“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” – BEAUTIFUL BOY (DARLING BOY), song text by John Lennon
August 9, 2019
Week two of my new beginning in blogging… of sorts.
Actually, I wrote my first “Blog” over 17 years ago after my son Maximilian was born: “Mama & Co.”
I had given birth to Max, my first child, just two weeks after graduating from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs with a Master’s Degree in International Media & Communication and a regional focus on the European Union.
I hadn’t expected to be pregnant during the final year of my graduate studies at an Ivy League university in the heart of the Big Apple. In fact, I could hardly believe that I was accepted into an “Ivy League” at all – not that didn’t have the grades or experience to back it up, but rather that EVERYONE questioned my credentials and ability to get in (except my father, who always told his daughter she could do anything).
But get in I did and I studied my little heart out to prove my worthiness. Still, as singer/musician/song writer/activist John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
On September 11th, 2001, I was one of the many in New York when the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists via hijacked planes and the tragic experience shaped me, as it did so many alive then, forever.
Prior to 9/11, I was busy with both grad studies and acting lessons (Columbia by day, T. Schreiber Studios by night), “burning my own candle at both ends,” as my father would say – and I had just returned from a summer in Berlin, where I completed a four-month internship in film development and international co-productions at acclaimed German auteur director Wim Wender’s film company, Road Movies GmbH.
Excited to be back in New York and push forward with my studies, looking forward to the job search season before me in the coming winter and spring when I aspired to land a plum position at a top film studio in Lost Angeles, I had no idea that my future, like many New Yorkers after the 9/11 tragedy would be much different.
Unlike many unfortunate victims who perished senselessly in the heinous, terrorist act, I was alive.
Sitting in my empty apartment in Hamburg now, the memories flood the space and leave me breathless. I literally forget to breathe when reflecting back on those times. I’m actually crying as I write this, the emotions washing over me… gratitude, loss, anger, fear, sadness… awe.
Life is a wonder. I marvel at my circumstances. And like Oprah says, “What I know for sure…” is that God had different plans for me back then.
My husband’s birthday is, coincidentally, September 14th and like many transplanted New Yorkers, I wanted to stage his birthday at the World Trade Center. No kidding. I had it all planned out meticulously several weeks in advance:
I was going to meet up with him at the end of the work day, blindfold him and take him in the elevator to the very top visitors’ deck and then, “Ta-da!!!” He would take off the blindfold and find me before him with a birthday cupcake and the most incredible panoramic views of Manhattan behind me.
It was a romantic gesture to compete with the schmalziest Nora Ephron movie.
Instead, on September 14th, I found myself heading down to volunteer at the triages of Ground Zero, desperate to be of assistance in any way. All New Yorkers – young and old— where bonded together by this singular fate and we all wanted to pitch in to rebuild our city in whatever way we could.
Thus, instead of celebrating his birthday on the top of the tallest skyscraper in New York, Niko and I ended up cherishing the day somberly at home in Bayside, Queens, grateful for the life he and I still had to appreciate.
It wasn’t until about two weeks later that I awoke one morning, not feeling so well. I won’t go into all the symptoms, but suffice it to say that one visit to the doctor and a blood test later, my universe shifted again.
“What are your daily activities since the attack? How are you taking care of yourself?” the doctor asked after performing my check-up. I told her about my volunteer work at Ground Zero.
“I wouldn’t go down there anymore,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it wouldn’t be good for your baby – You’re pregnant.”
One Google search on the “health effects of Ground Zero,” and we now know how unsafe and toxic the atmospheric dust surrounding Ground Zero was in the days, weeks and months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Countless firefighters, police officers, civic servants, volunteers and citizens living near that area, who breathed in the air laced with a poisonous mixture of plane fuselage and building asbestos, are literally dying of cancer still today.
So, now, with hindsight, I see that was blessed to be pregnant in more ways than one.
And though, as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t the “best career strategy” to be in your last trimester of pregnancy at the same time that you’re finishing your final semester of graduate school – considering the circumstances, I felt more than adequately blessed.
In fact, Niko and I named our first born son “Maximilian Amadeus” to commemorate our gratitude.
Fast forward several months after graduating in May of 2002 (I was as big as a house, but still determined to wear high heels at graduation!), the birth of Max (two weeks after graduation!) and a bout of post-graduation-post-partum-post-9/11 depression, I decided to keep myself busy during the long, lonely days of solitude and… yes, loneliness… with my newborn by challenging myself to start a daily blog about my experiences, sharing anything and everything about the shifting life for a once-sharp professional twenty-something turned dazed and confused novice mom.
