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“Chase” (2010) “The Posse” Season 1, Episode 7
Directed by Holly Dale, produced for NBC TV by Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Kelli Giddish, Jesse Metcalfe, Cole Hauser. Casting by Beth Sepko.
A team tracks down fugitive criminals. Jerry Bruckheimer was the producer of this TV series for NBC.
“THE POSSE” When a U.S. Marshal impersonator, Bob McGraw, (William Lee Scott) starts killing people in a misguided attempt to capture fugitives, he becomes one himself. The case becomes personal when McGraw turns the tables on U.S. Marshal Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish).
In Episode 7, I play the wife of a man shot by the villain, Bob McGraw. Too excited to sleep past 4:00 a.m. I get up eat, dress, and drive in the dark to the set. My call time is 6:00 a.m. Never be late to set!
All day long I isolated myself from everyone else because I needed to be distraught and cry in my scenes. I was afraid if I visited with others on the set too much, I’d get all happy. Around 3:00 in the afternoon we still haven’t gotten to my scenes, I’m worn out and don’t give a hoot about the whole husband is dead thing and I go to craft services looking for an onion. I hide the onion in my purse.
I’m a trained actor and acting coach and I’m huffing an onion. It wouldn’t look good, right? Of course, we don’t shoot my stuff until after 7:00 p.m. but now we’re ready. Camera rolls. I surprise myself and cry, probably from exhaustion. “Cut!” Then director Holly Dale says, “Okay, that was good, but cry less.” I did it again. “Cut!” Holly said “Still cry less than that.” I said, “My husband just got murdered in front of my face. Cry less?” Holly said, “Yes, this isn’t real life, it’s television.” By the time I got back to the hotel it was eleven o’clock at night. I’d been up and working for 20+ hours. When I got my paycheck I was surprised at how much it was. Nothing like golden-golden-time wages!
Directed by Matthew Robbins, Produced by Rob Cohen, starring Helen Slater, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote.
LOGLINE: A Texas teenager cuts off her long blond hair and becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother and friends. Average Texas teen, Billie Jean Davy, is caught up in a fight for justice. She is harassed by local boys who decide to trash her brother's scooter for fun. The lead bully’s father refuses to pay them back the price of the scooter. The fight for "fair is fair" takes the teens around the state and produces an unlikely hero.
I auditioned for Billie Jean in San Antonio. My mom was in town so I took her with me to the audition. She turned out to be my lucky charm. Even though I thought I did a “not so great” audition, I got a callback. After a two-week wait while all the execs signed off on my deal memo, I got the part. Nobody was more surprised than me. Actors are not good judges of how an audition went. We tend to be pretty hard on ourselves.
We shot Billie Jean in Corpus Christi. Seven weeks in a lovely hotel on the water. I was in heaven. The first time accounting gave me a weeks per-diem in a cash envelope, I handed it back. I thought somebody had made a mistake.
Matthew Robbins is a very hands-on director. He wanted very specific things. Being a stage actor, I really like getting direction. It makes me feel more secure to know there’s another eye on my choices. Some of the other actors were resentful of being directed which I didn’t understand. One of the lead adult actors was always complaining, complaining, complaining. He wasn’t getting enough money to come down here to do this part, the script wasn’t any good, his lines were stupid…bitch bitch bitch. It was like he was bragging he was too good to be in this movie. He’s doing all this complaining in front of a young cast that was impressionable and in my mind he should have set a better example. Don’t accept a part and then endlessly knock it.
The director had him to contend with and then a lot of pressure from the studio. Rob Cohen was on location as producer and he was very diplomatic trying to keep everything on an even keel. It doesn’t surprise me that Rob has become a big producer in Hollywood. But being a director is the hardest job. So much money is riding on a film. It’s a huge task to make a movie. It’s like saying we are going to take this mountain and move it one mile down the road in 7 weeks. Directors only sleep four hours a night making a picture. It takes a lot of mental and physical endurance.
The film was Christian Slater’s first lead in a movie. He was 15 and so excited. He really put his heart into his character as did Helen Slater. Though they share the same last name, Christian and Helen are not related. I couldn’t have asked for two sweeter actors to be my movie children. They were easy to love.
Initially, Billie Jean didn’t do too well at the box office, but over the years it has prevailed and is now considered a cult classic 80's teen movie. "Fair is fair!"
Matthew Robbins, Director of “The Legend of Billie Jean” says, “Thanks for a first class performance.”
Directed by Richard Linklater and starring Matthew McConaughey, Wiley Wiggens, Parker Posey, Adam Goldbery, and Rory Cochrane.
LOGLINE: The plot follows various groups of teenagers coming of age during the last day of school in the summer of 1976. I play Mitch’s ear-pulling mom. Mitch is played by the star of the movie, Wiley Wiggens. This was Rick Linklater’s second movie to direct, the first movie being Slacker, which he did in 1989 with the incredibly low budget of $23,000.
I couldn’t believe when I pulled up to the Dazed set and saw camera and grip trucks, make-up, wardrobe and cast trailers, the whole big budget set-up. The first person I see is Matthew McConaughey who is grinning from ear to ear.
He gestures at the movie camp, “Can you believe all this?” We were so happy for Rick that he was making his dream happen and we got to be a part of it, too. Matthew said “I went from just a few lines to being in a lot of scenes. I think Rick likes what I’m doing with the character!”
“The Real Adventures of Sherlock Jones and Proctor Watson” (1987)
Directed by Bryan Hickox, Produced by Leo Eaton. Starring Chad Sheets, Jason Smith, Mark Ritts, Michael Costello, Mona Lee Fultz.
