all over again - there's more work to do. The world needs our open mind, heart, activism, and your absolute best self. God bless and peace be with the hearts and families in Atlanta, GA. from the string of shootings at Asian businesses.
In reviewing this March 17, 2022, these words couldn't be more true. You stepping into an empowered narrative inside yourself to share your talented value is what is going to light up the world in amazing ways. You lead by example. The world needs art; it needs creativity. It needs our bravery in connecting to God, our goodness, talents, and love and to boldly express that in the universe through being in our best humanity.
If you already have - - thank you!
If you haven't, there's still time. Resources are available in every
state to guide you to where you can get your ballot and vote.
Updated May 27, 2022
Google: where do I vote (your state name) election 2022 to get started!
There's no way to be quiet about the support that needs to grow and improve for women, minorities, and children in our country in all areas of life - wages, healthcare, education, and policies to name just a few. There's no way to be quiet about the overhaul that needs to happen in our social justice system and the raising up of the black lives and stories in our country. There's no way to be quiet about the care and thoughtful action our land & nature needs in order to respect it and sustain us now and into the future. I join those voices, best I can every day, to make a positive difference and hold myself accountable by taking the best daily actions I can.
Co-vid 19 is striking the world so hard. Staying in faith’s requiring heroic efforts and more than ever the need for each human being (and the planet) to have support. If you’re struggling, as I have been too, please remember to reach out to your crew (family, friends, and if necessary professionals) for help keeping your mind balanced and to ease that encompassing dark sinking aloneness we feel when we’re in crisis. Often I remind myself to focus and witness the community around me helping & feeding each other and relaxing long standing heart walls to connect in tender ways.
These past months I've been taking pictures with my I-phone finding beautiful light, writing poetry, and sitting in the great peacefulness of nature... letting that amazing, truly bountiful energy fill me up like the freshness of a good rain after a long stretch of hot, dry, Montana summer weather.
Navigating our way through and out of this pandemic, healing ourselves and the planet, will take time. Remember, it’s the long game and we're in it to shed crusty old energy layers, come alive with new awareness & appreciation for wonder & miracles, and reset to more community based thriving.
Touch the picture on your screen for a moment and feel the love and care in it as I intentioned my imperfect, novice, mostly sentimental poetic words for a heart that needs some perking up life energy. Take this bit of inspiration, feel your feels - stay engaged in spirit, fill up your energy in the best way you can with some self-care, encouraging self-talks with the little child in you that’s scared and needy. When the time is right in your bones, remember, sharing good energy makes it multiply and give back to yourself again and the world around you.
Many warm energy hugs from right where I stand now. -Mary xoxo
A whole year has flown by since I last blogged! For quite a few days, I felt bad that I'd dropped an artistic commitment I'd made to myself to write regularly... until I really let myself acknowledge how much I've been in the trenches of creating art, growing, and taking care of life in the past twelve months. I decided to give myself a shout out and douse myself in some well-earned recognition, love, and warm validation!
At the beginning of 2019, I embraced a three & a half month intensive series journey of online acting classes with Jo Kelly. In July, I completed an industry-standard audition intensive class with Crystal Carson in Atlanta. I've managed to take five Masterclass Online Classes (acting, directing, filmmaking, & screenwriting), pole dancing class, and read several books fortifying my acting skills and talents. Late in 2019, I took a six week acting class at Grand Street, our community theatre, further knitting together inside myself acting skills I'd learned. Made time to see fellow artist's shows and music performances to cheer them on and read a play nearly every month with a study group. I've been so proud of my deeper dive in understanding why I'm an artist and shedding things, people, and processes that weren't inspiring me to stay focused & optimistic. I've gained so much insight, confidence, competence, and developed new processes that align with my soul, the way I learn, and keep my creative fires burning bright.
