Happy Mother’s Day

My mother died from cancer 2 weeks before I started grade 1. I remember my first day quite well. It was very exciting. Finally starting “big school” all dressed up in my little blue and white uniform with my little blue and white backpack on my shoulders. It was a Jewish school,  there was a lot of blue and white. 

Being freshly 6 years old my mom hadn’t had a chance to teach me how to tie up my  hair or even how to brush it for that matter. I remember urgently knocking on my older sister’s bedroom door waking her up to ask her to do my hair for me. She sleepily brushed it up into a high pony tail and fell back asleep. She would do this for me every morning for the next few months until I got the hang of it. 

My dad took me to school and dropped me off while all the other excited mothers hung around taking photos of their little angels. I felt so out of place and alone. One of the mothers kindly offered to take a photo of me. It was a big scary day but I soon made friends and found my way. 

199324_4539647485_8907_n

I still remember when my mother was diagnosed. Or at least I think I do. Most of my memories from my early childhood come from pictures or other people’s stories or films but I do own a few snapshots and faded moments. Like when I was lying on my parents bed and my mom rushed in exhausted and said something about being sick. I remember visiting her in hospital and wanting to take the gifted stuffed toys she had in her hospital room. I remember the short pixie cut wig she wore once her hair had fallen out and that I used to play with it after she died. I even wore it in the school play when I played the lead role as the principle of the school. Mrs Lewitan. For some reason I was directed to act drunk and hiccup all over the stage. In retrospect that must have been really offensive to Mrs lewitan but the audience loved it. And I loved making them laugh. I knew from 6 years old that I wanted to be a comedian. Or a hairdresser. But mostly a comedian. Until I got a bit older and heard that most comedians are really depressed. That confused me but I get it now. You have to laugh to get through this life. 

I was left at school a couple times and had to walk home. I had to pack my own lunch and make my own arrangements with my friends mom’s. I had to take responsibility for myself because otherwise it just wouldn’t happen. Not to say my dad wasn’t great. He truly was and still is wonderful, if not a little forgetful and well, busy taking care of his three children without the help of his wife, while grieving her death. So he did a great job. But I was forced to grow up fast. The strangest thing I’ve noticed about growing up fast is that I sometimes feel like I need help with the simplest or easiest things. Or I at least want help. Like when I’m sick and need to go to the doctor. Or when I need to buy new underwear. Or ask how to make that one recipe. Or how to turn the oven on. Things that a mother normally tells you growing up. But everything else, all the big things, like dealing with loss, death, fear and learning to communicate and love fully and follow your heart because life is short and you never know when it will end, I’ve mostly figured out myself. 

Mother’s Day has always been my least favourite day. It’s like everyone is rubbing the fact that they have mothers and I don’t in my face. Made worse by social media of course. I always used to get so sad on Mother’s Day but as I’ve gotten a bit older I realised that its not just a day to miss my mother, but a day to acknowledge all mothers and all the mother figures I have had in my life. My step mother has been in my life since I was 9 and boy did she have to put up with a lot. I was a typical moody teenager, quite used to the freedom my dad had always allowed me. My step mom came in and brought a lot more discipline into the house, which I am now so grateful for. She took me to and from ballet class, the studio where I worked and all my friend’s houses. She helped me with my Afrikaans homework. In fact she is the only reason I got a B in matric. She has always supported my successes and been a shoulder to cry on when I got dumped by some stupid boy. Its not an easy role to take on- the step mother. Cinderella really gave it a bad rap, but let me tell you that I got pretty lucky with mine. She has always been anything but evil. Thank you Arl! I don’t think I’ve said that enough.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my friend’s mothers that I grew up with, to all my friends that have now become mothers and to all the mothers and grandmothers in my family. Also not forgetting the fathers who have had to be the mothers sometimes too. Thank you for everything that you do!

11140747_10153305260007486_1262600117316930000_n

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

New York, I love you!