LOGLINE: A 10-part series for children using puppets and featuring them in interaction with real kids to illustrate new ways children can solve everyday problems. The story involves real-life characters Bryan Hudson and Teddy Martin, and the puppets Sherlock Jones, who is a miniature clone of the famous detective, and Bryan's dog Proctor, who speaks in a human voice.
The three-quarter-inch-tape “Sherlock Jones” was recorded on was twenty-seven-years-old and in bad shape when I took it out of its box. That old tape had to be converted to a DVD further reducing the quality. I wanted to include it on my site because Sherlock Jones was one of the first TV series to be filmed in Austin. It represents a nice little piece of Austin history.
I play Mrs. Hudson, the mom of the child stars of the show. My real life brother-in-law, Michael Costello, plays my husband. The day that stands out in my memory is the day we shot all the eating scenes for all ten episodes in one day. We ate all day long. We got very good at cheating that we were eating. The thing about eating is that you have to remember continuity. In other words, you had to eat at the same time in the same way take after take of the scene. You have to put your fork down in the same place, repeat the way you used your napkin, keep track of where you put the glass down -- to your left or to the right of your plate -- lots of things to remember. We were sick of food at the end of the day. Literally. The kids were groaning. It was hard for them in the beginning to remember that they couldn’t eat much because they would be eating all day. Between takes, the actors would spit their food out in napkins. Both TV and movie scripts are shot out of scene order. I constantly had to refer to my script to remember where we were in the order of episodes and keep in mind “the moment before” of each scene.
Chad Sheets, who plays our son, was the most well-behaved, charming kid I’ve ever met. We all thought he would have a promising career and he did appearing in shows like “Magnum P.I.” and “Dukes of Hazzard”. Michael and I were very shocked to hear about his death from cancer when he was only 26. Rest in peace, dear sweet Chad.
Directed by Lev Lincoln Spiro. Starring Michael Costello, Mona Lee Fultz, Tom Byrne, Gabriel Folse.
"The Convict" is an award-winning Master’s Thesis UT/RTF film based on a short story by James Lee Burke. A coming of age story, it is a suspense-charged portrayal of race relations in the Deep South.
Will, played by Michael Costello, is different from most people in his town. He’s not a racist. His defense of African Americans is met with resistance by his peers. Avery, Will's young son, watches as his dad decides to aid an escaped convict believing the man’s story that he was wrongly convicted and badly treated by the system. This decision to aid the escapee, strains Will’s marriage and endangers his family when the convict shows his true murderous nature. Will then turns the convict into the authorities.
“The Convict” was the only student film I’ve worked on. I get asked by my students all the time if they should act in student films. My advice is yes, even though student filmmaker’s have little experience in filmmaking or in directing actors, there’s typically no pay, and the film probably won't be seen by many people. Student filmmakers are notorious for not following through with giving actors a copy of the projects. So why do them?
Beginning film actors need camera time with little pressure. There’s always the possibility something from the shoot will be usable for a starter reel. You’ll gain a film credit on your resume, and there’s a chance you might bond with a talented, up and coming director who will go on to do worthwhile projects. If you’re going to act in student films, audition for the Master’s Thesis film projects. The students are older and more serious and are anxious to create a good reel with which to market themselves. I got really lucky with this particular project. Lev, the director, was very prepared and professional. As a young actor I could have been more proactive about staying in touch with people I worked with. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Lev when he moved to California. Since beginning his career, Lev Spiro has directed over 140 drama and comedy episodes, pilots and features for network and cable television such as Modern Family, Weeds, Arrested Development, My Name Is Earl, Ugly Betty, Gilmore Girls, Dawson's Creek, The O.C. and Everybody Hates Chris.
Bright New Wings was a religious film produced by Southern Baptist Productions in Dallas in the 80s. I was impressed with the Texas cast. If anyone reading this has any details about the project, please share them with me.
It’s basically a Baptist film about the life of Annie Walker Armstrong (1850-1938) a supporter of mission efforts throughout the world. Annie Armstrong led women to unite in mission endeavors that ultimately led to the formation of the Woman's Missionary Union, for which she served as the first corresponding secretary.
Directed by Ken Lamkin. Starring Dirk Benedict, Lise Cuter, Lance LeGault. Casting Jo Edna Boldin.
Policemen by Day - Assassins at Night. A story all too familiar yet amazing to see. Follow the daily lives of corrupt policemen as they make a fortune as assassins.
My first day on set, I’m in makeup and Dirk Benedict, aka “Face” from The A-Team television series and Lieutenant Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica film and television series, opens the trailer door and introduces himself. He asks if I received the FAX of the new scenes. I say, “Noooo, I did not.” He says, “I was afraid of that,” and handed me 15 new pages. My scenes with Dirk were the first up of the day and the plan is to shoot it as soon as makeup and hair was finished with me. He closed the door. I freaked out, inside my head, to myself. I was horrified. How was I supposed to memorize all these pages in 30 minutes?! When I was out of hair and makeup, I left the trailer and walked off to an area where no one is around and gave myself a talking to. “Calm down. You have no choice. You have to learn these lines and you have to learn them NOW. They don’t have to be word perfect. You can do it. (I slapped myself.) Get a grip.”
This happens to me a lot on set. A film set is creative chaos. You walk on to it and you never know what’s going to happen. I had prepared and prepped the other scene and had it down perfectly and now it was gone. I was hired for the job so they assumed I was a professional and professionals are good at memorizing. Me, I’m not so good. I am the rehearsal queen. I drill and drill and then if I get too nervous the lines fly out of my brain like freakin' migrating birds. And, now I was feeling hysterical.
