Small World

Today I am confronted with the concept of “cultural appropriation”:

Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.” –Wikipedia

Just reading the definition (albeit from Wikipedia) shows that it is not the actual act of using elements from another culture, but the act of disagreeing with someone who does- that defines “cultural appropriation.”
As a “bi-racial/multi-cultural” child with parents from two totally different backgrounds, the world I see before me is not only diverse but shared and mixed like a tasty stew. I prefer fusion restaurants. I prefer hyphenated musical genres. I study mixed martial arts. I study bhangra (jazz/pop + Pubjabi folk dance). I admire and strongly connect to the traditions the First Nations and Native American people. I study drama which, by nature, is a product of the sum of all parts: humanity, psychology, culture, and nature.

I understand the strong bitterness associated with the idea of someone “taking” a name, garment, or style that isn’t from their own culture. It can be annoying at times. But culture is a very unique and specific thing. Is someone born and raised in a country that holds descendants from multiple nations, part of all those nations too? What is your culture when born in a place where your genetic/hereditary culture did not originate? What is American, Australian, South American, Canadian, or Caribbean culture without all of the people who helped form these unique countries we know today?

While some incidents of cultural appropriation are most certainly dick moves and flat out racism or disrespect, others are simply forms of expression or admiration in creativity: art, music, fashion, film, food, literature, and design. If someone strongly connects with a culture that is not “their own”, should they be barred from participating? Is culture so sacred that if you are not genetically connected to it that you are not allowed to be a part of it? A “members only” club?

Art is for everyone.

It is a small world. Embracing another person’s culture is better than destroying it.



Watch For the Open Door

I’m amazed at the kind of opportunities thrown into my lap at such a young age. In the beginning, A&R would hand their business cards at me and ask me to send demos. I had a great image. I never had a great music demo made and still don’t. It’s my own personal block (fear). I still have dream producers in mind but it never really happened for me as I was clouded by other career aspirations. Part of me says “if you went down the music path, you would have self-destructed years ago,” but it would have been spectacular. I’m certain now that I will have a slow-burn/steady build career- which is great for longevity, but absolute torture on the soul.

I will make my album and my music video someday. I just wish I could have had my shit together at the right time when it was hot and ready to burst.

If I could tell myself one piece of advice at 17: GET YOUR DEMO RECORDED AND MAKE IT INCREDIBLE. Never make the mistake assuming that opportunity will always be there. It may never come again. BE READY. And never, never, NEVER let someone else’s opinion block you from what you know you were meant to be. Be careful who you listen to. Take advice sparingly, and only from the people you ADMIRE.

Do it.


Stay Connected.

I feel paralyzed from the evil things people do. The young men of this country are growing up thinking that they are entitled to a woman’s life. What made them believe that the world owe’s them anything? It stuns me that I don’t have an answer, other than “please raise your children better.”

It started with Columbine. I was in high school in North Carolina at the time. Our teachers made us recite the pledge of allegiance. They started flying flags in each classroom. I refused to say the pledge because I am an atheist, and I had the support of my classmates who supplied me with sections from the constitution saying that I did not have to recite it because “under God” was added later, much later, as we know, in the 1950’s. My teacher was disgusted with me, but I’m not a sheep. I was sent to the principal’s office, but I just went home. No kid with an automatic rifle was going to challenge my human rights, and certainly not my 12th grade German teacher. Patriotism. You’re either with us or against us. United we stand by our guns.

Here’s what happens today after a school shooting: drills for 1st graders hiding under desks. Assemblies with touchy-feely sentiments about “community”. It’s all part of the cycle. How do we treat and identify boys and men who have these issues? Why are things like Gamer Gate happening? What is causing these people to flip out?

Girls, Women: No one owns you. No one is entitled to you, your life, or your body.

Is it the larger cultural patriarchal landscape that is to blame? As creators, we have a responsibility to tell the truth and create great art. Are video games just entertainment? What percentage of the population has the ability to separate reality from virtual reality? What is effecting these young men so strongly that is different from everyone before Columbine? Is it the imperfect stew that is America? Are video games more violent today than they were back then? No, they are just more realistic.

