Laura Vale & Rich Ronat: Creative Curiosity And Passion

Our physical environment is infinitely rich in its variety, allowing us to choose and make our preferences. Life presents us with options, which, in contrast, serves to clarify what we prefer. It’s like looking at an extensive buffet full of delicious food, and yet, we won’t eat all of it but point at what we want without judging what we currently don’t. This curious perspective of sifting, sorting, and preference-making lights up with fire our passion for acting on our highest excitement at the moment, not seeing the wide variety as good or bad, right or wrong, but simply as—this is what I want.

The artistic duo, Laura Vale and Rich Ronat, made a conscious preference to steer their creative journey together. They blended their unique vision to establish Good Rebel Pictures, a platform not just for their own artistic expression but also to nurture and showcase the talents of others. “I am a complex and curious soul,” Laura shares, inviting us into her inner world. “I am a fire,” Rich passionately adds, his words resonating with the frequency of passion and creativity.

Each experience has a non-comparable value to our inner expansion and personal growth. In none of the experiences are we creating alone; even an artist who is solo creating art uses tools made by someone else to contribute to its creative expression. Also, there is a wider aspect of us from which we receive inspiration and inner guidance as we tune into the frequencies of energetical vibrations translated into physical senses. Our wider, divine perspective orchestrates and brings together through the summoning of our desires people as cooperative components to co-create that which once was an idea in the process of manifesting or already manifested as a tangible, physical reality. Appreciating everyone’s contribution as a whole, first and foremost, is experienced by the person who is feeling it. Since every experience is an emotional one, being in appreciation we enjoy the most.

“I had come from a long life of being on and doing everything on stage before my first film experience, which shifted my identity as someone entering Hollywood. I was lucky enough to be chosen by Clint Eastwood to be in one of his films, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. I remember the respect he gave me as this new person to Hollywood; he respected everybody else on his crew, and they treated me very well. I felt I was worth it. I just moved from New York City to LA, and although you might initially feel outside of the system, I felt I belonged in Hollywood. I don’t know if it was an artistic transformation, but it was a personal transformation in the business. Almost every actor in our cast for this film came from the same theater teacher. They were really good theater actors. And so, everybody knew it was about supporting the story and each other, and it wasn’t just about one person but the whole. Coming from the theater, I had to paint, build sets, and do lighting, so I appreciated what someone else does on set,” says Laura.

Then Rich candidly shares about his realization of being a screenwriter, “I realized I was a writer when I was 32 years old. I was on a motorcycle somewhere in the Mojave Desert. I stopped and pulled over because I was lost at that moment after my dad had passed away. I was kind of in a strange zone, mentally and spiritually. I was an actor and a stuntman, and I was all over the place. Then, as I pulled over on the roadside, I realized I was a writer. Since then, I have written 100 scripts, and recently, I started directing.”

Photography // Ben Cope | Makeup // Kate Hollinshead

Each of us is a unique expression, making us the ‘best’ in our own right, or at least the ‘best’ version we can currently be. Our journey of expansion has no end. Recognizing our uniqueness empowers us to not compare ourselves to others, as we can only assume but not measure our journey against anyone else. Striving to be authentically ourselves, the only strategy, measurement, or comparison that is truly satisfying is the inner one. By caring about how we feel, we become more in tune with our emotional state of being, which, from an energetic perspective, indicates our current vibration. So, instead of looking at someone outside of us, we can turn our attention inward. The good news is that since we can change anything within ourselves, it will reflect without ourselves, too.

“I’m not competitive when it comes to writing and creativity. Everyone has a different journey. If you start comparing yourself, there’s no way you can come up with a system or an answer that makes you feel better about it. Or worse, you can probably find things to feel bad about all day as you compete with others. I think you are competing with yourself to ensure you’re being as meticulous and deep as possible in and with what you’re creating. And if you do that, you can look back and say, ‘I truly did everything I could have done to make that as good as I can. That’s the best I can do at this moment.’ That has become more of a goal for me, and I also get the most joy from that. Because then I have no regret. If I know I gave it 100%, that’s the most joyful thing for me to do,” Rich pauses and then continuous, “Both of us had been in the business for a long time. And so, when your approach, especially in this business, is from a place of hoping to get picked, whether you’re trying to get an audition and be an actor, get the role, or you’re trying to sell a screenplay in a way, you’re always in a place of dependency. We’ve both been mentally in that place for many years, not knowing we can be the decision-makers. It took us years to learn what not to do and what to do. Now I see the people I thought were so above me, powerful and creative; maybe they aren’t that smart or that good. This realization is good for me because it fuels me to go. We’re on the same playing level and arena, and I ask myself, ‘Why not me?’ So, that was the original source of inspiration for us, knowing that we can do this, and we have enough experience, knowledge, and skill to partner up and make something happen.”

