“As an actor, you hear no more than you hear yes,” said my theatre professor, Mark Kuntz. As an aspiring actress, I keep this harsh truth in the back of my mind. It motivates me to keep going. This rings true during this pandemic, where breaking into the film and acting world seems impossible. Nonetheless, we have to move forward.

I don’t know who I would be if I wasn’t an actor. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to act. At three years old, I remember watching TV and asking my mom “why am I not on there?” When I step into the studio, the outside world no longer exists. I’m in a space where no one can judge me and I can explore the deepest parts of myself. The amount of joy I have when I act is inexplicable. I have never wanted anything more than to tell stories through acting.

The pandemic has redirected the future of acting and production. Creatives are finding ways to use online platforms like Zoom to perform staged readings and produce at-home films to tell stories. Colleges are shifting towards an online format for acting classes. They are defying that “no” brought on by the pandemic. Rosalie Miller, Seattle-based award-winning filmmaker, producer, and actress sheds light on another challenge: film production and promotion.

Rosalie Miller: Elevating the Women, Femme, and LGBTQ+ Narratives

Rosalie Miller’s critically-acclaimed reproductive rights documentary, Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women in America will have its Washington and Oregon premiers in October at the Social Justice Film Festival and BendFilm Festival, where it’s in competition for Best Documentary, Best Director, and Best of Show at the latter.

2020, Santa Barbara, CA. Rosalie Miller and Jo Ardinger at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Since her last interview with Maheen The Globe, Rosalie has been working on her documentary, Worth My Salt, featuring Seattle-based queer, femme, drag-performance artist, Jody Kuehner. Jody is also a professionally trained dancer who uses clowning, drag, theater, comedy, performance art, camp, pop culture, gay culture, dance traditions, feminist traditions, absurdity, and subversive commentary to make art. She is on a pursuit to challenge audiences with her alter ego, Cherdonna Shinatra. Rosalie’s Worth My Salt highlights the infantilization of women contrasted against the power of femininity.

Jody Keuhner’s Awards and Accolades

  • 2017 Artist Trust Fellowship recipient
  • 2017 Henry Art Gallery Artist in Residence
  • 2017 CityArts Artist of the year
  • 2015 Stranger Genius Award winner

Jody Keuhner was funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project in 2016. Her choreography has been featured by every major contemporary dance venue in Seattle. She has been presented nationally at the University of South Florida in Tampa FL, the Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance conference Ann Arbor, MI, The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard, American Dance Festival, Durham, NC, and FringeArts in Philadelphia, PA. Kuehner recently premiered DITCH at the Frye Art Museum, a three-month gallery exhibition with daily live performance. DITCH’s eighty performances drew an audience of over 3500 people.

2016, Seattle, WA. World Premiere of ‘Clock That Mug or Dusted.’

“At a glance, it’s an intimate look into the work and life of queer, femme, performance artist, Jody Kuehner (aka Cherdonna Shinatra). This piece continues to reveal the vital role that creative expression plays in our lives, both personally and politically. What it also reveals is how our culture really devalues femininity in all aspects of life. There is power in exploring the feminine and using femininity to push boundaries.” – Rosalie Miller on Worth My Salt.

Rosalie has used her platform to advocate for women, femme, and the LGBTQ+ communities by elevating their respective narratives. Read her interview with Maheen The Globe below.

2015, Washington State. Rosalie onset of a film shoot for ‘Two Pictures.’

When did you know that film was something you wanted to pursue?

My path is like one big zigzag. When I was heavily into theatre, I started to envision what it might look like to be a producer. I had no idea what that meant until I moved to Los Angeles and became immersed in a more, what I would call, cross-disciplinary approach to theater, film, and studio art while working in the environmental justice sector. It was that combination that really shifted my beliefs.

I was really unhappy auditioning for projects that didn’t align well with my values. Basically, I was over auditioning for “the wife” or “young mother” roles where the woman is merely a plot point, so I started to find inspiration through advocacy, which included documentary filmmaking. I really attribute my time at Heal the Bay, an environmental advocacy group in California, as kind of a precursor into documentary filmmaking.

Tell us about your latest project Worth My Salt.

Originally, I wanted Worth My Salt to be a short, intimate piece about one person, but it’s really expanded over the years, and I’m at a point in post-production where it could evolve into a short series. This is rather new and a bit fluid, as I rediscover a different approach to this project. At a glance, it’s an intimate look into the work and life of queer, femme, performance artist, Jody Kuehner (aka Cherdonna Shinatra).

This piece continues to reveal the vital role that creative expression plays in our lives, both personally and politically. What it also reveals is how our culture really devalues femininity in all aspects of life. There is power in exploring the feminine and using femininity to push boundaries. This is a part of Jody’s work that’s so powerful and necessary. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on my ability to work consistently, having had no child care, so I’m just excited to finally be able to re-focus on the edit this fall with the goal of having it completed by 2021. To be continued…

2016, Portland, OR. Worth My Salt performance at Portland Center Stage.

How has the pandemic changed the way you promote your film Personhood?

The pandemic certainly shifted our trajectory and has had an impact on how we move forward. But we’ve still been able to partner with certain film festivals, virtually, to bring the film to living rooms across the US. And we’ll be announcing our fall slate of film festivals this month and next as we simultaneously embark on our impact campaign. The film was recently awarded the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for Documentaries, which was and IS such a meaningful acknowledgment for our team and the women at the center of our film. And last, but certainly not least, we’ve acquired distribution, which won’t be publicly announced until later in September.

2020, Santa Barbara, CA. Rosalie Miller and Jo Ardinger at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

How can a young actor find work, especially during this pandemic?

Maybe it’s not necessarily about finding acting work in this moment, but about finding a way to continue to create work and stay creative, safely. It’s very much a public health experiment – and, it’s not really okay, but we’re all trying to make it okay. Until there is accurate rapid testing and a vaccine available, actors and crew will continue to put themselves at risk for their jobs, in varying degrees. Every decision to find work where there is risk involved is a very personal one right now. We are already witnessing how COVID-19 is changing the way we approach film and theater production. It’s also changing the way artists make art. All I can say is stay hopeful, and stay vigilant.

 Any words of advice for aspiring actors looking to build a career?

Figure out what your values are, and then seek out opportunities that align with those values as often as life will allow. Support your peers; they will become your community, and that community will be so vital to your professional and personal growth… and safety! And don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself… to protect yourself! Our industry is very unforgiving so don’t take any crap!

Tessa Hoyos is the writer of this article. She covers beats art, culture, tech, business, wellness at Maheen The Globe, a Seattlebased, independent global media outlet.