From actress and birthing doula to cookbook writer and film producer, Jenni Tooley has held many titles.
But, the one she prefers is businesswoman.
“It’s taken me a long time to realize that I’m actually a businesswoman,” Tooley said. “I’d always thought of myself as a flaky artist and that was a really bad story I told myself. I didn’t have enough self-esteem to realize that I’m really good at marketing, and I’m really good at pitching and writing and strategizing. It took me many years to understand that.”
She still hasn’t strayed far from her creative roots though. Tooley‘s entrepreneurial spirit has led to her latest project — an online web series highlighting female Dallas-based artists.
“Smart Cookies,“ which will debut this June, will feature artists such as singers, actors, cinematographers, painters, poets, dancers, and more. The series of videos will be shot at venues throughout the area.
FROM ‘BOYHOOD’ TO ‘STUCK:’ TOOLEY’S OWN CREATIVE JOURNEY
Tooley’s own creative journey took her to New York, where she spent nine years after college pursuing an acting career. When job prospects dried up, she decided to return to her home state of Texas in 2009. She hoped the change would bring a fresh start for her career and herself.
“I’ve learned to just move forward with what I’m working on. It’s important for me to have goals, a sense of what I want to do next. Life has taught me anything can happen at any moment,” Tooley said.
“The key for me is being myself, following my own intuition, and knowing it’s OK to be who I am.”
Tooley’s move to Austin encouraged her to pursue acting again, but with a different mindset. She decided to enter auditions with an open, honest attitude rather than striving to attain the ideal of the “perfect,” young actress. This mentality landed her a breakout role in Richard Linklater’s 2014 coming of age film “Boyhood.”
“The key for me is being myself, following my own intuition, and knowing it’s OK to be who I am,” Tooley said about auditioning.
After appearing in “Boyhood,” she found herself in Dallas where she was able to fund and film a project she’s been working on for more than 15 years. “Stuck“ focuses on the inner workings of the mind of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s raw, mysterious, and a little bit confusing,” Tooley said of the film.
This fall, she hopes to release “Stuck” in top-tier festivals in regional and international markets.
FILMING ‘STUCK’ PROMPTS NEW WEB SERIES
Shooting “Stuck“ in and around Dallas allowed Tooley to meet and interact with multiple actors, directors, and producers based in the area.
“There are so many amazing, talented people here [in Dallas]. Why aren’t we showcasing these people?” Tooley said she asked herself while meeting the successful creators.
This revelation sparked the idea for what would become “Smart Cookies.” Tooley conducted brief interviews throughout the filming of “Stuck;” however, she knew if she wanted to create a high-quality product, she would need to receive funding for proper equipment.
“There’s so many amazing, talented people here [in Dallas]. Why aren’t we showcasing these people?”
Tooley applied for and received a grant from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, which covered the first six episodes. The other half of the budget will be raised through online fundraising.
“If there are artists out there who are not familiar with what the city of Dallas can do, go to the Dallas Cultural Plan, go online, and look at the grants, because they do offer things for individual artists. They are willing to support you,” Tooley said.
Tooley acknowledged that the support for the arts in Dallas is flourishing not only from city funding, but from the strong network of creators.
“One of the great benefits of being an artist and producer here [in Dallas] is that the artistic community is smaller and very supportive. We also have great philanthropy around the arts here. So if you’re willing to do the footwork, it is possible to get your work funded and supported.”
TOOLEY HAS LINED UP FIRST CREATIVES IN SERIES
The first artists to appear in “Smart Cookies” will be Marianne Gargour, Karissa Leicht, Vicki Meek, Anastasia Munoz, and Holly Peyton. Each episode will be set in a unique location across Dallas such as the South Dallas Cultural Center, and the Deep Ellum Art Co.
“I want to talk about these women’s lives, and their artwork, and the humanity behind it.”
“I want to talk about these women’s lives, and their artwork, and the humanity behind it,” Tooley said.
In the future, Tooley hopes to expand “Smart Cookies” to other cities such as Austin or Portland. Regardless of where her projects take her, for now, Tooley plans to stay in Dallas and continue creating meaningful content.
“I’ve found a way to creatively craft my life,” Tooley said.
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