I kept it up for a whole year – my goal – through thick and thin, sleepless nights, caffeine-fueled days and milk-stained t-shirts. Writing my own blog made me feel as if I had at least some semblance of a professional life and connection to the creative me -- and was a literal Booby Prize for not getting that sought-after job at a big Hollywood studio in L.A.
I told myself that, at the very least, the writing would be a wonderful gift to my son one day. But perhaps, just perhaps, I could turn them into a book. (Or maybe, just maybe, a movie?)
Well, seventeen years later, and I still have those pages. All 365 or more of them. I haven’t turned them into a book as of yet and there is no movie in the works (hmmmmm?!) but I do plan to give them as a special gift to Max when he graduates from high school.
Before Maximilian Amadeus embarks on his adult life, I want him to remember how he came to be and why "life happening while you make other plans" is oftentimes the very best of things.
Friday, August 2, 2019 - 7:13 AM
A New Beginning…Of Sorts
It’s raining in Bergedorf, Hamburg; the pitter-patter of raindrop’s blanket of soothing sound intertwines with that of local church bells clanging away and bird’s morning chatter like a river over rocks and stones.
If the above words seem jumbled and out of sorts, it’s because I’m still recovering from Detroit to Hamburg jetlag.
Funny, they didn’t seem that way in my head – when I found myself at 5 a.m., wide awake, unable to silence the constant traffic of words lined up into thoughts, surfing my sanity and consciousness.
This morning at 5 a.m., those words partied in my brain and they sounded fucking historic.
Words inside of one’s head have such power – until they land flat on paper (or, in this case, a computer screen) with the knowledge that anyone outside of the mind might read them and cast them lower than their original self-importance.
Alas, here I am, not alone, sitting with these words, aching and begging to get out, to have their fun and fifteen-minutes of not-so-famous fame.
There’s something about living in a foreign country that allows – no, DEMANDS—that one finally acknowledge one’s own thoughts.
Let’s face it: When you are in your own country with others who speak the same language and you hear said language around you all of the time, it can be intimidating. Your thoughts line up with everyone else’s and form a sort of chain-gang, or – as I like to call it – call of the herd.
But when you are seemingly alone in a foreign country with a language that, even if you speak it fluently, does not curse through your veins in the same way of your native language, those thoughts of yours can begin to really stand out and get very LOUD.
My momentary stream of consciousness is that of a 40-something, who at one time thought she had achieved and experienced a lot in life, but now, in this silence, questions whether she has truly achieved and experienced anything at all.
Yesterday, I received my 20th rejection letter (if you count all the rejection letters received from A-List film festivals my first feature film received) for a writing competition designated toward Women Writers over 40.
As it stands at present, I have one ultra-low budget feature film awaiting its date for distribution, one (hopefully) higher budget feature film in development, am rewriting my first feature film (larger budget) for the eighth time, producing the last legs of post-production on a short film that my 14-year-old daughter wrote, directed and acted in, and am trying to figure out how to get to NYC for an audition invitation that I really don’t want to pass up. This week.
Next week, I’m getting a tooth implant put in to replace a very solid, healthy tooth which I lost while chomping on a Salade Nicoise in Cannes, France during the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival and Film Market.
(This is my life: I have one moment of ‘here I am world, lookie, lookie at me – I’ve got it made!’ and end up losing a major tooth from a non-pitted olive in what is, basically, a glorified garden salad with canned tuna fish).
And, at the same time, as it were, I’m moving from Bergedorf-Hamburg back to Berlin (where I lived in the 90’s in my twenties). Indeed, the universe has this wonky way of serving up life’s craziest of moments on the same plate all at once.
And the upcoming MBA fall course load for which I need to prepare….
The crowdfunding campaign for that indie in development I look to finish designing...
And the October WIFT Germany/Hamburg Panel Discussion I absolutely must finish organizing.
Whew. Woah. It’s a lot on paper (no wonder I can’t sleep).
Yet, my innermost thoughts don’t seem phased by all of the above one bit. No. Instead, they dance around unknown, unconquered territory of the white abyss.
And, ultimately, I ask myself: Am I ALONE with these experiences, or do others also go through them?
Much like one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, I find myself needing to write, not to stand out, but rather to find my tribe.
You can only say so much with an Instagram selfie by a castle with the hashtag: #expatlife. And so, here I am, at 7:32 a.m. on a Friday morning in the German town of Bergedorf. Writing.
