Stavroula Toska

Actor – Director – Original Content Creator

 

1. Your multi-award winning documentary “Beneath The Olive Tree,” many years ago, had something magical. Its simplicity and truths didn’t leave a single viewer untouched. We laughed, got moved, and learned about a real story kept hidden for many years. It was a tribute to women’s’ courage and braveness with a twist toward the end that made us say that that documentary had it all. Could you say that it was meant to be as we felt after we watched it, and how were you able to work with Academy Award-winning actor, Olympia Dukakis, on this documentary?

Thank you for your kind words. Making Beneath the Olive Tree changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I don’t know if it was meant to be, but I will share something with you that I have never shared before… I asked for this project to enter my life. I was at a point where I wanted to change everything about my life and find some purpose, whether that was getting a new and more meaningful job, move to another country, something, anything. So, I had been praying for guidance and the clarity to see the answer, the calling, when it knocked on my door. This is how Beneath the Olive Tree came to be, and I am forever thankful that I had been present and aware of my life enough to accept the gift of making this film. It was also during a time where I had started doing “the work”; meaning conditioning and training myself, maybe even reprogramming myself to trust my gut again, to go back to basics, to stop being consumed by people’s opinions and thoughts, the material world… I was approaching 30 and not of it felt right, so I started surrendering and doing what I now call “the work” which in essence was spending more time alone with my thoughts and feelings. In some weird, awesome, magical way, it worked!! And then one day I attend an event where Olympia Dukakis was speaking at, and I follow her to the bathroom trying to get her attention, and a few weeks later we meet for coffee which turns to dinner with a lot of wine and stories and tears… and as I’m waiting for the elevator Olympia yells for me to “Wait! Wait! I have a book I want to give you, and when you’re done reading it, I want to hear your thoughts on it.” I got on the subway and started reading the book. I went home that night and knew my life would never be the same. I just knew it. That book served as part of the research and a six-year adventure that led to my collaboration with Olympia, a friendship that I cherish with all my heart, and my first ever project as a director, writer, and producer; Beneath the Olive Tree.

2. You were born and raised in Greece, in Sindos, then moved to the US to make your dreams come true. You have entered the film industry with success, and you keep going in a field that we all know is so hard to get in and succeed. Is there a secret, a magic recipe that helps one make their first steps into that world?

First things first, I didn’t enter the industry with success. I entered the industry as an actor and an immigrant in New York City during a time where my agent would send me to auditions for reality shows and crappy films that I didn’t care about at all. You see, I didn’t just want an acting job. I wanted to be part of something that was meaningful and that, looking back one day, I’d be able to say that I am so darn proud of being part of this or that project. Now, I find that the meaning and the value I give to words like “dreams” and “success” has changed over the years. The 22-year-old version of me had plenty of dreams, but it was only when the dreams turned into goals that I started achieving them, making them come true one by one, step by step, with a lot of work and discipline. I don’t look at my work and stop to think of it as successful as success has various meanings to me. There is success on the material level; awards, press, recognition, money, opportunities, attention. But there’s also the success of creating something that, regardless if it wins awards or makes money, I am proud to have created and know that I have become so rich from that experience. I find that my life evolves with every project I am involved with. It’s why I am so careful with my choices when it comes to the works I will invest my energy, my soul, my intellect, and precious time in. I feel extremely blessed to be able to do this, to be selective, while providing for myself and my needs. When it comes to a magic recipe… well, I feel that this world we live in is pure magic, and so many of us are fortunate enough to choose, to decide on the life we build for ourselves. Listen to your gut, learn to trust yourself, own your life’s narrative, honor who you are, know what your strengths are and decide what role you want to play in this industry and in the making of a project, and everything else will magically fall into place. I am proof of that happening time and time again, but I am also proof of what is possible when one gets up every morning and dives into life the same way they’d dive into the ocean on a beautiful summer day.