What happened was, the script was pretty weak and Dirk was trying to fix it. He’s playing the lead and rewriting the script trying to make it better. He’s also directing the actors on the side because the director, who was just the greatest guy and a very experienced cinematographer didn’t know how to direct actors. Kenny was the cinematographer for Frazier, the long-running Emmy-winning TV series. He was old-school experienced. I mean that in a good way: he knew how to make us look good and set up great shots and do exciting camera work. There are two kinds of directors in TV, the kind like Kenny who know everything about the technical side but nothing about the actor’s process. These directors go into the audition room and they cast the actors who are already delivering a finished performance. The other kind of director, works with a good cinematographer and camera crew and lets them do their thing from a technical standpoint. The director can then focus on directing the actors and telling the story. This type of director is very confident and comfortable relating to the actors. Mostly, you get the first kind of director in television. It can work just fine either way if you have a good script, crew and actors.
I got through the scenes okay. Unfortunately, the second scene got cut because it was shot outside and the wind decided to blow my hair to pieces. The dailies looked like Dirk and I were doing a scene in a hurricane.
In the script, my husband was the good cop, “AI." He gets killed by the corrupt cops so, of course, there is a funeral scene where I cry. For three days we shoot this funeral scene. I cry and cry. And it’s not easy because there are four character actors from LA who play various parts in the film. Between takes, they are cutting up behind me. They are very funny and having a grand old time. It made it very difficult for me to stay in character and keep crying because these guys are so hilarious. Of course, when the film came out, all the funeral scenes with my grieving are gone. They needed that time for more car crashes and such, so I look like the worst actress ever. Before my husband dies, I’m happy, and then after he dies, I’m normal like nothing ever happened. However, I recently acquired the DVD and I was so pleased to see my funeral scenes were all back in the movie. The editor has all the power, people!
Dirk Benedict is yummy. He’s calm, fun, and I think he may be an enlightened being. He wrote a very good book about healing himself from cancer called, “Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy.” It’s mainly about how Dirk fought cancer using macrobiotics. It’s an inspiring read. He’s inspiring, really. And very, very, handsome. (I'm kind of boy crazy.)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, Starring Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Darlene Cates. Location casting, Jo Edna Boldin.
Gilbert has to care for his brother Arnie and his obese mother, which gets in the way when love walks into his life. Lasse Hallstrom, the director, asked if I would go to Dallas and coach Darlene Cates, the morbidly obese mother in the movie. He said her country accent was too strong, and he couldn’t understand her speech. He was thinking about dubbing in her voice with another actress, but before he hired a voice-over actress, he wanted to see if I could help Darlene lose her accent.
I’m not sure what she weighed at the time, but it was probably close to 500 pounds, and she was pretty much bed-ridden. I told Darlene how physically demanding it was to make a movie and that she needed to get out of bed and start moving her body or she wouldn’t be able to fulfill the role.
She was quick to learn how to pronounce words correctly, and I encouraged Lasse to use Darlene’s voice in the movie. She was excited to do the part, so Darlene started exercising and walking more. It was very taxing for her physically, but I thought she did a great job.
Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, would sleep in their trailers until they were called to makeup. Being young, they really enjoyed the Austin night life, or so I heard from my students who would run into them on 6th Street -- Austin’s party boulevard.
Everyone on the set talked constantly about how believable Leo was as the mentally challenged little brother. When Johnny came to the set, I was behind my bakery counter ready to sell him a cake for his momma’s birthday. He walked up and said, “I’m Johnny. You have the prettiest blue eyes.” Made my day.
Directed by Dick Lowry. Starring Peter Strauss, Heather Locklear. Location casting by Rody Kent.
Made-for-TV miniseries, based on the true-life tale of a Texas oil magnate on trial for conspiring to murder his brassy ex-wife -- and for doing away with her lover and daughter.
“Texas Justice” stars Peter Strauss as Cullen Davis, a millionaire businessman who falls in love with the tempestuous, lower-class Priscilla (Heather Locklear). Heather was the darling of the set. Everybody, cast and crew loved her. She has this way of making everyone feel like they’ve known her for years. Peter Strauss is a highly confident and natural actor. My cherry pie scene with Peter is my favorite little character bit.
Director, Peter Werner, Starring Lea Thompson, Karis Paige Bryant, Patricia Kalember, James Marshall, casting director, Barbara Brinkley.
Based on the true story of Brianne Hawkins, whose husband Clay was violently unstable. When a man tries to chat up Brianne one night, Clay shoots him dead. Clay pressures Brianne into lying to the police by saying she shot the man by accident. The plan fails and they both go to prison for life sentences. When Brianne’s father dies and she fears she will lose custody of her daughter, Lily, she learns a horrible truth about her past and makes a decision about her sentencing.
Lea Thompson, the star of the show, was a serious ballerina before she became an actress. She danced in more than 45 ballets with the American Ballet Theatre. Quite a few leading women have had ballet training. Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Charlise Theron, and Clare Danes, to name a few. Their training shows in their lean muscles and elegant postures. Ballet is very demanding. When you master that dance form, you know you can accomplish difficult things. Mikhail Baryshnikov told Lea she was "a beautiful dancer... but too stocky." Lea decided to turn to acting, which really worked out for her because she became one of Hollywood’s most wanted actress. Everything happens that’s supposed to happen, I guess.