Photo credits: Jason O'Neil, Justin Baker, Charles Perry
I've auditioned a few times this past year and was successfully cast in a short film "Homestead." We filmed in October 2019. A stellar crew from LA and Montana rolled a heart moving script into the camera and it's in post production. Rough cut is done and another round of fund raising was completed by our project creator Jenna aiming for film festivals later this year. I worked on the documentary "Black Cowboy." I put nearly two year's worth of work into preparation for filming. With direction from the director, I completed an interview, made connections, provided feedback & advice, provided lodging & food for the team one day, and did a ton of historical research to share my time and talents. Completing an online course, "Copy Cure" has doubled my confidence in communicating myself as an artistic entrepreneur. Was so tickled to be cast in a local commercial as a snowboarder. PSA coming soon! Worked with a rad group of Missoula filmmakers as I was cast in the movie, "We Burn Like This." In April 2019, as an actress & executive producer, I had the privilege of joining my friend Jenna (creator, lead actor, writer, producer) in Hollywood for the showing of our film "Willow Creek Road" at the TCL Chinese Theatre. What a dreamy highlight of my year! Another film short I acted in, "Sudden Developments," premiered at the Bigfork Film Festival in the spring of 2019. I became a professional this year and am more determined and clearer in how I desire to share my talents on this wild, great adventure.
Photo credits: Jenna Ciralli, Tashia Gates
Giving myself pats on the back for the epic undertaking to grow myself more fierce in my passion for life and desire to master my art. I'm coming to real terms of my inherent self-worth and the raw, unashamed healing I've done with a study group of badass women learning and living the way to more self-love. We've read and applied skills from three books this year that have steeped me in the warmth, support, and nurturing I was craving to be seen and heard. (Books: "You are a Badass at Making Money" - "Rise Sister Rise" - and "Everything is Figureoutable.") I now have rituals, like meditation and reflection journaling, more dialed into practice so I can contain the joy I create, stay in the center of my personal power, and process sorrows & get myself back on my feet so much better! Fierce. Inherent worth. Genius. Talented. Gorgeous. Sexy. Articulate. Intelligent. These words are becoming more dominant in my talks with myself thanks to this coven of women and several other tight-knit friends.
Late winter and early spring 2019 found me snowboarding at Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine, Mount Norquay, Sun Valley, Snowbird, Brighton, Big Sky, and Great Divide. There is nothing like the freedom of taking that board to the snow, letting the great big forest cleanse my energy, and share my love & attention with Mother Nature.
Summer 2019 was filled with adventures in nature (understatement! - - including going the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah!), meeting new friends, playing underneath the warm summer night sky, and learning more to allow and ask for support when I’ve needed help with my emotions and mindset (big gulp -- which was very courageous of me to do!).
In between the art, growing, and adventuring, I've handled my day job with much more communication and better focus. I traveled to Austin, Texas for a national conference and experienced the lively, creative culture there too... along with watching a million bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge! I've had more truck issues than I can count - - super annoying! - - from the ignition to starter, to an axle joint breaking. Endured the main water pipe of my house freezing, yikes! Digging in with all my determination, got a plumber hired, and came to a whole new appreciation of having running water! Shared time trail building with the Prickly Pear Land Trust, work that’s so satisfying to my soul! Priceless family time sharing adventures at an immersive art studio, aquarium, epic Halloween maze, and cooking, laughter, and wine. Helping a close family member through a head injury, another one through some serious mental & emotional trauma, and keeping up my chores often left me to fall face first into bed exhausted every night. In between the ugly crying, healing up a shoulder injury, and doing my best in friendships, Made time to visit my best friend forever while her son was recouping from surgery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and joined friends at Chico Hot Springs to celebrate birthdays. Met one of my soul sister friends in Sun Valley and shared time, amazing food, and planned & celebrated our artistic endeavors. I relearned my commitment to time management like a boss. Holy crap...it's sure tough as hell to pace myself and balance all the things!
