Thanks for taking a break to have a chai tea latte with us.
Thank you for having me! These are my favorite treats.
What’s one question you’re sick of answering in the press?
Oh, there are a few. I think every actor has a few questions like that. I think mostly it would be, “How did you make the transition between model and actor?” It’s a completely understandable question and it’s nobody’s fault but my own because I did this show called “Top Model”. The frustration with that is that people kind of assume that’s where everything started and that I went from a reality show and decided to be an actor. There is so much more that went into it. I was 19 when I did the show and they found me on Facebook. I moved to L.A. because I wanted to try to direct and I was going to school to write and direct. I had been to USC and I had been to New York Film Academy.
We will set the record straight that you wanted to be an actor since you were young.
I had always wanted to be an actor but my dad was a computer engineer and my sister is a lawyer on death row. They are hysterical even though they seem like very serious people but any career in acting was just frowned upon and laughed at in my family. Modeling was supposed to be just a cool experience. I was terrible at it, I was horrible. I did not enjoy the world although I enjoy fashion. After modeling ended I started collaborating with my filmmaker friends and taking acting classes despite my parents’ wishes. The filmmaking process is the love of my life and so close to my heart and it’s so funny to hear people say, “So, you came from reality TV?” And you’re just like, “I totally did, I did. That is fair, yes.”
Has being at Sundance inspired you even more to be in the space of writing and directing?
The first two festivals I went to were for “Damsels in Distress”. That wasn’t too long after “Crazy, Stupid, Love” so I was still very new to film. I was still learning what it was about and had no idea when it would be the time that I could come to the place of collaborating with people. This is the first time I’ve really been at a festival where there are conversations that flow so naturally and connections being made everywhere … Sundance is so incredible for that because it’s so small, everything is close together. Even people that have nothing to do with any film who are just here to see the festival itself still just love film and have no idea who anybody in the industry is. That’s exciting to be around … It’s a filmmakers festival. The actors almost sit back and appreciate the filmmakers for what they do. I was sitting there watching all of the producers, developers and the financiers running around like chickens with their heads cut off thinking, “Okay, it’s your turn at a giant event to be shuffled around,” and it’s really great because I think they also love that aspect of it.
Did you learn anything from your “Mississippi Grind” directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck?
I am an observer first and foremost, I’m pretty quiet once I get on set and the nice thing about Anna and Ryan is that both of them are very quiet or at least have an understanding of someone who is. They’re so observant of everything. It’s amazing how they pick up on what the littlest thing might mean on a more intimate level and that’s such an incredibly important aspect of what we do when we are trying to communicate something real and then push it through this little kind of magic time capsule and display it to an audience that was not there.
Will you miss the cast and crew once you depart Park City?
Yeah, you do. It’s kind of a bittersweet reconnect and you get to live this bittersweet memory in your life and share it over and over, and then it’s done.
It seems as if the passion and camaraderie within each cast really shines through at this festival.
That’s the nice thing about small films. There’s definitely some big films [like that], they’re definitely across the board, but if it’s at a festival it means that they are not giant studio films and there’s something really magical about those experiences. I don’t want to say less tainted because I’ve been on incredible studio films where everyone was wonderful too but you can feel the machine. You can feel the mechanics of it and you know it is going to go through its own ride. You really have to create such an intimate family and if everyone really doesn’t believe in the project then you usually hear horror stories. We’re all so intimate with it. When it’s good it creates a lot of magical moments and the wall between cast and crew is dropped.
How many scripts do you get a year?
In a week maybe three to five.
Is it hard to keep up with the reading?
I finally got myself an iPad. I never saw the purpose of having one because I have my computer; I’ve got my phone. There was nothing I felt like I needed to have in my hand other than that. They all beep at the same time when you get a text message! It’s really, really annoying, but, you can walk anywhere and read scripts and it has actually become really liberating. I’m very efficient with an iPad.
Where are you the happiest?
Oh jeez, I have a really nostalgic memory of Iceland. I feel like peace is there, which is super cliché now because lots of people are traveling to Iceland. Those who do backpack are finding themselves in Iceland. Anywhere there are mountains and land where you have to look around. It’s absolutely so extraordinary that these trees have to grow amongst the boulders and they do so, so peacefully. It’s grounding.
If you could have a drink with anyone at Sundance this year, who would it be?
I would really love to meet the director of “Tomboy”, Céline Sciamma. Her film “Girlhood” screened just the other day.
What would you ask her?
Have you seen “Tomboy”? It’s a French film; I’m hoping that she actually does English films because I think she has such a beautiful way of depicting women … There was a phase where it was like, “There’s a female director!” And then, “There was a female director that was doing something notable,” and then, “There was a female director that is actually depicting a different side of women that hasn’t been properly translated.” I think it’s tricky to capture us … I think that’s exciting; there are some female directors here. I’ve got to meet some of them that are doing really great work and trying to capture something that hasn’t been properly captured.
Do you speak French?
A little bit, I read much better than I speak it. My accent is terrible; I offend a lot of people.
Speaking of female directors, we’re having a drink with Nikole Beckwith tomorrow.
I know Nikole. Tell her I said hello and congratulations. I am so excited to see “Stockholm, Pennsylvania”. I had actually read for that film, it feels like forever ago. I think I had a Skype with her in Taiwan and she was in L.A. She is a perfect example of [a great female director]. She sent me the sweetest email, which again is just professional greatness when that happens. I’m really excited to see what she does. This is her first big film!
KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH
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