For some reason, Austin got a lot of TV movies in the late 80’s and 90’s, which was great because Texas actors booked a lot of co-star and supporting roles in good-paying projects. The director of this show, Peter Werner, was very experienced and confident. He was casting and shooting at the same time. I auditioned for Peter on the set between takes. He re-directed me every other line. He would say, “Okay, now do it this way. Now take it in this direction.” When we were done with it I thought, whew, that was a work-out! I didn’t accomplish every re-direct Peter asked for, but I was excited by my work. I told him I really wanted to work with him, that I thought I could do what he wanted. This was the first villainous part I got on screen. Usually, I play fairly harmless, slightly dysfunctional women like myself, but in this movie I play Lea’s evil mother-in-law. In my first scene with Lea Thompson, when I looked into her eye’s I saw confidence, empathy and focus. She was very down-to-earth -- the average girl-down-the-street, from the Midwest.
Directed by Karen Arthur. Based on the book by Janice Woods Windle. Starring Dana Delany, Annabeth Gish, Angelina Jolie.
“True Women” is a sweeping saga of love, war and adventure, spanning five decades from the Texas Revolution through the Civil War, Reconstruction and beyond. “True Women” was the first project I worked on that was directed by a woman. In my entire film career, I’ve only worked with two female directors: Karen Arthur, “True Women” and Holly Dale, “Chase.” The conversation about gender equity related to women directors and filmmakers definitely needs to be pushed. Women made up only 9% of the directors of top grossing films in 2012.
I met Angelina Jolie at the script read-through. At that time, she was barely breaking into the business. I knew right then she could be a star. She read well, was down to earth, and was sweet to everyone, in addition to being very beautiful. She was so normal it was easy to visit with her. I told her she had a good face for period work and that I thought she was going to look very genuine in her costumes. As I’ve watched her career over the years, I see Angelina would make a cotton sack look good.
Another unknown at the time was Hilary Duff, who was working as an extra. She’d come up from Houston with her mom and sister to work the show. After “True Women,” Hilary trained with myself and other Texas teachers, too. She signed with agent, Cynthia Robbins owner of BLVD Company and Cynthia helped Hillary get signed with an LA agent. Eventually the family moved to Los Angeles where she became another Texas success story.
The designers of “True Women” attended strongly to period detail. When we were on set, the costumes really did hearken us back to another time and place. In our tight corsets and full, ankle-length skirts, we could really imagine what our ancestors lived through. The day before I was to shoot, cedar fever, the scourge of Central Texas, hit hard. I dosed myself with everything I could think of to get better. I was even starting to lose my voice. I told my body that getting sick now was unacceptable. I was going to the set, and I was going to do a good job! I only talked when necessary and sucked a lot of cough drops, so I don’t think anyone noticed how ill I was. No actor wants to get sick when they have an acting job.
Produced by Linda Obst. Directed by Forest Whitaker, and starring Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick, Jr., and Gena Rowlands. Location casting, Jo Edna Boldin.
Birdee (Bullock) is an unassuming housewife whose life is disrupted when her husband reveals his infidelity to her on a national talk show. She goes home to her mother (Rowlands) and the small town in which she grew up, where everyone knows of her televised marital collapse. Things only get worse as a family tragedy brings her ex-husband back for an official divorce. Meanwhile an old friend, Justin (Connick, Jr.), has entered her life, sparking a romance. While Justin's intentions are clear and good, Birdee struggles with the decision to let him fully into her life.
Hope Floats was filmed in Smithville, Texas. Forest Whitaker and Linda Obst were at callbacks so when I got to set I already felt comfortable with them. I had four callbacks for the movie before I got the part. I was surprised by how beautiful Sandra Bullock was. She was so pretty I had to remind myself not to stare. It’s not cool to stare, take photos or ask for the star’s autograph and I was feeling like a total star-struck goober. I had to contain myself.
Sandra pretty much only hung out with her makeup lady and Harry. Folks on the set wondered why she kept her distance. Rumor was that she and Matthew McConaughy had been dating and broke up. I thought it was because she was trying to stay in character. Birdee, is devastated at the loss of her marriage. Also, everyone wants to glom onto famous people so if famous people are smart, they practice good boundaries. Give stars their space. They are under a lot of pressure.
In the movie, I play the teacher of Birdee’s daughter, Bernice who wears thick glasses. The kids tease Bernice and call her “Pop Eye” and my character doesn’t correct them. She even calls her by that nickname. I had a great fight scene with Sandra that was really funny and also a scene as the host of the kid’s talent show. My mom and I went to the premiere and all that was left of me was a little bit of a classroom scene. I was in shock when the movie ended and the titles began to run. I said to Mom, “I can’t believe it’s over. They cut my scenes.” She said, “Look honey, there’s your name and it’s in great big letters.”
Directed by Noel Nosseck, starring Bruce Campbell, Shannon Sturges, Ernie Hudson, L.Q. Jones
An accountant sent to produce an evaluation of a tornado research project and the scientist running the project pursue tornadoes and each other.
I auditioned in Dallas for this part. There’s a whole lot of traveling back and forth between Dallas and Austin for auditions and callbacks. Nobody likes it but we have to do it in order to work. I will do the Dallas run for movies and TV projects, but not commercials.
In between takes I was chatting with Bruce Campbell and his “Evil Dead” movies came up in the conversation. I told Bruce I had only seen part of the first movie and it wasn’t my thing. Mistake! Foot in mouth. You don’t need to tell the star of your current show what you think of their past work, knucklehead, especially if you didn’t like it. As they say, somehow my common sense got sucked out of my brain with a straw.
