Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Angelena Bonet of Crystal Heart Productions…

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Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Angelena Bonet of Crystal Heart Productions Is Helping To Change Our World

Choose your boyfriends carefully! Many men want a model on their arm but they don’t have the confidence to cope with the attention she gets everywhere she goes. I have dated some men that were very threatened by my career on the rise and tried to pull me down and become controlling. I wish someone had told me that not everyone has a big heart and are quite superficial, egotistical and all about their image.

As a part of our series about Filmmakers Making A Social Impact I had the pleasure of interviewing Angelena Bonet.

Angelena Bonet is an Australian multi-award winning, documentary filmmaker, singer-songwriter and humanitarian. She has her own production company Crystal Heart Productions and has created five documentary films, their original soundtracks and music videos, plus two web series Heart Of The Matter and The Angelena Bonet Show. She writes, directs, edits and produces her work in their entirety, including co-writing and singing the soundtracks and describes it “purely as a labor of love”! Angelena’s work includes a documentary feature film tetralogy consisting of Angelena: Change The World, Angelena: Heart Of The Matter, Angelena: Light At The End Of The Tunnel and Angelena: Warrior Woman. She has also created a documentary short film Change The World which recently screened in Hollywood, Sweden, Italy, France, South America and Japan. Angelena is proud to share her personal story of triumph over adversity and her special songs, which have won over 300 film festival awards worldwide so far, including numerous ‘Best Inspirational Film’, ‘Best Social Justice Film’, ‘Best Original Soundtrack’ and ‘Best Music Video’ awards. She has also been the recipient of the ‘Humanitarian Award’ at the Jane Austen International Film Festival in the U.K. and the ‘Human Spirit Award’ at the DOCS Without Borders Film Festival in The Bahamas. All her films feature the Original Music Soundtrack she co-wrote and sung from her heart and soul with her late fiancé, Erick Deeby. He had written and recorded instrumental pieces of music for her between 2005 and 2007, then suddenly and unexpectedly passed away three days after they got engaged in August 2007.

She then wrote the lyrics and melody to his music after his devastating death and during her time of deepest grief. She wrote the album like chapters of a book and feature songs such as Change The World, Tragic Fairytale and On My Way and cites the writing process as cathartic and organic. She promised her late fiancé whilst in a coma that someday, somehow she would finish their special project and she has kept her word. Her highly successful documentary film Change The World is now available on YouTube. Her online talk show Heart Of The Matter has also won the Social Awareness Award (Award of Excellence) at the Vegas Movie Awards and it was her interviews that inspired the VMAs to create that specific category. She interviews inspiring women all around the world and from all walks of life and is dedicated to having women’s voices heard and is also available on her YouTube channel. Angelena has been a Jury member of The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) for the past four years. From Australian international model to multi-award winning singer-songwriter, documentary filmmaker and humanitarian she is devoted to shining a light on violence against women and her message is one of peace, love and unity.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, 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 Sydney, Australia and first appeared on national television at the age of four on a preschool show called Romper Room with my twin brother. It was filmed at Channel 7 Television Studios near where I lived and I can still remember having the best time. It no doubt had an impact on me. I began ballet lessons that same year and piano lessons at six. Dancing was my passion and I studied jazz and tap from the age of ten. I then continued my dance studies as well as singing and drama at The Australian College of Entertainment during high school. When I was eighteen I was discovered at a hair salon that year and asked to model for a shoot that appeared in Vogue Australia. I then modelled part-time while studying and got my first office job as a secretary the following year. I signed with a top Sydney modelling agency at twenty and things just took off from there. The very next day I was booked on a television soap opera “Breakers” where they wrote me into the script and I was on that show, which aired in 50 countries, for the next two years. I was then on the cover with a ten page spread of the three biggest selling issues of ‘Inside Sport’ magazine and was named ‘The New Australian Supermodel’ on national news when I returned to Sydney after modeling in Milan.

