“The dance of dialogue and music and imagery, and the personality of the camera and how that helps tell the story… It’s special.”
“Saying yes to life. Letting go of fears and stories of ruin and failure.”
These are the words of an Artist, Actress, Writer, Filmmaker, Singer, Musician, Martial Artist, Horseback Rider, Energy Healer and Woman who knows herself. Rachel Noll is currently working on her new film ” Follow the River,” an intimate, character driven Western following the unlikely romance between a woman on the run and the man sent to bring her to justice. She lives a life lead by her soulful passion and was kind enough to share with us.
What came first, the interest in acting or the interesting creating films?
Acting was my first love. I grew up performing, and got my BA in Theater with a focus on acting. I was out in LA auditioning for a couple of years, and I started feeling creatively frustrated because I was constantly waiting for other people to approve of me and offer me work, and the jobs I would book were few and far between… and so in an especially dry month, I decided to pull out a book that I had loved as a teenager and adapt it into a screenplay. As it turned out, I really enjoyed writing, and I was good at it! So when I had finished that script, I started writing another… And it dawned on me that I had just given myself the keys to the kingdom, because I had cultivated the tools to create work for myself. And with that exciting notion in my head, I began the process of turning that script into a movie.
Of the two, which is more important to you?
Two years ago I would have said acting without hesitating…. but I feel like my journey is more complex now. I love acting. Bringing a character to life is one of the great joys of my life… but through all of this, I have also realized how much I love being a part of the story-telling process. From script, to shoot, to editing and music selection, to fleshing out a character and finding their nuances… I love all of it. So for me, it’s not a matter of one being more important than the other, it’s a journey of self-expression that has many possible outlets.
How did your interest in this art form develop? Was there one or two things that sparked your interest?
I was always a creative kid. I had a fantastic imagination and I loved art of every kind. I would write stories and plays and then act them out with my friends, I would sing and dance and play make believe until babysitters quit and friends ran home. I loved anything that utilized my creative sensibilities and connected me to my body. As I got older, I found myself gravitating more and more towards theater and performing, and that became a passion as I moved into high school and college. What I eventually came to love about film over other mediums, is the tactile realism of it. The intimacy of it. I have always been drawn to character driven stories, and the subtleties of energy and emotions. Film captures the subtle nuances and exchanges of energy in a way other mediums don’t. The dance of dialogue and music and imagery, and the personality of the camera and how that helps tell the story… It’s special. As exhilarating as a live audience is, I like the illusion of privacy that a film gives its actors and its audience. It’s a journey that feels more intimate and personal.
What kinds of things did you do to prepare yourself as a young person to venture into the film industry?
I kept dreaming. I kept feeling the excitement in me when I thought about living that life, and I let those feelings guide me towards certain things and away from others. The truth is, the reality is nothing like the fantasy. As with most things. The experience of being out here and making movies is nothing like I imagined it would be, but the reality is ultimately better than any fantasy, because it’s real and it’s mine.
You have so many skills- dancing, martial arts, horseback riding, music, singing, etc. How did you manage to learn how to do so many different things?
I was always a fast learner, and when something strikes my interest, I can become passionately engrossed in it. I have an insatiable creative thirst and am always looking for new ways to express myself… and in my eyes, all of the things I do and have done connect to each other, and enhance each other.
Life is busy. How do you maintain your skill level with all of these things?
The things that I work at consistently are things that I love doing. If something feels like work, I am much more inclined to let it fall away. Its easy to get overwhelmed with the list of “shoulds” that we are bombarded with in this industry, and for me, it’s been a sorting process of finding out what matters to me, and putting enough trust in myself to let go of the rest.
In the U.S., there is so much emphasis on a female actresses being very slim, youthful looking and attractive. Do you find this to be true yourself? How do you feel about that? And, do you have an exercise and beauty regimen that you follow so that you can maintain your appearance?
Unfortunately, yes. The pressures on women to look a certain way is everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to avoid. I look at myself in the mirror with a critical eye rather than a loving one most of the time, and it’s so second nature I hardly ever catch myself doing it. I’m trying, more and more, to stop putting my focus on doing things because they will make me look a certain way, and instead put my energy into learning to love my body and myself the way that I am. This “ideal woman” in my head that I never live up to? She doesn’t exist. Whatever my body is doing when I’m happy and healthy…That’s the body I want to cultivate.
What is your goal when you write a film? Is there an underlying message in the things that create? Does that make sense? What is the basis of what you do?
I find myself consistently writing women that I relate to… exploring topics or issues that are current and curious in my own life, or situations that are so far removed from my own life that I want to see what it feels like to explore them. I like innate human drama, and delving into the things that cause people to question their beliefs. I like characters who grow throughout the story and learn something new about life or themselves. I like redemptive stories that speak to connections and hidden forces at work. My goal, most of the time, is to just get out of the way and let the story take me where it wants to go.
What kind of challenges do you face as a woman in this field?
Honestly? This is an exciting time to be a female filmmaker. The gender bias in Hollywood has been all over the media recently – people are speaking out about the abysmally low numbers of women directing films, and support is showing up to help change that. This is still a man’s business, and women have been historically overlooked, and had to work harder to get their voices heard… but it’s changing. I can feel the wheels turning, and I’m excited to see what unfolds in the coming years.
What has been the most exciting thing that you’ve done in life thus far? And, this doesn’t have to be related to film work, it is about your life in general.
The most exciting journey I have undertaken in the last five years has been the journey back to myself. Back to the present moment and into a place of trust in the flow of life. I used to hold things so rigidly and try to control everything. I felt like if I didn’t make things happen, nothing ever would. But through a series of events in my life, I have been forced to re-examine these beliefs, and have come to find that the most amazing and impactful things that have happened in my life came when I stopped pushing… or in spite of my efforts in another direction. I have slowly been finding my way into a place where I can sit back and enjoy whatever the day brings, and trust that it is all working in my favor. And in this frame of mind, whatever happens is good news. Happiness is no longer contingent on the external events in my life. And that… is freedom.
Have you played your favorite character yet? If not, when will she (or he) emerge?
What a great question. I haven’t played her yet. She may be a character in my next project… a film I wrote and will be directing called Follow the River. It’s an expansive feminine Western with a strong complex female lead that I am itching to play.
You’re very, very busy. Do you plan to have children in the future and if so, how do you think that will impact your career and endeavors?
The question of having children is still up in the air for me. I honestly don’t know. I personally feel that deciding to become a parent is a big responsibility and not something to be taken lightly. I want to make sure that if I do decide to have a child, I’m prepared to take the focus off of myself and make them my priority. And I’m not in a place in my life yet where I am ready to do that. There is still too much I want to do and learn and experience for and by myself first. But as with most things in life, priorities can change in a moment, and I could wake up tomorrow or in a year and want a child more than anything else. I’m open and I’m taking it day by day.
How do you support yourself when you are in-between projects?
I have worked many jobs at different times. I’ve been a personal assistant, I’ve done educational shows for kids, I’ve done customer service and fulfillment jobs, I’ve worked for production companies, I’ve worked one-on-one with clients as a coach and energy healer (which is another thing I do)… the list goes on.
Let’s say you are 97 years old, no longer able to work, but with lots of time to reflect on your life. What would this 97-year-old say has been her most crowning achievement?
Saying yes to life. Letting go of fears and stories of ruin and failure. Staying in the present moment and finding the beauty in everything that shows up. Allowing myself to swept on this journey of life like a curious child without attachment, and seeing what comes. That would be quite an achievement.