For the month of May, we will be bringing you the stories and career highlights from the filmmakers of last year’s WMM Screening Series. Check out our revamped PROFILED series…
Film screened: BONED Role as filmmaker: Actress-Producer
Getting to Know Angela…
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker? AL: I was born and raised in a small town in Oregon. My first experience with acting was in the 3rd grade. They basically forced me to be the lead in the school play so that I would stop being so shy. Kind of funny for someone who’s now been accused of talking too much 🙂 A few years later my mother drug me along to do community theater in the neighboring town. They were mostly musicals and I have the voice of a dying duck, so I mostly handed out programs and then hustled up to the light booth to run the spotlight. I did however get invited to go to their school’s annual trips to Ashland to see some amazing productions at The Shakespearean Festival. As soon as I graduated High School I started doing dinner theater and then landed a talent agent in Portland who would send me out for commercials and print jobs.There are two factors that stand out from my childhood that would inform my experience as an actor/filmmaker. The first is that growing up in a rural area (and having conservative, religious parents) meant I had very limited access to TV and film. So if it wasn’t the Brady Bunch or Fantasy Island I never heard of it. (I still am playing catch up on some of the classics.) We did however have a bunch of Don Knotts and Tim Conway videos on VHS, as well as Benny Hill-oddly enough, which is where I must have nailed down my comic sensibilities! The second factor would be the work ethic I absorbed from both my parents, especially my father. From very early on, I was always led to believe that anything was possible and if you put the effort out there, you can do it. With those lessons also came the confidence to do my own thing and not follow ‘the crowd’ so to speak.
WMM: What films have made an impression on you? How? Why? AL: One of my all time favorite movies is TRUE ROMANCE. I’m a Tarantino fan all-round, but that was the first introduction I had to him, even though he was only the writer. My favorite part is when Alabama kicks Virgil’s ass in the hotel room. It was nice to see a pretty girl be so tough. The scene with Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken was so bad-ass to me too. Remember, I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with seeing movies when I was growing up so this was like getting every flavor of ice cream at once. It was so beautiful, and raw. The characters all blew me away, and Clarence got advice from Elvis… it was decadent! To me, the whole movie is about fighting passionately for something you love. So I knew what I had to do…..move to Hollywood.
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories/experiences/peers/teachers? AL: I started studying acting in Oregon under a teacher named Gail Abbott who would bring up LA writers/directors/casting directors etc. to help us prepare for the big move to Hollywood. She also brought in other teachers to give us a big variety of acting techniques, like Meisner and Grotowski. It was a really great learning experience because she really made sure we knew the ins and outs of the craft and the business. It made moving to LA such an easy transition. Once in LA, I was referred to Doug Warhit. He’s a fuc*&!#ing amazing teacher. He really breaks everything down so simply and concisely, and he really tailors his notes to you, the individual actor. Not that you don’t learn from his notes to others, because you definitely do. He’s just so skilled at communicating to you, personally, the way you will best understand the information. He also brings in an industry guest once a month so you get to always be ‘auditioning.’ If you are looking for an acting coach in LA he is a must-see. [Editor’s Note: I concur with all the above about Doug Warhit.] As for behind the camera, I did take a filmmaking course at LA Valley College. It was pretty basic stuff but was very helpful when I started my DIY filmmaking career, but mostly I learn by doing.
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? AL: The lowest have been $0, though technically you always have to pay for craft service and meals, so nothing is ever less than fifty bucks. The highest, which is BONED that we screened with WMM, is at about $150k and still growing. Seems like there is a new expense everyday, even though we are past post at this point. The next expense is E&O insurance.
WMM: What aspect of filmmaking fuels you the most? What stresses you out? What do you find find most rewarding? AL: Acting is what fuels me most. If I wasn’t able to act, I probably wouldn’t produce. Though I do like producing, it is a great balance of creating, accomplishing and problem solving. The most stressful parts are: money, which there is never enough of, and communication. When you are manning the ship, so to speak, you really need your team to be efficient communicators. I hate chasing people down for days to get the necessary information. It’s especially frustrating in the age of social media when I can see you posting a FB update every 20 minutes, but you won’t answer my emails, texts or calls….oh no…a rant is coming on… so I’ll leave it at that!
WMM: Who are your biggest influences? AL: I love, love love: Louie CK, Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Quenten Tarinto, Kate Blanchette.
WMM: What was(were) the inspiration behind your last project(s)? AL: I met Laura Lee Bahr while doing a play. I had been doing shorts and web-series and knew I was ready to produce a feature. Laura had several feature writing credits under her belt but was hoping to direct one herself. An idea she had been stewing on for a while about a female detective was our launching point. She wanted to incorporate that with her love of film noir and also honor the actors struggle and it all magically came together in the character of Samantha in BONED, which she wrote specifically for me. An actors’ dream come true 🙂
WMM: What are your current projects? What inspired them? AL: I just finished editing a short called “Moving On Up” that my boyfriend wrote. It’s a comedy about a couple who does some ridiculous things because they believe they have won the lottery. We wanted to work together on something and he’s been flexing his comedic writing muscles, so it came together pretty quickly. I’m also putting together a series of vlogs that will have helpful tips for actors from the perspective of producing, editing, directing, writing etc. I’ve learned so much about acting from doing many of other jobs in the production process, I’m hoping to pass on some of the most helpful bits.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory? AL: The first thing I would change, is that I would be a series regular on some awesome HBO or Netflix show by now. Though no matter how many acting gigs come my way, now that I’ve been empowered by doing my own projects, I would never give up making my own work as well.
WMM: Any advice for other filmmakers? AL: Stop listening to other people tell you no, or why you can’t do something. You have a lot more power than you think. And don’t be afraid to fail. I don’t understand why people wait around forever because they aren’t “ready” or the want it to be “perfect.” There is no such thing. You can only learn so much by research and preparation. You have to take Action and be willing to learn from your mistakes.
WMM: How would you like to be described as a filmmaker? AL: “She’s amazing to work with, I can’t wait to hire her again.”
For Shits & Giggles:
WMM: Your favorite things to do in LA are … AL: Eat TACOS (La Reyna-the best!) hiking-anywhere, though I especially love the emptiness of the trails in Mt. Washington, and though I don’t go enough, I love the beach.
WMM: Three things you always have on set are … AL: …hmmm… my script, my self… and a positive attitude!
WMM: You just finished reading … AL: THE SHINING GIRLS by Lauren Buekes. I am a sucker for thriller & suspense stories.
WMM: You’d love to have lunch with … AL: Amy Schumer!!! Please, can someone help me make this happen???
WMM: The website you can’t live without is … AL:Pinterest.
WMM: What do we not know about you that would surprise us? … AL: If it was acceptable for an actress… I would get a face tattoo.
Sapna Gandhi (sapnagandhi.com) is an actress and content creator who loves words and is thrilled to be able to integrate her passions and contribute to the filmmaking community. Although her roots are on stage, she enjoys working in television and film. In an effort to negate being typecast, she co-wrote/co-produced/co-starred in Broad Strokes (5 Days. 5 Themes. 5 Directors. 40 Comedic Micro-shorts) and is looking forward to telling more stories through her fledgling production company, Elegant Grotesque. Gandhi was born in England, raised all over The States, holds degrees in English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.