Back on the set we are filming Bruce’s single (close up) and I am the off camera actor feeding him lines. He looks at me irritated and said, “Could you move your head closer to the camera lens.” And I thought, to myself, why isn’t my head closer to the camera lens?! I only harp on that in all my classes! You give the on-camera actor a better eye line the closer you can get your head to the lens, but here I was not doing the thing I teach.
Being on set is such great on-the-job training. I really enjoyed working on this show. I am a huge fan of L.Q. Jones and have written a leading part for him in one of screenplays. He is the most natural actor ever. L.Q. with cameras rolling is the same L.Q. off set.
Noel Nosseck, the director, was doing a great job of coaching the less experienced but highly enthusiastic Texas cast. He kept saying to one actor, "Use less volume, talk to one person, not five. Your dialogue needs to sound more intimate."
Finally we got to the really dramatic scenes where the tornado hits the family ranch. They had huge fans and a rain tower or rain curtain hanging above us. They injected a little bit of milk into the curtain so the drops of rain would show up better on film. The fans were turned on and production assistants were throwing leaves and debris in front of them. They turned on the water and we would get completely soaked with debris flung on us by the fans some of which were like ouch! Cut! We’d put on duplicates sets of clothes, redo hair and makeup and do it over again. All night long! It was energizing to the cast and crew. Everybody enjoyed acting out the drama. We had such a good time we didn't mind being cold, wet and dirty.
Written and Directed by Richard Linklater, starring Wiley Wiggens, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
LOGLINE: A man shuffles through a dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe.
“Waking Life” is an animated film focusing on the nature of dreams, consciousness, and existentialism. It was shot on digital video and then animators used newly developed computer software by Bob Sabistan to transform the images through a process called "interpolated rotoscoping” with artists drawing over each frame with computers.
I played Mitch’s mom from “Dazed and Confused,” who has now died and is having a dream talk with Wiley Wiggens, who played Mitch in “Dazed” and who is the main “dreamer” of Waking Life. Trippy, right? I met the artists who worked on my scene and watched as they created the animation. They were so attentive to detail.
Tommy Pallotta shot the film, and what is cool for me is that both Tommy and Rick ran the camera in my acting classes for several years; now they have actually realized their dreams of being filmmakers. Success happens!
Director, William Katt. Writer, Glen Stephens. Starring Barry Corbin, Sam Huntington. Casting Ricki Maslar.
LOGLINE: Barry Corbin plays a fictional Menard County sheriff who uses country savvy and cowboy logic to straighten out his angry teen-aged grandson, Clay, played by Sam Huntington, a high school senior who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. A dangerous river, bandits and drug dealers all threaten Clay’s life. It’s amazing how much you can learn about your true self when faced with a challenge!
This movie is a great family film if you can find a DVD copy that works. I bought it five different times and each one skips over most of the third act. If anyone reading this has a complete copy of the movie, I’d love to see it.
"River’s End" was filmed in various locations around the Texas Hill Country. A portion of it was filmed at writer/producer Glen Stephens' ranch in Menard, Texas. It’s about a three hour drive from Austin to Menard. Located on the northern edge of the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas, the Menard area offers beautiful surroundings, historical sites, fishing and hunting. The scenery in Menard County made me want to leave city life behind and hang out in a canoe and camp.
My first day of shooting I was called to set just before sundown. William Katt, the director, also plays my husband in the film. He wanted to get the shot with the setting sun behind us in our scene. He looked over the scene and started making changes. “I don’t want to say this line. You say it. I don’t want to say this one either.” He kept on. Since we were standing in the middle of a dirt road, I said, “Bill, turn around so I can use your back to make all these changes on my script.” I steadied my script on his back and started scribbling. Finally, he finished changing it. He said, “Oh the sun is going down. We have to shoot this NOW. You ready?” I’m thinking, “No, I need some time to memorize these changes.” But you never say that. You have to put yourself in the flow and just Do it. I knew I probably couldn’t do it exactly, but there was no time to sweat the small stuff.
Despite the lack of time to prepare, the scene worked out fine. And can I just say I love William Katt?! He’s best known as the star of The Greatest American Hero TV series and Carrie’s ill-fated prom date in the film Carrie. His mother is Barbara Hale, who played “Della Street” in the original Perry Mason TV series. He really enjoys directing but the constraints of the low-budget film were frustrating for him as it is for everyone trying to make art on a shoe string. I had to hand it to producer Glen Stephens. He wrote three good features and managed to film them in the middle of Texas on the low-budget SAG Indie contract.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, starring Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Andrew Bryniarski. Location casting, Beth Sepko.
After picking up a traumatized young hitchhiker, five friends find themselves stalked and hunted by a deformed chainsaw-wielding killer and his family of equally psychopathic killers.
The character I played was “Older Erin”, the Jessica Biel character 30 years after the main events of the story and now residing in an insane asylum. After I was called to the set, I was wheeled up to a table by a nurse (the director’s wife, Dyan Humes-Nispel) to be interviewed by a reporter. When we started rehearsing, the reporter had a different script than I had, and the director had a different script from either the reporter or I; the writer had another script, which wasn’t like any of the other three! The writer ran to print out the new version of the scene, and we basically had 15 minutes to learn a completely new scene. My character is traumatized, so that was easy to act because I was too, knowing I had only 15 minutes to learn a new script.