The persona you put on the Internet is not who you are in reality. The distance we are creating from each other grows. If Twitter deleted itself today, we would recover. All of those connections would be lost, if you had not reached out to meet in person. Gone. And it would not effect us at all, because it’s virtual. It’s a presentation of the self.

Time to get out of your house and start connecting with people, lest you retreat farther into the shell of your protective plastic persona.

Stay connected.

Those Trying Days…Keep That Head Up!

From the red carpet events, to the photoshoots, and pool-side soirées, an actress’s life can be exquisitely glamourous. The stories of “over-night successes” and finding the “diamond in the rough” romanticize the thespian’s life story and uplifts us all to dream the impossible dream. As an actor, the idea that we must lift everyone’s spirits is somber when we ourselves need to be lifted out of our own malaise.

Today I spoke with my father. Here is a man who never stopped working a day in his life. The apple falls right from the tree and straight into the office, in this case. He excitedly proclaimed that he is slowly working on his new book about electrocardiology research. I feel happy for him and tell him about eBooks if he was interested in publishing his previous work which exists in blog form, Diamonds from Finland (poems from Finland’s poet laureate, Eino Leino, translated by my father). He says happily that he prefers hard copies for such a thing. I agree.

It’s time to visit family as I only see my father once a year, and my mother a handful of times as she is the only one who is able to travel. My father had quadruple bypass surgery back in 2010. The surgery made his life immeasurably better. He is turning 82 in December, and as my dear mother softly reminds me with the occasional morbid e-mail that he is getting on in the years. I miss them dearly, thousands of miles away. I have never lived this far away from them, but I have been on my own since I was 17. I miss them now more than I ever did.

I finally got a survival job going on today. This will buy me [some] time to focus on selling my show, Queen Gorya. In the meantime, I will focus more on writing and completing my existing projects for my film company. Like my father, there is always another project brewing. I have a sneaking suspicion this will be the case until my death bed. “And another thing…check the drawer by my bedside table. There you will find a script…”

Phone calls to family are bittersweet. I am happy to hear from them but sad because I miss them terribly. Sometimes I am cross because the actor’s life is taxing and so often discouraging. I relent to bring them down with my lack of real news, but I can’t not talk to them just because I’m sad. As a good friend once said, “No one understands show business, but the people in show business.” Bits and pieces falling together to form the elusive and ever changing puzzle that is my destiny. I will control what I can, and keep others believing in the dream. I honestly can’t wait until the day that I hear some incredible news, if only to share it with my father and mother on a video call. I never want to make them cry, but in the case of exuberant happiness, I will gladly oblige.

-Satu Runa (“I am still trying to get used to your name”- PMR)

Actress and Director, Satu Runa

Actress and Director, Satu Runa. April 10, 2014 Glendale, CA

photo by Michael Moriatis


Anxiety, Depression, and Showbiz

It was a somber news day as the world learned of the passing of Robin Williams, the thrilling, electric, and magnetically gifted comedian, movie star, and voice actor.  I am more comfortable calling this man a real Actor, because he was every reason to pursue becoming a performer of the stage, big and small screen.

Tonight I am watching “Patch Adams,” the 90’s drama-comedy about a med student who finds himself in a psychiatric facility for treatment due to a suicide attempt.  This film affected me deeply, as did most of Robin’s films.  Mrs. Doubtfire, because Sally Field reminded me of my mother. What Dreams May Come, for it’s ultra powerful morbid subject matter and depiction of what it is like to loose someone to suicide. And of course, Hook, with the unforgettable line, “Life is an awfully big adventure.”  To lose an incredibly gifted and enigmatic talent such as Robin Williams is astonishing, particularly to suicide. Many performers suffer from manic-depression or bipolar disorder, amongst several other personality disorders (namely histrionic and borderline). I studied psychology in high school at a college level and took what I learned for gospel. As I dive deeper into the entertainment industry myself, I am time and time again investigating the behavior of several beloved performers who have decided to end their lives. It fascinates society, and it fascinates me. I am compelled to study the early deaths of celebrities and artists.

