By: Cali Gilbert
(Cali Gilbert will be speaking with Tisha Janigian on the topic of homelessness, and sharing her short film, INVISIBLE, at San Francisco Writing For Change: Worldwide on September 11. Register and join us for this Inspiration Conversation!)
How do you make an impact on society through your words? You share your story in a book. That’s what I did in 2013 when I released the first book in my memoir series entitled, It’s Simply Serendipity. In the book I shared my personal story of transformation from homelessness to success, and how I developed a four-step formula for manifesting the life of my dreams, a formula I continue to live by. In 2015, I released the second book in the series entitled PEARL. In this book I shared how despite creating the life of my dreams, fears and limiting beliefs led me down an uncertain path, but one that allowed me to discover my authentic self. Both books brought awareness to the issue of homelessness and how it can happen to anyone.
Those books allowed me the opportunity to speak on the subject of homelessness from personal experience, and to provide hope and inspiration to other women who were experiencing hard times. Once I landed in Los Angeles at the end of 2013, I decided to continue growing as a writer and artist. I dove into the world of filmmaking and learned about screenwriting and several areas of the film industry including directing, producing and editing. I connected with amazing mentors who took me under their wings and led with guidance and support.
In 2019, I launched my own production company, Tower 15 Productions, with a mission to support other creatives through education and collaboration. I wanted to pay it forward. I had spent a year putting together an amazing all-female cast and crew for my first feature-length documentary, entitled PEARL, which was slated to highlight the stories of six women who had all experienced homelessness and found success in the Arts. We spent the year together trying to raise funds to get the film made, without success.
Feeling distraught and frustrated with the lack of traction, I decided to make a short film entitled INVISIBLE to showcase my work and the fact that I could make a film with $0 budget and very limited resources. I shot the film on my cell phone (an Android). I reached out to friends who worked with the homeless community and asked if I could interview them. I reached out to those in my film network and asked if they’d donate music, and in six weeks, I had a finished product.
I then submitted the film to several film festivals with the support of my cast and crew, and funds donated by friends. In January 2020, I received notice that INVISIBLE had not only been selected into its first festival, but had also won an award with the Los Angeles Motion Picture Festival. All of the sudden the little film that could made me an award-winning filmmaker.
In February, I learned it had been selected by the Golden State Film Festival and we would host the Official Los Angeles Premiere at the famed TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The very next day I learned that my accreditation as a filmmaker had been approved by the Cannes Film Festival in France. I was over the moon. The premiere was held at the end of February and was a huge success.
As we welcomed March I was invited to speak on the Film Director’s panel at Career Day for Santa Monica High School. I was getting amazing press for the film and appearing on television in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then everything STOPPED. Covid had arrived and life as we know it ended. Yet I wasn’t about to stop. I continued to submit the film to festivals and focus on the next projects. To date, INVISIBLE has won four awards and I continue to support the homeless community any way I can.
What started out as a very traumatic time in my life has now led to being able to create real positive change for a segment of society that is often overlooked. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to share my story via both books and film, and now support others in doing the same.
Cali Gilbert is an international bestselling author, award winning filmmaker and photographer. After publishing several bestselling books of her own, she now supports other creatives through her company, Tower 15 Productions. Cali has a passion for supporting women in transition as an inspirational speaker and transformational book coach.