The room was full of extras, a lot of whom I knew as students and former students waiting to see how their teacher was going to do. It was a three-camera set, so there were easily 75 people focused on me and Randy Fletcher, who was playing the reporter. Randy was actually the First Assistant Director, too, and a super calm guy which helped. We got through the scenes to Marcus’s satisfaction.
My scenes were supposed to start and finish the movie. They rewrote that idea, but Marcus Nispel shows the deleted scenes in his commentary in the New Line Platinum version. This is one instance when I was relieved to be cut out of a movie. I auditioned for “Chainsaw” because I wanted to get in front of Beth Sepko, our busiest casting director, and meet Marcus who’s from Germany. I didn’t think I would be cast. When I got a callback, I thought, “Oh no, I don’t want to be in a horror movie.” I have this superstition that they create bad karma. I actually called another casting director friend of mine, Barbara Brinkley, to see what she thought of me wiggling out of the callback. Barbara reamed me. She said, “If you audition for a movie and get a call back you go, and if you get cast, you accept. If you don’t want to be in a movie, don’t audition in the first place! Don’t waste people’s time!” I decided she was right, but I learned a lesson; now if the movie is a bloodbath of gore, I just turn it down.
A Scanner Darkly is an animated science fiction thriller film directed by Richard Linklater based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. The film was written and directed by Richard Linklater and stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey, Jr.
LOGLINE: The film tells the story of identity and deception in a near-future dystopia constantly under intrusive high-technology police surveillance in the midst of a drug addiction epidemic.
I play “Donna” one of the Winona Ryder characters after she has supposedly gone insane from drug use. I didn’t audition for the film. Rick called and sketched the character out. Basically he just said the character was nuts and I was doing it with Keanu Reeves.
When I lived in New York there was a homeless woman who would ride the train and she would crack me up because she would go around to people on the train car and say things like, “You wanna kiss me!” She’d point and jump up and down and scream this at people then laugh hysterically. I’ve always thought laughing on cue was as hard as crying on cue so I practiced around my house and yard laughing like a maniac. The challenge for me was to let myself be unattractive and bizarre in front of one of the most attractive men in the world. My teachers would always say, “Actors should never be afraid to be ugly.” The artisan self has to do battle with ego vanity. I have a huge shallow side that had to be dealt with in order to let go. People may think of Keanu as his surfer dude persona but that’s not him. He is elegant and kind and deep.
I’ve worked with a lot of stars that are full of it, but Keanu is so not on a star trip. He lives in the moment -- very Zen. Keanu has a big antenna up. He listens and observes the people around him. After our scene was wrapped he hugged me and kissed my cheek. He didn’t have to do that. If you’re an actor reading this and you make it big, don’t just walk back to your trailer or get on your cell phone. Reach out and connect to your fellow actors and crew. Be present in the moment with them. Everyone matters. You don’t have to be overly social, just aware and appreciative of everyone’s efforts.
My scene got cut from the film. That’s how it is when you are a character actor. Cut, cut, cut. Rick, in his usual thoughtful way, sent me the clip so I could have it for my reel and even though it didn’t make it to the final edit, I still get residual checks from the project. The good news is if your scene is cut, you can still use it on your resume because you did the job and you will get paid. Be grateful for any opportunity to work at your craft.
Directed by Michael Grossman, starring Brooke Elliott, Kate Levering, and Jackson Hurt. Location casting by Fincannon and Associates.
A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty.
In my episode, “Queen of Mean,” Kim (Kate Levering) and Grayson (Texas actor Jackson Hurst) represent a transgender woman (Candis Cayne) who is feuding with her in-laws over her partner's property.
Candis Cayne was born as Brendan McDaniel in Hawaii. Brendan transitioned to "Candis Cayne" and has become one of the most popular and sought-after transgender actresses, but I didn’t know all this when we first met on set. I thought she was born a woman. Candis is so beautiful and feminine I had no idea she was transgender. I couldn’t tell by looking at her. She’s lovely! Candis and I had lunch together and we immediately clicked. We both remarked it was going to be hard to be mean to each other in our scenes.
Michael Grossman is an excellent director and I really enjoyed working with all the actors. Jackson is from Texas and kicked around Austin for awhile.
I only saw Brooke Elliott, the star of the show, in the costume department. In person, she doesn’t look heavy. She looks like a normal-sized woman. Everything they say about the camera adding weight is absolutely true.
Mark Fincannon is an Emmy award winning casting director with Fincannon and Associates. The Fincannon’s are huge as far as casting directors go.
I had been sending in taped auditions to Mark for a while. Actors never know what happens to their taped auditions because we seldom, if ever, get feedback. You make the video, and send it into cyberspace and never know whether it was even watched. When I saw Mark on the set, he said he’d enjoyed all my taped auditions and he was happy this one worked out. It made me feel good to know the investment of time and money was worth it.
Actors taped auditions are being seen and with each good audition tape you send, casting directors get a feel for your chops and you build up credibility with industry professionals.
I was really impressed with the Atlanta film scene. The film industry in Georgia is the fourth largest in the U.S., eclipsed only by California, New York State, and Louisiana. Like many states, the film industry in Georgia was boosted substantially from an aggressive state tax incentive program.
Consequently, the industry has exploded with an economic impact of $3.1 billion, according to the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office. Georgia has arrived as a movie-making hub with about a dozen new studios open. It is now one of the top media markets in America.
Under the program, companies that spend at least $500,000 on production and post-production in the state can qualify for a 20-percent tax credit. If they include a promotional Georgia logo at the end of the credits they receive an extra 10 percent. Too bad Texas legislators aren’t doing the same thing. If you’re an actor get politically active. Organizations like Texas Motion Picture Alliance and SAG/AFTRA work to lobby lawmakers. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Created by Noah Hawley. Directed by Michael Katleman. Starring Jamie King, Daniella Alonso, Julian Morris. Casting, Toni Brock, Sally Allen.
