15 Years Ago, I was in NYC, a grad student at Columbia | SIPA, when the Towers were hit and so many innocent people died, tragically. It altered the course of history.There was so much darkness.
But there was also hope.
I still marvel, being a NYC transplant at the time, at how New Yorkers came together to rise above and help each other out. It changed my life.
Our son Maximilian Amadeus was conceived 15 years ago -- "The Greatest Love of God" is what his name means and being pregnant with him literally gave me a life to look forward to in a time of incredible uncertainty, shock and sadness.
Five Years Later...
The storyteller in me, needing release, five years later, having moved back to Ann Arbor, MI to support my husband in his grad studies, I reached out to the play "The Guys," by Anne Nelson in remembrance on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and produced and directed it in to a packed crowd, which included the mayor.
And, again, on the 10th anniversary in Albany, NY, at The Linda - WAMC's Performing Arts Studio to a much smaller, but appreciative crowd, none-the-less (we had moved to upstate NY for his new job at G.E.)
Looking back, both projects were my way of coping through performance and creativity -- and being part of them helped me to process so many complicated and dark feelings, while also letting go of tears.
15 Years Later -- Today
Now a freshman in high school, our son, Max, knows only of this day and the follow days from the stories his father, Niko Meissner, and I tell him. Being the son of a storyteller, he has been well-versed in the history and significance of 9/11.
And he has, as we tell him, been given a special task to never give in to fear or hate, but to stand up for what is good and just and right -- like so many of the selfless firefighters and active civilians who gave their lives and livelihoods to help so many others.
I, my self, went down to Ground Zero to help in the trenches back then -- only to be told by my doctor, after becoming ill, that I was pregnant and should not go down there with all the debris in the air.
Only to learn, later, how many civilians who had went down there to help, like me, ended up with chronic illnesses from the atmosphere around them (asbestos, what-not in the air).
Being pregnant with Max saved my life in more than one way...15 years ago, today.
I will never forget.
And I ask my fellow mothers and fathers to pass down the tradition of sharing this moment in history so that we all remember what it is like to stand together against hate and violence, rather than giving into our darkest demons.
The terrorism has not ceased.
And we are a more complex culture than we were back then. But if we are alive today, we must carry the legacy and task of creating a better life for our fellow humans and not being afraid to look back -- or look forward with hope.
It is the rising above our inner demons that brings us closer to the divine.
Moving Forward panelist during the first Saratoga Springs International Film Festival at 4:15pm on September 17th! Tickets are on pre-sale now $8 General $5 Student. www.SaratogaSIFF.com #SaratogaSIFF
When I was in my first year of college, back in the 90’s, taking a course in learning the German language (it was the language of my maternal grandmother’s family who settled in the states in the 1800s), my then German professor used to make me so nervous that I would stutter when trying to speak. I was so painfully shy that I couldn’t bear to be corrected in front of a class.
“Heidi,” she told me, “Don’t ever go to Germany. You’ll never learn the language and will fail miserably.”
Two years later, while studying at the University of Michigan (I had transferred to my preferred school by then – can you blame me?), I jumped at the chance to study abroad. Guess where?!
Today, I not only speak German fluently, as acknowledged in official testing by the Goethe Institute, but I ended up staying in Germany long enough to establish an exciting career in English-teaching, journalism, theater and film – and ended up marrying a “Berliner” who, interestingly enough, had just as hard a time learning English from his English-teacher, as I did my German professor.
Funny how life has a way of sending you opportunities to prove to yourself of your own worth!
Since then, I’ve had more opportunities to prove my own worth to myself – and others – than I care to admit.
There was the Swiss woman for whom I worked, cleaning her house, feeding her children and running her errands so that she could juggle her personal life as a mother and wife with her professional life as a professor of linguistics at the University of Geneva. I had taken a job for her as a Haushaltshilfe (Household Assistant) as a side-job while studying German literature and hermeneutics at the Albert-Luedwig’s Universitaet in Freiburg, Germany.
Frau Goedtke, as she had me call her, had hosted a party and hired me to help. Well, actually, she had invited me as a guest and then put me to work (without pay). While there, one of the guests asked me about myself and I answered that was a filmmaker.
Of course, in my mind, that was what I was going to become – a filmmaker. I had already made several short films and a student documentary. It was only a matter of time before I became an established filmmaker.
“Heidi,” she accosted me, days later after the party, “Who do you think you are? Telling my guests such horrible lies about yourself! You are no filmmaker. You don’t make films! Why would you spread such deceit? You cannot call yourself a filmmaker until your films are in movie theaters!”
And then there was the colleague at the German-English-Spanish world-wide broadcast TV station who, upon learning that I wanted to go back to graduate school instead of settling down to have babies (at 27!), asked me, “Are you the type to go to graduate school?”
Then, too, not only after getting into graduate school – but an Ivy League, at that – and moving back from Berlin, Germany (where I had been for several years) to New York City, I encountered the fellow graduate student who, as the second-year lead editor of the journalistic quarterly for which I wanted to write about globalization – it was the year 2000 I was excited about writing about my experience living in the European Union and the state of how they saw this new phenomenon – spread around that I was a “Nazi Bitch” when I refused to accept that my thoughts on the topic did not count (he wanted me to be the ‘business manager’ who does not write, but helps sell the publication).
Honestly, that hurt. Hurt to the core of my soul. He was Jewish and I had just returned from Berlin which, as we all know, played a horrific role in some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind – toward the Jewish race. What he – nor anyone else did NOT know – is that I had taught English as a second language at the Jewish school in Berlin and worked tirelessly toward supporting a growing community of returning Jewish families, not only in Germany, but from as far as Russia.
