Tell me a little bit about yourself. Did I see that you used to be part of a successful music group? Do you have experience in film-making?
It is with great joy and gratitude that I find myself even telling you some of my story. Eight months ago a massive shift took place in my life in which I finally understood the meaning of the word “surrender,” and with that understanding the lens through which I saw the world changed.
I grew up on a racehorse farm just outside Baltimore, Maryland. I come from a big family and have a twin sister who I often call “the Buddha.” She is a painter in Brooklyn, NY and is my greatest inspiration. An old soul, 10 years sober, deeply wise, and has overcome so much in this life. We didn’t play with many toys growing up but played almost every sport under the sun.
Sometime during my coming of age story, I started growing darker and had no way of expressing it. I used to listen to albums like U2’s Joshua Tree on repeat all night, hanging on to the words and the swelling delays of the Edge’s guitar. Soon after, I found a friend who had an old guitar that I purchased for $45 plus lunch money at school one day. I learned my first chord and began writing my first song immediately. That was when I not just fell in love with song writing, but story telling as a whole. That same passion for story and my need for expression is what has been the thread that has drawn to me to both music and film.
I went to a small University in South Carolina that was not my cup of tea but started my first band there called Need to Breathe (Atlantic Records). I majored in Philosophy and minored in Graphic Design. There was no real music technology or film department there, and really was anxiously awaiting graduation from day 1 knowing that I wanted to be on tour playing rock ‘n’ roll.
The years following school I signed a publishing deal with BMG and played guitar in various bands touring the US. A few years back I was living & playing with a band based in Nashville,TN. We had just signed a management contract in London, knew a record deal was soon to be in the picture, going on tour with Kings of Leon, and was preparing to make the move across the pond. It was everything that I thought I had wanted in music and yet I was completely empty and there was a massive darkness surrounding the band and my life. Knowing that if I stayed, it would very likely be my end, I moved to L.A. to try to start over, take a break from music, and focus on writing screenplays.
It was a great theory and remembered hitting the beach of the west coast with Jack Kerouac quotes hopping trains in my brain & Jack Daniel’s pulsing in my veins. There was only one major kink in my plan. When I got to California, I may have left most of my friends, family and many demons back east, but I couldn’t leave me. And that’s who I wanted to desperately get rid of. I was so consumed by my past, holding tight to resentments, drowning in addiction, and in desperate need of escape. I was a prisoner in my mind that was spinning wildly with repetitive thought patterns that produced no fruit, no remedy, no solace. After a long period of extreme darkness and loneliness, I was on a plane flying back home to one of my best friends mothers funeral and had a dream that was the catalyst that began a long journey of healing and the start of the screenplay that I had set out west to write. I awoke from the dream and began writing ferociously by hand. Devouring page after page for hours until touching down in Baltimore. By the end of the flight I had completed a full character list, plot summary and a multitude of scenes. I knew something unique was happening that just felt so much bigger than me. The movement of my pen on the page seemed as if it was not my own. I was still alone in the dark, but felt a feeling of gratefulness, and that feeling cracked light into an otherwise dark room.
The next year and a half was spent writing a love story under the backdrop of the lead character painfully learning how to mourn his father’s death, & using alcohol to numb the pain of his past. Although a fictional story, the subject matter was taken directly from my own life. As the lead character began to get sober and started reconcile his past, I found the same to be true in my life. The writing of the script was truly the most cathartic form of art I have ever experienced, even after all my years in music. I finished the script and massive changes began happening in my life.
What inspired you to make this film?
Those life changes, along with reading the quote, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting” is what inspired me to make the documentary One Way Ticket.
I’ve known what it feels like to be hopeless & alone in the dark. But now I also know that there was always hope, always light, for a time I just didn’t have the eyes to see it. I was really hesitant to make this documentary, because I’m really a very private person. Even writing this to you is more vulnerable than my natural inclination. But I was just filled with such gratefulness for the positive changes that were happening in my life that I wanted to let others know that are living in pain, addiction, & fear, that it doesn’t have to be that way. And that not only can it get better, but life can become rich with vast love and adventure. The greatest courage is in the first step. One step can build momentum, and momentum is a powerful force.
