satu runa

Satu Runa, creator of "Hessians of Burbank"

Pollen Pictures Teams Up with Satu Runa for 1/2 Hour Comedy Series

LOS ANGELES, July 17, 2017- Producers Amanda W. Timpson  and Andrea M. Reyes of Pollen Pictures have teamed up with actress-writer Satu Runa to develop a 1⁄2 hour comedy series, Hessians of Burbank, for television.

Hessians of Burbank centers around Miriam: a thirty-something metal-head who escapes her soul-sucking desk job and heads for Hollywood on a quest to realize her lifelong dream of becoming a VJ. The show, created by and starring Runa, follows the lives of aging metal-heads refusing to evolve for anyone or anything as the world passes them by. It is an insightful, poignant homage to the bygone years of VJs and music videos- when heavy metal ruled the Earth.

“The minute Satu pitched this project to us we were interested. There’s something so universal about Miriam’s journey. Not everyone dreams of being a VJ, but everyone struggles with these ideas about identity, especially at a time when so many are encouraged to “follow their passion” at all costs. Hessians explores that cost with humor, honesty, and an unapologetically metal attitude. We’re thrilled to be working together on this project and can’t wait to introduce the world to Miriam.” -Amanda W. Timpson
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Hessians is a reflection of the MTV generation. What happens to our idols after they fall? What does it mean to return to your roots after you’ve settled for conformity? Pollen Pictures understands the story I want to tell, and I’m honored to work them.” –Satu Runa

With a character-driven point of view in the style of Amazon’s FleabagHessians’ biting humor ties in the musical humor and fantasy elements of Mozart in the Jungle with the playful snobbery and philosophical musings of High Fidelity (2000). This is the first joint venture of Pollen Pictures and Ms. Runa.


About Satu Runa: Actress Satu Runa (The Coalition, Rizzoli & Isles) started out interviewing rock bands on public access in Jersey City, NJ. She worked in production at Fuse Networks, Vh1, and has been on-camera talent for Fangoria TV. A graduate of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Satu directed and starred in the pilot for 1⁄2 hour comedy Queen Gorya (2014) after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Official Site: www.saturuna.com Twitter: @SatuRuna

About Pollen Pictures: Pollen Pictures is an independent production company developing and producing engaging, provocative projects for TV, film, and digital platforms. Founded with the belief that storytelling is our most powerful tool for inciting change, Pollen Pictures is dedicated to diverse and inclusive storytelling both in front of the camera and behind. Official Site: www.pollen-pictures.com


Official Press Release: http://www.saturuna.com/hessians/

Rogue Waves and Wipe Outs

Women make waves.

In troubled political and career times I think of Mary Ann Hawkins. A pioneer in American surfing, Hawkins caught the world’s attention after a feature in Time Magazine lead to her work as a Hollywood stunt double for Lana Turner. She broke a world record for holding her breath for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

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Mary Ann Hawkins, from the Encyclopedia of Surfing (by Matt Warshaw)

She toppled wave after wave and opened a swimming school, having taught over 10,000 people to swim. She quit surfing in 1983, shortly after her son drowned while working.

Life is unpredictable and strangely coincidental. It can be beyond cruel, but it can also be rewarding. All you can do is give your best to the world, and not worry about if the world will give back to you. You are here for a purpose.

The everyday strife that an actor experiences is not unlike surfers. Athletes either win the game, or they don’t. They sink, or they swim. But they keep playing, they keep chasing wave after wave- despite knowing the life-threatening risks. We ride the feeling of hope and wrangle that euphoria while it lasts like the drug that it is, knowing that we will crash eventually. But my recovery rate is phenomenal, and that only came after years and years of rejection beatings and flaky promises.

I want to spare new actors from pain. I want them to learn from my mistakes. But my mistakes have made me bullet proof, and I wouldn’t trade this life for any other life in the world. Strength is earned, not given.

Get out there and own it, like Mary Ann Hawkins did. Manipulate it. Ride it… then crash, knowing that another wave will surely form, but this time you are ready and waiting to catch it.

