Reality Check

The wall behind me, in this photo, belongs to Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. I was there this weekend for the premiere of the first feature film I directed. Free Trip to Egypt.
On Sunday morning, I walked in the southern California heat and remembered. I had my first “real” acting gig at Paramount. That day felt like all my farfetched dreams might just be coming true.

Life has taken a few twists and turns since then. Dreams changed, clarified like butter over heat. I’ve been doing and living and shaking things up. Mostly jumping into deep waters and not drowning.

The road behind me stretches indefinitely. The road ahead of me beckons me to keep going. Where, I do not know yet. Makes me think of a story I wrote in high-school about a pilgrim on the road to Mecca who found something other than he expected. Stories.
Looking for truth.

What I know is that I will finish the “Free Trip to Egypt” tour which ends this Wednesday, June 12th. (It’s had sold-out premieres in NYC and LA. The herculean effort we all put in is amounting to something that is reaching hearts and minds. I am very grateful for that.)
In about a week, I will return to Paris and continue the work on Strigoi. I will finish that film (talk about twists and turns).
Once that is finished, I will listen to the call that feels most true and follow it.

Thank you for being with me on this journey.
Thank you for taking an interest and for all your encouragement.

Hope life is treating you well wherever you may be.


PS. Free Trip to Egypt is screening in 500 theatres across the US tomorrow, June 12th. I will be at the San Francisco screening HERE.
If you want to see it in your town, you can find a theatre near you here:

Free Trip to Egypt trailer

Coming to the US, but first

I fasted for Lent and now I’m fasting for Ramadan. I’m not converting to anything or anyone. It’s not about joining a religion but about taking part in the human intention to create compassion and peace, within and without.
I still have a couple of people I’m angry at so I have some work to do to get to that peace and compassion.

I was never into fasting. I thought I could never do it because I love food too much but it turns out I like it. I have a couple of flammable moments here and there but for the most part it quiets my mind. Not to mention all the extra time I have during the day! For Ramadan, you don’t eat until the sun sets. For Lent I gave up sugar, alcohol and cheese and went mostly vegetarian. Lent was harder but I loved it too. Just to think that 2 years ago I had my first experience of Ramadan in Egypt. More on that below…

On the MUSIC side, I made a video for NPR’s Tiny Desk for “Leaves,” a song I wrote in a quiet and tiny apartment below Sacre Coeur. The salon window opened onto a big tree. Except for a baby crying nearby, the quiet and serene atmosphere of the flat stood in stark contrast to my metro stop. Barbes-Rochechouart station is as close as you can get to running the gauntlet.

I was in this apartment long enough to see the tree go from bare branches to green leaves. I felt utterly alone, betrayed and lost. I shed many tears there. I also made a best friend and felt the beginning of what it’s like not to feel alone when you’re alone. I tried to put all of that into this song. I hope you like it.

FILMwise, the documentary I directed, “Free Trip to Egypt,” is having its theatrical premiere in the US in just a few weeks. I will be in NYCLos Angelesand San Francisco. It’s been a harrowing and exhilarating experience. As most of you know, this film has been the catalyst to great loss and great gain in my life. The upcoming trip will be a mixed bag of feelings but I am mostly grateful. 
If you would like to watch it and can’t make the NYC, LA premieres, the film will screen in 500 theatres across the US on June 12th (including San Francisco where I will be.)
For trailer, dates and ticket links, go see the goat HERE.

I hope to see you on this trip and if I don’t, please know how grateful I am that you let me into your mailbox aka your heart, and that you care about my adventures, my successes and my failures. 

All my best from the city of lights,


PS. I have Strigoi news to share as well but I will tell you more in my next letter.


and breathe …

To see 2018, I look into the mirror.
What’s left of what I started with?
Did I learn? Did I grow?
Are the changes within showing on my face?

This year dunked me under water so many times I thought I would never come back up to the surface.
Although it has felt like an attempt on my life, 2018 exercised its full power to dislodge me from most everything I called safe. Home, city, relationship … I am grateful for the saints along the way. 

Was it Leonard Cohen who said that light gets in through the cracks? And so it seems that a little bit did.
When I look, really look into the mirror, I see it glimmer in my eyes, like that eternal serpent of awakening.

Mirrors don’t judge.

Here I am.
And there you are.
Thank us all.

Michelangelo said that he merely removes the superfluous pieces of stone to reveal the statue within. 2018 shaped me into more of me, tender skin with a lion’s heart. I wrote that in a song. I’ve been writing songs but they feel so personal, I don’t know when I’ll gather the courage to share them.

