Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Stephanie Chloe Hepner Is Helping To Change Our World
Tell the story that fires you up and gets you out of bed, not the one you think someone else wants. Write it all. Let it rip. Let someone else be the censor.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Chloé.
Stephanie Chloé was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has lived in many cities around the world including Miami, FL, Florence, Italy, and Mission Viejo, CA. She’s. an NYU Tisch Drama graduate, television and film actress actress known for her roles in the films Boy Lolita and Rizo. Stephanie also produces and writes for film and television.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and grew up there as well as in Miami, Florida and Mexico City. My younger brother and I grew up with suitcases as extensions of ourselves as our parents lived in different countries. As an older sister in a Latin household, undergoing a long-winded divorce shaped me to seek adventure and escape every chance I got. Every visit to either of my parents’ became about learning and experiencing new cultures, languages, foods, and fed my hunger for stories. After high school, I went to college in New York (NYU) and that turned into 11 years as a theater artist, enamored with the dozens of personalities and languages one can absorb on any NYC block at any given time.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I remember reading Romeo and Juliet (in Spanish) in high school and being the only kid in the class who devoured the script and wanted more. Then we had to read Fuenteovejuna, Life is a Dream, House of Bernarda Alba… and storytelling became my pleasure, my purpose.
I also remember being in recess in elementary school and recreating scenes with my friends from “Chiquititas,” a novela about orphans that took the country by storm. I recall playing the characters and also directing my friends, without knowing that’s what I was doing. Without knowing I had a vision.
Growing up, watching movies and TV shows and reading scripts consumed me, I ended up being the lead singer of my high school’s rock band. Little did I know (and no one told me!!!) singing was NOT my strong suit. But commanding a stage, telling a story with a song and entertaining an audience was. I’ve always been fueled by moving a crowd. What’s the verse in the song that makes someone smile? Tear up? Call a friend? Call their mom? Eventually I accepted that I didn’t have to sing to tell stories… you’re welcome 😉
Additionally, my uncle in Argentina has always supported my performative personality and even predicted I would be a writer/director when I was maybe 15 years old. I told him multiple times he had no idea what he was talking about… and here we are!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
When I was filming my upcoming short, It’s a Tuesday, in Amantea (Calabria, Italy) last summer, we were in an incredibly small town where everyone knew each other. After being there for a week, everyone knew who I was! The townspeople barely spoke English or Spanish, and I got to direct in Italian! The characters from Amantea were excited to work on the film– as extras, PAs, caterers… you name it. When we were shooting one of the last scenes of the film, a few men agreed and even asked to act. Cut to: a large, loud SUV showed up and we were quickly shut down by the chief of the organized group of men (one of the two in the entire town) and made the rules clear FAST. His friends were not to show their faces on camera!!! I was able to soften Mr. SUV, even got a smile out of him and promised no names would be in the credits, but my DP was terrified! We all survived– Zoia, I love you and owe you big time.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’m always fascinated by the people with whom I have the least in common. I grew up in a fast, big, city and spent a ton of time traveling. Meeting my stepbrother’s ex-girlfriend was beyond interesting–she is ten years younger than me, had grown up on a farm in Vermont and was able to build a barn, milk cows and process poultry with her eyes closed. I was instantly hooked, even though I had zero shared experiences with her. My mind immediately started writing a film with someone like her and someone like me as the leads.
I am fortunate to get to travel internationally often, and I’ll talk to anyone and everyone. My friends’ lives in South America and Europe enchant my mind. Newness is exciting to me. Foreign, unknown, and discoveries are huge drivers.
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 dad. I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for his support and endless inspiration. Even before I knew I wanted a career in film and television, he made some unbelievable sacrifices for my brother and I to have any possibility of changing our lives. He fully supported my decision to study at NYU and move to New York alone to pursue the arts. I grew up with him as the standard of excellence, of success, of hard work paying off, of dedication. And that inner motor and ambition is something no one could ever take away. He’s shaped who I am in and out of the workplace. More importantly, as an adult, I now feel like I can share anything with him and he will be my bulls**t meter. I remember when I got into college, I was focusing on acting, dancing semi-professionally, musical theater, fitness, and more disciplines, and my dad taught me the importance of doing one thing excellently over spreading myself too thin and being okay or mediocre at many. My entire family has always rooted for me, and my gratitude towards them is infinite.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My late grandmother used to always say: “El ‘no’ ya lo tenés” (“you already have the ‘no’ ”). And I live by this. Whenever I’m faced with a choice or a risk, I already know what happens if I don’t try, what happens if I don’t go for it, what happens if I don’t take the leap. The status quo remains the same. So why not just go for it? My cousins and I all got this from my grandma.
Taking a risk does not mean deliberately getting out of control and being reckless, possibly causing harm, but it means LETTING GO of control. Letting go of trying to control outcomes, letting go of being consumed by a result. I would rather be consumed with curiosity. Nowadays it sometimes feels like a risk to even leave your house. And anyone who feels this way, I beg you to give yourself grace. To embrace small risks like going with your gut, dancing in public, writing that crazy line, showing someone you care, wearing THAT shirt, and even smiling at a stranger.
