We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicolette Acosta and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicolette, what role has risk played in your life or career?
To be in the entertainment industry at all – to be in any type of business where you are your own boss and brand manager you have to be at least a certain percentage of a risktaker, right? You have to bet on yourself. When I was younger I defined risks as impulsive choices and actions and I wouldn’t have described myself as a particularly risky person. But looking back I realize I actually took a lot of risks – I told my parents I wanted to audition for adult shows instead of just doing children’s theatre, for college, I was dead set on moving across the country to NYU Tisch despite not knowing anyone in that part of the country and I did it. I did it again after graduation and came to Los Angeles. It’s pretty ballsy to do any of that, especially that young, but I didn’t see those as risks, I saw them as necessary steps to get where I wanted to go and ultimately where I saw myself belonging. Those were my particular risks, for another, it might be not going to college at all or starting over in a new career or way of life at an older age, but ultimately I think it all boils down to what I’ve personally felt is the biggest and most rewarding risk, the risk of authenticity.
In personal and professional creation it takes such courage to one- take the time and discover who you are and what you want out of this life and then two- to actually take the steps to share that with the world? It takes tremendous courage! And quite frankly it’s a courage that we’ve been seeing wane from bigger studios for decades. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to join in on an Avengers marathon – but in the current climate, it’s next to impossible to get real money for anything without franchise potential and that usually results in seeing the same story with the same people being told time and time again. Not that you don’t get brilliant people who sneak through in the formula – James Gunn is a phenomenal example of someone who took the superhero trope and redefined it in an authentic way and audiences FLOCKED to it! But across the board, there’s a reason why you have Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, etc. dominating and it’s not just the convenience of streaming – it’s that they continue to take artistic risks in telling true stories where viewers can see themselves. That’s always been the throughline for my creative risks and inspiration.
It took me a while to root into who I am and display that confidently. People will tell you to prepare to be told no a lot, which is true – what they don’t tell you as much is prepared to be bad. Really bad, cringe-worthy bad – and to prepare people to tell you that. Honestly, if you’re sharing anything worth something, it can be jaw-droppingly amazing and you will still have someone hate it. Good. That’s art. That’s life. But it’s a necessary risk to show where you need more growth and what you deem worthy of sticking to your guns for and that will ultimately lead you to a result of which you can be proud.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What you are most proud of or excited about? What sets you apart from others?
I live for that feeling that starts in your stomach and rises up until it bursts through your chest when you encounter something that truly touches you. In myself, I describe it as my soul catching fire.
That’s what I want to create in others when they encounter my art – whether it’s acting, filmmaking or writing. I want to create windows in my pieces through which people, especially those long underrepresented in the entertainment industry, can not only see themselves but also see what they can become. Those are the kinds of projects for which my company, Fuego de Mente Productions, strives.
For me, I get that feeling when I’m watching an incredible biopic and among the fiction projects we take on, Fuego de Mente will put an emphasis on the individuals who have helped shape history and then were erased from it. I want to widely share the stories of the Martha Gellhorn’s, the Artemisia Gentileschi’s, the Fatima al-Firhi’s, the Gladys Bentley’s! These are women that existed hundreds, some thousands of years ago and their names have been essentially eradicated from mainstream history books!
I remember when I was a kid and I knew that I wasn’t exactly like everyone I had encountered in my Texas town – I liked it there a lot, but it wasn’t it for me, I didn’t want to stay and get married and relive a life that, I felt, had already been done – and there’s nothing wrong with that life, it just wasn’t for me. And I was alright that it wasn’t, I wasn’t ashamed, but I did feel alone in it. Like somehow everyone around me had found their homes and they were lovely, but I was just visiting. I think if I had more true stories of women who had already existed in real life and conquered more than I had dreamt of, I would’ve felt a little less crazy for knowing I could do it too. I want to make sure all children in the future know that in the pits of their souls and I want to use my production company headed by women and creators of color to do so.
Why Fuego de Mente Productions?
Fuego de Mente – or Mind Fire, came from a Tom Waits interview I read where he discusses the evolution of his creative process and how it once tormented him to try and pin down the perfect lyric or melody. How he once obsessed over trying to articulate ideas or feelings that frankly sometimes are not ready to go into fruition or simply not meant to be used by you. He came to realize that in the end..it’s just not that serious. Waits went on to say that what he did essentially boiled down to creating jewelry for people to enjoy inside their brains. Something clicked for me.
I’m an actor and creator and I’m very proud and grateful for my path in life, but let’s not kid ourselves, I’m not going to cure cancer – but if I can create a film about the life of Dr. Jimmie Holland or Rosalind Frankin that creates a spark and lights a fire in the mind of someone who will cure cancer – that’s a really good day. I wanted a production name that honors my Latin roots as well as embodies the sparks I want to inspire, Fuego de Mente said it all.