It has been an organic journey for me and becoming a professional model was what opened doors to dancing in music videos, acting in TV and Film and putting into practice all the skills I had honed growing up. I met Erick in my twenties and we spent so much time at his recording studio where I got to watch his bands record, mix the tracks and shoot music videos. I would go with him to buy recording gear too so I was absorbing it all and learning about the music industry. We then began collaborating on our album end of 2005 when I returned from modeling in Milan and he became my mentor. I really worked on my songwriting as well as my recording technique and developed over the next couple of years as an artist. He believed in me, knew my potential and really encouraged me to find my own voice. When he passed away it was very difficult to deal with. I was in such deep grief and shock because it was so sudden and only three days after we got engaged. I was also terrified of the intensity of the pain and how I was ever going to recover. I could never have imagined I would be writing the lyrics and melody to the instrumental pieces of music he had written for me with him gone. The music was my sole focus as I had promised him while he was in a coma that I would finish our special project and having that promise to keep was what essentially saved my life. So over the next few months I just wrote every word and note from my heart and soul and then realized each song was like a chapter in a book. As each song was written I noticed I was healing and my emotions were being given an outlet and I am extremely grateful to Erick for this magical gift. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I don’t think I would be here without having a way to channel my emotions. As I was healing I then felt strong enough to return to work and began modelling again. In early 2010 I then signed with a talent agent in New York and moved to Toronto, Canada. I fell in love with the city, the people and loved working in their TV and Film industry. I hosted the FIFA World Cup Show that year and was on an episode of the TV Series ‘Ghostly Encounters’. I came home in 2012 for a visit and six days later I was a victim of a horrific violent crime in Melbourne. Once again my life was turned upside down and I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the crime and had to also deal with the police investigation. This experience changed my life and today I can say for the better. It completely opened my eyes to the pain of this world and the cruelty that some human beings are capable of inflicting and also opened my heart with a feeling of immense compassion for all of us women who have suffered. To say I was disgusted with my perpetrators is an understatement and I’d never felt such rage. Once again I was suicidal and this time I really didn’t think I could go on. I also lost loved ones afterwards because of their denial as they too had been manipulated by the main perpetrator and that was when I decided enough was enough and I was going to go public with this injustice. I was told by one of my case workers at the time that sexual violence against women is a silent global epidemic and that 1 in 3 women and girls will experience some kind of abuse in their lifetime. I couldn’t bear to think of another woman going through similar suffering and I felt a very strong desire in my heart to help other people. This was before the #MeToo movement began and no-one was talking about sexual violence but I found my courage and made the commitment that I would not be silenced, nor would I own any shame for their behaviour. I then began my humanitarian work in 2013 by aligning myself with ethical non-profit organizations that support women and girls. I believe that when we come together, with united voices, we can change the world. I started my production company Crystal Heart Productions when I returned to Toronto in September 2014 and I put all my energy into this. I wanted to channel my skills in front and behind the cameras into a show for women that had purpose and meaning. And that is how my vision for my talk show Heart Of The Matter was born. It was created to allow women to not just be seen but heard and in turn inspire each other. When I won the ‘Social Awareness Award’, the category that Vegas Movie Awards created after watching my show, I was truly touched because this project means so much to me. To contribute positively to society is what is really important to me. My journey has been very challenging and painful but also really beautiful and magical. I have gone with the flow and always followed my heart and woven my life into my art and I am very proud of what I’ve been able to overcome.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. 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?

When I first started my modelling career and shooting with different photographers, I was doing a lot of beauty campaigns and fashion editorial. To fit those sample sizes you have been so thin and I tried to diet to reach that unhealthy weight and I realised that I wasn’t prepared to starve myself or jeopardise my health to fit some warped idea of beauty. I stayed my naturally slim shape and my modeling agent discovered that the swimsuit and lingerie clients loved my look and they are the markets I really excelled at. It was wonderful for me because I could do what I love but still eat hamburgers and pasta and live without constantly eating lettuce leaves and counting calories. I was not prepared to give up carbs because the body needs them. I do not advocate for size 0 and encourage women of all ages to embrace their natural body type and be the healthiest you can be while enjoying foods they love in moderation. There is no way I could have made four feature films, one documentary short film, seven music videos, two web series and everything else I have achieved without nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Food is medicine and fuel and restricting calories can negatively impact our healthy and beauty.

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

I was in Los Angeles in 2008 and went to a live taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay came out before the show to warm up the audience and asked if anyone wanted to come up on stage and say hello. I naturally put my hand up and he picked me to come up! I was so excited to meet him and we had an amazing rapport and I felt right in my element. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a model and aspiring singer who has written an album. He noted that I had an Australian accent and made reference to the late Steve Irwin, whom he had had on his show as a guest many times over the years. He then asked me to sing something so I sang my song Downtown a cappella. Hearing the audience applaud was a special moment and I was invited back to the show a few weeks later on my birthday and got to meet Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian U.K. star Ben Barnes. Feeling completely at ease with Jay on his set was another television appearance that had an impact on me and inspired me to create my own talk show Heart of the Matter. As I mentioned earlier, my journey has been organic and when I look back I can see how many experiences have influenced and led me to now.

