An interview with Jordan Grisim | Carnival of Wonders | VMA20 BEST YOUNG ACTRESS | May Edition
From an early age we are subjected to misleading constraints that increasingly alienate us from our nature and our talents. Carnival of Wonders is an inspiring film, one that speaks simply and directly about how important it is not to betray yourself if you want to be happy.
Jordan Grisim plays the main role of a lost soul who regains her vitality, her talents and her joy of life thanks to her courage, although not without difficulty. A soul who still does not want to give up and who still seeks answers.
Jordan, 14 years old, competitive dancer since she was 3 years old at her debut as an actress, is a winner at our film festival as ‘Best Child/Young Actress’ in Carnival of Wonders, which received the Best Film of the Month award at the Vegas Movie Awards in May.
We interviewed her for you; indeed, you will enjoy a genuine and meaningful point of view, which will offer you a lot of food for thought.
• Hello Jordan, congratulations again for your win as ‘Best Child/Young Actress’ at our Film Festival! Would you like to tell us a bit about your artistic career and when did your great love for dance start?
Thank you so much! I am honored to be one of your award winners and am so excited to be doing this interview. I have always loved to perform from the time I was very young. Singing, acting, dancing, I loved it all. As you mentioned, I started dancing at the age of 3. From the time I stepped on the stage at my first spring recital, I was hooked! I knew performing was for me. I went to a national dance competition for the first time when I was 6 & I remember thinking, I really gotta step up my game because these other dancers are so amazingly talented! That sense of competition & desire to improve and be the best that I can be, really pushed me. Well that and the fact that I am a slightly crazy perfectionist. And although I really love dabbling in all styles of dance, jazz has always been my favorite. That is the form of dance that I feel I can really let myself go & express myself. I can sass it up, showcase my personality, and really demonstrate to the audience how much I love to dance.
Dancing also has a component of acting in it as well. In dance you are portraying a character or telling a story with only your movements & your expressions to rely on. So, acting has always been something I have gravitated towards. Every year, from kindergarten to 8th grade, I have been involved in my school’s musical. That’s where I first got the acting bug. In addition to having the opportunity to try acting, I also have had the experience of being a dance captain for my school’s musicals. In that role I had the chance to choreograph some of the big production numbers in both Hairspray & Aladdin. I just loved the process in so many ways but especially how it stretched me artistically. I spent time watching each movie as well as searching on-line for stage productions of both shows so that I could learn & capture the appropriate style of dance for each production. I needed to make the choreography simple enough so that kids of all ages & dance abilities could learn it, but it also had to be entertaining & engaging for the audience. That experience taught me so much & I could possibly see myself being a choreographer in the future.
• What are the models that inspire you most in terms of art?
My absolute favorite actress is Audrey Hepburn. I love everything about her. My favorite movies of hers are Funny Face & Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She is obviously gorgeous, but she is just someone who is so likeable and relatable at the same time. She comes off as being so comfortable in her own skin and she is an artist who inspires me with not only her artistic abilities but with her sense of style & fashion which I think is so on point. You can find a print of her on the wall in my bedroom.
Having spent years going to dance competitions, I have seen one dancer after another that can perform amazing tricks, leaps, turns, or is super flexible. Although I respect the time they put in to mastering those skills, that doesn’t necessarily make me feel anything. It all starts to look the same, but what really moves me & inspires me is a performance that has meaning, one where the dancer is telling a story and taking me on a journey with them. I want to feel something when I am watching an artist even if the story is dark or the feelings are uncomfortable. There is so much power in that, the power to change the world I believe. That os the type of art I will remember, that inspires me & gives me the drive to be better!
I also can’t pass up the opportunity to mention my favorite live show of all time, the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.Talk about inspiring! That show was pure joy for me from start to finish. Their precision & artistry is one of the coolest things I have ever seen, but it also didn’t hurt that I saw them on Christmas day, which is my favorite holiday, in New York City, which is my favorite city. #bestchristmasgiftever
Work hard and keep fighting for it, you never know where it might lead you!
• Your talent as a dancer is undisputed! In Carnival of Wonders, however, you made your debut as an actress. Although the film had voice-over rather than direct dialogue, you showed a remarkable talent for expressing every concept through mimicry and body language. For your first debut, what difficulties did you encounter with the role of actress?
