How I Came to Make a Film in Italy

BLOG #3 DAY 2.  JUNE 11, 2015

Those who know me well, know that I enjoy a good swim in a hotel pool  (whether I’m a guest there or not..oops)  Perhaps not the most kosher of my habits but why would Italy be any exception?

I’d noticed that the Grand Hotel (across the street from the Hotel Columbia) had a lovely large pool and slipped in for a morning swim.  

I spied some nattily dressed Italian policeman (carabinieri )outside the hotel but fortunately my trespassing went unnoticed. 

The pool was cold but invigorating and I was now sufficiently awake for my next adventure but still needed caffeine!

Grabbed a cappuchino at a local bar (consumed standing , less expensive than getting a table…and learned that cappuccinos are not to be ordered after 11 a.m.) then walked through town to catch the funicular to Montecantini Alta!

I took the funicular car named Gigia (there’s a second car Gigio, both once simply known as Number 1 and Number 2) It’s a unique and characteristic transportation method which clearly hasn’t lost its charm since its inauguration on June 4, 1898, witnessed by Giuseppe Verdi himself!

Riding on one of the red cars with wooden benches, on the way up I was surrounded by lush growth and wild poppies and once in the town, I was amazed at the quaint town square, beautiful villas and intoxicating smell of jasmine.

Montecatini Alto, a medieval town set on two hills, does offer some historical sites.  

On one side you will find the Rocca di Castello Vecchio, the Church of St. Peter (the original church of Montecatini) and the Tower of Campanaria. On the opposite hill you will find the Torre dell’Orologio and the Church of the Carmine in a distinct Baroque style.

I wandered a bit, then had lunch al fresco overlooking a Tuscan valley  straight out of a Renaissance landscape painting. There was  light rain shower so in hopes of warming up tried the famous Tuscan bread soup, Ribollito. 

Maybe my gluten intolerance had just started kicking in  but this  – soggy bread and vegetables -wasn’t my favorite Tuscan meal.  However, it was followed by  a cup of Tuscan hot chocolate – cioccolata caldo – that was so rich it was like eating warm chocolate ice cream. Yum!  That was a favorite.

Feeling full and ready to explore some more, took Gigia back down into Montecantini Terme and did some shopping in an open air market.  Discovered some great Tuscan printed tablecloths for 5 euros and picked up several for Christmas presents.


I’m a big fan of matinees and was back in time to catch a 4:00 pm showing of Sin City with Bruce Willis – in Italian with no subtitles.   Although I don’t speak Italian I was able to follow the plot as the visuals told the story. 

Dinner time!  And wanted to try a local dish -ravioli with walnut truffle cream sauce -I ventured to Ristorante da Lorenzo popular with locals and very well reviewed. .

This is dish was as divine as it sounds and so so rich –  6 raviolis and a small salad were a feast!

A stroll around the town to wear off a bit of the walnut cream sauce, now fully satisfied and filled with all the experiences at Montecantini it was off to bed for the next adventure…..Florence!


The Art of Acting – Italy Acting Retreat


I was thankful for the small gym in the hotel, and after an early workout on the treadmill and a light breakfast at the Panoramic, I was ready to explore this lovely spa town.

First stop – Terme Tettuccio

Tettuccio is one of several spas set in a park inside the town of Montecatini Terme. The Tettuccio spring is on the property; the name Tettuccio refers to the little roof found over the spa’s source when the spa was being built to its modern configuration.

 The therapeutic properties of the waters in this area were already known about in Roman times, and many of these spas are built in Art Nouveau style. Il Tettuccio – one of the first establishments – is regarded as the symbol of the town.

 Known for their curative powers—and, at least once upon a time, for their great popularity among the wealthy—the mineral springs flow from five sources and are taken for a variety of ailments, including liver and skin disorders.


Those “taking the cure” report each morning to one of the town’s stabilimenti termali (thermal establishments) to drink their prescribed cupful of water. Afterward, guests can enjoy a leisurely breakfast, read the newspaper, recline and listen to music, or walk in the parks that surround these grand old spas.

I decided to taste (for 6 euros) one of these curative waters – and had the following four to choose from

  • Leopoldina Waters – “indicated for the treatment of chronic constipation. Normal bowel function is generally restored whenever treatment cycles are spaced at 4/6 month intervals.”
  • Regina Waters – “restores a regular bile flow from the liver to the bowels and are useful in the case of hepatic and bladder disorders.”
  • Tettuccio Waters – “effective in the depurative process of the liver, and can help reduce cholesterol levels.”
  • Rinfresco Waters – The “diuretic waters favor the process of waste elimination through the urinary system as well as the restoration of normal saline levels after prolonged sports activities.”

