Hardship and failure means growth — When I was starting off and I was in situations that felt uncomfortable, hard or difficult, I too often ran away instead of facing these moments of hardship and confronting them. Then I started to speak up, stand up, and face them directly, I became a better person.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Rose.
CEO/Co-founder, MirrorWater Entertainment LLC Christina Rose is an American-German director, producer, and screenwriter and is part of the new Hollyworld Movement, bringing entertainment to the global world. She has worked in North America (USA, Canada), Europe (Denmark, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria), Africa (the famous Atlas Studios in Ouarzarzate), and Asia (India’s Bollywood). Together with her brother Michael, she co-founded MirrorWater Entertainment LLC (MWE).
Prior to setting up a production company, Christina worked at such prestigious companies as Arad Productions (The Amazing Spiderman), Exclusive Media (Rush, Ides of March), in distribution at ZDF-Enterprises, where she has developed numerous projects with Michael Hirst (Vikings) and William J. MacDonald (Rome). Most recently, she was an executive at the European network Sky, acquiring new projects for development.
Since starting MWE, she has produced a number of documentaries and TV shows for the international market and is currently finishing her anticipated six-part documentary series Wonder Women where we meet young women leaders in underrepresented industries around the world who are redefining leadership for a better future.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
I grew up in a military family, moving from the U.S. to Europe every other year, changing schools, not really being able to grow any roots anywhere, so my way of finding that inner stability was escaping into the imaginary world, and thus the world of movies just fascinated me. You have to understand that although it sounds really exotic moving from one country to another, the downside of moving constantly was that it was really hard to form friendships and to find a place of belonging. On top of that, I’m half American, half German and while my parents really wanted us to understand both cultures, whenever I was in Germany, I was the American kid, and whenever I was in the U.S., I was the German kid. I never really felt like I fit in.
Moreover, throughout school, a few teachers told me that I wasn’t smart enough to attend graduate school or make it to college. I had to work really hard to defy all odds. Movies and stories of people who had to defy odds fueled me and resonated with me. I could relate to these characters on the one side, but on the other, I also felt I had a story to tell.
I really wanted to become a filmmaker and I did everything towards reaching my goal. I ended up going to film school at the University of Southern California earning a master’s degree in Fine Arts. I have worked in the film industry in Los Angeles as well as in Europe, Africa, and India. I have been lucky to work on different kinds of projects all over the world.
Certainly, there have been struggles along the way. There were those moments in life when I was told I couldn’t do certain things, but I did them anyways. I’m far from reaching my ultimate goals. I’m pretty sure there are people out there who don’t believe I can run a successful company, but I have only one life to live and I will do anything to pursue my dreams. It’s always a question of determination and persistence. I’m not going away soon.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
It would have to be filming in India. It was my first time there. I was brought on as an AD (assistant director), but ended up directing the whole movie, as the director was also the lead actor in the project. It was so chaotic at the beginning because the director/actor was really struggling in making decisions and then soon all eyes were directed towards me. So, I started calling the shots, telling the DP (director of photography) where to place the camera, directing the actors and at the same time coordinating the whole shoot.
With a crew of about 150 people, we were doomed to fail because all that could go wrong basically went wrong. I remember for one scene we needed to have a male extra to be nude and we didn’t have anybody available and nobody was making the effort to find somebody. So, that morning, I was walking along the beach, going from one tourist to another tourist, trying to find somebody who would be willing to be this extra for 100 dollars. I managed to find somebody, and we got the shot we needed. That’s just one of so many stories of trying to make things happen on the spot.
That’s filmmaking and I love solving problems — I see those moments to be little challenges that I can accomplish. All in all, it was the most exhausting shoot I had ever done.