I learned how to focus my energy way better with the generous help of a dear veteran friend. He shared time, talent, and energy to teach me some basics of Tai Chi. We met regularly on the best of Montana summer days in the park and let our feet be on the earth and the sun on our faces. He gave me the gift of flight - the ability up-level my self-belief and to be flawed, perfect, and accepted for being the amazing piece of human art I am. He shared many hours of confidence building chats over the best microbrew beers in town sharing the divinity, protective spirit, and laughter of masculine energy. Working with craniosacral therapist-reflexologist and essential oils artist Kelly, she put my magic back together and a spring in my step from injuries, accidents, abuse, and some deep childhood traumas.
The largest accomplishment of this past year, was being part of a tenacious filmmaking team completing the film "Wuthering Heights. Throughout 2019 and much of 2018, I spent nearly every Thursday night in a conference call connecting with five passionate artistic warriors completing Interwoven Studios Production of "Wuthering Heights." I spent countless lunch hours and evenings following up on phone calls, texts, and emails, scheduling, helping with team morale, reviewing film edits, performing ADR (audio digital recording) and carrying out a ton of tasks connected to marketing and communications.
Photo credit: Rachel Riitano
We had our premiere late in December 2019 in Montana. I couldn't be more proud of the grit, determination, and perseverance our main team of five people has, along with some incredible technical artists, pulling this independent film baby out into the light! Conquering distance, heated discussions, making compromises, creating resourceful solutions, and completing what seemed like seven thousand details... I feel like we've come through a creative war and resulted in us making the very best piece of visual art possible. Our version of "Wuthering Heights" has taken nearly five & a half years to complete. It's imperfect, just like every human being is... the heartbeats of love, talent, and crafted details captured the attention of every person who came to share in our screening. Our journey with film festivals begins January 2020 in Polson, Montana at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest.
You can follow us on Facebook or check our website to keep up with our journey with this film! Click on the picture icons directly below.
This past year has been one of individuating myself and moving into .owning. myself - - the real me underneath the masks. Handling my anxiety better, I learned more to express myself and communicate while in the processes of life rather than venting about it afterwards, spoke up for my value and time, removed toxic people from my close up personal space so I could really, really feel who I am, and then returned outwards in life-friendships-love-art with authenticity, warmth, forgiveness of myself, and more shamelessly shining my light, personality, and talents, regardless of the feedback given.
Humble gratitude for my close friends & family who've encouraged me, supported me, listened to me & shared their knowledge, gave me air time to vent my extreme frustrations & hurts, housed me in my travels, fed me when I was knee deep in intense schedule demands, hugged & held me, bought me beer, gave me rides when my truck was broken, high fived me, shared Reiki energy & prayers, and wiped up my tears. Truly could not've done the year without you!
I intend to put the things I've learned this past year into my play, art, work, love, and life in even larger ways. I'm scared to death, excited, and ready. Cheers to 2020!! xoxo
PS - Thank you for reading about "Wuthering Heights" and my activity filled year! If you've never made a list of things you've accomplished in a year, do it! Look through your phone and I’ll bet there are a ton of pictures you took of things you've done or experienced that made you feel great, loving, or accomplished. Marinate in the awesomeness of YOU getting out there every day and making your way in life. You are capable, worth it, and stronger than you know. ~Big loves~
Don’t you love seeing work or a dream progress?! "Willow Creek Road" started out as homegrown idea and blossomed into what I called a “handshake heard around the world” as I spoke to the project’s creator Jenna Ciralli during the earliest planning phases.
Jenna discovered me and our friendship through a casting director in Montana, Tina Buckingham. In our first conversation, Jenna and I hit it off like two long lost souls that had a million things to catch each other up on. Down to my toes I felt goosebumps telling me this was something pretty dang badass.
We would not meet face-to-face until about six months later. Through phone calls we got to know each other. As she developed her idea, she shared grace to allow me to help her make early decisions in formulating the short film. As more people came on board, I felt changes in the script and vision that took every ounce of faith I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other! Jenna, myself, and her stepbrother Bayard moved forward to create a video for Kickstarter that supported this project’s beginning pre-production into its filming.
