Anniversary of a Dream… 7 Years Later

Seven years ago today, I reflected another year back to March 2011 and the day my dream came true – or at least the dream I had at the time.

I’d been drowning a horrible nightmare of anxiety and depression after losing my mind in the corporate hamster wheel, trying to leave that world behind and find a new path. And I’d finally found it, my true purpose: turning my passions for action and films into a new career in action filmmaking. I’d forged a new partnership with an incredibly talented director & fight choreographer, become part of a stunt team, and been offered the most incredible role of a lifetime: producer and lead stunt actress in a new independent feature film.

One year later, the dream had fully become reality. A real-life live-action independent action film called Death Grip. We released it to decent acclaim, a few awards, one packed Comic-Con panel room full of laughs, and plenty of international sales. We then went on to make several brilliant short films, got hired to design the action for others’, and began planning our next feature. We were killing it!

dg_poster_email_clean.jpg Death Grip Premiere sign2.jpg

But as with all good things, it cannot last forever and eventually must come to an end. As my partner and I grew in our own individual creative journeys, we found our vision and goals didn’t align as much as they once did. So by March 2013 (six years ago now), we had very amicably and mutually parted ways and Action Pact Entertainment was no more.Comic Con with Darren Shahlavi3.jpg

I will be forever grateful for that experience, and how much it helped me grow and find myself. But for the next six years, I felt a little lost without that clear direction and partnership. I’ve tried to find it in so many other places, positions, and partnerships to little avail. I’ve dabbled in entirely new fields like fin-tech (aka digital currency aka the wonderful world of Bitcoin) and women’s menstrual health (Flex. Check it out. Srsly revolutionary). But nothing gave me the same surge of passion or purpose. Nothing has clicked.

Eight years ago, when I last felt that lost and decided to leave the Google corporate machine, I first took a 3-month sabbatical to clear my head and do lots of deep soul-searching. I cleared my schedule of all commitments except a whole lot of journaling – right here on The Writes Of Passage. (In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place.) It was the best decision I could’ve made and gave me the space to discover that new freelance path ahead.

Now I’ve once again hit that serious rut, only in a new shape (same dog, different tricks). You could say it’s been a while coming, but I guess I’ve just finally reached my breaking point. So I’ve decided it’s time to rinse and repeat.

If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed… I’ll just have to go out there and find that new purpose. I have no idea where it is, so I’ll just have to look everywhere.

I bought a Honda Element and just finished a pretty sweet buildout (I’ll post more details and photos of that soon). So now the plan is to take this new home-on-wheels and van-life it across America the beautiful. 3 months. Over 9,000 miles. Nearly every state. And just about every national park I can manage.IMG_20190416_122108312_HDR.jpg IMG_20190416_122057086_HDR.jpg

It’s going to be one heck of a road trip adventure. With plenty of time driving alone for lots of reflecting and soul-searching.

So here’s to taking another 3-month sabbatical, much like I did eight years ago. And like eight years ago, I’ll once again be journaling and posting about my journey as I go right here on The Writes Of Passage (and on Instagram, coz I’m a sucker for social pressure).

So wish me luck, and stay tuned!

The Superheroes in Us

At this year’s World Domination Summit (which I’ve still yet to actually attend, but someday), Chris Brogan said “When we look up to superheroes, it’s because there are aspects of us that we see in them that we want to bring out in ourselves.”

Batgirl Wonder Woman & Supergirl

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think that’s true of any successful, powerful character we see on the big screen (or our personal television screen, laptop, tablet, whatever). The “superheroes” we see in the movies need to be reflections of us, as complex and flawed as we are, or else you lose the connection to them and to the movie itself.

All too often, this point is missed in the development of powerful female “superhero” characters. They lack the depth, vulnerability, and will to overcome that which we real-life women experience everyday.

But what can better motivate a character and create drama and add suspense than giving that character great obstacles both externally and internally.

It’s been uplifting to see improvement in the development and depth of strong male characters in film. They are starting to realize that a man’s character doesn’t have to be all brawn and no brains or suffering from inner demons. But we’ve yet to see it embraced in the leading female form.

And quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.

