I read a quote the other day that really resonated with me. It was “Love is not what you say. Love is what you show.” I would love to start a movement of people starting to SHOW each other that they love them. There is too much hate in the world. Words are easy to say and nice to hear, but actions always speak louder than words. Do something nice for someone everyday. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little thing or a big thing. Oftentimes it’s the little things that occupy the biggest part of their hearts anyway. A few years ago I was sitting on the stoop of a building on 44th Street and 9th Avenue, crying after an upsetting phone call I had just had. My head was down and I was wiping my eyes. All of a sudden this hand popped up in front me holding an amethyst rock. When I finally looked up, this very kind looking young man, probably about the age of 25, was standing there. He said to me… “I overheard your conversation and it seems to me that you are in a lot of pain. I have this amethyst and I carry it with me wherever I go. It is supposed to help with healing and light and right now it is clear to me that you can use it more than I can, Please take it.” I slowly took it out of his hand and stared at it. By the time I looked up to thank him, he was gone. I wish I could tell him how much that little gesture meant to me. I wish I could tell him how it not only brought a smile to my face, but how it, in one second, restored my faith in humanity. I wish I could tell him after all these years, I’m so thankful that he stopped to help a distressed stranger on the street because it meant a lot… and I wish I could tell him that I carry that stone wherever I go, because I do.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Robyn Babina. Robyn is an actress and co-owner of Gladiolus Productions, LLC (a female run production company) whose first feature film, “The Dog Walker,” is currently making the festival rounds. After teaching children for 15 years, Robyn made a late-in-life career change and set out to follow her dreams. She is based in NYC.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Even when I was little, acting was my passion. I used to put on little plays, give out tickets, and made my parents and friends watch me perform for hours. I was free of doubts, took risks as children do, and felt like I could do anything. But somewhere along the line, that changed. I began to feel insecure about my looks, and growing up in the days of [television series] Beverly Hills, 90210 where everyone on TV was a size 0 with long beautiful blond hair, I thought that that I would never have a chance to work in front of the camera. However, I still wanted to be part of the world I loved, so I opted to find other ways to feel connected and ultimately earned a BFA in film/drama with a focus in film production from Syracuse University. When I graduated college, I tried many different types of “behind the scenes” jobs to break into the industry. With each opportunity I felt less and less fulfilled and, after three years, I finally left the business all together and decided to go back to school to become a teacher, which was another dream of mine.
I taught middle school for 15 years and for 10 of them I also taught drama. In some ways, I felt I was still part of the industry, I was just teaching others to act instead of doing it myself. After a while, my students began asking me practical questions: What is is like to be on a big set? What is it like to be on a large stage? How can I be on television? Sadly, I didn’t have any answers for them.
Then one day, around my 40th birthday, I decided it was my time. No more excuses, no more second guessing, no more fear, I needed to go out there and at least try or I would regret it forever. I joined a local theater group, I worked background on some TV shows in NYC, I started to act in short films, I was in commercials, and I even started taking acting classes myself. Immersing myself in this world made me realize that it didn’t matter what I looked like, because there were roles for all types of people in these different mediums. It only really mattered what I felt like when I was on that set or on that stage. And make no mistake, that feeling of “I can do anything,” just like when I was younger, came back in full force. That next school year, I was no longer teaching drama, I was actually doing it, and I haven’t looked back since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Taking acting classes in NYC is an extremely interesting but raw experience. Every week you have to put yourself out there in front of people you don’t know and expose your every emotion to give the scene life. Most of the people I encountered in these classes were much younger than me, just getting out of acting school, and wanting to continue their studies. However, one of my first acting classes was different and there was a mix of ages, types, ranges, abilities and characters. It was a fun, diverse crowd, and I loved it just for that. On our first day of class, this girl sat next to me and we starting chatting. I immediately realized she was very smart and extremely driven and we became fast friends. One day she called me and told me that she wrote a script. She wanted another girl in our class to play the lead, and wanted me to play the lead’s best friend… would I do it? That one phone call lead to the birth of our all-woman boutique production company, Gladiolus Productions. Gladiolus was formed in 2013, by myself, and my two partners Kylie Garcelon and Orly Shemesh. We have since produced three big projects, all written by Kylie: Gluteny (short film), Moral Compass (short film), and The Dog Walker (feature film). We have been invited to over 15 film festivals as official film selections for Gluteny and Moral Compass (The Dog Walker is just hitting the film festival circuit now) and we have won four big awards in all different categories for these projects. I even won my first Best Supporting Actress award at the 2016 Atlantic City Cinefest for my role of Ashley Wainwright in Moral Compass.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started out in the business, for the first year, I did a lot of background work. I loved the hustle and bustle of being on the set and I made some really wonderful friends. As extras, we were always told to leave our phones in the holding area when we were working, so that it didn’t ring or didn’t disturb anyone while they were performing. This one time though, I put my phone in my pocket and I didn’t realize it was there. I walked on set and was standing at my first position waiting for action to be called. It was very quiet and no one was speaking. All of a sudden I hear my own voice. I look down at the phone in my pocket and it’s playing back a recording of a scene I had done with a partner earlier that week in class. I was mortified. I shut it off as quickly as I could but not before the star of the show turned around, glared at me, shook her head slowly and walked away. I thought for sure I was going to get thrown off set, and I stood there waiting to be escorted out of the room. Luckily that didn’t happen, BUT I did learn a valuable lesson. I never bring my phone to set any more.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