“My Generation” follows a group of twenty-somethings who were part of a documentary while in high school. Ten years after graduation, the filmmaker returns to see how their lives have changed.
“My Generation” was created by Noah Hawley. Noah’s plan was to use the documentary format to unravel the characters, to follow them through their lives, investigating their secrets. However, because of poor ratings the show was cancelled by ABC after just two episodes had aired. This was especially disappointing for the Austin crew and talent. I had a small but recurring role. ABC spent a lot of money moving into a vacant complex in South Austin and it looked like the network was really invested in the series. Oh well, it happens. On a good note, though, I got a wonderful new student out of the show. Jet Baker called to enroll in class explaining the only line he remembered from the first episode was me saying, “And that’s how you cook a chicken.”
Starring Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden. Directed by David Boyd. Casting, Beth Sepko.
The trials and tribulations of small town Texas football players, their friends, family, and coaching staff.
Season 5, Episode 3 “The Right Hand of the Father”
The character of Julie played by Aimee Teegarden, is crushing on her history TA played by Gil McKinney. My character, Professor Jennings, helps reveal an important fact that Julie doesn’t know: she is flirting with a married man. David Boyd, the director, encouraged me to improvise. In television, the show will either go totally word-for-word by the script or be wide open to the actors riffing off their characters. TV is run by writers, some of whom are naturally attached to their dialogue.
In the case of Friday Night Lights, the producers were very open to improv. So much so, in fact, that the producer had actors sing in call backs. Not because he was looking for singers, but because he wanted actors who were very flexible and not hung up about taking direction. I got to create a windbag professor that has Gil McKinney cornered at a party. This was my second time to work on the show.
The first scene I did a few years earlier was cut when the writers decided to go in a different direction. I was a big fan of the series. It portrayed the Middle America I know. I really got involved in the exploration of the main characters. As an actor, it was frustrating to me that I couldn’t seem to land a more pivotal character in my hometown on a show that captured my heart. But that’s show biz and whatever happens happens for a reason and it is not always for us to know why events pan out like they do. I’m probably in good company. I’m guessing hundreds of Texas actors feel the same way.
(2011) Starring Jon MIchael Davis, Farah White, Mona Lee Fultz, Richard Dillard . Directed by Robin Nations, Kevin Nations.
Jake Bryant was not a dog person, until he lost everything that mattered to him, his family, in a tragic accident. Jake reluctantly discovered that a vivacious stray, Cooper, could teach him how to live, laugh, and maybe even love again
Directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey. Casting by Beth Sepko.
In a small East Texas town, the local mortician strikes up a close friendship with a wealthy widow. As this dark story unfolds, he goes to great lengths to cover the truth.
Director Rick Linklater wanted a Greek chorus of real East Texas locals. Being an army brat, born in Germany and raised all over, I didn’t think I would be picked to play a character with an East Texas twang. I was delighted when Rick gave me the cashier role anyway. I love doing small town blue-collar characters.
Matthew McConaughey burned with intensity as the district attorney in Bernie. This role was perfect for him because before becoming a Hollywood A-list actor, while still a UT student, his plan was actually to go to law school. However, for the role in Bernie, Matthew wore a fake tummy, fake hairpiece and something over his perfectly straight, white teeth to make him look less handsome. I love it when actors aren’t afraid to do what it takes to become the character.
“Lunch Ladies ESPN Promo Spot for Longhorn Network” (2011)
Directed by Brian Aldrich. Casting, Brenda Ambrize. Production Manager, Cathleen Sutherland.
LOGLINE: Busy, award-winning commercial director, Brian Aldrich, was a delight to work with. I got the call from my agent at 4:00 p.m. to audition at the Four Seasons at 7:00 p.m. (Good thing I checked my messages.) And, I was on the set the next morning by 8:00 a.m. Brian likes his cast to be unaffected and natural. “I think we all walk through life with these unguarded moments when we’re by ourselves; a person’s character is pretty much who they are when they’re alone, when they’re not trying to impress people. That’s the most interesting person for me.” He likes stripped down, quirky, genuine, real. He doesn’t like any “selling” or playing for laughs. In most commercial text there’s a “sell factor” going on and the situation in this commercial of building the stadium out of food was funny but Brian didn’t want to sign-board that. He was amazingly calm and polite with me as we worked on the piece. I originally had all the lines but I asked Brian if Rhonda Dale could play off me. It felt like too much pressure and Rhonda and I clicked when she was helping me run lines. We made a good team.
Directed by Andrew Shapter. Produced by Roadwings Entertainment. Starring Leilani Galvan, Russell Gustave Ochoa.
LOGLINE: The Teller and the Truth is the story of the disappearance of Francis Wetherbee, a beautiful young bank teller missing since her car was found submerged in a river in 1974. Filmmaker Andrew Shapter digs into the 40 year-old case that sparked the imagination of her hometown of Smithville, Texas and beyond. Did she drown? Commit Suicide? Was she kidnapped? Or is there another answer?
This clip is of a Teller rehearsal, filmed by director Andrew Shapter. He gave Mamie Meek and I "idea sentences" and we would riff off of them- A very fun and creative way to work.
