Hi i’m Ewa and this is my very first blog entry so I’m going to share a few things with you about who I am. I’m currently 5 months into an 8 month YA-200 yoga teacher’s training course in Auckland. I have been a practitioner for over a decade but finally took the plunge last September to delve deeper into the inner teachings of the practise.
As a lawyer turned realtor, art dealer and film sales agent, my formal yoga aspirations could not be more divergent from my professional commercial roots. It’s also a lot tougher than anything I’ve ever done! I started a boutique documentary film sales agency in 2005 called Smiley Film Sales. The idea was ludicrous, Sisyphean to say the least. To base a start-up in little old New Zealand away from the media epi-centres of LA, New York and Paris was a fanciful experiment. I had no experience in film-making nor selling films other than a chance connection with a fledgling documentary film festival at the time, now the established Documentary Edge film festival.
I had been approached by the festival organisers to help raise the festival’s profile and sponsorship engagement. One of the highlights of my time with Documentary Edge was brokering one of the biggest media sponsorship campaigns for a non-profit in New Zealand in terms of dollar value and outreach with Saatchi & Saatchi. The campaign resulted in 3 world class trailers for the festival including the iconic “Wailing Women of Omsk” which you can view at The Inspiration Room. These 3 trailers were mini-mockumentaries which pulled viewers in through the angle of humour; an angle not often associated with the more serious genre of documentary. The campaign was generously received by the public and marked the coming out party of the debutante festival. Job done. My contact with the festival drew me into the world of documentary film-making and I believed that my legal and marketing skills could be put into use to helping film-makers get their valuable content seen all around the world.
From that day I taught myself everything that I needed to know about making, marketing and selling films. There was no school, no degree, no mentor I could turn to on this so my entire experience of learning about this industry, establishing and running the agency was grounded in the school of hard knocks. I guess you could say I was naive but from a foundation of nothing other than extreme stubbornness, passion, sweat and air travel miles, I believe I created something of value.
Within a period of 5 years the agency had included within its representation 3 Academy Award winning Documentary Shorts and two Nominated Documentary Shorts. These were important stories about humanity, not told in the mainstream kaleidoscope of the 24 hour news loop. There was a story about a child in the Chinese village of Yingzhou who had been maligned for being born HIV positive, a fate he did not ask for but was born into. There was another story about a New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester dying from lung cancer but fighting the fight of her life for the right to transfer her pension to her domestic same-sex partner. There was also an account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last weeks and days leading to his assassination as retold by Reverand Samuel Billy Kyles; one of his confidantes and among one of the last to speak to Dr King during that turbulent period of the civil rights movement. Through my agency, these films have been broadcasted and viewed by millions of viewers in over 32 countries. I believe that if some perceptions had softened and stereotypes destroyed because of these films, then I’m grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in helping them get seen.
My journey into the world of film sales was a tough one. The film distribution business world is a dog eat dog business where agents jealously guard territories and advances. In 8 years I felt like I had worked 16 – the cost of repping critically acclaimed indie documentary films that needed to be watched but for which nobody was willing to pay for. It was no surprise that in 2013 I became completely burnt-out. The fiasco was not in the physical and mental collapse, that was just the outcome. The real issue was the failure to recognise this before it happened. Thence began my journey of self-mitigation, an intervention into self-resuscitation.
I went in the opposite direction. Mid-week tennis and yoga at the club, lunches with the lunchalot ladies, renovating our 1910 villa, managing our kids’ basketball teams – these all became very convenient pursuits which I approached with the aplomb and vigour of my former entrepreneurial self. Superficial distractions some might say but in this time, I started to hear myself again.
How did I end up in this yoga teacher’s journey? Truthfully, it was completely spontaneous and unplanned. My guru said I heard the call and I responded. Was it a primal moment of clarity ? Time will tell. I can say with certainty though that physically, mentally, and emotionally it is, next to bearing 3 babies, the toughest thing i’ve ever had to do.
I don’t have the pliability and limberness of a gymnast or dancer. My spine and the muscle fibres in my body are accustomed to stiffening and not yielding – a survival response from years of deal-making and patch-protecting in the world of real-estate and film sales. Being upside down creates a world of uncertainty – definitely not a position a type A personality control freak like me naturally gravitates to being in. Sitting down in meditation is hard for me – my body, like my mind thrives on activity. I enjoy the finer things in life. And I don’t own any vegan boots or handbags. Enough said about that. I live in a nice home in a high-decile neighborhood in Auckland, recently listed as one of the 10 most unaffordable cities in the world to live in. There are many things I would find difficult to give up in order to live the simple and austere life of the aspirational yogi. I am an imperfect yogi. This journey is a complicated one for me on so many levels but my instincts tell me I’m onto something good. I have so many questions that need answering, dark corners imploring attention and new horizons begging exploration.
I realise these issues are not unique and that many of us are faced with similar dilemmas but if you are like me interested in how yoga can potentially help you find equanimity within the noise then this is a creative space for like-minded souls to ruminate, process and connect.