I decided on the Rinfresco as that sounded like it would have the least possible after effects (I didn’t want to spoil my trip with a regular bile flow (!) or mess with the depurative process of my liver (whatever that means:) –

The rinfresco water was god awful….warm, really salty, strong strong mineral taste.  The only effect I noticed was that it made me tired and thirsty.  Didn’t notice any diuretic properties, I mostly swelled up, particularly around my eyes!  Maybe you need to do it for 12 days in a row as suggested, but not an experience I wished to repeat.

But the spa itself (which only offers the waters, no spa treatments) is beautiful – romanesque buildings with gorgeous frescoes

and tuxedo clad musicians playing Puccini !

Being sleepy wasn’t too much of a problem as next stop was a mineral bath and hot stone massage at the hotel. 

Quite divine, a truly relaxing experience (evidenced by the nap immediately after), then enjoyed a quiet dinner at the Panoramic and a second night’s deep and restful sleep.


The Art of Acting – Acting Retreat in Italy 2019

I am an acting coach who owns Acting Professionally, a San Diego acting studio which offers on camera acting classes  and an annual showcase.  

From October 19 – 26,2019 I will be on location at Castello Ducale, Gubbio, Umbria making a short film with 12 actors and a crew from San Diego.  A week long actors retreat has been a dream of mine since my first trip to Italy in 2005 and though it’s taken 14 years to get here, the journey has been well worth it!!  

This blog will take you on the long and windy road  to – and the process of – making   “A Castle in Umbria.”

Click here to learn more about the film



 My first trip to Italy in the summer of 2005 happened by chance.  At the time I was an adjunct professor for the M.F.A. Actor Training program at the Old Globe and for the theatre department at the University of San Diego, as well as running my own private San Diego acting classes.  The summer holiday at USD begins in mid-May and it just so happened that my brother, who had a trip planned to Tuscany in June, staying at the gorgeous estate of La Foce with a group of friends, and one of his traveling companions  had  to drop out of the week due to back surgery. He asked if I’d like to take their place and I jumped at the opportunity.   I mean I’d read Under the Tuscan Sun and dreamed of staying in a Tuscan villa – who hasn’t?

Wanting to make the most of this first trip  (and at that time thought it might be my only trip to Italy) made plans to combine the one week at La Foce with  three days  in Montecantini Terme, a combined week of language study and tourism in Florence, and four days in Rome following our week at La Foce .  I should add that at this point in my life – althoughI had directed and acted in many plays – I had never made – or even contemplated —making a film  and nothing could have been further from my mind as I embarked on this three week trip of a lifetime to Italy!


JUNE 10, 2005:  With no sleep on a cramped 15 hour American Airlines flight from San Diego, I arrived excited and wired around 10:00  Rome Fiumicino. Thankfully, this extremely busy and huge airport had great signage in several languages with easily identifiable pictures (someone’s good at Pictionary) — so it was pretty easy to navigate.  After going  through customs (very lax, they barely looked at my passport), and getting my luggage, I boarded the Leonardo Express headed to Rome’s main train terminal, Termini.  I had train transfers which I’d purchased in the U.S. with a specific time to catch the train to my next stop so I needed to navigate quickly through the terminal.  

Some things that surprised me on arriving in Rome – the beautiful and healthy looking cafeteria style restaurants in the airport, the fact that you had to pay to use the restroom in Termini (carry lots of change!), that the toilets had no seats and the bathroom stalls were very small and almost impossible to put your luggage in.  Most importantly, some had no toilet paper so was glad to be carrying Kleenex (which I recommend doing!)

The train from Rome to Florence was great, especially the air conditioning as with all that running around with my luggage in Termini (more on that later) I was hot and sweaty.   I’m pretty sure I ended up in a first class car with a second class ticket but no one said anything. It felt luxurious having all that leg room after none on the plane.  The luggage issue, however, was not so brilliant on the local train from Florence to Montecantini Terme, – had to sit on it in the doorway in the back of the train car.  The local trains are not designed for carrying large luggage pieces – note to self – Pack lighter!!  (This became abundantly clear as the trip continued)

The train ride to Montecatini Term-Monsummano was about 5 hours through beautiful countryside.  I still had not slept- must be going on 30 hours by now without shut eye but didn’t want to miss a thing on my first Italian adventure!  I’d chosen Montecantini as my first stop because 1) I love a good spa!   2) it looked beautiful and historic; 3) I’m a huge Fellini fan and scenes from Fellinis 8-l/2 had been filmed there – watch this video to see a scene at the spa

 and 4) seemed like a good location to get some rest, relaxation and a great jumping off point for this three week vacation!

Montecatini Terme is considered to be the leading spa town in Italy,

with a long tradition in using thermal water, pure and rich with precious elements. Unlike American spas, where one soaks in the mineral waters,  drinking the water is a main component of the therapeutic experience – more on that later.The town is situated in the province of Pistoia with nine thermal centres immersed in the extensive thermal parkland. 

