Rising Star Mani Nasry: “Why we need a movement to become rich in heart qualities”

To be rich in heart qualities. A lot of people have money but little of everything else: The wonderful, beautiful we can see in the landscapes, in the sea, the sunsets, the animals, the flowers and the good deeds of humanity. The appreciation of the beauty of nature that surrounds us, to learn to enjoy, […]

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To be rich in heart qualities. A lot of people have money but little of everything else: The wonderful, beautiful we can see in the landscapes, in the sea, the sunsets, the animals, the flowers and the good deeds of humanity. The appreciation of the beauty of nature that surrounds us, to learn to enjoy, to appreciate the enriched world. We do not need more materialistic things, but more beautiful characters. We need to enrich our souls, our life, our minds and not buy more things. Spend less time on your smartphones because that’s where they will steal your life. Watch more documentaries and international films and less horror films. Go to film festivals.

As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mani Nasry. Mani has been interested in film since youth. Though Mani was raised and groomed in Canada, his mindset and lifestyle have always been different, helping him strive to do better and work harder. Throughout his journey, he worked with many acting teachers to polish his skills, and it was in high school where he found a deeper interest for film that led him to New York and Los Angeles. After achieving his high school diploma at Rosedale Heights S. S, he headed to New York to study at the Herbert Berghof Studio, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, and at the Actors Studio in New York founded by Elia Kazan, now operated by Al Pacino & Ellen Burstyn. He also spent 2 years working with various acting teachers in Los Angeles, such as Sharon Chatten, Eric Morris, and Allan Miller.

The journey to where Mani Nasry is today contained obstacles, but he channelled those difficulties into everything. Mani Nasry played various challenging roles in various short films at colleges and universities such as Sheridan, Humber and York University. He earned a Film Certificate and a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Cinema Studies at Ryerson University. Mani Nasry got his ACTRA card in 2002 by landing his first major role, a $5 million film called The Glow with well-known actors including as Dean Cain and Portia De Ross. He also appeared in dozens of acclaimed projects, ranging from mainstream Hollywood fare such as Covert Affairs, The L.A. Complex, and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium to acclaimed independent projects such as Galaxy Donuts, The Babysitter, In The Pin We Trust, and 482-LOVE. As a writer, director and producer, he is proud to include the heralded shorts Caroline, Disconnect, Circus, Silence of Death, and Terminal, among my many credits. He currently completed his first feature film called We, which took over 5 years to make. The film follows Ethan, a man with big ambitions, and an even bigger heart, as he searches for love in the years following the death of his parents. Mani Nasry brought authenticity and life to the leading character of Ethan. He not only acted in it, but also directed and produced the film. He imbued a character with layers and complexities that allowed for the audience to empathize with him and root for him. The film, based on a 200-page script, was also heavily improvised. Mani Nasry is a master improviser, working with uncertainties and inherent risk to create a fresh and invigorating performance not only from himself, but helping all actors accomplish the same results. The work electrified the entire production. We has entered the international film festival circuit and has proved to be a bonafide success with 21 Wins and 16 Nominations. The film has been selected to screen as an Official Selection at several highly distinguished festivals including the Indian Cine Film Festival, where it won Best Feature Film, and the Desert Edge Global Film Festival, where Mani Nasry won Best Leading Actor in a motion picture and many other film festivals in Italy, India, Russia, Nigeria, US, Canada, and many more. Subsequently, I expect the film will continue to succeed critically and commercially thanks to Mani Nasry’s incredible leading work.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Mani! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up independently in Montreal without any help from any adults. I kept my head, and my endurance, up high, taking many risks. Sometimes they were dangerous, but somehow everything turned out well. I was doing my own thing as a child and kept a positive, optimistic mental attitude. I joined many sport teams of all sorts without any help or assitance from my family. These sports taught me how to fail and get up again, how to concentrate on the goal and to always expect the best, and have faith in my endeavors. My parents had 6 kids to take care of, so we came to Canada without a penny in our pockets, we were wearing sandals while it was snowing in the freezing rain. My father had to start all over because his university degree or work experience had no relevance in this country, as they wouldn’t accept it. He was a mayor in his city and was very successful and well off, but the war started, and we had to leave everything behind, including our land. He got a job at a factory in Montreal and was coming home with burned hands. Meahwhile, I kept busy with school and joined a Lutte Team, which in French means to struggle or fight. I had to fight my own way up in the world, learning a new language, French, and had to make my own successes happen. I wrestled in Montreal at a young age and won all Gold Medals, never having lost a match. This got me started; I found out that I was unique, a winner and a champion in life. Everytime I get down, I think about how much I have accomplished. Four things that keep me moving forward are persistence, perseverance, determination, and faith in my abilities. I believe one should never give up on goals, asking oneself what are the most importing things to accomplish today in order to get closer to my ideal dream.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

