Photo Courtesy of Lesley Bohm
People 25 January 2018
Tanna Frederick seems to do it all. As an actress, philanthropist and athlete, Frederick can't be stopped. She has won multiple awards for her acting chops including Method Fest's “Performer to Watch", the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival's “Maverick" Award and Best Actress at World Fest Houston, Montana International Film Festival, Fargo Film Festival and the Wild Rose Film Festival.
The Iowa native doesn't limit herself to performing, she also founded the Iowa Film Festival and Project Save Our Surf, a nonprofit dedicated to ocean conservation, improving the availability of freshwater to those in need. SWAAY sat down with Frederick to find out about the hard work and dedication she puts forward to keep up with her active lifestyle and many hats she wears.
Photo Courtesy of Tanna Frederick
1. When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
7 years old.
2. What were some challenges you face being the first female producer of a VR narrative?
If I brought to light all of the challenges I would be doing a disservice to all of the new frontiers available. I prefer to focus on the chasms being bridged every day between the sexes in the arena of women in tech.
3. You've won a lot of awards for your work how does it feel to be recognized for your talent?
I think all of these awards are incredible and am infinitely thankful for them. I am very thankful for the nature of my being as an artist, though, and the 'divine dissatisfaction' that occurs with it. There is no competitor in the world as vicious as myself. I am proud of the work I've done but never satisfied with it.
That keeps my inner critic, as long as I can withhold her, in a constant battle to push further and consistently recreate myself as an artist without a bar. There is no bar to be set. Our bar as artists is to discover more and push ourselves more. It's like pushing a boulder uphill to keep up with my own criticism and be satiated with my own work.
4. We know you love fitness, how do you incorporate it into your busy schedule?
It keeps me sane. It's a non-option…A necessity. I center myself by looking to my physical core when emotions are tough in work.
5. How do you think your athletic abilities help you in your career?
I could not have sustained the last show I did without them. As an artist, my body is my tool. It goes beyond an aesthetic vision. It is the physical manifestation of what I have worked at. It's how I look at Athena as a symbol of women in modern times. She was wise, athletic, and an artisan. I admire the balance and necessity for being a modern, 'Renaissance woman' in this culture. It's hard to come by, but it is my standard I set for myself.
6. Can you tell us a little about “Project Save Our Surf"?
We all have a backyard, so to speak. Mine is now in Santa Monica because of my occupation in California. All of us need to keep our backyards clean and healthy for all of our neighbors who are in our 'community garden'. Whatever state or region I live in, I'd take care of the native terrain and will continue to do so. My roots gave me that coming from the Midwest. I'll always keep that ethically intact.
7. You also founded the Iowa Film Festival, what inspired you?
Access to art. There is a great divide in terms of artistic commodification and geographics in this country. It is getting better and has gotten better but I think it is a great struggle to bring new artists to light between New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Filming incentives in Iowa were nil when I moved to California for job opportunities. The most we could hope for as actors were extras in huge budget films shooting in larger cities brought in by studios from the West Coast.
There is the Iowa cliche in film which constitutes an idea of all budding directors and actors and producers coming from Iowa or some state that begins with a vowel. But the reality is the industry is built on those transplants and their dreams. It's just a shame that because of tax breaks or cheap labor the industry takes advantage and moves projects from state to state. I was trying to set up shop for more opportunities in the Midwest. Voices that haven't been heard and deserve to be heard. I want to help smaller voices to be loud and strong no matter what the socio-economic supposed values of the region are.
8. What were some difficulties you had starting “Project Save Our Surf" and the Iowa Film Festival?
Hearing 'no' all the time. After a while, I think I got so used to hearing the word 'no' that I became immune to it. I think that I've trained myself to hear 'no' as 'maybe'. That's probably one of the best gifts I've received being an artist operating outside of the system.
9. What is your favorite role you've played?
There is no favorite, only the role I'm intimidated by. There are preserved traditions in film and theatre that actors should want to recreate and the biggest compliment would be to have done such a thorough and brave attempt at capturing a playwright or screenwriters vision that I would inspire more recreation of the playwright's work.
Photo Courtesy of SwedenWithLove
It's my job as an actor to make the playwright look brilliant. Being a student at the University of Iowa and given that challenge to communicate an individual's vision was eye-opening. It's not about me or anybody's perception but about being a working cog in the clock to communicate to an audience.
10. What is your dream role?
Each role I play is a dream role. It's not about me but the common vision of the team I'm on. In each production, everyone has a life and family and ends up going home to their husbands or wives or kids wanting to feel they made something happen that was worth giving up their time for this crazy business. If I can help facilitate that, I'm happy at the end of the day. There's a unity to each production that when it falls into place, you feel it. You feel people going home at the end of the night who have all been working for a common vision. When the lights are turned off and everyone takes a breath before locking up, there's a feeling of stillness and peace. That's what production is about. That ten minutes after your stage manager or crew departs and that beautiful ten minutes of happiness before I realize I need to wake myself up the next day and start all over again. I think that feeling bleeds into any profession. But especially as an artist it's all about precision and being a part of a team. And completion.
11. Who is inspires you most?
I am always inspired. This business is crazy. Anyone who puts themselves into this battlefield is certifiable. But I am most inspired by those who do. My DIT who's job it is to sit with the equipment and makes sure that all of the footage is backed up until everyone has left the building is my hero. My makeup artist - who will redo a wound forty-three times to make it look legit before she wakes up to teach college classes at six in the morning the next day and goes home to read her kids a bedtime story - is awe inspiring.
12. What is some advice you have for girls who want to start a nonprofit or want to be in the entertainment industry?
The best mindset I was taught is not to believe that I 'wanted' to be an artist or philanthropist or athlete but to understand that by striving for my own sense of ideals and broadening horizons, I was enough.
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.