I chose Hotel Columbia for my stay – an affordable, beautifully appointed, centrally located and historic Art Nouveau hotel (complete with spa and workout room).  All the rooms are singularly decorated and in 2005 single rooms went at the very reasonable price of $65.00,  which included breakfast in the Panoramic Restaurant. The rooms as of this writing are still quite reasonable starting at only $87.00!

My first night is a blur -skipped dinner passed out at 6:30  and slept soundly til 5:30 the next morning.  

Now accepting enrollment for showcase and intro adult class until October 15!

Open enrollment for our annual showcase is available in the following classes:




INTRODUCTORY TEEN – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

INTERMEDIATE TEEN – 1 pm to 3 pm












AP’s 13th Annual Actor Showcase March 13 at Horton Grand Theatre!

Acting Professionally’s unique actor showcase will occur on March 13 at 8:00 p.m. at the Horton Grand Theatre.  Featuring 55 actors on stage and film, this year’s theme is “And the Nominees Are….”  with scenes from film and television which have been nominated by the Academy, Golden Globes, SAGEmmys and more.

Industry professionals including agents, casting directors, managers and independent filmmakers will be in attendance at this popular “standing room only” evening with a meet and greet following the event at the Horton Grand lobby bar.

Meet the Cast and Crew of Carving A Life


Press Release for Carving A Life

Independent Feature Film Carving a Life Will Begin Production in San Diego in October

In spite of complications created by the closing of San Diego’s Film Commission, a newly created woman-based production company, Life In Reels, is forging ahead with plans to make their first feature film, “Carving a Life”.

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San Diego, CA (PRWEB) September 11, 2013

Lisa Bruhn, Screenwriter, Terry Ross, Director, and Sandy Orsmond, Associate Producer, are networking throughout the San Diego film community to raise funds and gain permits to produce this independent film, expected for release to film festivals in February 2014. Local independent theaters will be premiering “Carving A Life” in Spring of 2014.

Terry Ross is the owner and director of Acting Professionally, a film and television acting studio, and has been in front of or behind the camera for over 20 years. Terry has a M.F.A. degree in directing and has directed several short films and showcases. Lisa Bruhn, screenwriter of Carving A Life, is an electronics sales executive for 20+ years. This is Lisa’s first script, written to showcase the talents of her actor son Tyler Bruhn. Sandy Orsmond-Holmes, Associate Producer, has worked as Stage Manager for San Diego Danceworks, Thunder River Theatre Company, Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

The story is a relatable and heartfelt drama, with a love story woven about 25 year old Mitch who, after experiencing a shattering tragedy as a child, falls prey to addiction and a life out of control. The film chronicles his struggle to overcome haunting memories in his past and creating a life for himself and his family in the present.

Terry, Lisa, and Sandy, are working closely with San Diego Film Consortium’s Jodi Cilley, who, in the wake of the San Diego Film Commission closing, is helping San Diego filmmakers obtain permits.

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help raise funds to make this independent film: and a Meet the Cast and Crew event is planned for Saturday, September 14, from 7 to 10 pm at Latitude 33 Brewery in Vista, CA. Entrance to the event is free with any amount pledged to the Kickstarter campaign or $10.00 at the door. Exclusive movie posters will be handed out, 5 free beer tastes available to each guest (if over 21), a BBQ dinner, and surprise entertainment!

About us:

Life in Reels Productions, LLC is a San Diego independent film company producing Carving a Life.

Terry Ross has been a faculty member of the M.F.A. Professional Actor Training Program at the Old Globe and theater departments at University of San Diego, San Diego State University, and University of California, Davis and received her acting training from San Francisco’s renowned American Conservatory Theater. She holds an M.A. in Education from Stanford University and an M.F.A. in directing from the University of California, Davis.

Lisa Bruhn works full time as a sales and marketing executive in the electronics industry and sparked an interest in screenwriting several years ago. Lisa also has a travel blog,, and has written travel articles for the San Diego Reader, an independent newspaper in San Diego.

Sandy Orsmond-Holmes, Associate Producer has worked as a Stage or Production Manager for San Diego Danceworks, Thunder River Theatre Company, Rocky Mountain Institute, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, and has worked with the Royal Brunei family. Sandy also studied Electronic Engineering in South Africa.

Tyler Bruhn began his acting career at 13, inspired by the Harry Potter films. Tyler took a break from acting to focus on high school studies and athletics and was in Carlsbad High School Broadcasting program led by Doug Green, where he learned a variety of skills on camera and behind the scenes.

