Community//

Ruya Koman: “Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail”

I think we need so much more “empathy” and “compassion” in this world! People are so quick to act without putting themselves in other people’s shoes. I am not immune from this and maybe that’s why I bring it up. We all live in a bubble and the everyday challenges turn us into more isolated, […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

I think we need so much more “empathy” and “compassion” in this world! People are so quick to act without putting themselves in other people’s shoes. I am not immune from this and maybe that’s why I bring it up. We all live in a bubble and the everyday challenges turn us into more isolated, selfish and greedy individuals. In acting, they teach us to love the characters we play regardless of how flawed they may be. Somehow, it seems to be so hard to do this in life. I do not want to get political but our politicians are teaching us to look at the world through hate and judgment-filled glasses. How can we expect these people to represent us when they have no “empathy” and absolutely no willingness to put themselves in anyone’s shoes? How can we become better people when this kind of behavior becomes the norm? I am definitely not perfect but I aspire for compassion and empathy to guide my actions and I hope my work can reflect that.


Ruya Koman is a New York-based actor, producer, director. She recently co-directed, produced and starred in “Interference”, which was selected out of more than 3,400 short films as one of the 15 semi-finalists at the 2018 NBC Universal Short Film Festival. In 2016, she made her directorial debut with a short film that she wrote, directed and produced, “Reunion”, which was an official selection at the 2017 ECU European Independent Film Festival and the 2017 Chelsea Film Festival. Ruya recently finished post-production for her new short film “Little Charlotte’s Unannounced Visit” which will screen at festivals later this year.

As an actor, Ruya appeared on “Gotham” as the D.C. Comics character “Mother” and has starred in numerous independent films. Her acting work has been praised by industry’s leading directors and acting coaches including Susan Batson, Jim McKay, Austin Pendleton, and Carl Ford. Ruya is the lead in the upcoming short thriller “Mourning Meal”. She is also currently developing her one-woman stage play inspired by the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton. The play will be produced at the Susan Batson Studios this year.

Some producing credits include “Corey”, “Compatibility”, “Mr. Richardson”, “Najmia”, “One Second Changes Everything”, “Before We Lose”, “Convicted” and “Man-Babies”.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank YOU! Sure. When I moved to New York about 13 years ago, I fell in love with acting. I quickly found myself at HB Studios after a friend recommended the classes there. I studied acting, singing, voice, and speech (and dance at Broadway Dance Center) for a few years before I got into producing short films. Once I started producing, I quickly got better at it. About 3 years ago, I wanted to try my hand at directing. I wrote and directed my first short film “Reunion”. Since then, I co-directed/directed two more. I’m still attending acting classes with Susan Batson at Susan Batson Studios where I am also developing my one-woman show.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I think the most interesting thing that happened through this process is that I found myself in a field that I never thought I would be in. I originally studied International Relations and International Human Rights Law and wanted to get a job possibly working for an international organization somewhere in Africa or in Europe. I honestly never thought I would get into acting or filmmaking. It all seemed so far away from me… Still to this day, I’m not always sure about how I’m going to get things done because there are always so many moving pieces but whatever I do, I know that this is what I am supposed to do.

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 think I made many mistakes when I first started producing. I did not know anything, really (I still don’t claim to know everything). I had never been on a professional set before so I wasn’t aware of a lot of the rules of how things were supposed to be done. I kind of dived into these short film shoots with people I met at the time. We made it happen. I think the craziest thing (not sure if it is funny?) I did in those days was to casually use the boiler room inside my Manhattan apartment building to shoot a short film where some actors were required to wear Swat uniforms without getting permission from the building management. To this day, I wonder how I had the balls to do something like that. I would be so horrified to do that today.

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

There are three that I’m currently working on: I’m developing my one-woman show “Her Kind” (which I wrote and am starring in). The play is being produced at the Susan Batson Studios and is being directed by the amazing Carl Ford. It is the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton and how she became a writer. The second one is a narrative film project that I’m developing. I don’t want to give too much away but it was inspired by real events experienced by immigrants arriving in the United States. I’m also adapting a published book into a feature-length screenplay. It’s a great story and I’m happy to get the opportunity to turn it into a screenplay.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Well, you do meet very interesting people in New York every day. I find people working in other creative fields (fashion designers, artists, musicians etc.) to be very interesting because they work in a different field and because they have to have a different perspective to create whatever it is they are creating. I like to get inspired by what they do and to see how I can incorporate things that I learn from them into my work. My boyfriend is a fashion designer and painter. I will often get inspired by his work because it is so free-flowing and creative while each piece he creates still carries a main theme. I sometimes remind myself to have more of that quality in my work; especially in moments when I feel stuck.

