"Discipline is what helped me get out of hell. If I didn't get up and say 'that's it! You're writing scripts, or you're going for a run” I don't know where I'd be."
About Michelle Brezinski – actor, writer & producer
Award winning filmmaker Michelle Brezinski has been in the industry for well over 20 years. She started her career as an actress, appearing in many commercials, films, and television shows, and then took the leap into filmmaking in 2013. Not only did she write, produce, and act in most of her projects, but she also took on the role as a collaborative director in order to fully realize her storytelling vision. Her recent film MADNESS has won nine international independent film award, with a total of 25 awards and 8 nominations to date. The film was nominated for several LEO’s, and was awarded the WIFTV Spotlight Image award on June 15th 2015.
MADNESS parallels Michelle’s own experience with the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact her whole filmmaking journey has been a successful remedy helping her to overcome the illness. Her ambition is to become a voice for women who no longer want to live in the shadows of what they are “expected” to be.
1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?
The force that drives me forward is hope. I believe that hope exists at any age, and it just never dies. As far as what fuels my ambition… I just have these stories that are busting out of me, and I want to tell them!
I’ve always been a story teller. I used to sit on the street with my friends and make the voices for all the animals that’d walk by. My friends would laugh for hours and hours and hours. I loved that.
2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).
My greatest failure is probably not being able to recognize that there are many different kinds of people out there, and some are right for me, and some are not. Trying to be everything to everyone has been my greatest failure.
When did that shift for you?
When I married my husband. I married my husband based on a reason different from any other man I’d ever dated. I married my husband because, even though my infantile lover self-esteem said no, my brain and my soul (my higher self) said it was right. I wasn’t initially comfortable with his functionality.
I believed that I was suited for dysfunction because I was always in the middle of it.
Now, I have to consistently remind myself that everyone is okay where they are, and that we don’t all have to get along. We just all have to respect each other for being different.
And that’s the hardest part! I want this person to like me, and this person too. I don’t want to be the villain, but I also don’t want to sell myself out.
You know… maybe my greatest failure was trying so hard to be perfect, while being horribly stuck in dysfunction for so long.
3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?
Am I happy? I think it would be creepy for me to say yes, because I think happiness is a bit of a fairytale. I don’t think it is the yellow guy with the smile, but we sort of buy into that.
I love surviving. I love striving. I love reaching. And I don’t think, if I was stuck in smiley face yellow guys life, that I would be doing that.
So then, what does (using a different word) contentment look like in your life?
Are you familiar with the word self-actualization?
So, self-actualization is the ability to accept everything for what it is, and to be okay with it. I’m not there yet, but I would love to be there. Being there doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to stop things that aren’t right, but it means that I can’t be in despair over all the human error we see and live with every day. Life is what it is, and I accept it for what it is. I don’t try to fight it if I can’t.
4. What do you think is your greatest strength?
My motivation and drive. Discipline is my absolute biggest strength. Discipline is what helped me get out of hell. If I didn’t get up and say ‘that’s it! You’re writing scripts, or you’re going for a run” I don’t know where I’d be.
I only developed discipline in my early 20s when I became a competitive body builder. I didn’t have it when I was younger.
The army-style discipline I learned with body building carried forward to when I needed it the most. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would have had.
On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?
Jumping to conclusions and criticizing. I’m too critical.
Of other people or yourself?
Both. You know when you get emotional, it’s true right?
I think it’s because… I have an education in Science, and I keep myself in pretty good shape, and I do a lot, so it’s easy for me to look at others and be a little bit arrogant.
So how do you catch yourself, and shift that?
My higher self tells me to stop it. And then there’s my husband. My husband is the kindest person on the planet. He’s the guy that sees the people on the street and talks to them, and gives them money; treats them like human beings. And if you need his help, he’ll be right there. On set, he’s played every role when we needed him.
He inspires me to be a better person, because I look at him and I go ‘whew! I wish I could be so kind.”
And he’s so forgiving. So many things have happened to him, and he doesn’t do what I do.He doesn’t go on and on and on about “how could they do that.” He just accepts that people are broken, and he doesn’t see it as his job to fix them. Nor does he need to be broken with them.
But maybe, and this is something I’ve personally been thinking a lot about, we’re not all broken. Maybe we’re just all human.
