Author Archives: Britta Reque-Dragicevic
We talk a lot about living our dreams.
About not giving up, being strong, choosing faith over fear.
All good advice and stuff we need to hear over and over.
Why? Because every day living your dream is a choice.
What we don’t talk about is the difference you feel, how you move in the world, when you live in the energies that light you up.
Something deep and solid shifts when you fully commit to doing what you love.
You step into your power. Your full soul power. The pure essence of who you are.
All the energy that makes you, you – the same energy that makes the stars, stars – focuses.
You align inside. Certain. Strong. Powerful.
Resistance? Hesitancy? They keep you uncertain. They keep you half-alive.
They keep you from stepping up and really being you.
They keep the world from fully being blessed by you.
Do you really think you have the right to withhold your blessing?
Fear? Inadequacy? They keep you small. Shrinking safely in your corner.
Wishing. Tinkering. Longing.
Will you feel fear after you commit? Absolutely.
Will it send you back into your safe corner?
Outgrow your fears. Outgrow yourself. Outgrow.
You’re bigger than you know. You were meant to be expansive.
You were meant to carry the full weight of your power.
So what are you waiting for?
Do you think someone will suddenly empower you?
Do you think you need to be “discovered,” “published,” “land that big job,” first?
Every person who has followed their calling has stepped into their power first.
They decided who they were. First.
They moved forward, fully committed. First.
They chose to bless the world with the full weight of themselves. First.
So what are you waiting for?
Permission? From whom?
This is your life. Yours.
What do you bring to a story when you begin?
There’s a split camp between writers who outline and plot before they write and those who don’t. At the end of the day, what matters is that your method works – so I’m not going to approach this as a right vs. wrong debate. What I’m interested in is how Stories choose us and how we work with Characters to tell their stories. Every writer is unique and so is their writing process. I suspect that how Stories and Characters choose to interact with writers is highly and deeply personal. No doubt there is a underlying spiritual alignment. There’s also an alignment with how a writer receives, processes and moves through the world. Which camp you fall into most likely has to do with your way of moving in the world. Or, in other words, how you best communicate with the Storyworld.
Outside of the writing world (which only sees the finished product), writing appears to be logical, the author in full control. Fictional stories and characters are make-believe. The writer gets an idea, creates interesting characters, figures out what is going to happen (makes it up??) and writes it down. To the outside world, an ingenious for storytelling appears to be unique to writers. People generally credit writers as the originators of the story and my, aren’t we clever for coming up with such fascinating stories!
Ha. Stop right there.
Originators of the story? Let’s say you get a story idea. Where does that idea come from? It’s given to you, isn’t it? It appears in your mind. Can we really claim that we originated it? I don’t think so.
The Outliner/Plotters – Are You Really In Control?
If you are in the outline/plot camp, you’ll take that idea, mull it around, think about who the characters should be, create them based on well-established psychological archetypes, then decide what is going to happen at every plot point. You’ll have a solid idea of the complete story and the character arcs from start to finish. Then you start writing.
In this position, you are in control of the story. This is where we often hear writers say “then the story and characters took on a life of their own.”
What is that phenomena? You discover as you’re writing within your established framework that you aren’t quite as in control as you thought you were. Characters “come to life” and start saying and doing things that you hadn’t anticipated. The story may take a turn that works far better than your pre-determined plot point. (And if this doesn’t happen to you, you may be trying to force a story into existence. You’re not trusting the process enough to receive what your story has to give you.)
I believe and it’s been my experience that characters don’t “take on a life of their own” because they already have one to begin with. They exist in their own realm. They are fully formed and as unique and individual as you and I. You did not actually create them. Yes, you worked hard to figure out what archetype to use, what backstory to give them, what color of eyes they should have – and that gave you the perception that you’ve made them up. What if, in this process, what those characters were actually doing was revealing themselves to you in a way that your analytical mind could embrace?