It’s always more of the same. She’s the scantily-clad trained assassin who never loses, until she falls in love. Or the scantily-clad spoiled damsel in distress who suddenly becomes an amazing fighter who takes down everyone. Or the scantily-clad mysterious enchantress with magical powers which you have no idea how she got, who always seems to know the right thing to do. Or she’s the scantily-clad girlfriend, or best friend, or reluctant sidekick bookworm (librarian fantasy anyone?). And we haven’t even begun to talk about the scantily-clad femme fatale.

Are you tired of these same old tropes?

If we can’t see ourselves in the heroes portrayed in media, how can we know what we can become? How are we to aspire to anything greater? How can we have the courage to work through our own pain and overcome our own demons to achieve greatness?

And on the flipside: If we can do the work and embrace the presence of flaws and kryptonite within ourselves, then why can’t we embrace it in the fictional characters that are supposed to connect with us on screen?

Movies and TV shows should be a reflection of real life, no matter how far-fetched or fantastical the plot. Even the most outlandish stories can resonate the deepest because they reflect truths we see within ourselves and the world around us.

So it’s about time we saw that reflected in some stronger, more complex female superheroes. Wouldn’t you say?

Where Are The Women Directors at Cannes?

I attended the Cannes Film Market & Festival last month and was astonished at the complete lack of official festival competition films directed by women. It was a shock felt around the world by many in the industry – women AND men alike. And in response, Change.Org created a petition to the Jurors of the Cannes Film Festival, calling them to commit to more transparency and equality in their selection process.

Cannes 65 Film Festival

You can check out the petition here, signed by a very long list of prominent industry names: http://www.change.org/petitions/cannes-film-festival-where-are-the-women-directors

Would you add your name to this list?

Sneak Peek at My Dream

OK now you’ve heard all about my dream come true, and you’ve seen the official trailer for it. So how about I give you a little taste of what the actual dream will look like in reality?

Watch this sneak peek at one of Death Grip‘s most heart-pounding scenes!

Pretty gripping huh?

Well if you liked that, then you should definitely go check out the Death Grip movie website for more awesome clips and teasers. And get excited for the full feature film coming out very soon!

PS: Here’s the official trailer one more time, just in case you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet:

My Dream’s Official Trailer – Watch Now!

By now, you all surely know about the martial arts action-thriller I’m producing, Death Grip. (And I don’t care if your name isn’t Shirley!)

So you’ll forgive me for sharing another update about this very exciting film, because it’s possibly the most exciting news yet –

We’ve just released the Official Death Grip Trailer!

…and boy does it pack a punch! If you liked the old trailer, just wait till you see this one – it totally kicks the old one’s ass. But be forewarned: this new trailer is exponentially more action-packed & awesome, and it might just blow your mind!

We are so damn proud of this trailer (which Eric Jacobus and I cut together in one day I might add), so we’re going for a really lofty view count on this one!

Please watch it, “like” it, comment on it…

and then SHARE IT – put it on your Facebook, Tweet it, Blog it (or just re-blog this post), email it, write it on a post-it and stick it to someone, anything!

And as always, a huge thanks to everyone who made this a reality. I’m living my dream people, and this trailer is solid proof!

Anniversary of a Dream

I know I keep coming back to this same theme and repeating the same story, but I really am still amazed how far my life has come in only the last year. Somehow, I managed to go from living a nightmare to living my dream. And it only took a year… well a year + 4 years.

For 4 years, I puttered around in a cloud of corporate processes and org restructures and watercooler talk, changing roles and teams and even departments trying to find the kind of success other people had told me I should want. And after those 4 years, my health and spirits were deteriorating. I’d developed anxiety disorder and started having panic attacks in the office. My life became a shadowy nightmare of itself, sharply contrasted with the bright and colorful world of the Google office.

Even when facing a destructive situation, it sometimes takes hitting rock bottom to actually do something about it. My boss and mentor finally sat me down and insisted I take medical leave, even though she knew that once I got my head back on straight, it might result in my decision to leave the company altogether. I was overwhelmed by this generous offer, and I took my leave very seriously. So that after 3 months of heavy self reflecting and soul searching, I decided on my next course of action.

And then on March 18, 2011, exactly one year ago today, I bit farewell to Google and the corporate world for good and embarked on a brand new occupational adventure that has lead me to where I am today.

Even today, it still feels like a wonderful dream come true.

My Google Alumni Voice

Recently an old Google colleague reached out to me with an exciting proposition. The Google Alumni online network, of which I am now a member, has launched a new publication called the Alumni Voice and she asked if I would write an article for it to share my post-Google story.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance and found myself once again writing out the story of how I came to leave Google and find the incredible new path I am now fortunate to be on.