As I finish these collections of words, I am cognizant of the fact that this is a privileged life of self-imposed isolation that many would give their eye tooth (the one I split on an olive in Cannes) and that I should redirect these inner thoughts toward goals of something greater than falling on a white screen just to be heard.
GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD FOR THE BETTER!
Maybe, just maybe, by opening up as to what I really think, I might also encourage other introverts like myself to open the doors to their thoughts as well. You can be surrounded by the most beautiful tapestries and still feel silenced… until you are heard.
Maybe this exercise in putting typeset to white space is about claiming my existence.
Yes, it’s fun to put your hat in the ring for public acknowledgement (and support) in this or that competition, but what is the point of such “encouraging” competitions when they leave you feeling crappier about yourself, your talent and accomplishments after entering than you did before?
Maybe the real magic is in the doing?
I have written many a blog and article and essay and journal in the past, but this time is different. This time is about the beginning toward the end. When you reach your post mid-40-something years (how’s that for vagueness? I won’t let you age-discriminate me! LOL), and many of your loved ones have left you for the unknown after-life, you wake up to the realization that it is your turn to leave something of a legacy for the younger generations behind you.
(They might not know it and are damned if they’ll acknowledge it, but sometime soon they will need your random words to act as a balm for their own!)
Here’s the absolute inner truth of my soul right now, at this moment, alone in my Bergedorf flat, far away from home, writing with jetlag:
I wish, more than anything, that my dearly departed father and grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and cousins, and mentors, and friends – all of those who have passed on to the next world, that “undiscovered country from which no traveler returns” (Shakespeare: Hamlet) – would have left more random thoughts and musings for me to read.
I would love to bring their thoughts into this lonely and fearful heart. I miss them. So. Terribly.
Truth is, they probably, like you and I, thought that those racing thoughts – the ones that wake us in the still of the night and would rather send us to the refrigerator than truly reveal themselves – did not matter or count. They most likely drowned those thoughts in tormented self-pity and cruel atonement, as I did this morning when I initially mused, “Who would want to read them, anyway?”
I would. I would have wanted to read their thoughts any way, any how, any where.
And that is why I write.
PS. I just read the above jumble of collected words to my husband, who, wondering what I was passionately typing like a beast on the computer, stopped on his way to work this morning to inquire and listen.
“You have such a gift. You should keep writing,” he said.
Check out her interview via NYWIFT Blog!
University of Michigan Residential College Magazine "RC NEWS" Features Interview with Alumna Heidi Philipsen
When newly appointed University of Michigan Residential College Communications & Outreach Coordinator Robby Griswold reached out to me last spring to ask if I'd like to be their first alumna featured in an interview within the pages of their brand new RC News, I jumped - up and down - many times!
"Are you KIDDING ME? It would be the greatest honor," I responded.
The Residential College rescued me - literally rescued me as a lost university student. Back in the early 90's I was so overwhelmed by all the choices and had an idea of what I loved, but no clue how to put it all together.
"Film, Theater and German Literature - can I put that all together?" I wondered, aloud.
"Yep - if you do an Independent Concentration," my RC counselor replied.
And that is exactly what I did.
Looking back, it's hard to believe, but that was the PERFECT concentration for me - as I've used every bit of it in my life and career. Heck, take a look at my bio on this website and you'll see for yourself.
In any case, I can't believe that I've received the honor of being interviewed for RC News and that my story may inspire other current - and future - students (like my son or daughter?). I remember feeling like such a mess back then, full of hopes and dreams and no idea how to make them happen, but the amazing faculty and staff at the University of Michigan Residential College GOT ME and believed in me and showed me the way.
They had inspired vision in ME - of whom I might become one day.
So glad that they still feel that way -- I may not be done with my life's journey yet, but I work hard every day to prove them right in taking a chance on this girl from Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Check out the interview (and the rest of the magazine!) by clicking HERE.
OCTOBER 18TH TO 26TH - Anytime, Anywhere with a Smartphone, Tablet or Computer
First up, the Cutting Edge Film Fest, which takes place in a VIRTUAL THEATER between October 18th and 26th.
For tickets and more information, go to: http://cuttingedgefilmfest.com/2018-cutting-edge-film-festival-selections/
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26TH - 2 p.m.
at Morris Memorial,
17 Park Row,
Chatham, NY 12037
FILM COLUMBIA FILM FEST
And then, for those of you who enjoy the full-on, film festival-going theater experience (complete with the entertaining Q & A!), the prestigious, upstate New York gem-of-a-fest, the Film Columbia Film Fest is offering DARCY alongside a bounty of breath-taking films to experience all within walking distance in the quaint town of Chatham, New York.
