Published on September 10th, 2014 | by gareth0
Indy Film Darling Tracey Birdsall Talks About Her Latest Films
Fresh from dazzling for the cameras at the Action on Film Film Festival, indie darling Tracey Birdsall – crowned winner of the Maverick award at the prestigious awards – pulled up a cushion to talk about her new films with us.
Congratulations on your two films getting into the AOFF. How did you hear about the event? And what was the process behind submitting the movies?
I’m an AOF Alumni from the past, and really missed the fabulous Del Weston (Festival Director) and my fellow producers and filmmakers from the festival. Since I had several films I was in that were nearing completion right about the submission date deadlines, I begged my producers to enter the films. I successfully talked two of three of the producers of the recently finished projects to submit. One of the projects “Do You Like Your Balls?” was actually in a pretty rough cut stage and the Director of the film was working on another show at the time. I convinced him to let me pick it up and take it to Massive Post (Steve Swersky is one of the best), and I actually sat over Steve’s shoulder for several weeks tweaking it to perfection (which wasn’t very hard considering the fantastic talent.) Then Greg Conway did the post sound and color correction in the next room over… and back to Steve for titling. It was now ready for Del, which made me very happy. “Dawn of the Crescent Moon” had already been accepted, as had “Do You Like Your Balls” (Del had seen the preliminary project and obviously knew what to expect once I took hold of the project.) I then asked him to run them back to back as I thought it would make for a most excellent evening!
As someone whose career is directly tied to the world of indie film, are you supportive of such film festivals? Do you have a lot to do with them?
I absolutely LOVE a good film festival, and quite frankly, Action on Film is one of the best we have in the Los Angeles area. From a producer’s standpoint, it’s a way to get the completed film screened in a large theater for cast, crew, friends, family, critics and reviewers and also distributors. From both an actress standpoint and also that as a producer, the awards definitely help with publicity, reviews, and distribution. Additionally, it is absolutely a ton of fun to share in the event with like-minded individuals and to be recognized (and even praised) for your accomplishments by those you respect in the industry.
As far as my involvement with them, I travelled the world with a film I produced in 2009 “Tick Tock.” It won Best Cinematography Awards in a couple dozen fests (Canterbury New Zealand, Action on Film, Kent Connecticut, to name a few), Best Movie Awards in a dozen festivals (Burbank International named it Best Drama, GIAA New York named it Best Movie…) So yes, if I have a product to promote or if a project I’m in is playing in a festival… I’m in!
Independent films are now where all the good stories are, and in most cases, are the better movie, but it’s the studio blockbuster – which are usually horrible – that gets not only all the attention but the biggest box-office. Do you think it all comes down to money? Or is it misdirected marketing, too?
I think they are one in the same thing! When there’s a larger budget, there’s a larger marketing budget, which means the amount spent on targeting the audience and selling to them is larger. Night and Day (starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) is a good example for those of you who have seen the movie: Big budget, fantastic actors, but all of the money was spent on marketing this big movie that we all expected to be fantastic. It flopped, but the story, special effects, and everything else didn’t meet the expectations after the marketing materials. It actually looked like such a better movie from the marketing. If I hadn’t been so curious on whether it was ever going to get any better, I would have definitely walked out – which is something I never do… That said, we all have a story to tell and I find that the independent film world is able to speak in a more pure voice due to the lack of multitudes of people and opinions. I love both worlds (independent and studio blockbusters) but I do feel they have a lot that they can learn from each other.
The two films you’re promoting seem distinctly different, you’re an actress that clearly doesn’t have a preference for any particular genre. What attracts you to a role?
Yes! It was kind of a dream for an actress to have two such different genres and roles playing back to back on the premiere! I love range and genre flavour, and I feel this really was so evident that night. When I do a lot of comedy, I crave heavy drama – and vice versa. I have all of these little places in me that need to be expressed. For me, asking me a particular preference to a particular genre is like asking me which body part I would wash in the shower. Everything needs its turn so to speak.
A great script attracts me to a role, even more so a great character. A life that when I read her lines I want to be her, experience her, and have her life be a part of my past and thus of my whole. I want to study her, learn her mannerisms and her individual feelings (which of course are influenced by mine even though they are hers)… Because every life we experience as an actor is now part of our past if we “live it” rather than “act it.” It’s really a fascinating experience and feeling.
Have you found that good looks have hindered you at all throughout your career? Have there been times when you felt you weren’t considered as seriously an actor as you wanted to be?
Thank you J I think that I was good looking long before I realized it so it didn’t really come into my identity. I grew up a tomboy of sorts – an athlete. I had two very gorgeous girly sisters when I was a child so I didn’t really identify with being attractive even though some of the work I was doing probably should have said that to me. I was more concerned with being smarter, trying harder, being as talented and skilled as I could be and I felt that it would all pay off in the end. I did have a long time period in my 20’s where I died my hair dark brown in order to be taken seriously and not be lost in the throngs of beautiful blondes that exists in our industry in your 20’s. By the time you’re in your 30’s, a huge percentage have dropped out, done something else, not stayed in shape or not aged well due to lack of effort or genetics, so the really competitive time is in your 20’s. After that, I believe you are only in competition with yourself and being the best and most fantastic “you” you can be.
It was your good looks that saw you a finalist an over forties Malibu model competition a couple of years back though. That must have been empowering! Has that opened doors for you in the modelling world?
Another random opportunity! I was on the internet one day (probably procrastinating doing something tedious) and I saw an ad for the Wilhelmina over 40 model search. 1. I was over 40, 2. I used to do a lot of modelling when I was younger, and 3. I could never have obtained representation from an agency like Wilhelmina when I was younger so I had a “what if” moment. I filled out the form, answered their questions, attached recent photos, and hit send. I really didn’t think about it after that (kind of like an audition mentality.) About a month later, the caller ID on my home telephone in the house was identifying the caller, “Wilhelmonia New Yawk” was how the machine pronounced it. It took a moment to register, and then I answered it. I was a semi finalist which meant they needed video, extensive information, and new pictures. Okay, I thought. What do I have to lose? Another month passes and I’m on my way to New York as a finalist in what would be a whirlwind week filled with fashion shows, photo shoots, interviews with very cool people in the industry, etc. I’ve pretty much worked a couple of times a month in print since then, and I’m sure it’s all connected to that random moment I hit “send” on the computer. Between that and my acting career, it’s a lot of juggling!
What are your plans or dreams for the future? What’s the next thing you want to tick off on your bucket list?
The one thing I find I can’t get enough of in life is time… I’ve been on a huge mission these last couple of years to downsize my life and my possessions so that I have more hours in the day, less to manage or have managed, and thus more life. I have found that nothing brings me more happiness than working, spending time with my family and friends, and having the time to work very hard in preparation for my roles and productions. Less responsibility in my personal life means being able to take on more work! I know it might sound backwards to some people, but we all have to know what drives us. I’m prepping for that next big role – that next huge wave of opportunity – I’m ready for it J In addition to what I’m getting ready for on a larger scale, I’m also going into production in November on a new Science Fiction Time Travel Movie “Descent” with Director Neil Johnson. I’m also attached to 3 other upcoming feature film projects… and several upcoming print ads. So I guess I would say, “I want more of the same. Lots more J”