I have studied the lives of Marilyn Monroe, & Heath Ledger among others.  I have been pursuing a successful career in show business for some time, so I completely understand the heartache one can experience, and the toll it takes on the heart, body, and mind.  I’d be a liar if I said I never felt feelings of anxiety or depression directly related to my career choice, but I am left with the question so many others face: to take medication, or to face the storm without it? I recently had Lasik surgery, which involves taking a Valium to relax the nerves. I couldn’t help but relish the feeling all day, despite my eyes being freshly cut. For the first time since I could remember, I felt completely relaxed. Other than a full body massage or a full day at the beach, the Valium eliminated any stress, worry, fear, or panic. Accompanying the lack of these feelings was a lack of any feeling. Nothing mattered. “Anything goes”. I was happy to float along and enjoy my complacent afternoon. There’s the rub with psychoactive medication: while it can help some people be themselves, it’s also possible that it can rob you of your true self by snuffing out any charisma or edge your personality might naturally have. I could easily see myself abusing this drug if given the chance, because it allows you to go beyond forgetting your troubles and cares and just completely “check out,” which so many of us need on a regular basis (ie., why people have horrendous phone addictions, which is essentially checking out from life while playing games or [ab]using social media).

I understand how one can become addicted to psychoactive prescriptions which is why I am avoiding them. Things can become very stressful in anyone’s life, but in that of an actor’s life, we must manipulate our vulnerability, emotions, and body so that we turn our feelings on and off when we need them. The trick is that it’s more difficult turning them off, than on. There is more training focused on “opening up” and letting go, reaching a nerve and exposing it raw, than there is for protecting your psyche and soul in the process. Perhaps drama schools should intentionally focus on the “protection of the psyche”, as certain acting work requires deep psychological experimentation, experiencing trauma, and believing it.

For actors and others who experience depression it’s important to recognize that it absolutely can be possibly balanced through medication. More importantly, like in Patch Adams, we must work with the disease/disorder, not against it. We must never forget that there is a person behind that disorder.

And laughter is the best medicine. Thank you Robin. I feel better already, when I see your face.

-Satu Runa

San Diego Comic Con 2014: A Reflective Essay

San Diego Comic Con: A Reflective Essay

Monday, July 28, 2014

By Satu Runa

This is my 3rd year attending the San Diego Comic Convention, and my first time as a guest panelist.  The panel, “Taming the Web: The Nuts and Bolts of Web Series Creation” was an incredible success- speaking to a full house of 400-450 people, all curious of how to make it on the web and/or use crowd-funding to create your project.  I played a secret clip from my project, Queen Gorya, which was greeted with a round of laughter.  It felt great to talk about the work and inspire people to DIY their own project.  I hope to be a regular panelist in the years to come! 

"Taming the Web: The Nuts and Bolts of Web Series Creation" panel at San Diego Comic Con, 2014

“Taming the Web: The Nuts and Bolts of Web Series Creation” panel at San Diego Comic Con, 2014

Wednesday, preview night of SDCC, was epic. You could feel the buzz of electricity and madness as you walked closer to the convention center on Harbor Drive.   It was a pleasantly unruffled crowd, full of hope and excitement. Spring (robot) chickens just perusing the aisles at their leisure. Preview night is truly is the best time to attend. I was lucky enough to stay for all 5 days and it was worth it. The #1 reason I go to the con: for the cosplay. I love seeing everyone’s creativity with crossing characters and wardrobe skills at their very best. It’s even better when someone is a dead ringer, both in cadence, movement, and likeness. Petyr Bailish and a Catwoman (Animated Series, played by Adrianne Curry) were the best, to name a few. The #2 reason to attend is for the Gaslamp district at night (and yes, collect rare comics/graphic novels and trading cards)! I also enjoy perusing/buying original art, as there are so many fantastic artists displaying their best work, it’s important to support the reason the con exists in the first place.

Batwoman, Wonder Woman, and Satu Runa

Batwoman, Wonder Woman, and Satu Runa

Thursday night, I was lucky enough to attend a Tori Amos concert. It was an incredibly intimate show on the harbor. It completely drove me back into the 90s (which is where I like to live most of the time) and it was refreshingly powerful and classic, just her and her piano. What a lady. A truly soulful and AWAKE artist.

