She may be an actor, photographer, and award-winning filmmaker, but Rachel Larsen is no drama queen.
Though she attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts (where Robert Redford and Grace Kelly are among her star-studded fellow alumni), her sweetness and humility reveal her Texas roots. And she wouldn’t tell you this upon first meeting her, but this year, Larsen directed and produced her first solo film, All There Is, a documentary for which she recently won Best Director at the Nice International Film Festival in Nice, France.
Here is Rachel herself to tell you more about how she moves the world.
BB: You were homeschooled. Do you think that that influenced your career path?
RL: Oh, definitely. Creativity and magic were amidst everything we did — in school and outside of it. Elementary school reading hour finished with the grand notion to create “Rox-a-Boxen” in our backyard, based on the picture book of the same name. My mom even let us lug her nice china to “sell” in the “grocery store.” Which was across from the flower shop, of course.
I saw everything in a magical light because I was continually getting the opportunity to grow my imagination. It was like I was given the ability, but more importantly, the choice, to see the world for the beauty that it is.
My entire childhood of fairies and homemade family films and freshly baked bread have all come together to create the artist and person I am today.
BB: Lots of entrepreneurs and young professionals say they experience “impostor syndrome.” Do you ever feel that way? And if so, what do you do about it?
RL: I certainly have in the past. Actually, let me be quite candid and say that I am continually and actively working against those negative voices that want to say I’m less than I am.
The thing is, I’ve always known I was meant to be an artist. The title of “artist,” however, is varied and confusing, so, naturally, I’ve gotten a little lost in translation at moments. Acting school was marvelous and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But because it made you reach those moments of the rawest and scariest truth that you’ve ever been brave enough — or pushed enough by a screaming Polish acting instructor — to reach. But that’s because we had to reach those moments — ones of sobbing your eyes out, either in an exercise or after class — and most of the time, the reasoning for me was because I wasn’t meeting my own expectation of myself. Which I realize now is a whole load of bogus horse**** because I, as well as you, have everything we need within us.
We always have a choice. And I am always striving to choose compassion and love over fear and judgment.
BB: Tell me about making documentaries.
RL: I had a fabulous experience creating my feature documentary, All There Is.
When I picked up the camera for the first time, I had no idea what I was creating. I just knew I had to do this. I was in a place in my life with a lot of uncertainties, especially in one romantic relationship. As one does when they’re questioning the last several months of their life, I picked up a camera. I didn’t even know why I was filming. I just knew what I wanted to capture and why. That was my only sightline. I never planned anything. I just filmed everything.
Which I’m sure is quite the opposite of most documentary filmmaker’s processes. But I was in a f***-it mood.
And this f***-it mood turned into a full-length documentary, with an arc and journey I wasn’t expecting. So you best believe I said a lot of grateful thanks to my intuition, which I was blindly following.
Making films for me is a very spiritual process. I’m an avid believer in Buddhist principles and truths and attempt to implement the moment-by-moment beauty and peace I have found into every shot.
BB: What movie have most people not seen but really need to watch?
RL: The popularity of Blue Jasmine with Cate Blanchett certainly wasn’t as hyped as it should have been. Beautiful movie, heart-stopping acting.
But, if I’m being honest, The 10th Kingdom starring Kimberly Williams. It’s the best worst movie.
BB: What does one do at the Nice Film Festival? Is it as fancy as I am imagining it to be? And what was Cannes like?
RL: Okay, I’m not going to lie, the phrase, “Wow, this feels so fancy” did cross my mind. More than once. VIP Badges at both Cannes and Nice. We took fancy photos on red carpets. Cannes had about twenty yachts with parties happening outside. I filmed my first interview with Steve Grossmith of FILM the Magazine at Nice. I was in a whirlwind of, I can’t believe this is happening. And especially, now. And I get to experience it with incredible people whom I love very much. Wow, what a life.
BB: You decided to pursue directing over acting, at least for the time being. Why’s that?
RL: I’ve always been an explorer. Whether it was watching a ladybug on a leaf at age five or trekking to France for a couple of film festivals, I love the unknown and the thrill of independence that comes from doing something a little outside my comfort zone.
I felt a different pulling to pursuing film for a bit. Plus, I wanted the technical training that comes from going to school for film. I’m still going to act, but one can always learn and grow more, and I’m excited to explore this new side of my artistic pursuits.
BB: What can you tell other people who dream of acting and directing?
RL: GO FOR IT! If it brings you joy and peace whenever you daydream about it, but more importantly if it gives you peace when you create something put it into action, then it’s meant for you. I’ve sat in my bed at 3 AM with a cup of tea at age 20 after a day of long auditions and an eight-hour shift and thought, “Ah, am I really meant to do this?” And I found out an instant later, the answer came ringing back to me with complete sincerity.
“Yes! If it makes you happy, do it. Ding ding.”
Wow, thank you, emotional guidance system!
P.S. Beware the reasoning for which you want to do it. Intention is important.
BB: How would you describe yourself?
RL: A singing-in-the-store, and dancing-in-the-rain type of human! Movie fans, get the references?
I’ve always been dedicated and passionate, two things that overflow. I have taken that too far in the past and not given myself room to breathe. I’m trying to do better at self-care and trusting that relaxation — or a face mask — is an important part of life.
I smile a lot. People sometimes think I’m putting on a fake happy face, but legit, I’m just happy. So whatever, I’ll just go meditate.
BB: What motivates you?
RL: The sunlight. I’m not even kidding. It gives me energy, it soothes me, it heals me. And sometimes the sun can replace coffee for me.
I said sometimes.
Seeing really good films motivates me, as well as witnessing jaw-dropping acting. Beauty inspires me, but usually when it’s at its most natural, for example, a mountain in the distance.
BB: What makes you feel like a badass?
RL: Doing yoga. And surpassing where I was in my last practice. I always try to get in the groove and improve a little every single time.
Eating delicious, healthy, plant-based food makes me feel like a badass. Because I am fueling my body with what it naturally desires most. Combined with B-12 supplements, spirulina, in addition to a wide array of complete plant-based proteins, vegetables, fruits, etc.
Traveling makes me feel like a badass. Discovering new cultures, trying new foods, seeing new places, meeting new people.
Also, embracing myself, in all my strengths, and weaknesses, and reveling in the beauty we all have inside us makes me feel like a badass! I want everyone to feel like a badass. Cause you should!
BB: What’s your dream trivia round?
RL: The 7 Chakras And How To Cleanse Them / Harry Potter
BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
RL: Lots of love to Micah Larsen and the Badasserie Blog and all the amazing women out there!!! Keep being badasses!
Book a photography session with Rachel Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Rachel Larsen is the author’s sister-in-law