Rising Star Jeanette Bonner: “We don’t have enough female leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. The next generation becomes stronger, bolder, and more well balanced when we increase that visibility. Visibility births equality.”
…Thank you for saying that. Something that has really been firing me up recently is the issue of gender inequality not just in the entertainment industry but almost exclusively in every industry. We don’t have enough female leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. The next generation becomes stronger, bolder, and more well balanced when we increase that visibility. Visibility births equality. This is certainly not a movement I’m starting by any means, but it’s on my personal agenda, and I’m working to improve female visibility whenever I have the opportunity to.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanette Bonner, an award-winning actor, writer, and creative producer in NYC. Her self-produced solo show Love. Guts. High School. premiered at the Midtown International Theatre Festival (nominations for Best Actress and Best Solo Show), and later went on to the Chicago Fringe Festival (Time Out Chicago Critic’s Pick) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is the Executive Producer and Creator of web series Ghost Light (Official Selection Miami, UK, Austin Web Fests with nominations for Best Comedy, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Editing) and The Scoop, a hybrid talk show featuring conversations with culture makers over independent NYC ice cream. The Scoop was named Winner of RealPitch TV Format Competition and Final Selection for Bravo TV’s Pitch & Development Lab at ITVFest in Manchester, VT. It was named Official Selection of Vancouver Web Fest and nominated for Best Reality Show. Ghost Light is now partnered with digital platform Seed & Spark for streaming and distribution. As a performer, Jeanette has acted professionally for over a decade. She is a teaching artist with Only Make Believe, a non-profit founded with the belief that theater heals, and an Artistic Associate of female-focused production company Clutch Productions. She received a BA in Theater and Dance from Trinity College, and is a member of both Actor’s Equity and the Screen Actors Guild.
Thank you so much for joining us Jeanette! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, what’s interesting is that although I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a performer, the idea of producing never entered my head until about ten years ago. So this specific career path that I’m on right now has been a result of different, distinct choices that I never could have foreseen as a young performer starting out. The shift came about because I was complaining to my acting coach that I wasn’t performing in the NY Fringe that summer, because it seemed all my friends were, and I was feeling left out! And he essentially said to me: “Well, why don’t you write a show with a role for you and get it into the Fringe on your own?” Which was a baffling proposition! I said, “What are you talking about? I don’t write. I don’t know how to put up a show!” And he was like, “Yes you do. Take this class. You can learn these skills. Don’t sit around waiting be cast, go out and make it happen on your own.” That shifted everything for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I’ll share with you a small story that I found to be really inspiring and keeps me going. For my day job I’m a New York tour guide. There’s a ton of crossover in this, because I love telling stories, I love meeting new people and learning what makes them tick. It’s a great job as a performer. One day a couple summers ago, I toured a family from Scotland. I was excited to share with them that I was planning on being in Scotland the next month, as I was bringing my one woman show to the Edinburgh Fringe (which incidentally, was the show that resulted from the conversation I mention above). They were super excited for me and asked for all the information. I not in a million years thought they’d actually come to my show. But they did. They came up to me after the show with big hugs: “Do you remember us?!” I was floored, not to mention extremely touched. In this crazy business you can forget sometime that what we do matters. That our work — even just showing people around New York — affects people. It also reinforced something my mentor once said to me: “People don’t follow films. People follow filmmakers.”
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?
I definitely had my fair share of cringe-worthy projects! When you’re first starting out, just getting cast and being on stage, doing something — anything, really — feels like a win. And considering the odds in this industry, it is, really. But hindsight is 20/20 — looking back at them, realizing now how terrible they were, my friends and I go…. “What were we thinking!?” Haha. I will spare the guilty and not name names. I suppose the lesson here is that whatever it is that seems like a VERY BIG DEAL at the time, might just be something you end up laughing at in a few years down the line. It’s just about keeping perspective.
What are some interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Podcasts are really huge right now, so in October I decided to join the flock and launched a new podcast called #single, a feminist podcast about navigating being a strong independent woman in an online dating world. My co-host and I invite different single successful women in to have conversations with them about what’s not working and their frustrations around trying to connect in a device-obsessed culture where typical gender roles are shifting. It’s very personal to me and I’m getting a ton of positive response to it. More importantly, it’s opened up some really interesting conversations around some tough topics and has given people a space to admit how many of us are struggling with dating today.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I LOVE meeting new people and learning what makes them tick. It’s part of the reason I decided to make my talk show THE SCOOP. I was grappling with the idea of why we make art and creative projects and the purpose of all of this struggle and wanted to connect to other artists who are passionate about what they do. I find everyone’s journey super interesting mostly because it’s a reminder that there’s no one way to pursue your dreams. I have an innate curiosity about people and I think that’s why I was drawn to create both THE SCOOP and now #single. I have a pretty long list of people I’d absolutely die to interview!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
1. Find a creative community with like-minded people who inspire you and lift you up as a constant reminder that you are not alone.
2. Take at least one day a week to unplug and pursue something unrelated to your career.
3. Be curious. Find inspiration in walks, museums, books, lectures, your community.
4. Practice positivity, meditation, and gratitude. Expand your idea of what this journey is.
5. Try to find a day job where you feel valued, intelligent, respected, and inspired. It’s a long road and it helps to have security in your life to support your artistic pursuits.
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. :-)
Thank you for saying that. Something that has really been firing me up recently is the issue of gender inequality not just in the entertainment industry but almost exclusively in every industry. We don’t have enough female leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. The next generation becomes stronger, bolder, and more well balanced when we increase that visibility. Visibility births equality. This is certainly not a movement I’m starting by any means, but it’s on my personal agenda, and I’m working to improve female visibility whenever I have the opportunity to.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Your path will be non-linear.
2. Let it go. Everything you do is a drop in the ocean of this journey called your career.
3. Comparison is the thief of joy. You are not competing with others; their success brings you closer to your success. “I rise, we rise.”
4. Take weekends off. Don’t forget to live life.
5. Even on your worst days, you are inspiring someone somewhere else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m sure if I thought about this longer I could come up with something better, but I’m gonna just go with my gut here. I’m a big Counting Crows fan, and there’s a lyric from one of their songs that I’ve loved since college: “Hey monkey what’s life without an occasional surprise?” The writer (Adam Duritz) wrote it about a failed relationship that he was trying to work out at the time. I love it because it’s a fun upbeat song that’s just the summation of all we work so hard for. Life is made up of occasional surprises, both good and bad. You can’t control it. I use it to remind myself not to take everything so seriously. ☺
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?
Oh man, so many! I can’t point to one person. It’s been different people at different points in my development and in my career. Right now I am particularly grateful for a collective of women I meet with once a month, spearheaded by career and life coach Liz Kimball. These ladies are all multi-hyphenates and like me are batting the obstacles of balancing life, art, and other tensions. They remind me I am part of a greater community of artists and strong women. They inspire me and remind me why I’m here, doing what I’m doing, and to keep fighting every day.
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. :-)
YESSSSSS. I have been DYING to have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on my ice cream interview show THE SCOOP. Can you get her for me?? LOL. I think she’s one of the most badass inspiring women of our generation. To me she is the epitome of passion and fury combined to fuel a fiery intelligence. She’s done a million interviews, but none over ice cream, as far as I can tell…… ☺
How can our readers follow you on social media?
To follow & learn more about my producing projects: @KellysPoolHall on Instagram & Twitter.
THE SCOOP is over at facebook.com/watchthescoop
#single is facebook.com/hashtagsinglepodcast.
To follow the filmmaker and not the film (if you will), you can find me at @JeanetteEBonner across the board.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
My pleasure! Thank you so much for having me!