Nicole Russin-McFarland, the film director and film composer causing a stir online, has a hit film score album, Esther in Wonderland. The animated feature of the same name is debuting online this summer. But right now, she is quietly trending on Twitter. A #COVID19 humor meme she shared about the pandemic reshaping us all into the Charmin toilet paper bears snapped up 56 retweets and 130 likes one hour after its posting on Sunday evening.
“I study what all the amazing brands are doing online, and I can tell you every beauty brand, household brand, film studio, movie company, person if you will, who achieves tremendous success is doing right. What they all have in common is they communicate with people online absolutely down to earth in non-robotic responses, whether it’s The Container Store, e.l.f. Cosmetics or Amblin,” Russin-McFarland said.
“This is me knowing because I reach out to brands whenever I love something, and I try so much to be like those very people doing a good job. Being ignored as a consumer, a huge fan of any brand, hurts. I am never above ignoring people who support me online.”
A strong regard for manufactured showbiz mystery is not her brand as a star on the rise. Russin-McFarland’s genius self marketing puzzle pieces are an irregularity for the prissy coffee run Hollywood crowd pretending they never stage their own paparazzi photo ops. She posted a bedhead shelter in place selfie photo bombed by a cat’s rear end this month. Nothing fazes her.
“Everything I do is whatever old school publicists I never hired were pushing on me not to do. People wanted me to work with their firms for years, me forking over lots of money I didn’t have for them to treat me like a puppet all the while I am paying them,” she said. “They say only fools part with their money. I’ll take it a step further. Only fools give other people their money to lose control over their authentic selves.”
Her authentic self is priceless and evergreen. Her CinematNIC blog page on the official Apple News iPhone app attracted more readers than the populations of some small communities. Russin-McFarland’s films were not getting the reach she desired on a streaming platform, so she published them on YouTube, finding her core audience she wants to grow larger when she makes the leap to studio-backed projects.
“But you need an agent within the right agencies in Hollywood to get a studio gig, or someone very powerful needs to recommend you. A manager and publicist doesn’t seem to be enough,” she said. The catch 22.
Ten years ago, the Chicago native was a fashion model in Manhattan, modelling the rubbish in your best girlfriend’s beauty drawer. In her spare time, she sought freelance journalism work, writing for The New York Daily News and other media organisations.
“The pay was horrible. Modelling agencies kept most of it. They always lied you back owed them, and you were fighting a lot. I had weekly workplace drama, like an agent trying to book me for a recurring job but paying me less each time. No way. The casting couch pressures were scary,” she said.
“Young women are fed these lies that you do some things that aren’t part of the job description at times, you live silenced looking the other way at all costs with anything you witness, and you take part in the casting couch at times, suddenly, you’re given the higher up auditions that include brands like Victoria’s Secret with the starter jobs being, the women paid to model nerdy sweaters and swimwear in the old catalogues. Of course, I was limited to only handfuls of auditions with other girls who, like me, wouldn’t agree to the stuff outside our job descriptions. We were certainly given far fewer opportunities than those we believed were agreeable.”
“Guess what? It was all a myth. It is to this day. When you do get those major gigs, you aren’t special. You won’t get rich and famous. You are one of many. Hundreds, possibly, who have worked with that brand. Maybe thousands, if you get into the couture runway shows. Countless women over the years have modelled for magazine covers and the big brands, including the famed Victoria’s Secret catalogue in swimwear and sweaters. We know Gisele Bündchen and Adriana Lima. Maybe a couple more. Do most people remember the other women years out? No, they’re forgotten. They become that woman who used to be famous, I think? Why do I know here again?”
“To be in film though and have your ideas immortalised? You live forever,” she said.
“You change the world with your art. Like James Cameron, who makes people think about the environment with Avatar, or Sam Mendes recreating history in the 1917 movie. Stanley Kubrick and everything he ever made. You make people think.”
Russin-McFarland said she only pursued modelling to become well known and change careers into filmmaking.
“Using that, I could make it as a film director and slide over. Of course, that day never came. Because I wouldn’t bend my morals for the what if? My destiny is to be greater than that. My animated movie I am working on, The Homework’s Revenge: Esther in Wonderland, is about that. Never losing who you really are. To rid yourself of the real you from your teen years is erasing the person you have become. My movie before the character falls into Alice’s Wonderland shows how I admired people like directors and my favourite film score and mainstream music names, and how that combination is 100% me today.”
She co-owns an Etsy shop called Haus of Film with her acting friends, Samantha V. Hutton and Ryan McGregor. “Our women in film T-shirt fundraiser is still going! I hope to someday tell people we have changed many women’s lives because we donated to their films with our little store. You don’t need a flashy shop to make a difference in the world.”
Esther in Wonderland will be the spark setting off her career firecracker. Don’t worry, Ms. Russin-McFarland. You will get your big Hollywood agent.
“It’s going to be the first feature film of mine people see. Because it is about me for the first time, people will get to know who I really am. This little movie is all made to look like an old Walt Disney style film before his studio got rich. I’m telling you, if I can get interest for my film score music like it’s the days of Cole Porter now in 2020, and I am going to make Esther in Wonderland get noticed right up there with anything 3D and super cool, I can do anything. I really am going to be a studio director. Someday, I really will complete my life goal of winning an Academy Award dressed in a black tux and tie to prove I am no different than any of the men who win these awards. Really, that was the goal I wrote down for a homework assignment where a teacher made us write down our wildest career dreams. Things take time. They aren’t impossible when you meet people and see how everyone you want to be like started where you are now.”
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