The whole idea of imagination, how you can imagine a story and bring to it life. Also, I enjoy creating, putting something on paper and then filming it, and how the story becomes real and you have a real-life experience. The ability to create circumstances you want to create in order to educate, awaken and enlighten. I came into this industry because it gave me an ability to be an educator and to be a human being alive in the moment, the ability to entertain ideas. I feel like the art was already in me. I discovered later in my life that I was an artist. I guess we are born unique and to have find our voices. My art was to bring certain ideas, thoughts and colours into the world. We all need to find our calling. We artists are here to make the world a brighter place to live in and to liberate people, to liberate humanity from their chains, to bring the truth to light. We make and create an atmosphere that people want to enter, a place where people feel better. The real world is sometimes cold and hurtful and we need art, theatre and movies to lighten our world, to make it an interesting place to live in.

I wanted to find a career that gave me the freedom to voice and to express, and to broaden the expansion of the human heart and mind. It helps me build ideal characters, the opprotunity to grow as an inividual and learn about human behaviour and human actions. All I heard around me when I was growing up was people talk about money, brand clothes, jewelley, cars and real estate. I didn’t want to join the people who only cherised money, who were slaves to the dollar, who were governed by money and the banks. People are constantly looking at other people’s cars, homes, clothes and constanly asking about how much money they are making. We are looking at the physical matter instead of looking at what’s on the inside. People are constantly looking at your skin tone to figure out who you are and instead judging you by the character, mind or soul. As soon as you indicate your name or where you’re from, some people start perceiving what the media has indicated about that group of people. Why not get the know the human being?

When I would go out and meet people, the first question would be about how much money I was making, how financially successful I was, or and what I could do for them. I think we are already enriched as human beings, we do not need more things but to appreaciate, to be grateful and thankful for what we already have. Our ability to see, to hear, to smell, to feel, to live and be alive is very enriching. Our goal is to enrich our humanity, to enrich our character and not our pockets. We have not learned how to be human beings, but machines that follow orders and overuse technology to help further advertise and market products. Its all about how many likes and how many people follow you.

The one film that brought me to this career was Saving Private Ryan by Steven Spielberg. I appreciated that film and still love the film for its ability to ease one soul or one mother’s pain. The film took you to a place of war. I felt like I was going through that hell. When I left the theatre, I was so grateful to be alive and not caught up in a war zone. Thank God that my dad took us out of a war zone and brought us to a land of freedom and expression of speech.

I was looking for a career that would change a person’s life. I found theatre and film to not only entertain, but bring history to life, to help us understand each other and make us sensitive to one another. To have empathy for each other and better understand one another. To live in peace and harmony and not to pass judement. I discovered I was an artist and that I wanted to make people feel good about being alive and to help us unite.

What I love about art is that it liberates us from the corporate world, the banks, the fake authorities, the politicians, the money making rulers. At one time in the world there were woods that no one owned.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was in Los Angeles and looking for bedding and, as I walked the aisles at Target in West Hollywood, guess who I see? A guy wearing a black letter jacket in the kids’ toy section. I looked at the guy and was like, “Oh wow, that looks like Al Pacino!” I went up to him and said, “Man, you look exactly like Mr. Pacino,” and he said, “Yeah, I get that a lot.” Once he opened his mouth, I was like, oh God, it’s The Godfather, it’s Scarface, it’s Mr. Serpico. I was shocked, I thought I met an alien, thinking ‘what is he doing on planet earth’. The strange part was, I had seen his film Scent of A Woman many years before, I told him, “Can you believe that I have rented Scent Of A Woman in order to prove to my roomate what a wonderful actor you are because my roomate keeps telling me that Pacino only plays gangster roles and I would keep correcting him?” Al Pacino gave me a tap on my shoulder and said he appreciated it that. I thought, Wow I got a compliment from Mr. Pacino. I was made, I thought I was the luckiest person on earth to be in his holy presence. I politely asked him if I can take a picture with him and we walked for about 10 seconds before he agreed. He had this little blond girl with him, I think it was his daughter. I didn’t want to take much of his time and had to say goodbye but somehow I said to him, “I am sure you will see me around.” He had no idea if I was an actor and he was very confused. You know, I ran home to get my reel to give to him. He was heading to The Actor’s Studio in New York with Ellen Burstyn, which is an acting school for actors. I was hoping that maybe he could put in a word in for me at the school. As I was running home to get my reel, I was screamed, “Attica, Attica, Attica’, ‘I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart’, say hello to my little friend.” I kept running with Mr. Pacino’s dialogue from various movies. When I got back to Target, he was gone.