I’ll never forget an email from one of the actors, who wrote: “The Goa Train…though it has jumped its tracks long ago, you, my friend are a hero. You would need nothing else on a resume than the fact that you have kept this thing going for this long. Hopefully, there is a ‘Job-God’ that will reward you ten times over, and when you are getting your Oscar for producing, you will know from whence your good karma began. I hope you are well…better than well!!! Your fan, Blake”
It’s an email that means a lot to me (hence it’s something I have kept over the years) because it was the most difficult shoot anybody could have ever imagined but it was by far the most unique experience I have ever been a part. To this day I still have many friends and colleagues from that shoot.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The project that I’m most proud of is one we are currently working on. “WONDER WOMEN” is a six-episode documentary series about women in leadership positions in underrepresented industries. It’s been the most challenging project personally, mentally and physically, but one that I’m truly very proud of because it really sets out to show women from different backgrounds and different career fields from all over the world, doing the impossible. They are all truly amazing women.
We’ve been able to finalize four of the six episodes when the pandemic hit and put the other two episodes on hold. The women who we are featuring are trailblazers — their sheer determination, dedication, and persistence because of what they have had to overcome is very inspiring. To see them succeed when faced with overwhelming odds stacked against them is simply something that has inspired me and I will forever carry this with me.
I really feel that with where we are at today, there is an audience for this project. We are truly hoping it will be picked up. We need hope, inspiration and people who are defying all odds — these people inspire others and I strongly believe that we can only succeed if we inspire each other and give each other hope.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
We are working on a project called “A Desperate Move” that is based on the true story of a family who escaped Eastern Germany in the 1970s to find a new life in Western Germany, however, they were caught at the border and imprisoned instead.
I had a chance to spend time with Eva-Maria Neumann and her late husband Rudolf. We were doing research of their experiences and we visited their home in the East, and even visited the prison where she was being held.
We also interviewed two more women whose stories were interconnected with Eva’s and to this day, their story really is close to my heart — especially Eva’s. She was a violinist and was dreaming of a career in music. She felt like she could only reach that goal in the democratic country of West Germany. Not only did their escape fail but the whole family was torn apart. She was separated from her then 3-year-old child, imprisoned, treated worse than the real killers in that prison. Conditions were so harsh that she became sick and could barely move her hands anymore, and she basically didn’t know if she would ever have a future.
That seems so unimaginable to me because here I am living in a country where I take all my freedoms for granted. It wasn’t a long time ago that people didn’t have those freedoms. There are still many places on this earth where people are trying to escape for a better life.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
It would have to be Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is their imperfection that made them perfect and really shaped America during probably one of the hardest periods in U.S. history — the Great Depression and World War II. When looking at their lives closely, you will see that FDR had an affair, as did Eleanor. It was an imperfect marriage, but professionally they really wanted the best for the American people. Even today there are critics of FDR.
I will never forget reading about FDRs leadership style being described as one who would listen to all the experts, gather all the facts, and make every single person he had talked to believe he was siding with them, when in truth, he was listening to form the best decision for the greater good of all people.
And then of course, you have Eleanor who was such a smart and intelligent woman who was even being convinced by FDR’s campaign manager to consider running for President, when she declined saying that the country wasn’t ready for a female president, only to then help draft the Human Rights Declaration for the United Nations.
Looking back at these two people — yes, they had their own issues and problems that we all as humans face, but it just seems that they both really wanted the best for the American people. I believe there’s a lot we can learn from these two imperfect people.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity enriches our lives — period.
I’ve been really lucky to have grown up in diverse environments that while they appeared diverse could sometimes be limiting. For example, my father was stationed at the NATO military headquarters in Mons, Belgium and our school was an international school and within that we had the German division.
While I was in an international environment, my community for most of the time was focused within that small German world.
