Heather Fink: Comedian & Director

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Heather Fink started performing standup comedy in NYC in 2005, and continued making funny videos, doing improv, and sketch comedy. In 2009 she began NYU's Grad Film program as Writer/Director. She currently pays the bills as a Sound Person for film and tv, including Marvel’s Daredevil, and Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. Previous jobs include PR for a gay porn company, Senator Kennedy Intern, and Content Strategy for Digital Media companies. She’s directed over 35 comedy shorts, most recently Sara Benincasa’s “The Focus Group,” which was featured on Hello Giggles, The Onion, Huffington Post, Refinery 29, and more. She also participated in the 2016 Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors Program and shadowed Emmy nominated Director Kate Dennis on an episode of "The Tick." Heather also directed the indie TV pilot "Urban Teach Now" for writer/producers SJ & Ginny, which was an official selection at the NYTV Fest and ITV Fest in October 2016. Fink's first feature film as writer/director "Inside You" released on iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, Vudu & Google play in October 2017.

What do I do best?

Directing comedy for film or tv is what I do best. I’ve done so many different things in my life: law school, interned for the Senate, worked in digital media, written and performed improv, sketch, and standup comedy, built websites. Finally when I became a proper film director I was putting every skill I had and everything I was good at to work all at once. My creative, technical, and analytical synapses fire all at once when I’m on set. A lot of people claim to be film directors, but few take the time to truly hone the craft. Your creative voice is part of it, but it’s also very technical. From how to cover a scene with the best shots to serve the story and engage the audience, to knowing exactly what you can accomplish with the budget and tools you’re given - and especially how to connect to the performers. Each person you collaborate with is unique and requires something different in order to get their best performance out of them.  Some need to be left alone, some need comfort, some need reassurance, some even want you to be tough on them.  It’s on the director to understand and listen to people enough to anticipate what a performer needs.  Same for the crew actually. How do you get the best work out of those you collaborate with? It requires an incredible amount of mindfulness & simultaneous creativity to be a great director, and I love the challenge in each and every day.

What makes me the best version of myself?

My silly side is probably the best version of myself. When I’m around someone I feel comfortable with, and I feel really myself around, I become very silly and playful - hyper in fact. In a lot of environments I can be stoic and serious.  That’s usually when I feel like I don’t have my footing or am taking everything in, listening.  That happens a lot at work, and it takes me a lot of time to let people in. The best parts of me are magnetized by being in good company - so it’s especially important to me who I collaborate with creatively.  Also, as a woman I was punished a lot for being playful and silly growing up.  I was a natural class clown, and even though I cared about my schoolwork and was a good student, I’d get detention a whole lot for goofing around just as much as my male counterparts. I’ve been punished or shunned for being weird or silly growing up, so a lot of the times it’s about being in safe company to really let loose. A wall certainly comes up, the need to trust others before I can really be myself - I have always paid attention to that wall and have worked to knock it down.

What are my aspirations?

My personal and business goal are related. I want to use all my strengths to advance women in the world - how we view and treat them. Healthy sexual attitudes are especially important in what I want to depict in my work because I think sexual attitudes in society can be toxic and hurtful to everyone. Specifically I want to have success as a comedy writer/director of feature films and television.  I’m especially interested in excelling as a director, but I keep writing.  In fact I have a feature script I’m trying to finish by the end of this week.  I’ve written 3 feature scripts, 4 tv pilots, several shorts.  I’ve directed 1 feature, 1 tv pilot, and several shorts.  I’ll continue to keep creating and making new work.  Specifically, after my feature film “Inside You” I made a commitment to no longer direct films with my own money.  Since then I’ve directed Sara Benincasa’s short film “The Focus Group,” SJ & Ginny’s tv pilot “Urban Teach Now,” a yet to be released short film, and 2 yet to be released shorts for College Humor. My current goal is to direct an episode of television for network or cable tv.  In the meantime I write feature scripts, and if I’m to direct another feature, it’s going to have to be with name talent and a proper budget attached because that’s where I’m at and what I’m ready for next.  Every project I make, I intend to depict strong female protagonists, and to depict various themes and issues (there’s a long list) that are close to my heart.  The script I’m writing this week explores cultural appropriation. It’s a conversation I care to have.  Another script I’m revising is about artificial intelligence and the internet and how that relates to our humanity.  These things are all comedies believe it or not!

My Biggest Success?

My biggest success is how I haven’t let myself down in the bravery department. I know I’ll show up when things get rough and I’ll do the right thing. These are things I wouldn’t want to brag about because they aren’t things I’ve ever done for credit. Like be there for my family when my dad had a devastating stroke. I saw myself in this horrible situation showing the F up and doing everything in my power to provide help and support. I saw myself being strong for my mom, and wiping my own dad’s butt when the time came. I’m proud of wiping his butt. The first time I did it, it really sucked for both of us. Then we laughed and accepted that this is just life now. You have to appreciate the love it takes to pull your dad’s junk forward with a tissue before you put him back in his wheelchair so he doesn’t sit on it.