Now I’m so proud to see it live and published, that I wanted to share it with everyone. Unfortunately, only Google Alumni members have access to the Alumni Voice. So I asked for (and was granted) permission to share the content of that article here with you all as well.

Enjoy!
Rebecca


Alumni Voice: Rebecca Ahn’s 2nd act as a stunt actor

Mar 09, 2012

Alumni Voice: Rebecca Ahn cannot sit still. Her life is as action-packed as the movies she creates as a film producer and stunt actor. When she’s not making films with Action Pact Entertainment & The Stunt People, including the current Death Grip, she is writing poetry and blogging about how to achieve greater balance with the chaos that inevitably comes with creativity. Rebecca worked as an Admin and AdWords Account Optimizer while at Google for 4 years.  RebeccaAhn.com

NOTE: We have launched another outlet for alumni expression called “Alumni Voices,” an area of the Network dedicated to your musings. We want alumni to express themselves and connect with one another through alumni-written articles about their passions, interests, hobbies and advice.

Some people just aren’t meant to find fulfillment in the corporate world. I know Google can be an incredibly encouraging and satisfying work environment. It just wasn’t for me. And after 4 years of changing roles, and teams, and even departments, trying to achieve the success others told me I should want, I found myself wondering, “am I happy?”

So I began my search for a new career. I created lists upon pages with every insight I could muster into who I am and what I really want, finally culminating in what I called my Occupational Trix. I listed my 10 “must have” work attributes along the top row of a new Google spreadsheet and over 40 possible jobs (regardless of location or skill) down the first column. I then checked the attributes that each job fulfilled and deleted every job that didn’t meet ALL 10 of them, until I had my Top 5 careers. But rather than tell you what they were, I’ll tell you what they weren’t.

They weren’t at Google.

So with my manager’s genuine understanding and support, I bid Google farewell and embarked on a brand new occupational adventure.

What happened next was nothing short of magical. One of my Top 5 careers was Film Stuntwork – and while this seemed the most far-fetched, it also resonated the most strongly with me. So you can imagine my excitement when a good friend mentioned she knew someone with a Bay Area stunt crew. I don’t know how to explain it, but somehow something in me knew this was it – this was the one and only path for me.

What followed was a blur of fortune and chance. I met Eric Jacobus, founder and manager of The Stunt People, and began practicing with them. He showed me his latest screenplay that he was preparing to direct, and suddenly I was being offered the female lead part. Then when Eric needed more help producing the film, and learned of my strong theatre and event production background (pre-Google), he asked me to come on board as the film’s producer!

Over the next 10 months, I experienced immeasurable happiness and fulfillment performing in and producing the action-thriller Death Grip, simultaneously developing a deep relationship with Eric, my producing partner, co-star, and eventually also boyfriend.

Even today, as Eric and I build our new production company and prepare to make our next several films together, it all still feels so surreal. In a year’s time, I went from feeling empty and lost to feeling like my life’s dream is coming true. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t get here without a great deal of struggle and self-questioning, or without the courage to leave behind a world of comfort and security, but you’ll never hear me say it wasn’t all completely worth it.

That’s because what’s even greater than knowing the career I want, is knowing who I am and what success means to me. Some people just aren’t meant to find fulfillment in the corporate world – they’re meant to go out into the great unknown and build it themselves instead.

The Power of Film

Whenever I’m having a really bad day, when something sends me into a tailspin, the one thing I’ve ever found that can always pull me out of it is finding another story (other than my own) to watch on screen. Throughout my entire life, I’ve found regular escape in movies and shows that help me see something beyond my world, beyond my misery, and give me the strength to face my own.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie once said that “Film can… send strong messages.” Or as Charlie Rose said, “… uniquely be able to tell their own stories.”

And now as fortune and fate would have it, I’ve found an occupation that lets me send my own messages and tell my own stories, and in turn create and produce for other people that which has so often rescued me. It’s a greater honor than I could have ever asked for, and has brought me a greater sense of purpose and passion in life.

This film, Death Grip, is so much of that rolled into one project – my first bold step into this new arena of fulfillment and validation that couldn’t possibly have come from anywhere else. This is my dream, what for so long has given me dreams and pulled me out of nightmares – and it’s coming true!

