Tawny Foskett: Filmmaker

My NativeAdVantage:


Tawny Foskett is an American film and media maker.  In her early adulthood she worked as an actor and dancer.  She began her filmmaking studies in 2001 in Northern California and these continued, at the graduate level, in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied narrative directing at The Victorian College of the Arts.  Currently she is back in graduate school, this time in Montreal, getting an MFA in Film Production from Concordia University.  Tawny makes both dramatic and documentary work that primarily focuses on stories of women on the margins.  Her 2012 film, Girls Who Smoke, is adapted from a Moth story heard on This American Life and played in twenty festivals around the US, Canada and Europe.  It won the Audience Award at the Post Alley Film Festival in Seattle.  Now she is producing and directing the auto-ethnographic feature documentary, A Member of the Precariat, which is in large part about her efforts of making her upcoming dramatic feature, Natasha & Sam.

What do I do best?

I would like to say “direct” but I would need to do this more, and more often to say that.  Perhaps I do best at keeping it real.  I think I have a good inner compass with what is OK or aligned with myself.  I think a lot on how to best navigate my life and my next week and next day.  This is kind of like directing…!

What makes me the best version of myself?

I think it is my perseverance.  I think of myself as a late bloomer who has to work hard at not being critical of not having gotten further faster.  I’ve come to realize how much we all need support to achieve, and I am always on the seek for this, and grateful for all those in my corner.  I look forward to when I’m successful enough that I can help support other artists and I task myself with not forgetting what the struggle feels like when there are many obstacles in the way.

What are my aspirations?

In regards to artistic work, I aspire to direct good movies, and television, with great collaborators.  More specifically, I need to make my feature film, Natasha & Sam (a story that’s been in development for years).  I need to make it well, I need it to be seen, and I hope for it to be well-received and find it’s audience.  This will require a lot of money and collaborators… but it seems the train is beginning to leave the station.

Personally, I aspire to having circumstances in my life that allow me to thrive (as opposed to survive) and create a balance which includes financial freedom, health, quality time with loved ones, and the ability to contribute to society and help “be the change”.

My Biggest Success?

It helps if I make it a little less absolute and all encompassing, so I’ll share what I think is my biggest accomplishment this year:

Shooting my short film of Natasha & Sam, which occurred early February in Montreal, with a fabulous cast and crew who came on board solely for belief in the project and my promises of a pleasant, creative environment.  I thought we would document some scenes I’d work shopped with the actors- kind of my own, private director’s lab (similar to what I surmise to happen at a Sundance Director’s lab).  However, we ended up shooting what will become a short, proof-of-concept film of my feature with full on production design and wonderful lighting and camera work, not to mention terrific acting.  This really went beyond my hopes and plans and I almost cancelled the shoot several times beforehand, as I thought I didn’t have enough resources like money, time and people.  But I went forward, and so worked to make it as sane as I could within the circumstances, and then I got really lucky with the people and talent that showed up to “play” with me, and the generosity of their commitments that they brought to the set.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Again, I will take out the “most” and just answer that there’s been a smattering of challenging moments in the last couple of years, especially as an older student, in a foreign land- around poverty, saving face, and bowing out and doing without.  I also quit smoking (again) 6 weeks ago!  However, I am channeling these challenges into a documentary I’m making titled, A Member of the Precariat.

My Motto?

Lately, and with the recent film shoot, I co-opted one that I heard Greta Gerwig mention when she was speaking about the process of making her film, Lady Bird, which is: “the obstacles are the road”.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My aunt, Mary Foskett, now 88, who has been an actress/artist her whole life – for being an amazing mentor who not only has great artistic insight, but is a wonderful, joyful person, who has been a nurturing and supportive personal presence in my life.

Dolly Parton – because in addition to being an amazing talent who has found a way to be her authentic, musician self and shared these gifts her whole life, she also does amazing, altruistic, civic service for people, such as provide victims of the fires in the Smoky Mountains with actual cash to help them re-build their lives and provide books for children all over the country with her libraries.

Ava Duvernay – not just for being the awesome trail-blazing director of great films that she is, but for her candid speeches about how she was a late bloomer, and got rejected from all the development labs and festivals, and how she found her footing by just beginning to focus on the films she wanted to make and not the “coffee dates” she needed to land.

Sally Potter – because she is a talent, a trailblazer, an artist actors love to work with, and kind, wise and encouraging on top of it all.

Tori Amos – for all the same reasons as Sally Potter, and for the very individualized truth she speaks, and like Ava, her helpful, candid stories of rejection in the beginning of her career.  Because she says it is not about her, and yet she is filled with love and action and support for things such as: gay people, the land, and the creation of a hotline to help victims of sexual assault.  She is a huge inspiration about navigating this world authentically, especially as an artist.

Francis McDormand – for being an amazing, strong, talented artist to help give us models of what woman, older than 30, can do and look like, and say…

Naomi McDougall Jones – For being fearless and truthful and courageously sharing her struggles as a woman in film leader in a way that has inspired me weekly across the last two years.  Check out her fabulous podcast: Fear(ful)less.  And also, I need to say, that I think much of my recent filmmaking success was fed by witnessing Naomi’s stories of belief, perseverance, and then gratitude in the making of her 2nd feature (Bite Me), which she chronicled on her podcast.

The (Parkland) Students – because like many adults in this country, when they first led the walkouts and then went on to hold the amazing March For Our Lives, their brave, true and inspiring voices gave me the most hope and spark to fight hard, and re-belief in what our country can become, that I have had in a very long time.  I respect them tremendously and I am so grateful for their much-needed leadership at this moment.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

The Pacific Ocean, as witnessed from Northern California beaches / the Redwood Forest / swimming in clean, gorgeous rivers in Northern California and Tennessee / Appalachia / The Hudson Valley…

My Favorite Products/Objects?

hammocks and bicycles come to mind

My Current Passions?

Movies, getting healthy, finding funding, and landing a great, new job.