I also get very inspired by other women filmmakers that I personally know. These are people that I have worked with or that I hope to work with in the future. There is something about being surrounded by women who are in your age range and do the same thing that you are doing. It makes you stay focused because you know that you are not doing this crazy thing alone and that you have support around you. You can relate to these women and when you meet them over a glass of wine, they remind you that you are not out of your mind for continuing this journey. I am lucky to know a handful of very talented and inspiring women filmmakers who are doing great work and I am honored to know them and be a part of their journey.

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

I don’t know if I’m the best person to give this advice since I do tend to burn myself out quite often. I try to be better about not doing it. I personally find that you have to take some time off from work even if it’s just half a day or a couple of hours and do something fun with people that you love or just sleep… If I’m working on a project that I’m passionate about, I can easily sit in front of my computer for hours without taking a break. However, I always pay attention to what I eat (unless I am on set for a few days and can’t control what I am eating). I cook my own food and eat my veggies. I also love yoga because it disciplines my mind. Until about 2 years ago dance was my favorite thing to do but unfortunately, I’ve been dealing with an injury and haven’t been able to take classes. I miss dance classes so much!

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 think we need so much more “empathy” and “compassion” in this world! People are so quick to act without putting themselves in other people’s shoes. I am not immune from this and maybe that’s why I bring it up. We all live in a bubble and the everyday challenges turn us into more isolated, selfish and greedy individuals. In acting, they teach us to love the characters we play regardless of how flawed they may be. Somehow, it seems to be so hard to do this in life. I do not want to get political but our politicians are teaching us to look at the world through hate and judgment-filled glasses. How can we expect these people to represent us when they have no “empathy” and absolutely no willingness to put themselves in anyone’s shoes? How can we become better people when this kind of behavior becomes the norm? I am definitely not perfect but I aspire for compassion and empathy to guide my actions and I hope my work can reflect that.

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. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail! My first acting teacher always said, the best thing that can happen to you in class is to get up in front of everyone each week and fail. That is the only way you grow.
  2. Always invest in yourself. No money/time spent on furthering your growth is a waste. This includes taking classes, investing in books or other educational tools such as the Masterclass (which I love!), seeing shows and movies; and if you are a filmmaker or playwright: investing in your own projects so you can produce your own work.
  3. Create (write, produce, direct) your own work! Do not wait for the phone to ring or for someone to cast you.
  4. Remember that this is a small business so your reputation is everything. Make sure you treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. I keep seeing the same people on social media, film festivals and at events I attend. Everyone knows one another and people talk about each other all the time. If you are notorious for not paying your crew members or for disrespecting people, if you are a very difficult actor, the word will get around and soon no one will want to work with you. I would rather work with people who have a great attitude than with very talented people that come with a lot of baggage.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say “No” or to speak your mind. I get asked by people to help them with their projects and I do so when I can and when I have the time. You do not have to work on anything that you do not want to work on. You do not have to take on projects because people want you to do them favors. If it is a “job”, it is a “job”. If it is not a job, you do not have to take it. I am sorry to be blunt but no one has the right to get offended because you do not choose to invest your very valuable time to work on their project for “free”. And if someone is volunteering their valuable time for you to help you on production (as background actors or production assistants for example) or to read your script and provide feedback, provide free coaching, etc. I hope you take the time to make them feel extra special because they certainly did not have to do that.

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

Go into the world and discover what your passion is! Everyone has a talent but most people never take the time to discover what that is. Figure out what you were put on this earth to do and go do that thing. It can sometimes be scary to take the leap, especially if people around you start questioning your lifestyle. Do not listen to them! As long as you know in your heart that you are doing what you are supposed to do, that is all that matters. Do not settle for a life that other people want you to live. Do what fulfills you emotionally, spiritually and creatively.

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?

Yes!! First off, my mom! She has always been my biggest supporter and I look up to her so much. Without her, I would not be where I am today.

There are also many producing partners, teachers, friends that I am grateful for. The people that have really given me enormous support are the legendary acting coach Susan Batson and Carl Ford, the Founder of the Susan Batson Studio. They literally picked me out of the crowd and said, “We believe in you! You have something special and we are going to help you build it!”. I cannot even explain what that means to me. I am so so grateful to them and hope I can make them proud.

And lastly, Gina Stoj, Proverbs Taylor and Mitzie Pratt. These are all the people that continuously support me and want to see me get to the next level. We are in a business that has so many ups and downs, so getting support from people close to you is so important!

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. 🙂

Ava DuVernay!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can find me on Instagram and Twitter @ruyakoman and my website is www.ruyakoman.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank You!!!!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Empathy in Politics? It’s A Bit Complicated!

by Michael Brenner
Community//

What Do Kids Need Most to Succeed? Empathy

by Kari Kampakis
Stock Rocket / Shutterstock
Well-Being//

How My Morning Mantra Helped Me Overcome Adversity

by Jeff Sutherland

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.