Every once in a while, you have to thank the universe for the gifts it gives you. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work on a new untitled project by director, Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace.) However, technically, I wasn’t in front of the camera. I was able to be a stand-in for none other than Kathy Bates. I’m not sure how in the world I got the call at 6:00 in the morning,  let alone how I got called in to be her stand-in. Yet, I was excited to be back in an environment I love and learn from every time I work on a film. I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the observations I made during my three day work week. Honestly, it was like one big master class. I got to watch Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Shannon & Rachel Weisz work, rehearse, and just be. well, normal human beings. More importantly, I got to be a part of something that will no doubt yield wonderful performances from its cast members. I also learned more about the ins and outs of the process in three days, than I have in a long time. I was there to do a job and contribute to what they needed at the time. That pretty much sums it up about the film industry in general, you do your job for the time allotted and move on. I’m glad that i got the opportunity to work with and learn from four of the most talented actors in the business.

Apparently, Die Hard action-star Bruce Willis, will be making his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. The best-selling 1987 novel was already adapted for the screen with Kathy Bates and Jame Caan, so I’m wondering how they will adapt it, yet again, for the stage. Actress, Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards) will step into the role of Annie Wilkes, which was originally portrayed by Bates and earned her an Academy Award. Personally,I think it would be interesting if Kathy Bates were given the chance to play her famed character onstage. I honestly think that even after twenty-five years, Bates could pull it off. Who knows? It’s still early in the process, so there might be a chance for her to win a Tony for the same role in which she won an Oscar. But, I’m interested to see what Marvel does with the role. The characters of Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes have become so iconic within the horror/thriller genre that I think an audience may have a tough time seeing anyone else but James Caan and Kathy Bates in those roles. The good news is, that many film-goers may not be aware of, that Willis has Off-Broadway stage experience. It’ll be very interesting to see him “back on the boards” after nearly thirty years. However, I don’t want to be too quick to assume its fate yet. We’ll just have to wait and see until the curtain goes up in the fall.

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When you talk to director Vanessa Pellegrin for the first time, one of the first things that becomes apparent is her combination of passion and intellect; especially when it comes to activism, specifically feminism and equality. These qualities have served the young documentary filmmaker well during production for a new project entitled, The Trouble with the F Word. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that we shared a similar perspective on the issue of equality in general.

Born in France, and raised primarily in Morocco, Pellegrin brings a unique viewpoint to the issue of feminism. She initially began her career as a journalist, specializing in investigative reporting, current affairs and sociological issues in Morocco (which is a very male-dominated society.) This led to an interest in film production, bringing her from Morocco to Spain and then finally settling in her current home of London. She believes that communications between the sexes are lacking and that there needs to be more of an open discussion about issues facing gender equality in the modern age. As Pellegrin puts it, she wants to “take the temperature” of the current state of equality on an international level.

In 2013, with the hundred-year anniversary of British suffragette  Emily Davison, Vanessa became inspired to explore how far women have come (or not) in terms of suffrage. She decided to document British activist Lucy-Anne Holmes, famous for the “No More Page 3” campaign and television host/actor Nick Lancaster as they explore contrasting views of feminism and equality in today’s modern culture. Actress, Emma Watson’s September, 2014 speech at the UN has only furthered the interest in this hot-button topic.

Faced with opposition from various political activist groups, including a Men’s Rights group, the film sets out to explore what problems women face globally by having two people from opposite ends of the spectrum swap viewpoints and investigate the other side for themselves. How far has women’s rights and equality really come? What issues do women in other countries face?  Pellegrin wants to bring a thought-provoking film to the masses in an era where women are still fighting for their voices to be heard.

Vanessa hopes to gain the remainder of the film’s funding from a Kickstarter campaign and release the film at the end of this year. For more information and updates on this thought-provoking film, follow them on Twitter: @FwordFilm

Official Trailer F Word Film from Vanessa Pellegrin on Vimeo.

Side-note: Vanessa has one of the most interesting accents I have ever heard in my life, and I could literally listen to her talk all day long. It was a pleasure to meet someone with such passion for a particular subject matter.

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Akie Kotabe (@AkieKotabe)

What happens when you’re majoring in computer science at the University of Texas in Austin and decide to change to theater after successfully auditioning for a student film, subsequently finding your passion in life? If you’re Akie Kotabe, it pays off. With roles spanning across film, television, and theater, Kotabe is currently co-starring with Oscar-nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in the action/thriller Everly, coming to theaters Friday, February 27th. So, what’s it like to act alongside Salma Hayek? Well, apparently it’s pretty incredible. Playing a character known simply as Dead Man, many of the characters in the film, directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) are referred to using descriptive monikers. Kotabe has a supporting role as a man who has become the target, along with Hayek’s Everly, of assassins and is left for dead. Trapped in an apartment, the characters are faced with dealing with their existence and survival, “Think Die Hard in a single room” Akie told me.

Based in both London and Los Angeles, Akie fell in love with acting in college when he auditioned for a student film on a whim and got the part. He says that he didn’t know anything about acting before that, but has since studied both at university and with various well-known acting teachers in the industry. This non-traditional trajectory into acting has proven successful for the Michigan-born, Texas-bred actor. He’s had guest spots on Mad Men, CSI: Miami, and Without a Trace. Kotabe also puts his bilingual abilities to the test where his roles may require him to have a command of the Japanese language and accent

However, he proves his versatility with quite an impressive filmography. Securing his first AFTRA gig (when SAG & AFTRA were separate unions) while still in Austin for the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, he says he’s had some interesting experiences. He got the aforementioned AFTRA show even after he accidentally bashed his face into a wall during the audition. Woops. We’ve all had weird auditions as actors, sometimes it’s the odd ones that pay off the most.

