“The message that ‘we are enough’ is something I long to communicate to others. I think that is a common thread in humanity.”
The Chimaera Project is focusing it’s spotlight on Heidi Cox an Actress/Writer/Producer moving into Directing now in Los Angeles by way of Greenville, South Carolina.
So much of the stories we tell is influenced by our personal story. How has your journey influenced you?
I was rolling this over in my head for a few days trying to think of how I could describe it all. I come from a home that had a lot of love in it. But it was also split, literally due to divorce as well as energetically. So one side felt loving in an unconditional way while the other side was dealing with generations of trauma. It was passed down emotionally, verbally, and sometimes with physical violence. Those who were the caregivers on that side of my family were deeply hurt and they did the best they could.
I definitely lacked a great deal of confidence as a result of the confusion from so many different messages. Being “oneself” (as a woman, especially) and speaking up was often pushed back down. So I had one side of my family who was very supportive in individuality, strength and social justice while the other side was working (unconsciously to an extent) to shut those parts of me down.
“Be seen, not heard. But don’t be proud and be seen too much. And if you are seen, make sure it is only one way.”
If you take care of yourself first then it often was seen as a selfish act.
When I look at this now, I see how confusing it was as I developed into an adult. I spent a lot of time in hyper-vigilance without realizing it. It was just my reality. And the need to express myself through art (drawing, painting, dancing, singing, writing, acting) was like an ache inside of me. The desire also came somewhat naturally as my whole family contains visual artists, writers, photographers, singers, musicians, etc. So I was very lucky that they plunked me down in front of some paper with paints and enrolled me in ballet classes. We sang in four part harmony in church with no accompaniment and I learned an instrument or two in school, as well.
But fear had a loud voice in my head during that time. “Don’t upset anyone. Make sure everyone is happy. It must be my fault if they are unhappy. How can I be different to keep myself safe from their unhappiness?”
I went through college afraid to really pursue what I loved. So I got a degree in social work because I knew I could help other children who experienced abuse and domestic violence. I didn’t want to be judged by my family for choosing something “unstable.” While in school, I was in every musical and one act play I could be cast in.
And now when I look back, I think that the study and work I have done in the social services areas have enriched my view of life and therefore can be poured into my art. I have worked with CPS, Special Needs, Mental Health as well as Addictions. It was an honor to be trusted in these fields and to be taught so much.
I never thought I’d be a filmmaker! I knew I wanted/needed to come to Los Angeles but I had no idea that my desire to be an actress here would grow into something multi-layered. Acting is still my first love, of course. I love being part of a cog or one of the tools to help tell a story. It feels good to express. But digging in and telling one’s own story is a gift I never imagined.
You had a rough road before ending up where you are. Do you mind sharing some of that?
During the fifth year of a six year abusive relationship, that same artistic ache bubbled up in me. I believe it ultimately saved my life when I created a short form comedic series. That was when Dweeb Darlings was born- in that fifth year of feeling silenced.
The relationship with my abuser started about eight months after I had been living here. And at first it was very subtle- little critical comments about my weight or my personality and what I should do to change those things. It triggered that “need to please or prove my worth” in me that goes so far back in time.
I spent the years in that situation neglecting most of my needs except the one of acceptance from a narcissist who would never even begin to have the ability to know or understand me. It turned to hysteria and I felt like I was going crazy especially as the comments then turned into physical violence usually to smush down the voice I had that was still trying to express my individuality.
But it was the creative voice that called out to me that really saved my life in so many ways. And once I started to work on the material, the same lessons would come up about boundaries with friends and co-workers as well as romantic partners. I truly learned what “we teach people how to treat us” meant. It was a struggle sometimes. But with therapy as a guide, I have come very far with that.
The things that used to trigger my desire to please someone now trigger a desire for self care and set boundaries.
