Today we’d like to introduce you to Autumn Withers.
Autumn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My life has had many acts! I grew up in Myrtle Beach, SC, and studied contemporary dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts. At 18 years old, my dance career was on fire. I performed with modern dance companies, on Broadway, toured with the Radio City Rockettes, set original works of choreography, instructed young dancers across the country, and served as artistic director for a theatre camp of 125 students. In between gigs, I managed to cull together semesters of study to graduate summa cum laude with a degree in Writing from the University of Georgia.
In my late twenties, a dance injury redirected my creative path towards acting and writing. I studied with renowned teachers and schools and did stage plays and readings. My dance background supported my connection to characters and stories. The body is a phenomenal acting tool, it never lies. I began to work in commercials, then TV roles, more plays, and Sundance indie films. It was a life transition and creative rebirth.
After working on a female-centric film, inspired by true events, helmed by a filmmaker through the AFI Women’s Directing Program, I understood the value of writing my own work. Through kismet, I met one of my writing partners, Ryann Ferguson, and we instantly got to work with a shared goal to bring untapped female stories center stage. Within three months, we were sitting at HBO pitching our first TV pilot. Talk about an odd path from the ballet barre, but that’s how the creative path flows sometimes.
My passion for empowering women and female-forward projects extends to founding the Hollywood Women’s Collective, a membership-based women’s goal group dedicated to supporting women creatives and engendering a spirit of support, collaboration, and giving back. I am also a member of New York Women in Film & Television.
I feel lucky to get to do this work, playing and writing make-believe, and to collaborate with other artists. My greatest role to date is being mom to my daughter and raising her with my artist husband, Gideon Emery. She keeps this zany profession in simple perspective and makes me a better creator.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No and yes. (Casual answer from a Libra, huh?) Choosing a creative career path is a perpetual date with uncertainty. It’s playful, it’s hellish, it’s inspiring, it’s surging forth, then muddling through. It’s abundant, it’s empty, it’s non-linear, it’s deep commitment; it’s full of freedom and aliveness. It’s an altogether worthwhile journey that I know well first-hand as an artist and coach myself.
I don’t know that the road has gotten smoother but perspective and age has made it seem so. I used to sincerely struggle with comparison despair and contorting myself into the expectations and conjecture of peers, desperately chasing successes. This faded when I began to stand in the field of my own power and genuinely embrace that what is meant for me can never miss me. I began to savor success more this way, without making it mean anything about my worth as a woman.
Meditation remains one of the most powerful life tools that has benefited every corner of my world. I’ve been a Vedic meditator for eleven years now, initially instructed by meditation guru Betty Jones. This steady practice has lessened the ping-ponging between habitual thoughts of helplessness and fury, which is really useful in an industry riddled with rejection and non-linear career progression. It has granted me inner stability and peace, deepened my gratitude, plus strengthened my muscle of awareness. It’s also laser-pointed my focus on what is truly in my control, which is being myself and creating characters, stories, and worlds that I love in the most vivid way possible.
The other guiding lessons that are taking deeper root for me are to trust my voice and creative instinct above all else, to be okay with disappointing others over disappointing myself, to only allow certain respected opinions into my sacred headspace, to keep a learner’s mindset, and to remember that my dreams are for my joy– if ever they feel chronically miserable, it’s time to find a new dream.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I see myself as a multi-passionate storyteller. As an actor, writer, and producer, I’m most keen to tell stories that enrich women’s lives. I’m also drawn to the slice of life, subtle intricacies of marital and familial relationships and how they shape identity and our sense of what’s possible.
One of my writing strengths is dexterity with mining ugly truths while bringing a comedic bent and a real sense of hope. I recently finished writing a semi-autobiographical feature, a dark comedy which, without giving too much away, dives deep into the carefully guarded places we’ve traditionally tucked under the rug about the female experience and body.
I’m also proud of the multiple TV scripts I’ve put out into the world with my two different writing partners, Ryann Ferguson and Darren O’Hare. Ryann and I were matchmade by our parents, committed hippies together in the 70s (true story). While Darren and I met as pretend husband/wife in the romp of a play, “Is There Sex After Marriage?” Neither one of us has a firm answer yet, but it’s a nice feeling to collaborate and create stories with two lovely humans and dedicated storytellers who get me as an artist.
As an actor, I’ve had some lucky strides playing roles on culturally important TV shows from Modern Family and Masters of Sex to Grey’s Anatomy, and delightful indies like Avalanche, which I also co-produced. Having become a mother recently, I feel a newfound depth and alchemy in my work. Motherhood is a mysterious humanizing marathon. I don’t think women are given enough credit for the physical and emotional expense they bear when becoming mothers, from hormonal overwhelm to relationship struggles to boob saggage to challenges merging motherhood with a career while both tug at the heart. I’m drawn to characters that reveal these complex aspects of being a woman and motherhood.
Speaking of women, five years ago I followed an inner nudge toward female togetherness and created a membership-based women’s goal group, known as the Hollywood Women’s Collective. Founding the HWC has upped my accountability with myself and the things in my life I choose as top priority. It has deepened existing friendships and brought phenomenal women into my circle. It has given me chances to lead, to accept help, to be a more open-hearted collaborator, to celebrate myself and the micro-wins, to take off the mask of pretense, to volunteer in beautiful ways. I’ve found greater self-respect and respect of other female perspectives. I’ve benefited from the presence of powerful women gathering to share, to be real, to inspire. I believe that women thrive when they link up.
Another arm of my creative work is leading workshops and women’s group events. I’ve taken my years of working professionally as a writer and actor, self-growth research, vedic meditation experience, and women’s group leadership and distilled it into effective goal-setting strategies and simple daily practices specifically geared for those on a creative path as well as those seeking to infuse their business with deeper self-expression and joy.
My scope of coaching covers writing and TV pitching, goal-setting techniques for creatives, customized career guidance, and working with entrepreneurs on their business story crafting and presentation skills.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Flashback to the 80s: I wrote a book when I was six about a girl who gets lost from her family and is taken in by “a circle of giraffes.” Clearly, a dark comedy. I drew illustrations and used cardboard and wrapping paper for my book art and cover. I subjected my entire collection of cabbage patch dolls and the family dog, Tasia, to my first staged reading. I played all the roles.
In second grade, we had to select pen-pals from a list of cities velcroed to a felt board. I picked someone in Hollywood and wrote that I would be there one day to act in and write important stories. Perhaps we could meet? My pen-pal wrote back explaining he was actually in Hollywood, Florida, and he hoped that didn’t make me sad. And he hoped to watch me in good movies and that he wanted to be an eye doctor. (Very sensible choice.) All this time later, here I am, in the other Hollywood, glad to be doing the work of a storyteller. And I hope my pen-pal is out there somewhere, happy and keeping eyeballs healthy.
- Creative coaching – $125 hour
- Business story crafting for entrepreneurs – $250 hour
- Website: https://www.autumnwithers.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/autwithers/
- Other: http://www.hollywoodwomenscollective.com
Leslie Hassler, Rob Daly