Actress Rebekah Miskin
Talks First Feature ‘Records for Magnolia,’ Producing Independent Films and More
By Amber Topping
At just 18-years old (Actress, Writer, Producer, Dancer and DJ), Rebekah Miskin made “Anya,” one of the only short films in history to actually make a profit. She was only 17 when she wrote the film and soon after filmed it as a collaboration with friends. “It was just one of those funny things. I guess the ultimate thing with that project was that it got bought by a television network [Moviola TV Network].” But what began as a “passion project” for Rebekah turned into something more.
According to Rebekah, “Anya” helped her grow as an artist. Inspired by Ira Glass and his ideas on the gap between the space when you're an artist and the space between your taste and your ability, she explains, “when you first start out you kind of have to make crap and it's really frustrating ‘cause you don't understand why what you're making isn't as good as what you want it to be…and you know where you want it to be but you don't know how to get it there. And the more and more that you create stuff, the easier it is to close that gap and you just have to hang in there. I think that [Anya] was one of those awesome projects that really helped me hopefully do that. Hopefully I'm almost there closing the gap between what I like and what I'm making.”
“There was no dialogue in the short and we did it all through Voice Over. So it was really about the internal thoughts of the paradox between what you might be outwardly presenting and what you're thinking in your head and the space between those two things. And when I look back on it, it was actually a pretty cool concept.”
While she thinks she can do better than that now, it’s what got her “into the idea of making my own movies.” From there, the sincere, talented and funny Rebekah Miskin has gone on to do many more projects developing her talents as a storyteller.
Background and Storytelling
Raised in Toronto by supportive hippie parents, Rebekah started out as a dancer in primary ballet when she was only three years old. “I loved dance, and danced pretty seriously for a long time professionally until when I was 19 I injured my knee really bad, so that was sort of the end of my professional dance career.” But dance wasn’t her only passion. In high school, Rebekah went to an art school in Toronto called Rosedale Heights which helped broaden her artistic interests. “We didn't have to pick a particular art that we majored in, so I took dance and drama. And that was sort of the moment that I realized that this was something I could do for the rest of my life.”
It was this broad interest in the arts (she ultimately also earned a BA in Arts and Contemporary Studies from Ryerson University) that developed her interest in various avenues of storytelling. “For me there's really no difference between doing film or theater or TV—the medium isn't really a factor for me; it's just about telling great stories. And I think that's really the root of [where] the passions come from, and then also performing because it's such an amazing rush. There's nothing like that feeling when you see a smile brought to someone's face or you make them think or you make them laugh. It's awesome.”
“I really just love finding great stories,” Rebekah clarifies.
A Quintuple Threat
From dancing to acting, writing, producing and even working as a DJ, Miskin is a ‘jack of all trades.’ In fact, she “loves all sorts of factions of all of the things that [she’s] passionate about.”
“I would say that DJing is sort of like a hobby for me. I just started collecting records when I was in high school, and that's sort of where DJing started…It's just fun. It's not something that I expected to be a career move. But then I started getting gigs and people started offering me money to DJ…It was kind of like an incidental happening.”
However, Rebekah explains that acting and film remains her “number one passion” (with acting luckily being the profession that’s come together the most for her and has given her the most experience), and that it goes back to wanting to connect with people. “I think that there's nothing like that feeling when you walk out of a great movie or you see a great play or an amazing performance. And that's the feeling I want to give people. That's what I want to dedicate my life to.”
"Murdoch Mysteries" and "Reviving Ophelia"
As an up and coming actress, Rebekah has had the opportunity to work on some popular projects. She did a guest spot on the Canadian series “Murdoch Mysteries,” which she illustrates as a positive experience. “Everyone that I worked with on that show was amazing. The director was a guy named Harvey Crossland who's just one of the coolest, most inspiring people. And that was really welcoming. I think that's always the thing when you're doing a guest spot, or you come on to a show for a few days, you don't know how the regular cast is gonna be...if they're gonna be welcoming, or if you're like the odd man out, and so that was a really validating experience. And it was a lot of fun.”
But “Murdoch Mysteries” wasn’t her only great experience. She co-starred in “Reviving Ophelia,” a Lifetime movie that turned into an “unexpected hit.”
“I think it was the most popular movie for Lifetime in that year in 2011. And we didn't really think that at all obviously. You have no idea what's gonna happen—if the project's gonna be well received or not. But the cast and crew on that was unbelievable. I'm still in touch with Bobby Roth, the director to this day. He does a multitude of things. He's working on a documentary right now, but he directs a lot of television. He just finished a few episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the new Marvel show. But yeah, he's such an inspiring person. I just feel like everyone, every experience that I've had acting, I just see such incredible people. I've been very lucky on sets. I hear other actors tell stories about being on sets that are unfriendly. But I've just lucked out. I've never had those things.”
She clarifies: “When you just go into something honest rather than with your ego and be humble about things then people find it easier to relate to you…it is important to be nice and to treat people with respect. And you know, it's entertainment, it's not brain surgery.”
First Feature “Records for Magnolia.”
“Records for Magnolia,” is an independent feature starring Rebekah Miskin which she also co-wrote. According to Rebekah, the film is about Maggie (short for Magnolia), “whose life is falling apart at the seams. She's in the same boat as a lot of people in their early 20s in 2014. She graduated from university with this random arts degree and doesn't really know what to do with it…And then her Dad, who's this really special guy, he owns a record store that's world renowned for selling rare and collectible records, dies really, really suddenly; and her life sort of goes from bad to worse. She has to find a way to move forward with her life and figure out what she wants to do in the face of not only the challenge of being in your early 20s in this day and age, ‘cause it's a rough time and the economy's really bad, but also in the face of her father's death. And so she finds this creative record that he indirectly left for her. She finds this box of records with her initial on the top of the box and it sets her off on this journey to discover the mystery behind the records and the legacy behind her Dad, which ultimately inspires her to figure out how she's gonna move forward and find out what she's gonna do with her life.”
