BABE #130: MISHA CALVERT,
Misha is a filmmaker by day and a creative by always. From acting to producing to directing, her career (and life) are wholeheartedly dedicated to telling stories, and telling them well. We loved learning about the exciting career stage she's currently submerged in, and we're inspired by the confident babe she’s blossoming into as well as the world she’s helping to create for future women in film + beyond. Thanks for chatting with us Misha; you're a babe (and a future international media mogul, in our humble opinion.)
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Current city: New York City
Alma mater: Colorado College
Degree: B.A., Drama
Very first job: Radio Host
Babe you admire and why?
Barbra Streisand. She was one of the first auteurs to do it all in a public and unapologetic way: acting, writing, directing, on top of a legendary career as a musician. She is still ahead of her time, even now. One of the all-time female Hollywood overachievers.
How do you spend your free time?
I don't have much free time, but when I'm not working I enjoy travel, going to the movies or theater, museums, hosting parties, catching up on my favorite shows, yoga and meditation. Some of my favorite adventures have been surfing in Hawaii, yachting in Thailand and exploring the cemeteries of New Orleans.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Probably Instagram, because I'm building my fan base there right now.
Go-to coffee order?
Medium Red Eye. But I would really like to shift to having fresh juice in the morning, instead. Coffee is a drug!
Go-to adult beverage?
I don't really drink much. It makes me so tired the next day!
Favorite social media account to follow?
Gary Vee. He is a must-watch for any entrepreneur.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Finances. I am not great with my own, and have no formal or informal financial education. It would be really helpful to have that sort of knowledge so I can start investing properly.
I'm really into the composer Ramin Djawadi right now (Westworld, Game of Thrones).
What’s something most don't know about you?
I spent a few years living in a condemned building as a kid and remember doing homework by candlelight.
Last concert you attended?
My friend Charlotte Moroz creates her own musicals. I try to see everything she produces.
Tell us about your hustle:
I'm an auteur by construct who also acts, in the vein of Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Hitchcock, Tarantino, etc. This means I write scripts and, most of the time, act in them and direct or co-direct. I basically aspire to be, like the latter part of that list, known as a “last name.” The root meaning of "auteur" is a director whose style is so remarkable you can recognize a piece of their work upon viewing. Thus, to be an auteur is to be a visionary, because you must have a clear sense of the tone and structure of the finished piece before you begin, and the ability to honor your own unique voice and point of view for a script from premise to post-production. Producing is incredibly challenging and stressful, and I salute anyone who chooses it as his or her profession. Executive producing, on the other hand, is terrific, because you have a lot of (if not all) final say.
What does your typical workday look like?
My workdays are all very different. If I'm on the road, I usually get up, slam some coffee, try to make myself presentable, and answer as many emails and texts as I can before I head out the door for meetings or festivals (right now I am promoting Tinder is the Night!) Normally I'm in New York though, and it's a lot easier to plow through my to-do lists when I'm working from home. I try to meditate a little each morning to condition my mind to be focused and calm. Then, I'll do the most challenging part of my day first, whether it's giving notes on something, finishing a script draft, or submitting to a grant. From there, every day is a hodge-podge of emails, texts, calls, writing, pitching, research viewing, producing or post-production. Literally no two days are the same. I try to go to the gym somewhere in there and, when I'm not being too hard on myself, I'll meet up with a friend, colleague or date for an hour or so of social time.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the entertainment world?
I was doing all of these things in kid-version from the time I could talk, so in that sense I was never “inspired” so much as “guided.” That sounds atrociously pretentious, but I think a lot of—if not all—children are guided to their purpose and then slowly lured away from it over the course of growing older. That same feeling of play, joy and curiosity we find naturally as kids is the very thing that makes a career worthwhile as an adult. As far as why I was drawn to those things as a kid—who knows. Reincarnation?
How has your hustle evolved over time?
Initially I was acting, writing, directing, designing and producing all at once, but when I lost my cast and crew (i.e. the neighborhood kids I grew up with) and started caring about what people thought of me, I shifted more to having just acting as my focus. It remained my priority from age 10 until just a few years ago. At that point, I was getting fed up with the humiliation of auditioning and decided to write and produce my own work, essentially vowing to not rely on anyone else for creative opportunity. It was the defining moment of my artistic career, and I haven't looked back since. I somehow always knew I was destined to create film and television, and at the same time couldn't ever imagine doing so. Thankfully, the confident Misha has finally won out over the invisible Misha, and I hope it remains that way. Being invisible is not very fun.
How do you stay on top of your work and keep up with deadlines and organization within such a demanding industry?
I have two part-time assistants and a team of fantastic interns, and I know how to find and hire a competent crew. I am basically always staffing in one way or another.
How often do you feel satisfied in your work?
Lately—pretty often. One of the best parts of the past year has been getting accepted into so many film festivals. I think I am up to a one-out-of-three acceptance rate, and I have tried to visit as many of the screenings as I can. It’s the absolute best feeling in the world to create a comedy and sit in a theater full of people and listen to them laugh. Everything is for that moment, because laughing at your own jokes only goes so far. Comedy is an act of generosity, and to land a joke successfully is a completion of that act. Plus, laughing makes people happy, which is contagious. I like being happy.
