WMMer Stephanie Sanditz has made a name for herself as an actress and screenwriter, and has recently ventured into the world of producing, with her film CREVE COEUR, MO., aka BROKEN HEART, MISSOURI. Since bursting onto the scene as a series regular on the popular Comedy Central show, STRANGERS WITH CANDY, Sanditz has proven to be a compelling actress in both mainstream films such as KATE & LEOPOLD, to indies of all genres. As a writer repped by the prestigious Gersh Agency, she has been diligently striving to bring colorful female characters to the forefront. Check out this industrious, femme- fatale-next-door in a candid moment …
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as an actor and writer?
SS: I am from Creve Coeur, Mo. or Broken Heart, Missouri. A suburb of St. Louis and the name of a feature I’m trying to produce this summer. At the time I grew up, I questioned a lot of the middle-American experience and really wanted to get out and challenge it. Over the years, I have learned to really love and appreciate the “Show Me State.” Maybe I’m losing my edge. Or maybe I’ve seen the light! But I definitely work through my relationship to home and family in my writing.
WMM: When did you know you wanted to pursue your craft as a career? Were you supported in your dreams?
SS: Umm, I kind of always gravitated towards it. I started out as a dancer, school plays, the whole thing. If I wasn’t rehearsing something, I was watching whatever I could on TV or walking to the video store to watch everything I could get my hands on. My parents really did not want me to pursue acting initially. But I got into NYU and that kind of sealed the deal. I don’t think anyone’s parents want them to pursue a career in the arts, just because it’s so hard to support yourself. But they have grown to be incredibly supportive. I started writing as a means to fill the gaps of powerlessness in between acting gigs.
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories /experiences/peers/teachers?
SS: As mentioned above, I went to NYU Tisch School of the Arts for Acting, and minored in English. After that I continued to study at the William Espers School in NY. I should also say I went to John Burroughs High School in St. Louis, which not only had a great theater program, but was insanely hard… and I think aided in giving me a rigorous work ethic.
WMM: What else do you do besides your craft? Day job?
SS: This is my day job! I’ve been lucky enough to support myself writing and acting for the last five years. I just turned in my fifth script for hire.
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? Highest?
SS: Lowest? Probably acting in the legendary Eric Michael Kochmer’s epic neo-noire feature WAY DOWN IN CHINATOWN (unless you count all the experimental theater I did in NYC right out of College).
Highest? -Well they haven’t been made it yet, but I was hired to adapt THE INFERNAL DEVICES, the prequel trilogy to Sony’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS franchise that came out that was made for 60 million. But I just completed the first draft of a LA – ACTION, that I hope will be made for more.
WMM: Describe your first foray into professional film making/acting? First screening? First show?
SS: My first paid acting gig was for Comedy Central’s STRANGER’S WITH CANDY. It was unbelievably amazing. I got to work with Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris. The audition was for a bitchy mechanical bull-riding Cheerleader. But they also wanted a guy to play Amy’s stoner love interest. I told them I could do both, and thus my first role on TV was as a mechanical bull-riding bi-sexual pothead. I think I set the bar pretty high.
My first paid writing gig came after my script Creve Coeur won an Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. I met a woman who worked for Greenestreet Films who liked my voice and I got asked to go pitch on a feature film adaptation of a YA Novel Series by Meg Cabot called, THE MEDIATOR. I didn’t even really know what it meant to pitch a film, but I knew I couldn’t bartend anymore. So I gave it my all and came up with a 17-page treatment on how I would write the film. After about five pitches they hired me. That’s how I got an agent and into the WGA.
WMM: What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in as an artist? Most rewarding?
SS: Being in this business can be brutal, and lonely, and relentless. Once I realized I was not part of the lucky few who get massive opportunities and exposure handed to them at a young age, I knew I needed to take a real hard look at who I was, and get serious about my time here and what I wanted to do with it. There are so many things in this business that you can’t control; I want to at least try to give my best shot at what I can. For me that meant I had to deal with some pretty dark demons, and namely, to stop drinking and partaking in other fun/illegal substances. That was unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As a person and as an ‘artist’.
And the most rewarding. Since I stopped six years ago, I have gotten paid to write five films and acted in over ten projects. So I think it was a good choice.
But otherwise – Money. Money is stressful. Trying to survive while being creative, and then trying to get financing for your projects. We just raised 100k in an Indie-Gogo campaign for my film, by asking everyone in our reach to contribute. It was really stressful for me to ask people for money, but also incredibly beautiful. But still… stressful. I definitely wake up panicked in the middle of the night because I don’t want to let anyone down who was generous enough to believe in me.
WMM: What are your current project(s)?
SS: I am currently in development of my feature CREVE COEUR, MO. (aka GET YOUR HEART ON) We hope to shoot this summer. It’s being directed by the multi-talented Kimberly McCullough (GENERAL HOSPITAL), produced by Richard Arlook (producer of the anticipated film RODHAM), Carsten Lorenz (HAROLD & KUMAR and THE GRUDGE), and Jennifer Glynn (SEX-ED, and THE SOUND OF MY VOICE). So far, the project is starring Disney star, BELLA THORNE, Zach Knighton of ABC’s HAPPY ENDINGS, and myself.
