Emilie Beck, Film Director and Hostess of the Heartbreaking Documentary Series ‘Stuck’
Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in “Documentary Directing” less than a year ago, Emilie Beck (27), is already an established name within the industry. You may know her from being the hostess of documentary series Stuck, created for Aftenposten, where she bravely meets child brides around the world and provides us with a raw and heartbreaking insight into their reality.
‘I need to fight for the girls that I met when making Stuck – they are in positions that makes it difficult or impossible for them to be heard, regardless of how loud they scream. I have a voice now, which I am going to use for all it’s worth. I know some people find it annoying when women are too vocal about their opinions, but that’s just something that people will have to accept’, she says.
Emilie is the kind of woman who is willing to work as hard as she possibly can, challenge her own comfort zones and reveal her own insecurities and imperfections for what she believes in. We spoke to this incredibly courageous woman about what it was like to make Stuck, what inspires her the most, her professional and personal insecurities, and the ups and downs of her choice of career.
First Of All, How Do You Typically Start Your Day?
I like to give myself some time to wake up properly, so I set my alarm 15 minutes before I need to get out of bed. When I get up, I usually look out the window to check what the weather is like, and if I’m in a hurry I’ll pop a cheese sandwich in the oven before I start getting ready for the day. I don’t spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning – if I need to, I can be ready to go in about 20 minutes.
Tell Us About Something You’re Really Proud Of In Your Career And/Or Your Greatest Achievement (Don’t Be Shy):
The thing that has defined my career as of lately is definitely Stuck. It has been very successful and we’ve been able to reach out to so many people in a such a powerful way. Stuck has also helped me define my own career path; I would still like to make movies, but Stuck really went into my core; I suddenly felt like I was part of something incredibly important and much bigger than myself – something that I will be proud of for as long as I live.
Women’s rights is a huge topic, women and children’s rights, and Stuck really motivated me to work on creating things that makes a difference to people’s lives and give people a new perspective on what is actually going on in the world. There are horrible things happening around the world on a daily basis that we are completely sheltered from (in Scandinavia), and we don’t have the experiences or perspectives to understand it. After Stuck, I’ve felt a strong desire to create more documentaries on the same type of issues, obviously while working on other projects as well, but my goal is to create more powerful content on women’s rights and related topics that provide insight into parts of the world that most of us know little to nothing about.
I’ve obviously always been pro women’s rights, but when you face it up close like I did making Stuck, my personal relationship with the cause became stronger and more real. I need to fight for the girls I met when making Stuck – they are in positions that makes it difficult or impossible for them to be heard, regardless of how loud they scream. I have a voice now, which I am going to use for all it’s worth. I know some people find it annoying when women are too vocal about their opinions, but that’s just something that people will have to accept.
Did Creating Stuck Change The Way You Look At The World?
Yes, definitely. The world is a much more fragile place than I thought it was. In Norway, we have this enormous safety net, but in other countries that safety net does not exist. A lot of people around the world grow up learning how to survive under extremely brutal conditions, and we know that to some degree, but we don’t necessarily understand it. After seeing upfront how heartless the world can actually be, I’ve gained a new sense of gratitude for the welfare state we live in. After Stuck, I’ve also gained this new eager to learn more about the world and why it is the way that it is; the more we know, the kinder we act towards each other. The more sympathetic and empathetic we are towards each other, the easier it becomes to achieve great things together. I know these are big words – I mean, you can’t ask the whole world to cooperate, but by really knowing and understanding that there are bigger issues that needs to be addressed in the world, we become more tolerant about all our trivial issues.
There are so many strong girls out there – it’s actually completely insane how many strong girls there are in the world and how strong they are. Girls that are standing with their backs straight, fighting battles that others have already fought for us (here in Scandinavia). I think it’s incredibly important to not take our privileges for granted – it’s not a “given” to be able to live under the great conditions that we do here in Scandinavia.
The whole Stuck experience has really provided me with a different perspective of my own life too. I’ve spent so much time worrying about meaningless things like: ‘Am I good enough? Am I thin enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I fit enough?’, and all it does is make you miserable. I feel like if we all spent a little more time channeling our energy out rather than into ourselves, we become happier people. As soon as I focus on something that is bigger than myself, like Stuck, I gain this inner peace and a deep sense of happiness in knowing that I’m using my energy on something that is so much bigger and more important than me. When you’re able to do that, that egocentric and self-critical way of thinking disappears.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this – it’s inevitable after meeting so many girls and women who have experienced, and are experiencing, such horrible things. There is so much cruelty in the world; so much sexual assault and abuse. The girls and women who are victims of these crimes have nowhere to go, no rights and no one to talk to about what has happened to them – yet they survive.