-Satu

 

 

Film Courage Performance, General Anguish, and a “True Calling”

We had a ridiculously good time at Film Courage’s night of readings and monologues as a “Tribute to the Sunset Strip.” I was the only one who actually performed a monologue (I wrote in homage to Dio and Lemmy). Everyone else read from a favorite book about rock n roll, or read a passage from a personal diary. Nice to connect with fellow metalheads and music lovers who all also happen to be actors.

I got a chance to workshop a character that I’m working on that may or may not be part of a TV series I’m developing. More on this later as it becomes declassified! See video of my performance here (it was REALLY fun!):

It’s been tough to keep your head up these days with all of the shocking news day after day. The only way to survive it is to push through it and stay busy. Stay WOKE, but stay busy. As an artist, I wrestle day to day with how I can help without being trite and obvious with my work. A documentary, a narrative feature, a powerful dramatic short, or a comedy bringing light and humor to the dire situation we may be in. In these circumstances I always come back to music.

I feel like I have multiple “true callings.” If I ever feel lost, I move into another medium, and my blood starts pumping again. In high school, the first college I requested a pamphlet from was Berkeley College of Music. It wasn’t a firm “no” from the parents, but it didn’t seem possible, so I played it safe and went to UNCW for Communication Studies. Great experience, but I always wonder where I would be today if I had followed through with my lifelong passion. After several A&R people handed me business cards early on, I’m confident that I would have made it as a singer, but I changed direction in the middle of the pursuit towards acting. Acting has been an uphill battle since the beginning. Not actually acting itself (it’s a thrill), but being successful at it has been the biggest struggle of my life. It’s gotten to a place where the chase is too draining in every aspect, so I find myself somewhat reluctantly surging towards another path, which also feels quite right. I may not get what I want in the end, but all I really want is to perform on a regular basis and not die of starvation doing it (anymore). So the path remains clear: I’m focusing on directing for the rest of the journey. It’s very odd, but I know in my heart that I have a better chance directing than acting, as it’s far more hands on and proactive. I will work as hard as I can, stock away survival money, and play music to appease my heart and soul. If acting wants me back in (as it always finds a way to pull you back in), I will follow. But not at the expense of my creative spirit, and fridge.

Certain events this year involving acting opportunities have driven me farther away from a desire to aggressively seek out acting work at this level. I’m happy to create my own, but I’m stepping away from the “chase” to feed the artist in me, and the stomach. It’s a big decision to make, and as soon as I made the decision to step away from chasing acting work (not acting itself, mind you- I will never say no to a solid part), of course, I got the call to come back to set for a short stint. It was semi-fulfilling, but in the end, far too much trouble for the small payoff it truly was. I’m happy to pay my bills as an actor for the first time in a few years, but it’s certainly not enough.

[The monologue I did for Film Courage for FREE was ultimately 1000x more satisfying, so I have to keep that in mind and keep doing that kind of stuff].

I shall go forth seeking out more fulfilling work, and in turn, my other callings shout loud and clear. Every time I see a film. Every time I hear a great song. I’m there.

x

Satu

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Satu Runa, photo by Joao Carlos

 

Humble Beginnings

I was recently involved with a Buzzfeed video as a subject testing Caribbean cuisine. I got to check out the studios and get to know some of their staff: highly diverse early 20-somethings. As I was wondering what each of their stories were in how they got this gig, I began reflecting on my humble beginnings from the perspective of an “elder millennial” in showbiz and journalism. It’s funny how different we can be when only separated by 5-10 years.

Just before I ran the Kickstarter for my indie pilot, “Queen Gorya,” I was a guest on a panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con featuring indie content creators. It was me, a YouTube star, a YouTube employee, and a cosplay weapon designer. The entire audience was there to see the YouTube star. A few months after the panel, the YouTube employee invited me to come see the YouTube Space. My thought going in was that I was going to be asked if I wanted to use the space to shoot content for my channel. Then the question came up: “How many subscribers do you have?” then I knew the “tour” was over. I’ve never had a huge YouTube following despite starting a channel shortly after YouTube began. I did have a solid following on MySpace, but then… you know. So I thought, “Okay, I’m here because YouTube is trying to develop talent by generously giving them the resources to film higher caliber content. Only they just want their own stars, they don’t want to make new ones.” The studios were mostly empty, with the exception of a few spaces being rented out by Felicia Day for Geek and Sundry.

Flash forward to the day after International Women’s Day: I read an article about “YouTube Funding Women Creators.” This is definitely a step in the right direction.