"Willow Creek Road" changed a ton in it’s direction, filming, and editing shaking every inch of my creative DNA until I finally surrendered into what this project wanted itself to be. The film secured me a solid supporting actress role as Joey along with earning an Executive Producer credit for fundraising, behind the scenes support, and assisting with visibility of the project and its progress. The friendship and sisterhood that’s grown between Jenna and I from walking through the fires of creation, to communicating through hard stuff, and encouraging each other, is priceless. Truly, its become a warm embrace of feminine heart energy that continues to grow into other projects, uplifting talented women, and shaping our courage.
Through Jenna’s heralding and pressing “Willow Creek Road” into the light, our film has become widely received at film festivals around the country. In this journey, I’ve stepped into my voice, thoughtfully shared my perspectives, learned to put my pride in check more and more, improved acting skills, and fallen in deep admiration for filmmakers, actresses, and actors crafting their stories. Remain on your path, stay in faith, and keep choosing actions that make your work, creation, life, and love progress!
BOZEMAN International Film Festival
MINT Film Festival - Billings, Montana Photographer: Kenneth Jarecke
South Dakota Film Festival, Aberdeen Photographer: Greg Gilbertson
Most recently “Willow Creek Road” played at the Oxford Film Festival in Mississippi. It’s slated for viewing at the Seattle International Film Festival March 7, 2019 and March 16, 2019 at the New Filmmakers Film Festival in LA, and at the Maryland International Film Festival. It will premiere in the Holly Shorts Monthly Screenings in Hollywood in April 2019.
The film has received accolades for cinematography, best actress-Jenna Ciralli, and has been a festival choice for award at the MINT Film Festival and Monmouth Film Festival. (Full list of awards and film festivals can be found on my under my Pics tab-Film for Willow Creek Road on my website!)
I’m taking my own advice, even as I write this. Celebrate and allow success to integrate into your bones. It calibrates you for more of those experiences and helps spread your wings in what you are creating in life. I am excited to take this experience forward into more auditions and continued exploration in producing film.
Much, MUCH loves xoxo
PS You can track our film and its progress on the Facebook page! (Search: Willow Creek Road Film) or just click on our film name to take you right to it!
The fear of being misunderstood and criticized has driven many of us long enough. We want what our soul desires and to share our talents because it lights us up and that light becomes our gift to others. No more explanation needed.
I posted pictures earlier this summer I was cautiously pleased with, and that changed…
On a rainy June day I dragged an old crate out of my closet and dumped it into a glorious colorful smear onto my living room floor. There were pictures of plays I’d done, play programs, photo shoot pictures, class certificates, and behind the scene photos from creative adventures. They felt like they were from a lifetime ago. With good warm fuzzy feelings in my chest and conflicting loud voices in my head, I grabbed the back of my neck to rub a thundering ache of thoughts away.
Rifling through paper remnants of accomplishments I had forgotten about, my fingers whisked by some black and white photos that took my breath away. My eyes watered and softened, holy hot hell, I thought.
Leigh Kiernan | Photographer
My mind spun backwards years ago into the time frame the pictures were taken. I was new to town; my support system was nearly non-existent. The life I'd experienced up to this point made me absorb limiting ideas and snarky or jealous comments people would toss my way. Not knowing I could question what I was hearing, I multiplied that gross feeling energy inside myself. It felt like the world around me automatically assumed that if it looked pretty, then it had no problems, struggles, and was supremely confident. The way I appeared and the way I felt did not match. In my search for answers, I constantly explained my puzzling mental mess and the gravitation tugs in my soul to people that inquired and to those people that were in my corner. Often receiving dead end responses, I felt so confused about what I was discovering in myself. My belief system was on autopilot and like a high powered vacuum cleaner sucked up every poor quality story outside myself that held me back and pushed me down. With few good internal tools and meager positive reference points, I clung to those external negative narratives like the last life boat sinking with the Titanic. It’s no wonder the modeling I attempted didn’t go anywhere…
If you could go back in time to encourage your younger self, wouldn’t you just bear hug yourself and verbally impart mustard seeds of self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, and belief in yourself? When these photos were taken, I couldn’t see, feel, or believe I was capable of the creative story calling me from my soul. Nor did I really know how to value what I had, elevate or support my talents, and share them. So I thought, anyways.