I can understand if you are skeptical of my enthusiasm, or think perhaps I’m celebrating a little too early. Sure the film hasn’t been finished yet, and we still have a long road of post-production and distribution ahead of us. But what’s important is knowing that I’m on my way there, and knowing what experience I’ve already been fortunate to have. I’d still feel like the luckiest girl in the world, and I’d still feel like I’m living my dream, even if this film never makes it to market – because I know it’s not going to end there. I’ve only just begun this journey, and I intend to continue embracing it and keep making movies until I physically can’t anymore.

I hope you can relate to what I’m saying, even a little bit, or at least believe in what I’m doing. Because that says something about what all of us (you included) are capable of doing. If I can live my dream, and get to give back what has given me so much, then you certainly can too. And I do hope you are as fortunate to find the path that truly fulfills you and makes you feel excited to go to work every day.

Sound too good to be true?

Well guess what? It isn’t! Or at least it wasn’t for me.

No, for me, it was the power of film that fulfilled my dream, and helped me realize the power in me.

Action-Oriented

I’ve always been a get-shit-done kinda girl. I don’t waste time. Life’s too short. No reason to dilly dally or beat around the bush. I’m like Nike – I just do it

I learned in making my massive career change last March that bold steps can be rewarded boldly. I learned that sometimes the best therapy is just having the courage to share all that crap bottled up inside of you out with people who care around you. It’s not healthy to keep it locked up inside, doing nothing but stewing and simmering dangerously.

It takes action to make any kind of progress. Writing in this blog has taught me that. Sharing with you all has taught me that. And living my life the way I have, and the way I intend to keep living, has taught me that. It’s made me a stronger and more reliable partner to work with. And I feel stronger and happier when I’m being productive, so it’s a win-win.

How perfect then that I now get to put that tenacity towards creating even more action I can share with the rest of the world. I’m using my action-oriented nature to productively produce great action films that can move & inspire others. A beautiful complimentary combination, I think.

I’m action-oriented. I’m a get-it-out, get-it-done kinda gal. And now I get to say I get-it-on-film too.

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

A Career Come True

It’s been a while since I last wrote on here – six months to be nearly exact. And a lot has changed in that time. I left my job at Google, basked briefly in the joy of fun-employment, and then, just as quickly and unexpectedly, I discovered the light. That’s right, I found my calling. I know, I can hardly believe my luck either.

In my diligent quest to identify the best next occupational adventure, I discovered a friend had connections to Bay Area stunt team The Stunt People through the team’s strapping founder & leader Eric Jacobus. And I can’t explain how, but at that moment something in me just knew – knew this was the right path for me!

So I began attending their weekly stunt practices, eager for my chance to jump in head first. And as the next few months passed, Eric and I became good friends. He told me about a script he was developing, the film itself nearly ready for pre-production. Of course, I had no idea what “pre-production” was at that time, but I could make a pretty good guess given my background in theatre and event production. I loved the story and the characters, not to mention the prospect of my first project, so that I practically begged him to let me be involved in any way possible. I never dreamed he would come to offer me the female lead role, or better yet, to recognize my real passion and expertise on the production side, and ask me to produce the film with him!

It’s been a wild ride since those first initial months, as we began the journey of producing our beloved Death Grip, through pre-production & the wonderfully stressful period of filming, into post-production where we are today. There is still much to do before you’ll be able to see this baby out in stores on DVD and on video-on-demand on your TV, but we’ll get there — because we are a team, Eric and I, and we believe in this with all our hearts. This is a dream come true for both of us really, though his journey has been longer and more arduous (he’s been doing this for 10 years).

We have already come so far – and I’ve already come so far! I still can’t believe my luck that I’m actually doing this. It’s all still a bit surreal. And it’s all because I risked everything, left a life of comfort and security and decided I wasn’t going to stop and rest until I found a pursuit that could light me up everyday and express the passion within me. And I found it – so much faster than I dreamed I would, I found it! And I can’t tell you how amazing it feels.

So if you are wondering if such a risk is worth taking, if you feel the urge to stand up and take charge of your own life, I say go for it! The road to your destination may be long and bumpy, but it will be worth it in the end. And besides, it’s not even a destination at all, but really just another light-post on the journey of your life. Life is a journey, so you might as well choose a path with scenery you’ll enjoy the most.

Happy Trails!