Interview with STEPHANIE TURNER | Aligning with the whole of Who I am, for that Connecting with Others.
We label everything in order to identify that which we want to express with words, which in turn our mind translates into thoughts and images connected to our life experiences.
We all are seeking to connect, that’s why we expose our opinions, hence our own perspective of the truth, often wanting people to agree with us. We sometimes judge those who disagree, we label good or bad behavior, triggering emotions that don’t feel so good to us.
Perhaps, the closest synonymous to the word “connection” is the word “alignment.” Being in alignment represents being in connection with your inner-self, and then seeing the world from that broader perspective of love and compassion. In that uplifting state fo being, we have the ability to see the full, total version of others, connecting to the inner-self part of them.
Ultimately, we can’t control anyone, we can only control where we direct our attention, meaning to deliberately experience our innate freedom and focus on anything we think is best for us.
In this interview with Stepanie, you will discover her inspiring unfolding during the process of creating Justine, as well as her insights to align with the life you desire, and connecting with yourself and others.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Stephanie Turner?
I’m a mother of two children, a wife, an actor and a filmmaker. I’m someone who wants to contribute something positive to the world. I enjoy connecting with others through the art of storytelling.
- Like every human being, we feel our way through life clarifying our preferences and desires. How that journey was for you when it comes to embracing your love for filmmaking?
I started in the industry as an actress because I had a love for storytelling. The women I saw working in the industry were actresses. Growing up, there just weren’t many mainstream female writer/directors. I was very removed from the entertainment industry and was definitely not in the loop on the indie film scene. I think I saw the most opportunity for myself as an actor. Once I began my career, my world opened up and I started to see all the amazing women working in all aspects of our industry. I also began to pursue writing and making films as well as acting in them.
- There is a shift of mindset now where talents take on new disciplines to express themselves creatively. Why do you think this is happening and how do you envision the entertainment industry future?
I think that for a long time the industry only wanted certain people to be the storytellers in television and film. Writers, directors, and producers were predominately white men. Things aren’t anywhere near equal, but there have been some incredible trailblazers that have paved the way for underrepresented storytellers to create content. I think a lot of actors are now seeing that if they have the desire to write something or direct something, they should throw their hat in the ring.
- On Netflix is now available the film Justine, which you wrote and directed, you can also be seen as Lisa Wade, a military wife who is going through grief after her husband’s death. How did your character and the storyline come alive in your imagination?
I originally began with the characters of Justine and her caretaker, Lisa. I built the rest of the storyline from there. I definitely pulled from elements of my own life and themes I’d been wanting to explore, but it is no way a true story. Writing for me is such a long process of several drafts and notes that it’s sometimes hard to remember how everything evolved. For me, it required a lot of sitting, thinking and trying things for characters to see if it felt right.
- During the course of creating Justine, there were probably things you didn’t know about, including the details of how exactly things will unfold, but you kept going towards your vision. Looking at how your awareness has expanded, how do your beliefs in sync with your desire have influenced your creative process?
When making the movie I had no idea how it all would unfold, but I guess that’s how everything in life is right? It’s hard not to have expectations for your work, but I always remind myself (then and now) that the focus has to be on doing the work and following your intuition and intentions in the process of creating a story. I think the creative process starts to get muddy if your ego is steering the ship or if you are locked into an idea of a certain outcome for your projects
- How would you describe the relationship and connection between Lisa and Justine, the young girl who has spina bifida?
I think Lisa sees herself in Justine. I think Lisa feels that no one understands her. When she sees the how Justine is treated she starts to connect with her. Justine is, in a lot of ways, desperate for relationships outside of her parents and is thrilled to have found a friend in Lisa.
- What core role does the character of Justine play within the narrative of the film?
Justine is the one who brings everyone together in her own innocent way. She opens something up in Lisa that allows her to connect with her family and humanity again.
- Each person grieves in its own way, each person decides what to focus on, hence that builds momentum for more of that. How do you think people that go through something similar to Lisa can re-connect with themselves, which in turn will allow them to connect with others?
That’s the thing about trauma and grief, everyone deals with it differently. There is really no way to predict how that will be. In doing my research for the film, I talked to people who had polar opposite reactions to the same sort of traumatic event. There’s not a right or wrong way to grieve. I think the best thing people can do for themselves is seek help outside of themselves. That could mean talking to a licensed professional or simply reading books about grief (or whatever the issue may be) so they can realize they are not alone.
- We all judge at one or another level, which doesn’t feel good. As we see someone like Lisa, who is seeking her own alignment, how would you describe her from the perspective of compassion?
Of course, we all make our judgments and assumptions about one another and often times we are very wrong. I would describe Lisa from a perspective of compassion by saying that to have compassion for her is to let her be who she is without setting an expectation of what you want her to be.
- Lisa is a complex character to play, which probably took you through a journey of diverse emotions that perhaps you have never felt before in real life. How did you balance your emotional scale between becoming Justin and yourself?
It was an intense experience to play the role of Lisa, who is carrying so much pain and anger. I tried to let her go after a day of shooting, so I could connect with my family. However, I couldn’t really let her go until we wrapped the shoot. I enjoy the process of really connecting with a character on a deep emotional level and then letting them go when the job is done.
- What have you learned or discovered about yourself while creating all the other characters and the film at large?
I learned to trust my instincts, that’s my biggest lesson. It is one that I’ve learned before, but I guess I needed to learn it again.
- What message or awareness you aim the audience to take away from watching Justine?
To be open to connecting with one another.
- Are there any other exciting projects you are currently working on?
Yes, I’m currently working on putting together my second feature film as well as developing a TV project.
- Are you connected to any humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
Over the years I’ve been a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters Los Angeles and World Vision.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of a Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
Creating characters, whether that’s in the writing process or the acting process can be a very joyful experience. It can also be very frustrating. For years when I was struggling as an actor and writer, wishing I was working more, I would always tell myself, “As long as you still love doing it, as long as it still brings you joy, you should keep doing it.” And it all still brings me joy.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
I think it’s absolutely true. I think every individual needs to get to the core of what that “being and doing and having” actually is for them. Because each goal or dream can manifest itself in many different ways. Sometimes you have to devote a lot of your attention to those things you are striving to achieve because it doesn’t all happen on the first try.