 

nominee poster@300x-100

Guys! So much has happened with Chin Up since I last posted. I relocated to Cape Town and filmed a season 2. You can watch it all here and while you’re at it please subscribe to my channel! Ok back to the amazing thing that happened…

I have always wanted to go to New York. I feel like I was maybe supposed to be born there and if I had been I would probably be friends with Abbi and Ilana from Broad City or in Lena Dunham’s first film but I wasn’t so Im not. I just have to make my own comedy series all the way down here in sunny SA and thats actually just fine thanks to the internet. Here’s why…I decided that I didn’t just want to go New York for a holiday (like a pleb). I would have to go with a film that I’m in or something way cooler like that. Many years passed and still no incredible opportunity to go to New York… One day I got the bright idea to submit my own film A.K.A web series to a festival in New York City. The NYC Web Fest to be exact and I got in! To make things even cooler I got nominated for an award for Best Actress in a Web Series. So yeah I guess I created my own amazing opportunity to go to New York with my own film! Thanks to my wonderful family and now fiance’ who helped fund this broke ass actress, I was able to fly to New York and attend the three day festival watching all the other 88 series and meeting filmmakers and creatives from around the world, representing as the only series creator from South Africa.

It was so exciting to be in New York and see the famous facades from all my favourite films. oooh I love an alliteration. It was completely surreal to be there. The only reason I knew I wasn’t actually dreaming was because it was damn freezing and my whole body hurt from walking 50000 steps a day everyday.

I went to Broadway!! Broadway!! I watched Amy Shumer and Keegan Key in Meteor Shower sitting next to a real life sixty something year old Jewish New Yorker woman with a thick Brooklyn accent. It was the best! I watched a new musical called A Bronx Tale which was excellent and then had a technical glitch and had to stop in the middle of the second act and that literally never happens on Broadway, but it did and I loved it because they handled it so well and it was so real! I went to UCB and watched a live improvised show which had me in stitches. Also that actress from Game of Thrones was sitting in front of me. Even though I don’t watch Game of Thrones. (I know wtf? but I don’t and also incest. ew.) I still know her face and its still exciting. I couldn’t buy a thing, other than daily coffees and bagels with sundried tomato cream cheese. We went to the Met, the Guggenheim and Moma and was overwhelmed with the amazingness of everything.

My brain felt over loaded and we eventually just went to see a screening of Blade Runner 2049 which, unbeknownst to us, would be followed by a QnA with the director, Denise Villeneuve, which was magical! Just the most unexpected, brilliant experience for me and my filmmaker fiance’. (oooh another alliteration! and another. ok I’ll stop now.)

 

To make the whole thing even better I, Lara Lipschitz, Chin Up actress and creator, WON the award for Best Actress. I won!! It was insane. Not only did I go to New York with my own show, but I also won an award!

There is so much to say about this whole trip. Maybe Ill do another post about it. In the mean time Im going to get back to writing season 3 of Chin Up so that I can submit to more festivals and travel the world in the coolest way possible.

I don’t do my own Stunts

The brief came in last minute. Emergency Casting. They had seen all the models and realized (shock horror) that they can’t act. So they urgently called in actors. Yes finally. So off I go and it’s fine and the next day I get a call back. It’s awesome. I go and guess what? Everyone is there so not much of a shortlist. But somehow , I actually book the job!! Me!! This little Jew books the lead girl in a soft drink commercial! (keeping their name out just in case.) So off I go to the rehearsal day. I have to practice getting in the water using the oxygen from a diving tank and then holding my breath as I’m slowly pulled down by a weighted machine thing. What?? I’m sorry but I did not realize I would have to basically be a fish. I never pretended to be a diver or even a better swimmer than I am and yet I booked the job so surely they don’t really need a stunt woman. Well guess what? They do. I try not to panic and to do what they ask of me but the water is fucking freezing and I can hardly get in never mind be pulled down into the depths of this suicide pool. I’m thinking , shit how can I actually film this effortlessly tomorrow? This is not gonna be possible for me. What do I do now?

Before I even finish a call to my agent about a plan of action they had called in another girl to test out her diving skills. I was kind of relieved to be honest.

