To make change in a large scale you need to create change in a small scale. It’s like the tiny rock that hits the water and creates ripples that are much bigger in size than the actual rock. So I am a big believer of starting from where you know and to create change with people around you.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Luciana Faulhaber.
Luciana Faulhaber is an actress best known for Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Gotham, The Night Shift and Iron Man 3 among others. As a director check out her short films December, Homeless, Mom! and her latest horror feature Don’t Look available on VOD. Give her a shout on Instagram @lucianafaulhaberofficial.
Thank you so much for joining us Luciana! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
I’ve wanted to be an actress ever since I can remember. But my mother never had a chance to go to college so it was important to her that we all did. She wanted us to be financially independent in case tragedy struck, as it did for her, so she wanted us to always be able to take care of ourselves. It was her requirement that we graduate college with a “serious degree” and once that happened I would be free to do “whatever I wanted”. Now I laugh about that statement because adulthood is not always like that. Growing up in a developing nation like Brazil, I was always passionate about politics and interested in social development — extending my studies of that through Graduate school until I had the courage to do what I truly wanted to do. As an actress, I quickly saw the stereotype in the kind of roles I was being seen for. That is a cultural statement of how America sees people of color and a true challenge to overcome the small pool of opportunities. That is when I started creating content: first as a way to give performers of color like me opportunities they didn’t have access to before and then broadening to use storytelling to speak up about social issues I truly care about.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
I have shared this story before but it is still the funniest so here it goes. It happened during my first professional job on “Iron Man 3”. The film shot in Miami and I flew in very early that day getting little sleep. I did the fitting on the spot; the amazing wardrobe team made any needed alterations. I was wearing a beautiful tea length fitted gold vintage dress. I proceeded to wait eight hours for my first scene. I was so tired that by the end of the day, I decided to get a cup of coffee to help me make it through. As I slowly sip my coffee, a make-up artist on the way to set tripped on the legs of my chair and the coffee spilled, flying all over my beautiful dress. I was mortified. This was my first job; my first shot and I had now ruined it. My eyes filled with water and the make-up artist protested my tears telling me not to ruin my makeup, too. It was the end of the day and as everyone panicked to figure out how to fix the dress, they call the end of the day on the microphone. We all gave a sigh of relief. I was literally saved by the bell! After this experience, I make sure my coffee always has a lid and I never eat in wardrobe just in case. I was so embarrassed that I never told this story to anyone. I learned that it’s okay to mess up and make mistakes; you just have to keep going.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
My advice to everyone who wants to be an actor or content creator is to just do it. Find a story that is so important to you that you must tell it, gather your troops, and go do it. There is no perfect scenario for when to do something. You will always wish you had more time or more money to create your piece and get stuck on achieving the ideal conditions instead of jumping to action. Whatever it is you are trying to achieve there will be people telling you that you can’t do it, that you are not qualified or experienced enough, among many other reasons. At these times you are confronted with what’s more important to you. To me, it is always to tell the story and to do the work. If that is also how you feel, my advice is to ignore those people. It is up to you to decide who is worth listening to but keep in mind only you know what is best for you. Listen to yourself first, always.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I feel very lucky to have had multiple people who have had a profound impact in my life and naming one wouldn’t do service to the village it takes to continue on this journey. But the people who have profoundly impacted me fit into two categories: those who told me I could do something when other’s didn’t believe in me and those who told me I couldn’t. In both cases they propelled me to move forward because they show me that there are multiple ways to do something. Those who support me when I need it help me find the way and those who tell me I can’t do something spring me towards finding a solution myself. The question here is: are you unstoppable? Whatever it is you want to do you need to want it enough to keep going. Whatever that career is, it will have it’s own types of challenges.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