YouTube’s femme-focused foray, launched ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, comes as studies show Hollywood continues to lag in employing women directors and depicting female characters and that pay gaps persist between men and women in the biz.  

This quote from the Variety article is partially irrelevant because YouTube is fostering their female content creators for the purpose of gaining more exposure on YouTube alone (with no plans to connect out because once you make it in Hollywood, who needs YouTube?). I’ve had this discussion with several creators and filmmakers (not YouTubers) in that YouTube may be missing the mark by overlooking raw talent in favor of their own stars. It doesn’t seem to be part of their mission to curate rising talented filmmakers by creating stars in their space. Instead, they are plucking existing YouTube stars, capitalizing on their existing success, and thereby making the company look good because diversity.

This is the generation where followers and subscribers matter to the industry. I suppose it matters if you have nothing else going for you. But if someone had only 200 followers and a sensational short film I wouldn’t care about subscriber count, I would do everything I could to make sure people knew who they are and to watch their work so they can make more work. But that’s the fundamental difference between YouTube and Vimeo. Vimeo doesn’t even have follower count on your main profile page. Why? Because it’s irrelevant to the quality of the content you present.

The more I thought about it the more it baffled and angered me. “Why wouldn’t they take me on when my content was clearly way higher caliber than any of the low-quality churned out content we see from YouTube stars? I actually have the chops to be a real filmmaker and YouTube wants to give these kids power and equipment they barely know how to use?” 

And then I had the astonishing revelation that I did have my shot at a “YouTube Space” when I was just starting out. It was called “Public Access.

We could shoot anything we wanted that didn’t need to be censored.

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Captain Schoolgirl with Satu Runa and Will Finan

It was my first audition after I moved to New York City a month after graduating from college. I was lucky. It was minimum wage, we could eat all the pizza we wanted, and none of us had experience. Us kids hung out all day at the studios in Jersey City brainstorming skit ideas and writing content for our entertainment programs.

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On set of The Adventures of Captain Schoolgirl at Comcast studios, Jersey City, NJ. (Our public access playground)

We were entertainment hosts covering all the most fun high profile pop-culture events of New York City, and occasionally flying out to Los Angeles on the movie studio’s dime to cover press junkets of big movie premieres. It_was_awesome. This was my YouTube Space, fostering all of my creative skills. It’s where I learned how to use Final Cut. It’s where I learned how to produce content. It’s where I got my feet wet as an entertainment journalism interviewing celebrities and acting in comedic skits that my co-hosts and I would write and direct. It was everything I needed to set me on the path towards being a film director, producer, and actor. And my boss took a chance on me- a former music television intern with zero experience as a host. Just the drive (and a good image).

I often feel a little resentment because “kids today have it so good” when it comes to opportunity. I feel like we missed out on the “viral revolution” by about 5 years. Despite having a 16 million viewer reach with Comcast, we wanted more. We made one of our skits into a comic book and web series (a few years before web series even existed). We didn’t know how to elevate it to the next level, so we put it on MySpace, got a healthy following, then MySpace disappeared, and we had all moved on to new projects and jobs. When I look at today’s job opportunities, there are several “content creator” jobs for almost every company that wants a social presence. They want medium quality disposable content. But I’m just not that into YouTube channels. In fact, I can hardly watch them. That’s a generational thing, even though I am part of this generation.

I was looking around the Buzzfeed studio and watched the early 20-somethings do their thing. I wanted to help them get better lighting. I wanted to help them use the cameras properly. I wanted to give them a simple solution when something went wrong. I kept silent because I was there as a guest, and they did not want any kind of input, being the young know-it-alls that they were (hey- guilty of the same thing right here). All I could think to myself was, “I could do this so easily. I have done this. If I was just graduating today, this would be my job.” But there is one thing stopping me from pursuing an online “content creator” job: That time in my career has passed. I’ve been there, done that. I am creating higher caliber and traditional film. The mediums that speak loudly to me are the mediums that we watch the best narrative TV programs on, and the best feature films. This is what I am meant to do, now, despite my humble beginnings as a skit and pop-culture news writer/host for public access. I have come a very, very long way. I applaud the new generation for pushing forward and making their silly videos, just like we did a decade ago, and the generation before us. These little skits and bits are gateways to greater things. It’s how we learned. Ten years from now, these kids will leave it behind and focus on creating meaningful art. So, jealous I shall not be, for I have paid my dues long ago.

