month, Helen Ostenberg Elswit shared with us how prayer
and study of the Bible led her to a successful and
fulfilling career as a Visual Effects Producer in
the film industry. This month, she shares insights
into dealing with the death of her father, supply,
self-worth, educational pressures, and removing limitations.
Helen, you've given us a clear picture of how
you came to be involved with the world of Visual Effects
producing. Now that you've "made it" in
Hollywood, do you still have to deal with competition?
While there's a lot of competition and pressure because
this is a freelance business, I guess I really don't
feel the effects of competition.
First of all, my job goes longer than most other jobs
on the movie, from pre-production through post-production.
So while others are going through a frenetic, fearful
time of wondering about the next job, I know I still
have approximately six more months of diligent work.
I have also been very fortunate in that I have seen
lovely evidences of supply in my life. It was a very
difficult lesson for me to learn.
My father passed on when I was 15. I struggled for
years, twenty years, with the fear of lack. This is
one reason why my anxiety was so high when I transitioned
from camera assistant to producer. I didn't know how
I was going to pay my rent. So I prayed daily. I craved
reading anything I could about God, and I studied
the Bible continuously. At one point, I learned about
a man who had healed similar fears through prayer
and gratitude. Rather than being fearful that there
wasn't enough money for the next month's rent, he
was grateful that he could write the current rent
check, which would then help someone else, such as
the landlord who would maintain the building, or the
electrician. I decided to do the same thing. When
I wrote each rent check, I was grateful that I had
sufficient supply, indeed, infinite supply.
How do you have infinite supply?
Well, supply that meets daily needs is just one expression
of infinite supply. What that means is that supply
really never runs out. Even though I had worried about
not having enough for years, my experience proved
that I had never been in a situation where somehow
I couldn't pay my rent. Realizing this was a breakthrough
for me. The whole transition from camera assistant
to producer not only blessed me professionally but
also personally. Meeting my husband during this time
proved that there was an infinite supply of love in
my life. And this was significant. Since I had lost
my father in my childhood, I felt I lacked a supply
of father-love; others may feel they lack mother-love.
I finally realized infinite supply doesn't relate
only to money or to provisions for rent. There is
an infinite supply of happiness, joy, fulfillment,
etc. for each one of us.
So are you saying that God is the source of infinite
Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.
Did you see your dad as a source of supply?
I saw my father as everything. As far as my family
is concerned, there has never been a more wonderful,
cool, happy, fun-loving, loving person in our lives.
All my brothers and sisters and I felt our lives lacked
a tremendous amount by losing our father so soon.
We've all had to struggle with that. I've learned
that the qualities that my father gave to us in our
lives are not things that can be taken away. We can
never really lose qualities such as joy and love,
since they are timeless. When we embrace love or other
wonderful qualities, they stay with us forever. It's
really important to be grateful for such qualities.
It seems that gratitude for what you already had
or what you were able to experience enabled you not
only to find a sense of peace but also to meet these
Yes, I would say so. Gratitude and prayer!
Your story is inspiring. You really have overcome
some pretty big obstacles in your journey through
your teen years, to law, to film production. Has it
been easy to maintain your sense of self worth throughout
these changes and in your current job?
I certainly don't feel that I was a confident individual
growing up. Self-worth is something that I struggled
with as a teenager and as a young adult. I think that's
one of the reasons I went to law school. I felt that
I needed a profession that would help me feel that
I was worthy.
But, as you said last month, you weren't happy
in law. So, could we draw the conclusion that we can't
look to a job or to someone else to make us feel worthy?
Then, how do you gain a sense of self-worth?
Having a clear sense of self-worth is still something
I work with everyday. First of all, I continually
watch what I'm thinking, so as to keep myself from
thinking that I don't do my job well. Next, it's important
not to judge people. While we may think someone is
confident, we really don't know what's going on with
that person. Most of all, I pray to understand that
I am the child of God, and that that alone gives me
worth. This view of self-worth has been extremely
helpful. One thing that I would tell teenagers is
not to compare themselves to others. Claim your own
joy, uniqueness, and individuality, and find satisfaction
Are there any words of wisdom
you would offer to others?
You don't have to accept limitations in order to achieve
the highest results!
My entrance into law was an example of being open
and not putting limits on myself. I had been out of
school for 10 years when a friend of mine, a friend
who had always been a spiritual mentor, suggested
law school. Most people take courses and study hard
for the LSATs because scores on LSATs determine what
school you attend. People will say that if you don't
go to one of the top ten Ivy League law schools, you
may as well forget it. But I find that there's absolutely
no need to accept those kinds of limitations. I just
went in and took the LSATs. My score wasn't great;
it wasn't terrible; it was okay. So consequently,
I didn't go to NYU. I went to Brooklyn Law School,
which was fine. I told myself that I was just going
to do the best I could. I excelled there. I ended
up becoming the editor-in-chief on the law review.
Because of that, I was hired at one of the most prestigious
law firms on Wall Street. God had directed me to take
an avenue that enabled me to achieve what everyone
else was telling me I could only achieve by going
to an Ivy League school.
It seems that refusing to let public opinion or
circumstances limit you helped your career blossom.
But sometimes it seems so difficult to take a different
path, especially in today's climate.
It is difficult, but it's worth it. As I see it, the
climate in education today breeds stress, competition,
and limitations. Parents are competing to get their
3-year-old into the best day-care center because the
general thought is that it'll affect where he or she
goes to college. Kids are under so much parental and/or
societal pressure to know where they're going to college,
what career they want to pursue, what grad school
they need to attend. They're supposed to have a plan.
But there are so many incredible and interesting things
to do in life that teenagers don't know about when
they're in high school or college. Talk about competition!
They see the other kids in their class going off and
doing all these things, and think that they should
be doing the same thing. But maybe going to a cattle
ranch one summer might be the right thing to do rather
than being an intern at a law firm.
I think kids are really smart. They just have to
have confidence in themselves. I'm not sure I was
very self-reflective in high school. That's why I'm
so happy I wasn't pushed to make decisions before
I was ready to make them. I've been a late-bloomer
all my life. But I was able to follow my views and
to be open to go wherever I was led to go. And the
path that eventually led to my current job as a visual
effects producer, which I just love, has proved to
be very rewarding. And it certainly wasn't the conventional
path. What works for me is not to limit the abundance
that I know is out there for me.
It is evident that your strong faith in God has
led you into a rich and rewarding life. Thank you