Reflecting on these pictures and past accomplishments, I began to feel a fiery pride in every pore. of. my. skin.
Hot tears leaked down my cheeks. Feeling weirdly dizzy, I saw my younger self from the outside looking in. I realized this younger self didn’t know I’d learn to snowboard, mountain bike, travel all over the country, and some places outside of the U.S. I didn’t know I’d discover acting and be cast in over two dozen stage productions, act in six independent films and a dozen film shorts, attend film acting classes in LA and Portland, model for photography, make new friends, and have many more creative adventures! I didn’t know I’d experience the resilience of making a life after a heartbreaking failure of marriage and friendships and relationships, handle my borderline eating disorder, be a scrappy single mom living hand to mouth, or be with my dad through his cancer and passing. I’d also go through so many other life challenges that would bring me to my knees… only to heal, rise up wiser, stronger, and even more gorgeous in spirit. The younger self I saw in those pictures didn’t know or believe the power of my creative and life story resided within me -in words I say to myself and those that I chose to live.
When I sense a wild heart discontent that makes me feel like my teenage self who skinny dipped in the wooded lake areas of Minnesota and smoked cigars after too much whiskey, it’s time to take that feeling and grow. Digging deeper in myself these past months to own my life story, talents, and evolve acting skills with more radiance and confidence, I grabbed that old crate of pictures. Mining through the photographic bones of my past, I was looking for clues to open a vulnerability to myself I had long shut down.
Connection to others is messy, wonderful, often unpredictable, and confusing. The connection with myself is no different. I’ve tried so hard to keep connection compartmentalized, all neat with little bows. As you might guess, that, just doesn’t work.
After too many months of comparing how I’m vulnerable with myself to how other people do it, I figured out, as usual, I need to do things my way. Vulnerability, a seemingly elusive transparency that allows other people to see us --how we really are and also how we see ourselves. My vulnerability is messy, sad, nonsensical, funny, curious, and is often embarrassed to ask for help. My close friends, some family, and a few random human angels have been saying, ”you got this” and have graciously offered safety, listening ears, wisdom, and patience to help stabilize my floundering struggles.
As I rediscovered the amazing inside myself in these pictures and programs of shows I‘ve done, I felt myself appreciate my accomplishments for a minute, and then pretend I didn’t see them. It was a splendid (and friggin’ exasperating!) never ending game of hide and seek. I hide myself… from me.
Leigh Kiernan | Photographer
I have a deep need to hear sweet external encouraging words about myself and the artistic story I’ve been creating. These pictures (and programs), however, made me focus on words I’ve said and say to myself… Why have I had one hell of a hard time creating remarkable words consistently inside myself so I can hear them clearly AND believe them? I don’t have a perfect answer. The best one seems to be that I’ve had a paralyzing fear of being criticized or misunderstood so I stop owning my natural & cultivated talents, intelligence, and experiences -and pretend they don’t exist.
Rubbing the teary mess off my face and closing my eyes, I felt a strange but awesome prompting to bless and honor my younger self. My shoulders unhooked themselves from my ears and a delicious buttery sense of pride made me grin ear to ear. I had followed my intuition. I started pursuing a form of artistry (modeling) and I didn’t quit exploring, living, learning, achieving, falling on my face, and getting up regardless of what life threw at me or choices I made to discover myself as an artist. That, was SO brave. Declaring this to myself deep down, I sensed I had planted a flag on the moon that no one could take away.
Discarding narratives that do not serve my soul as I keep finding my way as an actress/artist is bold and courageous. I am meant to do and be something here on the planet; I am worthy, have valuable talent to contribute, and to share. It takes guts to admit this to ourselves, feel it deeply, and to allow ourselves to really fall in love with believing we are totally capable of creating from the story in our soul that guides us.