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?

I trained as an actor in New York and Los Angeles following the footsteps of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and James Dean, and when I came back to Toronto, I was on a film set and the director gave me direction. One thing I learned from different acting teachers such as Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, is not to fake it, to really do the action, to bring in the truth. My character in the film has been drinking a lot and he ends up throwing up. I dance around the scene, can’t see where I am going and falling here and there. The director let me do whatever I needed to do in order to create the world. They always feel confident when I am on set and I can fully improvise the scene. I start walking around in the scene and spoke any words needed and when it came to the spot to where I am supposed to vomit, I did fully vomit as directed. All the extras looked at me in a strange way. Even the 1st AD and director were shocked. I wasn’t sure why they were looking at me. They all came and saw the vomit. One actor even said, “He really did vomit, ewww.” People looked at me a strange way all night and I was so embarrassed. “Was I not to suppose to vomit? Was I supposed to pretend?” I was so confused with the acting method in Toronto. I guess they weren’t ready for the real thing. I learned never to do that. I guess each set is different and never the same. He wasn’t Martin Scorsese for me to do that, and it wasn’t a Taxi Driver film. What was I thinking? I learned that not everyone is ready for the real experience. When people watch our film, We (2019) that I directed and produced and I play the leading role of Ethan, people can’t seem to see that I am acting and it’s a fictional film and not a documentary. They ask, ‘Who did you marry in the film?” or ‘” am sorry what happened to you and your family.” I have to tell them I did not marry any of them and my family is alive. It is not my real life; it’s just acting a character in a 200-page script with 32 union ACTRA actors.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am currently looking for a distributor for We. This is my first Canadian feature film about understanding each other, that we are all from the same source, that it doesn’t matter what skin tone you are, what matters is that we are all human beings and we are all connected and form the same source. We wanted audiences to see people of different ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds as human being without protraying them as evil people, the way media and news constructs them. We wanted to give a chance to people of colour and put them in leading film roles. The film teaches to be generous, kind, caring and loving to one another, and to not be angry but forgiving of each other and not to look for the faults but to find the good qualities. It tells the stories of people going through difficult times and not to pass judgement until we have have understood them. To build a bridge of empathy with each other and cut lines between us. We must understand that we are all inferior and superior to one another. Whatever we do to others, we are only doing unto ourselves. This film shows the beauty of Canada, the different seasons, different cultures, people of color sharing their stories, getting the audience to understand that they are good people and are human beings. We wanted to show how beautiful a country can be when you can eat in different restaurants, share our cultures with one another, and to better understand each other. I love Canada and how we all get along, that there is no need to build lines and walls between us. The country has built a bridge for people of all over the world to come together and share their experiences and histories.

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?

Alejandro González Iñárritu, who has won many Academy Awards, is from Mexico, so if it wasn’t for diversity, we wouldn’t have the beautiful film, Babel, which is a story of the lives of humanity around the world and how we truly aren’t all that different. The Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, whose film A Separation (2011) won an Oscar for Best Foreign film. It’s about the dissolution of a marriage and the emotional toll it takes on the couple’s ten-year-old daughter. It shows what happens when stress, depression, and disagreements occur in a relationship. These stories tell us how human we are, and it doesn’t matter where you from, we share the same emotions, similar experiences. The film helps us understand that we are all human beings, and we feel pain just as anyone else.

Whether they know it or not, all creatures are inseparably connected. We are one, unifying whole since we have the same source and origin, the same tasks for our lives, and the same general final goal. We are here to help one another, to serve, to uplift, to elevate and bring out the good, as well as to look for the good and bring out the best in each other.

It’s fame, power, and wealth that are hurting us. Excessive wealth takes away from the beauty of the world.