Friday: My sea legs were starting to crumble. I powered through the morning scanning the aisles for cool corsets, rings, trading cards, and graphic novels (like Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan, an incredible sci-fi/fantasy comic a friend recently recommended to me).  

Saturday: Got to meet Adrianne Curry, who, at the time I did not know, had just beat a guy’s face for sexually assaulting her friend, who was dressed as Marvel’s Tigra. She was an awesome Catwoman (from the animated series) and posed for a photo with me. She is a strong woman. While comic-con is no place for violence or assaults, she did the right thing. It only happens because of the sheer volume of people, you are bound to get a certain percentage of criminals and psychopaths.

Alicia Marie, Adrianne Curry, Satu Runa, and friend

Alicia Marie, Adrianne Curry, Satu Runa, and friend

Sunday: The final day. It’s always a somber feeling. Comic con is such a burst of positive energy, I am overwhelmed by it’s instant happiness on the attendees. Michaelangelo breakdancing in full regalia. Captain America motioning for curious children to come take a picture with him and Superman. The smirk on Loki’s face when he is asked to get his picture taken. The joy of Arthur Dent when he is recognized (with towel). The skill and artistry of the wardrobe from a very large group of characters (plus George R.R. Martin) from Game of Thrones. Last but not least: Seeing a boy of 9, skinny and light as air, donning a Finn from Adventure Time bear hat, skipping down the hallway to a panel. This was the sweetest moment. Nothing affects me more powerfully than other people sharing a mutual passion for all things geeky, and seeing how happy it makes them when it is celebrated en masse.

Satu Runa at Arkham Knight video game display. This pic got my 144 favorites and 42 retweets! :)

Satu Runa at Arkham Knight video game display. This pic got my 144 favorites and 42 retweets! :)

After spending 20 minutes on the floor, I walked around the back of the convention center for the first time. Gotham City zip-lining. The Simpsons Experience. Godzilla photo-op. And sailboats. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the one yacht named “Oberon,” both for me being a Shakespeare nerd, but also for the Game of Thrones reference. I people watched for an hour, pontificating about my life and the weekend, until a kite caught my eye.   A man in a pedicab was flying a kite down the boardwalk as another person pedaled. The playfulness and the free-spirit of the green and blue sting-ray like flying object affected me deeply. I thought to myself, my heart is like a kite. Playful and free, yet always tethered to the ground. And perhaps Comic-Con is like a kite. We are here to escape, to take off and play… to let our spirits soar into the realms of fantasy and fiction. Yet we remain tethered, as Sunday comes to an early close, with the long drive back into the reality that is called “Tinseltown.”

Pictures from my 7D coming in the next post. Until then,

Later, fanboys and fangirls!

Satu Runa at Comic Con International 2014

Satu Runa at Comic Con International 2014

Satu (aka “The Final Fangirl”)

Queen Gorya, Kickstarter-Funded TV Pilot Underway

I have to say that the Kickstarter campaign for our 1/2 hour comedy pilot, Queen Gorya, completely wore me out.  It was a tumultuous time for everyone involved.  Yet the last few hours of the campaign were the most exhilarating hours of my life.

Thanks to all of our patrons, we managed to raise $13,000 in 36 days.  When a project is funded by the fans, every creative decision is done with the joy of knowing that we are going to make these people proud and happy.  I still can’t believe it.

And so, pre-production is well underway.  Production is planned to begin early April.  We have a stellar cast, with an equal share of seasoned comical actors and rising star talent.  They will be the soul of this machine- and I’m driving!  As director & producer, I couldn’t be more proud of my work and my team.  This is going to be epic.

Queen Gorya and Terry the Wolfman

Queen Gorya and Terry the Wolfman illustration by Adrian Barrios

The best part about it, however, is that I get to be Gloria Gorgodianm aka “Queen Gorya,” and look through her green-tinted shades once again for a few days.  Life is better in character.

-Satu Runa, your actress and filmmaker.