Shapter combines a documentary style with a classic style narrative interpretation, in order to uncover what about Francis Wetherbee is myth and what is fact. Different theories and conjectures of the truth are weighed against the "facts" as they are revealed in old photographs, authentic footage from home movies including actual Vietnam-era rare (and never before seen) historical footage.
As new evidence is discovered, the film transforms into a narrative, as her words--revealing the truth--come to life. The film soon grows from a small town story, into a global quest to find a woman that is believed to be still alive. I play Francis’s childhood best friend, Janice. Teller will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. So excited for this project!
Directed by Max Burnett. Starring, Mac Davis, Andrew Prine, and Cynthia Sikes. Casting, Ricki Maslar. Shot in Oklahoma, made with a largely unknown cast on a phenomenally low budget of $1.4 million.
Mac Davis plays a devoted fan and the radio voice of his alma mater, Nowata High School. After a very long losing streak, the school administration decides to do away with the football team.
Davis' character starts missing the Friday night games and decides to buy up commercial time and broadcast fantasy games featuring a winning version of his beloved Possums. Finally, the small Oklahoma town begins taking pride in their dismantled team. The real Possums are challenged by the real State Champs. The Possums lose again, but score their first actual touchdown in years.
To audition, it was a long seven hour drive to Oklahoma and then another long seven hours back to Austin. Fortunately, I drove with my brother-in-law, actor, Michael Costello. Michael said, “You realize if we get cast, we’re making this trip AGAIN?” A seven hour drive to Oklahoma to film and then seven hours back to Austin. We spent a total of 28 hours in the car to earn less than $500!
Directed by Anthony Page. Starring Mickey Rooney, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid. TV Movie Sequel to the Emmy-winning film “Bill”.
Based on the true story of Bill Sackter, Mickey Rooney plays Bill, a mentally-retarded adult struggling to survive in the mainstream. The owner of a coffee kiosk at the University of Iowa, Bill becomes disoriented when his friend and mentor played by Dennis Quaid moves to Los Angeles. Taking over Bill's case is idealistic young social worker Helen Hunt. While studying for his Bar Mitzvah (which he was denied at the age of 13 because of his "incompetence"), Bill suffers a severe personal blow that threatens to send him spiraling back into helplessness.
I play the part of Mrs. Turner, an impatient, fearful woman who doesn’t see that Bill, (Mickey Rooney) loves the family dog and the family dog loves Bill. All she thinks about is that the dog has gotten out and is getting into mischief with a “weird” person. She is a person who doesn’t really “see” what is going on around her. Mrs. Turner is keyed up and short-tempered with both her son and Bill.
I’m embarrassed by this part. I wanted to get keyed up and short-tempered with the casting director for casting me. (I had auditioned for other parts in the film, not Mrs. Turner.) I said to myself, “Why are you frowning at good fortune? You got a part with Mickey Rooney, a HUGE star and a legend in Hollywood! You can’t have a good story without good villains. Stop it! Be grateful.”
Directed by Bud Yorkin, Starring Jeff Daniels, Cynthia Sykes, Cloris Leachman. Casting by Deborah Lucchesi and Shari Rhodes.
Paul (Jeff Daniels) is a womanizer. This character flaw has ruined his marriage to his wife played by Cynthia Sikes. He feels badly about philandering, but can't stop chasing skirts. Single life is not as exciting as he thought it would be and he misses his nice wife and kids. Going home to Pennsylvania for his sister’s wedding, he’s forced to interact with the ex-wife and kids, his nutty mom, soused dad, and the bride, his skittish sister. Prior to the wedding, Paul and his family go through one drama after another. Paul even tries to bed one of the bridesmaids. Will he ever wise up?
My “bridesmaid” character didn’t have any lines but I accepted the part because Bud Yorkin was directing! I would also get to watch Cloris Leachman, Jeff Daniels, and Judith Ivy at work. Plus, my college roommate, Leslie Rollins, was the show’s designer. The other bridesmaids were very talented Dallas actresses and were great to hang out with.
Cloris likes to create a lot of business for her characters, so she was non-stop doing activities like those advised by Uta Hagen and Stella Adler to fill out the life of a character. She was always, fussing, cleaning, organizing, doing tasks to prepare for her daughter’s wedding. She was careful to make sure to do her activities toward the lens so camera could catch it. Cloris was able to repeat her activity choices take after take for the sake of continuity. Jeff Daniels stayed to himself and in character between takes. He fit the likable guy with serious flaws role well. It’s actually a great little movie that was unjustly overlooked.
Cynthia Sikes, Bud Yorkin’s wife is a stunner. And, surprisingly, everyday in the makeup trailer she did her own makeup. Make-up artists don’t want actors to touch their own faces. It’s taboo. Here’s Cynthia bold as day doing it herself. She’s the star and Bud’s wife so she can do whatever she wants, right? She said, “No offense to these talented artists, but I know my face best.” That motivated me to learn the art of makeup. In my film acting classes, it’s immediately evident the girls that don’t have a clue how to ‘look’ the part they are playing. New technology also factors in. High Def TV offers up super-sharp images so the make-up on actors needs to be realistic, enhancing an actor's appearance, natural coloring and features, smoothing out the little flaws.
At lunch one day, Cloris sat down with all the bridesmaids. Our previous conversation immediately stopped. We were all intimidated and starstruck. So, dummy here started asking her questions about this and that. She said to me, “Why do I have to do all the work? You girls need to tell me about you.” The lesson I learned is: don’t make a star talk. People constantly bombard them with questions. Don’t even ask questions to be polite and start conversation. Think of a topic everyone can share in. Tell something about yourself. Just don’t drone on and on like a knucklehead.