2019 & Wuthering Heights
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~
Feeling Free on a Trail in Montana
Don't you love the season changes! I sure do :) Right now for me, in this season of my life, my schedule is running pretty packed with creative projects. One of the ones I've been looking forward to the most, Willow Creek Road, starts filming this week. Taking a real big breath and placing my focus as present as I can to enjoy every minute of this year long adventure getting to this point. Look for pictures soon! Sundance here we come!
In between The Big Muddy web series filming, photography, a few acting classes, some travel, reading, writing, filming for the Willow Creek Road, working, studying and all the day-to-day chores... there is family and friends that I love adventuring with. I have said it before, nature recharges my soul. Mother Nature needs our attention and it gives so much in return.
Earlier this month, I made my first long hike. I haven't made one this long in a few years. Our family feet carried us 12 miles round trip in about six hours. Hanging Valley Trail has been on my list. I was nervous that I didn't have the stamina to complete it; it was an intense hike. Lots of downed trees. Lots of pretty steep ups and downs. Through some tunnels and slabs of rock to the stopping end point. The end point was breathtaking as was our need for great big hamburgers once we got off the trail!
I am keeping this month's post pretty short as I keep trying to pace myself more towards balance in my life. I do have lots I am learning and will start sharing more soon.
All I want to say is, stay in the game! I know it's hard sometimes, things smack you in the face with disappointment or may be more work than what you might have thought. Stay after those dreams and goals. Shamelessly shine your light and talents bright out loud. Big hugs and loves
Off the Radar
Well, I got back on my feet… and then, fell off the radar. I am always dreaming, reaching, living, creating and experiencing. We all are. There are so many ups and downs. When people I know, love or care about disappear, it leaves me wondering and curious... what happened? So... where did I go? I've been busy…a life cliché I despise. I thought about sharing many times along the way and I haven’t. Lame, I know…Why? Who knows. I folded up into myself to re-sort, process, re-build and now re-emerge to find my sense of life direction still going north, south, east and west all at once. It’s been a job and a half tracking myself.
A list of credits roll for creative pursuits this past year: a kickass production of Spamalot with the Helena Theatre Company, a short film titled, “Beast” (was nominated best actor but didn’t win), a military film about PTSD that completed production, attended webinars to improve the business of acting, photo shoots, attended premieres of two Helena made inde films, networking with other artists, chakra energy class and study, poetry submitted for review for on-line publishing that was rejected, auditions, and started voice lessons and am now up to a full year with a few recitals -no glass breakage, whew… and much more. What a year leveling up skills!
…and then there’s the personal stuff. Processing a year of firsts without my dad has been real rough. I miss him. Snowboarding, hiking and my first mountain biking adventures -nature feeds my soul. The realization that my daughters are living life, don’t actively need me, and holy cow wow, did I do a good job as a mom! Friends with celebrations and crises to support. First trip out of the country to Nicaragua -so so many firsts there, hard to count: -the sweetness (and scariness) of my first swim in the ocean & learning to surf, -my soul being deeply touched being among so many brave, resourceful people making their way in a poverty stricken country. (This is a picture of a typical rural home). We are so lucky in this country. My heart was blessed with so many authentic smiles despite their rough life. What a gift. -allowing myself to be open and sweetly vulnerable to love again, which left me face down for a while with my heart broken into a million pieces. And, of course, there is all the usual day-to-day life stuff at work and home which I am lucky enough and appreciate being able to do.
So I’m just another actor with emotions, creativity and life happening…why the heck check back in? When I fall down, over, off of…or anywhere, I must get back up, bounce, or something.
My inner champion doesn’t let me stay down.
One of the biggest struggles I've had in the last year is allowing the large range of emotions coming from my experiences to all live in the same house. I kept wanting to sift out the bad and painful ones. They were sinking me.
What I chose to learn in making room for all of my life and it's rich experience of emotions is that change is always there… as is my resilient storytelling about myself, to myself. I realized my self-talk (storytelling inside myself of what my life was going to look like) had gotten saturated in heartache. My brain and soul were in a huge tug-o-war over what life experiences and emotions were going to dictate my next move...in anything.
Allowing pain and heartache to just be in my house has been plain friggin' hard. The trick, though, was for me to learn to not focus on the emotion/event but rather... use the energy from them to propel me forward in creative and other parts of my life. That energy has helped me start making better decisions for me. And it all started...from the decision and raw determination to get up out of that sinking feeling. I've noticed too, that my heart has softened with more compassion and I was able to re-introduce me to my vulnerability which had gotten so many hard spots from obsessing about getting the heartache out of the house.
SO I am beginning again... or maybe even better, continuing where I Ieft off. Cheers to the hundredth or maybe thousandth time of falling and getting up. If you have fallen lately, keep a soft heart for yourself, it's ok, it's going to be ok… just get up and get going.
If you choose to fall... fall upwards, bounce... :)
Back on my Feet
Back on my feet… well mostly. The last eight months have been pretty rocky. My daughter broke her kneecap which required surgery, my neighbor passed away as did two of our family cats, a couple other family members have been in the hospital for severe digestive problems requiring surgery and stroke, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer in December 2012. I can’t write those words and not feel a large watery lump in my throat and tears run down my face. My winter and into mid-spring involved many trips to care for my daughter and dad; between Salt Lake and Seattle, I think I may have put over 4,000 miles on my truck.
I watched my dad over the years create life and care for us. He worked so many lower end blue collar jobs from tire changing, security, post & pole, odd jobs and a lot of janitorial jobs. Hard, brutal work to do to make sure our family had the bare minimum basics. Our family has been homeless and hungry and stranded. I watched him stand in unemployment lines. I watched him swallow the largest pride a man has in providing for his family by having to pan handle for money when we were stranded in traveling.
My family had so many, many just plain old life survival hardships, that when we got the lab reports, I was stupefied speechless. I was mad as hell at God as I thought we had served our time in tragedy and suffering over the years pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps barely surviving at times. I think I lived in a make-believe world and thought that maybe maybe illness and death would not apply in the usual way. We could just live to old age and pass away in our sleep, if we had to die even at all.
He passed away in mid-April of this year. I made my peace with my dad a long time ago; so in being with him dying, there was very little angst left. Being with my dad at this point was beyond words -it was the purest state of being and honoring another‘s spirit. I was so very humbled as he was so brave in facing everything in the last months of his life - I hope I can be that brave. My memories now are ever so precious of sitting with him wrapped in blankets on my couch and massaging his back when he hurt.
We always had a bit of tug of war on life perspectives; him coming from the 1940’s perspective and me with my Generation X artist view. One thing we never argued about was how much we loved each other. I miss having him here to share my life with. I love you very much dad, you were one of my life hero’s.
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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