Self-vulnerability that recognizes and accepts our own assets, whether we are born with them or have cultivated them, feels somewhat magical and may be the missing ingredient in your own internal narrative.
There are two basic stories we tell ourselves in our own head: you suck (fear) and/or you are capable and wonderful (love). Putting those traits and experiences you consider brilliant about yourself into the love story you tell yourself about you… is brave self-vulnerability. I feel embarrassed, and silly sometimes, with how long it’s taken to put way more of my personal story building power inside myself.
I’m giving myself the warm bear hug I needed and still need now by evolving my beliefs about myself through mindset shifts and energy changes in my spirit. Using these transformations, I’ve been swapping out old narratives in favor of improved ones that support me.
It’s interesting and surprising how posting those pictures recently, now with support of good friends, family and some life experience, helped me start rapidly re-scripting even more of my emotional narrative from the ground up. Being recently inspired by a quote from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly, “When we bury the story, we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story, we get to narrate the ending.” has helped strengthen my focus inside myself.
Having boosted importance for narrating my story internally (with support for it from the outside) and owning what I’ve done so far is what these pictures clarified in me. They re-lit a sparkling fire of passion as an actress and emboldened my artistic voice to continue creating more vulnerably with all my talents and experience.
I’ve waited for the right time. I’ve waited for someone to allow me to feel and or tell me how begin that narration. I’ve waited for someone to answer the 'am I enough question in my story.' I’ve waited for critical narratives to stop and waited for other people to ’get’ what I’m creating. That narration begins, and began, when I decided it did AND it is what I desire it to be. No more explanation needed.
Regularly I restock my joy, peace, and passion for life. This month has found me in the mountains and also in a workshop immersed in acting study with Nancy Gabor. It’s been a month of reflection and deeper discovery for what makes my soul sing brighter with more confidence and freedom. It’s been a month of finding more patience with myself as I learn to level up my craft of acting. And honestly, it's also been a month of getting a bunch of house and repairs done! Plugging back in with fresh eyes and energy to press forward and upward to the next level.
I hope you’ve found some time to really take in the miracle you are on this planet. Lots of love and peace xo
“Useless” was slated to film late summer 2017 but due to Montana wildfires, production was wisely rescheduled. Link for info: "Useless" (Facebook)
Rolling back to early 2017, I submitted video auditions for two speaking extra parts and was cast in one of those roles. Presently, being based in Montana, I’ve been developing a better process of submitting auditions. Definitely made me feel excited to be cast from one of those videos and doubly excited to work with Tombstone Film & Production Company LLC on their film!
Earlier this year, productions let me know the film was still a go and scheduled to film May 2018. They also asked if I would be willing to step into a solid featured part. Of course, I said, “Heck YES!”
Photo credit: Sydney Resel
It's empowering when you can create a vision from your heart, follow steps & paths, handle the stuff that comes up, and then feel the joy of creating with a team of artists. It’s taken awhile for this little overachiever to fall in love with the whole process of making anything happen in my life really. No footstep ends up being useless when I feel the joy, wisdom, and connection around me. Those feelings invite me to notice and discover what’s next as I trail blaze my way towards my dreams and value each person, skill building, and experience more deeply.
Keep on dreaming & doing those things that make your heart sing. Bless the world in positive, loving ways like only you know how. xo
Curiosity rather than running. Patience rather than pressing forward. Stillness rather than busyness. Peace over struggle. People tell you to get out of your own way, “just be yourself.” What a gift when someone stays with you, allows you to find your way to yourself, and holds space to just… be. Being seen and leading fully and completely as yourself is a vulnerable choice. Being in front of your camera has taught me so much. Thank you Dennis! Digitalmontana Portraiture
Blog by Mary Riitano...
I'm a Montana actress on a journey sharing my heart and growth through blogging, stories, and poetry, I have faith you'll find empowerment and inspiration to create like a champion in your own life!
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