She arrives and says he has also never done diving before but she takes to it like a fish in water, making me look extra pathetic. So what now, have I been officially replaced? No, I need to stay and wait and see how replaceable we really are. Just as she thought she had the job in the bag another girl is in the water. This one actually has a jaw line. She’s hotter than both me and the second girl put together. So I guess it’s hers now. Finally they release me and as I drive out a third girl arrives. I guess they weren’t satisfied with the hot one.

When I went to say thanks and goodbye to the director she just laughed and in her Polish accent said “chin up!”  I kid you not. She must have watched my web series otherwise its too weird.

It was really one of the scariest and most traumatic days of my career. Oh yes and they refuse to pay me because they say I couldn’t do what needed to be done, only they literally never once mentioned the words “dive” “oxygen tank” “free dive” “extremely deep” “extremely cold” “hyperthermia” etc.

Disclaimer: None of this is made up or exaggerated.

IMG_0090

 

The Actors Advocate

So you’ve been hanging out with your photographer friend a bit too much and decided to allow him to take a few quick photos of you. You know, for your new profile pic. Up it goes on Facebook and Instagram and you get all the likes and it’s all pretty swell. Skip to a few years later and you find out this photographer friend of yours has gone ahead and printed this image of you and sold it without so much as a mention or request for permission from you. When you confront him he reckons he can do what he likes with his photos. He has rights to his photos, which is fair enough but then why does it make you feel so uncomfortable? Well that’s because you also have rights to your image, likeness, personality, dignity, privacy and reputation and those rights have been completely ignored.

Smart phones and social media have made everyone and their little sister a photographer and that’s great for many reasons. Creative career opportunities are constantly being launched through Instagram, but what about the moral implications? People aren’t informed and are crossing all sorts of lines.

As an actress my image is a carefully curated brand. If I agree to be photographed it’s because I believe it will benefit my personal brand and if the photographer makes money off my image I should be reimbursed accordingly. Makes sense right? Well apparently not.

Photography is an art form and many photographers don’t bother making sure that they legally own the work they publish or make money from. It’s one thing when a photo is taken in a public space but it’s a completely different thing if it’s in a private setting. It becomes an actual photo shoot and therefore a fee should be paid upfront or a percentage of the profit should be paid to the model once it’s sold. Either way some kind of mutually beneficial agreement should be made between the photographer and the model.

I have learnt the hard way how important it is to state clearly in writing how that image can be used in the future. Once money has been made from your image and your bare body is now hanging in someone’s house without your consent it feels all kinds of creepy.

This recently happened to me and I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it. The photographer is my friend and we work in the same industry so I confronted him but we reached no resolution. He believes he’s free to do what he likes with his image and I believe he needs to get me to sign a release before he can sell it or at the very least ask for my consent. We collaborated and created something beautiful together that has now been sold. If it was a collaboration surely both parties should benefit from the sale? Why do photographers feel that they own it all with no obligations to the person in the photograph?

I spoke to many friends and photographers who each had a different opinion. None of which were really informed opinions though, in fact most people had no idea. I decided to adult hard and find myself a lawyer so I could get to the bottom of this predicament with hard facts and laws. After telling my lawyer the whole debacle he agreed that I have a strong case against this so-called friend of mine and that I should press charges. I told him I really didn’t feel like fighting. We have so many mutual friends and work in the same field. I didn’t want to make a fuss. My lawyer told me that sounded a lot like rape culture. His words not mine, but it did make me analyze the comparison more thoroughly. Let me be clear in that I’m not using the R word flippantly. I am not claiming to understand the gravity of that kind of situation but I do know what an imbalance of power feels like. I know what it feels like to be completely taken advantage of by a friend and not want to take further legal action in order to protect my social and professional relationship with our mutual friends and colleagues. I even chose to excuse myself from a casting for a big local commercial once I found out this photographer was involved. I didn’t feel like any more murky power play between us and there’s something very wrong with that. The imbalance of power is intimidating and overwhelming leaving me feeling defeated.