What is the documentary about?
*This is what is written on the about section on the Facebook page and I think captures the emotional motivation behind it.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting”
Somewhere along my road I lost my way and wandered into the wilderness. After many years passed, I found myself cold and alone, not knowing where I had first gone astray, and therefore had no idea how to find my way back. The dark woods had become my home and when I had finally reached the point where I could no longer survive the wild, I had nearly accepted defeat. With the aid of a stranger and a compass greater than myself I humbly began to crawl. Since I had no idea how to get back, the only direction I could go was forward into the unknown. Inches began to turn into feet, and feet into yards. With greater distance, came greater strength, and without even realizing it, my crawl became a walk and a walk turned into a run.
I now know that I have made it back to the road and must find out where it leads. With that in mind, I have put all my belongings into storage and purchased a one way ticket.
Did you make plans to attend the YTT at Anamaya before or after you planned to make OWT?
The idea for the documentary and Yoga Teacher Training were developing simultaneously. I live my life by one primary mantra now. “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me.” ― Mahatma Gandhi That “Still Small Voice” was whispering about both, I just didn’t know how they would work out, nor did I need to. I just had to stay present and listen. I then saw the video for Anamaya after a google search, was moved to tears, and knew immediately that it was where I was meant to go.
Did you have any expectations about how your life would be different after this trip?
I’m not sure “expectations” have ever had a single positive effect on my life. I knew my life would be different after this trip, but had little to no interest in speculating how. Considering I have lived a life in the past of paralyzing perfectionism and control, the fact that I didn’t need to speculate is miracle in of itself. That miracle allowed for the incredible love, support, friendship & growth that I experienced at Anamaya to be all the more beautiful of a surprise. A surprise that is continually giving more even after my stay there.
Anamaya created an environment that allowed for the nurturing of friendship and community to be explored in a way that I have never experienced before. I know all of us in the program are so grateful for each person that was there. From the loving teaching of Paula & Peter to Joseph’s hospitality to every member of the staff that always went above and beyond the call with a loving and gracious spirit.
Why did you choose Costa Rica?
That’s where Anamaya was. And Anamaya is where I knew I had to go.
How has making this film (and the trip in general) impacted you emotionally?
It’s really strange to look at yourself objectively as a character in a story. But it’s also kind of been the only way I’ve been able to shoot this. Otherwise I would be too attached to what I was saying, or how I looked on camera and it would potentially lose it’s authenticity. Authenticity is PARAMOUNT to me. So with that objectivity, it has honestly allowed for me to have a bit more compassion for myself. Something I never allowed in years past. It’s a very nice and welcomed change. I think we would all be a better off if we cut ourselves a bit more slack, looked in the mirror and said “I LOVE YOU”, laughed at ourselves when we did something stupid, and maybe just maybe started seeing our lives as a great story and adventure. One that is rightfully filled with both peaks and valleys.
What are your plans to share this documentary once it’s finished? When do you anticipate it will be released?
I think I’ll be spending most of 2014 putting together One Way Ticket. I’ll be continuing to pursue getting my screenplay made, as well as writing and recording for a very long overdue album of my own music under the artist name, The Night. That music is meant to be released simultaneously and play as the score for One Way Ticket. It’s going to be a busy year. I’ll definitely be submitting One Way Ticket to festivals and looking for Netflix distribution amongst others. But all that is a long way off. For now I just want to be present, create the best art I am capable of, and we’ll see what happens in the end.
I’m not really sure how much I can fully plan anymore at this point in my life. “The Still Small Voice” could say something different at any given moment, and I hope I have the continued courage to listen to it and follow where it leads, for it certainly has proven that it knows what is better for me than I do.
One Way Ticket on the Web
One Way Ticket – Click to see Dana’s facebook page