Outlining and plotting are tools that help writers organize. They are a method for interacting with the story and characters. A way for the Story and Characters to work with your mind in a way that makes sense to you as a writer.
The Freestylists – Control Isn’t an Issue
In the freestyle camp, as I’ll call it (and where I reside), you get an idea for a story. It may not even be an idea. It may be a scene with a character or two in it. You listen into that unseen realm. You get glimpses of who the characters are. You get glimpses of a thing or two that happens. You may even see the end first. A lead character moves into your intuitive realm and you start having conversations. You sense their presence, their emotional state, and you listen, listen, listen. Like anyone else, they don’t reveal themselves to you in their entirety up front. You’re still a stranger, after all. You start building a relationship of trust. You may have entire scenes played out in detail to you. You take notes.
Then you start writing. And what is revealed on the page is a surprise to you. It flows out as if you are simply a channel. You listen, you write. You write, it emerges. You are deeply touched by who your characters are, what they go through, the conversations they have with other characters. You are a witness. You realize that they trust you. You’re not just a writer, but counselor, friend, confidante, coach, guide. They are, in turn, invested in your artistic career.
You are not in control of the characters or the story; only of the writing. Their story will be far bigger, far deeper, extend back further and out farther than what you will put on the page. As the writer, you have to make decisions about how to tell the story in the most effective way; yet, it’s never your story to tell.
If you work with your characters, if you trust them, they will collaborate with you. They have insight into what you should do. They’ll work with you to make those decisions. (We talk a lot about a writer’s isolation and forget that our characters are with us every step of the journey. We’re not as alone as we think.)
This method is a natural alignment for writers who move through life by intuition, who move in spiritual realms, who are comfortable trusting the process as open-ended and uncertain.
Either Way, Characters Need Your Trust & You Need Theirs
No matter which process you use, you’re going to work with characters. You don’t have to believe that they are anything more than a figment of your imagination (though I would encourage you to question where the things you imagine come from) to tell their stories. Yet, if you do open up to the possibility that they are more than meets the eye, you will find a rich storyworld where you don’t have to be in charge of everything. Your characters will carry responsibility for who they are, what they do and what they won’t do. Sure, you’ll collaborate with them to shape scenes to be most effective; you’ll cut, you’ll change, you’ll ask them to do a scene another way; maybe have some characters step in or out of the written story; but in the end, it will remain indelibly theirs.
And that’s why we write, isn’t it? To give characters a voice, to reveal their stories, and allow them to touch us.
It gets to all of us. We pin “procrastination” on our tendency to avoid doing the work. Work we feel passionate about. Work we spend months, years, sweating away (okay, maybe not actually sweating, but definitely toiling) in silence with no guarantee anyone will ever read it. No guarantee of financial success or fame or that anything will actually get easier, and a high likelihood that there will be rejection and dislike and questions about how could we write something like that and how we’ve offended some people.
We sit at the screen, check email, Twitter, Facebook (I’ve whittled away entire days — good, open, available writing days — just watching my timeline). We pay bills. Check bank accounts. Find cleaning to do. Organize. Make more coffee. Change music. Eat. Stare out the window at branches being thrashed mercilessly…
We all have days like this. I’m not going to drone on about “writer’s block” or “finding the muse” – you can find plenty of perfectly useful, distracting articles on those. No. Everything is about overcoming procrastination. Beating it into submission (ourselves, actually). Forcing. Talking yourself into or out of things. Facing your fears.
What if the days when the writing isn’t flowing and it feels as natural as putting your hand in fire, are intended to be that way?
What if there’s nothing to fight against? What if, instead of thinking we should be able to create, create, create as consistently as we can sit at an office desk and do work by rote, we accepted that creativity has rhythms? That we need to heed those rhythms.
That there is, actually, nothing wrong at all.