Yeah. Maybe we’re all just what we are.
There’s a great Leonard Cohen song that says “everything has a crack, that’s how the light gets in.” To me, when it has a crack it’s broken. You have to break something to get to the good stuff.
So you see ‘broken’ as a positive thing?
It can be.
5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?
Yes! When I was 10 years old I saw the movie “Escape to Witch Mountain.” The kids were so emotional with each other. I remember watching those kids sharing such depth and thinking “Ooo, I want to do that!!”
I did talk about my feelings with my mom (my father was an alcoholic, so it was really tough), but I wanted to feel the freedom they seemed to be having with their voices.
It took me a long time before I actually did it.
I went to university for business, and during that time my mom died in a fire.
That was the catalyst that brought me into bodybuilding.
Before that I was a painter and planned to go into journalism, but I got into bodybuilding to essentially seal away my feelings.
And then, 10 years later, my Dad died and that was the incident that led me toward acting. I realized that both my parent’s had died, and I’d be the next to go. Suddenly, my feelings for what I wanted to do when I was 10 years old came back.
When my mom died, I went outside myself and sealed up everything inside. And then when my Dad died, I decided I needed to go back in again.
Years after that, the business started to seal me up a bit more. My husband helps me through that.
Now I’m doing the writing that my mom always wanted me to do. I never thought I’d be a writer for a stories. I always thought I’d be a journalist.
So many things can change.
6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?
Running. I do lots of running. That, and lots of talk therapy with my husband. This industry is tough, especially for women.
The hardest part is the doubt that’s constantly installed in us on a regular basis.
As women, we have a hard time allowing each other to succeed because we’re so afraid we won’t. We have to stop that, because then none of us will. I speak like that, because I grew up with a really great mother and I never really knew the painful relationship that can exist between women. It’s so strong in the film and television industry (or any business where women have to bust out of stereotypes).
7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do, yo you go for support?
I go to my husband, or call up friends and do the talk therapy. I try to perceive a situation from all perspectives in order to extract some hope from it. Because the reason I didn’t get something doesn’t necessarily have to do with lack of talent. There are a whole host of factors I might not even know about – and have no control over.
8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?
Seeing it to the end no matter what. Even if it feels so daunting you can’t even imagine getting through it, no matter how many people are flinging criticism at you, no matter how the elements are affecting you at the time, your own physiological limitations… seeing it to the end is the marathon of life.
9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).
I would say, empower yourself by having your dream… but I think you should also make sure you’re taking care of yourself financially. I’d recommend having another career of sorts that pays the bills.
I went into Kinesiology, and I do personal training as well, so I’m not stuck. I know a lot of people who feel stuck, because the industry is not forgiving, and it’s selective.
So, yes! Get another career. Have your dream as well, but don’t be afraid to explore all your other options. Invest some time into the other possibilities that are open to you – the other possibilities you’re also passionate about.
10. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship to money? Has your relationship to money changed over the years?
I haven’t really had money issues, but I think that’s because I’m incredibly frugal. I came from a middle class upbringing, and I’ve never really aspired to have expensive things. Probably, if I won the lotto tomorrow, I probably still wouldn’t have a car and would be walking everywhere.
11. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
There’s a few different flows. There’s the elated ‘life is unbelievable’ runner’s high, and then there is the harmonious feeling of being almost emotionally massaged. It’s like, you don’t quite know what’s happening to you, but someone is taking their cyber finger and stroking your emotional strings. It’s almost orgasmic.
Does it feel like joy?
It’s absolute stillness. It’s glass on the water. It’s light dancing. It’s peace. Peace is fantastic. It’s hard to attain… maybe the most difficult thing to attain.
I don’t think art is us. I think it’s something else. We are just the vessels, and I think when we are at peace then we are absolutely clear for the magic.
12. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?
Molecules of Emotion by Candice Pert is one of my favourite books. It talks about the neurotransmitters and why we are the way we are.
Another one is Eckhart Tolle
His liberation from his Depression. His thing was to bring himself to ‘here.’ Just practice, practice, practice. I guess that’s part of peace.
Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking.
I’m more into Science.
Loved this interview? Learn more about Michelle by visiting her website: www.brezinskifilms.com
Check out Michelle’s profile on IMDB.
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