Another positive interview for you all today! If you are or represent someone doing incredible things in the community, please visit our Features/Submissions page for more info on how to be featured on Imperfectly B.
Today, I’m honored to feature writing duo Shelly Skandrani and Natalie Marciano who have both acted in and written for several productions. These two are talented writers both of Middle Eastern descent who use their gifts to inspire change in their industry.
Shelly actually started out acting in the local theater in London at the age of nine. “I did two theater productions a year, three months of rehearsals and 40 shows over school holidays, per production. You could say I was dedicated,” she laughed. At the age of 16, she co-starred in the Dustin
Hoffman-produced, Holocaust film The Devil’s Arithmetic”, which also starred Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. After studying Theater and Performing Arts, as well as English Literature, Shelly honed her skills as a writer and moved to Los Angeles to explore writing scripts. “I studied
screenwriting at UCLA Extension, and discovered that because I’d read hundreds of plays, and performed in dozens of them, over the years, I actually really understood the language and structure, quite intuitively,” she revealed.
Natalie also got her start in acting and knew that she was destined to be a performer after seeing Michael Jackson in his famed “Thriller” video when she was only five. She starred in The Buck Shot Show, a children’s TV series based in Canada that resembled Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. From there, Natalie went onto perform in many theater productions, including The Vagina Monologues, over the years and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Theater at Concordia University. Though she was passionate about acting, she also realized that she had a love of writing and comedy and utilized those gifts as well after moving to Los Angeles.
The pair originally met on set when Natalie was producing and directing comedy sketches. Shelly starred in a few of them herself. “I loved her humor and we clicked immediately,” Shelly said of working alongside Natalie. “We stayed in touch, but it was only years later that we realized the potential we have when we come together and write as a team.” The two have been able to improve on their individual skills and collaborate on several projects.
The writing pair are also founding members of Women Creating Change, an organization that seeks to empower women to positively impact their communities through artistic collaboration in entertainment. “The film industry today, even after the #timesup movement, is still largely dominated by men. Men are interested in men’s stories, and this is completely understandable, but half of the world consists of women, and we want to see stories about us,” Shelly said. “We want stories that resonate with our struggles, our conquests, and our joys. The only way that is going to change is if we have more female writers, directors, and producers, who understand these stories, and make the decisions.” WCC works towards peaceful, productive collaborations with female creatives that breakthrough stereotypes, politics, and religion, to tell incredible, impactful stories, particularly for women in the Middle East and North Africa.
The organization recently hosted its second annual charity event, Stand Up 4 Her, which featured powerful performances by renowned female comedians, poets, storytellers, artists, performers, and musicians from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Morocco, Palestine, and Israel, bridging cultural divides by celebrating diversity on stage. Shelly shared her own activistic poetry, “Social Conditioning,” which highlighted the issues women face while trying to find romance. Meanwhile, Natalie had her comedic set which told the truth about her identity crisis as a modern Middle Eastern woman. “Really the event was incredible! Magical even,” Natalie admitted. “There was a true connection between performers and the audience. We all went on a journey together!” Shelly agreed, adding, “The show itself blew me away, it was really enlightening to hear the stories, be it through comedy, song or poetry of all these Middle Eastern women. What was surprising was that even though we were from different countries, we all shared similar experiences in dealing with the world around us.“
Shelly and Natalie are currently putting the finishing touches on their short film, Community, a dark but moving thriller about victims of rape and the trauma they sadly can suffer years later. With Shelly taking the helm as writer and director, the film stars Natalie (who also served as producer), Kaya Schafer, Chase Coleman (Boardwalk Empire, The Originals), Maria Olsen (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Paranormal Activity 3), and Rebecca Tudor. This writing duo was also recently hired to write a feature film, Climb Your Everest, which is now in development as well as a comedy TV pilot with creator Sahar Hagai, which is currently being shopped to networks.
In terms of their work, both Shelly and Natalie want to continue to use their gifts to inspire people to really look at the world around them and try to make it a better place. “We really feel that entertainment needs to have a mission, stories can be used to effect change,” Shelly stated. “In all genres, and even within comedy, you can highlight the global injustices that occur around you, and make people think, perceive, and behave differently.”
Their story is certainly inspiring to me as a writer to continue to use my own experiences to inspire others and help shape the world around me! You can follow both Shelly and Natalie on their Instagram accounts, and check out more from Women Creating Change on the organization’s official website.