the story behind DURGA, my short film in Nepal

I am currently directing and producing a short documentary film about female guide Durga Rawal in Nepal. More detailed info on the film can be found on our crowdfunding campaign page. Whenever I speak about DURGA: Forging a New Trail, the title of our film, I am typically asked how I came to know Durga and her story. For those interested, here’s the story behind the story.

My story with DURGA starts in 2015, when I was working for One World Play Project in Berkeley, California. Around the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we launched and ran a marketing campaign called All Girls Can Play. Through the campaign, we collaborated with Women Win to give ultra-durable soccer balls to organizations working with girls and women in communities around the world.

Intrigued by Women Win’s global network in the female empowerment and gender equality space, I spent time on their website reading about their partner organizations and what each of them does. Empowering Women of Nepal, a nonprofit organization that trains and supports Nepalese women to become hiking guides and work in tourism, caught my interest immediately for its connection to outdoor adventure as well as female empowerment and gender equality. I had never heard of an organization doing such work, or with such a mission, in the United States, let alone elsewhere in the world.

That week at work, I told my boss, who collaborated closely with me on our company’s storytelling about the impact of play, in all its forms, around the world, that I felt there was a story with EWN worth exploring, telling and sharing. She agreed, and while we never pursued that story at One World Play Project, the idea remained with me.

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do you love the process?

The other night, I sat in bed reading through pages containing goals and thoughts I’d intentionally set and written down at the start of this year.

While I keep these dreams tucked into my computer sleeve, it had been awhile since I’d read through them. Since I wrote them over several days at the start of the year, I know them fairly well. However, in reading them anew, I was struck by the language tied to each goal — and the way I’d envisioned this year overall. There’s not one word or phrase that stands out. It’s more the combination of all of them together. In reading them with fresh eyes — and a fresh perspective of a me who’s lived six months since I wrote those goals — I saw a lot of naivety in the Emily I was at the start of the year.

My dreams still hold true. What’s changed is that I’m less focused on the outcome and perhaps more focused on the process. I know the process is part of tackling each dream. I knew that when I wrote those goals. In writing the goals, I wrote about why each was important and what it would take to see it through, and while I spent time answering those questions for each goal, I think I failed to see just how important those questions and their answers were.

In tackling your goals, you have to love the process — almost more than the end goal itself.

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we’re all in process.

“you are a season of becoming” — Danielle Doby

With each passing day, between traditional media, social media and our hyper-connected world, I feel we’re becoming more apt to celebrate dreams realized, projects completed, “overnight” successes and the highlights of life. We’re more apt to share the milestones of any given time period than we are to share the process itself.

The reality is those moments are a fraction of our entire lives, and in sharing and celebrating those benchmarks, I feel as though we lose sight of the process.

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we don’t always get a choice.

In the days leading up to my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. I stepped into my shoes at 29 and wrote a letter to myself at 28 — with the idea of capturing what I dreamt, and still dream, my reality will be as I turn 29 next year. (The exercise, which I’ve done for a few years now, is meant to help define my goals and actions for the year ahead.) Nine days after writing that letter, I was reminded that we don’t always get a choice in life.

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“nothing like chasing a dream.”

A few weeks ago, I slid into a funk. I’m two months into full-time freelancing and contracting, and while I know I’m doing just fine, on a Sunday afternoon in March, feelings of fear and self-doubt started to sink in. I wasn’t surprised they turned up. To be honest, from the moment I made the decision to be my own boss, I was expecting them; I just didn’t know when they’d show up. But there they were, crashing the party.

I believe we all experience fear and self-doubt to varying degrees. I also believe that what sets us apart is how we choose to deal with those emotions. On this particular week, the silence of the in-between — a silence that came with wrapping stories and projects and waiting to receive feedback on other pitches, stories and projects — felt a bit paralyzing.

You see, life feels smoother when things are in motion. When there’s a lull in the action, we create time and space for fear and self-doubt to jump in, especially when rent, bills and overall living expenses are very real and present and we’re uncertain as to when our next paycheck will come.

So when those in-between moments come, what’s a dreamer to do to kick fear and self-doubt out of the picture?

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