I have also met Eve Ensler, Founder & CEO of the V Day Organization. I have spoken at some of their events and I met her in 2017. She hugged me after my speech and I thanked her for all her amazing work and what she has created — a revolution for women. This path has taken me around the world and I have met so many incredible people that I would never have met had I not been through the tragedies. My life has meaning and purpose and I am deeply fulfilled knowing I am contributing to society in a positive way and serving humanity.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

There are many people in history who inspire me but the ones that stand out definitely are Joan Of Arc, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn and Sir William Wallace (as depicted in Braveheart). All of these famous people have the same thing in common. They all stood for a cause and their missions were led by their hearts not ego. They each changed the world and will be forever in our history books because of their incredible impact and love of humanity and leaving a positive legacy. They each possessed great inner strength, courage and conviction in what they believed to be right and to me that is a life well lived. These women may have been beautiful on the outside but it was their inner beauty, their hearts that touch and inspire me most.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I am using my success to bring goodness to the world by sharing my personal story in my documentaries and music, which are all available online. I have aligned myself with some incredible non-profit organisations around the world so that also brings more public awareness. I have given public speeches at One Billion Rising Events with Eve Ensler and at high schools to talk about mental health and suicide prevention. My message is one of peace, love and unity and ending violence against women. I am currently interviewing more inspirational women for my talk show Heart Of The Matter and I also cover non-non-profit events for my other web series The Angelena Bonet Show. These online programs have been so meaningful to me and having this passion and purpose brings me so much joy. My other latest social impact cause I am working on right now is an online initiative for women and girls. It’s about supporting female entrepreneurs and donating proceeds to NGO’s that support women and girls issues. I’m also wanting to document this project in my new film. I really love the creative process and editing my films so I am really excited about this new venture and sharing it with the world.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there a moment that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

What led up to me actually taking action for this cause was when I experienced a dark night of the soul. The deadly betrayal I suffered at the hands of a loved one in 2012 was evil and absolutely horrific and for me to actually survive and live to tell my story is a miracle. Being gang raped and murdered was an extremely traumatic event which of course changed my life and how I saw the world. It was hard to believe I survived and there were days I wished I hadn’t. Dealing with PTSD and the police investigation was a nightmare and on top of that I had no family support. I was not believed by them and therefore not supported emotionally and subsequently ostracized. This secondary form of abuse caused me to be re-traumatised and pushed me to suicide. It was only five years after I had lost my partner suddenly and unexpectedly so I was at breaking point and didn’t want to live anymore. It was just too hard and I had lost all hope for a happy future. The justice system failed me also and once again it was a bitter pill to swallow. I couldn’t believe with all the evidence the police had, including DNA, the perpetrators were still at large. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing, how I was being treated and I just thought — “Enough is enough! This is so far from being OK and I am going to speak out.” I was absolutely disgusted with all involved and that was the impetus to go public with my story and help other victims. Knowing first hand what this suffering feels like is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. If I can inspire or ease one person’s pain then I know my experience is not in vain and I can try and leave this world a better place than I found it. I created a mantra for myself and it’s that “I choose to turn tragic into magic”. For me, it’s all about transmuting their negativity and darkness into something positive and light. I am grateful for all I have experienced in my life so far because I am proud of the woman I am, the inner strength I possess and the courage I have to speak out. It is a gift and an honor be a global ambassador for women and girls. It is time that we not only let victims be heard but also understand that by not believing them and treating them like outcasts, shaming or blaming them then that is another form of violence. This behaviour is completely unacceptable and I am committed to helping end violence against women and girls and help victims take back their lives and heal.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I had a great friend, Steve, in Toronto whom I met in 2010. He was a very talented musician and a lovely, gentle man who suffered from bipolar and mental health issues. He sadly passed away last April from an unrelated cause and I miss our friendship. He always told me that I inspired him and how my positivity and ability to overcome adversity had given him strength. He said I had a light around me and a sweet spirit that he found refreshing and inspirational. Knowing that I made a difference in his life really touched my heart. I have also met women at non-profit events that have come up to me after I have given a speech and said that they too were a victim of a violent crime and had never told anyone before but hearing me speak had given them the courage to speak about it and now report if to police. It is very difficult for many people to talk about their traumatic experiences but I am honored to be a voice for them and a friend who understands their pain and suffering. My message is all about standing up and speaking out and to not own any shame or let your perpetrators ruin the rest of your life. They are the cowards and you are a strong survivor who can thrive if you only make that choice for yourself. No one deserves any form of abuse. Period.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I feel the three best ways in which I can be supported in my effort is for governments to review their policies and ensure they are actually protecting women and girls. The judicial system is outdated and in many instances the perpetrators are protected and the victims re-traumatized in the court room. Society is becoming more aware of the prevalence of violence but as a whole there needs to be more public conversations and more education from early school years about respect and gender equality. The gender pay gap needs to be sorted out once and for all so we can stop having this ridiculous conversation. And lastly as individuals, we all play a role in changing the world. It can as simple as men calling out their friends if they speak disrespectfully about women or supporting a friend who has been a victim of a violent crime. I have released my documentary Change The World on YouTube so people who need it can find it for free. By sharing the link on your socials is super helpful in supporting me in this effort as many people are going through difficult times and it can give them hope and that is my dream. Helping people and easing their pain is why I created my film and why it is online for free.