You’ve had days when the writing pours through you…faster than you can type, right? Time vanishes. You begin, then wake up from your storyworld 10, 12, 14 hours later, completely surprised to find that so much time has gone by. You’re not even tired — the work so closely aligns with your spirit that you slip back into the essence of timelessness. Those days are gold. Those days you are the channel. The work is the artist.
The work is the artist.
What if on those days when you just can’t bring yourself to begin, it’s not about you at all?
We like to think we are the creators of the work; when in reality, we are receivers, guardians and guides. If we would move out of the way and give heed to the fact that writing in a storyworld is a collaboration between our characters and ourselves, we’d have more grace for those days when our characters need a break, or when we do.
The avoidance? What if it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with whether or not the characters are ready? (Let’s face it, it’s not easy to be a character who has to spend most of his or her time in conflict, pain and fighting. Characters get worn out and need down time, too.) What if it has to do with the Universe needing time to arrange a few thoughts, emotions, reveal something through something that you don’t have access to at this moment?
Granted, there are days when it is your fear that holds you back. Those days you may need to… just begin.
But on those other days when you can’t pinpoint why you can’t get at it – consider that it may not be you at all. Then make a decision to step away from the work. Do something else. It’ll be ready when you come back.
Two years ago, Gabriela Tollman’s son Charlie was born prematurely. After 11 days, he lost his fight to overcome E. coli. As the pain shattered her mother’s heart, she had no idea how that pain echoed out into the hearts of millions of mothers each year who have a child die. The grief, self-blame and physical ailments she suffered were the beginning of a journey that has brought her to where she is today: Kickstarting a feature film to raise $30K to put the story and the hope and the healing she has found in front of audiences. With her sister, Evelyne Werzowa, her partner in writing, producing and acting in “Secrets of an Unborn Child“, Gabriela stands strong for mothers (and fathers and siblings, too) who miss “the one who was supposed to still be part of our family.”
In Secrets Of An Unborn Child the lives of two sisters intersect. Clare loses her baby and Anna, in the midst of an emotional crisis, inadvertently abandons her child. The film follows the two sisters as they overcome their worst fears and help each other rebuild their lives.
It isn’t everyday that you meet women filmmakers who have the raw courage to crack open their hearts and so intimately reveal very personal pain. Gabriella and Evie, as she’s called, are two mothers (yes, they both have 6-year-old boys) who are passionate about letting the grace of learning to let go, reach out and gently touch the souls of those who are afraid that if they do let go, they’ll lose their child forever. Experienced filmmakers, Gabriela and Evie embrace film as a pathway to bless the human spirit. If you are or know a mother who has lost a child to illness, injury, war, violence, accident, please read and share this post. And know, that in your journey, you are not alone.
And if you are a mother who is blessed with a child, then join us in celebrating life, resiliency and the power of the human heart.
Tell me the story of how you each became filmmakers.
Gabriela: Evelyne and I have been acting in and writing plays since we were six years old. We grew up under Apartheid in South Africa. Freedom of speech was sanctioned. Film was a safe place to express ourselves, to escape the lies and to tell the truth. After immigrating Evelyne went on to theatre school at LACC and studied Screen Writing at the Writers’ Bootcamp in Los Angeles. Evelyne has directed one short film and hopes to direct more in the future. I attended UCLA as a theater student, but was always drawn to the Film department. After graduating UCLA I learned Film Editing and I wrote, acted in and directed my first short film THE LAST GUNSHOT about the social implications of Apartheid. It screened in over 30 festivals including the Cannes Short Film Corner. After that I was hooked. I have directed over ten short films since then. They have played in festivals all over the world including Sundance, and won several awards. I am very excited to be making my first feature film with Evelyne.
What part of filmmaking is “the energy that lights you up” for you?
Gabriela: I love the entire process of making a film from writing to filming and editing. I also love the collaborative process of filmmaking. I see film as a spiritual medium. One where you distill an aspect of the human experience, examine, it, live with it, experience it and grow from it. I love that is a medium that combines all other mediums such as writing, painting, acting, editing, etc. I also love that it allows the audience to experience a world through images. I have always likened film to hypnosis as it affects people on a deep subconscious level. That to me is very powerful.
