Today we’d like to introduce you to Fiori Carmen.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Creative expression is something I need to survive. I’ve always been much stronger communicating and connecting to people through creativity whether it be photography, film, art, music, or sports.
I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands. My father was a photographer and my mother a business owner with a past in modeling. Models would walk in and out of the house on the daily as the photography studio was attached to our house. My mother’s business was also attached to the house. Therefore, I’ve always been surrounded by entrepreneurship and creativity.
Growing up, my dreams fluctuated between becoming and actress, producing music, and playing in the Olympics. When I was 16, I went to Los Angeles to take an acting course at NYFA. It was there that I discovered a love for the camera both in front and behind. As I continued to practice acting in the Netherlands, I became more expressive, more conscious of my emotions, and developed a greater understanding of myself as a person.
My parents separated when I was nine years old. Music was always something that was there for me. Throughout life, when I come across obstacles, I still tend to face towards music or other art forms like drawing or photography. The ability to create through various mediums and tools is what carries me through life.
My two older sisters and I played field hockey growing up and it was because of my passion for sports that I was able to come to the United States. I was recruited by the University at Albany in Upstate New York where I played Division I field hockey from 2012-2016. This was my opportunity to combine all my passions. I studied music, art, film, and psychology all while continuing to play the sport I love.
Having a father as a photographer deeply influenced my tendency to document everything about life. Simply put, I thought it was the right thing to do. So, I started photographing and filming our field hockey seasons, summer travels, and with the rise of social media platforms, I began sharing my work. During my time at the university, I took a creative writing class. I wrote a one act play as a homework assignment. This was the first time I ever wrote something. My teacher encouraged me to submit this piece to the University’s Playwright Festival. The next thing I knew my play had been selected to be produced on stage. Seeing my words come to life through human performance was truly magical. In that moment, I realized I needed to continue to explore and pursue a creative career.
After finishing my undergrad degree, I had to go back to the Netherlands. From here, I applied to screenwriting MFA’s. I realized going back to school for a MFA would be the only way to go back to the USA. It wasn’t until two years later that I got accepted into Loyola Marymount University’s MFA for Film and Television Production.
Within those two years, I started to become more active with photography. I quickly learned that the camera was my most powerful tool. I am currently in the 2nd year of my graduate film school education. Throughout my time here, I’ve fallen in love with directing, cinematography and photography. In addition to being the cinematographer for seven short films, I have directed two of my own. I am also developing my passion through portrait photography and have recently collaborated with several musicians. I believe my passion for music heavily influences my desire to photograph musical artists.
Visual storytelling is such a strong tool to reach people, share thoughts, and start conversations. I strongly believe that in order to find more peace in this world we need to find our common ground in the acceptance of our differences. Change can come in all different shapes and sizes. It can start with a simple conversation between two people. I strongly believe that filmmaking and photography can accomplish just that. One single image can say and evoke so much more than words ever can.
I’ve been surrounded by strong females my entire life. This heavily influences the work I feel like I am able to pursue and accomplish. My style of storytelling will always include themes of female empowerment. My mission is to move through old stereotypes and elevate the portrayal of women to a new normal. Being in Los Angeles is the greatest gift I’ve ever received as I am surrounded by so many skillful, talented, creative individuals each and every day. This inspires me constantly and I cannot wait to see where the next few years will take me.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I strongly believe there is no value in anything that comes effortlessly. To achieve or accomplish anything worthwhile doesn’t arrive without obstacles or struggles. So yes, of course there have been struggles along the way and I am ready for many more… I think one great thing about being a creative storyteller is the ability to shape the negative aspects of struggle into something positive. Hardship often fuels creativity and great stories are created from that energy. I’ve come to see struggle as a part of my journey as well as something I need in order to tell stories and connect to others. Whether it is comedy or drama, we tend to connect through common struggle. We may not experience that struggle in the exact same ways, but the essence of it is what we all experience. Without it, you do not live a whole life.
One thing that has brought me the most struggle is being a non-us citizen. I’ve always known I wanted to go to the United States, specifically LA. The work ethic in the U.S. and being able to dream beyond limits has always been something that has attracted me to this country. And if I had the freedom to do so, I would’ve moved here when I was 12 and started a career freely. However, I do not have that freedom and have had to find different ways to pursue my goals. School has been the only feasible means to do so.
I’m now 25 and have been moving back and forth between the U.S. and the Netherlands for the past nine years. Being in grad school is sort of my last chance. I’ve got about 1-2 more years to prove myself and receive a special visa that will allow me to stay here as a creative. This adds another layer of pressure to my creative performance. However, I try not to let myself be controlled by pressure but instead be fueled by it.