I also learned that so many people cared about me! For the longest time, I felt so alone. In my mind, I thought that no one cared about me because that is what I had been told for so long. But something woke up when I started to create, again. I started to gain a sense of self and a tribe that continues to grow. I am so grateful for that.
SO many people care about you! What a wonderful realization to have after such a dark time. What is your main focus now?
I suppose I specialize in my own unique exploration of human behavior. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am doing that in my storytelling until I read or watch it a year or more later! What I know is that I try to to understand “us” and I want to make a difference in whatever way I know how. Dweeb Darlings is a company that works to support women filmmakers and women driven content. Approaching our work together with kindness and compassion is a huge requirement for whomever I choose to work with. Like I mentioned before, I think the work I have done in social services has really given me a unique perspective on how I write. The message that we are enough is something I long to communicate to others. I think that is a common thread in humanity.
Future goals are to produce more content that speak up about domestic violence, child abuse, and special needs.
Very inspiring! What are some moments of celebration you have had?
There are so many proud moments and most of them center around a simple day (for some) when everyone is on our set. I have sat in awe of the talent that surrounds me and the fact that the individuals I have been lucky enough to work with showed up!
There is also the day October that our short “Chasing Fletcher Allen” won Best Comedy, Best Supporting Actor (Phil Lamarr) and I was honored with a nomination for best actress at the Lady Filmmakers Festival. And in June of this year, I was honored with the same nomination and we won Best Short Film at the Reedy Reels Film Festival in my hometown. My mother was present for that experience which was so meaningful.
Perhaps my proudest moment was when we had our Season 2 premiere for “Stalking LeVar” and the entire team plus the surrounding supporting teams (friends, family) came together to celebrate what we did. I never got an entire headcount but I remember standing on the red carpet with the press there and seeing the turn out when we screened the episodes and my heart was full.
It was only a few years before that when I felt as though I was shrinking internally. But standing in that event, looking around I realized that I had a voice and how important it is for all of us to speak.
Share Your Wisdom.
I came up with a mantra a few years ago that I say to myself often:
Surround yourself with those who already love you instead of those you think should.
It was a huge change to my old patterns the day I realized that. In the past, I worked so hard to convince others to like or love me. And it’s something I still work on, believe me! That’s why I have that mantra now.
I would tell anyone who has similar goals that they are enough and that their story is important. The most difficult thing to do is push stepping into the dream and actually put it into action. You don’t always have to know every tiny detail to get started. Most of those will start to flow into the process. You can do it.
Surround yourself with those who already love you instead of those you think should. That is wonderful! In all you do, you seem to be aligned with the mission of the Chimaera Project. Tell us a little more about that!
The industry seems to be changing its aim toward a more inclusive direction. Whenever I write a script, I try to really think about the message I am putting out there about women and diversity. I do the same when I read scripts. My boyfriend is a writer/director, and if he asks me to take a look at something, my first question is usually in the vicinity of “Does this character need to be a man? Can he be a woman?” I am hoping the industry is taking more of these kinds of questions into consideration, as well.
As a girl, I experienced and witnessed injustices and misogyny enough to spark questions about why these “truths” existed. I wanted to understand them as a child. And as an adult I want to change them.
For me, it was not one person or moment that was the catalyst. It has been the layers of life that led me here. And in those layers there were moments, like the voice in my head that told me to create when my light was getting dim, that propelled me forward to now.
There is a long list of amazing supportive people who made all the difference in my life. One is America Young!
My original partner and co-founder of Dweeb Darlings: Megan Green is another. But the teams of kind and compassionate people (Like Fon H. Davis and everyone at Fonco for example as well as Jonathan London and Geekscape) are endless. And I could not have done a single thing without their love, support, talent and professionalism. I am truly moved by them more than anything.
DweebDarlings.com leads you straight to
Facebook.com/dweebdarlings because our regular site is under construction right now
Social Media Links:
Facebook.com/msheidicox ; Instagram and Twitter: @msheidicox @dweebdarlings