After a year and a half in production, Gladiolus just completed our first feature film called The Dog Walker. It was an arduous project from start to finish and we have just started submitting it to festivals. Hopefully we will hear some good news soon. The Dog Walker is a psychological thriller, written and directed by Kylie (Garcelon), and I play the lead role in the film, Samantha Jones. This role was a very difficult one for me to play as throughout the film you witness the consistent unraveling of an already fragile woman. That being said, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to guide me through the trials and tribulations of what my character goes through than Kylie. She is not only an amazing friend, but also a professional from beginning to end and I was thrilled to take this ride with her at the helm. Aside from The Dog Walker, Gladiolus is in the process of starting to prepare for a our next project which will also be written and directed by Kylie. We are hoping this one turns out to be a rom com.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This is a very tough business. I always say it’s unforgiving. You really have to want it. You really have to work hard for it and you have to do everything you can to stay current. You have to constantly update your profiles, you have to constantly better yourself by taking classes. Only one person (out of thousands sometimes) can get the job. If you can’t find work, you should be creating your own. Do what you love all the time! Don’t wait around for it to come to you. Whether it’s shooting a scene with a friend on an iPhone, or creating a web series, or writing a script. Just keep creating. Maybe you’ll find some part of this business you love more than acting. As Dori [in Finding Nemo] says… “just keep swimming.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I read a quote the other day that really resonated with me. It was “Love is not what you say. Love is what you show.” I would love to start a movement of people starting to SHOW each other that they love them. There is too much hate in the world. Words are easy to say and nice to hear, but actions always speak louder than words. Do something nice for someone everyday. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little thing or a big thing. Oftentimes it’s the little things that occupy the biggest part of their hearts anyway.
A few years ago I was sitting on the stoop of a building on 44th Street and 9th Avenue, crying after an upsetting phone call I had just had. My head was down and I was wiping my eyes. All of a sudden this hand popped up in front me holding an amethyst rock. When I finally looked up, this very kind looking young man, probably about the age of 25, was standing there. He said to me… “I overheard your conversation and it seems to me that you are in a lot of pain. I have this amethyst and I carry it with me wherever I go. It is supposed to help with healing and light and right now it is clear to me that you can use it more than I can, Please take it.” I slowly took it out of his hand and stared at it. By the time I looked up to thank him, he was gone. I wish I could tell him how much that little gesture meant to me. I wish I could tell him how it not only brought a smile to my face, but how it, in one second, restored my faith in humanity. I wish I could tell him after all these years, I’m so thankful that he stopped to help a distressed stranger on the street because it meant a lot… and I wish I could tell him that I carry that stone wherever I go, because I do.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be the best version of yourself that you can be. Be nice, be kind, be gracious, be giving. Everyone is battling a war that you don’t know about.
- Take classes and be a part of an acting group. I am really lucky to have a such a supportive community in the MN Acting Studio. Matt Newton has been my teacher for over a year and a half (we met when he coached me for The Dog Walker) and he has been an amazing influence. Not only does he support my independent goals, but he pushes me to be the best I can be and to be proud of my accomplishments in and out of class. He always holds me to the highest standard because he knows that is what I need in order to grow as an actress and I’ve come such a long way under his wing.
- Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time, it takes courage, and it takes support. Ask for help, rely on your friends and family, don’t go at it alone. Everyone needs someone or something to keep them going. Find that someone or something.
- Always be doing something to make yourself better. Create your own work or take a class. Find one or two partners to help you motivate. It’s so hard waiting for the phone to ring and its devastating when it doesn’t. When I’m in between big projects, I’m always looking for people to collaborate with — asking people to meet up or to brainstorm ideas. If they can’t or don’t want to, I move on to someone else. Who knows what we may be able to accomplish if we put our minds to it. Plus, it is a lot of fun too.
- Know your type and study well known actors who you identify with that type. Find out what makes them tick, how they go about reaching their goals, how they prepare for a role. I bet you can learn a lot from them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No regrets.” Recently that has been a big one for me. I don’t want to regret not doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I want to take risks and live life to the fullest. I was too scared when I was younger to put myself out there and try, and now I’m not wasting another minute.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband is my biggest support. He brings out the best in me and helps me strive to reach my goals. He encourages me to do things regardless of how difficult they are and he doesn’t let me take the easy way out even when I really want to. He sacrifices things in his life, so that I can do what I love. I’m extremely lucky and very thankful for him. We’ve been together over 20 years.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
There are quite a few actors that I respect so much for all they went through to get to where they are today. Ones who have slept in their cars, who lived through addiction and came out the other side, ones who wanted nothing more than to act and would do anything to get there. Ones who took side jobs that they are embarrassed about, ones who needed to make ends meet to feed their families, ones who lost parents at a young age and had to raise themselves and their siblings alone. I don’t want to name any one in particular, but if they are reading this, I want them to know they are very much respected by not only me, but the acting community as a whole.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
IG: @rdsbabina or @thedogwalkermovie
FB: Robyn Sacks Babina, The Dog Walker, Moral Compass
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!