Hartford-based director, writer, voiceover artist, and acting coach Cie Peterson spoke to MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about launching her company, Clouds and a Waffle Productions, and how and why she’s come to know and love Hartford.
On Entrepreneurship and Building a Career
From a very young age, Cie wanted to be an actor “I didn’t have the strength and the knowledge that I impart to other people now as an acting coach to be an actor,” she admits. “So, I worked in ancillary careers instead.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in communications, Cie spent several years working as a video production freelancer in New York, but when her daughter was born, she turned to teaching instead. Once she began teaching acting, the path to becoming a director was a straight one.
Cie doesn’t necessarily define herself as an entrepreneur, but she does recognize her entrepreneurial spirit. “When I think about someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s someone who wants to take the lead and steer the ship,” she explains. “That’s definitely who I’ve always been—which is probably why I struggled working for other people, and why I ultimately became a director.”
Finding Her Hartford
In 2003, Cie and her husband relocated from New York to West Hartford, Connecticut. “I wanted to live in Hartford,” she admits, “but at that time no one was really living downtown. There wasn’t much life there.”
Still, since the completion of her second master’s degree—this one in theater—required her to write a dissertation, she looked to develop contacts in downtown, primarily at Hartford Stage. Cie reached out to them, found the staff to be “very warm and welcoming,” and became entrenched there. “They literally and figuratively opened doors for me,” she acknowledges.
When the dissertation was complete, Cie opened Play On Acting Studio in Farmington. “The studio was very successful. In fact, it was too successful,” she says. “After a few years, when I had to decide to either go to a bigger space or stop, I stopped.”
Once again, Cie turned to freelancing, this time working for Hartford Stage and other esteemed local institutions, like the Bushnell Performing Arts Center. “I got hired to freelance as a writer, director, voiceover artist, and master acting teacher—all of which I still do.”
Along the way, Cie also began writing her own stories and creating her own opportunities for work, starting with an idea for an animated series for grown-ups entitled If I Had A Dime, which she wrote with a writing friend from New York. Cie claims, “It is the best thing I’ve ever created.”
When her daughter graduated from high school in 2013 and set off to college, Cie and her husband were once again on the move. “I’m a city girl. We were done with the suburbs,” she says. So, they sold their home in West Hartford, moved to their lake house in New York State, and planned their move to Boston. But fate stepped in and brought them back to the area. By then, Cie was aware how many people had started living in downtown Hartford, so they decided to rent an apartment there for six months and figure things out.
“We were living downtown and then we were both working downtown. And I realized I kind of loved it,” Cie recalls. “Eventually, my husband said, ‘Let’s not go to Boston. Let’s stay.’ So we did.”
Wanting to truly make Hartford their home, they looked for a place to buy downtown. “I started to really put roots here in terms of working,” explains Cie. “Then, two and a half years ago, someone who had studied at my studio many years earlier approached me. He had come up with a concept for a show and he asked me to help write it. He also wanted me to direct—and figure out what to do with it. We decided it was a perfect vehicle for a digital series. I thought: If I’m going to be producing stuff then I need an umbrella organization to do it.” So, she launched Clouds and a Waffle Productions.
Since founding her production company, Cie has already co-written, produced, and directed two original series: Beige On Both Sides and A Coupla Pros, a retooling of an interstitial series she originally created for the Back9 Network. She’s also shot numerous other projects for local organizations.
In terms of empowering women, Cie is not as focused on mentorship as she is on creating content about women who are positive and strong and then hiring women to bring that content to fruition. “What I do for women is more through my stories, which I hope have a much more far-reaching benefit than me mentoring one person at a time,” she explains.
Telling the Hartford Story
Cie says she’s very much integrated in the downtown community. “We own a home here. I own a business here. My husband works here, and we’ve built meaningful relationships here,” she says. That’s why she is so committed to changing the narrative about Hartford. “I don’t know why anyone would celebrate their perceived—if inaccurate—failures about their capital city because if we fail here in Hartford, the concentric circles go outward to everywhere else,” she adds.
“The story people tell about Hartford is tired, inaccurate, and degrading,” Cie emphasizes. “It frustrates me. And it’s not true. So, I work very hard to change that in a variety of ways including as a business owner. I am militant about hiring local. My crew is always from Hartford, I shoot in Hartford, and I put the setting of my shows in Hartford visibly,” she underscores.
“I created an original hashtag #MakingHartfordTheNewHollywood, which really sums up my mission,” she notes. “My business is dedicated to making Hartford the new Hollywood, which means shooting high-quality shows here and featuring local talent from performers to crew. Yes, it’s a bit hyperbolic, but it gives me something to shoot for. (Pun intended.)”
Power of Positivity
To combat the negativity they were reading online, Cie and her husband launched the Positively Downtown Hartford Facebook page in 2016.
“We have over 1,300 members, but more than half the people who apply for membership don’t get in. I vet very vigorously. And, we remove people who have negative things to say about Hartford,” she explains.
“There are enough people broadcasting bad news. We don’t need another forum for that. It’s like what George Bailey said in It’s A Wonderful Life: ‘We need this measly little Building & Loan if only to be one place people can go to get away from Potter.’ There has to be one place people can go online to learn about and celebrate what’s positive and good about Hartford, and that’s our page.”
Learn more about Cie Peterson and Clouds and a Waffle Productions
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