What Were Your Biggest Insecurities When First Starting Out And How Did You Overcome Them?
My biggest insecurity is always ‘Am I good enough?’. I worry that I’m not the same person in real life that people think I am, and that I have been “faking it” the whole time. I’m really scared that people expect a different person when they hire me, and the concept “fake it till you make it” terrifies me. But when have you actually made it, though? This is something I spent a lot of time thinking about a couple of years ago when I was considering a job offer; ‘Am I good enough for this, or do they think I am good enough because they have seen something that I put out there that doesn’t represent the person that I actually am? Can I actually do this?’.
Sometimes I’ve said things like: ‘Sure, I can manage 100 background actors’ at an interview, and then I’m like: ‘Shit, can I actually do that or did I just pretend that I could? I’ve done it before, but that was in a different setting, and …’. Claiming to be able to do something that I’m not 100% confident that I can handle absolutely terrifies me – and then potentially getting the job and not being able to perform at the level I’m expected to. I know people do this all the time and that you should “sell yourself” but I think it’s incredibly uncomfortable – I’m always scared of overestimating my own abilities.
I work through these kind of insecurities by telling myself that there is a reason why I have been asked to do this – that there is a reason why they want me. And that it’s absolutely fine to fail. I also always put in maximum effort – that way I’m always sure that I’ve done my very best. My dream is to be a great Film Director, and sometimes I may apply to jobs that are above my level of competence, but I think that’s just healthy. Either it’s like: ‘ok, thank you for applying but you don’t have the required experience for this job’, or I get the job. Both of those scenarios are fine – at least I’ve done what I can to get to where I want to be.
Before filming Stuck, I was very concerned that people wouldn’t like the real me. It was the first time I was going to be myself on camera; previously, I’ve always been able to “hide” behind a character. With Stuck it was all me; my personality and my feelings completely undressed and uncovered – it took some time before I learned how to relax with two cameras in my face constantly.
During the first two weeks of filming, I always made sure that my posture was good, I tried to speak in a very articulate way and I was over analyzing my every move. After a little while I just had to let go of it; I told myself: ‘Ok, so maybe you get a double chin when you’re sleeping, but f*** it – what you’re doing right now is so much more important than that’. I got to a point where I realized that in order for this documentary to influence people to the extent that it potentially could, I need to let my guard down; I need to let them know who I am, what I’m feeling, let people get sad and frustrated with me and take them on this journey. Letting go of those insecurities, and showing people that I was human and not perfect was a really hard thing to do, but the second I let go, everything became so much easier. It was like; ‘Get a grip, Emilie! You’re going to go talk to a girl that has experienced something really horrible and you’re wondering if your pimples are showing’. It’s completely absurd, but I think this is something that a lot of women can relate to. I learned a lot from that experience.
The whole trailer for season two is just me crying my heart out – if we take it back a couple of years, I would have been like: ‘There is NO WAY you are using that photo’ but now that I’m more relaxed about it, I’m like: ‘Go for it’. Whatever, it’s me; I’m crying and it’s heartbreaking, but that’s what it was like, it’s real. I really think going through that process has really made me a more confident person.
What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Your Job/Career?
The best thing is that no two days are the same and that I get to meet people that I never would have met had I chosen a different career. Another great thing is that I’m able to get a deep insight into people’s personal stories, and that I get to experience and learn about the world in a completely different way than I would have as a tourist.
The worst thing is that it is very energy draining, and both a mentally and physically challenging line of work. It’s definitely not a nine to five job and definitely not family friendly, which is kind of heartbreaking to me since I would very much like to have time for a family. I haven’t had the opportunity to establish a family yet, though – or maybe I’ve unconsciously chosen my career over a family? Damn it, haha. No, but it is a very unpredictable line of work – it’s absolutely fantastic and completely exhausting at the same time.
How Do You Pick Yourself Up And Keep Going When You Feel Discouraged?
I talk to my parents or my best friends – it’s really important to talk through the things that are bothering you. I also think it’s really important to take a break sometimes, which is something that I’m trying to teach myself how to do – just disconnecting completely from all the things that are stressing me out. I don’t do it enough though, but I do it when I really need to, and I think that’s the only way to get back up. For me, this could mean going for a walk, listening to an audiobook or some music, laying flat out on the couch or watching other people’s creative processes. I watch a lot of TV shows because it’s part of my job, so when I want to relax and disconnect from my job I try to watch shows without analyzing them. Watching TV shows can be exhausting because I’m always like: ‘Who is that actress? She’s great, we need to cast her!’,and then I start doing research instead of relaxing – but then again, it’s not the worst job in the world. For me, doing research means going to the cinema and that is actually one of the best parts of my job.