Not only is it a great story, but it is also an amalgamation of a lot of Rebekah’s passions: her passion for music and for film. “I can't even tell you how stoked I am for this project,” she says excitedly. She’s also proud to point out that the film is a multigenerational story as well. “So it's a story of her as the protagonist but then also her Dad and her grandmother and how she sort of goes back in order to go forward…I feel like in our culture we don't really appreciate how much wisdom our elderly folks have. And my Grandma in real life is such an inspiring and amazing person. And I think it's really cool that this story kind of focuses on that a little bit.”
The Future of Women Filmmakers
Inspired by other women filmmakers like Lake Bell and Lena Dunham, Miskin has a positive outlook on the future of women in the industry and of female characters. “I just think it's so cool that there's a lot of women filmmakers and actresses and stories that are being told that are just really real and give an honest portrayal of female protagonists that we haven't really seen yet.” While she doesn’t think we’re there yet, she sees a trend in the right direction. “I think there's more interesting stories being told and I think that women are being portrayed more frequently as multi-dimensional characters on the screen.”
Producing Independent Films
As for producing her own independent films (she looks to actors who also produce their films like Brad Pitt and Drew Barrymore as encouragement), Rebekah in a word describes the experience as “hard.” She started off with “Anya,” and then moved on teaming up with fellow actress Katie Boland (“The Zack Files,” “Reign”) who she hopes to work with again in the future. Together, they produced the short “A Subsequent Life,” which went on to many film festivals worldwide.
As far as producing, “it's a really stressful experience,” she says. “I think that in the film industry there's not a lot of vertical integration, meaning if you're involved in pre-production and let's say you do casting, you probably don't know much about post-production or it would be rare that you would. Or if you're an editor, you might not know anything about casting or directing. The producer is really this through line, the one constant thing all the way from development to post, or really to screens. And so I think that's the difficult [thing] about it, is that you are the continuity of the film production as a whole. And that's really intimidating, but also really amazing and probably the most rewarding thing that you can do.”
Story and Music Inspiration
As an artist, Rebekah Miskin has many things that inspire her from books to movies and even music. Right now she’s reading “50 Great Short Stories,” which she describes as having “epic writers” in it. “I want to turn this one into a short film, and this one into a short film, and if I combined these two short stories they could totally be an awesome feature,” she says excitedly. She also loves Sarah Silverman’s book “The Bed Wetter,” which she claims turned her into a “diehard Sarah Silverman fan,” and Camryn Manheim’s “Wake Up I’m Fat.” But it’s not just the biographies she loves; she’s also really into the classics. “I've been reading a lot of Steinbeck which is weird I guess, it's like old American classic. But I really love John Steinbeck. What an amazing writer. And I feel I've sort of missed out on some major classics and I'm kind of trying to catch up, so yeah, I've been reading some James Joyce and some Steinbeck. I think it's really important to read.”
As far as movies she loves everything David O. Russell does. “I thought “Silver Linings Playbook” was one of the best movies I've seen in possibly years, and “American Hustle” as well. He's sort of my dream director to work with.”
Being a lover of music she points out she has “really broad taste that goes from house music to ‘90s rock and roll.” Right now she loves Drake’s most recent album, which she thinks is “awesome.” She’s “also been listening a lot to a band called Tame and Power, they're from Australia. And [she’s] always listening to Jeff Buckley who's just a classic.”
Causes Close to the Heart
Telling stories isn’t the only important thing to Rebekah. “I also tutor kids with special needs and learning disabilities” which she finds to be “super, super inspiring.” She continues, “For kids who regularly get underestimated a lot, man they blow me away constantly…I have this one kid, who I won't mention by name, but who has a severe learning disability. And then sometimes on the flipside he'll just say these amazing things that are so inspiring and so wise and insightful. And it's really, really cool to be able to feel like I have maybe a tiny bit of influence on his life and the lives of the kids that I tutor.”
On top of the tutoring, Rebekah is also trying to get involved with the DAREarts foundation for children. “I think that's a really cool leadership program…it's basically just about using arts and education to empower youth and to unlock their potential to be leaders.”
While there’s a bunch of projects Rebekah can’t yet talk about (including news about her first feature “Records for Magnolia”), she’s excited for what’s next. Recently, season one of “Long Story Short,” about three friends on the path to adulthood (starring friend Katie Boland) premiered on February 15th on Hulu. Rebekah appears in a couple episodes and at this point is uncertain about a season 2. However, she thinks “it might be in the works which is exciting.”
“I'm working on a short right now on editing another short film that will hopefully get submitted to this year's round of film festivals. I've also just written a television show which I can't talk about yet, but look out for that as well!
Rebekah Miskin is an artist who continues to close the gap between what she likes and what she creates. “I would hardly say that I'm where I wanna be, or anywhere close, but I'm fighting real hard to be there.”
To learn more about Rebekah Miskin head on over to her website: www.rebekahmiskin.com
You can also follow Rebekah on Twitter @rebekahmiskin
To learn more about Amber Topping, check out her vintage inspired (yet modern) media blogzine: www.silverpetticoatreview.com