I’m vegan and have volunteered with animals all my life. I think schools should send kids to volunteer in shelters and rescue farms. It’s a great way to help, learn responsibility, compassion and see the living beings who are impacted by today’s meat, fashion and cosmetic industries. It can create change.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Adva Reichman Adva Reichman is an Israeli writer-director based in Los Angeles. Her latest film, Something to Live For, which deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, screened at prestigious festivals around the world. Adva served as an Operation Sargent in the West Bank and later worked in the Israeli news covering war and terror as well as day to day topics, she also worked on documentaries that revolved around major terror attacks and kidnappings that took place in Israel during the 70’s and 80’s. Her experiences with these jobs have inspired many of her writings. In 2015 Adva relocated to Los Angeles and is a graduate of the TV & Film Production MFA program at USC School of Cinematic Arts. Today, she’s working on her feature film and uses her skills to help animal organizations.
Thank you so much for joining us Adva! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a great little city, 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, Israel. My dad is an engineer and my mom is a doctor so we’re all very confused as to my career choice. Just kidding ☺ Growing up, I was always doing something creative and helping every animal I could. Finally found a way to combine the two and use my skills to do some good.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I think I didn’t choose it. I think it chose me. When you’re drawn to and so incredibly passionate about something, it’s painful to fight it. I was always flirting with the art world. Whether I was painting, sculpting, dancing or singing, but the one that was always constant was writing. It started with poems, then stories and now screenplays. I wanted to say something. And then I was lucky to discover directing and realized I’m in love. I want to say that that was that, but it wasn’t. I had other jobs that were intriguing, and I was in a good solid place, but I was sad because I knew I should be doing something else. Fighting off what you feel like you’re really supposed to do is draining. So, I stopped fighting it, and started fighting for it.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think the most interesting experiences I had were while shooting ‘Something to Live For’. The film revolves around a pregnant Palestinian woman, whose husband died in the Israeli prison. With the help of Hamas, she plans a terror attack to revenge his death. The premature birth of her baby makes her reconsider, but will Hamas let her off the hook?
Working on something controversial brings a new set of challenges to a film production, which on its own, isn’t an easy task. I had to face producers who wanted to change my film and the message behind it to suit their political stand point. One that quit and took an actor with him and on and on. But I pushed through it and found an incredible producer, Nir Dvortchin, who made it happen. We had a devoted cast and crew who were passionate about getting the story and the world right. One day, my production designer, Shir Wertheim, and I drove to one of the borders in the West Bank. We were building one next to the real separation wall and wanted to be accurate. We covered ourselves and approached the border with confidence. Shir was about to go in to the confined border line. She wasn’t aware of how dangerous that could have been and just wanted to do her job. I pulled her back and we stayed where it was safe. Then, a soldier noticed us and called us aside, saying it’s risky and he can’t allow it. We ended up driving up and down the border, trying to see as much of it as we could. It’s a weird reality, which I knew quite well from my time in the army, but still created so many stories.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
About 7 years ago, I wrote and directed a few shorts. It was my first time directing a comedy and we rehearsed it, so I wasn’t expecting to lose my cool. In one of the shots our wonderful actor, who played a dirty undesired guy, wanted to cross the hallway, but couldn’t get passed a couple making out. He tapped on the other guy’s shoulder and when the couple stopped, the woman looked at him, liked what she saw and pulled him for an animalistic make out session. Their acting and the way they looked, was hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to call ‘cut’ so they just kept making out until I was able to catch my breath. I’m pretty sure my laughter ruined the sound we recorded too, so they had to do it again. Let’s just say, today I focus on drama ☺
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on a feature script called ‘Project Fog’ that follows an undercover Israeli agent who’s infiltrated Hamas and has been living in Gaza for the last 18 years. The agent is ordered to locate a kidnapped Israeli soldier and finds out his 16-year-old son is one of the kidnappers. Now he’s forced to choose between his son and his country, while trying to keep his identity a secret. I started writing it after the 2014 war. My film ‘Something to Live For’ is set in the same world but presents different characters. In a way, they’re intertwined and explore the sacrifice and the impact the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has on all of our lives.