Nothing tests your belief in your own values and self-worth than being unfairly tested and wrongly labelled something so that others will alienate you, or – worse, causing you to alienate yourself – thus preventing you from using your voice.
What did my fellow graduate student’s comments have in common with all of the rest? They wanted to stop me from defining my own destiny, whether that be learning a language, going back to graduate school or not accepting anything less for myself than my fellow male peers and refusing to be bullied into merely a supportive role.
Why did I not stand up for myself in any of the above situations? Why did I not fight back and set them straight?
Honestly, at the time, I was too afraid and insecure. I allowed them, in that moment, to define me. I had not yet found my voice to tell them that they were wrong.
But neither did I give up my dreams or goals. See, even when we don’t yet know how to speak with that voice, it’s still inside – sometimes buried, maybe sleeping, but it’s there. You just have to keep listening for it and not let it fall silent.
Believe it or not, I don’t harbor any hard feelings for those individuals who felt it was their duty to meet me head on with an incorrect truth – it might have been their truth, but it was not mine and no one has better license to determine the truth of my past, present and future than I do.
Today I DO speak fluent German, I AM a filmmaker, and I WILL share my thoughts and voice, because I have meaningful things to say.
Proving people wrong, over and over, again, through the years, in spite of initial self-doubt, has taught me that; and, I am certain, my journey of self-discovery in proving other’s opinions of me is far from over.
In the end, it’s what you accomplish in spite of and against the odds that makes you stronger; questions or labels are nothing more than hollow words.
This past month, I interviewed Indie Movie Maverick and Icon, Ira Deutchman, for Current Magazine, about his contribution to the University of Michigan's Archive curation:Indie Movie Mavericks.
Check it out: http://www.ecurrent.com/July-2016/Indie-Icon-Donates-Collection-Ira-Deutchman/#.V3ls7_T3bCS
(Note: the photo included is of the greater collection, as Mr. Deutchman's collection is still being curated.)
Check out my latest article about local Detroit/Ann Arbor film-makers Drew Williams and Steve Weed and their next film project in Current Magazine! (click the icon/logo below.)
Check out Heidi's latest piece fearing a case-study interview, "STEPS TO SELLING A SCRIPT AND GETTING IT PRODUCED" with the writers of her film THIS IS NOWHERE: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/steps-selling-a-script-getting-produced-film-case-study
I'm thrilled to start my second year teaching at the Motion Picture Institute within their Film Acting Department.
My course? Film Acting and Production Lab -- complete with a short film that we'll be working on and shooting in class throughout the semester.
I teach what I know -- from all of the on set experience, casting calls, auditions, working and being out of work, as well as applying all of those lovely acting methods I've learned along the way from some of the top acting schools in Manhattan.
But I learn just as much as I teach. I like to think that my students and I are in this together -- It's a journey we take to find out who we are with our craft, our belief systems, where we want to go and how we plan on getting there.
And I work hard to embrace the practice of being grateful while giving all I've got.
You see, in my book, true acting is about staying present in the moment, seeing the world around you, embracing it, and giving of yourself in return.
Can't wait to meet my new students.
Heidi Elizabeth Philipsen-Meissner
This just in: I'm terrifically excited to share that the indie film, shot in Albany, N.Y., on which I worked as PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR, just announced distribution: http://deadline.com/2015/11/4th-man-out-gravitas-ventures-parker-young-kate-flannery-1201604121/
This past Thursday, after saying fair well to actress Gus Birney as she hopped on her flight back to NYC from Chicago (she was just a guest actor on the TV series Chicago Med), I decided to head to northern to help celebrate my Aunt Neva's 92 birthday and visit my father, Dale Philipsen's grave.
Both my father and my aunt were huge supporters of my efforts and the production of THIS IS NOWHERE.
Both siblings to a large, 13-child family (my dad being the youngest), making movies was something that only happened in Hollywood and Hollywood might as well have been Oz for all they were concerned.
Papa always loved movies and I think that I was living out his true dream.
Today is "All Saints Day" - and I think it is befitting, as such, to give tribute to all of the people in our lives who have supported us - in one way or another - to live out our dreams, no matter how unrealistic they might have seemed to the rest of the world, the community or the family.
It hasn't even been a year yet since Papa passed, and I remember how proud of me he was when I showed him the check that "This is Nowhere's" main benefactor Stephanie Dillon wrote out to the film - which gave us the "Greenlight."
He was beaming. His little girl had finally "made it" - at least as far as he was concerned.
I guess that's why, truthfully, I pushed so hard to get through production in spite of heart-breaking grief.
I knew that my father would want me to see it through.
We are so close to completing our post-production crowdfunding campaign with only four days to go and $500 needed to reach our Greenlight to be done.
My father isn't physically here to support me with his words of wisdom and love and encouragement as he was before. And at times I have felt quite lost as a result.
But driving back now, through the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, past tiny towns and the majestic Lake Michigan on small highways that know both big dreams and sad defeats in mortal reality, I am reminded at how much "This is Nowhere" is alive and well - everywhere - in all of us.
And our loved ones long gone.
When we finish this film, we will be making many far-fetched dreams come true, and remembering the dreams of those who helped us to get where we are today.
May we succeed in our goal and not loose sight of what brought us here to begin with.
Love, hope and faith. Against all odds.
Producer / Co-Director / Actress Heidi Philipsen
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.