We are all the same on the inside: we are here to be loved and to love, to appreciate the gifts we have been provided with, our abilities, our imaginations to unite and allow other to tell their stories so we can better understand each other. When you need help or need blood or a transplant, you won’t ask what skin tones they are. Our purpose in life is to love each other and not to pass judgement on race, class, gender, ethnicity, or disability. Collective energy will empower our lives, will strengthen our rights. Since we are one family, we need to safeguard each other and protect our safety and dignity. If we love each other and help each other, we will be successful in every life. When we give out opportunity, justice, goodness and are charitable, the law of nature will reciprocate that. The more we serve others with understanding and in a gentle, kindly manner, the more agreeable and just the world will be with us. We have to understand that we are all connected. Our film, We (2019), gave us an opportunity to speak and be heard and gave people from all walks of life a chance to be a leading character in feature film. In the film, Ethan wants to hide behind his identify and hide his relationships for the fear of not being accepted and included. Also, in the film Coco, Miguel, the 12-year-old protagonist, wants to become a musician but has to keep it a secret. When his abuelita breaks his guitar and forbids him to play, Miguel announces that he no longer wants to be a part of the family and runs away. For a lot of actors who are not Caucasian have come to North America because of difficult situations, including myself, escaping the war and other strife. We all have dreams and aspirations and hope to be accepted because we are family whether we know it or not. Without coming together and supporting each other and uniting, we will have to have to disappear and belittle ourselves. We have to look on the inside and build empathy. Diverse entertainment helps us come together as one. We are human beings sharing the same home, so we need to forget about countries and see the world as our home, one for all. This will keeps us alive, keeps us together, awaken us to the beauty of the world. Variety is the mother of enjoyment. Let’s awaken our hearts! Diversity will help us relate to one another and make us sensitive to one another.

Movies on diversity and inclusion unite us and bring us together to the theatres without any lights, without passing a judgement on each other. It doesn’t matter who watches the film, the movies shed a light on us in order to educate us, to entertain us, to brighten our world.

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. Diversity is limited. You will have to fight a battle in order to be in the movies. We are all striving to overcome employment and build a better life, to have an opportunity to express ourselves and to take care of our families. I hope the Canadian and Hollywood movies open more doors to people of different ethnicities and give equal opportunities. We all want to contribute our skills and talents to the economy, to the country we live in, we are all immigrants in one way or another. No one is here to stay, we have a limited time, so we need to give everyone a chance and an opportunity to succeed. Talent and skills should not be dictated by the color of your skin. I hope to have more casting directors, agents, and managers of different ethnicities in order to convince the creators to take a chance on actors from all over the world.
  2. I wish someone told that I have to make money to make movies. I thought I would make movies and make money. I have invested everything I made back into the industry, into getting an education, and into getting a film certificate, which took over 20 courses to get, and spent years getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinema Studies. I took dozens and dozens of acting classes in New York and Los Angeles and Toronto and have a credit card debt of over 30 grand with over 30 grand in school debt. I am having a hard building a career, and the industry has not accepted me as one of their one,; they still see me as a foreigner.
  3. One thing I recently learned is to make a film you would like to watch. Audiences may see it once or twice, but you will have to watch it a lot more often and live with it for a long time. Always make a film for yourself first. With my film We (2019), I am always there watching it with the audience. You see your film a lot, in pre-production, production, post-production, and many screenings.
  4. The Story, The Story, The Story. One thing I learned by making my shorts and feature is that it’s all about the story. I spent a lot of my own money earlier in my career on cameras and lenses and production value, but I learned late that unless there is an outstanding, unforgettable, memorable story, there is no point of spending money filming.
  5. In order to get on in the entertainment industry, you will have to learn producing, directing, writing, and casting, not just acting. I learned late in my career that in order to make it, you have to create the opportunities and create circumstances you want to be in. If you can’t find them, you will have to make them. You have to keep reading, keep learning and increasing your store of knowledge. You have to always be ready for your opportunity when it shows up. You have to be spiritually, mentally, and physically ready and have an optimistic attitude. Sometimes all you have to do is take a single step towards the goal you want to accomplish and keep focused, keep your eye on the target and don’t lose hope and faith. Expect you will win.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Sometimes we need to slow down and go for long walks into nature, where we can move slowly like nature does, relax and breathe. I would suggest yoga, meditation, longs walk or rest. Always be grateful and thankful for what we already have. We are already enriched by the ability to see, hear, smell, touch and feel. One of my questions to ask is: Are you exercising regularly? Are you sleeping at least 8 hours a day? Exercise increases energy and productivity. Lack of proper sleep reduces your concentration, makes you less motivated, provokes negativity and pessimism, causes irritability and impaired judgement.

