Audrey featured panelist on Film Diplomacy at the Women in Public Diplomacy Conference at USC

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Women in Public Diplomacy Conference on a panel discussing "Film Diplomacy" alongside Deana Nassar of the Arab Film Festival and Yasemin Yilmaz, Co-Founder of the Los Angeles Turkish Film Festival. It was a fabulous event and an honor and privilege to share my experiences and hear others. This only fuels the fire! 

Jack of the Red Hearts Screening and Panel with Geena Davis

I was thrilled to attend the screening of BFFfestival winner, Jack Of The Red Hearts with Kasey the other week! After the film there was an incredible panel of talented women filmmakers including, Geena Davis from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Janet Grillo, Lucy Mukerjee-Brown, Jennifer Deaton, Catherine HardwickePhyllis Nagy, and Danielle Carrig from Lifetime!


Welcome our newest team member: Robert Nazar Arjoyan, Editor

As a child, award-winning filmmaker Robert Nazar Arjoyan was consumed by rock & roll and feature films, especially those directed by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. He began playing guitar at the age of 10, and started taking his filmmaking to a professional level at the age of 14, in the early 2000s. For his higher education, he studied cinema at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and since then has worked as a writer, producer, director, and editor of shorts, commercials, and features in Los Angeles. 

His feature directorial debut, When My Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra & the Theremin, has played the world over in festivals, garnering awards and praise everywhere it screened, and is on track for distribution. A focused character piece, the film chronicles the life and tribulations of the glamorously eccentric and enigmatic Theremin master Armen Ra, who alchemizes his ancient sorrow into timeless beauty with the magical power of music. 

His desire is to continue to work with stories that showcase fantastic character, working alongside actors to help shape dynamic performances, and ultimately, unforgettable films. 

One year ago this week...

...This film was an incredibly big dream. With all heart and little else to run with, I could never have predicted that one year later, we would have accomplished our production goal completely.
 
Since October, 2014 we have raised over $30,000 dollars in production funds, packaged over $150,000 of in-kind donations, sent a small crew to Tanzania, shot 16 days of footage, and most importantly captured the story of three of the most inspiring and perspective-enriching individuals in the world. And along this journey, what started as a big dream gained momentum and snowballed into a team of talented professionals all focused on sharing this amazing true story. To everyone who made this first step possible, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In the months since our return, I’ve been driven to look deeper into why this documentary is so immensely important to me. As we pick up speed in post-production, I’ve boiled down my inspiration to one key fact—I believe thatchange comes from realizing our unwavering connection to one another. Debuting this story on the silver screen will be a vehicle for us to harness and share the real ideas and energy that create change. Astridah, Crispina, and Margaret pour everything they have into helping those around them. They know that big problems don’t always call for big solutions, and this film is about making their passion and momentum unstoppable and realizing their vision for a worldwide audience.

 
As the project enters post-production, we are so happy to have set a completion date for the first cut of the film! Little known to most, post-production is an intensive process where passion, work ethic and wherewithal are put to the test. As we drive forward toward our next step, we are taking on new team members to meet our ambitious deadline and will be sure to keep you posted every step of the way.

Featured on Shining the Light Blog with Joan Shulman

My wonderful coach Joan Shulman just started a "Shining the Light" feature on her blog and I was humbled when she asked to feature my and The Pamoja Project. Check out the post here and learn more about Joan's work!

In her own words: "Creating connection between others through my work is a strong value of mine. It eludes me at times because aside from running small workshops, primarily I work one-on-one. To this end I’ve decided to feature people, blogs, essays and events that have inspired or moved me. Some of these folks are my coaching clients; others are teachers and colleagues who have greatly influenced me. Some are friends and others are complete strangers. Warning… I find beauty and amazement in what you may see as ordinary, so be sure to stay open and take your time. Hopefully, shining a light on what inspires me, will also light you up! As always, let me know what you think."


A Dose of Inspiration - The Living Room Series: Dana Wronski

Dana Wronski is one of the most courageous and beautiful women I know. She has been my mothers best friend since they were little and she has always been mama Dana to me. In watching her tell her story in this video below, her experience in Africa hit home for me and I wanted to share it for you all to enjoy. 

Singer, songwriter and Gospel music lover who lost dependency only to find herself saying 'yes' to everything. Chef-owner of Tio Mateo's and Greenwich Bay Gourmet, Rhode Island tells her magical story: " I Am Your Song: When the Sky Rained Blessings in Africa."


An Excerpt from Audrey's Africa Student Fund Scholarship Essay

Audrey talking with Astridah in Morogoro, Tanzania 

Audrey talking with Astridah in Morogoro, Tanzania 

As the fall semester at USC cranks back into gear, I am once again surrounded by talented, driven, and creative students who inspire me to work harder. The transition from the lazy days of summer in Rhode Island to the hectic fall semester is always a balancing act, but in Los Angeles, a filmmaking mindset is an easy one to fall into. This city was built for movies after all. This past week I have been working on an academic essay about my experience in Tanzania. In March 2015, I was awarded the USC Africa Student Fund Scholarship in support of the film. I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the benefactors who made this scholarship available to students, and allowed me to have such a positive and impactful learning experience. Upon return from my trip I was asked to submit a five page essay detailing the value of my time in Africa. Hands down, it has been the easiest essay I have ever had to write during my time at USC thus far. I wanted to share with you a condensed version below. Enjoy!

My crew and I spent almost three weeks in Tanzania, stayed in 8 different hotels, and saw many different towns, villages, and cities. Every day was challenging, every day was new, and I quickly realized how hard it was going to be to balance my needs as a producer and director, my needs as a traveler, and my needs as a human. I felt myself being pulled in every direction: wanting to stop and smell the roses, wanting to analyze things from a development perspective, wanting to take in the sheer beauty of the country, and also wanting to always be ready to capture an unplanned moment on film. However after a few days, I realized that it wasn’t so black and white. As we got to know these women and spent more time with them I realized I had an unbelievable advantage as a filmmaker. First, we had unprecedented access into the lives of these three gracious, inspiring, and honest women because we were able to form a relationship built on trust and openness. Second, I was taking in the country, culture, and environment through an actual lens which allowed me to break down what I was seeing and process it slowly and with care.  Finally, I had a purpose; a way of giving back with the skills I actually possessed. I wasn’t building houses (I am no handyman), I wasn’t organizing communities (I'm no development professional), I was a storyteller making a non-profit film that would directly aid these women and their communities, and indirectly inspire, raise awareness, and open the minds of my peers to those worlds away. And I was doing it by simply listening with an open mind. Of course, I made total rookie mistakes; conducted awkward interviews, missed a social or cultural cue, or ruined a moment by interrupting or talking too soon. But I learned and corrected myself throughout the trip. I grew as a filmmaker and as a person. And as I am learning, the two are not so separate.

 Astridah, Margaret, and Crispina’s stories need to be told. These women have inspired me more than I have ever thought possible and I am so excited to share that with others for the rest of my life. Stories make a difference. Sharing the challenges, successes, and everyday moments from the lives of these incredible leaders connects us and brings out the best in all of us. The true blessing is that I can be a filmmaker, tourist, and a student. I am not forced to choose. And it is the convergence of these things that make me a better human, and that is always the first step towards real change.

-Audrey