So what’s next for Fuego de Mente Productions?
We just finished shooting our first original short ‘Connecting’! It’s a psychological thriller I wrote over the last year that touches on mental health and the desperation one can be pushed to through overwhelming isolation – Something most of us can resonate with after 2020 right? It’s currently in post before hitting the festival circuit next year. As for our next project, we currently have a few ideas in development we want to commit to film by this winter, but we’re always looking for more people to collaborate with to bring visions to life! If you’re a writer/director/filmmaker please contact us, always excited to expand our circle!
How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
I feel like when I was growing up I heard “nothing worth having is easy” a lot. I hate that. Is the entertainment industry easy? No. It’s exhausting, expensive, and unstable. It’s also exhilarating, creative, and passionate – that’s the kind of life I want and there are sacrifices that come along with that. There are a few exceptions, but for 99.9% of us in this industry, you’re working for a decade straight to be an overnight success, is it easy? Of course not, but if you’d rather poke your own eye out with a rusty fork than go over your lines for hours, dive into character subtext and arcs, go through rewrites or plan out your storyboards – then don’t do this career! And that’s an ok choice to make! No one has to stick with something because at one point in their life they thought it was what they wanted, you can change your mind. But if you find something that you can’t live without, something that sets your soul on fire – then you have to find joy and love in the work. If you’re a chef, but you’re only happy when you’re getting a Michelin star – you’re going to spend the majority of your life miserable. On the other hand, if you find joy in the prep work and the late nights with staff and the little wins along the way – that’s a career. That’s what I’m here to do.
To overcome the hard parts of this industry you need tenacity, adaptiveness, and slightly delusional – there are many days where you need to believe in the impossible; but most of all, you need a community.
There is not one single person past, present, or future, who finds success without the help of someone else. My community often appears as a patchwork quilt put together by the many people I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter from Texas, NYU, here, and numerous other places. Not all of them are still in my life, but all of them have impacted the person I’ve grown to be and in that way, they’ve also left a mark on my art. Best friends who consistently pick me up with a hug and glass of wine when the answer’s been no, agents who saw something in me when my resume was bare. mentors who’ve done midnight zoom sessions before my shoots, and even ex-partners who broke my heart – I can honestly say I’m so grateful for every one of them. That’s part of what’s been the biggest lesson for me as an artist and as a human.
Know yourself, know where you come from, and be confident not only in that but who you’ve grown to be, and if you’re not proud of who you currently are have the courage to wake up tomorrow and begin to change. To succeed you need to be brave.
A good way to do that and keep yourself on track is to surround yourself with an honest, grounded community who will be frank with you, but also have your back. They challenge you, they keep you growing, they support you, they mention you in rooms you’re not yet in. They’re there to pop the champagne but will also bend with you to pick up the shards if the bottle breaks. Amy Poehler said it best, “It’s easier to be brave when you’re not alone.”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
To me, the perfect vacation is a balance of activity and relaxation, I always try to incorporate a few spots off the beaten path, but still give friends from out of town that LA feel- so some touristy stops have to be scheduled. We’ll get active with some beach volleyball in Santa Monica and a hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, go for drinks at some of my favorite local bars like Idle Hour, EPLP and The Front Yard, catch a movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and some standup shows at Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store, and would love to see another Picture This! show at The Eastsider. Of course, when you live in LA you have to let people try allll of the good food, a few of my go-to’s include Sushi House on Ventura, Dama Downtown, Firefly in NoHo, and Oriel in Chinatown. Beyond that, I love to incorporate festivals, shows, and exhibits debuting in the city – LA always has something going on! We’d hit the Getty, LACMA, or just see what’s currently going on with TimeOut LA! Finally, we’d finish the trip watching the sunset and catching up under the stars at one of the pull-offs on Mullholland Drive – Love those valley lights!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The short answer to this is the word community. The long one is the many ways that word has manifested in my life. From my parents who always gave their hope, encouragement, and guidance as I’ve pursued a life in the arts, to my partner who’s completed many a 3 AM self-tape because I wanted to get it “just right” before sending it in, to my amazing friends, colleagues, and mentors in this industry who’ve freely volunteered their advice, time, equipment and talents to bring passion projects to life. Film is one of the most collaborative art forms and I would not be even close to where I am today without those who surround and inspire me daily.
– Mellinda Hensley – Jordan Schulz – Tommy Garcia -Peter Mosiman – Dana Patrick – Kenneth Ausmus – Getty Images