When you believe you are at your best; when you are achieving your goal; when you want inspiration, go and have lunch with Maria Sten.
I dare you.
You will soon realise that there are too many hours in the day that you are not filling.
Writer, director, producer and star of up-coming short film When It Burns , Sten is a woman in Hollywood truly doing it for herself.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sten always had a passion for the arts and moved to the United States after graduating high school at the age of 17.
As well as her achievements in film, Sten is a dancer, model (she has competed for her country in Miss Universe), can speak four languages, and is basically better at everything than all of us. The worst part is that she a genuinely lovely person so you can’t even hate her for being better than you.
When did you know that the film industry was the right path for you?
‘Good question! I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I started out as a dancer, then became a singer and finally found acting and film-making.
‘I’ve been writing most of my life as well, whether it’s songs or poetry, or that novel about a prince on a horse when I was twelve, inspired by a visit to Poland at the time. I think I’m a storyteller more than anything else; through voice, movement, words or visuals, or just making plain old shit up because people ask me to “tell them one of my crazy stories,” I revere and love storytelling.’
Your latest project When It Burns, is an intense depiction of modern love, how was the writing process?
‘It was a long development process to get the script to its final form. I probably went through 15 rewrites. Narrative shorts are different from features; they’re shorter obviously, which means trying to figure out what exactly this story was about, what was unique about it and how to bring that across and push the right buttons while taking the audience on a journey in under 15 minutes.’
Tell us more about the human story within the film.
[This blog continues to be dedicated to telling human stories behind the art we see on the screen. The following answer was chosen from a series of interview questions due to it’s importance for those readers currently involved in a potentially toxic relationship]
‘When It Burns is a push/pull dark drama that tells the story of Kate and Luke, two young lovers struggling with their inner demons, their dreams and the idea of love. Kate and Luke are two very passionate characters, so every emotion they have is intensified; the deeper they love, the harder they fall.
‘Through themes like insufficiency, indulgence, self-compromise, addiction and indirect violence we witness how the more some people feel like they need each other, the more damage they do by staying together. I wanted to lay the circumstances out in such a way that we can understand both sides of their struggle, and also to forebode how everyday relationship problems such as financial difficulties and miscommunication could be a downwards spiral in to darkness.
‘When It Burns is definitely a passion project for me, created in an effort to promote awareness about a known issue from a new perspective: the subtle grey area of domestic abuse; what is considered actual abuse – whether mental or physical – and why is it so hard to distinguish before it’s too late?’
Is there anything in particular that inspires you to do everything yourself?
‘I have always been very independent by nature, and I embrace and need the freedom that comes from independence. I’ve always wanted to do things on my own, explore life, make my own decisions and learn from my mistakes. Maybe it’s my way to always challenge myself to be better. Taking on the writer, director, producer and lead role of this film has definitely been a challenge, but I was very specific on what I wanted to do with the story.
‘Making film, however, has also made me really appreciate and embrace collaboration. Because you just can’t make film all alone. It’s a collaboration.’
How was the filming process on such a small budget and time-scale?
‘Everything came down to super meticulous planning and impeccable teamwork through the execution. I was in pre-production for about four months to prep for our three-day shoot, because we had to be so efficient and work so fast to get everything done and more importantly, get it done right. You also have to be great at deal making, especially when working on tight a budget. You have to get creative to get the money to reach far enough, and most of all you have to be passionate about what you are doing. I’m talking about no sleep for weeks, striving to work twice as hard as anyone on your team, laying the ground work and putting in the time.’
What advice do you have for immigrants trying to practice their skills in Los Angeles?
‘Be patient. Be persistent. Be passionate.
‘You need relentless persistence because you have to fight harder than everyone else; you have to fight just to be here, to prove your worthiness of working in the US, just to be allowed to compete against all the Americans who didn’t have that obstacle… and once you’re here, you need to stay persistent. I know I didn’t trade in my free healthcare and free education to come and enjoy the weather. I came here to work, to do what I love, and that is where my focus is. My time goes to acting, writing and filmmaking and nothing else… because why else bother with this whole circus?
‘Which leads me to “being passionate:” The be-all and end-all of the equation. The reason why we bother: because some of us just can’t not bother. I believe that if you have dream, you should follow it. Life is what you make it. You just have to be willing to put in the work.’
In answer to the title question, being Maria Sten is beautiful but totally f*cking knackering.