Time to finish that screenplay. I have big plans, and yes- it involves Vimeo. 😉

Satu Runa
Writer/Director, Actor. Former entertainment host/content creator for Comcast, Jersey City.
http://www.saturuna.com

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Captain Schoolgirl (character I played for our Comcast public access show), 2006

Don’t Be a Slave to Your Acting Career: Advice After Five Years in LA

This January marks the fifth year since I moved to Los Angeles from Astoria, Queens. I’ve seen this type of blog several times and thought I’d take a crack at it from the perspective of today’s advice to my January, 2011 self.

  1. Don’t waste time. Start creating.
    I didn’t waste any time when I first arrived. I immediately started working on my music and played a lot of shows solo for the first time (at the House of Blues- a life long dream, and the Viper Room- something I never thought I would do). Within two months I was cast as a lead in a feature film and got a manager. A few months later I got a commercial. But then there was a lot of nothingness for a few years. Few auditions. Fewer bookings. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have the best headshots, or the best representation. Or maybe it’s because of the race problem in casting. Who knows. But what I should have been doing during that time was writing. If there is any advice I wish they had prepared us for in drama school, it’s to write, endlessly.
  2. Avoid the food service industry at all costs. “It’s the only realistic survival job an actor can have.” Never was a bigger waste of my time than working as a restaurant hostess and bartender, all for the sake of “keeping my days open for auditions/having a flexible schedule”. Now, I do enjoy creating drinks and learning about booze (who doesn’t?), but ultimately, bartending was never quite as monetarily rewarding as it could have been. While the intention was to learn mixology so I could have a job and take it anywhere in the world and survive, after all these years working in restaurants- I have a gaping whole in my production resume that could have included perhaps associate producing at a network or production company. Now I must start from “scratch” once more. I’m far more grateful for my recent freelancing experiences as a production assistant on a major feature film.
  3. Don’t produce something you didn’t create unless you’re getting paid. I put two years of my life into a project that I was starring in, but didn’t create. It’s something I believed in and wanted to see the light of day, but after raising the money, after the filming, after everything was done- during a pitch meeting with the writer and another actor I began to realize that no matter how much I was involved or how much work I put into producing it, I could be cut out at any moment because I didn’t create it. Not only that, every time I was pitching the project, once they found out I didn’t create it, the pitch was off the table. Moral of the story- if you plan on putting hard time and energy into a project as an unpaid producer, write it yourself (or as a team).
  4. What Would Bowie Do? And do that. Don’t hesitate on the ideas that keep circling in your mind. It keeps coming back for a reason. Develop it. See it to the end. Dare to be an artist, for heaven’s sake. It’s what you came here to do. Figure out who the fuck you are and be that person, whatever incarnation it needs to be. If you are a musician, embrace that identity. In drama school I had to strip away that musician ego I had spent years building up, and it left me without an identity for years. I’m only now coming back to that girl in a new light and saying “fuck the rules” and “fuck the past (-Man Up)” and moving forward as the person I want to be, not the person casting wants me to be.
  5. Don’t pay for advice. We go back to “fuck the rules.” All the ‘workshops’ this industry offers talent are a waste of time, no matter how many people defend the process- it’s criminal and it sucks. If you want real advice, make solid relationships to industry players and take them out to lunch. Generic advice never helped anyone. Avoid at all costs. “Get a haircut, you look too ethnic.” “Change your name.” “Don’t tell people you’re Trinidadian, they might think you are black.” “Don’t put ‘Canadian-American passport’ on your resume, someone may not hire you because you’re taking all our jobs.”  << All fabulously horrid advice from “professionals” who aren’t even working and thrive off of desperate actors trying to hone their brand. Forget these crooks and talk to people you trust. Take a public poll. Whatever. But be very wary of workshops, career consultants, and any other type of money grubbing lunatics that pay their bills with aspiring movie stars fresh off the boat. Certainly there are great teachers out there, but for the love of the craft and everything sacred, do your research. If you want references, contact me directly.
  6. Shoot with everyone, not just “the best headshot photographers in LA.” I’ve shot with everyone. I taught myself how to shoot headshots because I’d say 1/100 photographers I’ve shot with actually knows how to open me up and also shoot my angular features. The two I can think of shot me for free. The best photoshoots I’ve had were in New York with fashion photographers. I felt more free and thus was more expressive because we were making art.Headshots are the bane of my existence and have been a casting problem from day one. I look different in every photo depending on lens/lighting/makeup/attitude of the photographer. So shoot as much as you can, there are plenty of photographers out there that need models. Again, do your research and take a buddy if you need to. It’s not great to be alone with photographers because a lot of them take advantage of young attractive actresses- so ask references first and take a friend. If they don’t want you to bring a friend with you, just say no.
  7. Spend more time getting your reel solid, less time crafting your “Brand.” In the end, you have to deliver the goods. A high percentage of talent is booked straight from their reels without auditioning. If it’s between two actors- the director will probably look closely at the reel to decide. It’s easier to create a brand than it is to create content for the brand, at least for me. I could spend all day editing photos and designing websites and graphics for myself but when it comes to writing a short film that can showcase my skills, it couldn’t get more difficult. I’ve written many, many “scenes” for my own reel, I even started a business producing actor’s reels and made a killing. It honed my writing and directing skills. I could crank out fifteen-twenty scenes for someone else in a day. But to write for myself is the most difficult task, so if you find yourself in this conundrum, partner up with fellow actor-writers and write for each other.
  8. Don’t ignore other opportunities. If something opens up and you are a perfect fit, dare to walk through the door. Don’t say no to opportunities that could be right for you just because “I have to be available for auditions.” My biggest regret is not going to South by Southwest with my band because of that very reason. It would have been the experience of a lifetime, and I missed it because I’m a slave to my acting career. Don’t be a slave. Be an artist. Go where the wind takes you. If you are good at writing, directing, producing, music… pursue those things. Your strengths will dictate your success. Don’t ignore them. Go for it. You never know what path may lead you to your destiny. 