The passion that Kotabe has for acting is apparent when talking to him. As a fellow actor, we talked about our love for the craft, and the fact that being able to entertain people is one of the best things to be doing in life. Having gotten the acting bug in college, lived and worked in Japan, Los Angeles, and his current city of London, Akie says he’s enjoyed something different from every place he’s lived. He’s also learned from those places as well. From doing theater in Japan (both in English and Japanese) to film and television in Los Angeles and London, he tries to gain as much knowledge and wisdom as possible from the people he is surrounded by in the business. “You can learn a lot through the work” he stated, “It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

What was his favorite part of filming Everly? Well, everything. For Kotabe it was being part of a team and contributing to the bigger picture that was most exciting to him while filming in Belgrade, Serbia. I think we can agree that the best part of being an actor is the ability to be storytellers. I am fortunate enough to have the chance to tell Akie Kotabe’s.

Don’t forget to catch Everly in theaters Friday, February 27th.

Thank You Akie for being such a friendly and open fellow performer. It was such a pleasure to learn your story.

Follow Akie: @AkieKotabe & Everly movie: @everlymovie

For more information on Akie, you can also visit his website: Akie Kotabe

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I’ve always admired directors. They told us in theater school that theater was an actor’s medium, but film–that’s a directors domain. As actors, we’re there to serve a purpose to the story, to the director–to do a job. Screened recently at the Tribeca Film Festival, and set for a June 20th limited USA release, I’m really eager to see this film. Starring Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Kim Basinger, Adrien Brody, and Maria Bello with Crash cast member Moran Atias, this ensemble cast intrigues me. Known for this screenwriting Oscar wins for Crash and Million Dollar Baby, I’ve admired Haggis as a writer/director. He does solid work.

Haggis’ new film, Third Person, tells the story of three couples in three different cities, all interlocking. It seems simple enough, but viewing the trailer, it also seems complex, but in the best sense of the word. The trailer itself has a film festival feel to it. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved trailers; they are an art form in themselves. What’s even more interesting to me is the fact that Mila Kunis and James Franco can count this collaboration as their fourth film together–and they frequently play a couple. Also interesting is the fact that I haven’t really Kim Basinger in a while. I think the last was The Door in the Floor and 8 Mile.

Judging from the trailer, the film looks like it’s going to be reminiscent of Crash, but that’s not always a bad thing. I’m interested in seeing how the film is structured and plays out.

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A year ago, I started a blog. I didn’t know where it would take me at the time, but I started it for fun. It so turned into something that I am very proud of.  Granted, I’m still at my day job, but I’ve been writing and acting over the course of this year, and it has really helped me center myself.  Despite the fact that some really crappy things happened last year that I am still dealing with, this was one of the good things. I’ve been able to merge my acting life with my writing one and do something unique that reflects who I am. I’m a movie geek, a writer, an actor, and a dreamer. I am so grateful to have subscribers and people reading this, I can’t even tell you how much it means. I am so grateful for all the positive responses and thought provoking conversations I’ve had this past year. Here’s to many more to come! 

Thanks for everything,

Stephanie

Some of the best of RantsReviews&Reels:

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Emilio Estevez Directed “The Way”
Three People at Casting Call
Auditions: The Uncommon Job Interview and Why They Are So Stressful
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Reduce Reuse Recycle: The Law & Order Guest Spot
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#BostonStrong: Why This New York Transplant Will Always Be a Boston Gal
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Early For Everything: What Acting Means to Me. Being an Actor with a Disability

 

 

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Putting My Professional Goals Out Into the Universe

252086_513561951716_7291_nI’ve always had a lot professional goals. Sometimes, it just takes the courage to go after what you want no matter how frightened you are. This year, I really want to make changes for the better, especially after all of the things that negatively impacted my life last year. This year, I am trying to stay as positive, happy, and healthy as possible in order to turn my career around. I want get things rolling by doing what I love and making a living at it on a more consistent basis. This business can be extremely difficult. Despite what people see on television with awards shows and red carpets, parties and the high life, it’s still a business. People have to make a living, and more often than not, it’s the people who aren’t  household names that I look up to most in the acting business. There IS a way to make a living solely by being an entertainer. I’ve seen it with a number of my friends. I decided to write this post because I truly want to make my dreams a reality and achieve my goals.

For a long time, I had fed into my self-doubt. There is no one to blame for that but myself. Oftentimes, I would blame the industry for putting such unspoken restrictions on my type as an actor. I have caught myself making excuses, and I really need to stop doing that. While, it’s somewhat unrealistic to stay positive all the time, I do want to turn that negative feeling that has been lingering for the past year into something joyous. I want bring my career to the next level. I could be worrying about my weight, the fact that I don’t have a “traditional” look, or the fact that I have been doing all of the footwork myself for the past six and a half years without the help of an agent. OR, I could totally revel in the fact that I’m NOT starving myself to fit some unrealistic Hollywood ideal, while still becoming more aware of my overall health. I could be proud of my look just as I am because my parents are really attractive people, so naturally, they made me look as unique as possible which is awesome. Lastly, I could be exceedingly grateful for how far I’ve come on my own without the help of an agent. And, I am proud of that. I think I’ve done a pretty good job. But I want more. I want to do what I love. I want to do voice-overs, I want to do television (I mean, hello, I would love to be on Blacklist), I want to do more film. I want to work.

At the same time, I’ve come to the realization that  I not only want, but need  to have someone in my corner. It’s been great doing it on my own, but I truly believe that I need the guidance of a manager and agent at this point. I’ve met agents and managers in the past who have told my look was unique and they would love to work with me, but they aren’t looking for my type right now, or they already have it. Representation can be a lot like dating. You’re either ready for dating and marriage, or you’re just not someone’s type.  This year, I hope I’m someone’s type.