This is one of my photos of the Gilets Jaunes demonstrations in Paris.
I posted a longer account with more photos and videos on my INSTAGRAM page.

2019 Goals …

1. Finish “Strigoi.”
2. Make another doc.
3. Continue to write my fiction project and film as much of it as possible.
3. Write more songs and maybe share them.
4. Keep meditating and writing in my journal.
5. Spend time with the people I love.
6. Eat croissants, go to museums and spend time in nature.
7. Be here.

Love Spell for 2019

For 2019.
I love you even before I know you.
For my friends.
You are so much more than my heart once wished for. Saints.
For all of us.
May we be our true selves to such an extent that the symphony of our co-existence resonates fully into the here and now and the always. 

If you’d like to support the post production of Strigoi, let me know. One option is to make a tax-deductible donation through my fiscal sponsor, SFFILM (only available until March 2019), another way is to send your donations directly to me via Paypal. You will be credited on screen, of course, and I am happy to extend the Kickstarter rewards if you’re interested.

I’m moving towards being able to share some footage with you soon. I’m editing it myself so it’s a little daunting. Encouragements much appreciated. 

Here’s my latest Strigoi video update from outside Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Thank you for reading.

Please FOLLOW this blog or for my secret films, subscribe to my mailing list HERE.

Transilvania Frumoasa

Little movie keeps going …

“Hello Ingrid. Thank you so much for allowing us to share your beautiful film. All enjoyed and had a poignant discussion after the film. We shared your quotes with the audience and also showed the film twice before we discussed it. The international film festival here in Carson City NV looks forward to more of Goat Lips Productions !!  Please keep in touch if you have time. Best regards. Linda”
TF Poster

It’s the end of February! I always like telling you when we are. We are in the year 2018, approaching March in a whirlwind of events, of ups and downs …

I’m sharing a little bit of good news. “Transilvania Frumoasa” was featured at the Carson City International Film Festival. The letter above came from the director of the festival. Being appreciated never gets old. (Thank you to everyone who’s joined this prestigious group, my mailing list so you could watch the film.)

You can watch this short documentary, a simple love poem for my birth place, here: with the password myplace

“Transilvania Frumoasa” (Transylvania the Beautiful) is my first short documentary, made on an Iphone 5. I wanted to say that it was a simpler time back then, seeing that I am now in post production with two feature length documentaries, living by myself in Paris, gearing up to write my next project (the most challenging yet!) … but that time back then, wasn’t simple either. I remember the edit. I had nasty flu, I couldn’t even stand, I was under a crazy deadline … I recorded about 50 takes of the narration. It’s not that long ago but it feels like another lifetime.

I’m keeping this letter short because if I start, it may get really long! All I’m going to say is that this is the most challenging time I have ever experienced, that I’m looking for that space between the “either” and the “or” and that I am experimenting with a new thing: being alone. What a strange challenge. I am grateful for it and for all the film work as well. I am doing what I love with a refining fire blazing around me.

TwelveConsultingChicagoEnd of January, I flew to Chicago to play a show with Forest for these fine people at Twelve Consulting.
They do so much good work in their community.
Jill started the company and her husband Josh joined in.
I am inspired.

What’s next …

  • In 2 days I’m leaving Paris for Oaxaca (via San Francisco for one night. I get to see Forest and smell some redwoods. Ahhh. I can’t wait.)
  • After 5 days of Oaxaca, where I’m doing a rough-cut screening of the Egypt film I will return to San Fran for 10 whole days!
  • Mid March, back to my solo existence in Paris for about 3 more months to finish editing the Egypt film AND the vampire/strigoi documentary.

PS. RIP Ana Misin, the lady on the left on the movie poster.




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I’m writing to you from the other side of the time divide. It’s already 2018 in Romania. It’s all good. 🙂
The new year is bringing a feeling of renewal, brightness and courage. At least those were the thoughts crossing my mind while I was watching the neighbors shoot fireworks into the sky. (Fireworks are not illegal here.)  The loud sounds and bright lights of the fireworks are supposed to chase away the darkness and evil and open the way for the new and bright, right? I think they did it.

2017 has been a whirlwind; a magical carpet ride. 2018 shows no signs of stopping. If anything, it looks likes it’s gearing up for more and more. I am grateful. Sure, it’s all coming in at once but I’ll take it.

At the end of 2016, I had no idea I was going to direct 2 feature documentaries in 2017. I don’t recommend it that but like said, the attitude I’ve been cultivating is “bring it!” I have traveled to Minnesota, several times to Egypt, Romania, Switzerland, France and quick trips to Italy, Spain and Portugal. Just in the last few weeks I’ve been in So Cal, Louisville, Nebraska, NYC … I was home in the Bay Area for a total of maybe 6 weeks this year. We have a few more days here in Romania, just enough to get over some nasty colds and then back to Paris.

