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Meet Vanessa Csordas-Jenkins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Csordas-Jenkins.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m not someone who knew from age seven that they wanted to be in the entertainment world, I definitely came around to it later than some of my peers. I’ve always had a lot of different interests. I was always a writer from a young age and did a little theatre in high school, but I also loved science. So I began pursuing biology at the beginning of college, only later deciding that I wanted to focus on the arts. Realizing that my obsession with SNL, comedy, and performing might be more of a passion than a hobby was big. That led me to try to get as close to theatre and film & TV as I could with my remaining time in undergrad. My department was cross-listed with Tisch at NYU, so fortunately, I was able to take some classes there. But it wasn’t until after I graduated that I put it together that I might want to try and be a director. I figured that it might combine a lot of the things I’ve always loved, like psychology: studying why people behave the way they do can be directly translated into studying character motivation. My love of performing: that energy can go towards working with actors.

And writing, of course, is an obvious component. My parents are both professors so I’ve always felt comfortable in and benefitted from an academic environment, so I chose to go to grad school for film. I just left that program in 2019 and have been trying to get a career going for myself, working several wage jobs and occasionally as a PA on sets to support myself as I go. The arrival of coronavirus, during an already difficult post-grad year of job hunting for something in my career field, has been pretty demoralizing, but I’m trying to keep my head above water in many ways. As we all are. Fortunately, I have a little project coming up with some lovely people, and I’m really excited to be back on set (with masks on!) and directing one of my favorite friends and actors again. That will definitely be a major breath of fresh air.

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?
Whose road is ever totally smooth? There have definitely been disappointments. I kind of mentioned it above, but it took a long time for me to decide what it was exactly that I wanted to pursue. Sometimes I still have doubts, but when that happens I try to remind myself how much I really enjoy being on set, working with actors. Having lots of interests is a double-edged sword in that way! It can lead to anxiety about making the “wrong” choice or going down the wrong path.

I also put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve things at a fairly young age, so it’s often easy to feel like I’m “behind” for my age or that my peers are doing so much better. But I think that pressure partially comes from the way our society is structured, too – and from social media…woof. Talk about a double-edged sword. There’s a lot of comparing oneself to others in creative fields — like, oh, they’re working so much harder than I am, or their ideas are so much stronger than mine. I’m still learning how to silence that voice in my head and stop comparing myself to others.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m mostly a director, but I do also write some of my own work. I love working closely with writer/producers to bring our mutual vision of a project to life. I try to focus on underrepresented characters and voices, and think it’s important to lean heavily into those points of view when telling a story on screen, whether communicating that perspective through performance, shot structure and composition, or sound design. It’s also really important to me to work with people who typically aren’t represented behind the camera. I’m very open to projects right now, so please reach out if any of this speaks to you, too!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being kind and conscientious feels most important to me. Both personally, in how I try to move through the world, and in terms of how far anyone will get in general. But it has to be real, right? You can’t be fake nice. And that will usually make you feel worse too because you know you’re being disingenuous. I actually have a (perhaps irrational) fear of being perceived as disingenuous. Should probably talk to a therapist about that. That said, you can be warm-hearted, but that doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you. There’s a line between being respectful of others and sticking up for yourself. Being creative, clever, and original is important in the entertainment world, but if no one wants to be around you or work with you because you don’t treat people well, then what’s the point?

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Image Credit:

Camryn Eakes, Hannah Mattner, Rachel Bickert

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