I, the actress

I came across my bucket list recently while sorting through my computer. I had last updated the list in early 2018 and was surprised to see that a couple of the items I had unknowingly accomplished in the past year and a half. Otherwise, everything else on the list still applies — That is, I still want to accomplish them. One item reads, “eat a banana off a tree,” another, “write a book,” a third, “design a shoe.”

But as I was reviewing the items, many of which were quite profound (have children, develop lifelong friendships), it occurred to me that this list was incomplete. If a bucket list is a list of items we believe will change us, provide us with some kind of enrichment we cannot die without having experienced, then my list lacked something which recently opened my world and has completely altered me.

This past summer, I enrolled in my first Meisner Technique and Scene Study acting classes. In any other city, I may have stumbled upon a fun, introductory acting course for beginners. But having just moved to New York, I accidentally enrolled in advanced level courses. In being surrounded by serious professionals dedicated to the craft of acting, I’ve been challenged to unlearn the social politeness that I’ve built up the past 27 years to instead reconnect with my truthful feelings in the moment. I have learned to connect to my honest experience of the world in every interaction, thereby connecting to my emotional core and essential instincts.

I discovered that the emotional work I’ve developed in therapy, the years of contemplating people as characters, and the insatiable habit of reading psychology in every second of my spare time all laid an expert foundation for slipping into the skin of a complex human being — a practice of deep empathy. I have started obsessively reading plays, digging into the darker sides of human experience while also appreciating the need for the lighter, joyous moments. In the process, my heart has opened up to people as I synchronize myself with them through authentic understanding.

Through the character of Masha, I learned how to embrace self-assurance and power; Through Irina I learned of my own inner lightness. Through my acting partner Paul I learned that core human truths are truly timeless, known as far back as Jung, Chekhov, and Ancient Greece; Through my acting partner Bobo I learned about my own pattern in relationships and friendships, as well as my essential core values.

I added a new section under my Bucket list that reads “Things I didn’t even know were on my bucket list until they happened,” and the first item under there is : “Find a new passion and change as a person because of it.”

Why I'm going back to school...

I am currently pursuing a joint MBA-MFA degree at New York University.

I’ll be receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts
and a Master of Business Administration degree from NYU Stern School of Business.

The program ends in 2022.

“I feel like I’m at the bottom of the ladder again.” I was talking to my friend over some particularly gooey deep-dish pizza. The words “sell-out” began floating around my head, and friends were grieving my film career as if I had given up on beauty and art altogether. It was clear that for all my peers, my MBA applications were a personal offense to their idea of what my career should look like as a filmmaker. Somehow, getting a business degree was me hanging my hat, caving into the pressure, saying “I’m no longer an artist” and returning to my Silicon Valley roots. All of these myths started taking shape around me, ones I had heard before but were now being repeated over and over again: “Real entrepreneurs just do it” “You don’t need a degree, look at [insert famous entrepreneur] who did it without one” “It’s a waste of money, spend that on making another film.”

It boils down to professional development and opportunity. When I endeavored on pursuing my first feature film project, I found myself dealing with a significant budget, accounting, legal obligations, tax incentives, marketing, and distribution. I was navigating questions like: how do I pitch this project at this meeting? Or, if I offer my domestic rights to this company, should I bother with selling my international rights to someone else? So it’s a business education indeed, but one that emerges circumstantially out of whatever the situation demands in the moment. Learning from experience will certainly help develop context, but it didn’t break the ceiling into a film career with longevity. My experience in A Good Dream was only sufficient to bring me to know how to replicate the same film, but it’s clear to me that I want the ability to do more than that. I want to be in a position to develop more projects and work with more talent. I foresee business school as a time to develop my business education through books, classes, and peers, in a concentrated effort and investment in developing an education of the film business.

The wonderful bonus of my program is the unique nature of a dual-degree. I’ll be not only pursuing my MBA as originally intended, but I also have the opportunity to continue my film education alongside of it. I have already completed an independent film from conception through to distribution - But being an artist entails not only developing a craft but also a point of view. I am open to the notion that forming a voice as a creative person may take years of growth, work, and insight. The opportunity to study film in an institute like Tisch among peers equally passionate and committed to pursuing cinema is a huge privilege. Where on my own I solicit feedback on my work from individual contacts, have one-off artistic conversations when the muses speak, or ask a colleague for technical gear and equipment advice, at Tisch I look forward to having 3 years of being surrounded by artistic peers to collaborate and create with. I see it as a setting that will foster my growth as a filmmaker, and I am super excited for it. Graduate school is an investment, but it is one I feel worth the cost for my person future goals.

“I feel like I’m at the bottom of the ladder again.”
“Well, you’re at the bottom of a new beginning. One with a new height.”