Well let me start by saying, being in Carnival of Wonders was one of the best experiences in my life. I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity by both Christopher & Jonathan, the creators of the film, & I am so grateful they believed in me & put their trust in me to help tell this story. Getting into it I really had no idea what to expect. I had done a lot of stage performing prior but doing a film was a whole new world for me. Christopher is so encouraging & Jonathan was so patient. He took the time to teach me about acting on camera & he truly was the best director I could have hoped to work with for my first time acting in a movie. He taught me that unlike being on stage where your movements are big, exaggerated, and expressive so that the person in the last row can see them, acting on film is much more subtle. The camera picks up everything & your movements need to be much more natural, not like acting at all, if that makes sense. The days we filmed were also very long days. And in contrast to doing a live show like the dance recitals I was used to where you are going non-stop for 2 hours, running back stage, doing costume changes in 30 seconds, & running back on stage to perform, filming a movie was a much different pace. There was a lot of downtime & waiting around while Jonathan & the crew prepared the set with every little detail considered. I also really had no appreciation for the fact that 3 or 4 hours-worth of filming can translate into just a few minutes of the movie. But despite the days being long and having to adjust to the pace of filming a movie, I truly enjoyed every minute of it because of the cast & crew & their positive energy that I was surrounded by constantly.
• What new awareness and artistic growth has this experience with Carnival of Wonders brought you? Will we see you perform again?
Oh wow! I feel like I have learned and grown so much from my experience being in Carnival of Wonders. Not having acted in a film before, I had a lot of insecurities going into it & had to learn to put those fears aside, push myself out of my comfort zone, and just give it my all. The reason I ended up being in this film is that Christopher Childers, the producer and choreographer of COW, started teaching a jazz class that I was taking at my dance studio. He choreographed a number for my dance team where I wore those big black wings that I wear in the movie & on the poster of the film. He told me later that it was seeing me with those wings on & dancing the character in that number that he knew I could act as well as dance. When he made the decision to do COW as a movie, he asked me about being one of the leads. My mom had told me prior to filming that Chris asked me to be in the movie because he had worked with me before, he knew my abilities, & he had confidence I could do it. Therefore, if a seasoned professional who had done movies before thought I could do it, then I should as well. Once I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan, who is so positive & encouraging, I really was able to get over my insecurities, tap into my artistic side & go for it. And yes, I absolutely hope you will see me perform again. Got any ideas?!
• We saw you working together with Christopher Childers and Jonathan Lawrence, two artists who have shown great chemistry working with this project. What was it like to work with them and see such a complex creative process, like a film, come to life?
Working with Christopher & Jonathan was the best. They are both so talented and have done so much in the entertainment industry, they are truly inspiring for an artist like me who is just barely starting out. Both have had very different careers but between the 2 of them they have done just about everything there is to do in the arts. Chris has danced in shows, done world tours with famous artists, he’s done television and movies, and has choreographed & produced shows. Jonathan knows EVERYTHING, literally everything, about filmmaking. He is an amazing director, editor & cinematographer. He knows about special effects, set design, sound, script writing and costuming. Watching them work together was so cool. Christopher is an artist who is passionate about everything he does & Jonathan is just brilliant the way his mind works & his attention to the littlest of details. The way that they played off each other and created the story line together was amazing to see.
There was not a set script at the beginning of shooting the film. It evolved and developed as the various scenes of the movie were captured & every day on set brought a new idea or part of the storyline to life. There were also so many “happy accidents” that just kind of happened during filming that ended up being some of the best scenes, in unplanned locations, & just the most perfect settings to tell the story.
• Carnival of Wonders talks about a really deep subject: the chance to make our soul shine through the development and expression of our inner and artistic talents, often belittled by many people, in favour of a flat and insignificant life. Do you want to give us your fresh point of view on it?
I would love to! I have been very fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit to other countries. Traveling teaches you things about people & their culture that you can never truly understand from just reading a book. A few years back my family went to Japan. Japan was so magical to me, almost like a fairy tale. The way that the people there take such pride, and respect really, with the jobs that they do was totally surprising to me. We went on this walking food tour and one of our stops was this hole in the wall restaurant where there was a man making satays. It was summer in Japan, so it was sweltering hot. This guy was standing in front of an open flame making various versions of satay for hours on end. And although most people, me included, would think this was a horrible job sweating over an open flame in extreme heat, it was quite clear that he was not miserable at all. Making satay was his art and he took the utmost care in performing his craft. In this little restaurant he was raised up behind a glass encasing almost like being on display on a stage. We were his audience & his passion in creating the perfect satay for us was his joy. My point in all this is to say, no one can judge another person’s joy or passion. While one person may consider a job to be menial or insignificant, another might consider it to be an art form to be performed for others to bring them joy & see their soul shine. Everyone must answer the question for themselves, has your life brought joy to others?
Traveling teaches you things about people & their culture that you can never truly understand from just reading a book.
• How important, in your opinion, are the sensitivity and courage to pursue one’s own nature and dreams?
It is absolutely the most important thing to me. My mom has always told me that the greatest success in life is to be doing something that you love, something you are passionate about. She has taught me that success is not about your title, or the amount of money that you make, but rather the joy that you get, and you give to others by what you do in life. That is the ultimate test of success. I firmly believe that & it makes me sad to see people who are stuck in a job that makes them unhappy. Seeing that helps to remind me the importance of pursuing my dreams & my passions not matter how difficult it might be.
