Issued by: Staff writer Joan Hendricks
Cape Town-born actress and producer, Zena Wood is currently living and working New York City. These days Zena Wood works as a freelance producer, first assistant director and performer.
Zena started in the acting industry in Cape Town and has been working in New York City for 5 years now, after she graduated from New York Film Academy in 2014.
We caught up with her and chatted to her about life in the USA, the challenges she had to overcome to get where she is today and who inspires her most.
Please tell us more about yourself and what it is you do.
In short, I am a producer and performer and work in all types and phases of production. So, this can be TV, Video, Film, Music Videos. Anything that is filmed. I used to direct and perform in theatre/musical theatre and I have noticed that recently I am applying a much more creative/performance art outlook to my work. Which makes me think back to theatre days a bit. Depending on my brief for a client, I really enjoy pushing the boundaries on what is possible for a production. Anything is possible, really. Today we have incredible technology at our disposal. Which really excites me. I enjoy working with people and collaborating on productions, making something together. Seeing that final product is always awesome.
Where did it all start for you and what brought on the change to move to the USA?
I grew up dancing and singing a lot, did all my performance exams. I still dance. Thereafter, I studied politics at Stellenbosch and started producing political documentaries. I loved the mix between the creative and the more business side. And knew I wanted to try that route. I always had New York in my head for some reason. An audition popped up in Cape Town and I received a scholarship to study there. Once there, I think something in me knew how much I would grow there in my personal and professional life. And that is what has happened.
Making something new and great !
New York is like a training ground, especially when you move there by yourself. I’d never give that intense experience up though. Now I’ve found joy in softening into the experience and this year has really been one where I feel like I am operating on a level that is the most myself I’ve been. I think moving overseas puts you on that journey. I also thought I might become a Rockette if I moved there… Maybe next year 😉
What do you love most about your job?
I love working with different teams in order to create something. I really enjoy scheduling and going over every aspect of a production. Thinking about where the lights are going, the catering, what props are needed, what the narrative points are for the day etc… There is so much to check up on. I like catching up with all the different departments and knowing that all the jobs come together and overlap and make something new and great. I also like that I can work all over the world. Industries differ slightly, but most of the roles and procedures remain the same. I love being on set wherever I am.
What do you enjoy least?
I don’t like it when people try to put anyone in a box. I think that producing should be a flexible role with an ‘anything is possible’ outlook. Sometimes the industry tries to box people in a limited idea of what they think production is. I see this less in my generation though – which is great. Change is constant and growth is natural and necessary in industries. If we can always find new ways to work and experience, I think that’s a healthy place to be in. For an individual and for a company.
What are some of the challenges you had to overcome to get where you are?
I had to start from scratch. Which was exciting but also very challenging and stressful. So, then I had to find ways to understand down time. I also had to adjust to a faster pace of working. And then again, understand how to grow and stay healthy in that pace.
Who do you look up to/admire?
I don’t look up to anyone because I think that no one person is the same and can fully understand the shoes they walk in. And comparison gets you nowhere. I’d say I enjoy and admire certain people. People who have a positive, fun, kind and passionate outlook on life. People who are funny and real. And people who envision a world and future where we are more evolved as human beings. I have been enjoying physicist Max Tegmark quite a lot recently. He has wonderful, fresh ideas about how we can move forward in the world.
What advice can you give newbies trying to crack it in the industry?
Spend time on learning about yourself and what joy means to you. Learn what stillness is and if you’re pushing yourself hard and feel burnt out, do 5% less. It’ll all work out.