There is probably no one I salute more than legitimate independent film champions. I find myself regularly seeking out those who deserve to be highlighted for their genuine dedication to telling the stories about which they are passionate while maintaining complete creative control. What some people don’t realize is that filmmakers like Rachel Amanda Bryant oftentimes are required to do more than just act, as you will see in her responses to the questions I posed to her about her beginnings in this business, her current projects, and even a few noteworthy points concerning her outlook on this business as a whole.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the entertainment business? What kind of training have you had?
I remember going to a little community theater production of The Invisible Man when I was a young kid, and I was AWED by the production. It was so funny, the audience was roaring, and I felt the energy of the love and joy of amazing storytelling flowing through me. I wanted to be those actors, making everyone smile and go on a journey. As I grew up, I didn’t have many friends so I played a lot in my imagination, creating stories and characters and just playing. I want to create stories that ensure that no one ever feels lonely, that takes those loner kids/people on journeys through their imagination. It is such a FUN and INSPIRING way to live.
I’ve trained at various places, including getting a BFA in Theater from Chapman University, doing intensives with Shakespeare & Co and the Summer Conservatory with ACT in SF. I’ve also studied improv at UCB and Groundlings. I currently train at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop in Hollywood, and I will be starting at Lesly Kahn in October.
What are some of your most notable or well-known works?
My most notable works are The Eric Andre Show (I played a cultist on this absurdist comedy show!), a short film called To Kristen with Love by Seraph Films (a beautifully tragic short film about a man trying to get over his ex-girlfriend, who had killed herself) and I am in the new feature film Solitary Confinement, a Horror Film that comes out next year. It’s about a new reality show where cast members end up in solitary confinement. It’s very thrilling and I can’t wait for it’s release next year.
Let’s talk about Jet Set LA. You’re listed as co-producer, actor and writer. Where did the idea for the story come about? Please tell us the premise
The original story idea came from a terrifying thought I had… What if I heard someone getting killed in the room next door… what would I do? The bystander effect is a fascinating phenomenon that is documented in our society, and as I started discussing this idea with my co-producer, the film evolved to what it is now. The log line for Jet Set LA is “A young couple on the rocks stays in their first B&B. Little do they know the proprietors are cannibals looking for their next meal.” It’s essentially about a couple that uses their B&B to lure their next victims into their home.
Since this an indie film, how long did it take to cast and then to film?
We started writing in February of 2015, cast the film in April of 2015 and we shot it at the end of May of that year. We shot the ten-page script over two days in a house in the Mid Wilshire area of Los Angeles, and after we wrapped, we were officially done with all the post-production January of 2016.
Where is Jet Set LA headed next? Any eventual plans for distribution?
Jet Set LA has its big premiere on Saturday, September 10, at the Burbank International Film Festival! I’m so excited to promote the film; we’ve already got a great group of fans and industry folks slated to go. Next up, is more festival submissions and appearances, then we will release the film online so all of our fans will be able to watch it. We were part of the Short Film Market at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and we were approached by a company who specializes in short film distribution, so we are currently in talks with them to get the project distributed. AND we just found out that we will be having our UK Premiere at Bram Stokers International Film Festival in England!
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
Upcoming works… Well I’ve been so busy shooting and promoting! It is really an exciting time…
A short film I starred in Colorblind directed by Robby Bracker will be hitting the festival circuit soon… It is a beautiful film about an interracial couple in the early 1970’s. It’s tragic and controversial and really well-done. I can’t wait to see how audiences react to it.
A music video I starred in for the band The Urban Renewal Project will be released this fall.
I am shooting another film Leaving LA at the beginning of October. It will be my third film with director Clinton Cornwell. I was just in Vegas promoting a film that I starred in with him Hollywood and Sunset. He is a crazy good director and awesome storyteller, and I am so lucky to get to work with him again.
Any plans for more writing and possibly directing?
I am in the process of being a more focused writer… I come up with really interesting and layered story ideas, but with my shooting schedule and all, I don’t have as much time to write. One of my goals this fall is to do that, and I can’t wait to get my really intriguing ideas out of outline form and into script form. As far as directing, I’ve only directed for the stage, and I’ve never directed a film before. That would be a really cool challenge, and if the right project that I am passionate about comes along, I know I will jump at the chance to direct.
What are the benefits and challenges of the indie film industry?
The indie film industry is an awesome place filled with passionate artists that just want their stories to be told. They don’t necessarily wait around for investors or locations or a whole bunch of crew. I want to create! I want my voice to be heard! I want to affect people through these cool experiences that are told on the screen. The creative freedom is really what makes the indie film industry so enjoyable. This, of course, leads to challenges… It’s filled with content that isn’t that great (poor storytelling, bad acting, technical difficulties) because there isn’t that much money being put towards these aspects of the project. For me and the projects I’ve done, I was able to produce Jet Set LA for a very small budget because I asked a lot of favors from some of my best friends. And they came through. But this challenge is also why it’s an exciting endeavor… How can I tell this really awesome story for very little money and still make it good? It’s an addicting puzzle.
As a woman in the industry, have you experienced gender bias? Please elaborate if you like.
I have experienced gender bias–more often it’s people not expecting me to have any idea what I’m doing regarding the technical aspects of a film. Granted, I don’t know everything, but I ask questions and seek answers from people that I trust and who I want to work with. But people assume that I don’t know anything, and that’s where I get frustrated. I remember, I was promoting a film, and I had taken a guy with me as my date to this industry party… We were approached by someone who was in the industry, and we mentioned that we were there to promote this film etc. This guy then proceeded to only talk to my date, telling him all about the production services he offered. What about me? Am I not a content creator? Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I don’t produce. This is just one instance of being seen as just “an actor” or just “the date” at various industry events I’ve attended.
No matter what you may think about the content of any of the films Rachel mentioned (I get it–I’m not a horror aficionado either, but on occasion, I do watch to support my friends), what cannot be denied is that only a particular few are as committed to their dreams, passions, and hopes as she is. She is willing to invest the time, knowledge, and labor that is required to ensure ultimate success, and in Rachel’s case, it appears that her star is continuing its steady ascent. All too often, people have aspirations, but they rest on their laurels and wait for their ethereal ship to come in. Lamentably, the chances are miniscule that anything like that will ever happen without someone actually doing something. And that’s why I applaud indie filmmakers from every walk of life. It’s easy to be the critic on the couch advising the person that he/she should have done A, B, and C, and of course, that is why prosperity has not come knocking. However, it’s another story entirely to literally be the person who is investing his/her resources to create something that resonates with those involved with the project and hopefully with the viewers as well. Please consider following (or at least visiting) Rachel at all the links below because after all, wouldn’t you rather support someone who is actually doing something rather than waiting for life to transpire?
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