• Your youthful point of view is not “dirtied” by adult indulgence. What do you think you will do when you grow up and what are you willing to do to avoid falling into the trap of a hellish life?
I know I will do something in the arts but honestly, I am not sure what that will be. I plan to keep myself open to opportunities & try not to plan it out so much that I fail to leave myself the room to grow or develop in a way that I might not even know is possible right now. Being a competitive dancer who dances an average of 18 hours a week while going to school and maintaining my grades, I am not afraid to work hard. I know the entertainment business is not always easy, and that has been particularly evident now in the time of this global pandemic. I also know that getting rejected comes with the territory; however, dancing in competitions, particularly solo competitions, has toughened me up. I can’t lie and say that I don’t ever get disappointed with certain outcomes, but when the desire and passion is there, I know it will get me through the tough times and keep me inspired and working hard to achieve my dreams.
• Our socio-cultural and economic structure tells us that you have to work hard and give up your dreams, especially if you want to pursue a career in the arts. Many young people often give up too soon, bewildered by these false models of happiness and the lack of family support. What would you recommend to a peer of your age out there who is facing any kind of discrimination, but doesn’t want to give up?
I can tell you first hand that having the support and guidance at home from my parents and sister has been the most encouraging thing for me to keep working hard and I owe multiple successes in the past to them for just encouraging me to go for it. I know not everyone has that kind of support in their household but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else out there to have your back when needed.
My advice would be to find someone in your life who can support you & help you to achieve your goals. I think most artists have had their struggles and have faced discrimination of some sort or another so they know first-hand how challenging a life in the arts can be. But I have also seen that there are so many people out there that want to help support the next generation of artists in pursuit of a career in the arts. Search out those fairy godmothers and establish a relationship with them. Listen to their mentoring & advice, try things you’ve never done before, take a job that might not necessary pay well, or maybe not at all, but will give you exposure, & take risks. Work hard & keep fighting for it, you never know where it might lead you!
• Are you working on any other art projects? Where can our fans find your work and continue to be inspired?
Well since you asked, I might as well plug my website, www.fitsy.info, & my YouTube channel, Jordan Nicole. I have always been interested in fitness & wellness, so I created a website to help teens stay in shape & achieve their fitness goals without spending any money. I have been working on the concept & design of my website since last September & it just went live a few months ago. I did all the work on it by myself & I’m so proud of the final product. I also started my own YouTube channel that is connected to my website, where I have created a plethora of workouts ranging from 15 to 50 minutes each. For my channel, I develop the content, chose the music, prepare the setting, and do all the filming & editing of the workouts in my spare time just for others to enjoy. It takes a lot of time but brings me so much happiness that it doesn’t even feel like work to me. I’m a one woman show & I post them to my YouTube channel on a weekly basis. This creative process challenges me, which I like, and I can’t wait to continue to make content for others to discover. Feel free to check it out again at www.fitsy.info and my YouTube channel at Jordan Nicole.
At the beginning of this year I also had the opportunity to dance in a music video by an amazing artist named Marya Stark. The song is called Stargazer & you can find that on YouTube as well. And lastly, I just finished filming a virtual production of Shrek where I played Princess Fiona. It was supposed to be the spring musical at my school but due to the pandemic and home schooling, the live show was canceled. So, we decided to do it virtually. Costumes, make-up, props, backdrops & all, filming each scene one by one, with all the cast members in their own homes, all filmed via Zoom. It’s being edited right now & although I don’t know how it’s going to come out in the end & it’s not likely to ever be seen by a large audience, it sure was an interesting project to be involved in & something that is likely (hopefully!) a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Oh, last little thing. You can find me on Instagram @xoxo_fancyjojo for any more updates in the future!
• Thank you, Jordan, for your fresh and valuable point of view. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
I would first like to thank my parents for everything they have done for me. They are my biggest supporters and they make me feel so loved constantly. I wouldn’t and couldn't have done this movie without them being beside me and encouraging me through it. They are the most loving, caring, supportive, and hardworking people I know, and I feel so blessed to have them to look up to everyday.
I would like to thank both Christopher & Jonathan for believing in me & supporting me. Working with them on this project was a dream come true & it’s still so hard for me to believe I had the opportunity to work with these two brilliant artists & to star in a short film!
Jennifer, my steam punk fairy godmother and partner in crime. I had such a blast being in the film with her & I learned so much from her. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work beside her.
My dance teachers Ms. Grace & Ms. Shely. They have both helped shape me into the dancer & performer I am today. Their passion is evident in everything they do & I hope someday to be an amazing choreographer just like Ms. Grace.
And last but certainly not least, my older sister Zoe. She has not only inspired me with her artistry and talent, but she has always been my confidant & my best friend. I love her more than I can put into words & I feel so blessed to have her in my life.
- Website: www.fitsy.info
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/xoxo_fancyjojo/