I am 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?
Can you imagine eating plain pasta forever? That’s entertainment without diversity. Bland. Bare. Booooring! We need salt, pepper, heat, sugar, smoke, citrus… and even pumpkin pie spice.
I believe the universe to be one of inclusion. To collaborate. Diverse representation in film and TV means that our movies and tv shows look, sound, and feel like the world we live in. It’s important that people from all walks of life see themselves on screen so that we become more inclusive in our society. Art imitates life, right?
We are fortunate enough to live in a world where art is more accessible to more people than, say, the Renaissance, when it was a luxury reserved for the few. Sure, there are still some remnants of that. But now audiences are massive, come in all shapes and sizes, and most importantly, they’re smart. They have demands and standards. One of these is diversity and representation.
Lastly, I cannot explain how emotional I felt the first time I saw Disney make a movie about a Jewish Latina protagonist. Yes, it’s cliché. But it’s cliché because we as a society MAKE IT. So if we’re going to have the conversation about authenticity in diversity, let’s go beyond the talk and start to walk the walk. In front of and behind the camera.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m fine-tuning two television pilots in the vault, a female driven comedy and a CIA-focused action comedy, as well as a dark comedy period feature film about mental health. I’m also producing a film about the giant issue that is suicide rates in Veterans, and finishing post-production on a farce that I wrote/ directed/ produced last year in Italy, It’s a Tuesday. I’m really excited about collaborating with Matt again on the feature film version of Daddy Issues! I’m also partnering with Orsai, a media production company driven by a crowdfunding platform that’s breaking all molds in Buenos Aires.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
As a director and writer, the end of a shooting day. The messages from cast and crew about being a good leader, a team player, about the team seeing the vision.. When everyone comes back the next day excited to play and get back to work. Seeing smiles on set. That “I have your back” look from the crew.
The other half is when I get to be part of the actor’s process. When I can help them get to where they need to be and they “Yes, and” me. When an actor brings their full available instrument, we get to create something together. Seeing that in real time on the monitor is invaluable.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Magic is on the other side of fear. Don’t try to shut fear down. Welcome it, acknowledge it, and work with it.
- Daddy Issues was my first time directing film, and I took the plunge even though I was terrified. This then led me to be a resident filmmaker in Italy and work on seven other films within three months!
- Always be of service.
- I have dozens of stories of showing up in a room filled with curiosity about who I was going to meet, and how I could serve them. One that comes to mind recently is how an initial meet-and-greet with Orsai, where my only goal was to get to see what they are about, became a mutual partnership.
- Tell the story that fires you up and gets you out of bed, not the one you think someone else wants. Write it all. Let it rip. Let someone else be the censor.
- I think Daddy Issues and It’s a Tuesday are great examples of unfiltered storytelling.
- Have a life outside of work.
- Our work recognition as artists can be so arbitrary, random, and ephemeral that we must have anchors, pleasures and people who see us fully, not just by our accolades. I love to travel, to dance, to read philosophy books and to meet new people. What else inspires you to get out of bed?
- BONUS: Fuck it! Who cares if you fail? It’s most likely not about you.
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
My personal artistic vision as well as the audience. I ask myself, what would I like to watch that hasn’t been made? When I have an idea, I repeatedly ask if it’s something I’d wanna watch for, say, 2 hours, seven seasons… etc. I pitch it to friends and family whose taste I respect.
The mental-health centered feature film I mentioned started as an idea for a TV show, and I quickly realized it had more legs as a one-off 2-hour story instead. I could communicate my message and develop the characters with that amount of time versus forcing a years-long engagement with them.
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. 🙂
The “Pay it Forward” Movement. Selfless actions with the sole purpose of helping others. It would probably also be fueled by meditation, which saved my life a few years ago. Giving yourself selfless kindness so your tank is full to give to others. Commit to one action only meant to help someone else per week. Then twice a week. We can foster transformational relationships instead of transactional ones.
We are very blessed that 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. 🙂
Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu has been and continues to be a huge inspiration. The way he illustrated the American entertainment career experience in Birdman as an immigrant blew my mind. His perspective as an outsider, while understanding everything from the inside continues to amaze me. And I know he came from the commercial world and after a few short films dove head-first into Amores Perros, his first feature, as soon as he had the opportunity and minimal funds he needed to make it. The bravery of making your first feature something as wild, controversial and risqué as that film is a testament to his ethos. I recently heard him say something along the lines of any person who ever got a film finished had his respect, because this artform is so hard, and getting a movie done is truly a miracle. The humility that he still comes to the table with after all his success is also something I strive for.
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can follow me on instagram @stephaniechloehepner and visit my imdb: https://www.imdb.me/stephaniechloe for more updates on my career
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Stephanie Chloe Hepner Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.