Recently, I did something that was completely new to me; I went to Spain for a week all by myself. Just being alone with yourself is very special. I spent my days by the pool or on the beach listening to audiobooks, and my nights on the balcony writing while enjoying a glass of wine – just eating whatever i wanted to, working out as much as I wanted to (and not if I didn’t) and it was absolutely wonderful. I think it’s great that I found the courage to do that.
Where And Doing What Do You Feel Most Inspired?
When I’m travelling – that’s when I’m the most comfortable with myself. And I love to multitask, so I feel the most inspired when I’m actually physically travelling and doing something else at the same time; on a train, in a car or on a an airplane – going somewhere. I love being able to observe my surroundings whilst also doing something. This is when I get most of my ideas too; driving into the sunset in a jungle somewhere, listening to music – it sounds very romantic, but that’s one of the things that inspire me the most.
I also get really inspired by those perfect summer days in Oslo; after the sun goes down, the city is so calm and quiet – all the pressure of having to “do stuff” goes away and you can allow your thoughts to go wherever they want to go. That’s when I’m the happiest. There is something about the streets of Oslo that makes me feel at home and safe. The other day I was waiting for the tram whilst listening to some new inspiring music; it was warm, the sun was just about to set in my rare view, the tram was approaching and I was like, ‘wow, what an amazing city this is’.
I also feel very inspired by places I haven’t been before, and by taking the time to absorb “untouched” nature. Nature in its raw state is something that really fascinates me. When filming Stuck, we travelled from destination to destination and it was incredible to see our surroundings change from city to jungle to desert.
Name Any Woman (Past Or Present) Whom You Admire And Look Up To And Please Tell Us Why:
I think Lena Dunham is very cool; she writes and acts in her own productions at such a young age. Also, she couldn’t care less about body ideals, which I think is very inspiring. Emma Watson is another woman that I really admire. She has a big influence in the FN and is such a power woman. I think Kathryn Bigelow, who has produced a lot of action movies and is the only woman to ever win an Oscar for “best film””, is such an amazing woman too. It’s also extremely cool that she won the award with a war movie. There are a lot of women in the Norwegian film industry that I admire as well, and just smart women in the industry in general.
I never used to think that I wanted to be a director, it’s just the kind of profession that seems unrealistic to even dream about, it’s just something you don’t do. But, having so many amazing women to look up to, I don’t even think twice about telling people I want to be a director. Some people react with: ‘but that’s a typical man’s job’, and I’m like ‘ok, that’s great, whatever’.
What Do Scandinavian Women Need More Of? Less Of?
We need more guts and courage to stand out, and we need less of the “Jane Law”. We also need to cheer each other on more and want to see each other succeed. In Scandinavia, we have a very strong culture of believing that the “majority knows best” – we need to find the confidence to be the minority sometimes, and dare to stand alone when we believe in something.
Name Three Qualities You Admire In Other Women:
Fearlessness – being courageous and “just doing things”.
Spontaneity – I am spontaneous to a certain degree, but a bit uptight in other areas where I wish that I wasn’t.
I also really admire women who are always true to themselves and their beliefs, which I can find difficult – I often want to please others more than myself because it’s easier and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.
If You Have One, What Is Your Personal Or Professional Motto?
I’m going to quote my grandfather here and his famous quote: “It depends on me” (“det er meg det kommer an på”).
When, Where And Doing What Do You Feel The Furthest Away From Your Comfort Zone?
One of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done was wearing a hidden camera and talking to 12-year old prostitutes in the Red Light District in Cambodia. I think generally being in unsafe places without knowing what the risk of being there actually is, makes me feel extremely far out of my comfort zone. But at the same time, my worst nightmare would be to do a stand up show.
Tell Us One Thing That People Would Be Surprised To Know About You:
Maybe people would be surprised to know that I was a dancer for 10 years and that I LOVE dancing, I just don’t have the time for it anymore. Also, I love drawing and used to draw all the time when In was younger, but I never do that anymore either.
And Finally, Do You Have Any Advice, Big Or Small, To All The Ambitious Women Out There Wanting To Head For Their Dream Career?
Just jump into it – even though it scares you. It’s also important to work with people that are better at what you do, or want to do, than you are – that’s a really good way to become great at something. In the film and TV industry especially, it’s important to “sell yourself” and promote yourself – you need to really show the industry, and the world, what you have to offer and what you can do. Be proactive and upfront, and don’t be afraid to approach someone you think you can learn from and ask if you can work for them – just get in touch and say “ I don’t know much about this, but I’m very eager to learn more”. You can do it!
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]