All I’m saying is take heed. We live in strange times where our image can be captured and sold before we even realize there was a photographer in the room. This is especially valid for actors and models. Get yourselves simple release forms that clearly state what you are and are not comfortable with and get that photographer to sign before the shoot. A photo shoot is a collaboration, meaning a combined effort to create something beautiful. Therefore there should be combined reward when someone is willing to pay for that beauty, unless agreed otherwise.

It’s about raising awareness about people’s rights to privacy and dignity. It’s about fairness in creative collaboration. It’s a moral and ethical issue that needs to be discussed right now and considered before every photo shoot. Know your rights because if you felt taken advantage of, chances are you were.

Emotional Creature- Part 2. What Feminism means to me.

Being a girl is harder than it looks. My whole life I wished I was a boy. Boys just move in the world differently. There is no pervasive threat ruling over their lives. They don’t feel scared walking down the street, they don’t get cat called and stared at by dirty old men. They don’t have to deal with bitchy competition and deep emotional resentment, unless they are dating one of those girls. Of course, I am aware that I am generalizing. But IN GENERAL, boys and men will never understand the everyday sexual assault girls and women go through.

Girls are taught from day one that “there isn’t enough to go round”, so you better fight for that “piece of the pie.” There aren’t enough men in the world, so you better compete with any beautiful, talented woman, to ensure your place. A deep sense of insecurity is ingrained in us and governs the rest of our lives.

Women pull each other down instead of rising up to meet the power and success of another woman. Patriarchy rules the world and his law enforces a “divide and conquer” mentality. Whether they realize it or not, men encourage women to look and act a certain way in order to appear attractive. The media force-feeds us images of “beauty” that are ultimately man-made, exclusive and restrictive.

Women, in their desperation to be desired, a concept passed down from mother to daughter for generations, do whatever it takes to keep up with this image in order to please men, in order to please their mothers, their sisters, their friends, their children…and so it goes.

Feminism is a word and movement that is hard to swallow for most people, women included. Before doing Emotional Creature with Eve Ensler, I would vehemently deny being a feminist. It was as if I thought it would scare people away. I thought Feminism was for man hating, hairy arm-pitted, bra burning lesbians. I think that’s what a lot of people imagine when they hear the “F” word.

However, I was completely misinformed. I would go so far as to say, I was mislead by Patriarchy itself, as men are the ones that want to keep women down. Keep them separate. Keep them thinking that being educated and smart is unattractive. That dressing and grooming your body in one particular way is the only way to be desirable. So women turn their backs on the movement. I know I did.

Firstly, let me be clear and state that I don’t know everything about being a feminist, or the many different kinds of Feminism there are. All I know is that I’m figuring out what Feminism means to me, today. Right now in my life, as a 26 year old, educated, inspired women, girl, actress, girlfriend, sister, Feminism means; equal rights for men and women. The fight for the right to education shouldn’t still be a thing in 2014. Feminism is about women having control over their own bodies. It demands an end to sex slavery, rape, genital mutilation and all violence against women. It HAS to stop! It has to change and I believe the only way it can start to change is for women to come together, support each other, educate each other, rise up and take back our power. While at the same time UNITING with MEN, sharing our stories and our feelings with them. Having these conversations with them. It’s NOT about being anti-men, It’s a movement for men AND women to come together and respect each other. Its NOT about being masculine in order to have power, its about owning your femininity, being confident to live in a female body and feeling free to move around in the world in that female body. Its NOT about not wanting to have sex, or being a prude, in fact its probably the exact opposite. It’s about owning our bodies and doing what WE truly want to do with them. Feeling sexy, confident, powerful, happy, smart and feminine without fear of being excluded from one’s community or being labeled a slut or a bitch. I’m so tired of those words!

That’s what Feminism means to me right now. Maybe it will change in years to come. I HOPE it does. I hope the right to education and the lack of violence against women is a reality I will get to experience in my lifetime.

I would like to thank Eve Ensler for enlightening me and showing me what Feminism is about. I didn’t realize I had an opinion on the subject until I started rehearsing for Emotional Creature. Thank you.