You can get tickets (or festival passes) here: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10333906
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4th - 3:15 p.m.
at The Little Theatre – #1240 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14604
Darcy is headed to Rochester, New York (the birthplace of Kodak Film!) for a grand screening and glorious Q & A at the HIGH FALLS WOMEN'S FILM FESTIVAL!!!
Get ready, because this will be a good one! Directors Heidi Philipsen and Jon Russell Cring will be there to interact with the audience.
Well, THAT was a jump!
It's been a while since my last Blog - in fact, as I look at my most recent Blog announcement about my interview on The Other 50%, I have a hard time believing that that was still this year: 2018.
I'm currently sitting and writing these words from the temporary apartment in Hamburg, Germany. Yep. I've packed up everything - literally, everything in a 40-foot-container, and moved abroad to Germany.
"Why?" you ask.
A variety of reasons, really. For one thing, I've been brought on for my Solo Directorial Debut of a German-Austrian indie co-production feature film called, "Maria Sucht Josef" - or, in English, "Mary Seeks Joe."
I'll go more into the film's synopsis and details at another time, but suffice it to say that when an opportunity to take on such an amazing project comes knocking on your door, if you are me, you answer and go!
In any case, there have been so many things that I really should post to catch you all up on the last - what? FIVE months - since the March 2018 blog, and I promise, now that I'm more or less in one spot, to do so over the next several weeks.
As a teaser... just so you know... I've enjoyed many a film fest for "Darcy," gone to the Cannes Film Fest in May, climbed mountains in Tirol, Austria on a location scout for "Maria Sucht Josef," finished the first year of my MBA program at Eastern Michigan University, and have had the blessed fortune to be featured in several press pieces, interviews, film reviews and the like.
What's up next?
Well, just signed up for UCLA's Advanced Screenwriting so that I can fine-tune my two feature films, starting my second year of my MBA in Management at Eastern Michigan University, am currently producing a short film called "FutureHealth" for a writer/director in Copenhagen, Denmark, and am about to start development for another indie feature film (which I won't name yet, because it's a surprise!)
Life in Hamburg, Germany has been one amazing change for me -- and I have to say that it's a refreshing one, full of new trials and tribulations. But that is the adventure of life, isn't it. Don't shy away from new challenges, just because they mean you have to jump.
Not all jumping off of a bridge is fatal. Sometimes, you learn to spread your wings and fly.
Until the next Blog -- Auf Wiedersehen!
Hot off the Podcast Press:
Mid-March interview with Julie Walker Harris of The Other 50% - Herstory of Hollywood - Podcast. Click on the icon below to go to the link and interview!
Debut Feature Film From Co-Directors Heidi Philipsen-Meissner and Jon Russell Cring
‘Darcy’ Starring Gus Birney and Johnathan Tchaikovsky Will Make its New York Debut at 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival New York
NYC Screening Held March 22nd Followed by Q&A with Filmmakers
PRESS OPP: Gus Birney, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Paula Singer, David Thornton and additional cast members to attend closing night
Official Trailer: https://youtu.be/e8l7d1Vr7h0
NEW YORK (February 27, 2018) – Personae Entertainment’s first feature film, the coming-of-age drama, DARCY has been made an Official Selection at the 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival (SRFF) taking place March 16 – 22nd at the Cinema Village, NYC. SRFF 2018 showcases exceptional independent cinema and international films dedicated to social issues and the filmmakers telling these stories. DARCY is slated for closing night on March 22, 2018 at the Cinema Village theater at 8:00pm ET. A special Q&A will follow the screening with both filmmakers, Heidi Philipsen-Meissner and Jon Russell Cring.
Reviewed by Amy Biancolli for the Times Union as “a small, intense ensemble drama set in the Catskills, [DARCY] isn't your run-of-the-mill coming-of-age film. It isn't your run-of-the-mill debut feature, either. Come to think of it, it isn't your run-of-the-mill anything.”
This marks the feature film debut for Gus Birney of TV’s "The Mist” as the starring role of DARCY, which centers around a teenage girl living and working in a seedy motel run by her parents taking in former prisoners as part of an arrangement. Surrounded by delinquents, Darcy’s eyes get a little bit wider and things begin to change after Luke, the alluring ex-con checks into the motel.
