By Catherine Woo
Please join us in welcoming Toni Short to NYWIFT!
Toni Short is an Aussie on a mission to tell the textured stories of women from around the world and heal the world through the arts. Following a personal breakthrough, Toni paved her own path towards artistic creation and invites others to walk beside her. This led her to found The Camp, an immersive space for children to learn about creative self-expression. Her project Sister Spirit Stories is a platform to highlight the stories of inspiring women. We Go High Productions produces both Sister Spirit Stories and Toni’s short film Meeting Mr. Oscar, which she wrote, produced, directed, and acted in.
Toni told us about her personal healing journey, her most meaningful projects so far, and what’s coming up on the horizon.
How would you summarize your experience and career highlights in about 100 words?
Throughout my childhood I was told to be still and quiet. Throughout my career I was creatively supporting and promoting others. And so, for many years, I pushed down how I felt and what I had to say.
After being “cracked open” in 2018 from a personal breakdown a new path crystalized in front of and inside of me and I knew then, my voice was ready to be heard. I was moved to make steps to put myself more fully into the world as a working artist and this calling or drive inside of me was something I could no longer ignore.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
Last year’s Hamptons Film Festival NYWIFT brunch and shorts screening was a huge turning point for me in my artistic career. I knew immediately there was a place, close to home, where I could learn and connect on a deeper level with other women filmmakers and I couldn’t wait to join.
You are a storyteller through dance, movement, writing, singing, art, astrology & play. Where do you find inspiration from in all these different mediums?
I am driven by an insatiable curiosity about how the world works, how we all fit into it, the beauty of our intersecting moments and the magic of The Universe. The different mediums allow me to explore the depth of human connection in these intersecting moments and often lead me from one person or project to another.
You have an amazing mission to tell the textured stories of women from around the world and heal the world through the arts. What does healing look like to you? How do creativity and storytelling play a role in healing?
Thank you. Born out of my own story, healing myself back from a breakdown through creative exploration and alternative healing modalities, healing looks like fun, joy, and expression on one level and on the other level it simply looks like me. I am healing. Being myself, truly myself in every moment, is healing. Creativity and storytelling are ways for me to be myself, to share myself, to open myself and my process, thoughts, feelings, and ideas to the world which innately enables me to find comfort and connection with and for myself. Being an artist is one big delicious cycle of healing through expression, growth and in turn connection with something bigger than ourselves.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your career so far?
For 20 + years I have been fortunate to work in house and agency event production roles for brands that include BBC as well as my first company, Shortlist Agency. Far beyond all the events I produced that included Presidents, red carpets, and world tours is the beauty of my work with children in The Camp (an initiative that was born out of my own healing journey). I knew that if we could teach kids to learn about themselves, through the vessel of art, they would have less chances of ending up as I did… being 40+ years old having a breakdown due to no boundaries, no sense of self-worth, and no concept of what intuition was and how I could use it to guide my life’s decisions and avoid unnecessary hardships!
Following your own journey of self-reclamation, you inspire others to tell their stories with Spirit Sister Stories. How do you see the future of this project evolving?
I’ve always seen Spirit Sister Stories as this mixed medium roving exhibition with film, sculpture, paintings, talks and panels. A performance stage where womxn tell their stories about how they got themselves out of the dark, a confession booth for those who aren’t able to share in public… all of which perhaps gets translated live into artistic interpretations of their stories. Womxn from all countries and walks of life together in one space transcending the barriers of language and cultures through art.
What’s next for you? Where do you hope to be in five years?
Flying my own plane into remote places with a female-led crew, set to tell the stories of indigenous women and the role of art in their personal and community expression and healing journeys. And more films about the dark gritty experiences of women that no one wants to talk about!
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