3. The topic of your new web series “SWITCH” may be considered controversial by some, a totally unexpected subject to explore after “Beneath The Olive Tree,” but also shockingly appealing. Once again, you have people talking about it, winning awards all around the world, and having big companies expressing interest in buying and distributing it. We’re holding our breath for what’s to come next… It is clear that you have come to stay, that you have a lot to say. What is your goal in the film industry, and what is your life purpose?

I literally had a conversation about this earlier today and, for the first time, I said out loud that I see myself in this industry for another 12-15 years and, somehow, someway, I started getting excited about what’s to come after that. Mind you, I have no idea what that would be, but speaking out loud that particular thought made me so happy. It came out of nowhere, but in that moment, that was all that mattered to me. For the time being, I want to continue creating and producing work that is revolutionary, groundbreaking, mind-blowing!! SWITCH is just that; not only to me but to so many people around the world. As to my life’s purpose… hmm. I aim to live a life filled with discoveries, adventures, good people surrounding me, delicious food, and so much laughter and fun! I feel that I am growing and learning with each passing day. Learning to live in the present is part of my life’s purpose, living a life of simplicity that is filled with love is part of my life’s purpose, being able to be of support to the people who need my support is part of my life’s purpose, honoring the person that I am is part of my life’s purpose.

4. From experience you have gained so far, if you restarted your career, would you follow a different path to reach your goals? Did you encounter situations you had never thought of and no one had told you about?

I think that life is filled with situations no one has told us about or prepared us for. And that’s OK; we need to learn for ourselves. I have come to love my life because I realized many years ago that I will be the one to write this script. I will be responsible, I will decide, I will deal with the consequences. I say this because I know all too well how many people live the life that somebody else, or even society, has set into motion for them. I decided at a young age that I’d not allow for this to happen. I have fallen down 100 times but have gotten up 101. I take all the blame for it but also take all the credit. I don’t like looking back too much, but on occasion, I do remind myself of the lessons I learned along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing.

5. How would you describe the world nowadays, and what is the most important thing to you we should all focus on to change the world for the better?

The world is how it’s always been; divided, filled with pain, hatred, hunger, disease, injustice. I don’t know that it will ever change. We are now in the year 2020, and we still have war, hundreds of millions of people around the globe living at or below poverty levels, the social, educational and economic gap keeps growing, women and young children are still being trafficked all around the world, people are more medicated than ever before, obesity has reached new levels… what progress have we really made? Have we found a cure for cancer? Is it progress that we have more billionaires than ever before? Or that most of us have a laptop and a cell phone in our hands, that people become debt slaves in order to carry around a fancy purse or drive a car they can’t really afford? Is it progress that, in what we refer to as the most powerful country in the world, we are not able to provide basic healthcare and education for all? A virus hit and all of a sudden we lost it, started fighting each other over toilet paper!! I mean, what is going on in our minds, in our souls?… That’s what is more scary and alarming than any pandemic in this world. I often wonder what we should be focusing on to change the world for the better, but then I also wonder if the world wants to be changed. The battle between good and evil has been around since the beginning of time — or so we’re told in the books we have read. I say this because each one of us has a path we’re carving in life, and we are responsible for our existence and what we bring into this world, but I am also aware that there are many people who don’t know any better or who don’t have choices. Existing peacefully and with respect towards Mother Earth and our fellow human beings can make a huge difference. It’s something that we can all strive for. The live and let live rule seems so simple to follow, and yet most people don’t. Embracing our humanness, lifting each other up, avoiding doing to others what we don’t want done to us… these are such basic principles that we can follow, and yet it’s proven to be so difficult to do so. It takes work and, at some point in my life, I had to come to terms with the fact that I can only control my actions, my words, my thoughts, my work. Praying and meditating, taking good care of the body that carries my soul, appreciating all I have, and learning to mind my business have all been game-changers for me. And the best part of it is that these are things that don’t cost a dime and we can all do from the comfort of our home.

. . .

Stavroula Toska
www.thetoskamatrix.com

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Published: April 18th, 2020 | Last Edited: April 18th, 2020 | WORLD – INTERVIEWS | Project’s Archive | Category’s Archive Network’s Archive Ελληνικά |


 

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