Global Activism & The “Trouble with the #FWord”: An Interview from Across the Pond with @FwordFilm Director Vanessa Pellegrin. #Feminism #Equality #YesAllWomen


When you talk to director Vanessa Pellegrin for the first time, one of the first things that becomes apparent is her combination of passion and intellect; especially when it comes to activism, specifically feminism and equality. These qualities have served the young documentary filmmaker well during production for a new project entitled, The Trouble with the F Word. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that we shared a similar perspective on the issue of equality in general.

Born in France, and raised primarily in Morocco, Pellegrin brings a unique viewpoint to the issue of feminism. She initially began her career as a journalist, specializing in investigative reporting, current affairs and sociological issues in Morocco (which is a very male-dominated society.) This led to an interest in film production, bringing her from Morocco to Spain and then finally settling in her current home of London. She believes that communications between the sexes are lacking and that there needs to be more of an open discussion about issues facing gender equality in the modern age. As Pellegrin puts it, she wants to “take the temperature” of the current state of equality on an international level.

In 2013, with the hundred-year anniversary of British suffragette  Emily Davison, Vanessa became inspired to explore how far women have come (or not) in terms of suffrage. She decided to document British activist Lucy-Anne Holmes, famous for the “No More Page 3” campaign and television host/actor Nick Lancaster as they explore contrasting views of feminism and equality in today’s modern culture. Actress, Emma Watson’s September, 2014 speech at the UN has only furthered the interest in this hot-button topic.

Faced with opposition from various political activist groups, including a Men’s Rights group, the film sets out to explore what problems women face globally by having two people from opposite ends of the spectrum swap viewpoints and investigate the other side for themselves. How far has women’s rights and equality really come? What issues do women in other countries face?  Pellegrin wants to bring a thought-provoking film to the masses in an era where women are still fighting for their voices to be heard.

Vanessa hopes to gain the remainder of the film’s funding from a Kickstarter campaign and release the film at the end of this year. For more information and updates on this thought-provoking film, follow them on Twitter: @FwordFilm

Official Trailer F Word Film from Vanessa Pellegrin on Vimeo.

Side-note: Vanessa has one of the most interesting accents I have ever heard in my life, and I could literally listen to her talk all day long. It was a pleasure to meet someone with such passion for a particular subject matter.

A Grain of Salt: Body Consciousness

The adolescent girl leaves her dolls dormant. But throughout her life, woman will be vigorously encouraged to leave and come back to herself by the magic of the mirror–Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex.

My mother has always instilled in me a sense of right and wrong, and that you can’t always take things personally. Rather, you must take things with a grain of salt. For my survival job, I work in retail, and often come across some rather unflattering behavior. Today was no exception. A woman came up to me whom I had helped before. In fact, just a few months prior, she had recognized me from a project I had done, and asked if I was in fact an actor. She began the brief encounter today by asking how my career was going to which I replied, “Fine.”  She proceeded  to inform me that I have apparently lost quite a substantial amount of weight,  and that her daughter, whom she described as “ugly and rather disgusting,” had also lost weight and looks “alright now.” She concluded by saying, “You remind me so much of my daughter.”  Okay, let’s pause for a moment. This woman just insulted her own daughter, and  gave the most back-handed “compliment” I have ever heard, all at the same time.

Since when is it okay to comment on someone’s weight when you don’t even know them? Well, obviously in this modern digital age, that would be all the time. As a society, we are bombarded with images of celebrities, and those who become celebrities due to weight-loss like the Biggest Loser winner, Rachel Frederickson. Women especially, are ridiculed no matter how much they weigh. They are either “too fat” or “too skinny.” As an actor, there are constant pressures to look a certain way. More than likely, that ideal falls into the category of skinny–must be thin to be successful. Case in point: A few years ago, I auditioned for a casting director. Said industry professional, who shall remain nameless, told me blatantly to lose 30 pounds and straighten my hair if I ever wanted a chance of making it in show business. Well, la-di-freakin’-do. Mind you, that was one of the first auditions I had in the city before I had any of the credits or union standings that I have today. Still, that comment has stuck with me, and only ignited the fire within me to keep going. As one of my family members has always said, “It’s better to be pissed off, than pissed on.” Rather than taking the words that were meant to harm me to heart, I am speaking up and channeling it into something positive. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I am character actress who is curvy, curly-haired, and doesn’t really fit the traditional Hollywood standard. And guess what?  I have become more comfortable with who I am both physically and emotionally than ever before. I realize that there are people who say things meant to bring others down in order to bring themselves up. There are people who deem the physical beauty more important than the inner beauty. It will always exist.