Mid January, Forest is heading to our home in the bay to begin working on the music for the Egypt documentary. I will stay in Paris to continue working with my editor through the end of February. I will dash over to Chicago end of January just for a couple of days to play a show with Forest and Mike Mullins, our mandolin/guitar player. Then, after a quick stop in Ohio, I’m heading back to Paris and Forest back to the bay.

This is the first time Forest and I are spending so much time apart. I expect it will be somewhat strange and lonely but we’re ready to tackle this new chapter of life and use our talents to continue to create together. And there’s always Facetime, right?

I keep coming back to the gravitational pull of the truth that I love my work. As much as 2017 has been magical and amazing and beautiful, I have met with some of the biggest challenges and like on the hero’s journey, I fought fearful monsters who threatened to destroy me. I am here, I made it through, monsters somewhat quiet. I can’t declare victory yet but I have gotten to know these creatures well. They are no longer strangers. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll be friends.

2018 is setting up to be the most fearful and marvelous one to date. If you’re in the skill and habit of sending bolstering energies, please do.

For you, I am grateful. Thank you for lending me your ear and your care.
A friend of time sent me the perfect wish: Time. Time to do work on I want to accomplish. I extend that wish to you and anything else you might desire.

Ingrid Serban Danc Cemetery

I took this photo of myself next to my grandma and grandpa’s graves. I recorded one of my video updates for the Strigoi film there. If you’d like to watch the updates, go HERE.


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With 2016 waving goodbye and 2017 quickly approaching, here I am, running towards you with my latest offering; movie 11 of 12, “Anuta.”

I met Anuţa (pronounced Anutza) on the vampire search trail which took us north of Transyvania, in Maramures. I feel in love with her within the first 2 minutes of meeting her. As soon as she shared her love of singing, I asked her to sing for me. It became clear that she would be the subject of my December film.

Maybe it’s ego centric to see one’s life in the reflection of another but she made me think of what my life would have been like had my parents refused to let me go to music school.

I love this woman for the beauty of her soul, the delicate and mesmerizing sound of her voice and for the fact that she lives with ardor and an uncompromising sense of self. As she might wish she took a different path in life, my wish is that I may be as strong and graceful as she is.

And while I’m wishing, here’s a wish for you.
May 2017 bring you health, joy, strength and wonder.

I am grateful for you!


To watch Anuta’s film, join my mailing list here:

A Blue Christmas

Sending joy and gladness on this day of Christmas celebration.

I was going to wait and write you at the end of the month, as usual, when I send you that month’s film but the  falling snow made me think of sending you some love today. We really are having a white Christmas.

Forest and I recorded our version of Blue Christmas. With an accordion. We had a lot of fun making this video. Hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

I’ll talk to you soon! In less than a week when I send you movie #11 of my movie challenge. How this year has flown by!

So grateful for you!

PS. Our outfits above are the typical clothes people in the north or Romania wear during the holidays. This region is called Maramures and it is magical. I got quite a bit of footage up there for the vampire movie! I could tell you so much more but I’ll save it for another time. The only thing I want to say is that the women in Maramures are unapologetically powerful. I was moved to tears. More on that later. ….



I am writing you all the way from Romania. It’s a chilly evening. We may get snow tonight. I can smell it in the air. Funny how I’ve been gone from here for almost 18 years but I can still recognize the smell of winter.

Today I walked to the market with my mom. We bought lots of flowers and candles. Tomorrow we go to the cemetery to remember my grandparents and great grandparents. There will be lots of light candles on the graves; to show them the way to us, for that one embrace a year. It’s my first iluminatie in many years.

It’s been non-stop for the past 8+ weeks. I launched the Kickstarter campaign for the feature documentary of vampires and thanks to you, we blew it out of the water. Then Forest and I played a live set at Pandora Radio in Oakland and immediately after went to Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, KS where we made so many new amazing friends and got very little sleep.
From there we flew straight to Romania and I began working on my October film.
Then we got sick with colds, then we traveled up the Carpathian Mountains to get footage for the big movie and now, we’re home so I can finish editing the short film, write to you and film the day of the dead today.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey. It’s so much more beautiful because I get to share it with you.


I’ve always loved shepherds. As a child, I admired them fearfully from afar. Like bus drivers, shepherds were superhuman in my imagination. The kinds of guardians of life that are to be respected and not quite understood.