Too often we are boxed in and stay in our comfort zone. When I went to college, the whole world opened up to me. I was exposed to people with different backgrounds, different countries, different races, different religious backgrounds — for somebody like me who didn’t feel like I fit in with my dual citizenship it helped getting to know people who were different. And honestly, it has enriched my life and it made me understand people’s motivation better. The truth is, I might not agree with everybody, but I try to understand where people come from. We all are shaped by our experiences and are informed by what we learn and that makes us different. I’m a big believer that we all need to have our own voice and we all need to be able to allow people to say what they want to say. Our society is becoming more and more marginalized and it’s all about money, fame, and celebrity. We immediately see one person who speaks the truth, and they are lifted to this godlike position when in truth we need to celebrate not one person but a whole community. We need to shine the light on everybody not just one individual.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would do anything to help re-write the Declaration of Independence.
Over the last 100 plus years, we have seen numerous movements rise up that are all fighting for social and political equality — be it the women’s movement that first started in 1848, which then reemerged in the 1920s, 1970s and the recent movement in 2017.
We have the same when it comes to the Black Lives Matter Movement that started in 2013 but we can trace those same issues back to the ’50s and ’60s and to the Civil War. Of course, we cannot forget the Hispanics, Native Americans, and the LGBTQ communities fighting for their rights. While these are all individual movements, in the end, we all have the same problem in common — seeking equality. Thus, we need all organizations to come together and fight for equality — as a collective and as a community. We would realize too that these organizations are the majority and together I strongly believe we actually have the chance for change.
We are focusing too much on the individual or individual groups, giving power to individual minorities instead of working as a collective. We are marginalizing ourselves and placing boxes on each other instead of coming together. Can we not find common ground and recognize that what we are all fighting for is equality? Certainly, people will now say and think, well, it’s not that easy or it’s more complicated and there are many things that need to be discussed and considered and debated. But is it really? Haven’t the majority of all the revolutions in all of our history on this planet shown that what the human being wants is: the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and to be treated equal, that we all have equal opportunities to this no matter what race, class, religion, or gender we derive from?
So, I’m a big believer to create the movement of equality and alliance — all our organizations need to come together, show the world we are in the majority and we can rise above our differences to actually live in a world where we all have our place in this world. We have come so far in life and in our own history — we as a whole community — not divided in these different organizations — need to come together, unified, and united in the basic fact that we are ALL fighting for the same — equality.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Hardship and failure means growth — When I was starting off and I was in situations that felt uncomfortable, hard or difficult, I too often ran away instead of facing these moments of hardship and confronting them. Then I started to speak up, stand up, and face them directly, I became a better person.
2. Don’t measure your success with others, only measure success with yourself — I have pressured myself all my life, reaching and accomplishing certain landmarks by a certain age and added more unwanted and unnecessary pressure on myself when in truth, I forgot to enjoy life in general and realize that my accomplishments came not in the form of an award but in experience and inspiring others.
3. Find your inner voice first, before speaking out — every one of us goes through a difficult time in life. We all have scars we carry within us and not until we recognize, understand, and learn from them, do we have something to say.
4. Don’t take life too seriously — there are so many things that would get me angry. I always took life too seriously, instead of loosening up. I really needed to learn to laugh and to have fun and learn when things went wrong. We can learn, grow and be better off.
5. Pursue what you and only you care about — I would try to do too much for others instead of concentrating on things I cared about. In reality, I needed to develop the mentality of doing the best that I can do and needed to follow what is close to my heart.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Tom Hanks — I have the utmost respect for him and was fortunate to meet him and see him speak once while attending a class at the University of Southern California. I will never forget him saying that he tries to choose his films based on the three E’s: stories that are entertaining, educational and enlightening. That has become my company’s philosophy and everything that I do. I try to stand by this in my film career, but also in all aspects of my life. Yes, we all want to be entertained but the power that movies have are also to be educational and most especially, to be enlightening. However, that being said, I would really love to learn about his filmmaking process, how he prepares for movies, and learn to understand his creative process. Plus, we share the same birthday — so, it would be fun to raise our glass on the same day to wish each other happy birthday.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be the change you wish to see — Mahatma Ghandi.
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Thank you for these excellent insights!