Francine Locke is an accomplished actress with over twenty film credits to her name. She’s appeared in Early Edition, Chicago Story, and Risky Business and has won numerous awards for her performances. She stars in Stand Your Ground, which releases to theaters next weekend.
When did you first develop an interest in film/television acting?
It must have been about 5th grade when I was the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. It was probably because I had a great lion costume! It was then that I realized it was fun to be on stage, but I think my family assumed it was a child’s passing fancy.
In my 20’s, I got involved in modeling, then I booked a few commercials, and on to industrials (corporate training films). Industrials didn’t pay as well as either commercials or modeling, but I really enjoyed doing them. It made me feel accomplished to master a script filled with medical jargon or become a knowledgeable attorney. I liked stepping into another person’s shoes. But acting in film became my passion after working on a couple of 168 Projects. Each film team is assigned a scripture verse and given 168 hours (one week) to incorporate it into a ten minute short film. Amazing what can be shown in ten minutes!
My first TV role was on Crime Story, a 60’s period piece that was filmed in Chicago. It was quite the learning experience. First, I saw how much work was involved in a short scene, how many people were so important to create a reality. Even my hair and make up took hours, I had a ten inch beehive! And the wardrobe was authentic, even going so far as the undergarments, to prove a certain reality, and help the viewer become a part of it.
The highlights are what is happening now. In the beginning, I was a newbie and had no one to mentor me, I was sort of lost. Now, as an adult with many more years behind me and more life experience, I approach a film set with different eyes.
There is generally great camaraderie on a film set, and relationships are formed in a short amount of time. I’ve made some lifetime friends from Stand Your Ground, and those relationships helped make it clear to my husband and me that Georgia was where we wanted to be.
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
My first faith-based film was Stealing Home, it won eight nominations at the 168 Film Festival, and I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. What a great introduction to the faith-based market! Breaking, (another 168 Project and nomination), Pinky Promise, Finding Josef, and Family Law was the first short I also produced.
I had the lead role in a series that my church produced as an outreach, starting as a cynical on-air journalist, and ending with a great conversion. When we screened it at the appreciation dinner, the folks really thought that was my story! Then there was In Gramps Shoes, and Stand Your Ground, and Sacred Eternal is slated to begin shooting this year. Interestingly enough, I’ve been in several films that are not touted as faith-based, but the message is. Think of the Blind Side, one of the best faith films around, yet faith was not the story motivator and the church was not its intended audience.
Tell us about your role in Stand Your Ground.
I had the lead role of Jackie Carpenter in Stand Your Ground (formerly A Cry for Justice) and what an experience that was! As I read the script, I was immediately connected to the emotional roller coaster she had been on for ten months when her son was facing thirty years in prison for an accidental shooting. My ex-husband had left me when our son was a year old, and the situations I faced alone were pretty challenging, but suddenly, there seemed to be a reason for what I had grown through, I was able to draw on my past to create what was her reality.
Getting to meet Jackie and become friends was such a blessing. But it was a bit nerve wracking the first day she was on set as I wondered, would she like the Jackie I was portraying? Suffice it to say, when I had a bit of a blooper, and she was the first one to laugh out loud, I didn’t worry about her one moment after that!
I wouldn’t say the degree itself has helped, but the process & experiences I had while in school helped by making it easier to see both sides of a situation, and to deal with them professionally. My background knowledge also adds a layer of reality to the role, and the audience senses that. Walking into Cook County Prison and experiencing the sights and sounds, talking with the inmates, pulling records, learning my way around the legal bureaucracy, all that has impacted who I am when I take on that role.
How has the film business changed from when you were first involved to now?
The business has changed drastically, and taking a ten year break meant I had a huge learning curve! As reality programming took over, actual acting jobs got scarcer. And today’s climate of doing anything to get “fame” and notoriety has not helped. It’s relatively cheap to produce a reality show, no elaborate sets, scripts, actors, etc. so many networks focused on those.
Cable TV creates a whole slew of new shows regularly, though none have had the wide appeal and longevity of say Mash. Also, as digital equipment has taken over from film, the cost factor has changed drastically so that many more independent films are being produced (relatively) cheaply. I won’t even get started on webisodes!
So now there are more projects to be a part of, but you have to be selective. Smaller budgets, smaller crews, and many productions look for volunteers, which is not the same as an apprentice. Anyone can be an actor, writer, director, etc. and frequently the end product suffers, if it gets completed at all.
This being said, the opportunities are greater to be seen anywhere. It’s the actors responsibility to be able to record a professional quality audition and get it emailed or posted for the director on a deadline. I booked Necessary Roughness, which is filmed in Atlanta, by sending in my audition tape from Chicago (prior to my move). But you better be available if you book it!
What are your acting goals for the future?
To continue growing and developing as an actor and to be a light in what can be a dark environment. I love being a part of real stories about real people, people that have pain, that make poor choices. Stories that engage the audience and they can identify with, because frankly, aren’t we all messed up in one way or another?
While I’ve been involved in so many films with deep messages and emotional journeys, I’d love to lighten up a bit too, make folks laugh. We need some good clean comedies! It feels good to laugh!
If you’ve got a story to tell, do it! Do it to the best level possible! God gives us gifts and talents, but no one is good at everything, so collaborate, get input, ask questions and support each other. God calls us to be the best we can be, our work is a reflection of the desires He gives to us, so do it, not for personal glory, but to take someone along on the journey. You never know the message they need to hear, so go out there and tell a story, be real, be truthful and be a light!