We had the good fortune of connecting with Terry Ross and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Terry, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Much to the consternation of many family and friends, most of my career and life choices have been all about risk – and thankfully most of the risk taking has led positively to where I currently am in my life and in my career. When I was acting, life was pretty much all about risk – both on stage and off – one never knew where the next job was coming from, how to support oneself while acting – it requires faith, perseverance and risk to keep going.
When I decided to finish college and go on to get a Masters Degree – giving up acting required alot of risk as I had no idea what I was actually going to do – what my next career or passion was going to be – I just knew I wanted something more. The masters degrees in Education and later in Directing helped me find a new passion in directing – which has stayed with. me every since and also served me well in initially getting teaching positions in high school but… I gave up a steady high school drama position in Glendale California to move to Encinitas and a take a part-time professor position at Long Beach City College – resulting in 2 to 3 hour commutes each way.
I had always wanted to teach college – and the Long Beach City College position eventually led to teaching at San Diego State University and University of San Diego in both undergrad and graduate courses for the Old Globe Masters of Fine Arts Program.. During the 8 years of a steady university teaching position, I had also been teaching acting privately part time. As that business was growing, took a leap of faith, quit the college job and began my own business – one of the best decisions I have ever made – both financially and creatively.
Teaching film acting led to writing, directing and producing films – again, a risky venture (particularly showing one’s first film to an audience!). Several award winning shorts and features later (and a pandemic with lots of time on my hands) led me to take the risk of starting a film festival – which is now in its first quarter and doing well thus far.
I know from the outside my decisions over the years may looked like risky ventures as I was giving up safety and security for something new and unknown, I’m not sure I ever considered the choices “risks” per se – it was always about following some intuitive drive that led in some very circuitous routes to where I am today – and as corny as this sounds, “following my heart”.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I believe we are the sum of our stories – those we tell ourselves, those we read, watch, and hear. A story – and our interpretation or spin on it – frames our experiences and shapes how we see the world. I’ve always been an avid reader and viewer of plays and films and love how they take me into the world of imagination and transport me to another place or time, change my mood and outlook.
As an actor, I would tell the story of my character, as a director I shape the story, look and world of the play or film and now as a writer of films, I create the characters, story and world – sort of a summation of all my work in stage and film.
I am most proud of my most recent project, a short film entitled “A. Castle of Umbria.” For years I had wanted to create an actors retreat in Italy – and this later grew into a filmmaking and acting retreat in Italy. The cast and crew lived and filmed in a gorgeously renovated 13th century castle and in a variety of locations in Perugia and Assisi, and I was able to write, direct and produce this film. It is story of family – with regret and loss but also of hope and second chances. The film has done very well on the film festival circuit and I’m proud of not only the film, but the wonderful experiences everyone shared of living and working and eating (divine Italian food and wine) together. Our next retreat is scheduled for October of this year (Covid willing) in the Loire Valley in France – our script is nearly finished. This will be an entirely different type of film – a combination of French farce, historical costume drama and a ghost story! Stay tuned!
As any creative will attest, this is not an easy life path. The competition is fierce, the money is scarce, and there are predators in the industry. As a woman director, I’ve met with discrimination from people who didn’t take me seriously, thought they knew better or simply disrespect women in general. The only way I’ve found to overcome that kind of discrimination, is to just forge ahead, believe that I have something to offer, and never give up. I think that probably applies to anything a person might want to achieve in life!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Julian, in the San Diego mountains, but have also lived in coastal North County and am familiar with much of San Diego County and love showing off this beautiful area to visitors.
I’d start in downtown San Diego – in Balboa Park – the Art Museum, Museum of Man, the Arboreteum, the San Diego Zoo – and then grab a great meal in the Park at The Prado or just outside the Park at one of my favorite Italian restaurants Cucina Urbana.
The next day we’d head for La Jolla – walk at La Jolla Cove and dine at Georges at the Cove upstairs with an incredible view.
then go to the Birch Aquarium and the Museum of Contemporary Art and then have dinner at La Valencia (also a great place to stay in La Jolla) or Torrey Pines Lodge (great place to stay, dine and play golf!)
I’d follow up all that activity with a spa day at Rancho Valencia in Fairbanks Ranch – probably the finest spa I’ve ever been to – and with a spa treatment you can take spin, pilates or yoga classes and enjoy the pool as well as sauna and hot tubs. Then go and pick up some Mara Des Bois strawberries at Chino Farms in Del Mar – the only place in San Diego where you can find them!
Next day, head a bit up the coast to Encinitas – visit the magical gardens at Self Realization Fellowship and Quail Botanic Gardens, get some sun and surf at Swamis Beach, shop along Main Street, grab some ice cream at Jojos and have dinner and hear some music at Solace and Moonlight Lounge.
My next stop would be East and Inland to the Wild Animal Park – a full days adventure – and stay at the lovely Rancho Bernardo Inn (about 6 miles from the Park) which offers great dining and spa treatments!
Finally, going further east and inland – and climbing at to 4200 feet elevation, we’d go to Julian for some famous Julian Pie and great hikes – particularly Santa Isabel East trail or the trail up Volcan Mountain. Have a great lunch at Quecho and dinner at Jeremys on the Hill – and stay at the historical Julian Lodge – and be sure to stay up for star gazing as Julian is one of two designated Dark Sky Cities!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been fortunate to have many mentors along the way – I will always be indebted to my acting teachers David Hammond, Richard Seyd and Tony Taccone – for encouraging and challenging me to reach farther, to Directing Coach, Liz Carlin while in the Directing Masters Program at UC Davis, to the agents, students, parents who trusted me with their students and talents to study acting, to all the talented crew who have worked with me on many film projects, to Lisa Bruhn, my co-writer on several films, to dear friends and family who have believed in and supported me on this wonderful journey