On top of that, I’m finishing another short film that deals with date rape. This script actually started forming before the MeToo movement began, but I’m so happy that it’s being released now, when people are more aware. Too many of us have gone through something that scarred us. And I needed to voice it. I needed to let it out. The film shows the woman’s memory of what happened. She doesn’t remember all of it because they were drinking, but she does remember saying ‘no’. When morning arrives, she wakes up to see her ‘no’ turned into his ‘yes’.
How do you find resolution? How do you cope with the anger and pain? Maybe when I’ll find those answers, I’ll have a feature version for it. right now, I just have more questions.
And lastly, because I wanted to do something good and fun, I started working with animal organizations. I’m creating commercials to help raise awareness and get them the attention they deserves so they can continue saving and rescuing.
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?
1. Something I hear repeatedly, now that there is a bit more diversity on screen, is that finally people see characters that look like them and can better relate because of that. See that they too matter and can achieve their goals. So, we need to keep doing that. Stories are for everyone, so we should let everyone find themselves on screen, regarding of their color, religion, sexual orientation and so on.
2. There is so much hate nowadays, communities falling apart instead of coming together. I think a lot of it is due to ignorance and wrong education. Tv and film can show diverse people on screen so that others can see we are all the same and all just want to live in peace and happiness. It can crush stigmas and promote a conversation.
3. It’s time for everyone to feel like they can do it. For everyone to follow their dreams, and what is Hollywood if not a place of dreams? People shouldn’t fear they don’t belong and that a certain industry won’t accept them. TV and film has the world’s attention. So, let’s set an example for other industries.
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. Volunteer to work on as many projects as possible. It’ll give you experience and connections.
2. Set deadlines. It’s difficult to finish a project because you always feel you can better it somehow. But at some point, you just have to be done and move on to the next thing. I remember we were doing post sound on my short film ‘Silhouette’ a few years ago, and I kept wanting to make changes. Minor things drove me nuts and it was all I could hear. My teacher, the great Kenny Hall, told me about his work on ET and how at some point he had to let go and be done. If he could do it on ET, who am I not to try?
3. Shit will hit the fan. And it’s a good thing, because this how you learn to fix problems and cope with stress.
4. Learn to accept criticism. Your work is not perfect and other people’s ideas/thoughts can teach and benefit you.
5. Then learn when to quiet down the noise. Don’t take and implement every note you get. Trust your instincts.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Film is something you do because you love it so much. It’s not easy money or overnight success. It’s hard work and it doesn’t stop. Some people have big dreams, but they let the industry crush them. They stay, but they’re no longer dreaming.
What helps me, is finding the time to work on passion projects and not just the ones that pay rent. Find that thing that inspires me, that triggers my creativeness and make sure I include that project in my schedule.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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’m vegan and have volunteered with animals all my life. I think schools should send kids to volunteer in shelters and rescue farms. It’s a great way to help, learn responsibility, compassion and see the living beings who are impacted by today’s meat, fashion and cosmetic industries.
It can create change.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to name one, because there were people every step of the way. So, my list of thank you’s is long. But there was one teacher in my undergrad, Moshe Zonder, the writer of Fauda, that opened many doors for me. I got three jobs because of him. And those jobs changed me, exposed me to a new world and inspired my writing. But above it all, I owe the biggest thanks to my family. They encouraged me and stood by me, even when they knew it meant I was moving half way around the world. They didn’t let me give up and accepted my passions and dreams as their own. They still find a way to give me strength, no matter how far away we might be.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What if I fall?”
“Oh, my darling, what if you fly?”
I read it on a public restroom door a few years back. It was a pretty funny moment to get so inspired, but it felt so right. It defines my approach in life.
Everyone faces life changing decisions. And those can be intimidating. But if you believe this is the path for you, then have faith and jump.
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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Shonda Rhimes. She is a fierce woman who turned her talent in to an inspiring empire. I can only observe and learn.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Check out my Instagram, Adva Reichman, where I post about my projects and screenings. Let’s connect.