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. I think the most important thing is to surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people, including family members. Many women become very jealous of beauty, talent and someone in the limelight and can become very toxic and vindictive. I wish someone had really instilled this message in me as a young woman because I have a tendency to see the best in people and make excuses for their bad behaviour.

2. Choose your boyfriends carefully! Many men want a model on their arm but they don’t have the confidence to cope with the attention she gets everywhere she goes. I have dated some men that were very threatened by my career on the rise and tried to pull me down and become controlling. I wish someone had told me that not everyone has a big heart and are quite superficial, egotistical and all about their image.

3. Keep practising your instrument daily. I learned classical piano as a child and had a piano in my bedroom. When I got older and busier I wasn’t as diligent with my practice as I once was. I wish someone had told me that no matter what, make time each day to practice and keep your dexterity.

4. Learn the business. I think this is a hard one for many artists because we would rather put our energy out being creative, not dealing with the business side of things. I wish someone had told me the ugly side to the beautiful business. I lost many a modelling job because I wouldn’t sleep with the client but that is what I am most proud of. I never sold my soul and can look myself in the eye and got my jobs on merit alone.

5. Become self sufficient. I wish I had someone tell me years ago to hone skills behind the scenes as well as in the front of the cameras. I found this out later in my career and it has been a magical experience to grow as an artist and teach myself to edit film. I just didn’t know in the beginning of my career how important it was to be in control of your art and destiny and not rely on anyone else.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

My message to young people is to use your time wisely and make your voice count. Caring for humanity and ensuring that each generation leaves a position contribution is everybody’s business and shouldn’t be left up to just a few. In our digital era it has never been easier to get a message out or align yourself with a cause close to your heart. Having a purpose bigger than yourself brings me such joy and gives your life meaning. Creating a positive legacy is my dream and I would encourage all young people to come together in one accord and make a difference. Whether it be conservation and protecting animals or women’s rights, they all tie in together. It’s about caring for each other, our planet and magnificent animals and wanting to ensure that every woman and girl has the right to get an education, choose whether she wants to marry and have children or not and live a life free of violence. 1 in 3 females will experience some form of abuse in her lifetime and in some countries those statistics are higher. This is simply not good enough nor acceptable and this global epidemic must be addressed once and for all. It is going to take the collective to stand up with united voices and I encourage every young person to share posts on socials, documentaries and read books on the topic to educate yourself. We can each make a positive difference in people’s lives and that has implications for our own lives.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to collaborate with UN Special Ambassador and Founder of Desert Flower Foundation, Waris Dirie. I absolutely adore her and the incredible work she is doing to raise global awareness and support for the millions of girls around the world suffering from female genital mutilation. She is the original supermodel from Somalia and she has shared her own story of courage and overcoming such adversity in books and the 2009 film Desert Flower. This type of sexual violence towards females is unthinkable and it’s so difficult to fathom that more than 200 million girls alive today have undergone this barbaric procedure. I would love to partner with Waris’ Foundation and create even more awareness and speak at The United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Governments need to listen and policies and laws need to urgently change. Our society is still coming out of the dark ages and our justice system needs to be more up to date and reflect the values of today and therefore protect all victims of violent sexual crimes, not the perpetrators.

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

My favorite life lesson quote is one by Audrey Hepburn:-

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

I think those words of hers are magical, wise and true. And this came from one of the world’s most naturally beautiful women and it really touches a chord in my heart. If everyone lived by this mantra, could you imagine humanity’s potential? Inner beauty is what shines through and kindness and love is what makes the world go round. Being in the entertainment industry, physical beauty is vital but I really feel it’s important to remember that beauty is only skin deep and it’s what is on the inside that really counts.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can connect with me on the following socials:-

Facebook —

Instagram —

Twitter —

Linkedin —

YouTube —

Website —

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!

Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Angelena Bonet of Crystal Heart Productions… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.