Making this film is a dream come true for me. Sergiu who was a poor outcast had the love for his sheep to propel him forward. I wanted to keep the film short so I couldn’t include all of the stories he told me. He once spent a whole bitter winter in a cave with his sheep so he could save them from the communist government. He used to steal into the village at night and get wine from my grandparents so he could make his polenta with it. That’s how he kept warm, he says.

A man who loves his sheep above all else.


PS. Sergiu asked me if I could print a 3ft x 3ft laminated copy of this photo of him. I said I would. 🙂

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CineWomen Interview

Strange, funny, surreal: the playful aesthetics and irony in All Sales Final is a distinctive mark of Ingrid Serban’s filmmaking style. The absurd story of Samuel A. Dillon is rendered in clear, precise images, echoing the oldest forms of cinema. We are pleased to present Ingrid Serban for this year’s CinéWomen Edition. Ingrid, how did you get into filmmaking?

It’s truly an honor to be selected by CinéWomen and I am happy to share a bit of my creative and filmmaking journey with you.

The short answer to this question is this: I had an idea for a story and the irresistible impetus to give it life. I grabbed my IPhone, a tripod and a few brave friends and in seven hours and five locations, we created “All Sales Final.” The longer version of this answer involves a trip back in time to a small town in Romania where I was living with my grandparents. I was about five years old and my grandmother, who was a big fan of Indian cinema, took me to see a three-hour flick at the only film house in town. I was enchanted and didn’t mind the lack of ventilation, the uncomfortable chairs or the sweltering heat of the summer. The colors were brilliant. The music was intoxicating. I decided then that cinema was magic and that I was going to be a part of it somehow.

You have studied piano and voice at the Sigismund Toduta Lycee in Cluj-Napoca. What is the influence of your musical background on your filmmaking style?

When I was about two years old, I knew I wanted to be a pianist. For the next four years, I would pretend to play on my grandmother’s kitchen table and dream of the day when I would touch a real piano. That desire became reality when I was accepted into the prestigious Sigismund Toduta Lycee and my parents had finally saved enough money to buy an old grand piano. We lived on the eighth floor of a communist block building so you can imagine the effort it took to transport it to the top. I was practically dancing around the eight heavily sweating men who were painstakingly dragging it up the one hundred and thirty six steps.

That hundred-year-old piano moved into my room joining the existing sparse décor of a small couch and a bookshelf and became my closest friend, confidante and creative partner. One of my favorite games was making up stories and scoring them as I went. To me filmmaking has a musical rhythm to it, a sort of breath that transports the viewer into a waltz of images, a minuet of stories. Every story is like a song and every song is like a story.

– Improvisation is a fundamental aspect of your art practice aiming less for the traditional and all-round success of a film than at giving each shot a certain emotional quality. Can you tell something about your creative process?

This is a truly wonderful question that captures the essence of what I attempt to create with my storytelling. In improvising I follow my inner compass to uncover what may already be there. I am a miner seeking the treasures already in existence, the gems within and without.

– We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for All Sales Final?

I love notebooks. They hold my dreams, fantasies, stories and those empty pages that always beckon me to be fill them with more. On the morning I wrote “All Sales Final” I woke up thinking about a dream I just had about a hopeless man who didn’t want to live any more and was too scared to end his own life. I thought about several things: the traumatic reality of suicide, the hopelessness that so many of us live with, lack of connection with one another and the effect of love and nature on our psyches. I grabbed a notebook and jotted down these thoughts and the idea of an Elimination Agency whose sole purpose is to eliminate hopeless people. The rest was a matter of assembling the puzzle. Casting is so important for any film and I feel very lucky to have worked with the actors who did an amazing job bringing this tragic comedy to life. Thank you Nathan Benjamin Johnson, Alisa Rose, Lucy, Finn and Dawn Shalhoup and my husband, Forest Sun who not only had a featured role but also co-produced the film.

– The film’s strength lies in its plot. It’s a beautifully told story that succeeds in asking important questions about the weaknesses of our human condition. What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

Storytelling opens a window into one’s soul and the world around, or as Shakespeare once said, “… to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature.”

My chief hope is that in some small way, this film, aside from being entertaining, would remind us who we are and inspire us to live more fully. Hearing film festival audiences laugh out loud has been a true delight. As the opening quote of the film says “Sometimes, to find hope, it is enough to gaze into the face of a single flower.” It takes just one action to set a whole world in motion.

– Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?

There’s an absolute giddiness when I create. I cherish that special moment when my creation exists nowhere else but in my own mind. Then come the notebook, pen and the outpouring of images into words. I write as if I am following a scent, or a secret path I have just discovered. When I create, I feel more like myself than any other time. It’s as if I am walking the path towards my own soul, to a place of pure bliss and play. I am five years old again and I believe in magic.