There is an inner voice in your soul taht always tells you about what you need to do or stop doing. We need to find that balance between family, friends and the higher power. One reason why burn out happens is because we are doing too much of one thing. Never compare yourself with others, and instead of competing, start creating. What is important is not the quantity of your actions, but its quality. You can do many things without doing that which is most important. I always ask myself if something is important. What’s the most valuable use of time and energy? Changing attitudes and our affirmations will help create positive thoughts which will lead to positive actions. Affirmation such as “I can, I am and I will” help me spur my thoughts into positive actions. I’m alive, I’m awake and I feal great. I value and appreciate others and myself. Be sensitive to the way people feel and your attitude towards them. Be kinder than necessary because everyone is fighting some battle. Speak kindly, lovingly because whatever we do them, they reflect to us. The world gives us back what we put into it. Help others, serve other, care for others and love, this will lighten our burden. In order to relieve our stress, make others smile and ease their pain and to serve others and not ourselves. We should make others feel important and valuable because that will make us feel important and valuable. We need to relax and concentrate on breathing. What’s important is to enjoy life and not only make money. Planting the right seeds and nurturing it, taking care of our health, planting great thoughts. Selfishness can never bring wealth, a clean heart will. Are you pursuing material wealth or spiritual wealth? Are you comparing yourself with people who are successful? Have others done more than you? Are you thinking about how much money they are accumulating? Do you want more fame? Is it about others’ accomplishments? Once we stop comparing with others, the pain will lessen. To start appreciating oneself, taking time to cultivate friendship, enjoy social life, spend time with family and with nature are all vital to a fruitful life. Get rid of envy and jealousy and false ambition; instead, appreciate our own instead of thinking of what others have. Be thankful to yourself, congratulate yourself, what you have, your blessings, and how fortunate you are. Build your capacity for appreciation. Take time to see things to enjoy them. We are all going to be buried. What do we wish we had done while alive? Egotism and vanity will destroy us, so to be of use in the world, you have to be a leader in the service of humanity. My crown, of content, is in my heart, not on my head.

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. 🙂

To be rich in heart qualities. A lot of people have money but little of everything else: The wonderful, beautiful we can see in the landscapes, in the sea, the sunsets, the animals, the flowers and the good deeds of humanity. The appreciation of the beauty of nature that surrounds us, to learn to enjoy, to appreciate the enriched world. We do not need more materialistic things, but more beautiful characters. We need to enrich our souls, our life, our minds and not buy more things. Spend less time on your smartphones because that’s where they will steal your life. Watch more documentaries and international films and less horror films. Go to film festivals.

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?

My mom and dad and friends. They all supported me in all my endeavors. They’ve always been there for me and have provided financial support. They love to see their son succeed and are always shouting words of encouragement, persistence and perseverance and to never give up no matter what. They always said to always keep your attitude positive and optimistic and see the benefits of all drawbacks because they always help us become strong and better. We must keep failing in order to succeed. My parents set themselves free from Afghanistan because of the war and gave us an opportunity to get an education in Canada and US. I had the opportunity to study in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Chile. They worked hard in order for to me to succeed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Accumulate good deeds. It’s the life in our years, not the length our life or work, but the depth of it. Create an experience that people would like to feel again, or an artwork that you want to come back to. Charge your life with meaning and not with dollars, so get yourself a little loving by a voyage before it vanishes, never postpone it. Your life is a great work of art, so build it, create it. You are writing a book of life, the book of great actions for the benefit of others. The opportunity will not always be around. Never complain, criticize, cry or be disappointed. Life is short and you don’t want to spend it that way. Life lies in love, laughter and work. Don’t take life so seriously, live and don’t wait to live in the future. Constant progress. Don’t sit still, have a goal in mind and focus on that goal. Always on your feet. Don’t be afraid to tumble, just get up again. Labor followed leisure and vice versa. Free time to figure who we are, to repair ourselves and become more fully human. Always do the right thing. Have the readiest ear, focusing on others. You are a genius, you are a legend, so make things happen. Be a creator of circumstances.

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. 🙂

Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon, Ellen Lee DeGeneres, and Jimmy Kimmel,. These winners are great leaders of our time and great entertainers. They are very influential and make the world a better place to live in. The have great educational platforms and focus on the improvement of humanity and to the great good.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I use www.instagram.com/maninasry and facebook www.facebook.com/14FILMWE/ everyday and you can email me at [email protected]. Please make sure to stay in contact through this facebook page.

More information on my first feature film www.14FILM.ca

My Website: www.maninasry.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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