I also just finished adapting Christina Lauren’s novel, BEAUTIFUL BASTARD for Impact Pictures and Constantin Films (POMPEI, DEATH RACE, RESIDENT EVIL) and I’m super excited about it. It is a sexy Rom-Com exploring the sexual politics of the work place. The producers are out to some serious directors right now, so hoping it will get greenlit. I also am currently finishing up an LA Action flick, called STAR POWER, I have been developing with Carsten Lorenz that I’m excited about.
Then… acting in a few indies, including a leading role in the very talented, Lisa Ebersole’s, new web-series 37 PROBLEMS, filming this spring.
WMM: How has WMM influenced / shaped / supported you with this process/project?
SS: Just having a community of people I know are there has been incredible. My main goal now is to get things into production and use more of the people if possible. I haven’t been able to bring a lot of my paid writing work to the workshops because the production companies want their property kept secret. But I have brought a few things in the past, and it’s been incredibly helpful to hear my words come to life and get feedback.
I’ve also gotten the opportunity to act in so many incredible projects. Sam Mestman’s play that I hope gets turned into a film, BUSTED ON THE FOURTH OF JULY… Darrow Carson’s, EMPTY, and Jonathan Montepare’s short film, SWEET ILLUSIONS – which went to Cannes, were two other faves.
WMM: Who are your biggest influences?
SS: My sister, Lisa Sanditz, a painter, who taught me at a young age, it was cooler to challenge the norm than to accept it blindly.
WMM: What are your top 5 films? Who are your favorite 5 actors? Top 5 directors? Top 5 pieces of lit?
SS: These kinds of questions stress me out… Here is today’s stream of consciousness: Twin Peaks, Badlands, Magnolia, American Beauty, Barbarella, Natural Born Killers, Her, Less Than Zero, Basic Instinct, Casino, Cannibalistic Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Valley Girl, Repo Man, Rivers Edge, John Waters, Marguerite Duras, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands, Cassavettes, Spike Jonze, Alan Ball, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Aaron Sorkin, David Lynch, PT Anderson, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Coen Brothers, John Hughes, Mamet, Tarentino, Brecht, Genet, Tennessee Williams, Hemmingway, Hammet, Chandler, Dolly Parton.
WMM: What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
SS: The last script I wrote, A BEAUTIFUL BASTARD, was pretty fun. It’s prettttty amazing to get paid to write new, politically charged sex scenes. I would sit in coffee shops on my computer and blush thinking no one had any idea what was going on in my little world. I was in a play once in NY where I played a woman obsessed with Bette Davis. The role was so ballsy and physical and deeply sad. That was a blast. But I think the best is yet to come.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory?
SS: Regrets are for whiners. Nobody likes a whiner.
WMM: Any advice for filmmakers / actors / writers …?
SS: Don’t lie to yourself. If you don’t think you are working as hard as you could be: you aren’t. Be a good person. People like to work with good people. Find something else in your life outside of Hollywood that makes you happy. Or at least makes you feel useful. It’s a big world out there and it needs a lot of help.
WMM: What is your favorite thing about WMM? Why do you come, or did you come?
SS: Joe Leonard and I went to high school together. He found me out in LA and asked me to join. And I did. I have endless respect for Joe, and it’s been really wonderful to work with him and share work with him over the years. I left two different theater companies in NYC where I had opportunities to be performing all the time. If it wasn’t a fully produced play, it was a reading, or a sketch, or improv. That kind of constant working of your artistic muscle as well as support was amazing.
When I first came to LA, having WMM pop up gave me that playground and inspiration. Plus, I came when there were only, like, fifteen people… and we got to play so many different kinds of parts. Even things that you would never usually get cast in. Which was refreshing when you are just going out for TV work where it’s often just acting like a shinier version of yourself.
It’s really hard to make it out here. And it’s imperative to have your army of people that support you at the end of the day. And that you call your friends. I have immense respect for Mestman, Leonard and Samuel… and now all the people who have taken it over (Kukahiko, Frederick, O’Connor, Gandhi, Lippert…). I think WMM is one of the most impressive communities of artists I’ve ever come across.
Favorite Thing: Two words. SNUGGLE BUNNY. How could you not want to be a part of a film community that helped SNUGGLE BUNNY: A TERRIFYING EXPOSE OF MAN’S MOST LOVABLE PREDATOR be made and sold to Tribeca Films and Tribeca Picture Show?
WMM: If you were stranded on an island for 6 months, what 5 items would you wish you had on your person?
SS: My boyfriend, a knife, a sleeping bag, Tang, combat boots, and a killer sports bra.
WMM: If you were not doing what you do now, what would you want to be doing?
SS: Hmmm… Toss up between a touring punk-country star or Renegade International Journalist? But mainly I’d like to be stupid wealthy and continually finance projects of people like me. Or people more intelligent than me with heartbreaking, eye opening, challenging stories that deserve to be heard. All, you know, with the hope of advocating a more tolerant world. I feel grateful everyday that I have been given the opportunities I have, even if it’s been hard. I would like to live in a world where other women feel safe to express themselves. Men too. But as they say, ladies first.
WMM: What’s next for you now?
SS: Just to try and get all of my projects made so I can keep making more! Namely trying to get some more financing and a team assembled to make CREVE COEUR, MO. this summer.
WMM: Describe yourself with 3 adjectives.
SS: Driven, opinionated, fun.
WMM: What, other than your craft, brings you joy?
SS: I like kickboxing, traveling, costume parties and making out.
By Sapna Gandhi