In our conversation, Helenna and I talk about gaining confidence to own what you want to do, the power of patience and practice, the importance of enjoying the process, her challenges with mental health, and her lessons in personal growth.
Growing up, Helenna was a natural performer but had no idea where that would lead her. She got her start as a jazz singer in college and quickly found a love for acting in her university’s theater. An actor, writer, and producer with Mighty Pharaoh Films, she produced and starred in her latest project - a feature film titled At Your Own Risk - and she can also be seen in ABC’s A Million Little Things. Among her many talents, Helenna is also the founder of Ms. In The Biz and has written for publications from MovieMaker Magazine to IndieWire.
Helenna shared her insights on managing multiple projects and how to know when to grow something into a money-making business and when to let it be a hobby or a non-monetary tool. We have little time in this world, and Helenna suggests focusing on what matters most to you.
She knew she wanted her career to be in film and TV, so she let Ms. In the Biz be a passion project and a career-building tool. It helped her build relationships and demonstrate her production skills. It showed the industry she’s fully capable of creating something an audience needs, even if that wasn’t a feature film (yet). Her experience building it helped her refine desired skills and own the title of producer. She says all her jobs and projects work together in the big picture.
I admire how Helenna has learned the power of patience and practice and how she has embraced the process throughout her career. She demonstrated how almost nothing will look exactly how you think it will or as you intend. But if you show up, do the work that’s meaningful to you, and learn to love the process of making your art, you’ll feel fulfilled in what you’re creating.
Although she graduated from university in 2004, she feels her career has just begun. She reflected, “I’ve learned a lot about patience and perseverance and that things are in no way linear in this business.” Every six months, she asks herself why she puts herself through the obstacles that come with working in entertainment. Every time, it comes down to her deep love of it wanting to do nothing else.
“All of the times of hardship become totally worth it when you have times steeped in what you want to be doing,” Helenna says. “Right now, my life is in a place where I’m finally getting to do the things I’ve been trained for, have been working on, and have been ready to do for so long. I just didn’t quite have all the tools I needed. But it’s because all the time I’ve spent doing the things I’ve been doing, I feel like I’m really ready for the opportunities I’m starting to get. Whereas before, I was feeling bitter about not having these opportunities but really, I just wasn’t ready.”
For more of Helenna’s reflections on patience, practice, perseverance, and dedication to your craft hit play below, check out the show notes, or listen on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
To wrap things up, Helenna summed up the entire premise of The Process in 30 seconds: “Things can just take time. If you’re a creative and you’re dedicated to your craft and really love what you’re doing, it’s OK that things might not happen in five, ten, or 30 years. But that you really enjoy your life in the process. I’m in this place where I’m having an amazing time. I don’t have the same anxiety over ‘making it’ or being successful that I had ten years ago.”
Shannon Lee Byrne is the host and producer of The Process podcast, an interview series exploring the process of survival as a creative.
She’s also a freelance writer, producer, marketer, and strategist for small-med businesses and startups. When not doing those things, she’s dabbling in film photography, hiking, running, or at a concert. ✌️
Header photo of Helenna Santos by Sewari Campillo.