Emotional Creature- Part One

I just finished, what may be, the most rewarding and soulfully satisfying shows of my life. Emotional Creature, written by Eve Ensler, who interviewed girls all over the world and adapted their painful and heartbreaking stories into monologues to be performed on stage. There is something so magical about live theatre. The whole act of standing up in front of an audience, adopting a character and the emotions that go along with her, and telling a story. There is a palpable energy that cannot be experienced in any other medium.

I auditioned for Emotional Creature sometime around March 2014. I knew about The Vagina Monologues, of course. I had seen it on stage when I was in primary school and I heard pieces of it being performed while studying Drama at Wits. I then borrowed a copy of the book, Emotional Creature, from my, already enlightened feminist friend, Jaya. I say “already enlightened” because I wasn’t yet. I knew about feminism and believed it had a place in the socio-political climate of the 60’s or something…but I didn’t realize just how relevant feminism is today and that it must exist as long as sexism exists, simple as that. Anyway, I read the book and prepared for the audition and then didn’t hear back for at least a month. I figured I didn’t get it and was actually seriously considering another career path when I got that miraculous call from Gina, one of the producers of the show. I got the part! I literally had to pull over my car and cry I was so happy. But I still didn’t know what was in store. It wasn’t just a role in a show and a bit of a salary for a few months, but so much more.

I was a bit scared to start rehearsals by the time they rolled around in June. I wasn’t really in the right “headspace” to commit to all day every day rehearsals. I struggled to get into it and just kept telling myself there is only one way to enjoy something and that’s to be present and absorb every moment.

It was so amazing to work with New York based director, Jo Bonney; a patient, calm, sarcastic, witty and wonderful director. She gave us the right amount of guidance and freedom while still encouraging me to be braver and have more fun.

Acting is a funny thing. There is no real method, in my humble opinion. You just have to find the truth of the character, your storytelling beats and shifts and bring yourself to the part. At first I struggled with the monolgues that were assigned to me. I didn’t like the characters, I judged them straight off the bat. I felt self conscious doing them. It was bizarre, it was like I actually forgot that its “acting” not being myself!

Jo was always open to discussing and figuring out the character, which I found most helpful. Once I stopped judging the characters and their stories I could wear them like a big coat. Cover myself in them and feel their truth, their pain, their desires. I could have fun with them without necessarily understanding everything rationally. Basically start feeling the stories and stop thinking about them from an outsider’s perspective. I grew so much as an actor. I feel like I get it now. I get what they say when they say, “don’t judge your character” and how you can’t play a feeling, but rather tell the story and stay connected to the moment and the feelings will come! Like a cat, who will only come sit on your lap when you stop calling for it.

Chin Up!

 

poster 1@300x-100

 

Chin Up is a fun, fresh South African story about the behind-the-scenes world of acting. It follows the life of a young, ambitious twenty-something year old actress as she attends castings, deals with her disinterested agent and handles insulting directors. Inspired by comedians like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham with their self-written and produced television series (30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Girls) Chin Up is an offbeat and funny web series that could easily be extended into a fully fledged television series.

We need to see new and current South African stories on our televisions and in our cinemas. There are so many ways to be a South African and to be a girl living in South Africa today that many people, both locally and internationally, can relate to and are eager to see. The show is about keeping your chin up in spite of all the odds, following your dreams even when the road to success is long and meandering and not to take yourself too seriously along the way. That is a message that resonates with everyone.

Written by and starring Lara Lipschitz, who plays a version of her real life persona. (Perhaps the most insecure and naïve version.) The show is based on her experiences in auditions and in shows. Supported by some of South Africa’s finest comedic actors such as Bryan Van Niekerk, who plays her disinterested agent, Jason Goliath, who plays her agent’s personal therapist and James Cuningham, who plays her father.

Chin Up was recently part of the officials selection at the NYC Web Fest representing as the only web series from Africa. It was well received and Lara was awarded with Best Actress in a web series. Lara is currently working on season 3 and looking for interested funders and investors.

Watch all episodes here.