We had the good fortune of connecting with Anthea Neri Best and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthea, what’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
One of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was, whether I was going to play it “safe” and continue the path that my parents, my culture, and society had planned out for me or follow the path of uncertainty and fulfillment and follow my dreams.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am an immigrant. When I was four years old, I moved to the United States from Negros Occidental Philippines. Once in the U.S., I had to take ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, and I had to learn how to find my voice and my identity as a 1st generation Filipino American. I graduated from Western Carolina University with a B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science, and went on to work at Duke University and Mount Sinai Genetics and Genomics as a Genetics Specialist. I was proud of what I accomplished, and yet I was not fulfilled. So I put in my 2 weeks notice, left my “safe” genetics job, and decided to go after my dreams. That choice has given me the opportunity to grace the stages of Carnegie Hall, Dodgers’ Stadium, Staples Center, and Lincoln Center; as well as TV screens through appearances on Tacoma FD on TruTV, NBC’s Mr. Mayor, and Brooklyn 99.
Most recently, and probably my most gratifying and fulling experience, was producing “FACE ON” a dark-comedy/horror film, with my husband (and the film’s writer/director) Justin Michael Best. FACE ON tells the story of a beauty-obsessed woman who goes on a bloody quest to create the perfect face, but it also tells the story of the dangers of a society that is focused largely on appearance. Today, more than ever, people are spending more time comparing themselves on the internet and social media, which has helped to contribute to depression and poor body image. This movie takes aim, in a creative way, at this comparison culture, and, ultimately, it contains a message of self-love and acceptance.
We had several meetings with larger studios and many interested investors, but every time there was some string attached. For us, and our production company, BxB Studios, we decided we wanted “Happy Money” and kind humans who were excited to help us tell this story. This meant that no matter your resume or the amount of money that was offered, this story wasn’t for sale.
This story was meant to be told by these filmmakers. So we decided to do a Seed & Spark crowdfunding campaign in which we raised over $60,000 in 45 days. We didn’t have a Hollywood budget but, we had what so much of Hollywood is missing — heart and passion from kind loving filmmakers working together to tell our story.
We had an amazing group of humans and filmmakers who loved the story and the BxB Studios mission of being a non-negotiable, kind human and working in a collaborative, safe and fun environment.
It was the most challenging and fulfilling thing I had ever done in my entire life. We wrapped a safe set in 14 days, with prop weapons, practical blood, a large cast, multiple locations, implied intimate scenes, and stunts.
Not only was I one of the producers, but I also played our lead protagonist, “Sheryl”. It was challenging balancing what needed to be done to run a feature film set, while also being able to be Sheryl and tell her story honestly and authentically. As a female Filipino American actress and producer what I realized through all of the research and meetings was – we don’t have a POC as a lead in a slasher film. I was tired of waiting for Hollywood and society to create this movie. This story and message needed to be told. So we made the film and are telling our story.
One of my goals for my film and company is to tell the world it is possible. You can do it. Be non-negotiable, and stay true to your intuition and vision. If we want change in our industry – or even in our lives- we cannot wait around for people to create it. We cannot wait to be chosen. No one is coming to ”save” you. Be your own hero. Be the change you seek. Don’t chase whatever is cool or in at the moment. Be true to your story and vision. Kindness, communication, honesty, and passion can get you far. In short, BELIEVE, BE KIND, and stay true to your heart, and you can accomplish anything. Just take it Brick by Brick, (BxB studios).
Huge thank you to the “Face On” Family and Team: SegarLA, Action Factory, SilverStrand Ranch, Panny Hire, Kwokman Diagnostics, and many others who helped our film become a reality.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So many places to visit: Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. Stroll through the city and see the Hollywood stars and the Chinese Theatre. Visit Mickey Mouse at Disney Land.
Griffith Observatory, or just gather our friends and visit the many beaches and hiking trails California has to offer!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
One thing I have learned is — You might be able to do it alone but it’s a lot more fun when you do it with friends.
First, you have to start with a belief in yourself and your dream and then surround yourself with wonderful kind humans who believe in you and support you and your vision. I dedicate this:
To my mentor and friend, Baayork Lee. She believed in me when I was first starting out in this industry and has always told me that I CAN do it and it IS possible. She told me that in order to succeed I had to believe, gather knowledge, learn, and go all in.
To my mom — Thank you for always believing in me and always supporting my love for the arts and music; and for always encouraging me to live my dream and helping to give me the tools to succeed.
To my husband — Thank you for helping me to find my own strength and for supporting my dreams. Thank you for producing my music and helping us to produce our first feature film “FACE ON” independently. Thank you for leading by example and showing us how dreams do come true. Thank you for helping me see, that we shouldn’t wait around for people to choose us or rescue us, and that we don’t need to wait for the world to say we are good enough or worthy enough. We have the power to choose ourselves, and we must take our power back and live it now Thank you. I love you, Mahal Kita.
To National Asian Artist Project, East West Players, Western Carolina University, and my Filipino community — Thank you for supporting me, giving me a place to create and grow, and a place, a loving community, and a place I can call home. We are stronger together!
Waleska Santiago & Marissa King