One last bit: Don’t ever forget the things that make you passionate. I want every actor who just got off the bus and is looking for a new apartment, survival job, acting coach, headshot photographer, agent, manager… please read this and heed my advice.  Oh and you’ll notice that everyone has an opinion of what you should be. And when they say “be yourself,” don’t listen to anything else they have to say about you, because everyone sees you differently.

Now crank up Big Data’s “Business of Emotion” and let yourself fly 🙂

Your actress-singer/songwriter-filmmaker,

-Satu Runa @saturuna

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.
www.queengorya.com

My 2013 Year in Review (Pretty. Freakin. Epic.)

2013: The Year of Er0S, and a lot of firsts!

  1. Met Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, and the original Freedom Riders
  2. The Coalition (Magnolia Pictures) released on Blu-Ray, 5 days after our producer won the Superbowl!
  3. Went to my first NAMM, met Stephen Perkins (drummer of MY FAVORITE BAND) 
  4. Started an actor’s reel production company
  5. Directed, starred in, and executive produced the Queen Gorya pilot trailer
  6. Dr. Pepper commercial released (my first national)
  7. Ascertained that directing is my greatest passion and strength, second only to acting
  8. Attended 5 comic and horror conventions (only 5?) in character as Queen Gorya.  Heisted the Days of the Dead panel of a famous wrestler.  Garnered a few thousand fans.  Got invited to host next year’s con (!)
  9. Met a performer I truly admire and respect, Ogre of Skinny Puppy
  10. Played a wicked “morgue zombie” in a SyFy original feature, which filmed on location in a cemetery
  11. Booked a professional dancer role in my first Bollywood feature film.
  12. Had an EPIC trip back to New York City for 4th of July, with Mara Lee Gilbert, Thomas Vasquez, and Jon Kita (the original dusketeers, plus one)!
  13. Shot a wicked web series in New York called “MilkShakespeare” 
  14. Got to know a few sacred tigers, lions, and bears at the Wildlife Waystation, thanks to the ravishing Rachel Prescott
  15. Raised 13K for Queen Gorya Pilot Episode through Kickstarter
  16. Got cast in an incredible production of “Cabaret” and started working with some of the most interesting and wild people in LA.

2014 begins with another fantastic year of life…in the CABARET.
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