When we want others to include us, we must first include ourselves in the possibility and then talk ourselves into the feeling of ‘why’ we want to have what we desire. We often think that others decide our worth, but nobody can do that but us. Our attention to other’s opinions is a hit or miss, and opinions are not facts; they are the perspective of a specific observer. We all change opinions a million times as we change the perspective from which we observe. There is nothing we have to earn to be worthy because we already are. Everything is already within us. As we turn our attention inward, we recognize that our most important opinion about ourselves is our own. So, are we pointing our attention outward and allowing ourselves to be affected by it, or do we look within and steadily become who we want to be?

Laura expresses, “As an actor, you can be waiting forever, studying your entire life, and never being picked. There are so many talented people who aren’t picked for several arbitrary reasons. I started pulling some of my acting class members years ago to find out why they didn’t get the part. I was given ridiculous reasons for why I wasn’t chosen for a show or a movie. And I started laughing. So, here are some of them: I didn’t have the right hair color, I was taller than the male lead, I didn’t look like a victim, and I was too central looking. All these reasons were the eye of the beholder.”

Then Rich says, “We both approach our work together from a very egoless, honest, open place that has been called generosity of spirit toward each other. Because that’s how we both feel we can actually evolve, grow, and become really good at what we do. We don’t want to do the same thing, which is important. I’m a writer and director, and Laura is an actress and producer. We both focus on solutions without getting caught up in the negative or the past.”

Every new expression we embody benefits other expressions we have already mastered. There is a continuous, never-ending flow of energy, which equals infinite ways of being. When we allow ourselves to try new things, it feels to us that we live many lifetimes in one. The collective belief that we have to do and master one craft forever now is shifting into many more creative expressions, squeezing the benefits of every experience before bringing it to the present moment of our unique process of new becoming. Then, we start to recognize the full potential in ourselves empowering us to invite others to give birth to something beautiful that never has been before.

“Before we were together, we’d known each other for 20 years. I reconnected with Rich a few years ago at his writing group during COVID-19 as I wanted to finish a screenplay I was writing. He mentored me and was very generous, open, and supportive of my writing endeavors. It took a year and a half of notes, but Rich presented it from this ‘you can do it attitude.’ I felt empowered to write and realized that I’m a writer. I ended up with a good script, which he helped and led me through the writing process. Even now, I’m writing another script, and Rich is like, ‘Go for it! Please do it! And do more!’,” passionately shares Laura.

Photography // Ben Cope | Makeup // Kate Hollinshead

Then Rich also shares, “And that blended into our directing-acting relationship into the creation of Good Rebel Pictures where we both had already had a really nice camaraderie to be and work with full trust. Actors are at their best when they trust their director and feel safe, open, and free to create their best. Any directors that make it about themselves end up hurting their project because they’re getting in the way of the actors realizing their full potential. We set out to make high-level entertaining thrillers, like David Fincher-type for pure entertainment and to show an audience the balance between really deep, good performances and a really good plot and story hook. We don’t have a political or any kind of social message. We love to make really good films that people can get lost in, immersed, and enjoy while having a good escape. And the only way you can escape into a movie is if it is authentic, real, and when you can relate to an emotional experience with the characters—that’s a good film experience.”

When we immerse ourselves in the present moment, finding joy in the act of creation, the rewards of money, success, and fame, if that’s our desire, naturally follow. It’s common to dwell on what we lack, and life will find its way of confirming our focus. If we want to create, it’s best to give our undivided attention to the process of creating. In this state, the momentum of creation builds, and like a stroke of luck, everything else we need appears.

About the process of creating their newest film, CULPRIT, Rich says, “I set out to make the film cast the best actors for each role, but most Hollywood productions don’t do that. Now, most have so many other reasons and agendas for casting certain people, whether it’s a big name that doesn’t fit the role, an influencer, or whatever it is because they make the finances the bottom line. In contrast, we decided to create something worthwhile and bring the story to life in the best, most realized way. This gives a lot of opportunity to actors who have been acting for 40 years and are amazing but didn’t get the opportunity.”

“We have excellent actors in the movie. They’re not superstars yet, but they’re excellent actors. They love what they do, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. We are honored to give that opportunity to worthy people. Since the budgets on movies have been getting a bit bloated over the last several years, especially with many studios that don’t necessarily consult the creators of the films, but the marketing departments about how this will get sold? What is the dollar sign on this particular actor to get? Or will it sell if they build a video game off of this movie? It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes, and that’s why you see things that don’t quite work in the movies. However, making movies is fabulous and creative, but I would be lying if I said that we don’t want to make a good living out of this or that we don’t consider the money side of it,” shares Laura her perspective.

“It’s a balance, for sure. But it’s also knowing what to do when before you start a script, I don’t know anything about the story yet, but I am already thinking how I am going to make money on it, then you’re screwed. I first focus on creating the product; once you have a finished film, you go about how to sell it. What’s the best way to get the most profitable outcome? It’s thinking about different things at different times,” says Rich.

