8 Pleasures of Not Winning an Emmy!

It was such a delightful shock when I got the news that MY REINCARNATION was nominated for an Emmy! But as the date for the ceremony loomed closer, my joy turned to dread. It got even worst when my parents said they were coming, or to put it more precisely, my mother said she already booked a room in New York City. And no matter how hard I tried to convince them it wasn’t important to me, they wouldn’t budge. I mean after all, I told my boyfriend he didn’t need to come from Zurich. I know it must sound bratty, but as the day approached, things got even worst. My mind was having a field day: “Why didn’t the Academy just tell us who won before hand? After all they already knew. Did they get pleasure in crowding us in a little room like sheep before the slaughter?” I mean I liked being nominated, but it stopped there.I began to fantasize about staying home in my pajamas and watching my new serial TV obsession, “Orange Is The New Black,” but honestly, it never really occurred to me that I could bail. Other than being suddenly laid up with the flu (which did cross my mind), somehow I am too much of a team player to abandon my parents, my film team, the wonderful POV staff and the other POV filmmakers. I don’t have the guts to “do a Woody Allen” and thumb my nose at these events, but boy do I admire him.So, Tuesday I primped and preened and showed up in my little black dress with my parents, Stefanie Diaz, our associate producer, Joanna Plafsky, an Executive Producer, and the fantastic POV team. There were seven POV programs nominated and many of the filmmakers were there that I knew. All of us and about 1,000 other people had wine and dinner overlooking the park, in the twilight of a beautiful fall day. But I was so nervous that I forgot to take pictures. Suddenly, there was the ringing of a bell and we were all ushered into the theater. The lights dimmed and the program began. Never having been to the Emmy’s I sat frozen in my seat, as category after category unfolded. I have to say I was entranced. I watched each of the film snippets, noting the programs to look up afterwards. I didn’t want to check my cell phone; I didn’t want to talk. Time seemed to stand still and unfold. It was a rare moment in my busy life to reflect. And it went on for hours (in fact about three)! As the minutes ticked off, I began to revisit the past twenty years of making MY REINCARNATION  like George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life:”First: I thought about all the days, and weeks, and months, and years I had spent filming Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Yeshi, his son. It dawned on me again how special they were to keep accepting a camera in their home year after year. In my mind, I now saw myself placed in the scenes with them, enjoying our time together. I saw us grow up; I saw us grow old. I realized with a wave of deep sadness that I would never be so close to my Teacher or his son as I had been all those years with the camera.  I didn’t have the ultimate excuse to hang out with them in their homes anymore.

Second: I thought about how long I wandered in the film wilderness before anyone supported the project, to such a degree that the people who did support the film are notable, exceptional souls: the key European Producers: Babeth Van Loo, Carl Ludwig Rettinger, Andres Pfaeffli; the rare American Organizations, like The Hartley Film Fund and Dan Cogan’s Impact Partners; the individual producers like, Mark Farrington, Steve Landsberg, Efrem Marder, Andrian Melnikov, and the fabulous Joanna Plafsky. I remembered each one in my mind.

Third: I thought about the dear people sitting around me in the dark, the Executive Producers of POV, Simon Kilmurry and Cynthia Lopez, and their team. If Simon and POV hadn’t chosen MY REINCARNATION for broadcast, it may not have found another home in the American television landscape. They were my first choice and my only choice. Being picked by them was like winning the lottery. The respect they gave the film and I, working together towards the broadcast, was beyond my dreams. Moreover, PBS was the perfect, and perhaps only, broadcaster for such a film. I was overwhelmed by our good fortune.

Forth: I thought about the fact that “it takes a village,” never truer than with this film. With little official funds for almost 18 years, we depended on so many people who gave their dollars, wrote emails, cheered the film on, and then did it again and again year after year. Then there were dear friends in the Dzogchen community, too many to name, who became sources of support in my terror to be making a film about my own Buddhist Teacher and his son. People like Paula Barry, Fabio Andrico, Enrico Dellangello, Michi Martello, and the ever-so-generous, Andrea Sertoli, who passed away this summer.

Fifth: I thought about the other artists who worked on the film, so many that I can not write them all, but particularly, Sabine Krayenbhul, the film’s extraordinary editor, Mary Lampson, who was the first person to wade through the footage and prove there was something there, Soledad Suarez who organized the tapes that were filled with Buddhist terminology nobody understood, Adella Ladjevardi, Shelly Helgeson and later Stefanie Diaz, Associate Producers, who would run the whole show and keep the boat going to this day. And more and more and more, including my boyfriend Patrick Lindenmaier, who made the old footage look beautiful.

Sixth: I thought about my parents, sitting beside me, who always believed in me since the beginning, even when there no evidence that I had an talent. Because isn’t that what every good parent does? Believe despite the odds. I knew very well that without their support, I would never have had the hubris to climb out on all these crazy tree limbs over the years, again and again. I revisited in my mind the time when I was $100,000 in debt for MY REINCARNATION. I traveled home to talk to my parents (FYI in their eighties) to ask their advice. I told them I was considering doing a crowdfunding campaign, but I was scared to death I would fail. I had to explain the concept to them (who had heard of crowdfunding back then?), but once they understood, they both said, “Sounds great! We think you should do it! Can’t wait to see how it works!”

Seventh: I started thinking about the Emmy Awards, unveiling in front of me. Listening to the categories, I began to notice the repeating themes – almost every program was about war, violence, destruction, and injustice.  Of course, they are crucial stories to be told, but there was almost nothing like MY REINCARNATION. And there was not one other film about spirituality. MY REINCARNATION was a complete anomaly in the crowd. Slowly, it dawned on me how really special it was that our film was nominated at all, what a great honor it was to have climbed up these ranks with such a ‘soft story’ in the world of journalism. This little film had made it through the cracks – in a world full of conflict and horror – into people’s hearts and minds.

Eighth: Sitting in the dark over those hours, another feeling dawned on me. The prospect of being called up on stage loomed even more uncomfortably. The pressure to remember all the really important people who had made this 20-year film journey in the allotted 30 seconds weighed on me. How could I ever do justice to it all? I realized I would be just as happy not to win, that it would be absolutely fine, to remain in my seat, sitting and watching for the rest of the night. We had in fact already won just by being here.

Our category was one of the last in the night. I don’t think it was called till about 9:45 PM, but by the time it suddenly came up, all my anxiety had flown away. And when our name wasn’t called to win – but another wonderful film THE INTERRUPTERS was – I was truly happy. I had learned so much. I was thrilled I came. I was thrilled I was nominated, thrilled to be in this esteemed crowd, and yes, just as thrilled not to win.

As I helped my parents from the room, I turned to my mother – just ever so worried that she would be disappointed that they had wasted their time coming to such a strenuous event. Instead I saw tears in her eyes: “I can’t believe my daughter had her film nominated in the company of all those other great films! I am so proud of you!” I was amazed. And there they were once again the people who believed in me – who always believed in me from the get go despite the odds. I was grateful they had the foresight, unlike me, to realize this was an important moment that we would always remember.

With gratitude,


New York, NY



Powered by Facebook Comments