At the end of the day though, the only one that I really have to deal with is the person staring back at me in the mirror. When I look at myself, I don’t see the girl who was deemed “too skinny” as a child, or the adult with a womanly physique. I see someone with a lot to be thankful for. I have family and friends who love me for being just who I am. And to be honest, that’s all that matters.

 There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself.–Gilda Radner

Auditions: The Uncommon Job Interview & Why They Are So Stressful

Auditioning is stressful for both the actors in front of the table, and those who are trying to make the decisions behind it. I rarely go into auditions calmly, and if I am calm, it worries me. Some people are really really good at auditioning, but not necessarily acting. And most actors I know say that they are really bad at auditioning. They are also some of the best actors I have worked with.  Casting directors have a job to do and we as actors need to realize that fact. They have a limited amount of time to pick from the pool of actors who audition for them, and narrow that down to the final few until they have a cast. It doesn’t matter what the project is. It could range from a commercial, to a film or television series, to a stage production. Casting directors HAVE to find a cast. Wow. Talk about stress.

Sometimes, I have walked into a room and felt the disappointment in the air, because I come to the conclusion automatically, that I know I’m not who they are looking for. I can see it on their faces. I can hear it in their tone of voice. It’s as if they are saying, “Why is she here?” “Why is she wasting our time?” Apparently, I’ve heard, that until the character walks into the room, they are unconvinced that they are going to find anyone to fill a particular part. Sometimes, I’m really confident when I go into an audition. But, to be honest, I size up my “competition” before I go in the room and end up psyching myself out because all these things run through my mind like, “I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough” or “I seem really out of place.” I have two minutes to “impress” these people behind the table, but sometimes I can sense, that even before I’ve opened my mouth to speak, I’ve been tossed aside.

It’s odd that in the “real world” a job interview takes into consideration your previous experience, skill set, and whether or not you’re truly qualified for the job. In the acting world, it can come down to simply, “I didn’t fit the character description.” I’ve come to the conclusion that the pressure that the casting people feel due to the time crunch, and the stress that I bring on myself about the audition, just makes it an all around stressful situation.

Here’s what I am planning to do to curb my stresses. I’ve been asking myself questions to calm myself down. Michael McKean has a great quote about auditioning. He states, “What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t give you the job? Guess what: You already don’t have the job. The worst has happened! Pressure’s off, so have fun. The main reason we wanted to do this is that it look like it would be fun, right?” Right. I have to remember what made me enjoy acting in the first place. That thing that made the fire in my stomach ignite, is that acting is creative. It’s fun. It should never stop being fun. But we as actors have been so consumed with “nailing our audition” that we have lost sight of why we became actors in the first place. I want to serve the material. I have been asking, “How can I serve your project?” in my mind before an audition, rather than “Are you going to like me?” How can I best help out the people behind the table? Well, the easy answer is, I can be what they want. Yet, of all the audition success stories, they seem to include one key point: The actors were showing who they were. They were showing their best qualities. Sometimes, you just have to bring yourself to your work, and utilize the qualities you already possess. So in the end, we’re not really “acting” at all. We’re us. And that’s okay. I’m going to showcase the best of myself. Take it or leave it. So what if I’m not thin/pretty/normal enough? I’m me. Boom. Stressful situation avoided. Bring on the fun!