Tyler’s IMDB Page:

For more information contact:
Terry Ross, 415-690-0887
Lisa Bruhn, 760-583-7081

Follow the film at
Twitter: @CarvingALife

Carving A Life – The Movie

Pre-production on the feature film, “Carving A Life” is a in full swing!  Much of the film has been cast with Acting Professionally students including Tyler Bruhn, as the lead “Mitch”, Sandi Todorovic as “Eric” his best friend, Lisa Winans as “Rebecca”, Mitch’s stepmom, Max Baroudi, as “Young Mitch”, Jay Jee as “Dr Johnson” and many more.

Fundraising for the film is already in place and a kickstarter video will be filmed at the Acting Professionally studio in Media Arts Center on August 25, with a public release the first week in September.  A fundraising party will be held at Latitude 33 on September 14.  Funds raised will go to pay cast and crew under the SAG-Indie Ultra Low Budget contract, equipment, insurance and food.

Many locations have already been secured including an art studio, a woodcarving shop, and several schools and restaurants.

The script has undergone three re-writes and will be reviewed on August 29 by Jen Grisanti, a writers consultant, formerly with Spelling Television, CBS/Paramount.

The Story:

The film follows young artist, Mitch Martindale, whose life seems to be on the rise.  He is a wood carver whose work is drawing recognition and he has a beautiful wife and a child on the way.  Although his life seems to be coming together, he is haunted by his past – an accident which killed his mother when he was ten.  To avoid painful memories and emotions, he turns to alcohol.  The film explores whether or not love for his art, wife, and unborn child will be enough to turn his life around.

From BlueCat Screenplay Competition Analysis:

“Mitch is a very emotionally broken, yet sympathetic individual. A motherless teen who grows up to become an alcoholic. His journey towards fatherhood is a bumpy one, “filled with pot holes.”

“The story has classic elements, including a boy losing his mother, a neglectful father, early problems with alcohol, a loving wife, an enabling best friend, a young hospital roommate who overdoses, entering rehab, and becoming a father.”

The film’s message is positive – that with determination and commitment – love and proper treatment can change lives.  It is our hope that it will touch – and perhaps alter – the lives of young people affected by addiction.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of the film!Carving A Life Poster


Reflections on the 48 Hour

With the red carpet screening of our 48 hour film only 24 hours away, it’s hard to believe what we were able to accomplish over the weekend of July 12 – 14!  At 7:00 pm on July 12, the writing team of Lisa Bruhn, Giovanni Tejada , Aaron Bornstein and myself received our genre “Horror!”  At 7:30 p.m. we received the elements that had to be included the film:  a garden hose, the character, Margaret McCarthy, Interpreter, and the line “You know what I mean?”

Fortified by a quick meal of chicken and coleslaw, we went to work!  By 2:30 a.m. we had come up with our script – A director of a steampunk acting troupe currently performing “Faust” – a play about a man who sells his sole to the devil – “awakens” to discover he is already dead and in hell, haunted by the sins of his past!

We delivered the script via our private facebook page to the actors and director of photography, Paul Mathew Giret, who at 4:00 a.m. began his shot list.  At 7:00 a.m., actors, crew and make-up artists arrived.  While make-up was being applied, we went about our first shot around 9:00 a.m. – and started a full cast shoot around 11:00 a.m.

Shooting went well into the wee hours of Sunday morning, wrapping at 4:00 a.m.  For many, this had been more than a 24 hour day without sleep!  Actors went home to recover and several us of stayed overnight at the shooting location.

Editing was completed at 6:50, leaving us less than 40 minutes to get to the drop off location (which normally would be over 40 minutes away).  Our film was turned in, on time, at 7:28 leaving two minutes to spare!!

Despite little sleep, long days, the time constraint – and pressure, the 48 hour is a fun and valuable experience for all involved!  Perhaps most importantly, a film actually gets completed!  And there is great satisfaction in what can be accomplished in so little time!  For some actors, it is the first time they have ever been on set and that is an invaluable learning experience!  The 48 pushes ones creative boundaries and it is a revelation what can do in such a short period of time

Enjoy our poster and trailer!

48 Hour Film Fest Only a Day Away!

Final Preparations are being made to kickoff our 3rd Annual 48 Hour Film Festival!  We’ve secured the location, equipment, actors and crew, food, writing team and are ready to receive our genre at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow when team members will pick it up at the kickoff!  Then the writing begins, and once finished, is distributed to the cast, (if history is any indication it’s around 2:30 a.m.) and we’re on set at 7:00 a.m. for make-up, set dressing, rehearsal and an approximate lst shot at 9:00 a.m.!  Last year we shot until fbcoverphotomidnight and with 15 actors and approximately the same number of crew members this year, we may go that late again!  We will be editing throughout and then need to get our completed film in by 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 14.  Not alot of sleep, but alot of creativity ahead!