– Can you tell us something about the sound score?

I love talking about the music of “All Sales Final.” It was pure joy from the very beginning to the end.

Unbeknownst to him, Wynton Marsalis sparked the collaboration that created the score of “All Sales Final.” I had recently reconnected with a dear friend and former band mate, Scott Steiner, who invited us to Wynton’s show at the San Francisco Jazz Center. Sitting in the theater waiting for the show to start, it occurred to me that Scott is a film sound designer. I told him about the project and a week later we were in the studio. As I watched the film on the screen and played an improvised score on the beautiful grand piano I was reminded of my childhood stories and my dear old piano. As C. G. Jung beautifully states, “the creative mind plays with the objects it loves. ”

– All Sales Final contains a clear reference to the silent era. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?

Growing up, I didn’t watch a lot of television. There was a Russian cartoon about a rabbit and a cigarette-smoking wolf, some Laurel and Hardy skits and a few Charlie Chaplin films, all of which no doubt left an imprint on my creativity. In silent film, I appreciate the tight embrace of comedy and tragedy, the highly expressive emotional moments, and the speed at which everything happens; just a little faster than life, like a heartbeat rushing to catch up.

Everything influences my creative output. Rather than ascribing to individual people’s styles, I am more of a collector of moments. As in a pool, I gather sensations, sounds, images, ideas and then I let them churn and swirl and meet each other. When the time is right, something pops up for me to grab and create anew.

There are so many filmmakers I admire. Wes Anderson creates a world of magical realism filled with delightful and quirky characters. Guillermo del Toro takes dark dreams and makes them beautiful and grand. Quentin Tarantino is bold, brilliant and epic. Matthew Vaughn is a giant of storytelling who brings powerful myths to the screen in a breathtaking way. Francis Ford Coppola is a poet of the soul. Peter Bogdanovich is a master of both comedy and drama and a friend and mentor to me when I lived in Los Angeles. Peter showed me how to organize a story with sticky notes on a wall and we watched all of Cary Grant’s films together.

I am truly inspired by the talented independent filmmakers working today whom I’m proud to call friends: Richie Adams, Phillip Thomas, Marsha Baxter, Luis Bordonada, Tom and Sandi Anton, Marco Antonio Martinez, Alejandro Montoya Marin to name a few.

My choice in creating “All Sales Final” as a silent movie was deliberate. This being my first film I felt that my own filmmaking endeavor should begin like cinema itself; silent with a simple piano score.

– Thanks for sharing your time, Ingrid, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What’s next for Ingrid Serban? Have you a particular film in mind?

Thank you again for speaking with me and asking these thoughtful questions.

Very soon after I finished “All Sales Final,” I had the worrying thought that maybe this was it, that maybe I just had the one story to tell.  I am happy to report that this has not been the case. More stories are lined up in various stages of production. We just finished shooting the pilot for “Death in North Beach” a murder mystery short series set in the historic section of San Francisco with the same name. I recently acted in a short film under the direction of the brilliant Cassie Jaye called “Who’s There?” set to join the festival circuit this fall. The San Francisco Film Society is supporting me in creating a feature documentary about vampires, “Strigoi, the Real Vampires of Transylvania.” I am also writing a short film to be shot in Japan as well as a short film trilogy set in 1980’s communist Romania.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me and find out about my upcoming projects, please do so either through my website or on the social media platforms @ingridserban.

The Weatherman

The Weatherman, a short film by Ingrid Serban and Kim Rollo Emanuel…. all I’m going to say is that you might enjoy this if you enjoy silliness. I’m a little nervous, I admit it, to share this with you, but I laughed a lot making it and laughter is good.

Quick story of how I came to make it.
4 years ago I met Kim at the farmer’s market. He makes the best skin care ever and I’ve been using it ever since.
We soon became good friends and he confessed this wacky idea he had some 30+ years ago about a man who changes weather patterns with his special skill.
With the help of Emily Rudisill and Elena & Phoebe who are Kim’s business partner and employee, we made that crazy idea into a film.

It’s almost midnight so I must get on with sending you this email.

Big thanks again to Cassie Jaye for the use of her camera and to Dan Damman(my office neighbor and awesome filmmaker) for lending me some really nice lenses and Forest for helping with the edit and encouraging me to create original sound effects.

Tell me what you think of it.

My monthly films are only available to people on my mailing list. To watch the Weatherman, email me. I’ll add you to my list and send you the link and password to watch the film.


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