Tell us about your journey with Secrets of an Unborn Child. This is a very personal project for you, one that has required you to be vulnerable and share your own grief and journey via the two protagonists – where did you find it in your soul to bring this personal pain out into a very public light?
Gabriela: I have always worked from personal experience in my films. As a South African immigrant I grew up during Apartheid and I witnessed a lot of fear and violence. My first short film THE LAST GUNSHOT explored these themes and the familial implications of Apartheid. In some of my other short films I’ve explored themes of intimacy, isolation and violence against women. SECRETS OF AN UNBORN CHILD was motivated by a real experience I had when due to complications I gave birth to my baby at 7 months. He struggled to survive, but didn’t. It was a painful and difficult experience. I started to write the script with Evelyne. I was compelled to explore the theme of survival after the loss of a loved one. Writing this project has helped me heal. Finding an outlet for pain has always helped me feel like less of a victim and less vulnerable. The pain I felt after losing my baby was overwhelming. I hope that this project can help those experiencing loss feel less alone; and let them know that some day they will feel happy and alive again.
Evelyne: When Charlie was born too early, with a terrible infection, they tried everything: blood transfusions and a life support machine. After just 11 days the doctors told them it was hopeless. They were faced with a very hard decision. They decided to turn off the machine. His hands went into Mudra as if giving thanks to his parents for letting him go. Gaby suffered from depression, physical ailments and negative thoughts, that maybe it was her fault somehow. And then we began to write together. Write about her struggle, the negative voices that plagued her. The guilt that somehow she may have caused this. The voices she longed to hear began, “Mommy, I’m OK. It wasn’t your fault.”
This film is the story we want to tell of two sisters who come together to help each other. The sister Anna, who I play in the film, is lost. Stuck in the role that so many parents get into. Full of frustration, anger, overwhelmed at parenting and her child. She has an emotional breakdown and walks away from her small son, leaving him in a boiling hot car. We wanted to tell the story about what it means to love and loose. What is means to make bad decisions, and the road back to love.
What is your dream for this film? What do you want it to do in the world?
Evelyne: Our dream for the film is that it reaches a wide audience of people who it can inspire and help. Three million babies die each year. This is more common than we know. It is not talked about a lot. How can you heal from loss? What does it do to a marriage, etc. And then on the flip side there are so many parents who don’t realize having a child is a gift. There is a staggering amount of child abuse and children being forgotten in automobiles each year. I want people to realize how lucky they are and that we all have an incredible ability to find god, love, and heal if you dare.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing the script? The most rewarding?
Gabriela: The most challenging part for me was honoring the truth of my experience and not backing away from it. Having the guts to communicate the depth of the anxiety, fear and sadness I was experiencing. The most rewarding for me was that as I healed, my character healed. The more Clare listens to her own voice, meditates and gets in touch with that deeper part of herself the more rewarding the process became.
Evelyne: The most challenging thing for me was making sure I did not dismiss or downplay what this experience was like for Gabriela. The pain, the fear of physical ailments manifesting and the voices she heard calling her from another place were all real. Allowing her to put that on the page then making sure they pushed against Anna (my character) in the film. Anna is the opposite of Clare (Gabriela’s character) she pretends everything is OK. She can’t face the pain inside and tries to deny what she has done to her own child. The two sisters ultimately push each other to face their darkness. I also wanted to make the story is engaging for everyone, not just those who have experienced loss. It is about being open to Consciousness or God and your subconscious. To listen, to hear, really hear your soul. Everyone can relate to this. How am I alive, really alive? How do I love? And do I have the courage to step into being alive, not live my life on the outside.
Even though the pain of your characters is based on your own, your characters have a life of their own and they are not you – what has it been like working with them? What have Clare and Anna taught you? How have they surprised you?
