REEL WOMEN INTERVIEW w/ Christina Rose
Christina Rose is an American-German director, producer, and screenwriter and is part of the new Hollyworld Movement, bringing entertainment to the global world.
Christina has worked in North America (USA, Canada), Europe (Denmark, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria), Africa (the famous Atlas Studios in Ouarzarzate), and Asia (India’s Bollywood). Together with her brother Michael, she co-founded MirrorWater Entertainment LLC where she is the CEO.
Prior to setting up a production company, Christina worked at such prestigious companies as Arad Productions (The Amazing Spiderman), Exclusive Media (Rush, Ides of March), in distribution at ZDF-Enterprises, where she has developed numerous projects with Michael Hirst (Vikings) and William J. MacDonald (Rome). Most recently, she was an executive at the European network Sky, acquiring new projects for development.
Since starting MWE, she has produced a number of documentaries and TV shows for the international market and is currently finishing her anticipated six-part documentary series Wonder Women where we meet young women leaders in underrepresented industries around the world who are redefining leadership for a better future.
What’s your origin story?
I grew up in military family, moving from the US to Europe every other year, changing schools, not really being able to grow any roots anywhere so my way of finding that inner stability was escaping into the imaginary world, and thus the world of movies just fascinated me.
You have to understand that although it sounds really exotic moving from one country to another, the downside of moving constantly was that it was really hard to form friendships and to find a place of belonging.
On top of that, I’m half American, half German and while my parents really wanted us to understand both cultures, whenever I was in Germany, I was the American kid, and whenever I was in the US, I was the German kid. I never really felt like I fit in. Moreover, throughout school, a few teachers told me that I wasn’t smart enough to attend graduate school or make it to college. I had to work really hard to defy all odds. Movies and stories of people who had to defy odds fueled me and resonated with me; I could relate to these characters on the one side, but on the other, I also felt I had a story to tell.
How did you get into filmmaking?
As a kid growing up, I loved stories and movies and knew that I wanted to work in the film business. It’s funny because my mom first thought I wanted to become an actress but I said to her, no, I want to work behind the camera. I also remember that I had spent all my allowance money in order to buy my first camera in order to make movies at home. My dog was my lead actor most of the time but I wanted to tell stories. Then, I decided to go to film school at the University of Southern California, Cinematic Arts. There, I was exposed to a great curriculum working alongside my colleagues to grow as a filmmaker. I started working in LA but realized quickly that I wanted to work on movies and TV shows that were geared more towards an international audience. I found an opportunity in Germany working for a production company, and found myself working on projects in Morocco, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, India and Germany. It truly opened my world to international content.
All in all, I ended up working in the film industry in LA as well as in Germany, working for production companies, distribution companies, and networks. When I had the chance to start my own production company and, while it was a great risk, I ended up taking it. Certainly, there have been many struggles and setbacks and while I am far from reaching my ultimate goals and I will continue to pursue my dreams. It’s always a question of determination and persistence; and simply put: I love the daily challenge of it all.
Give a shout out to your mentors.
Dominic Jackson – he’s worked in the film industry for many years but also in government – and Dominic’s work, the path he chose in life, his endless positivity and determination have truly inspired me. He’s always very honest and upfront with me when I need any advice or feedback on a project I’m working on but it’s really his work ethic of staying true to yourself and never, ever selling yourself short or compromising your own personal values. I know that in life this mindset has set me on a path where achieving success might take a bit longer but I wouldn’t want it any other way and that’s something Dominic not only stands for but he’s living that by example. And that is hard to find these days so I am very thankful for his guidance and help along the way in this very difficult industry.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
It is definitely the documentary “Walking Points” that I wrote, directed and produced. I strongly believe that the knowledge and insights derived from making this documentary can save lives, which believe it or not included my own parents. The documentary is about Cancer Detection Dogs and we dive deep into a realistic way of how cancer can be beaten that doesn’t include the deadly treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. There has been so much controversy around this subject matter and there still is because nobody wants to believe that 1. Dogs can save lives and 2. Changing your diet, which we address in the documentary, can actually stop cancer from growing in our bodies and even reverse the disease. The truth is: Glenn Ferguson who has trained his dogs to detect cancer knows that he has saved peoples lives, period! Glenn’s dogs detected my parents twice and seven years later they are cancer free. I do not want to imagine how my life would look like today, if I hadn’t made that documentary. Yes, we want to be recognized by our peers and win awards and be known but knowing that my parents are still in my life is the greatest gift I could have gotten out of making this documentary. And the truth is, it also changed my life. I know with certainty that I – if I ever should have cancer – will not die from it because I have the tools to beat the disease that are within my control.
How about your biggest disappointment?
I had just landed my dream job but shortly into the job I found out that my male colleague was getting paid more despite the fact that we had exactly the same title and same responsibilities – the only difference was that I am a woman and he is a man. I strongly believe in the fact that all people are created equal and we all deserve equal treatment and pay. I felt that I was supporting an unjust system by not speaking up about this injustice. I did speak up about it but was told I was wrong. Of course I had to leave then. This of course happened all before the “MeToo” movement – not to say that maybe I would have been listened too. Yes, it was a very hard decision to leave that dream job but it reinforced my belief system and the fact that I needed to stay true to my heart and to continue fighting for equality. It’s the reason why I ended up pursuing the documentary – so, it’s had a huge impact in my life and we need to fight against inequality. I don’t want anybody having to experience what I experienced.
