A Letter From Me, Jenna

Dear Filmmaker,

In 2003 I was cast in the final episode of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. As a fan of the show, it was a dream come true. As an actor, the role would test my belief in the phrase “there are no small roles, only small actors.”

You see, the role was only 7 seconds of screen time and the character’s name was “trailer girl.” Being someone who wanted to be a “big” actor, I went at the role with all the intensity I could muster.

My character was set in the middle of a montage where Buffy talks about standing up (in fact, the words over my scene are “can stand up, will stand up.” – now more than ever, those words resonate with me) as all potential slayers inherit their powers. Pretty cool in general. The thing that made this role even more intense for me was the fact that my character was being abused and when she inherits her powers, she blocks a punch from her abuser and literally stands up.

As someone who has suffered abuse in my past, I was honored to get the role and once I saw the powerful beauty of those 7 seconds actually come to life on screen, I couldn’t have been more honored…or so I thought.

Shortly after the episode aired, I was hit in the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Crash where 10 people died and over 60 of us were injured. I experienced severe PTSD that left me unable to read, I stuttered when I talked, I would forget basic words, I was having flashbacks everyday that would lead to panic attacks that would only stop when I passed out. I didn’t sleep for 8 months and I ended up in the hospital. It took me years before I could work again and even more time before I was fully recovered.

I tell you this because while I was healing and completely out of it, apparently there was a huge conversation about this montage that I didn’t know was happening until one day when I was at a film festival. This woman walked in and through a series of events found out I was in Buffy. She was a fan. She looked at me and burst into tears. It took her a minute to be able to form words but when she did, those words would change how I view what we do in the entertainment industry forever.

She said that she knew exactly who I was and that the role I played gave her the courage to leave her abusive boyfriend.

Let that sink in for a minute…

The 7 SECONDS on a TV show gave this woman the courage to save her own life.

That’s powerful.

Do you understand why I’m telling you this?

We have the power to change people’s lives.

That’s important. It’s also a great responsibility. The voice in my head shifted from “who do you think you are?” (a phrase on repeat in my head since before I can remember) to “who do you think you are not to follow your dreams/create this/be who you are?”

What we do is important.

Who are we to deny that?

Since then, I have so many other stories that are similar. All because of a small, seemingly insignificant 7 seconds. Think about that. 7 seconds on a funny vampire show on a channel geared towards teens.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I say this to say in a nut shell, if you have the desire to create content, do it. If you don’t know how, let me help you. If you know how but don’t feel supported, let me help with that as well.

Don’t stop yourself from living your dream.

With All My Creativity,