On a personal note, I have always volunteered with different organizations. Some causes close to my my heart include feeding low income families, raising funds for homeless organizations, teaching inner-city kids, advocated for LatinX representation and equal pay. Once I became a content creator, I started to use my voice as a filmmaker to raise awareness to those issues that were personally close to me. I have recently completed a short called “Homeless” I director and wrote with my partner, Javier E. Gomez, that is based on the real life of two former homeless people bringing focus to the episodically homeless instead of the stereotypical portraited chronically homeless that deals with other issues as well, such as addiction or mental disease. I have also created a short called “Mom! (Mãe!) now available on YouTube (link here) that discusses the challenges of being an immigrant during a pandemic. This shows the fear for the safety of your family and the feeling of impotence for being so far away. This was shot and created entirely during lockdown using the technology available to bridge the distance between immigrants everywhere who share these same feelings. I am currently working on a piece about femicide and another on women’s rights.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I chose these themes because I started from what I knew. The work being sprung is coming from the most recent interactions with these issues. Last year I was part of Homeward LA in which I performed a monologue written in partnership with the homeless to shed light to their humanity. The project raised 100k for the “Midnight Mission” on Skid Row. After being part of this experience and driving by the homeless camps throughout LA, the work we did just didn’t seem enough. That’s when I had the idea to create a film about the subject showing the humanity of the issue that would reach a wider audience and Javier E. Gomez did a stellar job capturing that vulnerability as the lead. “Mom!” as I mentioned, sprung from this unsettling feeling we carry as immigrants worrying about our families so far away. Femicide is a reality in Latin and Central America that is not discussed in the US. Violence against women just for being women is labeled here as “domestic violence” but statistic shows that a lot of women who are murdered are no longer with their partners or it is not domestic related at all. During this pandemic, we are seeing the number of domestic violence and child abuse being reported and some even resulting in death as people are forced to cohabitate 24/7. And last but not least, my work with women’s rights and equality comes from well, being a woman and experiencing that first hand.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
There is nothing more rewarding than hearing from people that your work has impacted them. Though that continues to happen, I feel it is unfair to just mention one. The work I am doing is also about groups of people who finally feel seen and represented. By telling a story that is so personal and specific it hits universal themes that reach a wide audience and that is what makes this work rewarding.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
To make change in a large scale you need to create change in a small scale. It’s like the tiny rock that hits the water and creates ripples that are much bigger in size than the actual rock. So I am a big believer of starting from where you know and to create change with people around you. So three things individuals can get that going in their own community is being kind towards each other, see what you alone can do to make a difference and enlist allies that can help your ripples go further and further.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Don’t listen when people say you can’t do something. See answers above where I go into detail about this.
- Fear is a smokescreen. Don’t let it stop you. When I did the 2-year conservatory with Bill Esper he said that to me. I didn’t know what it meant at the time but I find myself thiking about it a lot over the years. Fear is just a feeling and like most it will probably pass you by. Don’t let it be the thing that keeps you from moving forward.
- Learn as much as you can about your field of work. This was actually great advice given to me so I thought it was perfect to share. There are a lot of actors who don’t think they don’t need to go to acting school and many successful ones who don’t but rest assured those people are learning in some other way. Education doesn’t mean formal education but make sure you are always learning.
- Leaving your family to follow your dreams will be harder than you think. When I came to the US, I had a really hard time being away from my family. In Latin cultures you don’t leave for college, you stay with family until you create your own. Being here has taught me so much about adulthood and independence, but since the beginning there is this feeling of loss for not being there with them day to day. There are many birthdays, births and weddings that I have missed and vice-versa . Those are moments you can never get back. I feel lucky for the time I do get with them and I know this will all be worth it but it doesn’t get any easier.
- Be Financially Literate. Most artists claim to be “too artsy” to deal with real life issues. Those people get into a lot of financial trouble. Learn to take care of yourself because the road to success is a long one.
- Enjoy the Ride! I remind myself daily that this is all we get. This day, this week, this month. This is your life. We are always working towards a better future but don’t forget to live the now ‘till then because it will be here faster than you know it.
Oops, I think that was six!
You are a person of enormous 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 am working on starting many movements towards causes I strongly believe in as I listed above. Hope my words here come as inspiration to those who need a gentle push to line up their beliefs with their skills.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
That’s a great question but I don’t have one. Life is fluid so I remain a student hoping to learn the lessons as I go.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, 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 just see this if we tag them 🙂
At this time I would love to meet Jane Fonda. She has been an actress and activist all her life while raising a family and she is still at it! I hope I can be that lucky so I’d love to pick her brain about how to turn passion into a life long career.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!