PLEASANTON — One Pleasanton woman used the downtime brought on by the pandemic to get creative and make her first movie, and the world is taking notice.

“Hearing Voices,” a 24-minute film about a schizophrenic woman battling the destructive voices in her head, has won awards from film festivals around the globe, including the New York International Women Festival, the Fierce Women Festival of Paris, the Berlin Shorts Awards, and the San Francisco International Film Awards.

Debra Knox said receiving validation for her work is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. When participating in film festival contests, she explained that the process entails constantly checking emails for possibly exciting or disappointing news. However, she has come to rely on the strength she’s found through practicing Buddhism.

Knox, 65, said she is finally old enough to recognize she is good enough and wants to pass that message on through her art.

“If I could leave one message for everyone,” she said, “it’s that you are enough – we are enough – and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

An avid writer since childhood, Knox has written comedy, acted, worked as a musician, and gives music and voice lessons at Ingram & Brauns Musik Shoppe in Pleasanton.

She previously wrote a screen play entitled “Orson Welles Ashes,” which also won awards at multiple film fests in the screenplay category. That screenplay’s success motivated her to create “Hearing Voices.” Knox invested in lighting equipment and spent hours learning how to edit film on her MAC computer. Using her own vision, she shot scenes in Pacifica and spots around Livermore, from Carnegie Park to Sycamore Grove to Brushy Peak.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I always wanted to film my own films and see things a certain way,” Knox said. “I’m just one foot forward at a time.”

Sue Rarick Ebel helped produce “Hearing Voices” and took on the role of Becky, one of the voices in the main character’s head.

“Becky is pretty much who the main character fantasizes the perfect woman is,” Ebel said. “Becky encompasses all things all women want to be … she is super confident and pretty and very sexy … and a seductress. I’m not Becky in my daily life, but I think all women have an inner Becky, and it was really fun to step out of myself and take on that persona and pretend that I am all of those things.”

Ebel met Knox when her daughter, Sydney Ebel, took guitar lessons from Knox at Ingram & Brauns Musik Shoppe. Here, Knox mingles with other artists and flexes her musical muscles. Co-owner Zack Ingram said Knox’s talent extends far beyond the film genre.

“She’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” Ingram said. “We are trying to build up a musical and creative community here in Pleasanton, and Debra has been successful with that. She’s also a talented songwriter. I love performing her vision and bringing the music to life.”

To learn more about Knox, visit To watch “Hearing Voices,” visit