Evelyne and Gabriela: What a beautiful question. Writing Clare has taught us that we all have a process that helps us heal. As a society we can be so judgmental when it comes to healing and death. We live in a society that says “get on with it, put on a happy face.” The sisters’ father in the film, Monty, tells Clare “Come on, get on with it; people lose babies all the time.” Clare taught us that every phase of life has a purpose. That we learn from every experience. That pain can be an incredible teacher. We don’t need pain to grow, but if you are faced with it don’t deny it. Clare teaches us not to run from pain just because it is uncomfortable. Be with it, connect with it, connect with yourself, be still, that’s when true healing can occur.
Anna, on the other hand, reminds us to listen. She gets too stressed, too flooded by life that she can’t relax when her child is talking about birds that can talk. She is driving, lost in frenzy; then leaves her screaming child in a boiling hot car. Anna is who we all can become if we don’t stop, breath and take life in. We think of her often in the frenzy of life.
Was there a point where you nearly gave up on this film? If so, what motivated you to keep going?
Evelyne and Gabriela: Sometimes Gabriela worried that reliving the story, the trauma would not be good for her health and psyche, but it has been just the opposite. This journey has given her energy to inspire others, to share her journey. Healing is a process, it doesn’t happen over night. What definitely kept us going is that getting this story out there can help others not feel so alone.
How has this film affected your relationship as sisters?
Evelyne and Gabriela: Working on the film has helped us tremendously. We compliment each other. Gabriela is not afraid to go to the dark places and Evelyne likes to find the humor and irony. There is a lot of that in the script and we laugh alot at ourselves and at our characters.
How does your collaboration work?
Evelyne and Gabriela: We will talk about a scene, what we’re trying to say in it and then one of us will usually take a stab at it and the other one will then do the rewrite. Gabriela wrote all the internal dialogue and I would say “love it, or, wow, you went too far with that!” We help stretch each other. Some scenes we wrote five times. For example, we wanted to give the character Michael (Clare’s husband) a voice, about how he feels with the loss. We tried everything and a physical action seemed to work best. It’s a painful, beautiful gesture that you can’t say with words.
Where are you at in your own spiritual journeys? What does “faith” mean to you now?
Gabriela: My spiritual life deepened immensely after the loss of my baby. I tried desperately to understand why. I sought out the books of Louise Hay, which helped me. I read MANY MASTER, MANY LIVES by Brian Weiss. This book changed my life. It helped me understand the world in a different way. It helped me understand we truly are all connected and that we are all here to learn and grow. That nothing is random and life really is supposed to be full of joy. Another person that affected me deeply and helped me heal is Marianne Williamson. I began going to her talks on Monday nights. I felt so lucky to meet her, she was so open to me and really helped me. I began following and studying A COURSE IN MIRACLES. I continue to do the lessons each day. I really have learned that so much about our life is what we think; that we do have control over our thoughts and our mind. That each day, each minute, we can chose between love and feeling connected to something bigger, brighter and more beautiful or fear.
Evelyne: As an artist, as a mother, as a wife I think you get tested a lot. We’ll, I do. I come up against my own beliefs opposed to others’ beliefs. And then I have to let go and breathe. We’re all in this together. I remind myself to come from love, and I meditate, find the quiet, so I can hear the silence, the soul, God, whatever you want to call it. I’ve seen miracles and magic in my own life that gives me faith. My own son was diagnosed with Legg Perthes disease. I don’t think this is a random thing, I think it can be a gift for all of us, a gift we can give others. The night of my son’s diagnosis I felt an energy come into my room, spin around my son and that’s when I knew he would be okay. The world of healing came and found me. I didn’t seek it out, it found me. But that’s another story. On the day we said goodbye to Gabriela’s baby, Charlie, his hands went into mudra. I saw that as a sign he was going back to God and that blew me away. You can’t make that stuff up. If you’re open you can see it and there have been more miracles I have witnessed.
