Izzy Stevens: Empathic Self-Awareness
Being in a state of happiness feels great. Sometimes, we might even remind ourselves and others to be happy or to get happy, but this is one of the words that carry so much contextual meaning that we often can get lost in its connotation. Without a doubt, every single word holds a meaning that we individually identify with, which is influenced by how we attach ourselves to it based on our life experience and contextual upbringing. So, what does happiness mean, and how do we get to the state of being happy? The answer is within each of us, and like life itself, it will always expand and evolve to a fuller expression through the life force to which we all are connected. Weola, one of the leading contemporary facilitators of inspirational teachings, says, “Happiness is the ease within the movement you navigate through life.”
Izzy Stevens, an Australian-American artist, radiates her state of happiness through diverse creative processes. She says of herself, “My full name is Isabella. I would describe myself as tenacious and compassionate. Empathy and self-awareness are really important to me.
One of the things that actors have in common is that the sensibility of empathy and compassion naturally arises within them in a fuller and fuller way as they explore and embody different characters. Through their sense of empathy, actors get into integrating different personalities within different contexts. But because it’s a play in which they intend to become someone else for a short period of time, they are steady enough to bring it all in and out through them. According to Izzy, “I think that’s a real drawer to acting, but I can only speak for myself. I do find that most actors I meet have an exciting way of relating to people.”
Being an Australian living in the US, Izzy is continually integrating both cultures. She shares that “In Australia, we have so many connections with the US, there’s so many ties, and we see ourselves as so similar because we’re Western. But then, when you come to the US, there are big differences between both. I am still wrapping my head around, but as Australians, we associate with American culture because of the film and television world. Also, I would say that being in America, I’ve never felt more Australian, but my friends and family back home would often disagree with me. I feel like most of the closest people in my life share this sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere. And I think that’s just going to keep happening more and more as we become more globalized. We travel more, and we relate to different areas of the world more—which is such a gift because it gives us a better understanding of the world that we’re living in—it’s wonderful to be that way.”
When we travel by exploring and experiencing new places through the people and their cultures, the perspective that opens up enriches our own understanding of how beautifully diverse we are and how much that enhances our continual becoming. This is also evident within the entertainment industry, where it’s also becoming more diverse and inclusive in its narratives and representation.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be active at a time when the world is focusing on expanding and including and telling more authentic stories because I believe that’s why we have a film and television industry. We have this medium to make people feel understood and see themselves represented on screen, allowing us to become a more integrated society—to have more compassion and empathy.
Through my own filmmaking experience, as I was leading a project, I realized how easy it is for men to get crew roles because the industry is still very male-dominated. It only takes a couple of minutes more to say, ‘Well, everyone, how can we fill these roles with more women and women of color?’ And it’s funny because it stops people in their tracks, and they say, ‘Oh, I’ve got someone I can recommend.’ And then suddenly you have a film where It’s not just all men working behind the camera, but it’s like a multitude of people and different kinds of people from different backgrounds. It results in better films, better TV, and better entertainment for us. This is not just from one perspective. So, my contribution is to keep the ball rolling and make sure we’re asking those questions,” says Izzy.
Without a question, there can’t be an answer. Different perspectives, different people, different backgrounds create the most authentic mix in the form of who we are and the planet we all share. The world is diverse in its nature, not only people but also nature, animals, everything, and everyone around us. This diversity propels the infinite expansion of everything that exists, making us ask questions that clarify our preferences that in turn create the answer.
Especially when the pandemic has started, Izzy asked how she can help and guide people through her own experience to accomplish what they want within the entertainment industry. The answer Izzy received for herself was to launch an online platform called Creative Luminaries. She excitedly shares about it, “Creative Luminaries started because I realized that over the years, I was a little bit of a magnet for friends and colleagues to come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this script. Could you please read it and let me know what you think? How can we make this on a low budget? Alternatively, could you brainstorm some ideas with me?’ So I kept meeting incredible people who had these stories they wanted to tell but felt like their voices weren’t valid. It is a wonderful experience bringing people together and feeling a sense of community. Through COVID-19, I even had multiple clients who made their first films. So it’s a private coaching platform where I work with people one on one to help them transition from script to screen. I basically coach them through the process of writing their script, making the film, and going into post-production. The application process goes through my web, and I offer a free session to all first-timers.”
Izzy’s passion and love for acting are palpable and emanate through everything she does. She says, “I became an actor because I felt strongly about empathy. Film is, in my experience, the most immediate way to make people feel empathized with and connect with them.”
Izzy can also be seen as a lead actress portraying Bella Bartlett in the Australian film franchise, Occupation, and the sequel Occupation: Rainfall will be released in North America in June 2021. About the process of becoming Bella, Izzy says, “I was a few years older than 17 when I began playing Bella, so it made me feel like I was returning to this misunderstood 17-year old—that person we all have inside of us who feels a little bit like no one understands me. It’s like my voice isn’t relevant. And I’m frustrated. And I don’t feel like the world is for me yet. So going back there was so powerful because it’s so easy for us to judge teenagers and young people as we get into adulthood. But perhaps, we probably don’t give them enough credit for what they’re going through.”
Growing up, we learn how to focus through our parents’ examples and our environment. Sometimes, that focus becomes sharp and narrow, with many rules that we as teenagers want to avoid seeking more self-expression. But, once we discover how to balance it, just like Izzy self-expression comes out in many different ways. Later this year, she will be releasing a short film Seafoam that she directed, produced, wrote, and acted in. The combination of all these disciplines has expanded Izzy’s creative awareness and enhanced her overall skills.
She describes this experience by saying, “I create stuff not for the product, but for the process of making something. There’s no greater joy than being able to work on something from start to finish and being able to use your voice throughout. I’m someone who finds it difficult to ask for help, so I decided to bring as many people as possible to make this really interesting and special. Now, I’m so glad that I had such an amazing team on that project. I’m never completely satisfied, though, as there are endless ways to create an experience for the audience. That’s my favorite thing to figure it out.”
Yes, there is nothing more satisfying than the process of discovering things, especially when the part of discovery takes most of the time, and the outcome is just a blip in comparison. Many of us argue with each other in an attempt to be right, but there are as many perspectives as there are people. We all perceive reality differently, depending on where we focus our attention.
Seafoam is a psychological thriller about a young woman who isn’t quite sure if her reality is real or not. And the audience is not really sure, either, because we’re fully in her experience.” says Izzy.
Among other exciting projects in October 2021, the Australian thriller Him will bow the theatres, with Izzy playing one of the leads. She says, “Him has a really amazing ensemble cast. I shot my scenes in Los Angeles during the pandemic, while the entire film is filmed in Australia. So, that was such an amazing challenge.”
Perhaps, awareness is the starting point for all of us to live a happy and ever-present life. Without awareness, we create by default; with awareness, we make deliberate choices. When we are happy, we only can spread and offer happiness. And in that state, watch how everyone and everything will join in with us.
Photography // Jack Stafford
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