DARCY is the feature film debut by co-directors Heidi Philipsen-Meissner and Jon Russell Cring, which brought together Executive producers Niko Meissner, Stephanie Dillon (“Stay, Then Go”), Kathryn McDermott (“Spiderman”); and Director of Photography Tracy Nicole Cring (“The Night We Met”).
The ensemble cast includes: Johnathan Tchaikovsky (“Keep The Change”); Paulina Singer (“The Intern”); David Thornton (“The Notebook”), and Bernadette Quigley (TV’s “Mr. Robot”); and Heidi Philipsen (“Her Telling Heart”). DARCY also features original music from Gus Birney as well composers Brian Gallio, Connor Noetzel and Shane Noetzel.
Early bird festival ticket sales are available now for purchase to the general public.
Film critics and members of the press are invited to the screening of DARCY on Thursday, March 24 at 8:00pm at the Cinema Village theater located at 22 E. 12 St, New York City. Co-directors and cast are available for interviews; please contact MSophia PR for further information.
Official Trailer: https://youtu.be/e8l7d1Vr7h0
The official website for DARCY is at www.DarcyMovie.com.
Press kit available upon request
Follow along on social media: TW @DarcyMovie; FB @DarcyMovie; IG @DarcyMovie
Behind-the-scenes short videos available on @DarcyMovie YouTube channel: DarcyMovie
Darcy – Synopsis:
Darcy is an idealistic fifteen-year-old, living on the edge of town in her family's motel where the justice system dumps its trash. The prostitutes, the addicts, the malcontents inside each room have their own stories and secrets and her fate is interwoven with theirs. When an alluring stranger enters her world, Darcy finds herself with a choice to make: Remain in the world she knows, or move forward into an unknown future.
DARCY is a Personae Entertainment production; Co-Directors: Heidi Philipsen-Meissner and Jon Russell Cring; Co-screenwriters: Jon Russel Cring and Tracy Nicole Cring; Producer: Heidi Philipsen-Meissner (p.g.a.); Executive Producers: Stephanie Dillon, Niko Meissner, Kathryn McDermott; Associate Producer/Co-Writer/Director of Photography Tracy Nicole Cring; Associate Producer/Casting Director Caroline Sinclair; Associate Producers: Michael H. Back, Heidi Eklund, Nicole Joens; Composer: The Afternoon Edition; Storyboard Artist: Robert Castillo.
Cast: Gus Birney, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Paulina Singer, Bernadette Quigley, David Thornton, Jon David Casey, Heidi Philipsen, Lawton Denis, Joe McKenna, Denny Dale Bess, Ray Faiola, Cameron Mitchell Williams, Nando Del Castillo and Wayne Pyle.
Run Time: 91 min; Genre: Drama; Rating NR; Year: 2017; Language: English; Country of Origin: United States; Format: Red 4k; Sound: Dolby.
ABOUT PERSONAE ENTERTAINMENT
Personae Entertainment is a development-to-production company that takes scripts to film production via producing both creatively and financially, working closely with sales, marketing and distribution companies to keep in touch with the desired film and its audience along the way.
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Contact us for press inquiries
Has it really been three months since my last Blog on this site? Wow.
Time flies when you're having fun.
No - seriously. I did mean "literally."
I've been writing up a storm of late... just not on this Blog, unfortunately... two feature length scripts during the last academic year (10 months), while enrolled in UCLA's Online Professional Screenwriting Program: A comedy and a tragedy.
C'est La Vie!
And I've been writing an article - or two - every month for my favorite Ann Arbor alternative monthly arts and entertainment scene zine, Current.
In fact, after flying out to Los Angeles and graduating with my certificate in professional screenwriting from UCLA's School of Film & Theater, last Friday, this is truly the first moment I've had in several months to just sit and breeaaaatthhhh.
Yes, there will be rewrites.
Yes, there will be more articles.
And hopefully, one day, a book.
And a poetry book.
And more screenplays.
(Heidi - remember to breeeaaaattthhhhh!!!!)
Gosh, I love creating.
But for now, there is just you. My readers.
Thank you for taking the time to catch up with me. It makes my words come to life.
Until the next time - carpe diem!
One of the things I love about being a parent, a writer and a film geek is that I get to write about all things film from a variety of perspectives, for a plethora of different publications.
Check out this piece which includes an interview I had with Ann Arbor Film Festival Executive Director Leslie Raymond by clicking HERE.
An actress, director, producer and writer, Heidi welcomes you to her Blog. Learn about her latest endeavors and garner a glimpse into her recent accomplishments, both professional and personal.