It is also very difficult to be consistently far away from my family. It’s a sacrifice that I am reminded of every day. It’s tough to realize the time I am missing out on with them. Especially when someone is not doing well health-wise but simultaneously also when really great things are happening. Having to miss out on important moments good and bad adds pressure to make this work. After all, I want them to be proud.
Being a female in the industry also comes with its struggles. As a woman, you need to work that much harder in order to gain respect and authority. In my experience, there is this subconscious doubt and ignorance towards females until we prove ourselves. Rather than dwelling, I try to let this elevate my work ethic. More reasons to work harder and better and learn every day.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My current creative focus is towards directing, cinematography, and photography. I attempt to combine my photography and filmmaking skills with my passion for athletics and music.
I absolutely love capturing the personalities of creative talents. As creatives, we’re often in our own world and our own headspaces. Through our creative skill, we express our inner worlds and unique perspectives. My photography has allowed me the privilege of capturing the harmony between an individual’s inner world and their essential need to express.
With photography, there is a sense of creative freedom, I constantly let myself be guided by the subject and try my best to frame their personality above all else. This is one of the biggest challenges every time I have a shoot, but also one of my biggest accomplishments when I execute it…
With directing as well as photography, I feel very passionate about making my subjects feel comfortable and expressive in front of the camera. In regards to directing, I love connecting with actors, I love listening to them, and I love discovering how they internalize the written character and bring it to life. It’s a magical experience to have a collaborative conversation with actors to see how deep they can go with a character and emotions. In addition, I love thinking about how the camera movement, angles, lighting, wardrobe, sound and production design can aid the story and actors. I love to collaborate with people who specialize in these departments. I am always amazed at how their ideas can elevate the creative vision I have and the story I am trying to tell.
Often photographers, directors, and cinematographers have a brand or a certain style that they are comfortable with, specialize in, and sell. Maybe I am still too “young” to realize this is needed to survive in the industry, however, I don’t try to create my style and apply that whoever is in front of me. I feel like this is limiting to my own creativity as well as that of the person in front of the camera. Of course, with anything I do, my own voice and touch is embedded within the product. However, I don’t force it upon the subject. I’m always thinking of ways to apply my skills to the style and mood of the subject. I’m not afraid to take risks and try new things. I’m constantly learning and absorbing knowledge, and most of all I’m active about seeking new inspiration. And with every new person I meet, my creative horizons are once again expanded.
I believe what sets me apart is my ability to listen and connect to individuals quickly: making people feel safe and accepted for who they are in a timely manner is a skill and something that makes my job worthwhile. Creating a safe and comfortable environment for people is always my priority.
What were you like growing up?
I have never really changed much. How I am now is very much how I was growing up, as far as I remember. I’ve always been very focused, determined, committed to my goals. I always dreamt big. Nothing is small in my life. If I decide to go for something, I tend to think big and reach for the stars.
When I was little, I was always doing something. I would either be building tree houses with my friends, playing field hockey or tennis, playing the piano, rehearsing little plays or dances with my friends, or playing games. I would often create non-existing games with my friends, draw out a play board and a map and go on adventures outside.
From what I can remember, I had many dreams including: becoming a doctor for doctors without borders, an olympic athlete and a music performer. Slowly this developed into a desire to become an actress as I thought through acting I could experience being everything.
While growing up, I always admired both of my sisters. They were (and still are) my biggest inspirations and idols. I learned a lot of lessons through their mistakes, this has saved me a lot of trouble and time.
My parents separated when I was quite young. I think this impacted the way I grew up as I started to learn how to be on my own, become my own person, be more of an observer, and listen. I had to grow up a bit earlier than other people my age. I started to learn very early on that my parents are two individuals with their own lives that are separate from mine or my sisters and that they each have had an entire life before any of us were born. I always remained in contact with both of my parents as individuals and became someone they confided in. Which taught me a lot about people from an early age and has taught me how to forgive quite quickly.
I was outgoing in an introverted way, which I still am. I’ve never been loud. I observe, pick and choose my times. I expressed myself through actions through creativity and sport.
I was never part of a specific group of people. I was always friends with a variety of people that belonged to different groups, and I floated in between. I always enjoyed spending time with friends. I was also good at being by myself, doing things alone, but I also always enjoyed being surrounded by other people. I did always like being with a small group, as it is easier to express myself and have my voice be heard with less people.
I believe being the youngest has given me the gift of being a listener and observer.
Po Wei Su, Fiori Carmen, Eden Daniel