It’s immensely gratifying to witness our ideas manifest in the physical realm. However, the true satisfaction lies in the inclusion of others in our creative process and our willingness to embrace their feedback when we resonate. This not only enriches our viewpoint but also helps us identify and address any blind spots that may have been overlooked due to a singular focus. The experience itself is a source of immense satisfaction and a catalyst for further growth.

Rich excitedly shares about his debut directing the film CULPRIT, “Bringing words on the page into reality is a very self-realizing experience. The people around me who helped me meet my vision were great and important to me. Because I can see a scene play out and how to shoot it, but then somebody, like the DP, comes along and says, ‘Hey, I think it looks better from over here. And here’s why.’ So, I have to be open to that and then decide whether I agree. Regardless, having that feedback is really good, and communication is so important. You want to be firm in your vision, but not so firm that you’re stubborn and hard-headed about it and not open to a better idea. Stanley Kubrick [screenwriter] said, ‘Always be open to good ideas.’ Even if it’s from the PA or an extra, it doesn’t matter; it can be a good idea. And when you hear it, you can feel it. It’s not an ego process, a competition, or about any of us individually, but the movie’s vision as a whole. How do we all collectively make this vision of the movie fully realized and make it most interesting? I learned a lot!”

Then Laura gives her perspective regarding the process of embodying her character, Lucy, “Lucy is much more of a tragic person than I thought. I think one thing I found in preparing for her was listening to a lot of true crime because her sister was murdered in the film. And so, I wanted to learn about people in real life who had lost someone in that tragedy and the trauma they went through. I started getting very dark, and Rich even suggested taking it easy on the true crime. Getting into the character, sometimes it was hard to get out of the mindset of it, and I had to because Lucy is so haunted. I had to make sure I had something that would remind me that I am in the character of Lucy, but I am still Laura. During my regular life, I used a physical object that reminded me that I was going into the character and coming out of it, especially when it’s a very distraught character. It had been a while since we filmed this over several weekends, which lasted a few months. I had to prolong Lucy and live with her while learning those techniques to get out of where I was with her. I learned good emotional stamina, which I think personally benefits me. I want audiences to ride with Lucy to discover who the killer is. And we don’t know that until the very last frame of the movie. There’s something unpredictable that audiences get to tune in on and experience deep, good performances that create the atmosphere, the tone, and that, in a way, it’s dark, fascinating, and mysterious.”

Rich says, “The most fun for me is when the audience is hooked from start to finish.” Then Laura shares her expectation for the audience to take away from watching the film, “I think Lucy also represents coming out of denial as there are family secrets, and she’s a true seeker. So, whether you want to apply it to a thriller, in a crime, or your real life, when do you come out of denial and ready to look at the truth of what’s gone on in your past? Especially because it can be too scary. Then you also have this layer of family denial where no one allows you to unearth the truth, so it brings up issues there as well. It can be applied to many areas of life, so the audience might be able to relate to that and apply it. But of course, most likely, It’s more extreme and scarier in CULPRIT than in real life. I haven’t yet seen the final cut of the movies as I wanted to save some surprise element to the version on the big screen. We are premiering at the *Dances Films Festival in LA.” (*CULPRIT premiered at the Dances With Films festival in LA on Friday, June 21st to a sold out audience, with many others on the waitlist trying to get in. The film plans to be making its rounds at other festivals throughout the year.)

There is no limit to the desires we can bring to life in our journey. The key is to first believe in them, just like actors who fully immerse themselves in their roles. We must practice embodying the version of ourselves we aspire to be. So, let’s ask ourselves: how would that desired version of me think, feel, and act? If we do this not out of attachment to the desire, but because we genuinely having fun, we can witness the transformative power of our self-belief. And then, watch what happens!

“I’m a traveler and an adventurer. If I could shoot movies in different countries, from year to year, for as long as I can take my dog with me, our French Bulldog, I would love it,” says Laura about her current desire. Then Rich says about his desire, “We are starting small and growing and growing and growing. I would love to have, let’s say, $2 million a year and make a movie or two movies a year for the rest of our lives telling independent, unique, great stories with the good acting that would be my dream, for sure.”

Regarding what Laura loves about herself and then loves seeing in others, she says, “I love my ability not to judge and be impartial. And I honor in others’ kindness.”

“I love positive energy, which has gotten me through so much of life in a way, even when things are terrible, dead broke, or whatever. It always gets me moving forward. And then I appreciate in others a good heart, which implies curiosity and awareness and wanting to do good things with whatever you do,” concludes Rich.

Like Laura and Rich, are you fully embracing your highest passion?

Photography // Ben Cope
Makeup // Kate Hollinshead

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