My Most Challenging Moment?

My most challenging moments have been in dealing with my father’s stroke. Taking him to the ER when he refused to take his medicine because he was depressed after the stroke and having him checked into the mental health wing per the doctor’s suggestion, after my family’s history with mental illness (my grandmother and uncle both suffered from severe schizophrenia) was an especially painful moment. But I didn’t choose any of those things.  One moment where I made a personal decision that impacted the rest of my life is when there was only one spot open in my college comedy group for a Freshman. The guy they let in the group has since become a famous comedian and actor. As for me, I was told that the group already had 2 women in it at the time, and they weren’t looking for another girl that year.  My response was to create my own all female comedy group, and by my senior year, we drew bigger audiences than the co-ed group, trust that I was keeping score!  Carving my own path when I’m not given an opportunity by others has been something I’ve done time and time again. I’m quite ready to see what happens when greater opportunity comes my way.

My Motto?

My motto is problematic. It’s some combo of - if you want something done well, you’ve got to go and do it yourself - and don’t expect anyone to do anything for you.  And so in life I’ve lived by this concept. If I needed something done, I’d just suck it up and figure it out for myself. I needed a website: learn how to build a website. When I started shooting comedy sketches in college, I found a nearby college editing lab (my own school didn’t have one at the time, 99-03) and I just taught myself how to edit. When I made my feature film, whatever it needed, even a star, I just went and did it myself. I didn’t want to act in my own movie, but I felt that would help get it made.  I could afford me, I was the character, I was willing to do whatever the script required.

Although self sufficiency has served me well, relying on and collaborating with others is something I seek to strengthen more and more in my life. Collaboration with someone who has totally different strengths comes with great rewards and is an art in and of itself.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Trent Reznor, Ava DuVernay, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, the former members of MTV’s The State  to name a few.  I’m such an Arnold nut and people usually find that surprising. I just find him to be so truly unique and strange, and fun on top of it. No one has a career like him. No one looks or sounds like him. It would be almost impossible to find someone who could even play him in a film. Terminator 2, Predator, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Twins, Commando and True Lies are among my favorite movies.  He’s also technically conservative but all of his political stances are extremely progressive.  I could go on and on and nerd out about him. I also absolutely love Hillary Clinton. It requires independent thought to love her because everything in our society tells you to hate her. Strong women aren’t attractive in mainstream thinking. We say we love strong women but the minute a woman really goes after something she becomes unappealing. We like our women coy, shy, objectified, sexual, flawed, in need of saving. To see Hillary’s strengths and accomplishments beyond the media bashing requires an awareness of this bias.  As for Trent Reznor, I’m a total NIN geek.  His songwriting, lyrics, and career are an absolute marvel. Reznor understands technology and emotion on a whole new plane.  As for DuVernay, Poehler, and Silverman, these are all women whose work is consistently brilliant, as well as their messages socially.  All 3 are socially conscious and generous. They constantly amaze me.

As for the former members of MTV’s The State? It made a huge impression on me to see people like David Wain, Michael Showalter, Kevin Allison, Michael Ian Black, Ben Garant, Todd Holoubek, Michael Patrick Jann, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, and Ken Marino go on to be comedy writers and directors in every format, in every way. They are writers, directors, and performers. They’ve done tv, film, stage, books, shorts, everything!  Some of my first exposure to the NY comedy scene came by watching their live Stella show in NYC when I was still in high school. They’re not a group anymore but the former members continue to create inspiring work in a wide variety of ways.  And they’re hilarious.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Some favorite destinations are Beach Haven at the Jersey Shore, Montauk’s Camp Hero, and the countryside of the Netherlands, especially on the western shore.

Prettiest places I’ve ever seen: Moab Utah’s Arches National park at sunrise, Vik’s black sand beaches in Iceland, Ein Gedi springs in Israel, and Thong Nai Pan Noi beach in Thailand.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I recently sold a favorite product. The most expensive thing I ever bought! The Sound Devices 664 was the best sound recorder/mixer I owned, but since I became a union sound person, I’m usually a boom operator or utility and now use the gear belonging to the sound mixer.  I also moved to Los Angeles last year to focus on directing, especially with proper budgets, so I won’t need to use my own sound gear anymore.

When I’m directing, I use google docs a lot to organize ideas and collaborate with others. I love to shotlist using a spreadsheet!  Helps me wrap my head around the shoot to sort out ideas into shots with timing - I can really visualize exactly what can be accomplished in a day that way.

As for everyday products? Bigelow mint lipglosses, The Ordinary serums for your skin, Nars Orgasm blush, and American Apparel yoga pants and sports bras make a daily appearance in my life.

My Current Passions?

My work is my passion. I chose to follow my dreams so I’m doing it right now.