If being a woman is your superpower, how has it helped you?
I’m of the mindset that no matter who you are, man or woman, we all have a superpower within us. Persistence, being determined and passionate about what you are doing are the superpowers we all need to nurture and cultivate in ourselves and for each other. I learned this growing up and there have been many moments in my life, where I have fallen, doubted myself, and wanted to give up. But I refuse to let failure determine my fate and I simply keep going, looking for new opportunities, and try to learn from my mistakes. I wouldn’t say that’s a superpower because I am a woman but I do perhaps see what struggles and challenges women before me had and I try to learn from them, so I can do it better. And if there’s one superpower I hope to pass on it is that other women can learn from my mistakes and be even smarter, better and more successful than I am.
What’s your Kryptonite?
I’m not good at selling myself. I always sell myself short and always think that other people are way better than I am. What these moments teach me, however, is to never stop learning, not be afraid to making mistakes, and to constantly challenge myself. And of course being proud of the things I do, even if they are small.
How did a combination of pandemic, Black Lives Matter and QAnon affect you?
As difficult as the times we are living in – and believe me, for us as a small company, it has been difficult and very challenging, we cannot allow ourselves be torn apart and permit acts of violence to succeed. We must find a way to come together, to talk, discuss, and listen to each other. We must address the injustices we see, solve problems we face and be there for each other.
Black injustice is not a problem of the 21st century, it’s a problem that has been rooted in US history that we must face head on again and again until the color of our skin is not an issue. But not just BLM, we cannot forget the Women, Hispanic, Asian, Native, and the LGBTQ communities fighting for their rights, their lives and even their families.
While these are all individual movements, in the end, we all have the same problem in common – seeking equality. Thus, we need all organizations to come together and fight for equality – as a collective and as a community. We would realize too that these organizations are the majority and together I strongly believe we actually have the chance for change.
We are focusing too much on the individual or individual groups, giving power to individual minorities instead of working as a collective. We are marginalizing ourselves and placing boxes on each other instead of coming together. Can we not find common ground and recognize that what we are all fighting for is equality?
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
I have to say, Jane Fonda’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award really inspired me. When she said the following: “But there’s a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry. The story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out. It’s about who’s offered a seat at the table and who was kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.
So that’s all of us, including all the groups who decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards. Let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent, so that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”
I really have taken this to heart and I can only hope that my colleagues do the same. I think that’s a very good starting point but the truth is, we need to stop talking and making a real effort because we haven’t really solved the issue and that’s giving people opportunities from all walks of life.
I would start off creating these film campuses where people have the opportunities to work and grow as filmmakers on low budget films where it’s OK to make mistakes but where within their own community they will be challenged.
We expect of filmmakers to have a big hit right out of film school and if you don’t, then that’s the end of you. But this is a craft and for some it simply takes experience and learning to create the best piece of art. That being said, we are in this very special place where so much content is being devoured and so much content is needed and yet we are seeing the same people create content over and over and over again. We still have a huge problem where only those who are popular are getting opportunities and we haven’t created a way to really give diverse and minority voices opportunities. We can do and we must do better. There are not many people given the chance during these very difficult times right now, I’m afraid we are loosening a point of view that we cannot loose. We all need to do more when it comes to giving people opportunities.
If you’re Batwoman, who’s Robin?
My brother, Michael – he’s encouraged me and has been very supportive in my endeavor, both working in the film industry but also encouraging me to lead our company. Yes, we argue and have our differences – but we work through them and the sheer fact that we constantly challenge each other and force ourselves to be better has made the difference. And the fact that we have always held ourselves accountable to our values — doing the right thing isn’t always easy. In reality it’s often the hardest challenges that define us. We want to be strong and face adversity, be honest, and always work on something that will benefit people all over the world.
What’s the engine that pulls you?
All my life, I’ve not really fit in. Movies were an escape. They saved me in many ways so that every story I want to tell needs to have purpose and meaning. I think with filmmaking we truly have the power to inspire people, give hope where maybe there is no hope, and learn something about others or even ourselves. I don’t want to tell stories for the sake of telling stories – I want to go beyond that and tell stories that make us think, teach us something, and enlighten us. All the work I do in my life needs to have meaning and at the end of the day, if there’s a kid out there, just like I once was, and is inspired or has the courage to overcome their own personal challenges and have hope from a movie they have just seen, it’s the best thing I can do. And if I can inspire billions of people, then that it’s the biggest wish I could ever hope for myself.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I have always been a bit torn about celebrating Women’s History Month and it’s simply because of the fact that one month isn’t enough to celebrate all women who have done so much for women’s rights.
I definitely think it’s important to celebrate and recognize the many women all over the world who have sacrificed so much, worked so hard, and keep on doing so much for the world. And I strongly believe we need to do that every single day of the year and not just one month. Furthermore, I would give anything in the world for ALL women to be treated equally. It’s absolutely sad that we’ve not managed to solve this problem and I will do anything in my power for us to finally live in a world where we are all equal and where all humans can be celebrated.
There’s enough evidence out there – studies that have been made — that if more women would be in leadership positions, an additional $28 trillion, or 26 percent of incremental global GDP would increase. That’s not just beneficial for women but for everybody. So, what are we waiting for?