What are the personal standards you set for yourself as an artist and performer?
My parents gave me a keen eye, so I can spot things during production and post-production that a lot of people can't. Because of my terrific acting training at a place called The Studio | New York, I can’t stand false choices, which makes me want to direct almost everything I write. The main personal standard I'm trying to uphold lately is kindness on the job. I'm trying not to allow myself to work with anyone who doesn't operate with enormous integrity and care, and I endeavor to bring those same qualities to my work. Kindness and respect start at the top, and if you have a respectful executive producer, producer and director, most of the time the rest of the cast and crew will follow suit.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Being a woman has not particularly affected my work as an artist. I have had fewer opportunities as an actor, but that isn't something I can control. In fact, it was the lack of opportunities for me as an actor that lead me to start writing and producing. Sexism lives in two places: the mind of the aggressor and the mind of the victim. If you as a victim refuse to be a victim, you can eradicate at least 50 percent of the problem. I also have not worked on very many sets where I didn't have influence—either as the boss or as a close friend of the boss. That sort of leverage is really helpful.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
This is a fantastic moment in film history. Thanks in part to our conservative presidency right now, I think people are channeling some of our national anger into the sexism that has ruled Hollywood forever. The misogynistic powerhouses who are being exposed on a daily basis are being called out in a way that would not have been possible until right now, at this moment in history. As a result, I think we are going to see a lot more gender diversity moving forward. It will not only create initiatives to begin hiring more women, but it will help women feel less fear and invisibility in their career pursuits as actors, writers and filmmakers.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
One of the biggest ongoing challenges I've faced in my career (really up until this year) is my own lack of confidence. I don't blame this on being a woman, as I've seen both men and women suffer from the same exact thing. I didn't think I deserved this career path, or that I was worthy of it. That led to bitterness, which made me too arrogant to begin. It was a horrible holding pattern. Once I made the commitment to beginning, and to having the humble mindset of a beginner, I was able to truly begin my life as an artist. That in turn led to actual confidence, and not the false confidence of arrogance that I think I had been channeling for many years. Most of the obstacles I see in myself and others are internal obstacles. Where there is a will, there truly is a way.
Who are the creatives, directors, actors, etc., you’d like to collaborate with?
I would love to shadow Spielberg and have coffee with Amy Sedaris. Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellan would be a dream to direct, and I want to be best friends with Kathryn Bigelow and Patty Jenkins.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
The screen sirens of Hollywood past. Although they were caught up in a studio system that oftentimes held them prisoner, the grace and magnificence with which they fulfilled their duty as artists is astonishing. Women like Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Vivian Leigh, Debbie Reynolds, Greta Garbo and Bette Davis help me to inhabit my filmmaking fantasies long enough to ignore the (mostly) unglamorous reality of filmmaking—until the reality once again turns into fantasy.
What motivates and inspires you?
Seeing really good work inspires me. Seeing really bad work inspires me. Meeting up with creative friends who truly love me and like my jokes is one of the most motivating things I can do as a comedy writer. The following have also been very moving recently: Westworld, Atomic Blonde, Blade Runner, Tim and Eric, Eastbound and Down, live UCB comedy improv shows.
What does success look like to you?
Feeling excited, accomplished, challenged, joyful, inspired and hopeful every day. Great health, a loving family, a solid creative community and the options to do whatever I want professionally. These are all things I aspire to, and as long as I feel like I’m moving closer to them every day, I feel successful.
What helps you manage stress?
Sleep is paramount. For me to function, I need a minimum of seven hours, preferably eight to nine depending on the day. If I have enough sleep I am happy, optimistic, clear-headed, energetic and full of stamina. If I’m not, just reverse all of those and add “full of existential despair.” Meditation and going to the movies are also terrific vacations for the mind.
What’s next for you?
I’m pitching several show ideas to a few networks right now in addition to starting to shop my two shows, Strut and Tinder is the Night. I feel like I am in a state of constant pitch right now, but I guess that’s part of the job description for any good producer. I’m also really hoping to premiere one of my projects at TriBeCa or Sundance next year. I haven’t been accepted to a tier-one festival yet and I’m really, really excited to see what it’s like at that level.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to create and star in a hit half-hour comedy, write and direct an action movie franchise, star in a few feature films, and work regularly Off Broadway as an actor and director. As for personal life, I want to take care of my parents, cultivate an amazing group of friends around me and ultimately get married. It’s important for me to help other girls and women every step of the way so we get as close to an even playing field in my lifetime as possible.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Don’t be afraid to be alone. Success is lonely. Art is lonely. Hollywood is lonely... at first. But if you can find a way to balance a spiritual path and a professional path, you will find a sense of belonging and companionship beyond your wildest anticipation. Because not pursuing your dreams is also lonely, but at the end of that road you’re left with regret. If you give your dreams literally everything you have, day in, day out, and go all-in on pursing your aspirations for, say, 10 years, there’s a really good chance you will find happiness. Or, at the very least, the peace of mind of having tried.
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