The multi-hyphenate on her creative influences, moving back to New England, and the movie that made her want to be a filmmaker.
Creatress is what Heather Fay Dawson calls her role at Connecticut Public. As Executive Producer of our Sharing Connecticut series, she tells amazing stories from our state and provides a “pride of place” for Nutmeggers. Most recently, she produced and directed Women’s Work: Stories Behind the Movement and her work on Sharing CT’s Amplify, featuring local musicians, just won her an Emmy!
Tell us a little about your background – where you grew up, went to school, etc.
I’m a home-grown Connecticut girl. I got my degree in broadcasting, TV & film from Boston University, moved out to Los Angeles and worked in television for years. I loved it, but I always knew I’d return to New England. I can’t survive without all four seasons.
How did you get your start in TV & Film?
Growing up I was a total TV baby. I was obsessed with movies and everything John Hughes and David Lynch. When I was in fifth grade, my mom and I watched Sophie’s Choice. (Crazy movie selection for a 5th grader – thanks, Mom.) It changed the way I thought about humanity, and opened my eyes to how profoundly a story can affect a person’s outlook on life. Right then, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker and storyteller.
What are your go-to sources for inspiration? As a little girl, I loved exploring in the woods, gazing at the stars, climbing trees, chasing fireflys. I still have that deep connection to nature. For inspiration, I head to the woods. It’s the same with music. I grew up making mixtapes, and created a soundtrack for every emotional twist and turn of my life (and I still do!) In college I started writing my own songs. I bought a cheap Alvarez acoustic guitar and taught myself to play. Now my band “The Girls From Ruby Falls” plays throughout New England. It’s my therapy.
Any recommendations for what’s worth reading, listening to, watching, and/or seeing?
For creative motivation, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero are my three go-to books. My newest obsession is a series by Peter Wohlleben that includes The Hidden Life of Trees, The Secret Wisdom of Nature, and The Inner Life of Animals. I’m also binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – all beautifully produced, with incredible female leads. And, of course, everything on PBS Nature!
What do you love most about Connecticut?
Fall for foliage, apple picking, hay rides, bonfires, chai tea and pumpkin pie. Winter for waking up to a fresh blanket of snow, hot coffee by a cozy fire, snowboarding, snowdays with my kids, making soup and snow angels. Many complain about the snow, but I LOVE IT!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Brene Brown said, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” Irrational fear of failure sometimes used to paralyze me. Once I came to terms with the fact that failure is part of creativity, I stopped fearing it. That was a gamechanger.
Watch Heather’s latest films anytime online at cptv.org/womenswork, cptv.org/sharingct, and cptv.org/amplify.