What role does fear and faith play in your creative life?
Gabriela: Creativity has always been an act of faith for me. When I feel any fear or negativity creep in I write about it or create something about it and that diminishes the fear. I think that’s why making this film continues to be so cathartic for me; it helped get me out of my fear.
Evelyne: I feel blessed, I know it sounds corny or crazy, but often when I write, it just comes through me. Later I read the draft of a script I’m working on and I think “How did I write that?” it just came through me.
How is it to be a mom and a writer and filmmaker and actresses?
Evelyne: Out boys are best friends. We are very lucky. We have play dates, they sword fight and we edit together. We have passionate conversations and our boys love being a part of it. The other day my son said to me” “Mommy, you talk to Auntie Gabriela five times a day. You have a lot to talk about!”
We are playing Clare and Anna in the film. We thought about maybe casting other actresses, but this film is tailor made for us. As ex-pats from South Africa, we also deal with violence in the film and motherhood. We have been acting together since we were little and this is a natural extension of that.
What is it like for you to be the scriptwriter and also the actress who must embody that character?
Evelyne: It’s wonderful; we know these characters so well. We have lived with them for such a long time. We’ve done writing and acting exercises with them, written their dreams, their best childhood memories and their secrets. It’s also intense to share the shadow side, but we feel so safe working together. We have that sister bond where we can just give each other a look and we know what the other is thinking. We are both huge Ingmar Bergman fans. This is our Persona, our homage to Bergman.
Learn More and Support “Secrets of an Unborn Child” at Kickstarter.
Follow on Twitter: @Unbornchildmv
View Gabriela Tollman’s website at http://www.gabrielatollman.com
We pour our energy into creating the future. Set our sights on creative dreams that are finished, materialized, produced, published, bought. We anticipate income, status, a certain level of “making it” in our respective fields. If we’ve already achieved one level, we reach for the next. We feel passionate about our work, our talent, our ability. The challenges thrill us. Even in our uncertain moments, we still feel that pull of our “potential.” It infuses us with determination, gets us moving again.
“What’s next” drives us. And that’s a good thing. Dreams need persistent action to come true. There is much work to be done. Every minute spent on a dream adds up to its entirety.
What we need to be mindful of is that in the midst of all our work on the future, is the now.
The work we do to create, raise and see a dream mature into its fullest essence is the reality of our now. The fulfillment and success of that dream takes place every moment you spend in it. If you think that happiness, success, fulfillment are out there waiting for you (waiting for the dream to come true), you are mistaken.
They are here. Now.
If you’re a writer, the process of writing is your success, your fulfillment, the “living the life of your dream” part. It’s not out there waiting for you to realize some measure of external recognition and success. When you finish a project, you pretty much finish your role in it. You move on to the next project. When the writing is done, so are you.
There will never come a day when you will feel that you have “arrived” because the human spirit doesn’t work that way. One goal is replaced by a bigger one. That one becomes your driving force. “Making it”? Success in sales and revenue is just that. Sales and revenue. Money is money. You can earn it by laying pavement or by writing a novel. Either way, it is money. “Fame”? Fame has a high cost and very little true reward to the individual. It sets you on a platform for higher income and greater reach, perhaps, but it costs you most of your freedom.
Which leads me to the question: why do we do what we do? Laying pavement is hard physical labor, but you see a concrete result at the end of the day. Laying down words that will be cut, edited, thrown out later in the process offers far less reward.
Walk through book stores and look at the books relegated to the “bargain bin” – think about those authors. They worked just as hard as every other author. They put their soul into it. They spent the hours, days, minutes that you are spending now on your project. We all know that our work is fleeting.
That’s why you have to be in it for the process. Not the result. You have to love what you do. Love every minute of it, love the challenges, love the fear, love the uncertainty.
Love it because it makes you feel alive. Love it because you can’t imagine living your life any other way.