Heidi Philipsen-Meissner: Director, producer, writer & actress

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Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Heidi Philipsen is a director, producer, writer & actress with 20 years of professional experience in international film, television and communications. She's directed multiple, award-winning short films ("Her Telling Heart," "A Fork in the Road," "Angel Inside,") regional commercials and music videos (Jocelyn & Chris Arndt) and is proud of "DARCY" as her feature debut.  Heidi's a member of the Alliance of Women Directors, The Director's List, Producers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, the Motion Picture Institute’s Directors Alumni Club, NYWIFT, Founder & President Emeritus of UPWIFT, Chicago Women in Film & Television, and University of Michigan and Columbia University Alumni Groups. Her feature length script, "Emily Doe," written while a student at UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program, is in development and she has most recently signed on to direct her first solo feature, an international German-Austrian-American co-production called "Mary Seeking Joseph." She just finished her first year of a two-year MBA Management program at Eastern Michigan University.

What do I do best?

I am a nurturer, a student of human nature, a thinker, have a high EQ, a leader and am a creatively expressive collaborator – as such, I believe that directing is my truest of callings.  It’s what I do best.  There can be utter chaos around me on set, but stick me there with my actors and crew and suddenly the world goes into slow motion around me and I become hyper-focused. I know exactly what needs to be done to achieve the creative vision. I’ve never experienced anything else like it in any other job I just instinctively feel… fearless.

2nd? Acting.

3rd. Writing.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Dedicated perseverance has gotten me where I am today.  I look for the opportunities, recognize some where others have not, and run the extra mile to make them happen.  I simply do not give up.

What are my aspirations?

My personal aspirations are quite simple: To enjoy health, happiness with my family and friends, to be in the position to seize opportunities and create more for others, to be grateful, to acknowledge my blessings and to give back.

My business goals are all about recognizing and seizing opportunities for storytelling creatively and in a way that is financially sustainable on a global scale. I am working toward writing, directing, producing and acting in international feature film and television co-productions.

My Biggest Success?

My biggest success, thus far?  

I have to say that producing, co-directing and acting in my first feature film, DARCY, all while raising two teenage kids with my husband and being there for my mother, after my father passed away.

It was both stressful and exciting… and the hardest juggling in my life that I had to do with a rollercoaster of emotions, lots going on, much to manage and involved digging deep to find out what I’m truly made of as a human being, artist, collaborator, wife, mother, daughter and leader.

The fact that we successfully made it through with a film people love and a family that is closer than ever is so important to me – I did not want to lose myself one way or the other in the highs and lows of the process, nor neglect either my professional or personal side.

I am proud of this accomplishment.  

My Most Challenging Moment?

During the time I was producing my first feature film, DARCY, my son was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and my father was fighting prostate cancer.

Over half of the film was produced while sitting around the waiting room of an emergency hospital…

Four months prior to the shooting of the film, my father passed away from complications due to prostate cancer.

Three months prior to the shooting of the film, my then 12-year-old son underwent a live-saving operation, as his colon was falling apart from the disease (ulcerative colitis).

On top of all of that, DARCY was such an important film to me not only because it was my first feature as producer and co-director, but also because it took on the topic of sexual assault before the whole #metoo movement was in full swing.  It was a true risk – one that triggered me as I faced it head-on because I’m an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape survivor.

Whew.  I have to take a deep breath just gathering the courage to write that.

So the DIFFICULT DECISION I faced every day leading up to production during that whole time was, “Do I put this project down and return to it another day, or do I press on and push through?”

I asked myself this at least three times throughout the entire process.  

I decided to push on and not give up – and it was the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  I think it stabled me in some ways to have something to put all that emotional energy into propelling a creative project forward.  It definitely was my crutch while facing the difficulties that my son had to endure (I did not leave his side and only worked while he was resting), and it helped me cope with my beloved father’s sudden death.  I was grieving inside the entire time.

And to face my own past and fears in a project (in terms of the sexual assault) enabled me to do something with all that “stuff” I had been carrying with me (and getting therapy for) for so long… I was able to control my own fate.

It has made me stronger.  Now that I’ve been through that “fire,” there’s no going back and only looking forward. Out of the darkness, I created light.

My Motto?

Occasionem Cognosce – Loosely translated, it means “Know Thy Opportunity”

My other one?

“There But for the Grace of God Go I” – so, so true. If we do not acknowledge our blessings, we having nothing positive upon which to build our lives.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My Aunt Neva Lemorande-Hodge, my husband, Niko Meissner, my mother, Judy Philipsen, my late father, Dale Philipsen, and my children are some of my greatest role models.  

My Aunt, Neva Lemorande-Hodge, is now 94, the middle child of 13 from a farm on Wisconsin who lived through the Great Depression to become a great advocate for education and children.  She’s an amazing academic leader who has served her family, her community, her country and, indeed, her world to the best of her ability, never complaining, but finding solutions and leading.

My husband, Niko Meissner, came to this country with nothing and has built up a career in Renewable Energy and Sustainable Enterprise after getting out there and making things happen. He is kind-hearted, grounded and a true leader.  I genuinely respect and admire him as a human being – even after being together over 20 years (not something everyone can say).

My father, Dale Philipsen, was the youngest of 13 children and he was the first male in his immediate family to graduate not only high school, but also college. He was a passionate entrepreneur and advocate for liberal arts and the humanities.  And he always, always believed in me. I would not be where I am without him.

My mother, Judy (Huntington) Philipsen, was a chemist back when the norm was still for women to stay at home. She did cancer research back in the 1960s right after grad school.  She has always worked hard to balance career with family life and I admire her for the work-ethic she instilled in me.  She’s been a hard act to follow.

My children. My kids are two Generation Z students of the world, passionate and dedicated human beings. I love them for how they support me in what I do… I admire them for all they are becoming and what leaders they are already.  Not at all cynical or selfish, they are smart, dedicated, creative, introspective, respectful (most of the time) and genuine want to contribute to their world.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I have a couple of favorite traveling destinations – Ocracoke Island, NC… Sylt (and island off of Northern Germany)… Copenhagen, Denmark… Lake George, NY… Berlin, Germany… Mont St. Michel (off the coast of France) and I most recently stopped in Iceland… would love to see more there.

Much, much more to see and do!

My Favorite Products/Objects?

My favorite products, objects, etc…. Hmmm…  I know those that I use quite a bit and would feel lost without:

Final Draft / Reading the Associated Press / Amazon Prime (watching movies while on the treadmill) / IMdB app / Airplanes

My Current Passions?

My current passion is spending my time with my family together – whether it’s cooking, going to the gym, going to church, outdoors, traveling, making movies or heading to the movies…